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Welcome to The Hills Morning Report. It is Thursday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 935,335; Tuesday, 935,991; Wednesday, 939,201; Thursday, 941,908. 

Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinUkrainian state border service says troops attacked from BelarusMenendez: Need to expel Kremlin from international community is in ‘sharp focus’Lawmakers to receive briefing from Biden administration on ThursdayMOREdeclared war on Ukraine early on Thursday as Russian forces carried out missile attacks across Ukraine, well beyond the separatist regions he claims to defend, prompting the U.S. and the international community to issue condemnations along with promises of harsh new sanctions (CNN and The Wall Street Journal).

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Before dawn on Thursday, Putin declared that Russia had begun a special military operation that he said was in defense of separatist regions, with the aim of the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine. He called on Ukrainians to lay down their weapons (The Hill) and issued a threat: Anyone who tries to interfere with us, or even more so, to create threats for our country and our people, must know that Russias response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences as you have never before experienced in your history. We are ready for any turn of events.

Russia launched missile attacks and blasts were heard in Kyiv, the capital; in Kharkiv, the second largest city; in Kramatorsk in the region of Donetsk, one of two eastern Ukrainian territories claimed by Russia-backed separatists since 2014; in Odessa and at a military base in Mariupol (pictured above), aimed at crippling Ukrainian defenses (The New York Times). Casualties are reported. 

The attacks were described by international reporters on live television and radio and by stunned Ukrainians on social media (The Associated Press). The Ukrainian Interior Ministry told journalists that Russian troops landed in Odessa and crossed the border in Kharkiv as the missile bombardments began.

CNN: Heres what we know about how Russias invasion unfolded.

The reaction from across the globe was swift. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky cut all ties with Moscow and within a short time issued martial law across the nation, urging Ukrainians to defend their country. 

We are working. The army is working, Zelensky said in a video message. Don’t panic. We are strong. We are ready for everything. We will defeat everyone. Because we are Ukraine (Financial Times).

The Ukrainian president added this morning that weapons will be handed out to all in the country who are capable of defending the homeland (Fox News). 

President BidenJoe BidenUkrainian state border service says troops attacked from BelarusUkrainian minister lays out steps he wants international community to take against RussiaMenendez: Need to expel Kremlin from international community is in ‘sharp focus’MORE, calling Russias attack unprovoked and premeditated, issued a written statement as the attacks began, vowing to hold Russia accountable in solidarity with a global alliance. Biden, who has said the U.S. will support NATO in Eastern Europe militarily and has joined European nations in sending weapons and assistance to Ukraine, will deliver an address at noon (The Hill). The U.S., along with European and Asian nations, will announce escalating economic and trade sanctions against Russia after failing to stave off a full-scale war that could alter the landscape of a post-Cold War Europe (CNN).

The United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way, Biden said. The world will hold Russia accountable.

The New York Times: The EU is planning tougher sanctions on Russia, but is also aiming to protect its own interests. 

The Associated Press: Russia-Ukraine: What to know as Russia attacks Ukraine.

As war began, crude oil prices eclipsed $100 for the first time since 2014 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 600 points after Putin announced the attack (The Wall Street Journal). 

Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba said this morning that the invasion represented a full-scale attack from multiple directions. 

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers called for a harsh punishment of Putin and Russia. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate passes resolution supporting Ukraine amid invasion fears Senators urge Biden to ‘impose significant costs’ if Russia invades UkraineSenators eye Plan B amid Russia sanctions stalemateMORE(D-N.J.) said in a statement that the attack forced the need for the world to expel the current Kremlin leadership from the international community (The Hill). Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyLawmakers to receive briefing from Biden administration on ThursdayLawmakers condemn Putin, call for crippling sanctions on Russia amid military operationPutin orders military operation in Ukraine MORE (R-Utah), a panel member, reprised his 2012 presidential debate warning about Russia, blaming three U.S. administrations for events that led up to Putins declaration of war. The 80s called and we didnt answer, Romney said.

