Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report — One year of war in Ukraine and ominous horizons

FILE – President Joe Biden listens as he meets virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

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Today marks the official one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, capping off a week of commemoration and renewed calls for support from leaders across the globe. President Biden reaffirmed the U.S.’s solidarity with and aid for Ukraine in meetings in Kyiv and Warsaw, Poland, this week, stressing that Washington’s support would continue for as long as it takes.

Biden will meet virtually on today with Group of Seven leaders and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and announce new sanctions against those aiding Russia’s war effort. The sanctions will include Russian banks, technology and defense sectors, and will impact both people and companies involved in the conflict, according to the White House. In conjunction with the sanctions, Biden will announce a new U.S. aid package that will include economic, security and energy support (Reuters).

Russian President Vladimir Putin remains stalwart in his insistence that Russia will prevail, despite emerging empty-handed after a bloody winter offensive. After a series of strident speeches in the run-up to the anniversary of his invasion, Putin announced plans on Thursday to deploy new Sarmat multi-warhead intercontinental ballistic missiles this year. Earlier this week, he suspended Russia’s participation in the START nuclear arms control treaty (Reuters).

Back at home in Russia, the grim realities of Moscow’s war in Ukraine — tens of thousands dead, international isolation and a declining quality of life — are not part of the alternate reality of nationalist fervor created by the Kremlin’s propaganda machine. But the future of Russia is bleak, and Putin likely set his country back decades, experts told The Hill’s Laura Kelly, with the Kremlin showing no signs of letting up and the Russian people facing rising uncertainty over how it will end.

The Washington Post: Oral history: Leaders recall dismay, fury on first day of war in Ukraine.

Politico: “We knew we were on the precipice.” The inside story of how Washington navigated the run-up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine — the shocking intelligence, the skepticism and the building of an international coalition — as told by the people in the room.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday in a live interview with The Atlantic said that the administration is not only focused on the immediate conflict, but also the months ahead as Russia’s future strategies become clearer.

“We’re thinking about their longer-term defense posture, because at some point when this is over, what’s going to be very important is to do everything we can to make sure that Russia can’t repeat the exercise a year later, two years later, five years later,” Blinken said. “And that means building up Ukraine’s longer-term deterrent and defense capacity. So, all of those things are being worked at the same time. We’re running and chewing gum at the same time.”

Finance ministers from the G7 on Thursday called for more financial support for Ukraine and vowed to maintain tough sanctions on Russia. Speaking ahead of a meeting of the Group of 20 nations in India, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen took the lead in urging the International Monetary Fund to pull together a loan program for Ukraine, adding that Washington was preparing an additional $10 billion in economic assistance (Reuters).

“Our economic assistance is making Ukraine’s resistance possible by supporting the home front,” she said. “As President Biden has said, we will stand with Ukraine in its fight — for as long as it takes.”

The New York Times: Yellen confronts Russian officials at G20 meeting.

When the Biden administration announced response plans for the refugee crisis in Ukraine, it stressed the temporary nature of a new program. But a year after Russia’s invasion, hopes of any near-term return to Ukraine for the 100,000 who have arrived so far appear dashed after a long year. As The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch reports, Ukraine’s refugee population in the U.S. was granted temporary status and just two years to remain in this country.

“This is a situation with all the hallmarks of a protracted conflict, one that makes returning safely all but impossible,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “I think there needs to be reconsideration of the timeframes that we’re talking about.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. has issued several stern warnings to China amid growing concerns that Beijing may provide lethal aid to Russia, but has so far not made clear what those “consequences” would be. The Hill’s Brad Dress reports that according to experts and analysts, any U.S. action would likely take the shape of sanctions. On Wednesday, the Pentagon said there would be consequences for sending weapons or munitions to Russia, echoing similar warnings from Blinken and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Last weekend, Blinken first raised the alarm when he said China has already provided nonlethal aid to Russia and was considering sending lethal aid. Blinken said he warned his Chinese counterpart against supplying Moscow with arms. 

On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution calling for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine (The Hill). Voting in favor: 141 countries. China, South Africa and India abstained, among 32 nations in total.

CNN: China calls for Russia-Ukraine ceasefire as claims to its neutrality are questioned.

China’s position paper on the Russia-Ukraine war, released on Friday, is HERE.

Related Articles

The Wall Street Journal: Graves without names, messages unanswered: Ukraine’s missing soldiers hint at the war’s bloody toll.

Politico: Why Zelensky is a more complex leader than most people know.

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. to expand troop presence in Taiwan for training against China threat.

CNN and Reuters: Biden called for peaceful and transparent presidential elections on Saturday in Nigeria, emphasizing that “elections are a fundamental part of a functioning democracy, and all Nigerians deserve this chance to choose their future — freely and fairly.” On Thursday, a Senate candidate in Nigeria was killed in a spate of preelection attacks (Reuters).

