Despite his severe warnings to Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden said he is not currently considering deploying US troops to Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion.
“That is not on the table,” Biden told reporters this morning. “We have a moral obligation and a legal obligation to our Nato allies, if they were to attack, under article 5. It’s a sacred obligation. That obligation does not extend … to Ukraine.”
The president added that the US response to a Russian invasion of Ukraine would also depend upon the reactions of fellow Nato allies.
“But the idea that the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not in the cards right now,” Biden said. “What will happen is, there will be severe consequences.”
at 12.48pm EST
Biden warns of ‘economic consequences like none he’s ever seen’ if Putin invades Ukraine
Joe Biden took a few questions from reporters this morning, as he left the White House to start his trip to Kansas City, Missouri.
Asked about his summit yesterday with Vladimir Putin, Biden said, “I was very straightforward. There were no minced words.”
BIDEN: “If in fact he invades Ukraine, there will be…economic consequences like none he’s ever seen…His immediate response was he understood that…The idea the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not in the cards right now.” pic.twitter.com/W9pXoMy2t1
December 8, 2021
Regarding Russia’s increased troop presence along its border with Ukraine, Biden said, “If in fact he invades Ukraine, there will be severe consequences, severe consequences – economic consequences like none he’s ever seen or ever have been seen.”
Biden said he believed that Russia’s president understood the significance of the warning, and he noted their teams have been in “constant contact”.
at 12.48pm EST
Joe Biden celebrated the news of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine’s effectiveness against the omicron variant and encouraged all eligible Americans to get their booster shot.
“The new data from Pfizer on vaccine effectiveness against Omicron is encouraging. This reinforces what my medical advisors have been emphasizing: that boosters give you the highest protection yet,” the president said on Twitter.
“Anyone who is eligible and has not been boosted should go get a booster today.”
The new data from Pfizer on vaccine effectiveness against Omicron is encouraging. This reinforces what my medical advisors have been emphasizing: that boosters give you the highest protection yet.
Anyone who is eligible and has not been boosted should go get a booster today.
December 8, 2021
at 11.55am EST
Three Pfizer jabs likely to protect against Omicron, tests suggest
Three shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are likely to provide effective protection against the Omicron variant, laboratory tests suggest.
The vaccine makers said they were keeping the option of an updated Omicron-based vaccine on the table, however, and could produce it by March 2022 if needed.
In the first official statement from vaccine manufacturers on the likely efficacy of their shot against Omicron, BioNTech/Pfizer said that two vaccine doses resulted in significantly lower neutralising antibodies but that a third dose of their vaccine appeared to bring antibody protection up to a level equivalent to two vaccine doses against the original strain.
The findings are broadly in line with a preliminary study published by researchers at the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa on Tuesday, showing that Omicron can partially evade protection from two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
at 11.37am EST
Mark Meadows has officially failed to appear for his scheduled deposition with the House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection, per ABC News.
And Mark Meadows is officially a no show for his rescheduled deposition, clearing the way for the @January6thCmte to recommend he be held in contempt as early as Friday.
December 8, 2021
Meadows, the former chief of staff to Donald Trump, indicated yesterday he would no longer cooperate with investigators, and the panel is now moving forward with plans to hold him in criminal contempt.
In his letter to Mark Meadows’ attorney, select committee chair Bennie Thompson noted the former Trump aide turned over some documents to investigators before deciding to stop cooperating.
“The text messages you did produce include a November 6, 2020, text exchange with a Member of Congress apparently about appointing alternate electors in certain states as par of a plan that the Member acknowledged would be ‘highly controversial’ and to which Mr. Meadows apparently said, ‘I love it’; an early January 2021 text message exchange between Mr. Meadows and an organizer of the January 6th rally on the Ellipse; and text messages about the need for the former President to issue a public statement that could have stopped the January 6th attack on the Capitol,” Thompson said.
“All of those documents raise issues about which the Select Committee would like to question Mr. Meadows and about which you appear to agree are not subject to a claim of privilege. Yet, despite your recent agreement to have Mr. Meadows to come in and answer questions in a deposition, Mr. Meadows now, once again, refuses to do so.”
at 10.59am EST
The Guardian’s Martin Pengelly and David Smith report:
Mark Meadows’ attorney, George Terwilliger, wrote in a letter on Tuesday that a deposition would be “untenable” because the 6 January select committee “has no intention of respecting boundaries” concerning questions that Donald Trump has claimed are off-limits because of executive privilege.
