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Biden to House: ‘move with urgency’ to pass $95bn foreign aid bill – live


Biden to House: ‘move with urgency’ on foreign aid bill

We have a statement from Joe Biden on the Senate passage of the national security bill.

This bipartisan supplemental agreement is critical to advancing America’s national security interests.

“It will allow the United States to continue our vital work, together with our allies and partners all around the world, to stand up for Ukraine’s freedom and support its ability to defend itself against Russia’s aggression. It will provide Israel with what it needs to protect its people against Hamas terrorists. Significantly, this agreement will provide life-saving humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people, the vast majority of whom have nothing to do with Hamas.

“I applaud the bipartisan coalition of senators who came together to advance this agreement, and I urge the House to move on this with urgency.

“We cannot afford to wait any longer. The costs of inaction are rising every day, especially in Ukraine. Already, we are seeing reports of Ukrainian troops running out of ammunition on the front lines as Russian forces continue to attack and Putin continues to dream of subjugating the Ukrainian people.

“There are those who say American leadership and our alliances and partnerships with countries around the world do not matter. They do. If we do not stand against tyrants who seek to conquer or carve up their neighbours’ territory, the consequences for America’s national security will be significant. Our allies and adversaries alike will take note.

“It is time for the House to take action and send this bipartisan legislation to my desk immediately so that I can sign it into law.”

Strong words. Alas, the House is not likely to do as Biden wishes. Here’s what the speaker, Mike Johnson, came out with earlier: “[In] the absence of … any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters. America deserves better than the Senate’s status quo.”

Remember: Republicans in the Senate tanked a hard-won border and immigration agreement that was meant to be in the package passed today because Donald Trump, who holds even greater sway over most Republicans in House, wanted them to do so.

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Key events

Haley: Trump RNC moves meant to secure nomination

In South Carolina earlier, Nikki Haley said Donald Trump’s move to have his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, named co-chair of the Republican National Committee was simply another attempt to have himself confirmed as the winner of the presidential primary in which Haley is still running.

Nikki Haley. Photograph: Allison Joyce/AFP/Getty Images

Speaking in her hometown, Bamberg, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador (under Trump) said: “He tried to get the RNC to name him the presumptive nominee. We don’t do coronations. South Carolinians deserves the right to vote on this. So does Michigan, so do all the states on Super Tuesday [5 March]. And so that backfired and he pulled back from it.

“What we saw yesterday was, he took a different approach. Now he has decided he has fired the RNC chair [Ronna McDaniel], he’s named who’s going to be the new RNC chair [Michael Whatley, the North Carolina Republican chair and a Trump loyalist], his daughter-in-law [married to Eric Trump, his second son] will be the co-chair, and he is making his campaign manager [Chris LaCivita] the [chief operations] officer that runs the party.

“Think about what’s happening right now. Is that how you’re going to try and take an election?”

Unfortunately for Haley, the Republican election of a nominee to face Joe Biden in November has so far proceeded entirely in the direction of Trump.

The former president won in Iowa, then won in New Hampshire, then won in Nevada. South Carolina is next up. Haley’s home state it may be, but Trump leads polling there by vast margins.

Haley also bemoaned Trump’s many legal problems, saying he “talked about being a victim” and had spent “$50m of campaign contributions on his personal court cases”.

Accusing Trump of not caring about issues facing everyday Americans, Haley said they included “wasteful spending, the $34tn in debt”, poor reading among eighth graders, “lawlessness on the border … law and order in our cities [and] the wars around the world that make us less safe” .

“All he did was talk about himself,” she said, “and that’s the problem.”

White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates continues his memo on the national security bill by breaking down areas of US interest boosted by passage through the Senate but, he says, at risk in a House controlled by Republicans loyal to Donald Trump.

Such areas include “Ukraine and Nato”, the latter a subject of special concern in Washington (and in European capitals) this week, after Trump told supporters he would encourage Russia to attack Nato members he did not think paid enough for the privilege of US support.

