Daily briefing

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

Ketanji Brown Jackson defends her record in Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Russia steps up push to take Mariupol, and more

1

Ketanji Brown Jackson defends record in Supreme Court confirmation hearing

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson defended her record Tuesday as she faced questioning by Republican critics during the second day of her confirmation hearings. Jackson, who will be the first Black woman to serve on the court if confirmed, forcefully countered the suggestion by GOP senators that as a federal judge she had given light sentences in child pornography cases, saying, "As a mother and a judge, nothing could be further from the truth." Jackson, who was confirmed last year to serve on a federal appeals court, answered questions about whether her judicial philosophy is too liberal by saying that she always tries to "understand what the people who created this law intended."

2

Russia pushes to take Mariupol as civilians flee Ukrainian city

Russia on Tuesday escalated its assault on Mariupol, a key port in eastern Ukraine, as Ukrainian forces fought to hold the city street by street. Russia bombarded the city with airstrikes and artillery, leveling entire neighborhoods as desperate civilians tried to flee. "Everything fell apart," said Natalia Poluiko after arriving with her 8-year-old daughter in Zaporizhzhia, a city in southeastern Ukraine where hundreds of people arrive from Mariupol daily. "We had a choice to wait there until a bomb fell on our building, or risk trying to get out." Russian forces are intensifying their bombing by air and sea in an attempt to build momentum in other parts of Ukraine, where their invasion has stalled. The United States and other nations are worried that Russia's failure to advance will make it more likely to use unconventional weapons.

3

Judge finds Cowboys for Trump co-founder guilty in Jan. 6 trial

A judge on Tuesday found Couy Griffin, a Cowboys for Trump co-founder and Otero County, New Mexico, commissioner, guilty of misdemeanor trespassing on federal grounds during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a mob of then-President Donald Trump's supporters. Griffin was arrested on Jan. 18, 2021, and accused of knowingly entering restricted areas without lawful authority. He also was accused of disorderly and disruptive conduct during the riot by Trump supporters hoping to prevent Congress from certifying President Biden's victory over Trump in the 2020 election. Judge Trevor McFadden found Griffin not guilty on the disruption charge. He was released on his own recognizance pending sentencing on June 17.

4

Canada's Trudeau strikes deal keeping him in power until 2025

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that he had reached a coalition deal with the country's left-leaning New Democrats that will keep him and his Liberal minority government in power until 2025. "I've thought long and hard about this," Trudeau said. "It was not an easy decision. With so much instability around us, Canadians need stability." The agreement calls for the New Democrats to vote with Trudeau's bloc on issues where they share policy goals, including climate, housing, and health care. The center-left Liberals will have to find support from other parties to pass legislation on defense and other issues where they differ with the New Democrats.

5

Russian court sentences Putin critic Alexei Navalny to 9 more years in prison 

A Russian court on Tuesday convicted Alexei Navalny, a leading critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, of fraud and contempt of court. The court sentenced Navalny, who survived a 2020 nerve-agent poisoning he blamed on the Russian government, to nine more years in prison. His lawyers were briefly detained after the hearing, The Washington Post reported, citing Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. The hearing took place in a penal colony 70 miles east of Moscow where Navalny is serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence for violating his parole in a previous case when he went to Germany for medical treatment after his poisoning. The fraud allegation involved alleged misuse of donations to his anti-corruption foundation, a charge Navalny's team said the Kremlin fabricated to silence him.

6

Jen Psaki tests positive for COVID-19

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday she tested positive for COVID-19 and would not accompany President Biden as he heads to Europe on Wednesday. Psaki said she and Biden participated in two "socially distanced" meetings on Monday. Biden tested negative for COVID-19 in a Tuesday PCR test. Psaki was tested to prepare for the Europe trip, which will include discussions with allies about Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Psaki said she had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and was experiencing mild symptoms. Psaki, who tested positive for the coronavirus in late October, is working from home in accordance with White House virus protocols. 

7

MacKenzie Scott donates $436 million to Habitat for Humanity

MacKenzie Scott has donated $436 million to Habitat for Humanity International and its 84 affiliates, the organization said Tuesday. "We could not be more excited to get the gift at a time when, in some ways, the state of housing affordability is the worst that it has been in modern times," said Jonathan Reckford, Habitat for Humanity International's CEO. The gift was Scott's largest publicly disclosed donation yet. She pledged in 2019 to give away most of her fortune after her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. When she made the pledge, her 4 percent of Amazon shares was worth $36 billion. Since then, Scott has given away $8.8 billion, but the stock has soared and her fortune has grown to nearly $50 billion.

8

Sarah Palin says she'd gladly fill Alaska's vacant House seat

Former vice-presidential candidate and Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R) said in an interview with Newsmax on Tuesday that she would be "humbled and honored" to serve in the House of Representatives. Alaska's sole House seat became vacant on Friday when Rep. Don Young (R) — who had held the seat since 1973 — died at the age of 88. "If I were asked to serve in the House and take his place, I would be humbled and honored and I would in a heartbeat, I would," Palin said, according to Axios. She also praised Young's "longevity and his passion, his love, his fighting spirit for our wonderful state of Alaska, and for the nation as a whole."

9

Federal officials say they lack funds to buy 4th vaccine dose for all 

Biden administration officials say they lack the money needed to buy a fourth coronavirus vaccine dose for all Americans. "Right now, we don't have enough money for fourth doses, if they're called for," White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said on a forthcoming episode of the podcast "In The Bubble With Andy Slavitt" that was recorded Monday and shared with The Washington Post. "We don't have the funding, if we were to need a variant-specific vaccine in the future." The Post said administration officials said they had enough doses for a fourth shot for everyone 65 and older, as well as the initial two-shot regimen for children under age 5. Covering everyone with a fourth dose would require a $15 billion funding package stalled in Congress.

10

No. 1 Ashleigh Barty retires from tennis at 25

Ashleigh Barty, who spent more than two straight years at No. 1 in the women's tennis rankings, announced her retirement Wednesday at age 25. The Australian athlete, who won the Australian Open title two months ago, said she was grateful for everything tennis has given her but it was time to "chase other dreams." "I just know at the moment … this is right," Barty said in a six-minute video posted on Instagram. "I don't have the physical drive, the emotional want, and everything it takes to challenge yourself at the very top level anymore," Barty, who won three Grand Slam titles, added during an informal interview with her former doubles partner, Casey Dellacqua. "I am spent."

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