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Welcome to The Hills Morning Report. It is Friday! 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!

Russia overnight widened its military assaults on Ukraine as the United States and allies prepare today to apply a new economic sanction on Moscow. 


On Friday, Russias military offensive in Ukraine expanded with airstrikes for the first time in western parts of the country as a 40-mile Russian convoy near Kyiv broke up and appeared to redeploy, according to satellite images from Maxar Technologies (The Associated Press). 

President BidenJoe BidenBiden expected to call for nixing normal trade relations with Russia Senate averts shutdown, passes .6B in Ukraine aidGOP senators urge Biden to expedite transfer of airpower, air defense systems to Ukraine MORE this morning will announce that the U.S., the European Union and the Group of Seven industrialized nations agree to revoke most favored nation trade treatment that currently benefits Russia meaning many of Moscows trading partners will impose higher tariffs on some Russian imports. Members of Congress support revoking the benefit, a sanction requested by Ukraines government (The Associated Press). 

U.S. officials on Thursday, including Vice President Harris while speaking in Poland, backed an ongoing international war crimes investigation of Russias actions, vowed additional economic punishments and warned that Putin might order the use of chemical, biological or even tactical nuclear weapons to try to seize Ukraine. 

Biden continues to try to leverage the sway of other world leaders and economic isolation to try to force Moscow to retreat as Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinHogan, Maryland legislative leaders agree to halt state gas tax for 30 daysOvernight Defense & National Security Senators grill Biden officials on UkraineBiden warns Democrats it will be a ‘sad two years’ if Republicans take control of CongressMOREs war with Ukraine entered its third bloody week. Biden spoke by phone on Thursday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan, whose country does extensive trade and energy business with Moscow, and the two presidents called for an immediate cessation of Russian aggression, according to a White House statement. 

Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet YellenTreasury secretary predicts whole year of ‘very uncomfortably high’ inflationLive coverage – Zelensky thinks Russia will talk; 6,000 Russian troops deadBiden to sign executive order on regulating, issuing cryptocurrencyMORE on Thursday said the U.S. is working with allies to consider further sanctions. However, international economic and trade punishments levied against Russia are a long-term strategy that has hobbled Russias economy but has not altered Putins near-term behavior. 

At this point, we are not seeing Russia back off the horrific war they started, Yellen said during a newsmaker event hosted by The Washington Post. In fact, the atrocities they are committing against civilians seem to be intensifying (Bloomberg News). 

The Washington Post: No off-ramps. U.S. and European officials do not see a clear endgame in Ukraine.

The Associated Press and Axios: On Friday, the EUs foreign policy chief said the international nuclear talks with Iran should pause because of unspecified external factors. Last week, Russia said it wanted guarantees at least at the level of the secretary of state that U.S. sanctions would not affect Moscows relationship with Tehran.  

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, during a Thursday interview with Vice News, said he believed Putin will negotiate an end to the war. I think he will. I think he sees that we are strong, Zelensky said. He will. We need some time.   

Talks Thursday between Russia and Ukraine aimed at negotiating cease-fires went nowhere. The West condemned Russian forces for targeting women, children and noncombatants while shelling hospitals, airports, schools, apartment buildings and shopping centers, even as the Ukrainian military retained tenuous control of Kyiv, the capital, and other cities (The Associated Press).

Much of the developed world reeled at news reports and images on Wednesday of Russias air campaign against a maternity hospital in Mariupol, a port city in Ukraine in which trapped residents have no heat in dwellings with blown-out windows, no electricity and little food, water or communications. Residents have been told to put the dead in the streets or try to bury their loved ones where they can safely dig some sort of grave (The New York Timess The Daily podcast). 

Western and Ukrainian officials called the hospital attack a war crime. 

Harris, who met with the president of Poland on Thursday and today will be in Bucharest, Romania, said Russias bombings merit a war crimes investigation, although she stopped short of directly accusing Russia of having committed war crimes. 

When asked by reporters last week if Russia was guilty of such crimes in Ukraine, Biden replied, We are following it very closely. Its early to say that. 

Harris went further: Absolutely there should be an investigation, and we should all be watching, she said, noting that the United Nations has already started a process to review allegations. I have no question the eyes of the world are on this war and what Russia has done in terms of this aggression and these atrocities (The Associated Press). 

The war has become a horror without end for Ukraine, a non-NATO country that has pleaded to no avail with allies for a no-fly zone, for emergency European Union membership and for fighter jets. Ukraines plight has become a humanitarian crisis in neighboring countries, especially in Poland, and the U.S. and European nations are sending aid to help some of the more than 2 million refugees, mostly women and children, who a few weeks ago had jobs, apartments, schools and futures. 

