👋 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/ U.S. intelligence officials believe Putin is “being misinformed by his advisers” who “are too afraid to tell him the truth” about his military’s struggles in Ukraine and the effect of sanctions on the Russian economy. “We have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military which has resulted in persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership,” White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said, adding that the U.S. was sharing this information now to show “this has been a strategic error for Russia.” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby added that Putin hasn’t been kept informed by his Defense Ministry, saying: “It is his military. It is his war. He chose it. So the fact that he may not have all the context, that he may not fully understand the degree to which his forces are failing in Ukraine, that’s a little discomforting.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken also acknowledged that Putin has been misinformed by his advisers, saying “[…] one of the Achilles’ heel of autocracies is that you don’t have people in those systems who speak truth to power or who have the ability to speak truth to power. And I think that is something that we’re seeing in Russia.” (Bloomberg / New York Times / Associated Press / Reuters)
2/ Trump called on Putin to release information regarding Hunter Biden’s alleged dealings with Eastern European oligarchs in an interview with a far-right journalist whose previous coverage about the Bidens’ ties to Ukraine has been discredited. The claim is unsubstantiated. Trump previously pressured the Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on Hunter and Joe Biden, which lead to his first impeachment, and during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump urged Putin to hack Hillary Clinton’s personal emails. (Politico / NBC News / CNN)
3/ Susan Collins said she will vote for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, becoming the first Republican senator to support for Biden’s nominee. Collins support all but guarantees that Jackson will become the first Black woman on the court. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Jackson’s nomination April 4, and Democrats plan to quickly move it to the Senate floor for a final vote before the start of a two-week recess. (New York Times / Washington Post)
4/ The White House launched a Covid-19 website to help Americans navigate access to testing, treatment, vaccines, and masks. Biden, meanwhile, pressured Congress to approve billions in emergency coronavirus relief aid, saying: “This isn’t partisan. It’s medicine.” The website, COVID.gov, consolidates efforts launched earlier in the pandemic, and includes information on local virus spread, travel rules and restrictions, and information about to receive immediate antiviral treatments if you have Covid-19. “We’re now in a new moment in this pandemic,” Biden said. “It does not mean that Covid-19 is over. It means that Covid-19 no longer controls our lives.” The Biden administration has spent weeks calling on Republicans in Congress to approve $22.5 billion in emergency aid. The Senate, however, is still trying to reach an agreement on a $15 billion Covid-19 aid bill – similar in size to the one abruptly removed from the spending package earlier this month – before members leave for a two-week break at the end of next week. (NPR / Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / NBC News)
5/ The Biden administration plans to end Trump-era pandemic border policy restrictions that largely blocked migrants from entering the U.S. The change is expected to take effect in late May and would halt use of public health powers to set asylum limits at the U.S.-Mexico. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, at least 1.7 million migrants have been sent back to Mexico or their origin country since March 2020. (Associated Press / New York Times / CNN / Wall Street Journal)
6/ Biden is expected to invoke the Defense Production Act to help secure the minerals needed for the batteries used in electric vehicles and power storage on the electric grid. Adding minerals like lithium, nickel, graphite, cobalt, and manganese to the list of covered materials could help mining companies access $750 million under the DPA’s Title III fund. And while the U.S. possesses many of the minerals needed for clean energy technology, it relies primarily on imports from China, Russia, South Africa, and Australia. Russia, in particular, is a leading producer of nickel, copper, and other battery minerals, and the invasion of Ukraine has sent the necessary mineral prices soaring. (Politico / Bloomberg / Associated Press)
7/ The Biden administration will spend $3.16 billion to retrofit hundreds of thousands of homes in low-income areas, with the goal of making them more energy efficient. The funding for the federal Weatherization Assistance Program comes from Biden’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and will allow the program to modernize about 450,000 homes with cost-effective upgrades like adding insulation to attics, swapping older appliances for more efficient models, and replacing leaky windows and doors. Trump proposed eliminating the program in 2017. (Washington Post / CNBC)
poll/ 47% of Americans say they worry a great deal about the cost of energy – up from 37% a year ago and is more than double the percentage in 2020. (Gallup)
poll/ 30% of Americans say inflation is the most urgent issue facing the country today, followed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (14%), immigration (9%), climate change (7%), health care (6%), and Covid-19 (3%), among others. (Quinnipiac)
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