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Biden ‘stands by’ pledge to nominate Black woman to supreme court, White House says – as it happened

The Guardian
The Guardian
 2022-01-27

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12.11am GMT

Today's politics recap

  • The supreme court justice Stephen Breyer plans to announce his retirement, according to multiple reports. Breyer’s retirement would give Joe Biden his first supreme court seat to fill, and the president has promised to select a Black woman for the role, which would mark a historic first for the US.
  • The White House said Biden “certainly stands by” his campaign pledge to nominate a Black woman to the supreme court. While not confirming news of Breyer’s retirement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “The president has stated and reiterated his commitment to nominating a Black woman to the supreme court and certainly stands by that.”
  • Biden deflected questions about the potential supreme court vacancy, saying he would wait to comment until Breyer made the news official. “Every justice has the right and opportunity to decide what he or she is going to do and announce it on their own. There has been no announcement from Justice Breyer,” Biden said as he met with a group of CEOs today to discuss his economic agenda. “Let him make whatever statement he’s going to make, and I’ll be happy to talk about it later.”
  • Senate Democrats are expected to move quickly to confirm Biden’s supreme court nominee if Breyer does announce his retirement. The party controls the upper chamber and should be able to advance the nomination quickly, although a confirmation would not alter conservatives’ advantage on the bench. Even with Breyer’s replacement confirmed, the six conservative supreme court justices would still outnumber their three liberal colleagues.
  • Meanwhile, officials from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine met in Paris today, in the latest effort to de-escalate tensions along Ukraine’s border. The talks came two days before French president Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as the west seeks to avoid a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

– Joan E Greve

Updated at 12.26am GMT

11.18pm GMT

A masterclass in election-rigging: how Republicans ‘dismembered’ a Democratic stronghold

Andrew Witherspoon and Sam Levine in New York:

Republican lawmakers in Tennessee gave final approval on Monday to an aggressive plan to split Nashville, a Democratic bastion, in a deeply Republican state, into several congressional districts as part of an effort to tilt the state’s congressional map in their favor. The plan is now waiting for approval from Governor Bill Lee, who is likely to sign it.

Nashville currently sits in the state’s fifth congressional district, represented by Jim Cooper, a Democrat who has held the seat for nearly 20 years. It’s a solid Democratic district – Joe Biden carried it by nearly 24 points in 2020 – but on Tuesday, Cooper announced he was retiring from Congress.

“Despite my strength at the polls, I could not stop the general assembly from dismembering Nashville . No one tried harder to keep our city whole,” he said in a statement. “I explored every possible way, including lawsuits, to stop the gerrymandering and to win one of the three new congressional districts that now divide Nashville. There’s no way, at least for me in this election cycle, but there may be a path for other worthy candidates.”

The new districts crack the concentration of Democratic voters in Nashville and cram them into three districts that stretch across the state and are filled with reliable Republican voters. Donald Trump would have easily carried all three of the proposed districts in 2020. The plan is one of the clearest, and most brazen, efforts to dismantle a Democratic district to benefit Republicans .

Take a look:

Related: A masterclass in election-rigging: how Republicans ‘dismembered’ a Democratic stronghold

10.28pm GMT

US prosecutors investigate Republicans who sent fake Trump electors to Congress

Federal prosecutors have launched an investigation into the attempt by Republicans in seven presidential battleground states won by Joe Biden in 2020 to subvert the election result by sending bogus slates of Donald Trump electors to Congress.

The ploy was one of the central tactics used by Trump loyalists as part of the “big lie” that he had defeated his Democratic challenger. The fake slates of electors were forwarded to congressional leaders, who then came under pressure to delay certification of Biden’s victory on 6 January 2021, the day of the Capitol insurrection.

In an interview on CNN , the deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco, revealed that the justice department has begun an investigation into what she called the “fraudulent elector certifications”. She said the department had received referrals on the matter and “our prosecutors are looking at those”.

Monaco added: “We are going to follow the facts and the law wherever they lead to address conduct of any kind and at any level that is part of an assault on our democracy.”

Fake slates of Trump electors were sent to Congress from seven states in fact won by Biden – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Of those, two – New Mexico and Pennsylvania – added the caveat that the Trump electors should only be counted in the event of a disputed election.

