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The Daily 202

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

Russia’s war in Ukraine escalates on the ground and in Congress

The Daily 202

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

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The big idea

Russia’s war in Ukraine escalates on the ground and in Congress

Russia’s war in Ukraine is escalating this week in the bloody war of attrition on the ground, in Moscow’s public pronouncements and in the halls of Congress. American determination to help Kyiv faces fatigue at home and abroad as voters confront more immediate worries like inflation.

President Biden is sending a team of heavy-hitters from across many departments to an all-Senators briefing Wednesday afternoon, underscoring concerns that the next emergency funding request to bolster Ukraine will face more resistance than the previous one.

  • Officials going to the Senate on Wednesday include Deputy Director of National Intelligence Morgan Muir; Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman; and Undersecretary of Defense Colin Kahl, according to a source with access to the list of briefers.

The Joint Chiefs are sending Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, their director for operations. The U.S. Agency for International Development will be represented by its Deputy Administrator Isobel Coleman. Assistant Treasury Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes Elizabeth Rosenberg will attend. So will Alan F. Estevez, undersecretary of commerce for industry and security and Andrew Light, assistant secretary of energy for international affairs.

They’re likely to get peppered with technical, military, political and diplomatic questions. What to make of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suspending top officials? What would it take for the United States to provide longer-range artillery to Ukraine? What more can the United States do to wean allies off Russian energy? And what is the administration’s definition of victory?


The briefing comes as the conflict has escalated on various fronts over the past few days.

Russian energy giant Gazprom served notice Monday it’s cutting in half the quantity of natural gas flowing through its principal pipeline to Germany, my colleague Loveday Morris reported. Gazprom cited technical difficulties. But Germany officials said they saw none, and Moscow has not been shy about using its energy exports as leverage.

  • “Starting Wednesday, the daily gas flow through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline — the biggest between Russia and Western Europe — will be set at 33 million cubic meters, Gazprom said. That amounts to about 20 percent of capacity, down from 40 percent.”

Ukrainian officials appear to be gearing up for a counteroffensive to retake the southern region of Kherson, even predicting they can liberate it in a couple of months, the Guardian reported.

The daily quoted Sergiy Khlan, an aide to the administrative head of the Kherson region, as saying, “We are switching from defensive to counteroffensive actions,” and predicting, “We can say that the Kherson region will definitely be liberated by September.

Russia says the quiet part out loud

Meanwhile, Russia made explicit what pretty much everyone knew from the earliest days of the war, when Moscow tried and failed to capture Kyiv and falsely claimed the government there was run by Nazis: It wants to shove Zelensky from power.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, attending an Arab League Summit in Cairo, declared, “We are determined to help the people of eastern Ukraine to liberate themselves from the burden of this absolutely unacceptable regime.”

But Lavrov made clear his remark did not just apply to the eastern areas. “We will certainly help the Ukrainian people to get rid of the regime, which is absolutely anti-people and anti-historical.”

  • One bright spot in recent days, an agreement to pave the way for exporting Ukrainian grain stores effectively blockaded by Russia, dimmed after a Moscow missile attack on the port city of Odessa.

At the New York Times, Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Eric Nagourney reported: “The missile strike on Saturday, which damaged infrastructure at the port, called into question the viability of the plan to free some 20 million tons of grain trapped at ports on the Black Sea. But President Volodymyr Zelensky and other officials insisted on Monday that Ukraine would move forward with shipments, while denouncing Russia’s strike on Odesa.

Ukraine clearly still needs help from the United States and its allies. But how sustainable is that?

My friend Raquel Krähenbühl, who covers the White House and Washington for Brazil’s Globo, pressed Zelensky in a recent interview on the question of growing global fatigue with the war. (The translation of his remarks was provided by Globo.)

“I think now that’s one of the problems,” he said. “There are people who get tired. It’s understandable. Every country has its internal issues.”

“Regardless of how hard it is for you in the world, you have to know that somewhere there’s a country named Ukraine that fights for freedom, and these values are yours,” Zelensky continued. “We can make sure that tyranny will lose this war.”

What’s happening now

Trump returns to Washington for keynote speech

“Former president Donald Trump is scheduled to be in Washington on Tuesday for the first time since departing on Jan. 20, 2021, ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration as his successor in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters,” John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report.

“The occasion: a keynote speech at the America First Agenda Summit hosted by the America First Policy Institute, a think tank launched by Trump allies to advance his policies following his White House tenure.”

China targeted Fed to build informant network, access data, a probe says

“The investigation by Republican staff members of the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs found that over a decade Fed employees were offered contracts with Chinese talent recruitment programs, which often include cash payments, and asked to provide information on the U.S. economy, interest rate changes and policies, according to a report of the findings released on Tuesday,” the Wall Street Journal's Kate O’Keeffe and Nick Timiraos report.

Michael LaRosa, Jill Biden’s press secretary, leaving the White House

Michael LaRosa, first lady Jill Biden’s press secretary, is leaving the White House for a public affairs firm. His last day is Friday,” Eugene Scott reports.

Russia to withdraw from International Space Station

“Russia on Tuesday announced it will withdraw from the International Space Station (ISS) project after 2024, signaling an end of an era in one of the last remaining areas of cooperation between Russia and the United States,” Mary Ilyushina reports.

E.U. agrees to watered-down gas rationing plan after initial resistance

“European Union member states on Tuesday agreed on a plan to reduce natural gas consumption amid looming shortages, although, in the wake of resistance from southern European countries, the measures are less far-reaching than originally conceived,” Rick Noack and Quentin Ariès report.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

Gunmaker’s Super Bowl stunt sheds light on marketing of ‘America’s rifle’

“A rapidly growing manufacturer of AR-15-style rifles tried to run an ad during the Super Bowl in 2014, knowing that the NFL typically does not allow gun commercials during its marquee event. But Daniel Defense — the maker of the semiautomatic rifle used in the Uvalde school shooting — privately had in place a plan to generate publicity whether the ad aired or not, according to previously unreported court documents that shed light on the gunmaker’s marketing strategies,” Shawn Boburg and Jon Swaine report.

