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The Morning Dispatch: Thousands Protest Across Russia
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The Morning Dispatch: Thousands Protest Across Russia

Plus: A look at the House GOP's climate agenda.

Happy Thursday! A few of your Morning Dispatchers attended a real-life baseball game yesterday. Can’t recommend this whole “get vaccinated and resume doing the stuff you enjoy doing” thing highly enough!

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • One day after a Minnesota jury found Officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the Department of Justice is opening an investigation into the city of Minneapolis and its police department (MPD) focused on the MPD’s policies, training, and use of force, as well as allegations of discriminatory policing.

  • A few hundred protesters gathered in Columbus, Ohio last night after a police officer shot and killed a 16-year-old girl on Tuesday while responding to a 911 call. Bodycam footage released by the police department shows Ma’Khia Bryant was holding a knife and lunging at another teenager when Officer Nicholas Reardon fired four shots at her.

  • Senate Republicans agreed Wednesday to keep their years-long ban on legislative earmarks in place despite House Republicans and Democrats in both chambers lifting their own prohibitions on the practice. The agreement is not binding, however, and some GOP senators may still request earmarks during the spending process.

  • A new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds the United States will likely be able to administer at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose within the next two to four weeks to every adult who currently reports wanting one. “Once this happens,” the authors write, “efforts to encourage vaccination will become much harder, presenting a challenge to reaching the levels of herd immunity that are expected to be needed.”

  • To increase vaccine uptake, President Biden yesterday called on every employer in America to offer their employees paid time off to receive the vaccine and recover from any after-effects. The White House touted Section 9641 of the American Rescue Plan, which allows businesses with fewer than 500 employees to claim a paid leave tax credit to offset the cost of lost employee hours.

  • Manhattan’s district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced Wednesday that his office would stop prosecuting prostitution and unlicensed massage, requesting a judge dismiss 914 currently open prostitution and unlicensed massage cases and 5,080 loitering for the purposes of prostitution cases.

  • The Senate voted 51-49 yesterday to confirm Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general, the third ranking official at the Department of Justice. Sen. Lisa Murkowski was the only Republican to vote for Gupta’s confirmation.

  • The House voted on a bipartisan basis yesterday (350-71) to restrict the president’s ability to sell or transfer arms and other defense services to Saudi Arabia unless the president certifies Saudi Arabia is not engaged in repatriating, silencing, torturing, or killing dissidents or unjustly imprisoning American or international citizens.

  • The United States confirmed 70,906 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday per the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard, with 7.7 percent of the 916,321 tests reported coming back positive. An additional 952 deaths were attributed to the virus on Wednesday, bringing the pandemic’s American death toll to 569,401. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 39,120 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. Meanwhile, 2,563,671 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered yesterday, with 134,445,595 Americans having now received at least one dose.

‘Down With The Tsar’

Moscow security forces got off to an early start Wednesday. Around 10:30 a.m. local time, police detained jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, on her way out the door of her apartment building. Almost simultaneously, Lyubov Sobol—one of the opposition leader’s closest political allies—was removed from a taxi and arrested in the city streets. Law enforcement also seized Vladimir Ryzhkov, a prominent Russian historian and activist, for retweeting a post about April 21’s planned demonstrations.

If the high-profile arrests early in the day were aimed at deterring gatherings later, the plot failed spectacularly. From the European cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg in the West to the Pacific island of Sakhalin in the East, “hundreds of thousands” of protesters were estimated to have taken to the streets in support of Navalny as he battles life-threatening illness in a Russian correctional facility hospital.

The same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered an annual address which—in typical fashion—excluded any mention of his political rival. Also notably omitted from the speech was an explicit call to arms on the issue of Ukraine, which experts and politicians warned might arise amid Russia’s mass deployment of warplanes, armaments, and troops to Crimea and along the border near Donbass. 

Putin did, however, issue an ominous if vague warning to the West to steer clear of Russian and Eastern European affairs. “We don’t want to burn bridges, but if somebody interprets our good intentions as weakness, our reaction will be asymmetrical, rapid and harsh,” he said, less than a week after the Biden administration hit the Kremlin with a series of sanctions. “We’ll decide for ourselves in each case where the red line is.” 

