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The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

G20 invitation for Putin shows limits of his ‘pariah’ status

The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On Star Wars Day (“May the Fourth be with you”), I can reveal I quit high-school chorus because our teacher wanted us to sing the Ewok victory song from “Return of the Jedi.” In Ewok, of course. Yub nub!

The big idea

Biden wants Putin booted from the G-20, but he faces resistance from other leaders

Constant U.S. portrayals of Russia as a global “pariah” have run headlong into the reality that not all of Washington’s partners are prepared to give the nuclear-armed former superpower the cold shoulder. And in the process, they’ve created a diplomatic headache for President Biden.

Back in March, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin should be expelled from the Group of 20 and barred from its economic policy summit in mid-November in Indonesia, the country that holds the G-20 presidency this year. If not, Ukraine should at least be able to join the gathering, he said.

Putin will be there, his ambassador to Ukraine says. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has confirmed he has been invited, but not that he will attend, or whether he might go in person, a highly unusual step for a leader who has addressed the world virtually for two months.

Biden’s dilemma

This is where things get tricky for Biden. Does he attend a summit with a world leader he has branded a war criminal, with whom there can be no business-as-usual? Could someone other than the president attend in his place? Does the United States boycott entirely, ceding one of the world’s premier international economic gatherings to China (and Russia)? 

There are ways for the White House to try to ensure Biden and Putin are rarely in the same photograph. There’s no requirement for a bilateral meeting. But the G-20 takes a group picture, and there could be other awkward, unplanned encounters at the summit, which is branded “Recover Together, Recover Stronger.”

Reporters have been asking whether Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen’s walkout of G20 events in Washington last month, joined by British, Canadian and Ukrainian officials, might be a preview of how Biden approaches the gathering in November.

“It is six months away,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at her daily briefing on Friday. “We can’t predict at this point what that will look like.”

Widodo’s decisions didn’t shock Washington. After all, the G20 membership includes China, India, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, which have all shown degrees of resistance to U.S.-driven sanctions against Russia for its expanded war in Ukraine, now in its third month.

And the White House took heart from a joint statement in April from senior financial officials from the Group of Seven major economies (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, typically joined by the European Union) urging Russia be shut out.

“International organizations and multilateral fora should no longer conduct their activities with Russia in a business-as-usual manner,” said the officials. The G-8 became the G-7 when it booted Russia after its 2014 invasion of Ukraine.

The Yellen approach

Asked about Yellen’s gesture of protest, Psaki told reporters: “The President and Secretary Yellen have both said that we can't have business as usual at the G-20 or in a lot of these international forums as it relates to Russia.”

“We support her steps, and it's an indication of the fact that President Putin and Russia has become a pariah on the global stage,” she added.

Biden enjoys considerable support from allies like Canada, Britain and Australia for isolating Putin. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has had some of the toughest rhetoric about the Russian leader’s presence at the G-20.

  • “The idea of sitting around a table with Vladimir Putin, who the United States are already in the position of calling out war crimes in Ukraine, for me is a step too far,” Morrison said in March.

It’s almost unthinkable that Biden would forgo the opportunity to attend a major international economic summit in Asia — not while pandemic disruptions still roil global trade and inflation is both an international phenomenon and poised to shape this year’s midterm elections.

The calendar is Biden’s friend here, though. The -will come a week after American voters decide who will control Congress for the next two years.

What’s happening now

Political parties plot next moves on terrain shaken by leaked draft

“Senate Democrats are aiming to hold a vote next week to write abortion rights into law — but it seems destined to fail given the filibuster rule in the chamber and the lack of support for changing it from key senators. Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats alike are considering how much of a role abortion will play in their midterm messaging,” John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report for Post Politics Now.

Fed poised to hike rates by half a percentage point to fight inflation

The rate increase would be the sharpest since 2000 and the second of seven hikes forecast for this year. Faced with soaring prices and a hot job market with record numbers of job openings, the Fed began raising rates in March, betting that a steady series of hikes will slash inflation, cool down the economy and get the coronavirus recovery on more sustainable footing,” Rachel Siegel reports.

The war in Ukraine

E.U. proposes Russian oil ban

“The European Union moved to cut off a key source of funding for the Kremlin by proposing a plan to phase out imports of Russian oil by the end of the year. The proposal must still be approved by member states but could be formally adopted as soon as the end of the week, according to diplomats and officials,” Rachel Pannett, Jennifer Hassan, Bryan Pietsch, Adela Suliman and Ellen Francis report.

More key updates:

Follow our live coverage of the war here

Lunchtime reads from The Post

Draft abortion opinion spurs speculation about future of same-sex marriage

Legal experts are divided on whether the right to same-sex marriage is actually in danger. Some say the draft opinion in the abortion case provides a road map for the court to hold that same-sex marriage is not a fundamental right, while others argue that there is no public appetite for putting that issue before the court. They also point out that Alito, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, explicitly stated in the draft opinion that his reasoning was not meant to apply to any rights besides abortion,” Marisa Iati reports.

In draft abortion ruling, Democrats see a court at odds with democracy

“For nearly half a century, Republicans have railed against ‘unelected judges’ making rulings that they claim disenfranchise voters from deciding for themselves what laws should govern hot-button issues,” Michael Scherer reports.

“But since the release this week of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the long-standing constitutional right to abortion, Democrats have been the ones embracing that complaint, flipping the script as the party vents its frustration with elements of the U.S. system that have empowered a minority of the country’s voters to elect lawmakers who have successfully reshaped the high court.”