The stunt: “If it aired, Daniel Defense’s top marketing executive planned to have people across the country complain about the company’s own ad to left-leaning media organizations, stirring controversy and generating coverage.”

Arizona fake-electors subpoenas show breadth of DOJ Jan. 6 probe

“Copies of two subpoenas issued to Republican state senators from Arizona were released Monday via a public-records request, confirming what has been previously reported about the June demands for records related ‘to the signing or mailing of any document purporting to be a Certificate certifying Elector votes in favor of Donald J. Trump and/or Michael R. Pence,’ ” Devlin Barrett and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez report.

… and beyond

The inside story of how John Roberts failed to save abortion rights

“Chief Justice John Roberts privately lobbied fellow conservatives to save the constitutional right to abortion down to the bitter end, but May’s unprecedented leak of a draft opinion reversing Roe v. Wade made the effort all but impossible,” multiple sources familiar with negotiations told CNN's Joan Biskupic.

ICYMI: QAnon candidates aren’t thriving, but some of their ideas are

“The Republican Party flirted with QAnon in 2020, as several Q-linked candidates sought higher office and Q merchandise appeared at rallies for then-President Donald J. Trump across the country. Yet identifying with the movement emerged as a political liability. As they have during this election cycle, Democrats attacked Q-linked candidates as extremists, and all but two — Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado — lost their races,” the New York Times's Stuart A. Thompson reports.

“But many QAnon themes have burrowed deeper into mainstream Republican politics this year, experts say, including the false belief that ‘evil'’ deep-state operatives control the government and that Mr. Trump is waging a war against them. Savvy candidates have found ways to tap that excitement — all without explicitly mentioning the conspiracy theory.”

Because of Texas abortion law, her wanted pregnancy became a medical nightmare

“New, untested abortion bans have made doctors unsure about treating some pregnancy complications, which has led to life-threatening delays and trapped families in a limbo of grief and helplessness,” NPR's Carrie Feibel reports.

Elizabeth Weller never dreamed that her own hopes for a child would become ensnared in the web of Texas abortion law.”

The Biden agenda

Biden administration weighs declaring monkeypox a health emergency

“The Biden administration is weighing whether to declare the nation’s monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency and also plans to name a White House coordinator to oversee the response as officials attempt to keep the virus from becoming entrenched in the United States,” Dan Diamond reports.

Biden goes silent after SCOTUS gives him power to nix Trump immigration policy

“The White House and Department of Homeland Security have been mum on their plans following the Supreme Court’s ruling. Immigration advocates asking about next steps have been met with a similar silence. In that void, a question has emerged: What, exactly, is the hold up?” Politico's Sabrina Rodriguez reports.

Biden moves to reinstate health protections for LGBTQ Americans

“The proposed rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services seeks to clarify that discrimination on the basis of sex includes decisions regarding ‘pregnancy termination,' " Dan Diamond and Rachel Roubein report. “Health-care organizations that receive federal funding would also be barred from discriminating against gender transitions and other services that have increasingly become the target of state legislative battles and litigation. Officials also stressed that the new federal anti-discrimination language covers a patient’s sexual orientation and gender identity.”

U.S. officials grow more concerned about potential action by China on Taiwan

The Biden administration has grown increasingly anxious this summer about China’s statements and actions regarding Taiwan, with some officials fearing that Chinese leaders might try to move against the self-governing island over the next year and a half — perhaps by trying to cut off access to all or part of the Taiwan Strait, through which U.S. naval ships regularly pass,” the NYT's Edward Wong, David E. Sanger and Amy Qin report.

Biden poised for big wins in Congress

“The first major prescription drug legislation in nearly 20 years. More than $50 billion to subsidize computer chip manufacturing and research. A bill that would enshrine protection for same-sex marriage,” Yasmeen Abutaleb and Mike DeBonis report.

“After a turbulent stretch in which much of President Biden’s legislative agenda seemed to be foundering, the president and his party may be on the cusp of significant wins in Congress that the White House hopes will provide at least a modest political boost.”

How inflation has changed, visualized

“At the start, inflation could be dodged by holding onto that old car or avoiding air travel. Now, record prices are concentrated on essentials such as groceries, housing and energy, raising the cost of just getting by for many," Alyssa Fowers explains.

Hot on the left

👀 GOP lawmaker opposed same-sex marriage, then went to gay son’s wedding

“Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) last week voted against federal legislation that would require states to recognize same-sex marriages. Three days later, the congressman attended his son’s same-sex wedding,” Jonathan Edwards reports.

Hot on the right

The conservative take on why Congress should codify same-sex marriage

For the WSJ, former U.S. solicitor general Theodore B. Olson and former chairman of the Republican National Committee Kenneth B. Mehlman explain why they think Congress should pass the Respect for Marriage Act.

“The act would codify recognition of same-sex marriages in the U.S. at the federal, state and local levels. It’s unlikely that a subsequent Supreme Court decision would overturn Obergefell, but it would be foolhardy to take for granted that lower courts or future justices couldn’t adopt similar views as those expressed in Justice Thomas’s concurrence or attempt to weaken the rights that accompany civil marriage.

Today in Washington

At 2 p.m., Biden will meet virtually with the chairman of the SK Group. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will join.

Biden will virtually join the House Disabilities Caucus to mark the 32nd anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act at 5 p.m.

In closing

Finally, a cause we can all get behind

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.