CBS News: Biden to nominate former Mastercard president and CEO Ajay Banga to be World Bank president, the White House announced on Thursday.



Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — who is days away from promoting a new memoir and has become a magnet for news coverage about his conservative objections to cultural issues — vowed Thursday through his staff to boycott MSNBC and NBC News because of a question about Black history posed by veteran journalist Andrea Mitchell last week to Vice President Harris

The “lie” that the DeSantis camp is protesting is Mitchell’s question: “What does Governor Ron DeSantis not know about Black history and the Black experience when he says that slavery and the aftermath of slavery should not be taught to Florida schoolchildren?” Mitchell later said her questioning was “imprecise” but did not explicitly apologize (The Hill). 

DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education have rejected an Advanced Placement course on African American studies, stoking a state-by-state political debate about whether and how to teach students about racism and slavery (NPR).

Meanwhile, a federal judge on Thursday ruled that former President Trump can be deposed in a pair of lawsuits brought by two former FBI officials whom he has long publicly disparaged. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled on Thursday that former FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page would also be permitted to question FBI Director Christopher Wray (NBC News). Strzok, who was fired from the bureau, is challenging his dismissal, while Page, who resigned, similarly asserts Trump and his appointees targeted her out of a political vendetta (The Hill). 

The Washington Post: Trump’s grip on the Republican base is slipping — even among his fans. More than 150 interviews in pivotal electoral states show the former president maintains a bond with his GOP voters but faces rising interest in a new standard-bearer.

Politico: Trump-allied group to Congress: Cut off former Jan. 6 committee staffers.

The Hill: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asks the former Architect of the Capitol when he will repay taxpayers.

NBC News: Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) urged the Justice Department to act if it finds Ticketmaster has “walled itself off from competitive pressure at the expense of the industry and fans.”

Nikki Haley has been cast as a moderate alternative to former President Trump in the race for the GOP’s 2024 nomination. But as The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes in The Memo, it’s not at all clear that Haley wants that label. At her campaign stops, she stresses conservative priorities on crime, immigration and the fight against “wokeness” that are substantially indistinguishable from those of Trump or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). Her appeal is less about center-right vs hard-right policies, instead, it’s more that she wraps the same proposals in a sunnier outlook and a promise of turning the page from the current generation of politicians. 

Republicans are grappling with how to appeal to women voters — a lingering issue that threatens to turn off key voting blocs as Republicans look to flip the Senate, retain their House majority and take back the White House in 2024. The Hill’s Julia Manchester and Caroline Vakil report a lack of strategic framing on issues like abortion and fielding candidates who speak primarily to the far-right portion of their base have at times cost Republicans women voters during elections, members of the party say. Now Republicans are staring down a consequential set of elections next year, with some members of the party warning that nominating Trump could further thwart those efforts. 

Marianne Williamson, the best-selling spiritual author and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate will launch her bid for the Democratic nomination on March 4, the Medill News Service reports. Williamson in 2020 ran a long-shot campaign, dropping out of the race in January before any primary as she polled at less than 1 percent.

The New York Times: Republicans will hold their first presidential debate in Milwaukee. The debate is set for August, in the same city that will host the party’s 2024 convention.

The Washington Post: Republicans use “wokeism” to attack the left — but struggle to define it.

Los Angeles Times: California Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter are in a tight race to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a new poll shows; others trail far behind.

Former President George W. Bush, during a rare visit toWashington today, will mark the 20th anniversary of PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, launched during his administration (The Hill). Bush will be joined by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former first lady Laura Bush, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and former Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete. Blinken, who is in New York City, will add virtual remarks during the event, hosted by The George W. Bush Institute.



Ohio: The release of hazardous chemicals following a freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, early this month resulted from an overheated axle and a train car containing plastic pellets that sparked a fire, according to a preliminary report released on Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB said it found no indication the Norfolk Southern train’s crew did anything wrong (The Hill).

The New York Times: The crew tried to stop the train before the derailment in East Palestine, the NTSB reported.

The Hill: The release of toxic substances into the air and water in East Palestine killed an estimated 44,000 aquatic creatures, including minnows, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The Hill: NTSB chairwoman decries politicization of the Ohio train wreck.

Biden and senior officials in the administration previously said Norfolk Southern is culpable in what the government says was a “100 percent preventable” accident that could have created a horrific fireball, and even with a controlled burn of chemicals has triggered special water, air and soil monitoring and testing. The train carried 115,580 gallons of vinyl chloride, a carcinogen. The NTSB’s investigation could take a year or more. The agency plans a rare field hearing in Ohio this spring.

