1/ Putin declared martial law in the four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine that it doesn’t entirely control. The move follows Moscow’s internationally condemned staged referendums and illegal annexation last month. Speaking to his Security Council by video feed, Putin said the martial law order was necessary because the Ukrainian government refused to accept the sham referendums, which he claimed was “the will of the people.” Russian forces, however, have repeatedly lost ground to the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the annexed territories. The head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense council warned that Putin’s order was “preparation for the mass deportation of the Ukrainian population to depressed areas of [Russia] in order to change the ethnic composition of the occupied territory.” Biden added that Putin’s slowed military invasion has put the Russian leader in an “incredibly difficult position” that may lead him to “brutalize individual citizens in Ukraine, Ukrainian citizens, to try to intimidate them into capitulating.” (Associated Press / NPR / Washington Post / New York Times / Axios)
- White House taking every step possible to avoid direct Biden-Putin encounter at next month’s G-20 summit in Indonesia. “U.S. officials have ruled out a formal meeting and are taking steps to ensure that the American president does not encounter his Russian counterpart in a hallway or even in a leaders’ group photo.” (Politico)
2/ Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused China of planning to seize Taiwan on a “much faster timeline” than previously thought. “There has been a change in the approach from Beijing toward Taiwan in recent years,” Blinken said, adding that China had made a “fundamental decision that the status quo was no longer acceptable, and that Beijing was determined to pursue reunification on a much faster timeline.” Chinese President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, used a widely-watched speech to say the “wheels of history are rolling on towards China’s reunification” with Taiwan. Xi added: “We reserve the option of taking all measures necessary.” China has refrained from publicly criticizing Russia’s war in Ukraine, and while China and Russia do not have a formal alliance, the two countries have a so-called “no limits” partnership. (Washington Post / Bloomberg)
3/ Mortgage applications dropped to a 25-year low as mortgage rates reached a 20-year high. New single-family home construction and permit applications for single-family dwellings fell last month. Homebuilder sentiment also fell to its lowest level since the early days of the pandemic. Meanwhile, 52% of Americans have considered holding second jobs to pay their living expenses as inflation hit a four-decade high in September. (CNBC / The Hill / CNN / Bloomberg)
4/ A Wisconsin taxpayers group asked the Supreme Court to block Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan. The Brown County Taxpayers Association filed the request for emergency relief, arguing that the Biden administration had overstepped its executive powers, circumvented Congress, and that the program would cost taxpayers more than the $400 billion that the Congressional Budget Office estimated. The request was filed to Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who is likely to refer the matter to the full court. The Biden administration has been sued by at least seven states and two organizations over the plan, which began accepting applications for debt relief on Monday. (CNN / NBC News / Axios)
5/ Trump appeared for a deposition as part of the defamation lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll, who Trump described as “not my type” when he denied her allegation that he had raped her in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman nearly three decades ago. Trump had tried for three years to delay the defamation case and avoid the deposition, but a federal judge ordered to appear under oath and answer questions, saying he “should not be able to run out the clock.” (CNN / ABC News / NBC News / New York Times)
6/ A federal judge ordered John Eastman to turn over four emails to the Jan. 6 committee because they are related to an attempted crime. Eastman the lawyer who promoted the legal theory that Pence could block or delay the Electoral College certification to overturn Biden’s victory. U.S. District Court Judge David Carter wrote in an 18-page opinion that Eastman’s emails “show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public.” Trump and his lawyers alleged in a Dec. 4 filing in Georgia that Fulton County had improperly counted more than 10,000 votes of dead people, felons, and unregistered voters. On Dec. 31, Eastman emailed the other Trump lawyers that the numbers filed in state court were not accurate. Trump, however, signed the legal documents knowing the evidence of election fraud was false. “The Court finds that these emails are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States,” Carter wrote. (Politico / CNBC / CNN / The Hill)
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