Members of Congress are also set to receive an unclassified briefing at 6:30 p.m. by Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenUkrainian state border service says troops attacked from BelarusLawmakers to receive briefing from Biden administration on ThursdayUS ambassador: ‘Putin delivered a message of war’MORE, Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinLawmakers to receive briefing from Biden administration on ThursdayOn The Money Biden bracing for blowback at the pumpOvernight Defense & National Security More Western pressure as Russia moves inMORE, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark MilleyMark MilleyLawmakers to receive briefing from Biden administration on ThursdayPutin recognizes independence of Ukraine breakaway regionsSeizing Afghanistan’s bank reserves will further damage American interestsMOREand Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet YellenLawmakers to receive briefing from Biden administration on ThursdayDemocrats press IRS to address backlogs, improve customer service during filing seasonTime to use the Patriot Act against Putin’s Russian eliteMORE(Punchbowl News).

As many as 5 million Ukrainians could be displaced by an all-out war in the region, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations warned Wednesday. In Kyiv, Ukrainians began to withdraw funds from banks, line up for fuel and people fled the city by car (pictured below).

The sanctions being announced today by the U.S., the United Kingdom and other European partners follow earlier punishments against Russia unveiled on Tuesday and Wednesday, including expanded punishments for Putins inner circle and the company building the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany (The Hill, Bloomberg News, The New York Times).

The Hill: Five things to know about Nord Stream 2. 

CNBC: Cyberattacks hit Ukrainian banks and government websites on Wednesday and continue today.

Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner: Putin declares war on Ukraine: what now?

The Wall Street Journal: Ukraine crisis kicks off new superpower struggle among U.S., Russia and China.

INVITATION to The Hills Virtually Live eventTODAY, 1 p.m. ET, COVID-19 and Rare Disease Patients. Nearly 1 in 10 Americans live with a rare disease; 95 percent of these diseases currently lack a FDA-approved treatment. How has the pandemic impacted Americans living with rare diseases, particularly as clinical trials have been delayed? Join Reps.Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerOvernight Health Care  Capitol Police prepare for possible vax protestOvernight Health Care  Request for COVID-19 funds faces resistance The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – War worries, funding follies, bomb scare MORE(D-N.J.), Brad WenstrupBrad Robert WenstrupOvernight Health Care  Capitol Police prepare for possible vax protestOvernight Health Care  Request for COVID-19 funds faces resistance When it comes to the Olympics, don’t buy what China is selling MORE(R-Ohio) and more with The Hills moderator, Steve Clemons. RSVP here.

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LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS: Clouding the future of a high-profile Manhattan criminal investigation, two New York prosecutors leading a probe of former President TrumpDonald TrumpJudge strikes down part of Biden surprise billing rules in win for doctorsOvernight Defense & National Security More Western pressure as Russia moves inJan. 6 defendant who said ‘this is war’ on social media sentenced to 45 days in jailMOREs business practices resigned less than two months after a new district attorney, Alvin Bragg, took control of the Manhattan prosecutors office, a spokeswoman confirmed on Wednesday.

Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz submitted their resignations after Bragg reportedly indicated to the pair that he had doubts about plowing ahead with the case against Trump. The move also throws the future of the case into fresh doubt and comes during a pause in the prosecutions presentation of evidence to a grand jury) The New York Times). 

The spokeswoman declined to offer details on the resignations. The investigation into Trump and his business practices is ongoing, the spokeswoman said (The Washington Post).

The positive development for Trump comes on the heels of a big political weekend for him as he prepares to headline the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday night. As The Hills Max Greenwood writes, the ex-president will be front of mind for many at the conference full of conservative activists, but many questions remain, including whether Trump can lay out a forward-looking vision rather than just air grievances about his 2020 electoral loss.

Another thing to watch at CPAC 2022 is how the batch of potential 2024 GOP presidential hopefuls navigates the former president, headlined by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisThe Hill’s Campaign Report: CPAC is backAmendment to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in Florida requires schools to out students to their parents within six weeksOur infrastructure is succumbing to natural disasters we need to be ready for worsening floodsMORE(R), and what the events straw poll indicates about the state of conservatives. 

Henry Olsen, The Washington Post: This years CPAC lineup speaks volumes about the conservative movement.

> Immigration: The Supreme Court found itself squarely in a political sandwich as the Biden administration and GOP-led states battled over a Trump-era immigration rule to deny green cards to immigrants on food stamps or other public benefits. 

The rule, which the Biden administration has abandoned, in itself is not what the justices are charged with determining. Instead its whether the states, including Arizona, should be able to pick up the legal fight for the immigration provision. As The Associated Press notes, conservative and liberal justices both said during arguments that a new administration has the ability to change policy.

In Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court selected a new congressional map that was suggested by Democrats, handing the party a major political win as it seeks to minimize its losses in the November midterm elections. The courts Democratic majority picked the map that is considered a least-change option that creates nine districts that voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020, and eight that supported Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublicans watching testy Texas Democratic primary John Durham sent a message to the attorney general and the countryThis time, the State of the Union address will matterMOREand Biden. The map will also produce at least four competitive seats ahead of November. 

Notably, the new map likely sets up another member versus member contests. Rep. Fred Keller (R-Pa.) quickly announced after the map was revealed that he will run in the newly created 9th District, likely setting up a primary fight against Rep. Dan MeuserDaniel (Dan) MeuserREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election resultsMORE(R-Pa.) (The Philadelphia Inquirer).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CORONAVIRUS: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance on Tuesday and recommended that the time between receiving the two initial doses of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines should be expanded to eight weeks for some people over the age of 12, particularly young men. 

According to the CDC, leaving more time between the first two doses may reduce the risk for severe side effects such as myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart wall. Since December 2020, doses of Pfizer-BioNTechs vaccine were given out three weeks apart, while Modernas two shots are spaced four weeks apart. 

Those timelines are still suggested by the CDC for individuals who are immunocompromised, over 65 years old or in need of rapid protection against the virus (The Hill).

The Washington Post: Coronavirus vaccine protection was much weaker against omicron, data shows.

The New York Times: Sanofi says its vaccine results show 100 percent efficacy against severe disease. 

> A long, strange trip: Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauBriahna Joy Gray: Trucker protests encouraged by Canada’s response, media coverage Trudeau ends emergency powers used against trucker convoysFreeze lifted on bank accounts linked to Canada protestsMORE revoked the emergency powers for police he invoked in recent days to put an end to the three-week long trucker protest that shut down parts of the U.S.-Canadian border and paralyzed Ottawa. 

Trudeau said that the situation is no longer an emergency, adding that the current legislative and police powers are enough to deal with the protests at the moment. The now-rescinded act allowed police to implement no-go zones and freeze the bank accounts of private citizens. Canada on Tuesday began to lift the freeze on roughly 200 bank accounts and $8 million linked to the protests (The Associated Press).

> Empire State of Mind: New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) on Wednesday told reporters that he cant wait to roll back the citys vaccine requirement for indoor spaces and indicated that change could be coming in the coming days on that front. 

I can’t wait to get it done,” Adams said on Wednesday morning. But they’re giving us clear instructions. They’ve given us benchmarks, We’re going to follow those benchmarks. But I look forward in the next few weeks of going through a real transformation that I don’t have to wonder what you look like. … We’re going to get the city back up and operating. And we’re going to be rolling out some things in the next day or so on how we’re going to carry that out. 

However, a healthy number of New Yorkers appear reluctant to let the restrictions go. According to a new Siena College Research Institute poll, 45 percent of respondents said that the mandate should remain in place. Thirty-one percent of state residents said they wanted the directive to end earlier than it did, with 20 percent surveyed saying the mandate ended at the right time (The Hill).

New York Post: Adams cant wait to change vax mandate in boon for Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets.

The Washington Post: Masks come off in blue states. Residents wonder: Is it too soon, or long overdue?

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: [email protected] and [email protected] We invite you to share The Hills reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE! 

OPINION

No justification for a brazen invasion, by The New York Times editorial board. https://nyti.ms/3JHyIsy 

A deadly, devious intelligence war unfolds in Ukraine, by David Ignatius, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3BL07qE 

The five-day workweek is dying, by Derek Thompson, staff writer, The Atlantic. https://bit.ly/3t15iim 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets on Friday at 12:30 p.m. for a pro forma session. The House returns to work next week.

TheSenate convenes on Friday at 2 p.m. for a pro forma session.

The president at 9 a.m. will participate in a virtual meeting of Group of Seven leaders to discuss events in Russia and Ukraine. He will deliver a televised address at noon about Russias attack on Ukraine and next steps from the U.S. and allies.

Vice President Harris will ceremonially swear in Joseph Donnelly at 11:15 p.m. to be U.S ambassador to the Holy See. She will ceremonially swear in Scott Nathan at 11:55 a.m. as chief executive officer of the United States International Development Finance Corporation.