The other five states sent signed statements to Washington giving the appearance that Trump had won despite clear and verified counts placing Biden on top.

Read more:

Related: US prosecutors investigate Republicans who sent fake Trump electors to Congress

10.25pm GMT

Joe Biden signed an executive order making sexual harassment an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a move that Congress had mandated that he do as part of the latest defense bill.

Lawmakers moved to change how military sexual assault and sexual harassment are prosecuted in the aftermath of the death of Vanessa Guillén, a 20-year-old Army private first class stationed at Fort Hood, in Texas. Guillén had twice reported being harassed by a supervisor before her disappearance and death, but leadership failed to do anything.

Prior to the passage of the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, sexual assault and harassment were prosecuted under various articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice but were not specifically named an offense of their own.

Mayra Guillén, Vanessa’s older sister, said at a news conference last week described the passage of the new rules as “history being made” in her sister’s honor.

10.00pm GMT

Today so far

That’s it from me after another newsy day in Washington. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Supreme court justice Stephen Breyer plans to announce his retirement, according to multiple reports. Breyer’s retirement would give Joe Biden his first supreme court seat to fill, and the president has promised to select a Black woman for the role, which would mark a historic first for the US.
  • The White House said Biden “certainly stands by” his campaign pledge to nominate a Black woman to the supreme court. While not confirming news of Breyer’s retirement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “The president has stated and reiterated his commitment to nominating a Black woman to the supreme court and certainly stands by that.”
  • Biden deflected questions about the potential supreme court vacancy, saying he would wait to comment until Breyer made the news official. “Every justice has the right and opportunity to decide what he or she is going to do and announce it on their own. There has been no announcement from Justice Breyer,” Biden said as he met with a group of CEOs today to discuss his economic agenda. “Let him make whatever statement he’s going to make, and I’ll be happy to talk about it later.”
  • Senate Democrats are expected to move quickly to confirm Biden’s supreme court nominee if Breyer does announce his retirement. The party controls the upper chamber and should be able to advance the nomination quickly, although a confirmation would not alter conservatives’ advantage on the bench. Even with Breyer’s replacement confirmed, the six conservative supreme court justices would still outnumber their three liberal colleagues.
  • Meanwhile, officials from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine met in Paris today, in the latest effort to de-escalate tensions along Ukraine’s border. The talks came two days before French President Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as the west seeks to avoid a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated at 10.56pm GMT

9.45pm GMT

For recent supreme court vacancies, it has taken an average of 70 days to nominate someone to fill an open seat and an average of 68 days to get that person confirmed, per Axios.

So, if Stephen Breyer formally announced his retirement tomorrow and the nomination process played out as expected, Joe Biden may have his supreme court nominee confirmed by mid-June.

That means that Senate Democrats should have plenty of time to confirm Biden’s nominee before the midterm elections in November, when Republicans may regain control of the upper chamber.

9.23pm GMT

Stephen Breyer ’s expected retirement is a perfectly timed political gift for Joe Biden , aware that choosing a supreme court justice is one of the most consequential decisions that any president can make.

After a year in the White House, Biden was limping with a stalled legislative agenda, a tenacious pandemic and Vladimir Putin threatening Ukraine. He was a tired brand in desperate need of a relaunch, a tough ask at the age of 79.

Breyer has provided it, instantly changing the conversation. “This has to feel like a political elixir right now,” observed Chuck Todd, host of MSNBC’s Meet the Press Daily show.

A vacancy on the highest court enables Biden to rally the Democratic base and begin to cement a legacy that, despite early ambitions, had recently looked to be in jeopardy. Although the ideological balance of the court will not change, Biden could choose a young liberal who will serve for decades.

Related: Battered Biden gets chance to change political narrative as Breyer retires

9.06pm GMT

Senator Joe Manchin applauded Stephen Breyer for his decades of supreme court service, and he said he looks forward to meeting with Joe Biden ’s nominee to fill the liberal justice’s seat.

“Justice Breyer has dedicated much of his life to upholding the rule of law and we are grateful for his service. I wish him a happy and fulfilling retirement,” Manchin said.

He added, “I take my Constitutional responsibility to advise and consent on a nominee to the Supreme Court very seriously. I look forward to meeting with and evaluating the qualifications of President Biden’s nominee to fill this Supreme Court vacancy.”