A union representing railroad workers said Wednesday that from its perspective, Norfolk Southern has prioritized speed over safety using a system called “precision scheduled railroading” that aims to keep trains moving (NBC News).

Biden and the White House are working to stem the political fallout over the administration’s response to the train derailment that has left residents of East Palestine, Ohio, scared and frustrated, write The Hill’s Brett Samuels and Alex Gangitano.

After Biden returned late Wednesday from a surprise trip to Kyiv and a major speech in Europe to mark the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an NPR poll showed Biden with a 49 percent approval rating, his highest mark in nearly a year. But the train derailment and its aftermath threaten to drag Biden down as Republicans question the urgency of his administration’s response and why the president himself has not prioritized a visit to the affected community. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited East Palestine on Thursday after criticism that he was not attentive enough during an evolving emergency. He pushed back at Trump, a presidential candidate who traveled to Ohio on Wednesday to criticize the Biden administration, urging the former president to support tougher freight rail regulations (The Hill).  

“One thing he can do is express support for reversing the deregulation that happened on his watch. I heard him say he had nothing to do with it, even though it was in his administration. So, if he had nothing to do with it and they did it in his administration against his will, maybe he can come out and say that he supports us moving in a different direction,” the secretary said.

NPR: A pulmonologist and medical professor near East Palestine, Ohio, details health issues he’s monitoring in the community including respiratory conditions.

CNN: Angry Ohio residents confront train CEO during CNN town hall on toxic wreck.

The Hill: Four systemic safety issues suggested in the NTSB crash report.

Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance (R), 38 — who won national acclaim as author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” his memoir about growing up in Ohio’s Rust Belt — said the East Palestine disaster “stands at the intersection of corporate power and government power,” adding that people in his “wing of the party are very skeptical of each” (Axios).

When asked during a phone interview if companies should face higher liability or fines for such accidents, Vance told Axios, “They need to face more responsibility for causing accidents like this. … You still smell the aroma of chemicals in the air. And, obviously, that scares the hell out of the local population.”

First lady Jill Biden’s visit to Namibia was a hit on Thursday with scores of giddy children who crowded around as she handed out boxes of White House M&Ms after visiting an organization, Hope Initiatives Southern Africa, that gets U.S. support for programs that teach young adults about HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence (ABC News/AP).

“Candy from the White House,” Biden, an educator by profession, announced as she stepped out of her SUV and approached the children, who had been waiting along the roadside.

The first lady quickly ran out of candy, and then another boy stepped forward. As he sadly turned away, she called out, “Wait!,” and gave him the presidential tote bag that had held the sweets.

She next heads to Kenya, where she will talk about food insecurity in the Horn of Africa. Kenya has faced multiple droughts over the last 15 years, causing major food supply and public health issues. The White House says women’s equality and gender based violence are also on the agenda (ABC News).

Behind the “soft power” approach by the first lady in two African nations, the Biden administration views countries on the continent as strategic partners when it comes to national defense, and U.S. officials hope to diminish the influence in Africa of some mercenary groups — such as the Russian-backed Wagner Group. At the same time, U.S. officials are wary of China’s financial influence, aided by Beijing’s multibillion-dollar investments in Africa’s infrastructure through a program known as the Belt and Road Initiative (MSNBC).

Previous first ladies made both solo trips and visits with their husbands to African countries, including Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama.


■ The economic war against Putin has only just begun, by the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board.

■ Is Ukraine the “war before the war”? by Michael Singh, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


📲 Ask The Hill: Share a news query tied to an expert journalist’s insights: The Hill launched something new and (we hope) engaging via text with Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack. Learn more and sign up HERE.

The House will hold a pro forma session at 11 a.m. 

The Senate meets on Monday at 3 p.m. for a reading of George Washington’s Farewell Address before proceeding to executive session to consider the nomination of Jamar Walker to be a U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 8:30 a.m. Biden will participate in a virtual meeting of Group of Seven leaders with Zelensky at 9 a.m. from the White House. Biden will depart for Delaware at 5:25 p.m.

The vice president will host a White House meeting at 11 a.m. about access to reproductive health care.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is in Bengaluru, India, to participate today in the Group of 20 finance ministers’ meeting. The secretary this afternoon holds a bilateral meeting with British Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt

The secretary of State is in New York City where he will participate in a virtual Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe permanent council meeting at 9:15 a.m. He will participate in a United Nations Security Council ministerial meeting on Ukraine at 10 a.m. Blinken meets at 11:30 a.m. with Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani. The secretary at 1:15 p.m. meets with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The first lady will travel from Namibia to Kenya and be there through Sunday. Early today, she delivered keynote remarks to students at Namibia University of Science and Technology. This afternoon local time, she flies from Windhoek to Nairobi. The first lady is scheduled to meet her counterpart in Kenya, first lady Rachel Ruto, upon arrival. In Nairobi this evening, Biden will participate in a reception focused on women’s empowerment accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman.

