Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 21, 2022

Russia won't rule out death penalty for captured Americans, Jan. 6 panel says Meadows pressured Georgia officials, and more

1

Russia refuses to rule out death penalty for 2 Americans

Kremlin chief spokesman Dmitry Peskov told NBC News on Monday that Alex Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, two American veterans reportedly captured by Russian forces in Ukraine, will be considered "soldiers of fortune," and therefore not protected as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. He said he couldn't guarantee that Drueke, 39, and Huynh, 27, wouldn't get the death penalty, arguing they participated in shelling and firing at Russian forces and should be "held responsible for the crimes they have committed." The State Department called on Moscow and its proxies to "live up to their international obligations." Under the Geneva Conventions, people captured fighting in Ukraine must be treated humanely and can't be prosecuted for fighting, with an exception made for war crimes.

2

Jan. 6 panel: Meadows had 'intimate role' pressuring Georgia officials

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack plans to disclose Tuesday that former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows "had an intimate role" in an effort to pressure Georgia officials to overturn President Biden's victory in the state. Committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told the Los Angeles Times on Monday that evidence presented during the panel's fourth day of public hearings will include texts Meadows sent indicating he wanted to send autographed Make American Great Again hats to officials auditing the election results. Former President Donald Trump also participated in the pressure campaign, urging Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" just enough votes to overturn his loss. Raffensperger will be among the witnesses testifying at Tuesday's hearing.

3

Israeli leaders agree to dissolve Knesset, sparking new elections

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Monday they are giving up on negotiations to firm up their coalition and will dissolve the Knesset, sending the country into its fifth election in three and a half years. The two power-sharing leaders plan to bring up the bill next Monday. If it passes, Lapid, who currently serves as foreign minister, will become caretaker prime minister until elections can be held, probably in October. Lapid and Bennett brought together their broad coalition — with left-wing peace advocates, right-wing backers of Jewish settlements, and an Arab Islamist party — in a bid to keep right-wing opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu out of power. Netanyahu's Likud party leads in the polls.

4

Ukraine repeats plea for weapons ahead of 'decisive' battles

Ukrainian officials warned Monday that Russia is intensifying its attacks ahead of what could be "decisive" battles for control of eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said the Kremlin had set a Sunday deadline for Russia's military to take full control of the eastern Luhansk region. Russian forces now control about 95 percent of the region. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Western allies to send military aid quickly. "We need your support, we need weaponry, weapons that will have better capabilities than the Russian weapons," he said, appearing virtually at a Milan forum arranged by the ISPI geopolitical think tank. "This is a matter of life or death."

5

NATO talks fail to resolve Turkey objections to Finland, Sweden joining alliance

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hosted talks in Brussels on Monday aiming to get Turkey to drop its opposition to Finland and Sweden's applications to join the Western security alliance following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan objects to Sweden's decision to grant asylum to members of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party that Turkey considers terrorists. Stoltenberg said that admitting Finland and Sweden to NATO would make Europe more secure but that Turkey "has legitimate security concerns over terrorism that we need to address." Turkey, which also wants the Nordic countries to lift an arms embargo on Turkey, said it would continue negotiating.

6

Biden to decide this week on possible gas-tax holiday

President Biden said Monday he is considering ordering a federal gasoline-tax holiday to help motorists struggling with high fuel prices, and would decide by the end of the week. The move could save drivers as much as 18.4 cents per gallon. A tax holiday is one of several measures the Biden administration is looking at to ease rising prices at the pump. Gas prices now average nearly $5 per gallon nationwide, according to auto club AAA. Fuel prices were already rising last year and spiked this spring as Russia's invasion of Ukraine disrupted global supply. Biden also said aides were meeting with energy company CEOs to discuss the price increases.

7

Uvalde families urge school board to fire police chief

Relatives of victims in last month's Uvalde, Texas, school shooting on Monday called for the Uvalde Consolidated School District's board to make schools more secure and also fire district Police Chief Pedro "Pete" Arredondo. Arredondo was the on-scene commander who evidently made the call to wait more than an hour before confronting and killing the gunman. "He failed our kids, teachers, parents, the city," Brett Krause, who was raising one of the 19 students killed in the mass shooting, said during the board's meeting. "By keeping him on your staff y'all are continuing to fail us." Two teachers also died. Surveillance video emerged Monday showing that officers inside the building had rifles and at least one ballistic shield 19 minutes after the attacker arrived.

8

Russia warns Lithuania to let goods reach Kaliningrad exclave

Russia on Monday threatened Lithuania, a NATO member, with unspecified actions if it doesn't stop blocking goods sent to Russia's Kaliningrad exclave on the Baltic Sea. Lithuania has barred the transit of goods sanctioned by the European Union across its territory, limiting what Kaliningrad, which sits between Poland and Lithuania, can import. Moscow called the move "openly hostile," and summoned Lithuania's top diplomat in Moscow to protest. "This decision is really unprecedented," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "It's a violation of everything." Lithuanian leaders say they had done nothing hostile, only respected E.U. sanctions that took effect June 17. The sanctions are a response to Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

9

Missouri GOP leader contacts law enforcement about Greitens ad

A prominent Missouri Republican, state Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, said Monday that he had contacted law enforcement over a campaign video released by GOP Senate candidate Eric Greitens. The ad shows Greitens, a former Missouri governor, holding a shotgun and boasting that he's hunting RINOs, or Republicans in Name Only. "We have been in contact with the Missouri Highway Patrol and hope that former Gov. Greitens finds the help he needs," Rowden tweeted, adding that someone like Greitens who has "multiple accusations of abuse toward women and children should probably steer clear of this rhetoric." Facebook removed Greitens' post, and Twitter slapped a warning on it. Geitens is one of two Republicans competing in an August primary to replace retiring GOP Sen. Roy Blunt.

10

Airlines cancel 5,000 flights in busiest weekend since Thanksgiving

Airlines canceled more than 5,000 flights over the Juneteenth and Father's Day weekend, disrupting travel for tens of thousands of passengers. Nearly 30,000 other flights had been delayed since Thursday. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was among the passengers affected. His flight from Washington to New York City was canceled on Friday, and he wound up driving instead. The Transportation Security Administration said more than 2.4 million people were screened at U.S. airports on Friday, making it the busiest travel day since Thanksgiving weekend. High demand, weather, and unexpected absences contributed to the mess.

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