Time to Step Aside?

Happy Friday! On Wednesday, a self-described “ufologist” presented to legislators in a Mexican congressional hearing what he (literally) swore were two alien corpses

It probably wasn’t the ideal moment, then, for NASA administrator Bill Nelson’s pronouncement Thursday that it was high time “to shift the conversation about [unidentified aerial phenomena or UFOs] from sensationalism to science.” 

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will reportedly visit the White House next week in an effort to bolster American support for continued aid to Ukraine. The visit comes as congressional lawmakers—a vocal minority of whom are adamantly opposed to providing Kyiv more munitions—race to fund the government before a September 30 deadline and weigh whether to approve a supplemental funding package that includes $24 billion in additional aid to Kyiv.
  • Russian officials said Thursday they were expelling two U.S. diplomats from Russia over “illegal activity.” The expulsions are related to alleged contact with a former Russian contractor, Robert Shonov, employed by the U.S. consulate in the far east of the country, who has been charged with collaborating with a foreign government. The two diplomats now have seven days to leave the country. “Yet again, Russia has chosen confrontation and escalation over constructive diplomatic engagement,” State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said Thursday. “It continues to harass employees of our embassy, just as it continues to intimidate its own citizens.” 
  • Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, was indicted Thursday on three federal firearms charges as part of a long-running probe. Special counsel David Weiss’ indictment accuses the younger Biden of lying about his drug use when he bought a revolver in October 2018 and of possessing a firearm while using a narcotic. A plea deal related to federal gun charges and misdemeanor tax charges, which would have scrubbed the gun charges from Biden’s record, fell apart in July over disagreement between the prosecution and Biden’s defense attorneys over whether the deal signaled the end of the investigation. 
  • Gen. Mark Milley, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, disputed claims made by former President Donald Trump and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows that Milley urged Trump to attack Iran. “I can assure you that not one time have I ever recommended to attack Iran,” Milley told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. Part of special counsel Jack Smith’s Florida indictment of Trump—related to the former president’s alleged mishandling of classified material—pertains to a document that Trump claimed, in a now-public recording, was a plan to attack Iran authored by Milley. Milley told Zakaria he didn’t know which specific document Trump was referring to. In his memoir, Meadows said Milley pushed Trump repeatedly during his presidency to invade Iran.
  • The Supreme Court on Thursday extended a temporary pause on the implementation of a U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling barring the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other federal agencies from communicating with social media companies. In the decision, which is now on hold until September 22, the three-judge panel had ruled the Biden administration likely violated the First Amendment by encouraging the companies to remove content it considered to be misinformation. The Justice Department sought the pause Thursday in order to have time to prepare a full appeal.
  • A top Planned Parenthood official in Wisconsin said Thursday the organization will resume abortion procedures in the state next week after a judge ruled last week that a 19th century law against “intentionally destroy[ing] the life of an unborn child” does not apply to voluntary abortion procedures. The judge said a 1985 law, which allows abortions performed before a fetus could survive outside the womb, superseded the 1849 law. 
  • Leaders of United Auto Workers (UAW)—the union representing employees of Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis (Chrysler’s parent company), the “Big Three” U.S. car manufacturers—called a strike at select plants across the Midwest beginning Friday at 12 a.m., after labor and management failed to reach an agreement on a new contract. The walkouts, which will target three plants for each company, would be the first time UAW has organized stoppages at all three manufacturers at once. The union negotiators were seeking a more than 30 percent hourly wage increase and cost-of-living adjustments for pay hikes, among other requests, which negotiators at Ford called “unsustainable” Thursday night. Roughly 12,700 workers of the 146,000 employees represented by UAW will be part of the first action, receiving $500 a week in strike pay.  
  • CNN reported Thursday the third GOP primary debate will be held in Miami, Florida, in early November, with NBC and Salem Media in talks with the Republican National Committee to host. The second Republican debate is set for September 27 at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. 

Democrats Fret About Biden/Harris Ticket 

Vice President Kamala Harris with US President Joe Biden. (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Vice President Kamala Harris with US President Joe Biden. (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Shortly after Joe Biden and Kevin McCarthy reached a deal to raise the debt ceiling earlier this summer, David Ignatius took to the pages of his Washington Post column to praise the president. “Biden this week accomplished what America elected him to do—govern from the center and make deals that solve problems,” he wrote. “Join forces with Republicans? Was Biden nuts? Yet gradually over the past two years, dodging brickbats from the left wing of his party, he has done it. First with a bipartisan infrastructure bill, then with a modest gun-control measure, then with the bipartisan Chips Act, and finally with the budget agreement.”

Such ringing endorsements of Biden and his administration are a regular feature of Ignatius’ writing, which often provides a well-sourced, inside look at how the White House views various national security challenges. That tendency made the title of his Tuesday column—”President Biden should not run again in 2024”—all the more striking. “It’s painful to say that, given my admiration for much of what they have accomplished,” Ignatius wrote. “But if he and Harris campaign together in 2024, I think Biden risks undoing his greatest achievement—which was stopping Trump.”

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