10 things you need to know today: February 22, 2023
Biden says in Poland speech that freedom is at stake in Ukraine, Trump grand jury forewoman says recommending charges wasn't "rocket science," and more
Biden says in Poland that allies 'have Ukraine's back'
President Biden followed up his surprise visit to Ukraine with a Tuesday speech in Poland where he said the United States and its allies "have Ukraine's back." Biden, speaking after a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda, warned there were "hard and bitter days ahead" in Ukraine's war against Russian forces. "Democracies of the world will stand guard over freedom today, tomorrow and forever," he said at the Royal Castle, a Warsaw historical landmark where he spoke shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year. Biden didn't mention Russian President Vladimir Putin's suspension of Moscow's participation in the last remaining U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control pact, the New START Treaty, but he accused Russia of committing crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
Georgia grand jury recommended several indictments in Trump inquiry, forewoman says
The special grand jury in the Georgia inquiry into efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to reverse Trump's 2020 election loss in the state recommended several criminal indictments, the jury's forewoman said Tuesday. The forewoman, Emily Kohrs, said the recommendations in the grand jury's report, most of which remains sealed, covered multiple people on a range of charges. Asked whether Trump was among those the grand jury recommended charging, Kohrs responded: "You're not going to be shocked. It's not rocket science." One of the focuses of the Atlanta investigation was a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call in which Trump urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, to "find" the 11,780 votes he needed to reverse Georgia's results.
Supreme Court hears challenges to tech companies' liability shield
The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard the first oral arguments in two cases challenging Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields social media companies from liability for users' posts that promote violence. Tuesday's arguments came in a case filed by the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, an American college student killed by Islamic State terrorists in the 2015 Paris attacks. The family argues that the algorithm used by Google's YouTube recommended videos that spread ISIS propaganda, serving as a terrorist recruitment tool. The second case involves Twitter. In the YouTube case, a majority of justices appeared skeptical that Google could be held liable, but questioned whether immunity under Section 230 should be narrower than currently interpreted.
EPA takes over Ohio toxic train derailment cleanup
The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday took charge of the cleanup of a train derailment and toxic chemical release in East Palestine, Ohio, and ordered the rail line, Norfolk Southern, to pay the bill. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday called for railroad companies and Congress to increase train safety in response to the derailment, "and redouble our efforts to make this far less likely to happen again." The Biden administration came under criticism for what many Republicans described as a slow response to the disaster, which forced thousands of residents to evacuate when railroad crews released and burned off chemicals to prevent a possible explosion, sending smoke billowing above the town and stoking fears of health risks.
McClellan becomes first Black woman elected to Congress in Virginia
Virginia state Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D) won a Tuesday special election for a heavily Democratic congressional district to become the first Black woman elected to Congress in Virginia. With nearly all precincts counted, she led Republican Leon Benjamin 74 percent to 26 percent. The Richmond-based seat has been vacant since Rep. Don McEachin died in November weeks after his re-election to a fourth term. McClellan, vice chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, served 10 years in the Virginia House of Delegates before winning McEachin's state Senate seat when he went to Congress. After winning her December primary, McClellan blamed the lack of Black women in the state's congressional delegation on "an imagination gap that only saw certain types of people as members of Congress."
Democrats condemn McCarthy for giving Tucker Carlson access to Jan. 6 security footage
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made thousands of hours of surveillance footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack available to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, several news outlets reported Tuesday. Carlson said his team will go through the video this week and report its findings to viewers. Democrats condemned the move as a "grave" security breach. Critics saw the move by McCarthy as "as essentially outsourcing House oversight to a TV personality who has promoted conspiracy theories about the attack," according to The Associated Press. They said Capitol security could be threatened if Carlson airs footage revealing how rioters breached security, and ways lawmakers fled the mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters trying to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Biden.
Southern Baptists expel Saddleback, 4 other churches over women pastors
The Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday expelled five churches for installing women as senior or lead pastors, saying scripture limits the role to men. The ejected churches included Saddleback Church in Southern California, one of the denomination's biggest congregations. When Saddleback's founding pastor, Rick Warren, retired last August, he put a married couple, pastors Andy and Stacie Wood, in charge of the megachurch, which has more than 23,000 members and 12 locations. The change is "largely symbolic" for Saddleback, which has not emphasized its Baptist affiliation, but the "ejection of such a high-profile member church underlines the denomination's internal struggles with gender, sexuality, abuse, politics and race, including criticisms from an energetic right flank that the group is drifting to the 'woke' left."
Biden administration tightens asylum policy on southern border
The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it was adopting a policy limiting asylum eligibility for immigrants who fail to get authorization and fill out applications before crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The policy will stay in place for two years, but won't take effect until it goes through a regulatory process that includes a 30-day public comment period. The proposed change marks the latest in a series of actions the Biden administration has taken to address a surge of migrants trying to enter the U.S. over the southern border. The effort comes ahead of the expected May end of the Trump-era Title 42 policy that lets border agents quickly expel migrants.
Jen Psaki to host show on MSNBC
Jen Psaki, President Biden's former White House press secretary, is joining MSNBC to host a weekly talk show starting March 19, the network announced Tuesday. Inside with Jen Psaki will air at noon on Sundays, competing with weekly political talks shows, including Meet the Press and Face the Nation. Psaki often had high-profile clashes with journalists from conservative outlets, such as Fox News' Peter Doocy, which helped boost her popularity with liberals. She has been appearing on MSNBC as an analyst since September. The New York Times noted that other former White House communications specialists, including George Stephanopoulos, Diane Sawyer, and Dana Perino, also have made the transition from political jobs to political TV news.
Griner signs deal to return to Phoenix Mercury after Russia release
WNBA star Brittney Griner has signed a new contract to return to the Phoenix Mercury on a one-year deal, NBC News reported Tuesday, citing a source close to Griner. The 32-year-old basketball star has spent her entire WNBA career with the Mercury, but missed last season after her high-profile arrest by Russian authorities in February 2022 after customs officers found vape cannisters infused with hashish oil in her luggage at an airport. Griner was detained in Russia for 10 months as a result. She pleaded guilty at her July trial but said she hadn't meant to break the law. She told a Russian judge she packed in a hurry, without realizing she was putting the cannabis oil she used to treat chronic pain in her luggage. The U.S. said she was wrongfully detained, and secured her release in a prisoner exchange.