Bates says: “Unhinged, irresponsible voices on the right are even encouraging Russia to attack our closest allies and agitating to unravel Nato – an alliance which is bigger and stronger than ever, thanks in no small part to President Biden’s leadership. Those irresponsible voices are erratic and dangerous.”

He also points to a consideration common across the national security package – what it means for Americans who make things like planes and weapons.

“Our support for Ukraine is revitalising the American defense industrial base across the country,” Bates says.

He also seeks to highlight Iranian support for Vladimir Putin’s Russia in its war in Ukraine and, on the Israel part of the bill, says “a House vote against American national security is a vote against crucial military support for Israel as they defend themselves from the Hamas murderers who committed the worst terrorist massacre in that country’s history and whose leaders have pledged to repeat the attacks of October 7 over and over again until Israel is annihilated”.

Bates highlights humanitarian assistance to Palestinians, too.

Turning to Taiwan, the Bates memo says Biden is “committed” to the island’s “self-defense capabilities” in the face of “a more assertive Peoples Republic of China”.

Bates concludes: “A House vote against American national security would undermine these goals.”

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Andrew Bates, the deputy White House press secretary, sends the press a memo …

“Months ago, President Biden submitted a request for critical national security funding to Congress – every aspect of which has strong bipartisan support. President Biden has called for action ever since, working in good faith with Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate, in order to keep the American people safe.

“But a subset of congressional Republicans delayed that urgently-needed action, choosing politics over national security.

“Today, the Senate just voted to move forward on many of the most pressing needs of the American people. The onus is now on the House to do the same. This is a high stakes moment for American families. It’s also a high stakes moment for House Republicans, because the choice is stark.

“Will House Republicans side with President Biden and senators on both sides of the aisle in supporting American national security? Or will House Republicans, in the name of politics, side with Vladimir Putin and the regime in Tehran?

“The House GOP cannot lose sight of this binary choice. It would be devastating to undercut American national security by voting against our interests and values.”

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Three Democrats (or strictly two, and one independent aligned with Democrats) voted no on the Senate passage of the national security bill: Peter Welch of Vermont, Bernie Sanders, also of Vermont (and the independent in question) and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

They each cited the same reason for their vote: military aid to Israel.

Issuing a lengthy statement, Welch said: “I cannot, in good faith, send more US taxpayer dollars to fund [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s relentless bombing campaign in Gaza.”

Before the vote, Sanders said on social media: “This bill provides Netanyahu $10bn more in unrestricted military aid for his horrific war against the Palestinian people. That is unconscionable. I will vote NO on final passage.”

Merkley also issued a lengthy statement, which summed up the progressives’ dilemma.

“On the one hand,” Merkley said, “I strongly support aid to Ukraine. We need to sustain the supply of ammunition and weapons the Ukrainians need to stop the Russians. We must find a way to get this done.

“On the other hand, I strongly oppose sending more offensive military aid to Israel at a time when they are using American weapons in what President Biden has called an ‘indiscriminate’ campaign of bombing.

“… The campaign conducted by the Netanyahu government is at odds with our American values and American law, which requires recipients of American assistance to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid.

“While I have supported military aid to Israel in the past, and continue to support aid for defensive systems like Iron Dome and David’s Sling, I cannot vote to send more bombs and shells to Israel when they are using them in an indiscriminate manner against Palestinian civilians.

“So I am voting against the bill.”

Random, unrelated fact: Welch, at 76 the oldest person ever first elected to the Senate, has been called “the nicest dude in DC”.

Of the question of Joe Biden’s age and fitness for office and Republican attacks and plans to weaponise the issue since the release of Robert Hur’s report last week … Jonathan Martin of Politico (I’ve never met him so I won’t call him J-Mart like everyone else in DC seems to do) has an interesting column this morning, entitled: “Get Used to It: Biden Isn’t Going Anywhere”.

A taste:

The Republican refrain goes something like this: Democrats know Joe Biden can’t win in November and they – it’s always ‘they’ – are going to replace him on top of the ticket.

