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Rebuilding Ukraine
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Rebuilding Ukraine

Plus: The scathing DOJ report on police misconduct in Minneapolis.

Happy Thursday! Responding to accusations he only listens to the American pop star’s music for social media clout, Mexican Supreme Court Justice Arturo Zaldivar posted a three-page statement Wednesday entitled “This Is Why I Like Taylor Swift.”

In related news, Esther suddenly has a brilliant idea about what we should do for tomorrow’s TMD. [Editor: The Dispatch remains institutionally opposed to clickbait.]

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • House Republican leadership clashed with Freedom Caucus members Wednesday over an attempt to bring an impeachment resolution against President Joe Biden to a vote. Speaker Kevin McCarthy opposed the move, reportedly telling Republican members yesterday an impeachment should go through the regular committee process. Reps. Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Andy Ogles—all House Freedom Caucus members—have filed impeachment resolutions, but Boebert’s was introduced Tuesday night as a privileged resolution, a parliamentary move that allows her to bypass House leadership to bring it to a vote. If the vote moves forward, Democrats are expected to introduce a motion to table the resolution.
  • The House voted 213-209 on Wednesday—with six members voting “present” and six not voting at all—to censure Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California over his role in the probe of Russian connections to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and his actions as lead prosecutor during Trump’s first impeachment trial. The resolution accuses Schiff—the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee until Speaker McCarthy removed him earlier this year—of “abusing his privileged access to classified information” and “purposely deceiving” Congress and Americans about Russian connections to Trump’s campaign, an accusation Schiff dismissed as “false and defamatory” despite his 2017 assertion on “Meet the Press” that he’d seen “direct evidence” of collusion. The censure vote—which was approved entirely along party lines—also triggers a House Ethics Committee investigation into Schiff’s actions.
  • Former special counsel John Durham—tapped by then-Attorney General Bill Barr to probe the FBI and Department of Justice’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election—testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday about the results of his work. Republicans lauded his findings about the seemingly political origins of Operation Crossfire Hurricane—Durham claimed a “number” of current and former FBI agents have since apologized to him for “the manner in which that investigation was undertaken”—while Democrats questioned the value of the four-year, $6.5-million investigation that brought only three indictments, two of which ended in acquittals.
  • ProPublica published a report Tuesday night alleging Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in 2008 took an undisclosed fishing trip with Paul Singer—a billionaire hedge fund manager and major Republican donor—that violated gift disclosures, though Alito published a preemptive rebuttal in the Wall Street Journal pointing out such “personal hospitality” was not required to be disclosed at the time. The ProPublica report also claims Alito later heard cases involving parties with ties to Singer from which the justice should have recused himself; Alito claimed he did not know Singer was involved in the cases and never spoke with him about them.
  • U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika—a Trump-appointee whose nomination received bipartisan support—will oversee the Justice Department’s case against Hunter Biden and be tasked with deciding whether to approve the plea deal and diversion agreement reached Tuesday by prosecutors and the younger Biden’s legal team. Hunter’s initial court appearance is scheduled for July 26.
  • The Federal Trade Commission announced yesterday it is suing Amazon over charges the company deceptively enrolled millions of customers in Amazon Prime. The suit alleges the company “used manipulative, coercive, or deceptive user-interface designs known as ‘dark patterns’ to trick consumers into enrolling in automatically-renewing Prime subscriptions” and that the online retailer designed its cancellation process to deter people from ending their subscriptions. An Amazon spokesperson denied the assertions.

A Marshall Plan for Ukraine? 

An aerial view of Bakhmut, Ukraine after hostilities. (Photo by Yan Dobronosov/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)
An aerial view of Bakhmut, Ukraine after hostilities. (Photo by Yan Dobronosov/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)

There’s no rest for the weary—or for American secretaries of state. As soon as Antony Blinken wrapped his trip to Beijing earlier this week, he hopped back on a plane bound for London to attend the two-day Ukrainian Recovery Conference that kicked off on Wednesday. 

