Happy Wednesday! Politico asked the 2024 presidential candidates to make a list of 20 songs that “stir their soul” and give them “instant joy.”
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a surprise visit to Kyiv on Wednesday, his third trip to the Ukrainian capital since the beginning of the war. “I’m here first and foremost to demonstrate our ongoing and determined support for Ukraine as it deals with this aggression,” said Blinken, who announced $1 billion in additional aid for Ukraine’s defensive war effort. The U.S. is reportedly preparing to provide Kyiv with depleted-uranium rounds, a controversial munition highly effective at destroying tanks. The visit comes on the heels of Russian missile attacks on Kyiv and an eastern Ukrainian town—the latter of which targeted a busy pedestrian shopping street, killing 17 people, including a child. Meanwhile, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said on Wednesday that fragments of what may be a Russian drone were found on Romanian land, days after officials in Bucharest had “categorically denied” Ukrainian claims that a Russian drone had fallen in Romanian territory. If confirmed, Iohannis said, the development would represent “a serious violation of the sovereignty and territory of Romania, a NATO ally.”
- The U.S. Department of the Interior announced Wednesday it was canceling oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that were bought from the federal government by an Alaskan state industrial development agency in the final days of the Trump administration. The Biden administration also said it would limit new leasing on roughly 40 percent of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, the largest swathe of undisturbed public land in the country. The new regulations will not, however, affect a plan approved by the administration earlier this year to allow ConocoPhillips to drill in northern Alaska.
- A federal judge on Wednesday ordered Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to remove a floating barrier in the Rio Grande river designed to limit illegal border crossing, pending final judgment, granting the Justice Department’s request for a preliminary injunction. District Judge David Ezra, a Reagan appointee, gave the state until September 15 to remove the 1,000-foot barrier and barred officials from putting any new impediments in the river as the case makes its way through the courts. Abbott’s office immediately appealed the ruling.
- In the first in-person hearing in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ racketeering case against former President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants, Judge Scott McAfee said former Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro could have their respective cases severed from the other defendants and signaled the two would be tried together on October 23. The ruling could be rendered moot, however, if other defendants succeed in removing the case from state to federal court. Willis’ office has suggested the trial could take longer than four months and that prosecutors—still hoping to try all 19 co-defendants together—expect to call more than 150 witnesses.
- Special counsel David Weiss intends to indict Hunter Biden by the end of the month, Wednesday court filings show. The filing was made in relation to a pretrial agreement—which fell apart several weeks ago—regarding Hunter’s purchase of a firearm while addicted to cocaine. President Joe Biden’s son had also agreed to plead guilty to tax charges as part of the deal that collapsed.
- Former Republican Rep. Mike Rogers officially announced Wednesday he is running for retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s U.S. Senate seat in Michigan. Once the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Rogers is the first entry in the GOP primary, though former Rep. Peter Meijer—heir to the Meijer grocery store chain and one of just 10 Republicans to vote in favor of impeaching Trump in January 2021—launched an exploratory committee last week, likely the precursor to a run. The crowded Democratic primary field is currently led by Rep. Elissa Slotkin.
More Notches in the Coup Belt
Gabon’s presidential election officially ended last Wednesday with the Gabonese election authority declaring the incumbent Ali Bongo the victor. But within minutes, a group of military officers had placed Bongo under arrest and announced on national television they were seizing power and dissolving the country’s parliament. Gen. Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema—the head of Gabon’s Republican Guard and Bongo’s cousin—led the takeover, and he swore himself in as a transitional president on Monday.
The coup is the latest in a string of putsches across west and west central Africa that spell trouble for nascent democratization efforts and create greater instability in a region plagued by extremist violence. All the while, France’s influence on the continent recedes, removing a once stabilizing force in the so-called “coup belt.”