Anyone around politics has heard it – and the assured predictions have reached a crescendo following the release of the special counsel [Hur]’s report …

… In the spirit of helping the GOP understand their Democratic counterparts … I’ve put together a primer for Republicans on why Biden will be his party’s standard bearer once more. I’ve also tried to get my arms around why one of the country’s two major parties continues deluding themselves even as Biden runs and Democrats stand with him.

First, two neon-lit caveats … There are two obvious ways in which Biden does not seek reelection: He changes his mind about running or suffers a health crisis. Only a higher power can speak to the latter, but Biden, his family and his inner circle have been clear about the president’s plans to run.

Put directly: Democrats had their chance to speak out against Biden running for reelection at nearly 82, they failed to do it and there is no “they” now poised to intervene.

The short answer as to why Biden is almost certain to be the Democratic nominee again is Donald Trump. The former president effectively controls both parties.

Trump is the Democrats’ best fundraiser, organizer, mobilizer and, importantly, force for unity. He is the adhesive that binds a coalition that ranges from the DSA to Bush Republicans, who are about to go over a decade since having voted for the nominee of their (old) party.

This centrality of Trump – and Democrats’ determination to block his return – is what insulates Biden within his own party. The proverbial moat around the Biden White House is stocked with very classy, Trump-branded alligators. No major Democrat dares question the president because that risks weakening him and helping Trump.

In full – here.

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In his session with reporters earlier, the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, was inevitably asked about Joe Biden’s age, mental acuity and fitness for office.

Chuck Schumer. Photograph: Nathan Posner/REX/Shutterstock

Such is the Washington water-cooler conversation-starter de nos jours, or at least de nos past few jours, since last week the special counsel Robert Hur decided to use his report on Biden’s retention of classified information to decline to indict but also to allege that Biden’s memory is shot, thereby fueling Republican claims (and claims by the not exactly sprightly 77-year-old Donald Trump) that the president, 81, is too old to be re-elected.

“I talk to President Biden regularly,” Schumer said, “sometimes several times in a week, usually several times in a week. His mental acuity is great. It’s fine. It’s as good as it’s been over the years.”

It’s possible Schumer’s next remark wasn’t the most helpful he could have made, given that the 73-year-old senator was referring to an episode of Washington lawmaking drama that happened in 1993, when Biden was merely 50 or so, and even then had been a senator from Delaware for a whole 20 years.

“I’ve been speaking to him for 30 years since we worked on the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban when I was a young congressman,” Schumer said. “And he’s fine. All this rightwing propaganda that his mental acuity has declined is wrong.

“He’s going to win the election because he has a great record. Because more and more Americans are seeing that record, because the economy’s improving, because a large number of Americans including Republicans fear a Donald Trump presidency for the future of our democracy.”

Switching back to passage of the national security bill, Schumer said Trump “inserts himself almost always for his own political purposes. And it’s no way to govern. And I think the American people are getting wise to them. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you for staying here [overnight]. And… next year. Next year. Go Bills.”

That was a football reference, if you must know.

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Donald Trump will appear in court in New York on Thursday, according to one of his many lawyers. CNN’s Kaitlan Collins has more:

“‘President Trump will be attending court in New York on Thursday,’ says Steve Sadow, his lead attorney in the Georgia election case. There are hearings in both New York (when Judge Merchan is expected to rule on Trump’s efforts to dismiss the Manhattan DA’s case) and in Atlanta (on the allegations against DA Fani Willis) that day and it was unclear which Trump would attend.”

Given the sheer array of charges facing Trump as he homes in on the Republican presidential nomination, it usually pays to repeat the rap sheet:

  • New York – 34 criminal charges relating to hush money payments to an adult film star and actor who claims an affair

  • Georgia – 13 criminal charges relating to Trump’s attempt to overturn his defeat there by Joe Biden in 2020

  • Federal election subversion – four criminal charges, case being heard in Washington DC

  • Federal retention of classified information – 40 criminal charges, case being heard in Florida

Trump also faces civil suits regarding his business affairs and was on the wrong end of an $83.3m verdict in a defamation suit arising from an allegation of rape a judge said was substantially true.