Although Kyiv’s counter-offensive seemingly just began along a 900-mile-long front line in the south and east of the country, Ukrainian and world leaders are already preparing for what comes after the war ends. Recovery will be a heavy lift economically and politically, especially when any physical reconstruction that does begin could be pounded back into rubble by Russian missiles. Despite those challenges, global leaders are continuing to move towards what some are calling a “Marshall Plan” for Ukraine—putting their (taxpayer) money where their mouth is when it comes to promises to stick with Ukraine for the long haul. 

Now in its sixteenth month, the war has devastated the Ukrainian economy. The World Bank estimated in March the cost of reconstruction and recovery will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 billion over the next decade, and that figure will continue to rise as the conflict drags on. That’s a hefty price tag for any country, but especially one with a pre-war gross domestic product of just $200 billion that contracted by nearly a third last year as factories were pulverized or caught behind enemy lines and fields were seeded with landmines instead of wheat. Ukraine saw a budget shortfall of $38 billion in 2022, which the U.S., EU, and the International Monetary Fund pitched in to make up for with loans and grants, keeping essential social services going. In London, Ukraine’s prime minister said Kyiv was seeking around $6 billion from the conference attendees over the next 12 months for recovery and reconstruction efforts around the country. 

The damage—and necessary cleanup—is similar to a massive natural disaster, which might serve as a model for orienting aid to rebuild Ukraine. “Those are cases where there’s a lot of international support, but a country has kind of lost lots of things all at once,” says Charles Ries, a former U.S. Ambassador to Greece, senior fellow at the RAND Corporation, and coauthor of a report about rebuilding Ukraine

On the first day of the London summit—billed as an effort to signal to the private sector Ukraine is once again open for business—U.S. and European officials were doling out the big bucks with the express purpose not of war-fighting, but of rebuilding. Blinken promised an additional $1.3 billion in economic aid to Ukraine from a pot of money already approved by Congress, the lion’s share of which will go toward rebuilding and modernizing the Ukrainian energy grid and improving critical infrastructure including railways, border crossings, and ports. 

European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen promised almost $55 billion in EU money to Ukraine over the next four years, for infrastructure projects and jumpstarting reforms that will smooth Ukraine’s path to admission into the 27-country bloc. At the country level, the United Kingdom vowed to back $3 billion in World Bank loans over the next three years as well as provide more than $300 million to finance Ukrainian private sector investment in critical infrastructure. France, meanwhile, announced a “war insurance” scheme to cover investments in Ukraine through France’s public investment bank.

Although their pocketbooks are open, world leaders are well aware they’re spending their own taxpayers’ money to clean up Russia’s mess. “Indeed, even as we come together here in London, committed to supporting Ukraine’s buildup, Russia continues to try to burn it down,” Blinken said Wednesday. “So let’s be clear: Russia is causing Ukraine’s destruction, and Russia will eventually bear the cost of Ukraine’s reconstruction.”

Forcing Russia to foot the bill will prove a tricky task—one long-term goal is to make reparations part of any eventual peace settlement. But Western governments see potential for a short-term solution in the roughly $300 billion* in Russian central bank assets they’ve frozen since February 2022. Lawmakers in the United States, European Union, and United Kingdom are all searching for a way to legally confiscate those Russian assets and funnel them toward reconstruction costs, but Bloomberg reported yesterday EU officials haven’t found a workable legal pathway to do so under European law. Instead, they favor a plan that would have banks invest frozen sovereign Russian cash, allowing the EU to send any capital gains as reconstruction aid.

But even as the cash rolls in, it’s hard to rebuild anything under the risk of continued bombardment or—after a peace is reached—the possibility of another invasion. “Security goes hand in hand with economic reconstruction,” Ries tells TMD. “It’s inconceivable that you can actually make a sustained economic recovery in Ukraine without dealing with security risks.” 

