It’s Wednesday, February 23rd, and this is your Morning Wire. Listen to the full podcast:
1) Biden Responds To Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine
The Topline: Russian military aggression towards Ukraine has escalated rapidly in recent days, culminating in a dramatic move by the Russian regime and a major shift in messaging from the White House.
Quote Of The Day: “Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belong to his neighbors? This is a flagrant violation of international law, and demands a firm response from the international community.”
– President Joe Biden
On Tuesday morning, the White House called the movement of Russian troops into eastern areas of Ukraine an “invasion,” for the first time.
First, the Biden administration’s principal Deputy National Security Advisor said this was “the beginning of an invasion,” and then the White House confirmed with Fox News that they were defining what is going on as an invasion. Ukraine’s government confirmed that two soldiers were killed in a shelling attack by pro-Russian separatists on Saturday, and Putin gave a press conference Monday in which he claimed Ukraine was entirely created by Russia.
When Lviv’s mayor was asked during an interview what Putin’s objective was, he said, “Completely destroy Ukraine. You must know Russia was, is, and will always [be a] source of threat for Ukraine and democratic countries in [the] world.”
President Biden’s Response
President Biden gave his first press conference since the White House confirmed Russia was invading Ukraine.
The address was less than ten minutes, and he didn’t take any questions from journalists afterwards. However, President Biden said Putin’s rewriting of Ukraine’s history was “bizarre,” and that Russia’s latest military action violates international law.
He also said the U.S. would respond to this invasion by imposing sanctions which would go far beyond those imposed in 2014 when Russia invaded Crimea.
One set of sanctions would be directed at two Russian financial institutions as part of an attempt to cut off the Russian government from western funding. He also said he would target some specific wealthy individuals.
Biden also confirmed Germany’s announcement that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project would not go ahead and announced additional defensive moves and support for Ukraine, such as authorizing U.S. forces and equipment already stationed in Europe to strengthen Baltic allies.
He emphasized that these were defensive moves, and made a clear distinction between defending Ukraine – which is not a member of NATO – and other NATO states.
Biden concluded by claiming that Putin would be surprised that western countries were working in unison, and Russia should be judged on its actions, not its words. The U.S., Biden said, was ready to respond with “unity, clarity, and conviction,” regardless of Russia’s next move.
2) Biden Begins Interviewing SCOTUS Nominees
The Topline: President Joe Biden has reportedly begun interviewing potential nominees to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
During the 2020 campaign, President Biden drew a lot of attention for promising to nominate a black woman to the court if an opening were made available, and earlier this month he said he’d follow through on that promise.
The president’s team says he’s on track to make his pick by the end of February, just before his March 1st State of the Union address.
According to Biden, he’s narrowed the list down to four main contenders, and he’s done a “deep dive” on each of them. Among the four are Leondra Kruger, a member of California’s Supreme Court and Julianna Michelle Childs a federal judge from South Carolina. The presumptive favorite right now, according to multiple reports from within the White House, is D.C. Circuit Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
The D.C. Circuit Court is often considered a breeding ground for Supreme Court picks because it regularly hears cases with national implications, and Jackson is only 51 years old, meaning she could serve for decades, a plus for Democrats.
The nomination will first be sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, who after having time to research the nominee themselves, will hold a hearing to ask them about their judicial philosophy and qualifications. After that, the Senate will hold a vote to confirm or oppose the nomination.
Remember: Democrats don’t need any Republican support. As long as all 50 Democrats vote in unison, Vice President Harris would serve as the tie-breaking vote, giving them the necessary majority.
The President set up a board of advisors to help with his decision, and among the members he appointed was Minyon Moore. Moore is a veteran of the Clinton administration and close confidant of Vice President Kamala Harris, but she’s also a board member of the Black Lives Matter Global Foundation, and has been a vocal supporter of the Defund the Police movement and Critical Race Theory.
More broadly, there has been some backlash to the president’s decision to only interview black women for the job. One recent ABC poll found that 76% of Americans want him to “consider all possible nominees” for the position, while only 23% supported the nomination of a judge based largely on skin color.
3) Washington State Policy Hides Students’ Gender Transitions From Parents
The Topline: A new policy in Washington state requires teachers to hide students’ gender transitions from their parents, unless the students say it’s okay for their parents to know.
The policy comes from the state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the main agency overseeing public education in Washington state. In its guidelines on how to handle transgender students, OSPI warns that “sometimes, transgender students may not want their families to know that they are transgender or that they use a different name, pronouns, and gender designation at school.” The agency goes on to add that “often, this is because they are concerned about a lack of familial acceptance” and that this could impact “their safety and wellbeing at home.”
The guidelines apply to K-12, and when a student claims their parents won’t accept them if they change their gender, teachers have to essentially obey the child and hide what’s going on from the child’s own parents. OSPI says students have “the right to be treated consistent with one’s gender identity” and “schools are strongly encouraged to ask the student which name, pronouns, and gender designation should be used when communicating with parents and guardians before such communications take place.” They say this is to avoid unintentionally outing the student at home.
Teachers Speak Out
The policy is causing situations where parents don’t know their child has transitioned at school, and led to pushback from some teachers who don’t agree with the idea of hiding students’ gender transitions from their parents.
The Daily Wire spoke to a teacher who broke down on the phone when she was describing how helpless she felt. The teacher shared that she’s overheard students asking each other, “What are you going to be?” regarding their gender identity. She also shared that teachers at her school in Washington were told by school counselors to use students’ preferred pronouns and names and were instructed not to tell parents.
Last year, she said she made the mistake of calling up a parent and telling them their child wanted to adopt a new name and gender identity, asking the parent whether that was okay, and the parent responded, “definitely not, we’re Christians.” The teacher said she was later reprimanded by the principal and counselor for telling the parent. At the beginning of this year, the school made a point of spending time going over the guidelines on parental notification around gender identity in detail.
Washington’s OSPI told The Daily Wire that disclosing a student’s new gender identity to parents could violate privacy laws if the student hasn’t given permission. Based on their guidelines, the school makes the call on whether the student’s family is “harming” them.
Around The Country: North Carolina now allows students to change their name and sex on state records without parental consent, heightening concerns among some about schools tacitly encouraging children to change their identities behind parents’ backs. Parents in California, New York, Texas, and Florida have accused schools of pushing their kids to change genders.
Other News We’re Tracking
On Tuesday, a Georgia jury found the three white men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery guilty of federal hate crimes. Prosecutors argued that the three men were motivated by “pent up racial anger,” whereas the defendants argued that the men had recognized Arbery from security footage.
On Monday, Colombia’s Constitutional Court decriminalized abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. The decision will allow women to seek out an abortion without being prosecuted. Mexico’s Supreme Court made a similar move in September and Argentina’s Congress legalized abortion in 2020.
Britney Spears has reportedly secured a 15 million dollar book deal with Simon & Schuster for a tell-all memoir.