👋 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/ The Biden administration warned that Russia could be preparing to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine after Russian officials accused the U.S. of funding “secret biological experiments” at laboratories in two Ukrainian cities. The State Department responded to the allegations, warning that “Russia is inventing false pretexts in an attempt to justify its own horrific actions in Ukraine.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki added that Russia’s accusations were “preposterous,” saying “Russia has a history also of inventing outright lies like this.” (Washington Post / NBC News / New York Times / Associated Press / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)
2/ The 2020 Census missed 18.8 million Americans – the biggest net undercount in three decades. The Census Bureau said that while the overall population total of 323 million was accurate, it undercounted the number of Hispanic, Black, and Native American residents and overcounted white and Asian residents. Census results are used to guide voting districts, congressional representation, and the allocation of an estimated $1.5 trillion in federal funds each year for health care, education, transportation, and other public services. (New York Times / Politico / NPR / Washington Post)
3/ The Consumer Price Index rose by 7.9% over the past year – the fastest pace of annual inflation in 40 years. The Labor Department also reported that inflation rose 0.8% from January to February – up from the 0.6% increase from December to January – reflecting the higher cost of gasoline, food, and shelter. The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, is expected to announce the first of a series of interest rate hikes next week aimed at slowing inflation. (Bloomberg / Politico / CNBC / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)
4/ TSA will extend its travel mask mandate for airplanes and other public transportation through mid-April. The mandate will extend at least through April 18 while the CDC works “with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor.” TSA said it expects the average daily passenger traffic to be above 90% of prepandemic levels for the rest of the month due to spring break travel. (Politico / NBC News / CNN / New York Times)
5/ Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Jan. 6 investigation will continue until “we hold everyone accountable,” calling it “the most urgent investigation in the history of the Justice Department.” Garland added that the Justice Department will “not shy away” from investigations that may be seen as “controversial or sensitive or political.” Last week, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot alleged that Trump and his allies “engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States” to overturn the 2020 election. (NPR / USA Today)
6/ The Republican National Committee sued the Jan. 6 committee, seeking to block the panel’s subpoena of data from the RNC’s fundraising platform vendor. The House committee said it needed the Salesforce data to investigate how Trump and the RNC used the platform to disseminate false statements about the 2020 election and how they impacted supporters who read them. According to committee spokesman Tim Mulvey, the Trump campaign and the RNC solicited donations by pushing false claims of widespread voter fraud between November 2020 and Jan. 6, 2021, and sent emails that “encouraged supporters to put pressure on Congress to keep President Trump in power.” (Axios / Washington Post)
7/ Michael Flynn testified before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. In November, the committee sent Flynn a letter demanding that he testify about a December 2020 Oval Office meeting where Trump and others discussed declaring a national emergency and seizing voting machines. Flynn, however, didn’t answer any questions, exercising his 5th Amendment right. (NBC News)
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