👋 Away Message: It's infrastructure week at WTF HQ! This will be the last edition of WTFJHT until May 31. WTF is taking a much needed break to retool ahead of what is shaping up to be a very consequential midterm cycle (we've also had a few unresolvable scheduling snafus/conflicts here, so I'm just going to take a mulligan on this one). In the mean time, we've built a little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding! I'm going to miss you. You'll hear from us again on Tuesday, May 31. Thanks for being here.
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1/ Biden announced “the first tranche” of new sanctions against Russia after Putin ordered troops into two Moscow-backed breakaway regions in Ukraine to carry out what Putin called “peacekeeping functions.” The sanctions, aimed at punishing Russia for “the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” would effectively cut off Russia from Western financing, and target Russian elites and their family in an effort to make sure people close to Putin “share the pain.” Biden condemned Putin’s “bizarre” recognition of two separatist “republics” in eastern Ukraine, warning that Putin is “setting up a rationale to take more territory by force.” Biden also announced that he was moving additional troops and equipment to “strengthen” U.S. allies in the Baltics, but made clear they would not be there to “fight Russia.” (NBC News / Politico / CNN / Bloomberg / New York Times / Axios / Washington Post / CNBC / Wall Street Journal)
2/ Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, saying “it does not make sense” in light of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Blinken had agreed to meet with Lavrov only if Russia did not invade Ukraine. “Now that we see the invasion is beginning and Russia has made clear its wholesale rejection of diplomacy,” Blinken said, adding that the U.S. would continue to pursue diplomacy if Russia takes “demonstrable steps to provide the international community with any degree of confidence that it is serious about de-escalating and finding a diplomatic solution.” (CNN / Axios / New York Times / Yahoo News)
3/ The three white men convicted on state charges in Georgia for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery were also found guilty of federal hate crimes. A federal jury has found Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor William Bryan guilty of hate crimes and attempted kidnapping when they chased and killed Arbery. The McMichaels were also guilty of one count each of the use of a firearm to commit a crime. All three men had been convicted of state murder charges earlier this year and sentenced to life in prison, with Bryan eligible for parole after 30 years. The three now face up to life in prison for the federal crimes, ensuring that the defendants will receive significant prison time even if their state convictions are overturned or sentences reduced on appeal. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNBC / NPR)
- 📌 Day 100: The Justice Department charged three white men with hate crimes for shooting and killing Ahmaud Arbery. A father and son armed themselves, got into a truck and chased and fatally shot the 25-year-old Black man after spotting him running in their Georgia neighborhood. Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory, and William “Roddie” Bryan where each charged with one count of interference with civil rights and attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels were also charged with using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. The Justice Department charged three white men with hate crimes for shooting and killing Ahmaud Arbery.
4/ A federal judge rejected Trump’s claim of “absolute immunity” from lawsuits accusing him of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, finding that there was evidence to suggest that he engaged in a conspiracy with organized groups to intimidate Congress into overturning the results of the 2020 election. Trump’s statements to his supporters before the riot “is the essence of civil conspiracy,” Judge Amit Mehta wrote in a 112-page ruling. Quoting repeatedly and at length from the Trump’s own public statements, Mehta said Trump’s rally speech “can reasonably be viewed as a call for collective action,” adding that Trump’s Twitter attack on Pence during the violence suggests a “tacit agreement” with those who stormed the Capitol. The three lawsuits against Trump were brought by Democratic House members and police officers seeking damages for physical and emotional injuries they incurred during “the first-ever presidential transfer of power marred by violence.” (Politico / CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / CBS News / CNBC / Bloomberg)
5/ The National Archives confirmed that it found classified information in the 15 boxes of White House records that Trump took to Mar-a-Lago. In a letter to Rep. Carolyn Maloney, U.S. Archivist David Ferriero wrote that officials had “identified items marked as classified national security information within the boxes” at Mar-a-Lago and confirmed that the matter has been sent to the Justice Department. The letter also indicated that the Archives “learned that additional paper records had been torn up by Trump were included in the records transferred,” despite the White House Counsel’s Office saying in 2018 “they would address the matter.” Ferriero added: “Although White House staff during the Trump Administration recovered and taped together some of the torn-up records, a number of other torn-up records that were transferred had not been reconstructed by the White House.” During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly railed against Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state, insisting that she should be in jail. The FBI, however, did not recommend charges following an investigation. [Editor’s note: #butheremails] (CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press)
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