U.S. military intervention on behalf of Ukraine and meddling in the imprisonment of Navalny, both of which Moscow views as domestic matters, likely qualify. But Russian citizens took the latter into their own hands, and once again faced threats of physical violence and imprisonment in anti-government demonstrations throughout the country. Russia’s last protests, staged in response to Navalny’s detainment in January, reportedly resulted in the arrests of at least 11,000 people over an 11-day period.

According to the same independent tracker, about 1,500 demonstrators across 95 cities were detained over a 12-hour period yesterday. Police restraint—or lack thereof—varied by city, with a plurality of arrests taking place in St. Petersburg, a stronghold of opposition support and the birthplace of Putin’s political career. 

In preparation for large gatherings, which organizers announced over the weekend as an effort to save the “life of Alexei Navalny and the fate of Russia,” Russian authorities cordoned off Manezhnaya Square in Moscow and Palace Square in St. Petersburg. But both cities still saw large turnouts as thousands protested along their main roads. Navalny’s wife, Julia, and brother Oleg both made appearances at Moscow’s demonstration on Nikitsky Lane.  

Protests in Russia’s third-largest city of Novosibirsk kicked off early in the day at Lenin Square, where scores of opposition supporters chanted “Down with the Tsar” and “Putin is a thief.” In Omsk, another Siberian urban center, an estimated 3,000-4,000 people attended protests with the rallying cries of “Putin is a murderer,” “freedom to Alexei Navalny,” and “the police are with the people.” Local authorities largely refrained from interfering in both cities. 

People also attended gatherings in Vladimir, where Navalny is currently hospitalized at Russia’s infamous Correctional Facility No. 3. In posts to Twitter, the politician’s representatives referred to the site as a “torture colony” and reiterated his urgent need for proper medical treatment. 

An independent group of U.N. human rights experts also urged Putin to authorize Navalny’s medical evacuation from Russia Wednesday. “We believe Mr. Navalny’s life is in serious danger,” the panel wrote. “We are deeply troubled that Mr. Navalny is being kept in conditions that could amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in a facility that reportedly does not meet international standards.”

House Republicans Embrace Climate Action

In case you’re wondering why you saw that hippie hugging a tree on your way to work this morning, today is Earth Day!

To mark the occasion, Audrey has a great piece up on the site breaking down House Republicans’ recently unveiled Energy Innovation Agenda: A flurry of bills geared toward clean energy infrastructure, conservation, and other market-oriented climate proposals.

“Democrats often dismiss Republicans as being disinterested in addressing global climate change,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Monday, introducing the climate initiative. “This is just false. Our members have been working for years to develop thoughtful, targeted legislation to reduce global emissions by ensuring we can develop and build new technology at home that is clean, affordable, and exportable.”

Audrey spoke to some of those members about their proposals and the perception gap Republicans face when it comes to addressing climate change.

“I think we’ve got to go earn credibility in the space, honestly,” said Nebraska GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, ranking member on the House Agriculture Subcommittee. “We have to do a better job of appealing, particularly the younger generation who really longs for the steeper set of values and propositions that we can protect things and create wellbeing for people and community at the same time. … The Republican reaction to public policy cannot just be the word ‘no.’”

What are some of these Republican proposals? And who is working on them?

Among other bills, this week’s Republican-led climate agenda highlights the Forestry Education and Workforce Act, the Trillion Trees Act, and the Growing Climate Solutions Act. These are market-oriented proposals that focus on forest management, renewable energy, and carbon capture and sequestration.

Bringing attention to those conservatives who are making an effort to address climate change is one of the missions of the American Conservation Coalition (ACC). Benji Backer, the 23-year-old founder of the organization, says that alongside several other conservative climate groups, ACC has empowered younger Americans to rally around market-oriented climate proposals as an alternative to wide-ranging and government-heavy progressive proposals like the Green New Deal. Over the past four years, ACC has also sought to encourage conservative environmentalism on Capitol Hill by equipping congressional Republicans with effective messaging strategies on conservation issues. 

ACC-affiliated GOP representatives speak of conservation as a natural outgrowth of conservatism. “To me, conservation is simply being good stewards of what we have, and it’s leaving the Earth as good or better from an environmental standpoint than we found it,” Arkansas GOP Rep. Bruce Westerman, ranking member of the Committee on Natural Resources, told The Dispatch.