One way to deal with those hazards is by bringing Ukraine into NATO. Many of the existing members of the military alliance have expressed openness to the idea, but few are inclined to pursue it while the war is ongoing and they could be on the hook to defend Ukraine militarily under the alliance’s mutual defense clause. On the sidelines of the meeting in London, British Foreign Minister James Cleverly suggested the allies could agree to fast-track Ukraine’s entry post-conflict, without requiring Kyiv to follow a prescriptive “membership action plan.” Ukraine would like a clear timetable for accession, but NATO hasn’t offered one—nor will it formally invite Ukraine to join the alliance at the group’s Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July. 

While some Western leaders are already looking ahead to reconstruction, others are increasingly reluctant even to supply Ukraine the military aid needed to continue the fight. In April, 19 U.S. members of Congress wrote to President Biden opposing “unlimited arms” shipments and aid “[propping] up a foreign government,” urging Biden to press for a negotiated peace and avoid a “proxy war with Russia” that isn’t in the United States’ strategic interest. “Even among the supporters of Ukraine in Congress, there is this fear that if we start talking about spending taxpayer money on hundreds of billions of dollars of reconstruction needs, we are not even going to be able to appropriate more security assistance and direct budgetary support needed over the next couple of months,” Josh Rudolph, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, tells TMD

Some aid-skeptical American lawmakers and talking heads say Ukrainian corruption puts U.S. taxpayer money at risk—a complaint that may grow even louder once the urgency of the war has abated. The first iteration of the Ukraine Recovery Conference, held in Lugano, Switzerland, last summer, concluded with a Ukrainian commitment to continue reforms and anti-corruption measures that have been ongoing throughout the war. “They still have a number of those challenges, but they’re working on them with a gusto that we’ve never seen from anyone,” added Rudolph, who specializes in anti-corruption efforts.

Even as those who control the purse strings worry about cash-flow, reform efforts—both anti-corruption measures and EU accession requirements—could ultimately be crucial to Ukraine’s reconstruction. “The unique aspect of the Marshall Plan was not the money—although the money was significant in 1948,” Ries tells TMD. “It was the reform requirements: We linked the Marshall Plan money to the Europeans working together. If Ukraine comes out of the war in a secure position and adopts the right policies, the money will flow.”

DOJ Releases Minneapolis Police Report

Three years before killing George Floyd, Derek Chauvin knelt on a black 14-year-old boy’s back or neck for more than 15 minutes while the child’s mother pleaded with him to stop and other officers failed to intervene. The teen survived—and the city recently paid $7.5 million to settle his lawsuit—but Minneapolis Police leaders didn’t learn of Chauvin’s misconduct until after Floyd’s death.

Late last week, the Department of Justice released the results of its investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department’s conduct. Commissioned just after Chauvin was convicted of murdering Floyd, the 89-page report explains how behavior like Chauvin’s festered, fueled by shoddy training, lackluster misconduct investigations, and department-wide patterns of discrimination and excessive force. Police Chief Brian O’Hara, hired in late 2022, declared “we will change the narrative around policing in this city” and pledged to implement reforms required by a consent decree the city will now likely negotiate with the feds.

The report—which relies on records, body-cam and surveillance footage, officer and community interviews, and DOJ ride-alongs—paints a devastating picture of the city’s police department. The issues, investigators found, stem partly from poor training, including insufficient attention to de-escalation, officers violating citizens’ rights with trainees in tow, and flawed instructions on investigating and reporting misconduct.

Bad training, the DOJ found, helped enable endemic overuse of force. “MPD officers discharge firearms at people without assessing whether the person presents any threat, let alone a threat that would justify deadly force,” investigators concluded. In 2017, for example, an officer shot and killed an unarmed white woman—who had called 911 to report a possible rape in a nearby alley—when she reportedly “spooked” him by approaching the patrol car. The DOJ concluded “most” of the department’s uses of neck restraints were unreasonable, and that officers “often” deployed tasers without warning or on people already complying with orders.

