Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 4, 2021

Biden weighs options as Russia masses troops on Ukrainian border, Michigan school shooting suspect's parents charged and arrested, and more

1

Biden weighs options as Russia masses troops on Ukrainian border

President Biden is working on a plan to counter an increasingly likely Russian invasion of Ukraine, he said Friday. Biden did not provide details, but experts predict his response could include increased economic sanctions against Russia as well as military aid to Ukraine. Some 94,000 Russian troops have massed on the Ukrainian border. Newly released U.S. intelligence documents suggest that the invasion could come as early as January 2022 and involve 175,000 troops. Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded signed assurances that NATO will not admit Ukraine as a member. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. will not provide any such guarantee.

2

Parents of suspected Michigan school shooter arrested after manhunt

James and Jennifer Crumbley, parents of Michigan school shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley, have been arrested in Detroit, police announced Saturday morning. Law enforcement considered the two fugitives after they failed to appear at their arraignment Friday, but the couple's lawyer insisted they had left town for their own safety and always intended to turn themselves in. Oakland county prosecutor Karen McDonald levied charges against the parents Friday. Officials have said that James purchased the gun used in the shooting, which was reportedly described as Ethan's Christmas present, and that both parents ignored warnings from a teacher about their son's mental state.

3

Le Pen, Orban, and other European populist leaders gather in Warsaw

Europe's most prominent right-wing populist figures met in Warsaw Saturday to discuss concerns about the European Union. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland's deputy prime minister and leader of the governing Law and Justice party, hosted the summit. Other attendees included Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, and Santiago Abascal, the leader of Spain's Vox party. Le Pen tweeted that the leaders are united by their desire for "a Europe of nations to give back to the peoples of Europe their freedom and their sovereignty." The European Commission has accused the governments of Poland and Hungary of implementing anti-democratic policies and is withholding funds from the two Central European nations.

4

Lawyer who worked with Trump to contest 2020 election pleads the Fifth

John Eastman, the attorney who assisted former President Donald Trump in his crusade to overturn the 2020 election, has decided to assert his right against self-incrimination in choosing not to testify before the Jan. 6 committee. Eastman, a senior fellow at the pro-Trump Claremont Institute and former Chapman University law professor, prepared a memo outlining how then-Vice President Mike Pence could exploit ambiguities in the 12th Amendment to throw out the electoral votes of several states that went for President Biden. Eastman also spoke at the Jan. 6 rally alongside former New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani.

5

Omicron reaches Maryland, other U.S. states

Three confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus have been detected in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Friday. Two of the three cases were detected in people from the same household, one of whom recently returned from South Africa. The third case occurred in a vaccinated individual with no ties to the other two. None of these individuals, all of whom live in the Baltimore metro area, has been hospitalized. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced Wednesday that the first Omicron case in the U.S. had been confirmed in California. Cases have also been confirmed in New York Colorado, Minnesota, and Hawaii.

6

Gambians vote in first presidential election since former dictator's exile

Voters in the small African nation of Gambia head to the polls Saturday to elect a new president. This presidential election is the country's first since former dictator Yahya Jammeh went into exile in 2017. Jammeh took power in a 1994 coup. His long presidency was characterized by human rights abuses and widespread corruption. Current President Adama Barrow defeated Jammeh in the 2016 election, but Jammeh initially disputed the results in an attempt to remain in power. He fled to Equatorial Guinea only after neighboring countries threatened military intervention to oust him. Barrow is running for re-election against five other candidates. One, Mama Kandeh, is supported by a political faction that remains loyal to Jammeh.

7

China: Democratic countries are 'doomed to fail'

China's government criticized American democracy Saturday ahead of an upcoming "Summit for Democracy" to be hosted by President Biden. The summit, scheduled for next week, will be attended by over 100 nations, including Taiwan. The government of the People's Republic of China regards Taiwan as a rebel province, and Washington does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Tian Peiyan, deputy director of the Chinese Communist Party's Policy Research Office, released a report warning of "excessive democracy," which he said "brings not happiness but disaster to voters." Citing American political polarization, Tian said that the U.S. system is "doomed to fail" and suggested that a more authoritarian style of government is necessary in large, multi-ethnic countries like the U.S. and China.

8

Macron to become first major western leader to meet with MBS since Khashoggi murder

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Saudi Arabia Saturday to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Macron is the first major western head of state to meet with Salman since the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in which the prince has been implicated. Critics allege that the meeting serves to legitimize thuggish behavior by the Saudi regime. Macron has defended the visit, arguing that France needs Saudi Arabia as an ally to counter Iran's increasing influence in the region.

9

Volcano erupts in Indonesia

A volcano erupted on the Indonesian island of Java on Saturday. Indonesians living near Mount Semeru fled the area, and local media outlets reported ash was blotting out the sun and blanketing entire villages. Airlines have been warned the ash cloud could be up to 50,000 feet high. No fatalities have yet been confirmed. Mt. Semeru is over 12,000 feet high and is named for the dwelling place of the Hindu gods. It has erupted at least 62 times since 1818.

10

Hawaii expecting blizzard with up to 12 inches of snow

The National Weather Service issued a warning Friday informing residents of Hawaii's Big Island to brace for up to 12 inches of snow. The advisory went into effect at 6 p.m. local time Friday and will remain in effect until 6 a.m. local time Sunday. The Weather Service has warned of "blizzard conditions" with winds of up to 100 miles per hour and is urging residents to refrain from traveling. Snow will be concentrated around the summits of the island's mountains, but the storm is also expected to drop up to 40 inches of rain on other parts of the island. It has been more than three-and-a-half years since Hawaii's last blizzard warning.

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