👋 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 U.S. government formally accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine – four weeks after Russia launched its invasion. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that “based on information currently available, the U.S. government assesses that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine,” noting that many of the buildings Russian forces have targeted are “clearly identifiable as in-use by civilians” in Russian “in huge letters visible from the sky.” The International Criminal Court on March 1 opened an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine. (CNBC / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Washington Post)
2/ Putin’s press secretary refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Dmitry Peskov said Putin would consider using nuclear weapons in the case of “an existential threat for our country,” adding that “Putin intends to make the world listen to and understand our concerns.” Peskov repeated Putin’s “main goals of the operation” are to “get rid of the military potential of Ukraine,” to ensure Ukraine is a “neutral country,” to get rid of “nationalist battalions,” for Ukraine to accept that Crimea is part of Russia, and to accept that the Moscow-backed separatist Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk “are already independent states.” The Pentagon, meanwhile, called the remarks “dangerous,” saying that’s “not the way a responsible nuclear power should act.” Putin previously warned countries that interfere in Ukraine should be prepared to face “the consequences you have never seen in history.” (CNN / Washington Post)
3/ NATO will double its troop presence on the alliance’s eastern flank in response to Russia’s continuing war in Ukraine. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the deployment will consist of four new battle groups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. NATO will also provide Ukraine with equipment to protect against chemical, nuclear, or biological weapons. Stoltenberg called on Russia to stop its “nuclear saber rattling,” saying the use of chemical, nuclear, or biological weapons would be a “blatant violation of international law” and would fundamentally change the nature of the conflict. (Politico / CNBC / New York Times / Washington Post / Axios / BBC)
4/ Russia’s climate envoy resigned and left the country, citing his opposition to Putin’s war in Ukraine. Anatoly Chubais is the highest-level official to quit since the invasion of Ukraine. Separately, Russia’s central bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina tried to resign following the invasion. Putin, however, rejected the bid. Nabiullina was nominated for a new five-year term last week. (Bloomberg / NBC News / New York Times)
5/ Paul Manafort was blocked from leaving the country because he tried to use a revoked passport. Manafort attempted to fly from Miami to Dubai before Customs and Border Protection barred him from boarding the plane because of an issue with his passport. Although Manafort is not legally prevented from leaving the country or from applying for a new passport, he tried to travel using a passport that was revoked in October 2017 after his arrest. It was not clear why he tried to travel using an invalid passport. In 2018, Manafort was convicted on eight counts of tax and bank fraud, and he later pleaded guilty to financial crimes, violating foreign lobbying laws, and attempting to obstruct justice. At the time of his arrest in 2017, Manafort had three active passports, each with a different identification number. (Associated Press / CNBC / NBC News / CNN)
6/ Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson continued to defended her record against increasingly aggressive and contentious questioning from Senate Republicans that fact-checkers and Democrats have debunked and criticized. During her second day of questioning by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Jackson faced accusations from Lindsey Graham that she had been too lenient in her sentencing as a federal trial judge, but repeatedly interrupted her before she could give an answer. Ted Cruz also used his time to accuse Judge Jackson of not answering his questions despite continually interrupting her whenever she started to respond to his questions. And, Marsha Blackburn demanded that Judge Jackson “provide a definition for the word ‘woman.’” Judge Jackson replied: “I’m not a biologist.” Throughout the day, Judge Jackson repeatedly said that as a judge, she operated within the parameters of laws passed by Congress and that her overall record showed that her sentencing decisions were consistent with what the law recommended. Republicans, meanwhile, have started pressuring Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to oppose Judge Jackson in the 50-50 Senate. (CNBC / Washington Post / Politico / Bloomberg / New York Times)
poll/ 58% of Americans say the Senate should confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Only Chief Justice John Roberts, at 59% in 2005, had a higher level of support. For comparison, 51% of Americans were in favor of Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, 45% supported Neil Gorsuch, and 41% were for accused sexual predator Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. (Gallup)
poll/ 40% of Americans say the U.S. should have a “major role” in the Russia-Ukraine war. In February – just before the invasion began – 26% of Americans said the U.S. should have a major role in the conflict. (Associated Press)
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