Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – War worries, funding follies, bomb scare

                                Presented by Facebook

 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, gestures towards French President Emmanuel Macron during a joint press conference

 

 

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Wednesday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday 902,624; Tuesday, 905,544; Wednesday, 909,016.

War in Eastern Europe is not off the table, the U.S. government is on the verge of being funded for just three weeks and the vice president’s husband got a security scare during a Black History Month event at a Washington, D.C., high school on Tuesday.

 

Unsettled described the day.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron may have spent six hours together over sturgeon and reindeer on Monday, but by morning they parted ways over what they had said about Ukraine and what Russia needs to avert a potential military attack the Kremlin insists the government is not contemplating.

 

Macron met Tuesday in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (pictured above) as headlines pronounced the French president’s shuttle diplomacy to Moscow unsuccessful (The New York Times). 

 

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, rejected reports that the two presidents had reached any agreement to de-escalate, suggesting that it was the United States, not France, that had standing to negotiate such a deal. “In the current situation, Moscow and Paris could not make a deal. France is an E.U. and NATO member,” he said, adding, “France is not leading NATO.” 

 

Peskov denied Macron departed Moscow with commitments that Russian troops would not stay in neighboring Belarus after the completion of military exercises this month and that Russia would not conduct any new military maneuvers near Ukraine in the near future. 

 

Macron’s version of events was that Putin told him Moscow would not further escalate the Ukraine crisis, adding with evident accuracy that time is needed to find a diplomatic solution to the rising tensions (The Associated Press). (Putin speaks English and German but is not a French speaker. Macron is fluent in English, and translators do the work during such meetings).

 

Ukraine’s foreign minister believes that the Russian government was seeking to force a settlement on Ukraine to destabilize the country’s internal politics in ways that might benefit Russia without having to resort to military action despite having deployed around 130,000 troops near the border, according to U.S. and Ukrainian officials. He said that Ukraine could not be forced into agreeing to Russia’s terms on the settlement deal, known as the Minsk accords.

 

We see that Russia’s current baseline scenario is to try to destabilize the internal situation in Ukraine by using the threat of force, but not of the armed forces themselves,Dmytro Kuleba said (The New York Times).

 

Russia’s navy on Tuesday dispatched ships off the Ukrainian coast in the Black Sea for what it called military exercises.

 

Ukrainians thus far evidence a sense of calm about the Russian troops amassed across the border. Zelensky calls it “great dignity” (The Associated Press).

 

 

Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, is whisked out of an event at a high school by a Secret Service agent

 

 

In the U.S. capital on Tuesday, Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President Harris (above), was hustled out of a local high school along with students and the principal because of a bomb scare during a Black History Month event. The White House said Emhoff and his Secret Service detail were not harmed (The Associated Press). 

 

Over in the Capitol, the House on Tuesday scrambled to keep government departments and agencies operating for a few more weeks as lawmakers continue to battle over a longer-term spending bill, as yet unresolved for the current fiscal year. Members voted 272-162 to approve funds that will expire on March 11. House members are scheduled to be out of Washington until Feb. 28, prolonging the funding limbo. Fifty-one House Republicans joined with the majority Tuesday to approve a short-term measure. There was one Democratic holdout: Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey. Noteworthy: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) voted aye, while Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) voted no.

 

The temporary funding bill now moves to the Senate where Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the chamber will “take it up quickly and in time” before a Feb. 18 deadline that lawmakers vow will not result in a government shutdown. The Senate is in session next week (The Hill).

 

More administration: A Defense Department after-action report obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act details the military’s frustrations with the White House National Security Council and the U.S. Embassy staff in Kabul last year leading up to the August personnel evacuation that left 13 service members dead and 45 wounded, many Afghan civilians killed during the chaos and panic, and President Biden received blistering criticism that is lingering long after the mission. 

 

The Hill: Tech advocates criticize nomination delays for Federal Communications Commission.

 

The Hill: Democrats press postmaster to go with electric vehicles.

A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

Why Facebook supports updated internet regulations, including Section 230

Aaron is one of 40,000 people working on safety and security issues at Facebook.

 

Hear more from Aaron on why Facebook supports updating regulations on the internet’s most pressing challenges, including reforming Section 230 to set clear guidelines for all large tech companies.

LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized the Republican National Committee (RNC) for its decision to censure Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) over their involvement in the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

 

McConnell (pictured below) told reporters that he still has confidence in RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel but took issue with the party’s “singling out” of members.

 

“This issue is whether or not the RNC should be sort of singling out members of our party who may have different views from the majority. That’s not the job of the RNC,” McConnell said of the censure resolution.

 

The GOP leader also broke with the party’s language, labeling the fatal riot as a “violent insurrection” rather than as “legitimate political discourse” (The Hill).

