Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 29, 2022

Biden says his Putin remark wasn't a call for regime change, Ukraine retakes a Kyiv suburb ahead of fresh peace talks, and more

1

Biden says he was expressing 'moral outrage,' not calling for Putin's ouster

President Biden on Monday addressed the controversy over his statement over the weekend that Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power," saying he was expressing "moral outrage," not calling for regime change. Biden said he was making "no apologies" and not "walking anything back," but wanted to clarify that he "wasn't articulating a policy change" when he called out Putin for the "brutality" of his invasion of Ukraine. Biden's comment about Putin came at the end of a trip to Europe during which Biden focused on rallying allies behind efforts to support Ukraine and punish Russia for its attacks. Biden's wording, however, drew criticism from Republicans and others who warned it would worsen tensions and possibly invite a response from Moscow.

2

Ukrainian forces retake Kyiv suburb ahead of peace talks

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country's forces had "liberated" a Kyiv suburb, Irpin, as they struggle to retake territory from invading Russian forces ahead of a new round of peace talks in Turkey. Representatives of Ukraine and Russia are meeting in Istanbul on Tuesday for their first face-to-face talks in weeks. Despite gains around the Ukrainian capital, Russian forces are intensifying their attacks in eastern Ukraine and stepping up strikes against critical infrastructure in other parts of the country. The governor of Mykolaiv, a city in southern Ukraine, said Tuesday that a Russian missile hit the Regional State Administration building, in what appeared to be the most devastating strike in the center of the southern city since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.

3

Judge says Trump 'more likely than not' illegally tried to overturn Biden win

A federal judge ruled Monday that then-President Donald Trump "more likely than not" committed crimes in his bid to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 election results on Jan. 6, 2021. U.S. District Court Judge David Carter made the determination in a case involving sensitive emails that Trump ally and conservative lawyer John Eastman, who wrote legal memos on overturning President Biden's victory, was resisting handing over to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters. Eastman was claiming attorney-client privilege to shield the emails. Judge Carter ordered the emails released, writing that Eastman's plan was clearly illegal and Trump knew it. Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich called the ruling "absurd and baseless."

4

Florida governor signs legislation critics call 'Don't Say Gay' bill

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Monday signed into law the state's controversial "Parental Rights in Education" bill, which critics call the "Don't Say Gay" bill. The law bans instruction regarding sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms from kindergarten through third grade. Those who support the legislation believe it allows parents the opportunity to decide when and where to introduce LGBTQ topics to their kids. Critics have assailed the bill as harmful to queer youth. The Walt Disney Company, which faced a backlash from employees for not openly opposing the bill before it was passed, said it would try to get the law repealed or struck down in court.

5

Biden unveils $5.8 trillion budget

President Biden on Monday unveiled his $5.8 trillion budget plan, which calls for increased funding for the military and police, as well as for domestic programs. The spending plan also has a "Bipartisan Unity Agenda" covering cancer prevention, mental health care, and veterans services. The budget aims to reduce the national deficit by about $1 trillion over 10 years, mostly through a minimum tax that would be imposed on the nation's wealthiest households. "We're making real headway cleaning up the fiscal mess I inherited," Biden said as he presented the spending plan. "We're returning our fiscal house to order."

6

Report: Russian billionaire, Ukrainian peace negotiators suffered poisoning symptoms

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian peace negotiators developed possible poisoning symptoms — including red eyes, painful tearing, and peeling skin — after a March 3 meeting in Kyiv, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing people familiar with the matter. Reuters reported that a U.S. official said intelligence indicated the symptoms were likely due to "environmental" factors, not poisoning. Abramovich has shuttled between talks in several locations since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. He and the Ukrainian negotiators started suffering symptoms shortly after the meeting. The Journal's sources said the symptoms might have resulted from an attack by Russian hard-liners trying to sabotage peace negotiations. Their health has since improved.

7

Poll: Most Americans now say they have had COVID-19

A majority of Americans — 52 percent — now say they've contracted COVID-19, according to a new Monmouth University poll. In January, 40 percent said they had been infected. In the new poll, just over 4 in 10 Americans said they'd tested positive or had been definitively diagnosed with the virus, while 10 percent said they weren't diagnosed but know they had it. The survey appeared to be the first to suggest that more than half the U.S. population had been infected. An August poll by Pew Research Center found that 30 percent of Americans said they'd either definitively tested positive or felt "pretty sure" they'd had it, up from just 14 percent in August 2020.

8

Reports: Jared Kushner to appear before Jan. 6 committee

Jared Kushner is expected to appear voluntarily this week before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, several people familiar with the matter told CBS News. Kushner is the son-in-law of former President Donald Trump, and served as one of his senior advisers in the White House. The panel also is expected soon to request an interview with conservative activist Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, CNN reported Monday, citing sources familiar with the investigation. The committee reportedly had discussed Ginni Thomas before CNN reported last week that the panel had obtained 29 text messages in which she urges then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to continue fighting to overturn Trump's loss to President Biden in the 2020 election.

9

Academy condemns Will Smith, opens formal review of Oscars slap

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences issued a statement Monday condemning actor Will Smith for striking comedian Chris Rock on the stage during Sunday's Oscars ceremony. The Academy said in a statement that it had "started a formal review around the incident." The organization said its Standards of Conduct prohibit "physical contact that is uninvited and, in the situation, inappropriate and unwelcome," adding that violations can be punished with suspension or "expulsion from membership." Smith, who later won the Best Actor Oscar for his role in King Richard, strode onto the stage and slapped Rock after the comedian, who was presenting an award, made a joke about the shaved head of his wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who has alopecia, a hair-loss condition.

10

UConn beats N.C. State in double OT, advancing to 14th straight women's Final Four

Connecticut beat N.C. State 91-87 in double overtime on Monday to earn a spot in the Final Four of the NCAA women's basketball tournament for the 14th straight time. UConn star Paige Bueckers, the reigning national player of the year, made clutch shots in the first overtime, then hit a three-pointer just 20 seconds into the second OT to give the Huskies an 80-77 lead, then senior Christyn Williams laid in a shot with 10 seconds left to seal the victory. She scored UConn's final five points and finished the game with 21. Bueckers scored 27. UConn will play defending champion Stanford on Friday in the Final Four in Minneapolis. Louisville will play South Carolina in the tournament's other semifinal game.

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