Also also, the US supreme court is mulling an attempt by Colorado to remove Trump from the ballot for inciting an insurrection, a case centering on the 14th amendment to the US constitution – and, apparently, the justices’ reluctance to apply it.

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Biden to House: ‘move with urgency’ on foreign aid bill

We have a statement from Joe Biden on the Senate passage of the national security bill.

This bipartisan supplemental agreement is critical to advancing America’s national security interests.

“It will allow the United States to continue our vital work, together with our allies and partners all around the world, to stand up for Ukraine’s freedom and support its ability to defend itself against Russia’s aggression. It will provide Israel with what it needs to protect its people against Hamas terrorists. Significantly, this agreement will provide life-saving humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people, the vast majority of whom have nothing to do with Hamas.

“I applaud the bipartisan coalition of senators who came together to advance this agreement, and I urge the House to move on this with urgency.

“We cannot afford to wait any longer. The costs of inaction are rising every day, especially in Ukraine. Already, we are seeing reports of Ukrainian troops running out of ammunition on the front lines as Russian forces continue to attack and Putin continues to dream of subjugating the Ukrainian people.

“There are those who say American leadership and our alliances and partnerships with countries around the world do not matter. They do. If we do not stand against tyrants who seek to conquer or carve up their neighbours’ territory, the consequences for America’s national security will be significant. Our allies and adversaries alike will take note.

“It is time for the House to take action and send this bipartisan legislation to my desk immediately so that I can sign it into law.”

Strong words. Alas, the House is not likely to do as Biden wishes. Here’s what the speaker, Mike Johnson, came out with earlier: “[In] the absence of … any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters. America deserves better than the Senate’s status quo.”

Remember: Republicans in the Senate tanked a hard-won border and immigration agreement that was meant to be in the package passed today because Donald Trump, who holds even greater sway over most Republicans in House, wanted them to do so.

Updated at 

Schumer: ‘Robust majority’ of Senate passed bill, now House must ‘meet this moment’

Chuck Schumer, the Democratic majority leader in the US Senate, saluted the passage of the national security bill in remarks to reporters on Capitol Hill.

“Today, the Senate made sure that the United States is closer to meeting the monumental and consequential moment that we are in,” the New Yorker said. “Now, it’s up to the House to meet this moment, to do the right thing and save democracy as we know it. Questions?”

There were questions, of course, about the House speaker, Mike Johnson, who has come out against the national security bill because it doesn’t include border security elements, which of course it would have if Senate Republicans had not last week tanked such an agreement because Donald Trump told them to do so.

“This bill passed with a robust majority,” Schumer said. “We need to get to Ukraine quickly … and the quickest and best way to do that is with passing the Senate bill. We Democrats were willing, as you know, to vote many steps in the direction of a strong, tough border.”

Schumer went on to emphasise conservative support for the abandoned border deal, saying: “Democrats were willing to support a bill supported by the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Democrats were willing to support a bill supported by the [US] border patrol, which is very much a Republican organisation, that was supported by the [US] Chamber of Commerce.

“And unfortunately, too many Republicans succumbed to the ministrations of Donald Trump. Trump who said at one point, ‘We have to do a border bill.’ Trump who said the border is at an emergency. And then, in his own words, for crass political purposes said, ‘Let’s delay this for a whole year, because it might bring me help in my election.’

“That’s not going to wash with the American people.”

Asked if he thought House Democrats could use a discharge petition to bypass Johnson and get the bill through, Schumer said he would leave that to Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic minority leader in the House, adding: “I have great faith in his ability to help engineer getting this bill done.”

Asked about Trump’s suggestion that foreign aid should be turned into loans (a suggestion notably seized upon by Senate foreign policy hawk and Trump-supporting “reverse ferretLindsey Graham) Schumer said: “Look, the House should pass our bill. It’s been through the crucible of four months of negotiations and ups and downs. It passed the crucible on the Republican side, of almost a majority of Republicans (22 voted yes, 26 no) rejecting … their putative presidential candidate.