 

The Hill: RNC’s McDaniel blamed the news media for what she described as “patently false coverage” of the party’s censure action. 

 

The Washington Post: “Legitimate political discourse”: Three words about Jan. 6 spark rift among Republicans.

 

Jordain Carney, The Hill: GOP tensions flare over Jan. 6 attack.

 

The New York Times: Where’s Liz Cheney? The Wyoming Republican’s exile from Wyoming Republicans.

 

 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

 

 

Elsewhere on the security front, the House’s inspector general (IG) is considering calling on the House sergeant-at-arms to create a new program tasked with dealing with internal threats and doing so via “behavioral monitoring.” The possible action is part of a draft document the House IG has drawn up as part of the Capitol complex’s response to security in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack. 

 

According to Politico, which first reported the draft, House Sergeant-at-Arms William Walker said in a statement that no program is being considered at this time and that he does not plan to roll out any measure that involves increased surveillance and monitoring.

 

The Associated Press: FBI: Online sleuths’ posts led to two arrests in Capitol riot.

 

> The first federal prosecution of a Jan. 6 rioter begins Feb. 28 with Guy Reffitt, a Texas man who was charged with storming onto Capitol grounds, attacking multiple Capitol Police officers and carrying a firearm. Reffitt is charged with civil disorder, obstructing Congress’s proceedings, carrying a semiautomatic handgun to the Capitol and later, after returning home, attempting to obstruct justice. Politico reported on the prosecution’s witness list, which offered clues about the government’s strategy. Reffitt’s trial will include testimony from the U.S. Secret Service, Capitol Police, a Senate aide and two of the defendant’s children.

 

> 2022 watch: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) made it official on Tuesday: He will not be running for the Senate this fall, depriving McConnell of a top-tier candidate and another competitive seat on the 2022 map. 

 

Hogan told reporters that he had considered a bid but decided against it in favor of finishing out his second term in Annapolis. Hogan is term-limited and cannot run for reelection. 

 

“I will not be a candidate for the United States Senate. I sincerely appreciate all the people who have been encouraging me to consider it. A number of people have said they thought I could make a difference in the Senate,” Hogan said. “I don’t aspire to be a United States senator, and that fact has not changed.” 

 

Hogan added that he revealed the news ahead of time to Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who is seeking reelection in November. 

 

“I also just spoke with Sen. Van Hollen to let him know that he can rest easy and get a good night’s sleep tonight,” Hogan said with a laugh (The Hill).

 

The Hill: Trump tightens grip on RNC.

 

Amie Parnes and Hanna Trudo, The Hill: How Republicans came to revel in hating Biden.

 

The Hill: Stacey Abrams apologized for not wearing a mask while standing among school children during a recent photo.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CORONAVIRUS: Controversy and confusion have not let up as COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations continue to plunge and more states plan for or contemplate lifting indoor requirements for masks, including in classrooms. ​​Although the daily average of hospitalizations has steadily declined since its peak on Jan. 20, the daily average of deaths linked to the virus has hovered at more than 2,500 since Jan. 27.

 

A bipartisan majority in the Virginia Senate (pictured below inside plexiglass partitions) voted Tuesday to advance legislation that would ban public school systems from imposing mask requirements on students. The move comes as Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s efforts to end mask mandates by executive order are bogged down in legal challenges (The Associated Press).

 

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) is still weighing her state’s improved infection and hospitalization statistics to decide what happens next with mandates. Hochul highlighted the state’s coronavirus progress in a series of tweets on Tuesday.

 

 

Virginia State Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, left, gestures from behind the Covid-19 shield on the floor of the Senate

 

 

The Hill’s Niall Stanage in his latest Memo explores whether the White House risks getting left behind some states’ decisions to soon make mask wearing voluntary. Strict mask guidelines continue to be the approach of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

> Hospitals are beginning to catch a break amid the latest COVID-19 crush of patients in many parts of the country. That progress is considered a benchmark for getting back to everyday medicine, which is easier said than done. Across the U.S., the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 has tumbled more than 28 percent over the past three weeks to about 105,000 on average, according to the CDC. But the ebbing of the omicron surge has left in its wake postponed surgeries, exhausted staff members and uncertainty over whether this is the last big wave or whether another one lies ahead (The Associated Press).