The Supreme Court’s draft opinion on overturning Roe v. Wade, annotated

Aaron Blake explains some crucial sections of the draft opinion, with annotations providing analysis and background. Some of the legal jargon and citations are cleaned up for readability.

… and beyond

In a post-Roe America, expect more births in a country where maternal mortality continues to rise

“If the U.S. Supreme Court does as its leaked draft opinion says and strikes down Roe v. Wade, researchers expect that in the following year, roughly 75,000 people who want, but can’t get, abortions will give birth instead,” ProPublica’s Robin Fields and Adriana Gallardo report.

They’ll do so in a country where pregnancy and childbirth continue to become more dangerous.”

DHS watchdog: Trump’s agency appears to have altered report on Russian interference in 2020 election in part because of politics

“Former President Donald Trump’s Department of Homeland Security delayed and altered an intelligence report related to Russian interference in the 2020 election, making changes that ‘appear to be based in part on political considerations,’ according to a newly released watchdog report,” CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez and Zachary Cohen report.

The April 26 Homeland Security inspector general’s assessment provides a damning look at the way DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis dealt with intelligence related to Russia’s efforts to interfere in the US, stating the department had deviated from its standard procedures in modifying assessments related to Moscow’s targeting of the 2020 presidential election.”

The latest on covid

CDC reiterates importance of masks on airplanes, public transportation

“Despite a federal judge’s order last month striking down the federal transportation mask mandate, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said masks continue to be an important tool for stopping the spread of the coronavirus,” Lori Aratani reports.

The Biden agenda

Abortion has long been complicated for Biden. Now, he leads the fight.

Throughout his career, Biden’s views on abortion — at least as a political matter — have steadily shifted in a way that has in recent years placed him in line with his party but at uncomfortable odds with his church. And now that he has become the second Catholic president in U.S. history, he suddenly finds himself the country’s highest-ranking champion of abortion rights as it faces its greatest challenge since Roe,” Matt Viser reports.

“Abortion has long been a vexing issue for some Catholic Democrats, and Biden has been openly conflicted over it. While as president he has been an ally of abortion rights groups, he has also almost never used the word ‘abortion,’ as though he finds it uncomfortable — or politically risky — to do so.”

Biden’s ‘whole of government’ abortion plan is a total mystery

“Days after the Supreme Court gave Texas the green light to enforce the most draconian anti-abortion legislation in the country, President Joe Biden vowed to launch a ‘whole-of-government effort’ to protect access to abortion,” the Daily Beast's Scott Bixby and Ursula Perano report.

  • “But six months later, the lawmakers tasked with codifying abortion access still have no clue what that ‘whole-of-government’ response is supposed to look like.”

Biden wants to make the Roe v. Wade decision about much more than abortion

“Biden said on Tuesday that the issue confronting the public now was not just a future without Roe v. Wade. As he prepared to board Air Force One, the president foreshadowed the message he will relay in the weeks and months ahead: If the high court’s draft opinion remains unchanged, it will threaten a larger collection of rights long taken for granted by the public, from contraception to marriage,” Politico's Laura Barrón-López and Alice Miranda Ollstein report.

Biden officials divided over easing China tariffs to slow inflation

“On one side of the debate within the administration are Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who favor easing the tariffs on some of the roughly $360 billion annually of Chinese imports put in place under the Trump administration, according to people familiar with the matter,” the Wall Street Journal's Andrew Duehren, Yuka Hayashi and Alex Leary report.

“On the other are Trade Representative Katherine Tai and others who are reluctant to relinquish U.S. leverage over China in a continuing effort to reshape Chinese economic behavior.”

Trevor Reed's release fuels new push for Biden to act on hostages

“More than a dozen families of American hostages and wrongful detainees will appear in front of the White House on Wednesday morning — some remotely and others in person — to demand to meet with President Biden and share their proposals,” Axios's Zachary Basu reports.

Opinions about Roe v. Wade, visualized

“Public opinion on abortion’s legality has not shifted significantly since 2019, when 60 percent of Americans said it should be legal in all or most cases,” See more findings from our colleagues polling last week.

Hot on the left

Roe repeal and minority rule

“What the nation encountered on Monday night, then, was more than just the quasi-theocratic, anti-feminist biases of five justices. It was also an extension of our 18th-century founders’ fear of the populace into a 21st-century world in which a woman’s right to choose commands clear majority support,” Harold Meyerson writes for the American Prospect.

“The Court’s provisional ruling runs counter to the recent legalizations of abortion in a host of nations—most particularly, Ireland—where majority opinion has shifted decisively in support of a woman’s right to choose. If America looks to be going in the opposite direction of our fellow democracies, that’s precisely because they are governed by more recent constitutions than ours. As ‘the world’s oldest democracy,’ we are entrapped, as they are not, by our forefathers’ majority phobia.

Hot on the right

A mole hunt, a secret website and Peter Thiel’s big risk: How J.D. Vance won his primary

“While Vance’s rivals took the conventional route and funneled millions of dollars into TV commercials, Vance mostly outsourced his advertising to the Thiel-funded super PAC, instead focusing on winning free media attention from conservative outlets,” Politico's Alex Isenstadt reports.

“And while his rivals relentlessly pursued Trump’s all-important endorsement with repeated trips to the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate, Vance kept his distance after an early meeting — and ultimately won over the image-focused Trump anyway.”

Today in Washington

Biden and Vice President Harris will get their weekly economic briefing at 3:30 p.m.

In closing

Late night and leaks

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.