March 24, 2022
“We are very pleased, dear President, dear Joe, to welcome you again in Brussels,” European Council president Charles Michel of Belgium told President Joe Biden today. “Your presence here and your participation in this European Council meeting is a very strong signal.”
The European Council is made up of the heads of states of the European Union states, along with the President of the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union. “Our unity is rock solid, and we are very, very pleased to coordinate, to cooperate with you. These are difficult times, challenging times, and we need to take the right and the intelligent decisions for the future and for the security, for the stability,” Michel said.
“And thank you for this excellent cooperation and coordination,” he concluded.
Michel was referring to the joint statement made today by Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, of Germany, condemning Russia’s “unjustified and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine,” which is now four weeks old. They declared that “we are united in our resolve to defend our shared values, including democracy, respect for human rights, global peace and stability, and the rules-based international order.”
They announced more sanctions—the U.S. announced sanctions on more than 400 additional individuals and entities today—as well as $1 billion in humanitarian aid from the U.S. for Ukraine in addition to the more than $2 billion in military equipment the U.S. has pledged. They announced cooperation to reduce dependence on Russian oil and gas, a focus on food security to prevent food shortages as Russian and Ukrainian grain production slows, and additional cybersecurity. To help resettlement, the U.S. has agreed to take up to 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing their homes.
They also announced joint efforts to strengthen democracies in and around Ukraine. The U.S. will launch the European Democratic Resilience Initiative (EDRI) to provide at least $320 million in new funding to “support media freedom and counter disinformation, benefit the safety and security of activists and vulnerable groups, strengthen institutions and the region’s rule of law, and help ensure accountability for human rights abuses and violations of international law.” The European Commission will “reallocate funds from EU programmes to support civil society organizations, human rights defenders, journalists, and pro-democracy activists in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova,” in addition to providing emergency grants to save civic activism and open media in Ukraine. The statement also demanded accountability for any war crimes Russians commit in Ukraine.
Biden responded to Michel by reiterating that “from the very beginning, I was of the view: The single most important thing that we have to do in the West is be united.” Russian president Vladimir Putin’s overwhelming objective, Biden said, “is to demonstrate that democracies cannot function in the 21st century—because things are moving so rapidly, they require consensus, and it’s too difficult to get consensus—and autocracies are going to rule.” Putin has tried for years to break up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), so he could face 30 individual countries rather than one united front. The single most important thing we can do is to be united.
That impressive unity abroad has not translated to the United States.
Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson continues to promote pro-Russian, anti-Biden propaganda. Today the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that Biden’s son Hunter’s foundation had financed biological labs in Ukraine (which earlier propaganda said were developing biological weapons); less than 12 hours later, Carlson made the same claim.
More explosively, tonight Bob Woodward of the Washington Post and Robert Costa of CBS broke the story that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, Virginia, a right-wing activist who goes by the name Ginni, exchanged at least 29 texts with Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows about the attempt to overturn the 2020 election, 21 from her, 8 from Meadows.
The messages were among the 2320 messages Meadows provided to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol; the aides and committee members to whom Woodward and Costa spoke indicated their belief that there were more messages between Ms. Thomas and Meadows than just the 29.
The messages show that Ms. Thomas bought into the conspiracy theories that the election was stolen, including the extreme theories pushed by QAnon. “Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!” she urged Meadows on November 10, after the results were in. “The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.” (Biden won the election by more than 7 million votes, and by a vote of 306 to 232 in the Electoral College.) On November 24, Meadows wrote, “This is a fight of good versus evil…. Evil always looks like the victor until the King of Kings triumphs. Do not grow weary in well doing. The fight continues….”
In January 2022, Ms. Thomas’s husband, Justice Thomas, was the only member of the Supreme Court to vote against permitting the January 6 committee to see a different cache of documents concerning the fight to overturn the election. Trump had claimed executive privilege over documents stored as part of the presidential records archive at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); by a vote of 8 to 1, the Supreme Court agreed that the committee’s subpoena must be enforced.
Considering that his wife might have communications in that NARA cache, it was likely a conflict of interest for him to participate in that decision.
Neither Thomas responded to requests for comment. The Supreme Court announced Sunday that Justice Thomas, 73, had been hospitalized with an infection that is not Covid-19 and that he was expected to be released Monday or Tuesday. Thomas was not in court Wednesday, and the court has provided no further updates.
That Thomas is now at the center of this scandal suggests another dimension to the extraordinarily vicious attacks on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson at this week’s Senate hearing for confirmation to the Supreme Court.
The former president himself is also trying to keep his name in the news and his base angry. Today his lawyers filed a federal lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, Christopher Steele (who produced the Steele Dossier suggesting that Trump had concerning ties with Russia), and so on—a laundry list of 47 people and companies he claims were part of a conspiracy against him after the 2016 election—claiming that “Clinton and her cohorts orchestrated an unthinkable plot…. Acting in concert, the[y]... maliciously conspired to weave a false narrative that their Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, was colluding with a hostile foreign sovereignty.” Their actions were “so outrageous, subversive and incendiary that even the events of Watergate pale in comparison.”
It is a mess, full of debunked claims, misspellings, and outright lies; Aaron Blake of the Washington Post called it a press release. It is impossible to imagine Trump intends to continue the case until it gets to discovery, when the defendants’ lawyers could request his testimony under oath. The complaint asks for a trial, and it appears to be designed to rile up his base with familiar stories—possibly for 2024, as Blake suggests, but, if history is any guide, primarily to encourage donations.