“We got to stick with this bill. I mean, no one even knows how this loan program would work. Because Donald Trump says something doesn’t mean Republicans should march in lockstep to do it.”

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The Associated Press is out with a frankly gigantically helpful, detailed breakdown of what’s in the national security bill that the US Senate passed this morning but which Republicans who control the US House do not like one bit.

Highlights follow:

  • UKRAINE: About $60bn would go to supporting Ukraine [with] nearly $14bn to rearm itself through the purchase of weapons and munitions and nearly $15bn for support services such as military training and intelligence sharing. About $8bn would go to help Ukraine’s government continue basic operations with a prohibition on money going toward pensions. And there’s about $1.6bn to help Ukraine’s private sector. About a third of the money allocated to supporting Ukraine actually will be spent replenishing the US military with the weapons and equipment that are going to Kyiv. There’s also about $480m to help Ukrainians displaced by the war.

  • ISRAEL: About $14.1bn would go to support Israel and US military operations in the region. About $4bn would go to boost Israel’s air defenses, with another $1.2bn for Iron Beam, a laser weapons system designed to intercept and destroy missiles. There’s also about $2.5bn to support US military operations in the region. The legislation contains also $9.2bn in humanitarian assistance to provide food, water, shelter and medical care to civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, Ukraine and others in war zones around the world.

  • CHINA: More than $8bn in the bill would go to support key partners in the Indo-Pacific and deter aggression by the Chinese government. The bill includes about $1.9bn to replenish US weapons provided to Taiwan and about $3.3bn to build more US-made submarines in support of a security partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom.

  • OTHER PROVISIONS: The bill includes about $400m for a grant program that helps nonprofits and places of worship make security enhancements and protect them from hate crimes. There’s also language that would target sanctions on criminal organizations involved in the production of fentanyl.

Thanks, AP.

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Andrew Bates, the White House deputy press secretary, is being predictably scathing about Mike Johnson’s opposition to the national security package passed by the Senate this morning, noting “brutal juxtapositions” for the House speaker in “every article” published on the situation in Congress.

Quoting reporting by Axios, Bates highlights how “Johnson criticised the lack of border security provisions in the bill [after] Senate Republicans largely rejected a package that included border security provisions … due in no small part to Johnson”.

Here, meanwhile, is Bill Kristol, the conservative Never Trumper behind the Bulwark website:

Very good news from the United States Senate (not a sentence I’m used to writing these days!): The Ukraine/Israel/Taiwan national security bill passes, 70-29. Democrats 48-3. Republicans 22-26. So one and a half responsible parties in Senate.

FWIW, I’m bullish on the House.

TBF, not many people are. Some observers suggest Democrats in the House might be able to use a discharge petition to force the aid package through despite opposition from Speaker Johnson and the far right of his party.

Here’s how Indivisible, a progressive activism group, defines a discharge petition:

After a bill has been introduced and referred to a standing committee for 30 days, a member of the House can file a motion to have the bill discharged, or released, from consideration by the committee. In order to do this, a majority of the House (218 voting members, not delegates) must sign the petition. Once a discharge petition reaches 218 members, after several legislative days, the House considers the motion to discharge the legislation and takes a vote after 20 minutes of debate. If the vote passes (by all those who signed the petition in the first place), then the House will take up the measure.

Republicans currently control the House 219-212, with four vacancies.

Here’s what Indivisble says about why discharge petitions usually don’t work – but which gives a hint, bolded, as to why some people hope such a move might actually work this time, given how closely the chamber is divided and how not all Republicans are opposed to aiding Ukraine:

Rarely are discharge petitions successfully used to force a vote on a contentious bill. This is due to the fact that discharge petitions are typically used by the minority party on issues that can garner bipartisan support. The most likely way for a discharge petition to be used in this Congress is for Democrats to try to force a vote on something that all Democrats and just a handful of Republicans wanted to force to the floor. But the only way for this to happen is if there’s enormous pressure on that handful of Republicans to break ranks from their party’s leadership.