Climate-conscious conservatives are also quick to point out that environmentalism has deep roots in the GOP beyond acclaimed conservationist figures like former President Teddy Roosevelt and former Pennsylvania Gov. Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service. “Ronald Reagan was a champion of supporting public lands and finding ways to lower emissions through different technology initiatives,” Westerman pointed out. “And then you look at President H.W. Bush and Georgia W. Bush who both acknowledged climate change, they both supported a lot of public lands protections.”

“In the ‘60s when we got the Endangered Species Act, we got the Environmental Protection Agency, we got the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, that was all done under the Nixon administration,” added Westerman, the lone registered forester in Congress and a key sponsor of the Trillion Trees Act. “There’ve always been conservatives that believed in the true tenets of conservation. But I think you’ve seen the left come in and radicalize environmentalism and it’s made it look like they care more about the environment than conservatives and Republicans.”

But there are partisan divides on climate change, right?

Definitely. A 2019 Pew Research poll showed that 90 percent of Democrats thought the government was doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change, compared with only 39 percent of Republicans. (Younger Republicans were more enthusiastic about government involvement than their elders, with 52 percent of Millennial and Generation Z Republicans favoring more government action.) While that survey measured preferences for government involvement, a different Pew poll from 2020 found a partisan gap on the challenge itself. Some 88 percent of Democrats view climate change as a “major threat” to the U.S., as compared with 31 percent of Republicans. 

GOP Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan spoke of the generational divide in an interview with The Dispatch. “It’s a rising generation, especially Millennials and Gen Z, for whom the climate and environment more broadly are really at the top of the list of issues that are concerned about.”

But Meijer also noted that older Republicans have been surprisingly more receptive to climate action than he had originally anticipated. “I’ll be honest,” he said. “The first time I was asked a question in front of the Tea Party about climate change and I said, ‘Well, I believe climate change is real,’ I was expecting to get booted out of the room. There was no booing. People waited to see what I said next.”

Worth Your Time

  • In response to the sense that they’re losing the culture wars, a growing faction of the new right has begun openly advocating for political retaliation against private actors, including “woke” corporations. In an essay for Reason, Robby Soave argues that recent Republican proposals—including breaking up companies, repealing their tax breaks, or revoking their liability protections—not only won’t work, but could blow up in the GOP’s face. “The conservative opposition to this phenomenon has largely taken the forms of complaining and then threatening vast government action,” he writes. Soave points to Richard Hanania to explain why this is so, citing Hanania’s research on partisanship and ideology in bureaucracies. “[Richard] Hanania explains why this is impractical: ‘Do you want to give government more power over corporations?’ he asks. ‘None of the regulators will be on your side.’ The people who staff the regulatory bureaucracies are Lina Khan types: They’re there to battle capitalism, not woke-ism.”

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • In his midweek G-File(🔒), Jonah discusses what he views as the need to keep social justice out of the courtroom. Collective guilt or innocence, ascribed to any group, runs counter to an impartial judicial system grounded in case-by-case evidence, he argues. While Americans can rejoice at the outcome of the Derek Chauvin case or disagree about the specifics of the verdict, claims about systemic racism “have no place in a murder trial of a police officer any more than various claims about ‘black crime’ in a trial of an individual black citizen.”

  • Chris Stirewalt joined Sarah, Jonah, and David on The Dispatch Podcast this week to discuss the Derek Chauvin trial verdict, the Biden administration’s planned Afghanistan withdrawal, Cook Political Report’s new Partisan Voter Index, and how the recent medical examination into U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick’s death should and will affect the history of January 6.

  • Scott Lincicome’s Capitolism newsletter on Wednesday (🔒) focused on the labor market and why there may be some cause for concern even as the overall economic data paint an increasingly rosy picture. “Employers are having a hard time finding workers (job openings are at record highs), even as the U.S. labor force participation rate remains depressed,” he writes. “Businesses’ inability to hire workers can cause them to forego expansion, reduce output or even shut down, none of which is good (obviously) for an economic recovery. Alternatively, employers can try to attract workers with higher wages, but this approach—while surely good for those workers—can create its own headaches, most notably resulting in less hiring overall or higher prices.”

Let Us Know

What is your favorite outdoor activity? Has the pandemic provided you an opportunity to do more of it this past year?

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Haley Byrd Wilt (@byrdinator), Audrey Fahlberg (@FahlOutBerg), Charlotte Lawson (@charlotteUVA), Ryan Brown (@RyanP_Brown), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).

Correction, April 22: An earlier version of this newsletter misstated the name of the American Conservation Coalition.