Executive privilege covers the confidentiality or otherwise of communications between a president and his aides. The Biden administration has waived it in the investigation of 6 January. Trump and allies entwined in events leading up to the storming of the Capitol, around which five people died, have invoked it.
Terwilliger also said he learned over the weekend that the committee had issued a subpoena to a third-party communications provider that he said would include “intensely personal” information.
In an interview on the conservative Fox News network, the attorney added: “We have made efforts over many weeks to reach an accommodation with the committee.”
But he said the committee’s approach to negotiations and to other witnesses meant Meadows would withdraw cooperation.
Capitol attack committee has ‘no choice’ but to advance contempt proceedings against Meadows
The House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection has indicated it will advance a measure to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in criminal contempt for refusing to cooperate with the panel.
The Democratic chair of the committee, Bennie Thompson, has released a letter to Meadows’ attorney, George Terwilliger, indicating the panel’s plans.
“The select committee is left with no choice but to advance contempt proceedings and recommend that the body in which Mr Meadows once served refer him for criminal prosecution,” Thompson said.
The news comes one day after Meadows indicated he would no longer cooperate with investigators, claiming the committee is disrespecting Donald Trump’s claims of executive privilege over certain records.
at 10.56am EST
A group of senators held a press conference this morning to voice their criticism of the overhaul of the military justice system included in the House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been pushing for an overhaul for years, argued the House’s proposal would not deliver justice for sexual assault survivors in the military.
Republican Senator Joni Ernst, a military veteran and a sexual assault survivor, said she was “disappointed” in the efforts to change Gillibrand’s original proposal and called for a standalone vote on that measure.
Under Gillibrand’s bill, the prosecution of serious crimes, including sexual assault, would be entirely removed from the chain of command. Under the House-passed approval, military commanders would still conduct the trials.
“As someone who’s been a prosecutor, it makes no sense,” Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said of the House proposal.
The House-passed version of the defense bill includes an overhaul of the military justice system aimed at combating sexual assault against service members.
The final version of the bill calls for the appointment of special prosecutors outside the chain of command to handle the prosecution of sexual assault, murder and kidnapping, among other crimes.
However, the new system would still allow military commanders to conduct the trials and choose jury members, a provision that sparked fierce criticism from advocates.
Four men behind closed doors gutted our landmark military justice reform bill in the NDAA — ignoring the calls of survivors, service members, and veterans. Enough is enough. Our bill has the support of a majority of Congress. I’m calling for a full floor vote to #PassMJIIPA.
December 7, 2021
Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has pushed for an overhaul of the military justice system for years, argued the proposal was grossly insufficient and pledged to keep fighting for further change.
“As sexual assault survivor advocates warned would happen for months, House and Senate Armed Services leadership have gutted our bipartisan military justice reforms behind closed doors, doing a disservice to our service members and our democracy,” Gillibrand said in a statement.
“This bill represents a major setback on behalf of service members, women and survivors in particular. However, we will not stop seeking true military justice reforms for our brave service members and I will continue to call for an up or down floor vote.”
House passes $768bn defense bill in bipartisan vote, despite progressive criticism
Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.
The House passed a $768bn defense bill last night, in a vote of 363-70, with 169 Democrats and 194 Republicans backing the compromise measure.
The National Defense Authorization Act includes a 2.7% pay raise for troops, an overhaul of the military justice system aimed at combating sexual assault and a $25bn bump in spending over what Joe Biden had requested.
Some progressives, who had hoped to curb military spending now that Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House, complained about the higher price tag of the bill.
“It is astounding how quickly Congress moves weapons but we can’t ensure housing, care, and justice for our veterans, nor invest in robust jobs programs for districts like mine,” congressman Jamaal Bowman said.
Congressman Jamaal Bowman
$770 Billion to the Pentagon just easily passed the house 363-70.
I voted No.
It is astounding how quickly Congress moves weapons but we can’t ensure housing, care, and justice for our veterans, nor invest in robust jobs programs for districts like mine.
December 8, 2021
But Democratic leaders defended the final version of the bill, arguing it will help ensure America’s military readiness in a rapidly changing world.
“The House, under the leadership of Chairman Adam Smith, has passed a strong, bipartisan defense bill that will keep America safe, defend our servicemembers and their families and advance our nation’s leadership in the world,” House speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
“As the House sends this legislation to the Senate, we will continue to deliver results for the people.”
The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.