Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 10, 2022

Russia starts military exercises near Ukraine, more states lift mask mandates but CDC says it's too soon, and more

1

Russia starts military exercises with Belarus near Ukraine 

Russian forces began 10 days of military exercises with Belarus on Thursday, intensifying fears of a fresh invasion of neighboring Ukraine. The maneuvers involve thousands of troops, as well as fighter jets and sophisticated air-defense systems. Russian warships also are sailing toward the Black Sea for exercises, where they will be within range of Ukraine's southern coast. Moscow has said its forces will withdraw after the training. The Biden administration said it was firming up plans to help Americans get out of Ukraine if diplomacy doesn't defuse the crisis and Russia invades. Americans in need of help could go through Poland with support from U.S. troops, NBC News reported Wednesday, citing a senior defense official.

2

More states lift mask mandates but CDC says it's too soon

A growing list of states have started lifting mask mandates and other coronavirus restrictions. The changes come as infection numbers fall and polls show that Democrats and Republicans alike are suffering from what The New York Times called "pandemic fatigue." The rollback of broad mask mandates by Democratic governors in such states as New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, and Oregon has intensified pressure on the Biden administration to loosen its guidance on facial coverings and other measures to fight COVID-19. Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden's top medical adviser, said that the U.S. is exiting the "full-blown pandemic phase" but Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said it was too soon to stop wearing masks in indoor public places.

3

Canada truck blockade threatens auto industry

Canada's "Freedom Convoy" protests by truckers against coronavirus mandates could hurt the auto industry now that the demonstrations have spread and blocked key U.S.-Canada border crossings, the White House said Wednesday. The horn-blaring protesters have clogged Canada's capital, Ottawa, with idling trucks and other vehicles since late January, but this week truckers started obstructing border crossings, including one linking Windsor, Canada, with Detroit — a key supply route for automakers that carries 25 percent of all trade between the United States and Canada. Ford and Toyota said they were pausing or reducing production at several factories in Canada. General Motors canceled a Wednesday shift at a Lansing, Michigan, plant.

4

Senators reach deal on proposal to renew Violence Against Women Act

A bipartisan group of senators announced Wednesday that they had reached an agreement on renewing the Violence Against Women Act, a landmark law that expired in 2018. The deal came together after the dropping of a controversial provision addressing whether unmarried partners could keep guns after being found guilty of violence against someone they were dating. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said it was a "tough choice" to cut the provision. But the National Rifle Association and many Republicans opposed closing the so-called boyfriend loophole, threatening to derail the legislation. "We need to get this over the finish line and we will," said bill sponsor Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault.

5

Jan. 6 committee subpoenas former Trump trade representative

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack has subpoenaed Peter Navarro, who served as former President Donald Trump's trade adviser. Navarro has documented in a memoir his personal efforts to delay the certification of President Biden's 2020 election victory over Trump. "He hasn't been shy about his role in efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election," the panel's chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), said in a statement. Navarro said in a statement that the committee's investigation is a "witch hunt," and the committee, some Republicans, and former Vice President Mike Pence "terrorists." Navarro signaled that he had no interest in cooperating with the committee, citing Trump's invoking of executive privilege.

6

National Archives asks DOJ to investigate Trump handling of records

The National Archives and Records Administration has asked the Justice Department to investigate former President Donald Trump's compliance with laws on handling White House records, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing two people familiar with the matter. The news came shortly after National Archives officials took 15 boxes of White House materials from Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida that the former president failed to hand over to the government as required by law. The Archives found possible classified material improperly taken from the White House. The Presidential Records Act requires every White House administration to preserve its memos, letters, notes, emails, and other written communications concerning presidential duties.

7

Trump slams McConnell over his reaction to GOP censure of Cheney, Kinzinger

Former President Donald Trump lashed out at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday for criticizing the Republican National Committee's censure of Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), the two Republicans on the select House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack. "Mitch McConnell does not speak for the Republican Party, and does not represent the views of the vast majority of its voters," Trump said in a statement. "He did nothing to fight for his constituents and stop the most fraudulent election in American history." Trump, repeating his baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him, said if McConnell had fought to overturn the result, "our Country would be STRONG and PROUD instead of weak and embarrassed."

8

Pelosi says Democrats considering stock-trading ban for lawmakers

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that House Democrats were considering proposals to ban lawmakers from trading stocks while in office. Support for new rules has gained momentum since reports that some senators traded health care stocks just before the coronavirus crisis hit the United States, after they got private briefings on COVID-19. Pelosi initially opposed restricting lawmakers' stock trading, and said any new limits would have to be "government-wide," noting that the judiciary branch, including the Supreme Court, "has no reporting of stock transactions, and it makes important decisions every day." Pelosi in January asked the House Administration Committee to look into raising fines for lawmakers and staff who break existing stock-trading laws.

9

Chen wins gold in figure skating, snowboarder Kim wins again 

U.S. figure skater Nathan Chen and snowboarder Chloe Kim won gold medals at the Beijing Winter Olympics on Thursday. Chen, 22, landed all five quad jumps in his four-minute performance to take the individual-competition gold that eluded him in the 2018 Games, where he placed fifth. Kim won a second straight gold medal in the halfpipe, opening with a score nobody could beat, just as she did four years ago. "I was like, I don't want to feel all this pressure of not being able to land my first safety run," she said. "So I just was overflowing with emotion when I was able to land it on the first go." Their wins lifted the U.S. into fifth place in the medal count, with three golds, five silvers, and one bronze.

10

Funk singer Betty Davis, ex-wife of Miles Davis, dies at 77

Betty Davis, the funk singer and ex-wife of Miles Davis, has died, Rolling Stone confirmed Wednesday. She was 77. Davis was active from the mid-1960s into the 1970s with singles like "Get Ready for Betty," and she released her debut album, Betty Davis, in 1973. She followed it up with the 1974 album They Say I'm Different and a third album, Nasty Gal, in 1975. The music wasn't commercially successful at the time, but she "left an underappreciated yet trailblazing body of work," Rolling Stone wrote in its obituary, noting Davis particularly earned a "cult following for her sexuality-laden lyrics." She was married to Miles Davis for a year and appeared on the cover of his album Filles de Kilimanjaro.

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