What’s in the foreign aid bill that the Senate passed

The national security bill that passed the US Senate early this morning, by 70 votes to 29, is valued at $95bn. The House speaker, Mike Johnson, has already rejected it. Nonetheless, here’s some of what’s in it:

  • $60bn in aid for Ukraine, in its fight against the Russian invasion.

  • $14bn for Israel, as it prosecutes its war against Hamas.

  • $5bn (or close to) for allies in the Indo-Pacific prominently including Taiwan, which is widely held to be in danger of attack from China.

According to Punchbowl News, a very decent source for reporting on machinations in the halls of Congress, “many Republicans support axing nearly $8bn in Ukrainian economic support from the bill while maintaining lethal aid”, a move that was attempted but deflected in the Senate.

Other House Republicans are outright opposed to continuing support for Ukraine. Most House Republicans are cross (in a sort of performance-art way) that the national security package passed without attendant measures on border security and immigration. An agreement on that, of course, was tanked by Senate Republicans after Donald Trump (essentially) told them to do so.

Here’s what Republicans could have won, as summarised by Patty Murray, the Washington state Democrat who chairs the Senate appropriations committee, when the national security package was announced earlier this month, as a $118.3bn deal including border measures.

And here’s our current report:

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Fate of Senate foreign aid bill uncertain in House

Good morning, and welcome to another day in US politics. Like most recent days in Washington and out on the campaign trail, this one promises to be filled with fun. (Depending on your definition of “fun”, natch.) To wit:

  • Early this morning, after various rightwing, pro-Trump senators mounted an old-fashioned all-night talkathon, the Senate passed a $95bn aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. The problem is that it now has to pass the House, where the pro-Trump Republican right is very unlikely to leave it unscathed. The House speaker, Mike “Moses” Johnson (that’s not really his middle name or even his nickname, but see here), issued the following statement: “In the absence of having received any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters. America deserves better than the Senate’s status quo.” Of that status quo: pro-Trump Republicans in the Senate, you’ll remember, last week tanked their own border and immigration deal, reached after months of negotiations with Democrats, at their master’s behest.

  • Next: today could be the day that the House makes Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, the first cabinet official to be impeached since William Belknap, Ulysses S Grant’s really rather corrupt secretary of war, in 1876. Of course, success in said vote will require basic procedural competence from Johnson and the rest of Republican House leadership – last week, on their first try, they lost. The weather – a big storm on the US east coast – and other imponderables could yet affect the second attempt to impeach Mayorkas, which is expected tonight. If Republicans manage to get it done, an impeachment on purely political grounds will be deader than dead in the Senate, where Democrats are hardly likely to allow a trial in a presidential election year.

  • Outside Washington, today’s the day for a special election on Long Island in New York, where the Republican Mazi Pilip and the Democrat Tom Suozzi (a former occupant of the seat) are competing to replace George Santos, the indicted fabulist who became only the sixth member of the US House ever to be expelled. Predictions are for very low turnout – maybe even lower than low, given that storm expected to dump a lot of snow on New York – and a razor-thin margin. The newsletters I’m reading think Suozzi might edge it. Either way, it’s a contest with huge implications for Republican control of the House, already evidently a rather chaotic, slim-margin thing, and for national rune-reading in an election year.

  • And after all that, there is the continued spectacle of speculation over the effect of the special counsel Robert Hur’s decision to play neurologist and, while declining to indict Joe Biden over his retention of classified information, nonetheless discuss in great detail the 81-year-old president’s alleged problems with long- and short-term memory, including on matters of great personal concern. Expect the White House and Democrats to continue to hit back, attacking Hur, and Republicans and Donald Trump (77 and, um, apparently not sharp as a tack himself) to keep attacking Biden. Axios has worrying news for Democrats, though: Republicans, the site says, are planning to call Hur to testify in the Congress on his report (a normal step for special counsels) and transcripts of presidential interviews are also likely to be released.

In short, there’s a lot on. More follows.

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