European Union representatives, meeting on Thursday at Versailles, snubbed Ukraines emergency bid to join the bloc. The EU braced for a long standoff with Russia as officials expressed differing views about how far to go with economic sanctions, how quickly to cut Russian energy imports and whether to let Kyiv join the EU swiftly during a wartime crisis (Reuters). 

Meanwhile, U.S. officials are publicly describing potential chemical or biological attacks by Moscow against Ukraine.  

As The Hills Ellen Mitchell and Brett Samuels write, officials told Congress that Russia may be laying the groundwork for a chemical or biological attack, and experts and world leaders have openly discussed the risk of escalation given Russias nuclear arsenal.  

Im not going to get into hypotheticals, White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden expected to call for nixing normal trade relations with Russia Fears grow over Russian chemical threat to UkraineEquilibrium/Sustainability Rising prices add fuel to online conspiraciesMOREtold reporters at Thursdays briefing when asked what the U.S. might do in response to such a turn of events. What were saying right now is they have the capacity and capability (for a chemical weapons attack). Im also not going to get into intelligence. 

Administration officials on Wednesday cited Russian claims that the U.S. is developing bioweapons in Ukraine which the administration dismissed as false and laughable as a possible pretext for Moscow to deploy chemical weapons while claiming such indiscriminate carnage is defensive.  

I think it underscores the concern that all of us need to focus on those kind of issues, where its the potential for a use of chemical weapons either as a false flag operation, or as against Ukrainians, CIA Director William BurnsWilliam BurnsFears grow over Russian chemical threat to UkraineOvernight Defense & National Security Senators grill Biden officials on UkraineLawmakers press intel officials over possible Russian chemical, nuclear attacksMORE told lawmakers on Thursday. This is something is very much a part of Russias playbook, theyve used those weapons against their own citizens, theyve at least encouraged the use in Syria and elsewhere; so its something we take very seriously (The Hill). 

The U.S. is not alone in the dire intelligence analyses. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told CNN that she is very concerned about such a possibility, adding that it would be another grave mistake by Putin. 

The Washington Post: White House warns Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine, rejects false conspiracy of U.S. biolabs.  

Los Angeles Times: Senators question why the White House opposed a proposed Polish plane transfer to Ukraine rejected by the Pentagon as a potential provocation. 

China is another factor in assessing Russias next moves. Beijing has thus far declined to join other nations in condemning Moscow.  

Burns told lawmakers on Thursday that Chinese President Xi Jinping has been unsettled by the war and the unity it has inspired in the West. As The Hills Morgan Chalfant noted, the CIA chief argued that Xi is worried about global economic consequences as well as damage to his reputation while associated with the ugliness of Russias war.  

In all, it makes China a wild card as the war drags on. 

Bloomberg News: U.S. slams China for pushing Russias preposterous lab theory.

The New York Times: Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase are winding down in Russia, the first big banks to exit. 

NBC News: Which companies have stopped doing business with Russia? 

The Guardian and The New York Times: Facing economic calamity, Russia talks of seizing the assets of Western companies that are exiting the country. 


CONGRESS: On Thursday night, Biden issued a warning to his party about the possibility of Republicans taking control of Congress in the upcoming midterm elections. As Democrats work to keep control on Capitol Hill, Biden urged a revival of his partys 2020 enthusiasm. If we dont do that, dont do that, its going to be a sad, sad two years. Think about Republicans if they controlled the Congress these last two years, he said during remarks to Democratic National Committee members (The Hill).

The Wall Street Journal: Biden, Democrats lose ground on key issues, poll finds. 

Politico: Democrats see midterm hope in Biden bounce. 

The Hill and NBC News: The Senate on Thursday passed a sprawling $1.5 trillion spending bill that would prevent a government shutdown and provide $13.6 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine. The president is expected to sign the measure into law before government funding runs out tonight. The legislation passed 68-31 after receiving House approval on Wednesday.  

The bipartisan spending measure would fund the federal government through Sept. 30, with increases to both defense and non-defense programs over 2021 levels. The Ukraine-related spending includes money for humanitarian aid and $6.5 billion for the Defense Department $3.5 billion to replenish equipment sent to Ukraine and $3 billion for U.S. troops who are helping NATO member states in Europe. It also provides money to support Ukraines energy grid and to combat disinformation.


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U.S. ECONOMY: Inflation in February rose 7.9 percent in February, a record rise in prices not seen since 1982, according to the government but not a surprise to consumers, investors or economic analysts, many of whom are braced for an even higher inflation number in the governments next report for March (The Associated Press and The Hill). 

The Hills Sylvan Lane reports that the February data showed household staples leading the inflation surge, along with rent hikes. The war in Ukraine, which had just begun as the government gathered data last month, is already taking a toll on prices. 