Justice Department investigators also found MPD officers regularly threatened, shoved, and tased nonthreatening bystanders and protesters. During one DOJ ride-along, for example, an officer tased a man yelling and filming an accident scene—even after he complied with orders to back away. During protests after Floyd’s death, police pushed a journalist’s head to the pavement and pepper sprayed him in the face despite the journalist holding up his credentials and shouting “I’m press!” Although other officers frequently observed such misconduct, the DOJ reported that only the officers who didn’t stop Chauvin from murdering Floyd were disciplined under the department’s “failure-to-intervene” policy.

The burden of stops, searches, and uses of force fell disproportionately on black and Native American residents, the DOJ found, even after controlling for confounding variables. Per capita, according to investigators, MPD officers used force against black people at 9 times the rate they did against white people in similar circumstances. The disparity was even starker with the city’s Native American population, which experienced use of force at 13.9 times the rate of white residents.

Questions of bias figured heavily in the report. During a DOJ ride-along, for example, one officer spotted a black man apparently waiting for a ride on the side of the road and remarked: “He’s so guilty.” In 2015, a Somali-American teen accused an officer of being racist and the officer replied, “Yep, and I’m proud of it,” adding that the teen and his friends “wouldn’t be over here right now” if the United States had “finish[ed] the job” of killing Somalis in the 1990s. None of the other officers present intervened or reported their colleague, and the department didn’t investigate until cellphone footage of the encounter went viral. One black MPD officer said other officers made racist comments directly to him—“You don’t have to worry about black people during the day ’cuz they haven’t woken up, crime starts at night”—but he avoided reporting them for fear of retaliation. After reporting misconduct once before, the officer claims he often did not receive backup on dangerous calls.

Members of the public reporting bad behavior haven’t fared any better, with their complaints frequently languishing for months and investigations closed without proper evidence review. A woman calling in a report in 2020 said an officer—who still works for MPD—called Black Lives Matter a “terrorist organization” and threatened to “make sure you and all of the Black Lives supporters are wiped off the face of the Earth,” then refused to transfer her to a supervisor. She filed a complaint the next day and wasn’t interviewed for seven months, and the MPD didn’t investigate the officer for bias before finding her complaint had “no merit.”

Minneapolis’ Democratic Mayor Jacob Frey expressed sorrow at the report’s findings, making clear the city “understand[s] that change is non-negotiable.” O’Hara, the new police chief, oversaw the implementation of a similar consent decree when he led the Newark Police Department, and expressed openness to do something similar in Minneapolis. But the MPD’s police union was less receptive to the report, arguing many of the allegations included were unproven or taken out of context. 

“It is hard to imagine that a two-year long investigation of thousands of actions by the people of ANY organization the size of MPD would not uncover several mistakes of varying levels of severity,” the union said in a statement. “Over the years, there have been exponentially more instances of heroic and selfless acts performed by dedicated officers in harrowing circumstances than those described in the report. Clearly, we can always strive to be better, to try to minimize our mistakes, and when mistakes occur to take appropriate measures toward accountability and prevention to avoid repeating them.”

Indeed, criticism of the kind leveled at MPD in the DOJ’s report has likely contributed to the department’s retention and recruiting issues—the force has shrunk in size from 892 officers in 2018 to just 585 in May. Attorney General Merrick Garland seemed to acknowledge the morale issues in remarks unveiling the report. “Your profession is essential. The work you do on a daily basis is extremely difficult and often very dangerous,” he said. “For you to succeed, your police department must provide you with clear policies and consistent training that explain and re-enforce constitutional boundaries and responsibilities. It must give you the support you need to do your jobs safely and effectively.”

MPD has already implemented some reforms—banning neck restraints, for example—but the city will probably negotiate a court-enforceable consent decree with the DOJ on top of its existing reform agreement with the state. Required changes will likely include better data collection and publication, improved training, and reduced use of force. “The elements of safe and effective policing aren’t a mystery,” says David Douglass, deputy monitor of New Orleans’ consent decree and founder of a voluntary law enforcement reform nonprofit. “A consent decree is a very specific list of the remedies needed to correct the deficiencies found in the DOJ report.” 

