1/ A bipartisan group of lawmakers reached a deal to ban the import of Russian energy and suspend normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus in response to the invasion of Ukraine. The bill also provides Biden with the authority to increase tariffs on both countries, and would require the U.S. trade representative to seek the suspension of Russia’s participation in the World Trade Organization, as well as try to halt Belarus’s attempt to join the global trade organization. It’s unclear, however, if Biden would sign the legislation if it reaches his desk. Over the weekend, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he “would support” a ban on Russian oil imports. The prospect of Russian energy sanctions sent oil prices to a 14-year high, with the average national gasoline price exceeding $4 a gallon. Putin, meanwhile, told a group of Aeroflot flight attendants that Western sanctions on Russia were “akin to a declaration of war.” (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post / Politico)
- Live blogs: New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / CNBC / CNN / NBC News
2/ The Biden administration has discussed a possible deal to send Poland’s Soviet-era MiG fighter jets to Ukraine. In exchange, the U.S. would replace Poland’s planes with American-made F-16s. Ukraine’s government is interested in the old planes because the country’s military pilots already know how to fly them. Putin, however, warned that Moscow would view any Western attempts to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine as “participating in the armed conflict” against Russia. Separately, nearly all of the troops Russia amassed on Ukraine’s border are now fighting inside the country and the U.S. doesn’t believe that Russia is “preparing to move additional battalion tactical groups from elsewhere in the country to shore up what they’ve put into Ukraine.” Instead, Moscow is reportedly recruiting Syrians skilled in urban combat to fight in Ukraine. (New York Times / NBC News / Politico)
3/ After Trump described Putin as “smart,” “savvy,” and “a genius,” Pence said there was no room in the Republican Party for “apologists for Putin.” Trump, while insisting that the attack on Ukraine never would have happened on his watch, told the Conservative Political Action Conference last weekend that “The problem is not that Putin is smart, which of course he’s smart, but the real problem is that our leaders are dumb. Dumb. So dumb.” Former Attorney General William Barr, meanwhile, suggested that he would vote for Trump in 2024 despite believing that Trump was “responsible in the broad sense of that word” for the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol. “I think the whole idea was to intimidate Congress. And I think that that was wrong,” Barr said, adding that he hasn’t seen evidence that Trump “was legally responsible for it in terms of incitement.” Trump, however, continued to repeat his false claims of election fraud, saying that Barr “wouldn’t know voter fraud if it was staring him in the face—and it was. The fact is, he was weak, ineffective, and totally scared of being impeached, which the Democrats were constantly threatening to do.” (CBS News / Washington Post / Politico / Axios / NBC News)
4/ The National Archives delivered Trump’s White House visitor logs to the Jan. 6 committee. Trump had tried to block the release of the logs, but Biden rejected the claim that they were subject to executive privilege “in light of the urgency” of the committee’s work and Congress’s “compelling need.” The archives also turned over Pence’s records. (Reuters / The Guardian)
5/ Researchers identified Covid-associated brain shrinkage equivalent to as much as a decade of normal aging, according to a study published in Nature. The study used before-and-after brain images of 785 British people and found that even a mild case of Covid-19 may cause greater loss of gray matter and tissue damage in the brain than naturally occurs in people who have not been infected with the virus. The death toll from Covid-19, meanwhile, eclipsed 6 million. (New York Times / Bloomberg / USA Today / Politico)
6/ Florida’s surgeon general recommends against vaccinating healthy children for Covid-19 despite the CDC recommending that everyone age 5 and older get vaccinated. Florida “is going to be the first state to officially recommend against the Covid-19 vaccines for healthy children,” Joseph Ladapo said, without elaborating on the details or rationale. Ladapo, who leads Florida’s Department of Health, made the announcement at the end of a roundtable discussion that Gov. Ron DeSantis convened to discuss “ending Covid theater once and for all.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki, meanwhile, said “It’s deeply disturbing that there are politicians peddling conspiracy theories out there and casting doubt on vaccination when it is our best tool against the virus and the best tool to prevent even teenagers from being hospitalized.” The CDC recommends that parents get their children vaccinated, saying: “Covid-19 can make children very sick and cause children to be hospitalized. In some situations, the complications from infection can lead to death.” (Bloomberg / Palm Beach Post / Tampa Bay Times / New York Times / Politico)
7/ The Amazon rainforest is nearing its “tipping point” and more than half of the rainforest could irreversibly turn into a savanna, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Satellite images taken over the past several decades show that more than 75% of the rainforest is getting drier and taking longer to regenerate after a disturbance, such as droughts and wildfires. Losing the rainforest could result in up to 90 billion tons of carbon dioxide getting put back into the atmosphere – the equivalent of several years of global emissions – and researchers fear that this carbon release would put the world’s goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius out of reach. (Washington Post / New York Times)
poll/ 71% of Americans said they’d support a ban on Russian oil even if it meant higher gasoline prices in the U.S., including 82% of Democrats, 70% of independents, and 66% of Republicans. (Quinnipiac)
Become a member.
Help keep WTF Just Happened Today going with a small contribution.