10 things you need to know today: February 23, 2022

Biden imposes sanctions and calls Russian moves an 'invasion' of Ukraine, three convicted of hate crime in Arbery murder, and more

Joe Biden
(Image credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

1. Biden imposes sanctions against Russia for Ukraine 'invasion'

President Biden on Tuesday announced sanctions against Russia over what he described as "the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine." European allies also hit Russia with sanctions, and Germany halted approval of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia, over Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to send "peacekeepers" into two "independent" eastern Ukraine enclaves controlled by Russian-backed separatists. Biden called Putin's action "a flagrant violation of international law" and said the U.S. is responding with the "full blocking" of two large Russian financial institutions, along with sanctions on Russian debt. Critics said the measures fell far short of the full-scale economic warfare many Ukraine supporters want.

The New York Times

2. 3 white men convicted of hate crimes for Arbery murder

A Georgia jury on Tuesday found three white men — Travis McMichael, his father Greg McMichael, and their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan — guilty on federal hate-crime charges linked to the murder of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery. Prosecutors said during the trial that the men chased Arbery through their coastal Georgia neighborhood and shot him because of their pent-up violent racism. Defense attorneys had argued that race wasn't a factor, and that the men only chased Arbery because they thought he was responsible for recent thefts in the neighborhood. All three men were convicted late last year on murder charges and sentenced to life in prison. The hate-crime charges also could carry a life sentence, although a sentencing date hasn't been set.

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3. Supreme Court ends Trump effort to keep records from Jan. 6 panel

The Supreme Court on Tuesday formally ended former President Donald Trump's request to withhold his White House records requested by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. The committee is trying to piece together, among other things, what Trump was doing while a mob of his supporters stormed the House and Senate chambers, hoping to overturn his election loss. The high court last month declined to block the National Archives from sending the documents to the Jan. 6 committee while it considered whether to formally reject Trump's request. Trump tried to invoke executive privilege to keep the documents from the committee, but a federal appeals court in December upheld a lower court ruling saying Trump didn't have the authority to contest President Biden's decision to let the Archives hand over the material.


4. Blinken cancels meeting with Russian counterpart

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday he canceled a scheduled meeting with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, because Russia's recognition of separatist enclaves in Ukraine proved Moscow wasn't serious about finding a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis. "Russia's move to recognize the 'independence' of so-called republics controlled by its own proxies is a predictable, shameful act," Blinken posted on Twitter. "We condemn them in the strongest possible terms and #StandWithUkraine." Blinken said he conveyed that message in a conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart in a Monday evening phone call to "reaffirm unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine."

The Associated Press The Hill

5. S&P 500 falls into correction territory

The S&P 500 on Tuesday fell into correction territory, defined as 10 percent below its recent high, as Russia recognized two breakaway regions in Ukraine and sent in troops as "peacekeepers," escalating the Ukraine crisis. The S&P dropped 1 percent to close at its lowest level in four months. It had been down 2 percent earlier in the day, but rebounded some after President Biden called Russia's moves an "invasion" and announced new sanctions against Russia. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the day down 1.4 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 1.2 percent. The Dow is now 8.7 percent below its January record, and the Nasdaq has fallen 17 percent from its November peak.

The Wall Street Journal

6. Supreme Court to hear case of web designer refusing same-sex marriage work

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear an appeal filed by Colorado web designer Lorie Smith, who wants to be able to deny wedding-related services to same-sex couples. Smith hasn't started the wedding business yet, but she says she plans to refuse to promote messages condoning same-sex marriages because of her religious convictions. In 2018, the court considered a similar clash between a Colorado baker who declined to produce a wedding cake for a gay couple, but the ruling failed to provide a clear precedent. The case gives the justices another opportunity to weigh claims of religious freedom against laws barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The court is expected to hear the case in its next term, which starts in October.

The New York Times

7. U.S. women's soccer team players, federation reach equal-pay settlement

The United States Soccer Federation has agreed to pay members of the U.S. women's national team $24 million to settle the players' equal-pay lawsuit, the opposing sides of the legal battle announced in a court filing Tuesday. Under the settlement, the players will get a lump sum payment of $22 million plus another $2 million to be deposited into an account supporting players and their efforts to promote women's and girls' soccer after their playing years end. Each player can apply for up to $50,000 from the fund. The court must approve the final settlement once the federation and the team members reach a new collective bargaining agreement. The USSF has committed to equal pay rates for members of the women's and men's national teams. "This will fully resolve the litigation," the players said in a statement.


8. Pentagon approves unarmed National Guard troops to help D.C. handle protest

The Defense Department said late Tuesday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had approved the deployment of 700 National Guard troops to help manage traffic in and around Washington, D.C., next week during a possible cavalcade of big rigs and other vehicles modeled after the "Freedom Convoy" in Canada. The 400 D.C. Guard members and 300 from other states will not carry firearms, take part in law enforcement, or conduct domestic surveillance, the Pentagon said. Several groups are organizing convoys to Washington, D.C., to pressure President Biden to end any remaining COVID-19 restrictions or requirements. The District of Columbia government and U.S. Capitol Police had requested the deployment. The trucker convoy in Canada paralyzed much of the capital, Ottawa, for 23 days.

The Associated Press

9. Trump calls Putin Ukraine moves 'genius'

Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday praised Russian President Vladimir Putin's recognition of the independence of two breakaway regions in Ukraine as "genius." "Putin declares a big portion of Ukraine — Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that's wonderful," Trump told a conservative podcaster in an interview published Tuesday. "I said, 'How smart is that?' And he's gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. ... We could use that on our southern border." Trump also said Putin was "very savvy." The comments came as President Biden called the Russian moves the start of an invasion of Ukraine, and imposed sanctions. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in his latest break with Trump, denounced "Putin's aggression" and called for Biden to impose "devastating sanctions."

The New York Times NBC News

10. Portland man charged with murder in shooting of protesters

Oregon prosecutors said Tuesday they had charged a Portland man, Benjamin Smith, with nine charges, including one count of second-degree murder, for allegedly drawing a pistol and firing at people associated with a protest against police violence. Dajah Beck, who was part of the group, told The New York Times that a man, identified by police as Smith, approached the group and said, "If I see you come past my house, I'll shoot you." One of the demonstrators, 60-year-old June Knightly, approached the gunman, Beck said, and told him: "You're not going to scare us. You're not going to intimidate us." The man shot Knightly in the face, killing her, and shot four others. The shooting stopped after someone shot Smith in the hip. Police declined to charge the second gunman.

The Oregonian The New York Times

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.