The Boston Globe

Johnson outlines plan for Ukraine aid package


WASHINGTON — House Speaker Mike Johnson has begun publicly laying out potential conditions for extending a fresh round of military assistance to Ukraine, the strongest indication yet that he plans to push through the chamber a package that many Republican­s view as toxic and have tried to block.

His terms may include tying the aid for Ukraine to a measure that would force President

Biden to reverse a moratorium on new permits for liquefied natural gas export facilities, something that Republican­s would see as a political victory against the Democratic president’s climate agenda. The move would also hand Johnson a powerful parochial win, unblocking a proposed export terminal in his home state of Louisiana that would be situated along a shipping channel that connects the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Charles.

“When we return after this work period, we’ll be moving a product, but it’s going to have some important innovation­s,” Johnson said Sunday in an interview on Fox News.

That strongly suggests that the aid package for Ukraine, which has been stalled on Capitol Hill for months amid Republican resistance, could clear Congress within weeks. It enjoys strong support among Democrats and a large coalition of mainstream Republican­s, and the main obstacle standing in its way in the House has been Johnson’s refusal to bring it up in the face of vehement hard-right opposition in the GOP to sending more aid to Ukraine.

But after the Senate passed a $95 billion aid package for Ukraine and Israel, and with Johnson facing pressure from the Biden administra­tion and NATO allies, the Republican speaker has been searching for a path forward on the bill that would provoke the least political backlash in his own ranks.

Now, the question appears to be not whether Johnson will allow aid to come to the floor, but in what form and when.

In the interview, he openly discussed how to structure the aid, saying he had not come to any final decisions on what he would ultimately put to a vote but that he had been “working to build that consensus” among House Republican­s.

Johnson cited the REPO Act, which would pay for some of the aid by selling off Russian sovereign assets that have been frozen, as one idea under considerat­ion.

“If we can use the seized assets of Russian oligarchs to allow the Ukrainians to fight them, that’s just pure poetry,” he said.

US officials had previously been skeptical of the idea, warning that there was no precedent for seizing large sums of money from another sovereign nation and that the move could set off unpredicta­ble legal ramificati­ons and economic consequenc­es.

Only about $5 billion or so of Russian assets are in the hands of US institutio­ns; more than $300 billion in Russian central bank assets are stashed in Western nations.

But the Biden administra­tion has quietly come around on the idea amid waning financial support for Ukraine.


Chinese misinforma­tion online targets Biden

Covert Chinese accounts are masqueradi­ng online as American supporters of former president Donald Trump, promoting conspiracy theories, stoking domestic divisions, and attacking President Joe Biden ahead of the election in November, according to researcher­s and government officials.

The accounts signal a potential tactical shift in how Beijing aims to influence American politics, with more of a willingnes­s to target specific candidates and parties, including Biden.

In an echo of Russia’s influence campaign before the 2016 election, China appears to be trying to harness partisan divisions to undermine the Biden administra­tion’s policies, despite recent efforts by the two countries to lower the temperatur­e in their relations.

Some of the Chinese accounts impersonat­e fervent Trump fans, including one on X, formerly Twitter, that purported to be “a father, husband and son” who was “MAGA all the way!!”

The accounts mocked Biden’s age and shared fake images of him in a prison jumpsuit, or claimed that Biden was a Satanist pedophile while promoting Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

“I’ve never seen anything along those lines at all before,” said Elise Thomas, a senior analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a nonprofit research organizati­on that uncovered a small group of the fake accounts posing as Trump supporters.

Thomas and other researcher­s have linked the new activity to a long-running network of accounts connected with the Chinese government known as Spamouflag­e. Several of the accounts they detailed previously posted pro-Beijing content in Mandarin — only to resurface in recent months under the guise of real Americans writing in English.

In a separate project, the Foundation for Defense of Democracie­s, a research organizati­on in Washington, identified 170 inauthenti­c pages and accounts on Facebook that have also pushed anti-American messages, including pointed attacks on Biden.


Judge in N.Y. trial expands gag order on Trump

NEW YORK — The New York judge overseeing Donald Trump’s upcoming criminal trial expanded an existing gag order Monday to bar the former president from attacking the judge’s family members, who in recent days have become the target of Trump’s abuse.

Justice Juan M. Merchan last week issued an order prohibitin­g Trump from attacking witnesses, prosecutor­s, jurors and court staff, as well as their relatives.

That order, however, did not cover Merchan himself or the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, who brought the criminal case against the former president.

And although the ruling issued Monday still does not apply to the judge or the district attorney, Merchan, granting a request from Bragg’s office, amended the gag order so that it now covers their families.

In his ruling, the judge cited recent attacks against his daughter and rejected Trump’s argument that his statements were “core political speech.”

“This pattern of attacking family members of presiding jurists and attorneys assigned to his cases serves no legitimate purpose,” Merchan wrote. “It merely injects fear in those assigned or called to participat­e in the proceeding­s, that not only they, but their family members as well, are ‘fair game’ for defendant’s vitriol.”

In another court decision late Monday, Trump reached a deal that will spare him from paying a $454 million judgment in his civil fraud case while he appeals the penalty.

The lifeline came in the form of a bond that will prevent New York’s attorney general, who brought the lawsuit that led to the judgment, from collecting the $454 million until Trump’s appeal is resolved. The attorney general, Letitia James, accused Trump of fraudulent­ly inflating his net worth by as much as $2 billion, and a judge ruled in her favor.

Trump secured the bond after an appeals court last week granted his request to lower the bond amount to $175 million.

White House Easter event gains in popularity

WASHINGTON — Bunny ears. Rain slickers. Sixty-four thousand hard-boiled eggs.

Under rainy skies, President Biden on Monday hosted the White House Easter Egg Roll, a tradition so wholesome and oldfashion­ed that it often simply transcends Washington politics.

“Easter reminds us of the power of hope and renewal, sacrifice and resurrecti­on, but mainly, love and grace toward one another,” Biden said from the White House balcony, where he stood between two enormous Easter Bunnies.

Before he joined the crowd on the lawn, Biden welcomed everyone and introduced the big attraction.

“Say hello to our Easter Bunnies,” he said.

The White House estimated that roughly 40,000 people would attend, its highest attendance ever.

 ?? CHIP SOMODEVILL­A/GETTY IMAGES ?? President Joe Biden helped a young guest roll her hard-boiled egg during the White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday. The White House estimated that roughly 40,000 people would attend, its highest attendance ever.
CHIP SOMODEVILL­A/GETTY IMAGES President Joe Biden helped a young guest roll her hard-boiled egg during the White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday. The White House estimated that roughly 40,000 people would attend, its highest attendance ever.

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