 

> Vaccines: Johnson & Johnson temporarily halted production of its COVID-19 vaccine in the Netherlands, the only manufacturing hub making usable doses for the pharmaceutical company, according to a New York Times report on Tuesday. … Novavax Inc. has delivered just a small fraction of the 2 billion COVID-19 shots it plans to send around the world in 2022 and has delayed first-quarter shipments in Europe and lower income countries such as the Philippines, public officials involved in their government’s vaccine rollouts told Reuters. The company’s stock took a hit on Tuesday (MarketWatch). … Marylanders can get cash prizes for getting booster doses of COVID-19 vaccinations as part of a lottery incentive that begins next week. The prizes offered will total $2 million (The Hill).

 

> International: Another day of anti-vaccine protests in Canada shut down a bridge that connects Detroit to its northern neighbor, posing new risks to the automobile supply chain. In Ottawa on Tuesday, several hundred trucks continued to paralyze the city center (The New York Times). … In Sweden, the government ended publicly provided COVID-19 testing because of the high costs and lifted pandemic restrictions. Starting today, access to free PCR testing is limited even for those who are symptomatic, while most of the population will simply be asked to stay home with symptoms of infection. Also Wednesday, the country scrapped limits on how many people may gather at events and in restaurants, barred demands for vaccine certificates and lifted restrictions on operating hours for bars and eateries (The Associated Press). 

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE! 

OPINION

What can anti-Trump Republicans actually do? by Jonathan Bernstein, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3JcFjuS

 

How China captured Hollywood, by Erich Schwartzel, excerpted by That Atlantic from his book “Red Carpet: Hollywood, China, and the Global Battle for Cultural Supremacy.” https://bit.ly/3sr5uXP

A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

Why Facebook supports updated internet regulations, including Section 230

Aaron is one of 40,000 people working on safety and security issues at Facebook.

 

Hear more from Aaron on why Facebook supports updating regulations on the internet’s most pressing challenges, including reforming Section 230 to set clear guidelines for all large tech companies.

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 9 a.m. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will hold her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m.

 

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of the nomination of Scott Nathan to be CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation.

 

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will convene a roundtable of utility company CEOs at 2:30 p.m. to discuss his pending policy agenda related to energy production, supplies, consumer costs, climate change and jobs. 

 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Australia for a gathering of foreign ministers representing Australia, the United States, Japan and India.

 

First lady Jill Biden will travel to Minneapolis with Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to visit the University of Minnesota at 1 p.m. local time to highlight the American Rescue Plan’s investments in child care.

 

The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 12:30 p.m. The White House COVID-19 response team will brief reporters at 11 a.m. 

 

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.

ELSEWHERE

OLYMPICS: It took 16 years, but Lindsey Jacobellis is finally a gold medalist. Perhaps the best female competitor over the past decade in snowboard cross (a snowboard event where up to six entrants race down a narrow course), Jacobellis bounced back from repeated heartbreak — including one of the most cringe-inducing losses in the event at the 2006 Turin games — to snag the gold today for the U.S. Jacobellis, 36, became the oldest snowboarder to win a gold medal in history in the process (NBC News and The Wall Street Journal).

 

 INTERNATIONAL: Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed “profound shame” and asked in writing for forgiveness on Tuesday, but denied any wrongdoing, for his oversight more than four decades ago of sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests against children. Benedict, 94, sought mercy for any “grievous faults” after an independent report accused him of failing to take action against accused priests while he was archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1981. His letter was in response to a Jan. 20 report from a German law firm that probed abuses in the archdiocese between 1945 and 2019 (The Associated Press).

 

 

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

 

 

STATE WATCH: The online sports wagering industry is booming and delivering hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues to states. A record number of Americans will make legal bets ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl (The Hill). … The U.S. economy has regained most of the jobs lost during the COVID-19-related contraction, although one sector lags notably behind — employment in state and local governments (The Hill).

 

TECH: Industry groups and powerful corporations are jockeying over bipartisan measures to crack down on the sale of counterfeit products online. Platforms such as eBay and Etsy are lobbying lawmakers to strip the Shop Safe Act out of the final China competitiveness bill, arguing that it would further disadvantage small online sellers against Amazon and other e-commerce giants (The Hill). 

THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s all about “The Power of the Dog” (and streaming) this year (Axios). The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science announced Oscar nominations on Tuesday with some surprises for its 94th awards program on March 27. A host has not yet been named for the ceremony, which will air live at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on ABC. Check out the list of nominees in all 23 categories (The Hollywood Reporter), and find all things Oscar at Oscars.org

 

 

Oscar statuettes appear backstage at the Oscars in Los Angeles

 

Tags Adam Kinzinger Antony Blinken Charles Schumer Chris Van Hollen Doug Emhoff Emmanuel Macron Glenn Youngkin Jill Biden Joe Biden Josh Gottheimer Kathy Hochul Kevin McCarthy Larry Hogan Liz Cheney Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Ronna McDaniel Steve Scalise Vladimir Putin Xavier Becerra

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