1/ Biden banned all imports of oil and natural gas from Russia, punishing Russia for its “vicious war of choice” in Ukraine. “The United States is targeting the main artery of Russia’s economy,” Biden said. “We will not be part of subsidizing Putin’s war.” Biden, however, warned that the decision would mean higher prices for energy and at the gas pump, saying “defending freedom is going to cost […] It’s going to cost us as well, in the United States.” 79% of Americans, meanwhile, said they favored a ban on Russian oil imports even if it increased energy prices in the U.S., while 13% said they opposed it. The U.S. move was matched in part by the U.K., which announced that it’ll phase out the import of Russian oil and oil products by the end of 2022. The European Union also took steps to scale back imports of Russian energy by approximately two-thirds this year. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, said the House plans to vote today on legislation to ban U.S. imports of Russian fossil fuels, calling it “an urgent imperative – both morally and for our security interests.” In addition to banning Russian oil, the bill would empower Biden to impose tariffs on other Russian products, take steps to suspend Russia from the World Trade Organization, and reauthorize and strengthen the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which allows the U.S. to impose sanctions on countries in response to human rights abuses. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / Associated Press / CNN / CNBC / NPR)
2/ Poland offered to transfer all of its Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jets “immediately and free of charge” to a U.S. air base in Germany. Russia has warned that delivering the jets to Ukraine would be seen as a provocation. Over the weekend, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would give a “green light” if Poland or another NATO member sent jets to Ukraine and that the U.S. could “backfill” those jets with F-16, though it’s unclear where the U.S. would pull the jets from in order to send them to Poland. Also, by giving the planes to the U.S. rather than directly to the Ukrainians, the Polish government sidesteps the logistical challenge of transferring the jets themselves. Poland has 28 of the Soviet-era MiG-29 jets. (Politico / Wall Street Journal / The Guardian / NBC News / CNN)
3/ CIA Director William Burns said Putin is “angry and frustrated” with his invasion of Ukraine and will likely “double-down […] with no regard for civilian casualties.” Speaking before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Burns said Putin doesn’t appear to have a “sustainable political endgame in the face of what is going to continue to be fierce resistance from Ukrainians.” The likely result, Burns said, is “an ugly next few weeks” of fighting. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines added that Putin “is unlikely to be deterred […] and instead may escalate — essentially doubling down to achieve Ukrainian disarmament and neutrality to prevent it from further integrating with the U.S. and NATO if it doesn’t reach some diplomatic negotiation.” The Russian foreign ministry, meanwhile, reportedly suggested that Russia wants to go back to “peaceful co-existence” with the U.S., like during the Cold War. (Politico / NPR / ABC News)
4/ The Senate unanimously approved a bill to make lynching a federal hate crime – punishable by up to 30 years in prison. The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act was approved by the House last month and now heads to Biden’s desk for his signature. It took more than 100 years and 200 failed attempts to outlaw lynching since the first anti-lynching legislation was introduced in 1900 by Rep. George Henry White. (NPR / CNN / New York Times)
5/ The first Jan. 6 defendant to take his case to trial was found guilty of all five charges he faced related to his role in the attack on the Capitol. A jury found Guy Wesley Reffitt, a Texas Three Percenter, guilty of leading a pro-Trump mob against the police at the Capitol, obstructing Congress’s duty to certify the 2020 election, carrying a firearm during the attack, and threatening his teenage son and daughter to keep them from turning him in to the FBI. Reffitt faces a maximum of 20 years in prison from the obstruction count alone and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 8. On Christmas Eve, Reffitt’s son Jackson submitted an online tip to the FBI warning that his father was planning to do “some serious damage.” No one responded to the tip until after the riot. (NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / CBS News)
6/ A federal grand jury indicted the longtime leader of the Proud Boys with conspiracy to obstruct Congress related to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, making him the second leader of a far-right group to face charges in the past several months. The indictment alleges that Enrique Tarrio “led the advance planning and remained in contact with other members of the Proud Boys during their breach,” including taking credit for what had happened on social media and participating in a private Telegram group chat during and after the attack. In January, prosecutors charged Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers militia, with seditious conspiracy for his months-long effort to violently disrupt the transfer of power. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News)
7/ Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature passed a controversial bill that forbids lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. The legislation, which Democrats and LGBTQ activists have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, now heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has signaled his support for the measure. The bill bans “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade or “in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.” Parents would be able to sue districts over violations. (Associated Press / NBC News / CNN / HuffPost / Washington Post / Politico)
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