The Federal Reserve faces new challenges ahead of next weeks scheduled meeting, when a rate hike of at least 25 basis points has been widely expected from Fed governors. The policy terrain is seen as volatile, with inflation at least 6 percentage points higher than the Feds 2 percent target. But the U.S. also is experiencing a tight labor market, persistent supply chain problems, rising energy and gas prices, ebbing but not defeated COVID-19 infections and an unpredictable geopolitical landscape. 

There is no clear answer to how the Fed should respond because these forces are pulling in opposite directions,David Wilcox, former director of the Feds division of research and statistics, told Politico. The most important thing for them to do now is to communicate that the situation is incredibly uncertain.  

The Hill: Biden blames inflation on Putin’s price hike.


CORONAVIRUS: Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 958,621; Tuesday, 960,311; Wednesday, 961,935; Thursday, 963,819; Friday, 965,466.  

It may be hard to think back to 2020, but today marks two years since the World Health Organization officially declared a COVID-19 pandemic, changing life and routines in every country on the planet.

U.S. fatalities from COVID-19, which may reach 1 million within weeks, are the most disturbing reminder of what the country has been through.  

The Hills Peter Sullivan reports that even as the U.S. remains in the grip of the current pandemic, it worries about and prepares for the next one. The picture is not encouraging: The government is running out of funds to purchase necessary treatments and pandemic supplies going forward, and the White House warned of severe consequences after Congress opted this week to remove COVID-19 funding from the government appropriations package approved by the House on Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday night. We continue to call on Congress to provide the funds urgently needed to prevent severe disruptions to our COVID response, Biden said in a statement. 

The Washington Post: COVID-19 response may have to be scaled back amid congressional inaction, White House says. 

Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) decided to extend until April 18 the current federal mask mandate for travelers on airplanes, in airports, on buses and on rail systems (The Hill).  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created the guidance the TSA is using and the CDC is expected to update the recommendations for masking during public travel by April (The Associated Press).


We Go to protect those who protect us. For more than two decades, Emergent has developed, manufactured, and delivered protections against critical health threats.  

The vaccines and treatments we manufacture have protected millions, including US service members. Learn more about how our life-enhancing products help create a better, more secure world:


POLITICS: Former Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceTrump Jr. says father only praised Putin, Xi to ‘play’ themPence visits Ukraine along Polish borderBudowsky: Patriot Dems meet in march to the midtermsMOREon Thursday visited the Ukraine-Poland border and met with refugees flooding into Poland amid the ongoing Russian invasion. 

Pence, who was accompanied by his wife, former second lady Karen PenceKaren Sue PencePence visits Ukraine along Polish borderPences’ pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo, diesMcCarthy, Ducey speak at Pence fundraiser: reportMORE, traveled with Samaritan’s Purse, the evangelical Christian humanitarian organization, and the group’s vice president of operations, Edward Graham the son of the group’s president and evangelical pastor Franklin Graham. 

The former VP encouraged people to donate to the organization and other relief groups and tweeted a number of photos of encounters with displaced Ukrainians.  

The impact of the Russian invasion on these families is heartbreaking and the need for support is great, Pence said. Lets stand together as one with the people of Ukraine. 

According to RealClearPolitics, Pence did not give the White House or the State Department a heads-up about his trip. 

The Hill: Former President TrumpDonald TrumpFears grow over Russian chemical threat to UkraineOvernight Defense & National Security Senators grill Biden officials on UkraineJussie Smollett gets 150 days in jail after faking hate crime against himselfMORE is asking his supporters to fund a new Trump airplane after an emergency landing of his current aircraft.

The New York Times: Michael Flynn invokes Fifth Amendment before Jan. 6 panel.

Politico: California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomOvernight Energy & Environment EPA green-lights California car standardsEquilibrium/Sustainability Climate change could ruin Southern LouisianaEPA restores California’s ability to set stricter clean car standardsMOREs (D) recall opponents sit out 2022 governor’s race.

> Inflation politics: Niall Stanage in his latest Memo writes about how inflation creates political pain for Biden and Democrats during an uncertain period at home and abroad. He notes that House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseThe Memo: GOP tussles with Biden as gas prices soarMore than one-quarter of Congress has had COVID-19Lobbying worldMORE (R-La.) and House Republican Conference Chair Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikThe Memo: GOP tussles with Biden as gas prices soarStefanik’s PAC releases latest round of endorsements for GOP women candidates Trump not invited to conservative AEI eventMORE (R-N.Y.) recently accused Biden of mounting a war on American energy. The Republican National Committee has attacked Biden for what they call his radical green agenda. The specifics of such broad-stroke GOP attacks are in question among some experts. 

The State: Legendary football coach Lou Holtz will address a crowd at South Carolina Trump rally.  