Minneapolis will join 17 cities—including Seattle, Detroit, New Orleans, and Albuquerque—currently under a consent decree or similar arrangement. The agreements are used to address patterns of unconstitutional law enforcement—typically discriminatory practices or excessive use of force—and have often followed high-profile incidents like the shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer. They can last a decade or more—however long it takes for federal monitors to conclude a department has made the required changes. Research suggests consent decrees help reduce misconduct while in place, though reforms’ staying power varies from city to city. “These are entrenched practices,” Douglass tells TMD. “Officers don’t think of themselves as engaging in bad policing, so to convince them that they need to do things differently—it’s hard.” 

Worth Your Time

  • As a summer intern for The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Indiana, nearly 30 years ago, Charlie Savage wrote a feature story on the strange synchronicity between The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. “This phenomenon is sometimes called ‘The Dark Side of the Rainbow’: If you start the album at just the right time, the music and lyrics uncannily align with the movie’s visuals,” Savage writes, reflecting on his piece. “Some coincidences are lyrical, as when Dorothy runs away from home at the line ‘No one told you when to run.’ Some are tonal, as when the tornado sequence seems practically choreographed to Clare Torry’s wordless vocals in ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’ — rising to a frenzy as the twister rolls in and then shifting to dreaminess just as Dorothy is knocked unconscious.” Former Pink Floyd lead lyricist Roger Waters has said the band didn’t make the album to line up with the film, describing it as a cosmic coincidence. “Part of the enigma of ‘The Dark Side of the Rainbow’ is that even today nobody knows its origin,” says Savage. “Back in 1995, my effort to figure out who first did it went nowhere, and no one has made a credible claim to being its originator in the decades since then. We are left to speculate why anyone would have thought to try putting the two works together—or if it was instead born of a coincidence itself.”

Presented Without Comment

NBC News: “Officials privately sought to clarify Wednesday with the Chinese that Biden’s description of Xi [as a dictator] does not reflect a new talking point or official policy shift by the administration.”

Also Presented Without Comment

Justice Department: Former FBI Analyst Sentenced for Retaining Classified Documents

Also Also Presented Without Comment

Ars Technica: Amazon Named Its “Labyrinthine” Prime Cancellation Process After Homer’s Iliad

Toeing the Company Line

  • In the newsletters: The Dispatch Politics team breaks down the 2024 contenders’ responses to the Hunter Biden plea deal, Nick explores (🔒) the GOP’s moderation on abortion post-Dobbs, and Jonah examines (🔒) how the right and the left argue about words instead of reality.
  • On the podcasts: Jonah is joined on The Remnant by Brookings Institution senior fellow Robert Kagan for a wide-ranging conversation about America’s role in the world during the first half of the 20th century. 
  • On the site today: Charlotte previews Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s high-stakes visit to Washington today, and Price covers the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee’s partisan pivot.

Let Us Know

How do you feel about the police presence in your own community? Do you think it’s possible to crack down on the misconduct described in the Justice Department’s report without driving away good officers and leading to higher crime rates?

Correction, June 22, 2023: Roughly $300 billion of Russian assets have been frozen by Western governments, not $300 million.

Declan Garvey is the executive editor at the Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2019, he worked in public affairs at Hamilton Place Strategies and market research at Echelon Insights. When Declan is not assigning and editing pieces, he is probably watching a Cubs game, listening to podcasts on 3x speed, or trying a new recipe with his wife.

Esther Eaton is a former deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch.

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.

Grayson Logue is the deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in political risk consulting, helping advise Fortune 50 companies. He was also an assistant editor at Providence Magazine and is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, pursuing a Master’s degree in history. When Grayson is not helping write The Morning Dispatch, he is probably working hard to reduce the number of balls he loses on the golf course.