After news broke of Breyer’s expected retirement, some Democrats expressed concern that Manchin and/or Kyrsten Sinema may oppose Biden’s eventual nominee, as they have helped to block key components of the president’s legislative agenda.

However, both Manchin and Sinema have generally deferred to the president when it comes to judicial nominees, and it seems likely they will support Biden’s choice.

Updated at 9.11pm GMT

8.46pm GMT

Some of the Black women who serve in Congress are also urging Joe Biden to nominate a Black woman to the supreme court, as the president has indicated he intends to do.

“It is past time for a Black woman to be named to the Supreme Court,” progressive Congresswoman Cori Bush said on Twitter.

One of Bush’s colleagues, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, echoed that message, saying, “It’s time for a Black woman on the Supreme Court.”

Both Bush and Pressley serve in the House, while the Senate will be the chamber confirming Biden’s supreme court nominee if Stephen Breyer does indeed announce his retirement.

That means that no Black woman will have a say in confirming Biden’s nominee, as there are no Black women serving in the Senate right now. Kamala Harris had previously been the only Black woman in the Senate, but she left the chamber to serve as Biden’s vice-president.

8.19pm GMT

One reporter asked Jen Psaki whether the White House is concerned that a hypothetical supreme court nomination may distract from Joe Biden ’s efforts to get the Build Back Better Act passed.

While not confirming anything about Stephen Breyer ’s expected retirement, Psaki said, “We have to walk and chew gum at the same time here in the White House.”

The press secretary noted the administration has been busy for the past year working to fulfill commitments on multiple fronts, including the distribution of coronavirus vaccines, the protection of Ukraine’s sovereignty and the implementation of Biden’s economic agenda.

“We are entirely capable of doing more than one thing at once,” Psaki said.

8.05pm GMT

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has dodged multiple questions about Joe Biden ’s potential supreme court nominees and the handling of a theoretical confirmation process.

Two reporters pressed Psaki on whether Kamala Harris would be considered for an open supreme court seat, and while not going into any detail, the press secretary seemed to downplay that possibility.

“The president has every intention, as he said before, of running for reelection and for running for reelection with Vice President Harris on the ticket as his partner,” Psaki said.

7.50pm GMT

Biden 'certainly stands by' promise to nominate Black woman to supreme court, Psaki says

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, is now holding her daily briefing and taking questions about reports of Stephen Breyer ’s plans to retire from the supreme court.

Echoing her message on Twitter earlier today, Psaki emphasized that the White House would not go into detail about a potential nomination process until Breyer makes his plans officials.

“It has always been the decision of any supreme court justice if and when they decide to retire, how they want to announce it, and that remains the case today. So we’re not going to have additional details,” Psaki said at the beginning of her briefing.

But no surprise here: the first question from reporters was still about the Breyer news. A journalist asked Psaki whether Joe Biden intends to follow through on his campaign promise to nominate a Black woman to the court.

“The president has stated and reiterated his commitment to nominating a Black woman to the supreme court and certainly stands by that,” Psaki replied.

“For today, again, I’m just not going to be able to say anything about any specifics until, of course, Justice Breyer makes any announcement should he decide to make an announcement.”

7.32pm GMT

Biden deflects questions on Breyer until formal announcement

Joe Biden dodged questions about Stephen Breyer ’s reported plans to retire from the supreme court, saying he would wait until the liberal justice made the news official.

Meeting with CEOs at the White House to discuss his economic agenda, Biden initially ignored reporters’ shouted questions about Breyer before offering a comment.

“Every justice has the right and opportunity to decide what he or she is going to do and announce it on their own. There has been no announcement from Justice Breyer,” Biden said moments ago.

“Let him make whatever statement he’s going to make, and I’ll be happy to talk about it later,” the president added.

Biden then kicked off his meeting with CEOs to discuss the Build Back Better Act, Democrats ’ $1.75tn spending package that includes major investments in childcare, healthcare and climate initiatives.

The bill has been blocked in the Senate due to opposition from Joe Manchin, but Democrats are looking to restart negotiations and pass a version of the legislation before the midterm elections in November.