The Associated Press: Texas flagged 27,000 mail ballots for rejection in primary.

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! 


Israel offers to host peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, by David Ignatius, columnist, The Washington Post.  

What does COVID-19 do to the brain and mind? By Therese Raphael, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. 

A Russian journalist who stayed behind, by David Remnick, editor, The New Yorker. 


The House meets at 10 a.m. House Democrats hold a retreat in Philadelphia (The Hill). Punchbowl News published the schedule for the event. 

TheSenate convenes on Monday at 3 p.m. and will resume consideration of Shalanda YoungShalanda YoungLinking additional COVID-19 funding to Ukrainian relief is disgraceful and unnecessaryFunding bill includes B for COVID-19, less than earlier requestsUkraine crisis adds pressure to spending talksMOREto be Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The president will receive the Presidents Daily Brief at 9 a.m. Biden will announce new sanctions related to Russia at 10:15 a.m. The president will speak in person at the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in Philadelphia at 12:15 p.m. He will depart the City of Brotherly Love at 4 p.m. for Wilmington, Del.  

The vice president will meet with U.S. and Polish service members in Warsaw, Poland, at 2:40 a.m. ET before traveling to Bucharest, Romania, for a bilateral meeting with Romanian President KlausIohannis at 7:40 a.m. ET. Iohannis and Harris will hold a joint news conference at 8:50 a.m. ET. Harris will meet with U.S. embassy staff in Bucharest before returning to Washington. 

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is in Denver to tout American Rescue Plan funds that helped Colorado during the pandemic afford state hiring, support affordable housing and small business assistance, as well as other investments during a national crisis. She will also meet with the news media. She will be joined by second gentleman Doug EmhoffDoug EmhoffThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Emergent – House votes to fund US government, aid UkraineUkraine ambassador to join Jill Biden at State of UnionThe Hill’s 12:30 Report – Russian economy tanks as crippling sanctions take effect MORE while visiting the Denver branch of the U.S. Mint in the morning, and in the afternoon, at the Mi Casa Resource Center in Denver. Colorado Gov. Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisOn The Money Prices soar: Annual inflation hits 40-year highHillicon Valley Presented by Nokia Groups warn about Russians’ internet accessDemocratic governors call for gas tax suspensionMORE(D) will participate. 

Hill.TVs Rising program features news and interviews at and on Facebook at 10:30 a.m. ET. Also, check out the “Rising” podcast here.


ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT & GAS TAXES: Calls to suspend gas taxes across the U.S. grow as prices rise and inflation bites (The Associated Press).  Maryland Gov. Larry HoganLarry HoganHogan, Maryland legislative leaders agree to halt state gas tax for 30 daysHogan calls for gas tax suspensionTrump not invited to conservative AEI eventMORE (R) on Thursday said his state, which has a large budget surplus, is working to suspend its gas tax on an emergency basis (The Washington Post). The Environmental Protection Agency restored Californias power to set its own auto emissions standards (The Associated Press and The Hill). Environmental groups see the U.S. ban on imports of Russian energy as a boon for renewable energy development, even as Republican leaders call for further fossil fuel exploration and increased energy production from all sources domestically (The Hill).   

COURT: On Thursday in Illinois, a Cook County judge sentenced actor Jussie Smollett to 30 months of probation for lying to police as part of a hate crime hoax. He must spend the first 150 days of the sentence in Cook County Jail. Smollett stood up in court and said he is not suicidal and is innocent (Chicago Tribune and CNN). 

UNLOCKED: Baseball is back. Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association finally reached a collective bargaining agreement on Thursday, ending the 99-day lockout and salvaging a full 162-game schedule in the process. Spring Training facilities are set to open in a week and Opening Day is slated for April 7 (ESPN). 



We Go to protect those who protect us. For more than two decades, Emergent has developed, manufactured, and delivered protections against critical health threats. 

The vaccines and treatments we manufacture have protected millions, including US service members. Learn more about how our life-enhancing products help create a better, more secure world:


And finally Its that time of the week! A rousing Friday standing ovation for all Morning Report Quiz winners who were on top of trivia about the history of the U.S. space shuttle program. 

Here are the quiz savants who scored 4/4: Patrick Kavanagh, Richard Baznik, John Donato, Luther Berg and Len Jones. 

They knew that over the course of the space shuttle program, five shuttles Discovery, Columbia, Challenger, Atlantis and Endeavor took part in the 130 non-test missions. 

In between the two most notable space shuttle disasters Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003 88 successful missions took place.  

Outside of Challenger, Endeavor spent the least amount of time in space of all of the shuttle orbiters.  

Finally, the late Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) went into outer space for the second time in 1998 (becoming the oldest individual to do so) as part of the STS-95 crew aboard Discovery.