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The Daily 202

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

Biden condemns Putin’s ‘irresponsible’ nuclear threats

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 this day in 2001, Congress approved a rescue package of $15 billion for the airline industry, grappling with massive losses in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The big idea

Biden condemns Putin’s ‘irresponsible’ nuclear threats

President Biden today blamed Moscow’s “brutal, needless” war in Ukraine for rising famine in the developing world and denounced what he called Russian President Vladimir Putin's “irresponsible nuclear threats” hours after the former KGB officer rattled his atomic saber.

Speaking at the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York, Biden said Russia’s “imperial” invasion had “shamelessly violated” the world body’s charter and declared reports atrocities by Putin’s forces “should make your blood run cold.”

He spoke hours after the Russian leader warned he might use nuclear weapons if threatened and announced plans to call up as many as 300,000 reservists in a de facto acknowledgement that the seven-month-old conflict has gone extremely badly for Moscow.

“Just today, President Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe, in a reckless disregard for the responsibilities of the non-proliferation regime,” Biden said. “A nuclear war cannot be won. And must never be fought.”

And he condemned Russia’s plans to use a “sham referendum” in occupied parts of eastern Ukraine as a precursor to annexing them.

The United States wants this war to end on just terms, on terms we all signed up for: That you cannot seize a nation’s territory by force,” the president said as part of his full-throated condemnation of the war.

In his remarks, Biden also:

  • Worked to cast Washington – not Moscow, not Beijing – as poorer nations’ best ally, citing efforts to battle hunger, climate change, and HIV/AIDS while championing debt forgiveness and peacekeeping efforts;
  • Endorsed overhauling the U.N. Security Council by expanding it and saying permanent members with the power to veto resolutions – Britain, China, France, Russia, the U.S. – should do so only “in rare, extraordinary situations;” and
  • Announced another $2.9 billion in American aid to combat food insecurity, worsened because Russia’s campaign in Ukraine interrupted that country’s vast exports of grain as well as shipments of fertilizer to much of the developing world.

But much of his remarks understandably focused on Ukraine, and Putin’s remarks just hours earlier.

Nuclear threat

My colleagues Robyn Dixon, Catherine Belton, and Mary Ilyushina reported on Putin rattling his nuclear saber (not for the first time this year):

“In a national address broadcast at 9 a.m. Moscow time, Putin lashed out at the West, backed staged referendums being planned as a precursor to annexation of occupied areas of Ukraine, and hinted ominously that he was ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory — as he defines it.

“‘In the face of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal,’ Putin warned. ‘This is not a bluff,’ he said, in a clear reference to Russia’s nuclear capabilities.”

Those remarks raised the stakes for a series of Moscow-orchestrated referenda in parts of eastern Ukraine that Putin’s forces control – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, late this week and early next week – to set the stage for Russia to illegally annex them.

The U.S. has already denounced them as “sham” votes, and my colleagues noted they will be “rejected globally.” But “they could be used by Russia to claim that Ukraine’s attacks to liberate its own territory amount to attacks on Russia itself,” and thereby escalate the conflict.

As for Putin’s proposed mobilization, it’s not at all clear how many can actually be called up, or how quickly, or how ready they will be to fight. The move could also strain domestic support for the war. But it was a reminder of the former KGB officer’s determination to prevail in Ukraine despite a series of humiliating setbacks.

Neither Putin nor Chinese President Xi Jinping, who recently criticized Moscow’s war, attended the general assembly.

What’s happening now

Donald Trump, 3 of his children sued for business fraud by New York AG

“The suit asks the New York Supreme Court to bar Trump, as well as Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump, from serving as executives at any company in New York, and to bar the Trump Organization from acquiring any commercial real estate or receiving loans from any New York-registered financial institution for five years,” Shayna Jacobs and Jonathan O'Connell report.

“It seeks to recover more than $250 million in what [New York Attorney General Letitia James'] office says are ill-gotten gains received through the alleged deceptive practices. While the lawsuit itself is not a criminal prosecution, James (D) said she has referred possible violations of federal law to the Justice Department and the IRS.”

House to vote on bill to prevent attempts to subvert presidential election results

The House is planning to vote Wednesday on an electoral reform bill that seeks to prevent future presidents from trying to overturn election results through Congress, the first vote on such an effort since the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob seeking to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral win,” Amy B Wang reports.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

FEMA tells a skeptical Puerto Rico that this time won’t be like Hurricane Maria

A bridge over the Guaonica River in Utuado, Puerto Rico, was washed away on Sept. 18 after Hurricane Fiona brought more than 2 feet of rain to the island. (Video: The Washington Post)

Five years after the federal government bungled its response to catastrophic Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, the U.S. agency tasked with reacting to major disasters is under pressure again after this week’s Hurricane Fiona battered the territory’s infrastructure, flooded communities and left the island without electricity,” Reis Thebault, Andrea Salcedo and Marisa Iati report.

“As the slow-moving storm headed north after a punishing push across the island, top officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued repeated promises: This won’t be like last time. FEMA, they have insisted, is far better prepared for Fiona than it was in 2017, when Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, plunging the island into one of the largest blackouts in U.S. history and claiming thousands of lives. In an after-action report, the agency admitted to systemic failures during the humanitarian crisis.”