The Supreme Court may issue opinions at 10 a.m.

Economic indicators: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report on claims for unemployment benefits in the week ending Feb. 19. As a point of comparison in the previous week this month, the number of seasonally adjusted filings was 248,000. In the comparable week in 2021, the number of jobless claims was 835,000. The Bureau of Economic Analysis will provide its second estimate of last years gross domestic product, a view of the U.S. economy in the rearview mirror.

The White House daily briefing is scheduled at 2 p.m.

INVITATION FRIDAY at 12:30 p.m. ET, Americas Report Card. Ahead of the State of the Union, The Hill takes stock of the administration’s response to the pandemic and its impact on the economy. We’ll discuss legislative priorities in a midterm year and the potential for any bipartisan action. Join us for interviews with House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerOn The Money Biden bracing for blowback at the pumpOn The Money Wall Street braces for Russia-Ukraine falloutSenate Republicans urge DOJ to reject request for ‘no fly’ list for unruly passengersMORE(R-N.D.), White House senior adviser Cedric RichmondCedric RichmondOn The Money Biden bracing for blowback at the pumpWhite House chief of staff to speak to Senate DemocratsParkland father climbs crane near White House to deliver gun violence messageMORE and more. RSVP today.

Hill.TVs Rising program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.

ELSEWHERE

COURTS: No verdict was reached in day one of jury deliberations in the trial of three fired Minneapolis police officers who witnessed the murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin, the convicted officer, and are accused of violating his civil rights and right to health care (The Associated Press).

NATIONAL SECURITY: The Justice Department scrapped a 2018 Trump-era China initiative aimed at national security, which quickly wracked up indictments against Chinese companies accused of economic espionage. Department leaders said Wednesday the initiative undercuts an increase in threats from Russia, Iran and numerous other countries. They also voiced concerns that the program undercuts the department’s other efforts to battle a rise in hate crimes against those of Asian descent (The Hill).

USPS: The U.S. Postal Service on Wednesday finalized plans to order a new fleet of majority gasoline-powered vehicles over the objections of Democrats on Capitol Hill who say it will run counter to the Biden administrations emissions goals. Postmaster General Louis DeJoyLouis DeJoyOvernight Energy & Environment Biden sanctions Russian Nord Stream pipeline Postal Service finalizes order for majority gasoline-powered trucks over White House objectionsIllinois Democrat asks for details on new chairman’s vision for Postal ServiceMOREsaid in a statement that USPS had finished its required evaluation of environmental impacts under the National Environmental Protection Act, reiterating that the agency lacked the financial resources to transition to a fully electric fleet (The Hill).

THE CLOSER

And finally Its Thursday, which means its time for this weeks Morning Report Quiz! With the end of February upon us shortly, were eager for some smart guesses about newsy nuggets from the shortest month on the calendar.

Email your responses to [email protected] and/or [email protected], and please add Quiz to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.

Earlier this month, Denzel Washington was nominated to take home his second best actor Academy Award for his performance in The Tragedy of Macbeth. What movie scored his first best actor statuette?

  1. Training Day
  2. Glory 
  3. Philadelphia
  4. Malcolm X

At this months Winter Olympics, what was the only country to sweep a podium (gold, silver and bronze) at a single event?

  1. Norway
  2. Canada
  3. U.S.
  4. Germany

Which Democratic politician was the subject of widespread ridicule for saying that they held their breath when posing for a photograph maskless at an NFL playoff game?

  1. California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomEquilibrium/Sustainability EU plans to cut cord from Russian gasBiden says mineral supply chain actions will help end foreign relianceThe Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by Facebook – Putin’s Ukraine invasion loopholeMORE
  2. Los Angeles Mayor Eric GarcettiEric GarcettiBass grabs lead in LA mayoral race: pollCOVID-19 rules boomerang on DemocratsBillionaire mayoral candidate wants to add 1,500 to LAPDMORE
  3. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi warns Putin of more sanctions to comePelosi calls Putin a ‘tyrant,’ calls developments ‘stunning’WATCH: Pelosi holds press briefingMORE
  4. None of the above 

Hank the Tank, a 500-pound black bear who has taken the internet by storm, has ravaged homes in which U.S. area?

  1. Shenandoah Valley
  2. Lake Tahoe
  3. Salt Lake City 
  4. The Ozarks