Economic indicator: The Bureau of Economic Analysis will report at 8:30 a.m. on January’s personal income and outlays.  



Weather woes: Winter gripped much of the country on Thursday while flip flops and shorts were the street garb from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans as temperatures soared. The nation’s capital hit a record high daily temperature of 81 degrees (The Washington Post). 

Winter in February is not news. Extreme weather swings (and the resulting problems) make headlines.

Some 2,500 commercial flights were canceled everywhere as of Thursday morning, largely because snow, hail and sleet combined to scratch 800 flights into or out of the United States (ABC News).

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard alert for the mountains of Los Angeles County for the first time since 1989. The warning was to take effect at 4 a.m. today and last until 4 p.m. on Saturday. The weather service predicted 2 to 5 feet of snow and 75 mph winds at mountain elevations as low as 4,000 feet, adding that flakes could fall around the Hollywood historical landmark sign.

On Thursday, there were reports of fatalities from a downed power line in Michigan, a collapsed commercial garage deck in Wisconsin, two separate emergency deaths in winter-whipped Portland, Ore., and other weather-related hazards ( In Minnesota, more than 200 highway wrecks were reported in icy conditions.

Nationwide, nearly 1 million people have been without power, most in Michigan, during what has become a multiday weather drama, CNN reported.

Tennessee: State House Republicans on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a ban on gender transition health care for minors, which will require transgender children to end their current medical treatment by March 2024. Republican Gov. Bill Lee has voiced support for the bill and is expected to sign it if it reaches his desk.

The measure prohibits children from receiving puberty blockers, hormone therapies or surgical procedures.

People who received the treatments as minors would also be able to sue parents, guardians and physicians for authorizing the care under a statute of limitations under the legislation. Bill sponsors initially included language to categorize parents seeking such treatments for their kids as abuse or neglect, but that section was later stripped from the bill as it made its way through committees.

If it becomes law, the bill would officially take effect this summer and give existing patients until March 31, 2024, to cease treatment, a timeline that House Democrats have argued could medically harm the patients. Civil rights groups have vowed an immediate lawsuit if and when the bill becomes law — setting up the potential for a lengthy legal battle over the coming months (The Tennessean).

These children do not need these medical procedures to be able to flourish as adults,” said state House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R). “They need mental health treatment. They need love and support, and many of them need to be able to grow up to become the individuals that they were intended to be” (The Washington Post).

State lawmakers nationwide have introduced legislation opposing gender-affirming medical care for young people (The Hill). Such services have been available in the U.S. for more than a decade and have been endorsed by major medical associations.

ABC News: Virginia reviews an advanced placement African American studies course amid nationwide debate.


Childhood obesity in the United States has tripled in the past three decades, and data suggest that already surging rates were further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, writes The Hill’s Gianna Melillo. Experts and advocates warn this could have significant long-term impacts on everything from the toll of chronic disease to military recruitment. The nation is trying to head off the trend, and its potential consequences. 

Most Americans think they know the story of the pandemic. But when a reporter at The New York Times immersed himself in a COVID-19 oral-history project, he realized how much we’re still missing.

The Hill: Americans are worried about rising drug costs, health bills, survey shows.

The Washington Post: Sunny highs to shivering cold: Wild weather swings take a health toll.

The New York Times: Global declines in maternal mortality have stalled. Death rates in the United States have increased in recent years, as they have in Europe, the WHO reported.

Information about the availability of COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots can be found at

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,119,508. Current U.S. COVID-19 deaths are 2,407 for the week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The CDC shifted its tally of available data from daily to weekly, now reported on Fridays.)


And finally …  👏👏👏 Congratulations to Morning Report Quiz winners! Expert puzzlers knew all about Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, and carnival celebrations around the world.

Here’s who paraded their four correct answers this week: Richard Baznik, Patrick Kavanagh, Mary Anne McEnery, Barbara Wither, Pam Manges, John Dziennik Jr., Steve James, Luther Berg, Stephen Delano, Paul Harris and Jaina Metha.

They knew that New Orleans was celebrating Mardi Gras by the 1730s.

During Brazil’s annual Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, samba schools launch elaborate floats and show off choreographed dance routines 

Venice, Italy, is famous for its masked carnival, which ends on Shrove Tuesday.

The British traditionally eat pancakes to celebrate Fat Tuesday. Many still ask why, according to the Daily Mail.

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Tags 2024 2024 presidential election Biden Buttigieg DeSantis East Palestine Morning Report Nikki Haley Ohio Russia train derailment Ukraine Vladimir Putin Volodymyr Zelensky War anniversary

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