Youngkin’s restriction on trans students’ rights is probably illegal, experts say

The model policies, released Friday evening, require schools to categorize transgender children by their ‘biological sex’ when it comes to using the bathroom, locker room and other facilities and participating in activities. They also bar students from adopting a new name or pronouns without parental permission,” Rachel Weiner reports.

… and beyond

The ‘cost’ of voting in America: A look at where it’s easiest and hardest

Voters in New Hampshire and Mississippi face the highest personal cost in the country in terms of the time and effort required to cast a ballot, according to a new academic study. Voters in Oregon and Washington have it the easiest,” the New York Times' Nick Corasaniti and Allison McCann report.

“And while residents of Georgia, Florida and Iowa face taller barriers to voting since Republicans tightened their election laws last year, all three states remain roughly in the middle nationally in terms of how easy it is to register and to vote.”

Revealed: the ‘shocking’ levels of toxic lead in Chicago tap water

One in 20 tap water tests performed for thousands of Chicago residents found lead, a neurotoxin, at or above US government limits, according to a Guardian analysis of a City of Chicago data trove. And one-third had more lead than is permitted in bottled water,” the Guardian's Erin McCormick, Aliya Uteuova and Taylor Moore report.

The latest on covid

FDA releasing millions of Moderna boosters as states warn of shortages

“The federal government is releasing millions of Moderna booster shots that were delayed by the Food and Drug Administration as a result of a safety inspection at an Indiana packaging plant, even as states report shortages and encourage people to get Pfizer boosters instead,” Dan Diamond reports.

The Biden agenda

Biden to skip UN meeting as climate change moves to ‘back burner’

The expected absence of Biden served to underscore a warning that came Tuesday in the speech that opened the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. ‘The climate crisis is the defining issue of our time. It must be the first priority of every government and multilateral organization,’ said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. ‘And yet climate action is being put on the back burner — despite overwhelming public support around the world,’” Bloomberg News's Jennifer A Dlouhy, Zahra Hirji, and Erin X. Wong report.

Analysis: Why people keep correcting the President

“Biden is now the commander in chief and can say what he wants — until the clean-up operation kicks into action. Often, this comes across as disrespectful to the President. It makes it look like he doesn’t know his own mind, or has strayed from a script that subordinates set for him. It offers an opening for Republicans who cast doubt on his cognitive capacity and his fitness for prime time. But the problem also runs deeper: A president’s words resonate. In times of crisis, lives can be on the line. Their words move markets. Being constantly corrected sows confusion about Biden’s authority and leadership,” CNN's Stephen Collinson writes.

White House slams DePerno remark, says GOP wants to ‘ban contraception’

“President Joe Biden’s administration on Tuesday blasted a reported comment from Michigan Republican attorney general nominee Matt DePerno likening Plan B to the drug fentanyl, saying he and other GOP officials want to ‘ban contraception’ in the U.S.,” the Detroit Free Press's Todd Spangler and Dave Boucher report.

The housing market over the past decade, visualized

After spiraling to new heights during the pandemic, the housing market is finally starting to cool. Data on how fast homes have sold over the past decade shows how the market took off in the summer of 2020 and began to wind back down this spring,” Kevin Schaul and Hamza Shaban report.

Hot on the left

Immigrant-rights advocates file suit against Florida officials for sending migrants to Martha’s Vineyard

“A Boston legal group on Tuesday sued Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and others involved in the relocation of nearly 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard last week, alleging the officials ran an illegal scheme that exploited vulnerable immigrants with false promises of cash payments and job opportunities,” the Boston Globe's Samantha J. Gross, Jeremy C. Fox and Emily Sweeney report.

"The class action lawsuit said the relocation was a ‘premeditated, fraudulent, and illegal scheme centered on exploiting’ the vulnerability of immigrants who fled to the United States ‘in a desperate attempt to protect themselves and their families from gang, police, and state-sponsored violence.’"

Hot on the right

GOP attorneys general back Trump in court fight over Mar-a-Lago documents

“Texas’s Ken Paxton and 10 other GOP state attorneys general came to the defense of former president Donald Trump on Tuesday in his legal fight over documents the FBI seized last month, filing an amicus brief in a federal appellate court that argued the Biden administration could not be trusted,” Andrew Jeong and Amy B Wang report.

“In a 21-page document that repeated numerous right-wing talking points but that experts said broke little new legal ground, the officials accused the Biden administration of ‘ransacking’ Mar-a-Lago, the Florida home of the former president, during an Aug. 8 court-authorized FBI raid and of politicizing the Justice Department.”

Today in Washington

At 1:15 p.m., Biden will meet with U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss.

Biden will speak at the Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment Conference at 4 p.m.

At 7 p.m., the Bidens will host a reception at the American Museum of Natural History.

In closing

Prosecutors allege an inside job. The target? Rare bourbon.

Rob Adams allegedly promised bourbon fans something most could not get: easy access to the good stuff,” Justin Jouvenal reports.

The nation has been on a decade-long bourbon binge, making the rarest bottles increasingly unobtainable. Aficionados drive cross-country, shell out thousands and have even traded boats for brown water.”

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.