Zelensky’s European Tour
Happy Thursday! Evidently scrambling for content during the ongoing writers strike, ABC has announced it will debut a version of The Bachelor featuring contestants over the age of 65: The Golden Bachelor.
Proposed tagline: It’s never too late to get dumped on national TV!
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- An estimated 109,680 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, according to a provisional count released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—the second year in a row such deaths topped 100,000 as fentanyl overdoses continue to climb. The number will likely tick down slightly in the final report as the CDC weeds out non-U.S. residents and unverified overdoses, but 2021’s tally dropped only about 2,500 from estimate to final count.
- Encounters between U.S. officials and migrants at the southwestern border have dropped about 56 percent since Title 42 ended last week and are now averaging about 4,400 people per day, according to Blas Nuñez-Neto, chief operating officer at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Meanwhile, CBP officials said an eight-year-old migrant girl died in federal custody Wednesday after crossing the border with her family and experiencing a “medical emergency” inside a border patrol station in Harlingen, Texas.
- U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins leaked Department of Justice memos to boost an ally’s district attorney campaign—and lied about it to investigators—according to reports released Tuesday by the DOJ inspector general and Office of Special Counsel. Rollins—who also faced scrutiny for attending a Democratic National Committee fundraiser with Jill Biden last year—was part of a crop of progressive DAs pledging to ease some criminal enforcement before being narrowly confirmed to her latest post in 2021. She promised Tuesday—hours before the reports’ release—to resign.
- Democrat Donna Keegan on Tuesday won the race for mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, a rare victory in the Republican-dominated state. The former news anchor narrowly defeated Republican Daniel Davis, who was endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Sen. Rick Scott.
- President Joe Biden vetoed a bipartisan resolution on Tuesday that would have restored tariffs on solar panels made by Chinese companies in Southeast Asia, suggesting that reimposing the trade barriers would have threatened the supply of solar panels. The original resolution was passed last month under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn rules made by federal agencies—in this case, the Commerce Department—with a simple majority.
- Colin Kahl, the Department of Defense’s undersecretary for policy, plans to resign this summer and return to Stanford University after extending a two-year leave from his tenured professorship to help officials prepare for a July NATO summit. Republicans opposed Kahl’s 2021 confirmation over his involvement in the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal and his social media criticisms of Republican officials while working in the private sector. His replacement could be delayed by Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s hold on top Pentagon promotions over the department’s abortion policy.
- Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreed on Tuesday to allow leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to view a partially redacted July 2021 dissent cable—written by State Department officials reportedly concerned about the impending withdrawal from Afghanistan—after Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas threatened to hold Blinken in contempt of Congress if he continued withholding access to the classified documents.
- A federal judge on Wednesday formally sentenced Sayfullo Saipov, an Islamic state-inspired attacker convicted in January on murder and terrorism charges, to eight consecutive life sentences and 260 additional years without the possibility of parole. Saipov drove a truck into a crowded Manhattan bike path in 2017, killing eight people in the hopes of gaining membership in the terrorist organization.
- Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso dissolved the country’s National Assembly Wednesday to avoid an impeachment vote after lawmakers accused him of embezzlement on oil shipping contracts before he took office in 2021. Political instability has fueled a surge of Ecuadorian migrants to the U.S., and anti-government protesters have promised mass demonstrations over the legislature’s dissolution.
- Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte on Wednesday signed a bill banning TikTok in the state. Other states have restricted TikTok on official devices amid growing concerns about the Chinese Communist Party’s power over the Chinese-owned app, but Montana is the first to pass an outright ban. The law—which will likely face legal challenges—will fine app stores offering TikTok in the state starting in January 2024.
Zelensky Takes to Europe
For most of us mere mortals, a trip to Europe is a good way to drain the coffers, not fill them. Not so for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who managed to pull in several billion dollars in promises of military aid in just a short three-day tour of Italy, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.
The trip—ahead of an expected Ukrainian offensive that will likely increase demand for weapons and ammunition—could be a sign of the shifting dynamics of aid to the war-torn country. Amid fears U.S. aid supply could falter in the coming months, Zelensky is shifting his focus toward shoring up support in Europe.