7.16pm GMT

At the White House coronavirus team briefing a little earlier, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned of taking a laissez-faire attitude towards the “milder” Omicron variant of Covid-19.

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Rochelle Walensky before a hearing on Capitol Hill earlier this month. Photograph: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/REX/Shutterstock

“Milder does not mean mild,” Walensky said, of the coronavirus variant still raging in the US and many other parts of the world. She added: “Now is the time to do what we know works. Wear a mask, get vaccinated and get boosted.”

At the briefing, it was announced that the US has donated over 400 million vaccine doses to 112 countries, marking a major milestone in the White House’s goal of donating 1.2 billion vaccine doses under Joe Biden’s direction.

White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said that the total donation is four times higher than that of any other country.

Zients also revealed that the country hit another major milestone this week, with 70% of eligible seniors, who are most at risk and most vulnerable, having now received their booster shot. And half of all eligible adults are now boosted.

“This is significant progress as the doctors and data have made crystal clear. Vaccinations and boosters provide the best protection,” Zients said.

Over the past week, the daily averages of cases and hospital admissions have decreased, according to Walensky.

The current seven-day daily average of Covid-19 cases is approximately 692,400 cases per day, a 6% decrease over the previous week. The seven-day average of hospital admissions is around 19,800 per day, an 8% decrease over the previous seek.

However, the seven-day average daily deaths are around 2,200 per day, an increase of around 21% over the previous week.

“These data demonstrate that Covid-19 disease severity appears to be lower with the Omicron variant than with prior variants… Although it’s encouraging that Omicron appears to be causing less severe disease, it is important to remember that we are still facing a high overall burden of disease. Milder does not mean mild,” the director said.

7.00pm GMT

Hillary Clinton just called Stephen Breyer’s decision to retire “admirable” and his decades of service on the nine-member bench “distinguished”.

Breyer was nominated by the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate’s husband, Bill Clinton , when he was president.

And Senate majority leader and New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer has voiced optimism that there won’t be any problem getting Biden’s pick to replace Breyer installed on the hallowed bench.

6.45pm GMT

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson a leading contender for Supreme Court seat

Joe Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States court of appeals for the District of Columbia circuit just last April and now the 51-year-old is widely considered to be a leading contender, if not the frontrunner, to succeed Stephen Breyer on the supreme court.

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Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies before Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on pending U.S. judicial nominations on Capitol Hill in Washington last April. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

She was confirmed shortly afterwards with unanimous Democratic support in the Senate and yea votes from three Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Jackson has served as a clerk to Breyer. She was a federal judge on the US district court for DC prior to joining the appeals circuit, and had been nominated to the district court by then-president Barack Obama in 2013.

Here are some other names suggested by Natalie James, who’s running for the senate as a Democrat in Arkansas.

Jackson attended Harvard and is married to Patrick Jackson, a surgeon who just so happens to be the twin brother of, stick with us here, the brother-in-law of Paul Ryan , Republican former House Speaker and running mate to Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election (lost to Obama-Biden, obv).

Updated at 6.53pm GMT

6.01pm GMT

Today so far

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Supreme court justice Stephen Breyer plans to announce his retirement, according to multiple reports. Breyer’s retirement will give Biden his first supreme court seat to fill, and the president has promised to select a Black woman for the role, which would mark a historic first for the US.
  • Senate Democrats are expected to move quickly to confirm Biden’s supreme court nominee. The party controls the upper chamber and should be able to advance the nomination quickly, although a confirmation would not alter conservatives’ advantage on the bench. Even with Breyer’s replacement confirmed, the six conservative supreme court justices would still outnumber their three liberal colleagues.
  • Officials from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine are meeting in Paris today, in the latest effort to deescalate tensions along Ukraine’s border. The talks come two days before French President Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as the west seeks to avoid a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

5.52pm GMT

Senate Democrats should theoretically be able to confirm Joe Biden ’s nominee to the supreme court relatively easily, even with their narrow majority in the upper chamber.

Since Senate Republicans changed chamber rules in 2017, supreme court nominations are not subject to the filibuster and thus require only a simple majority for confirmation.

As long as Biden’s nominee can secure the support of every Democratic senator, she should be able to get confirmed.

And even Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who have presented problems for Biden’s legislative agenda, have generally deferred to the president when it comes to judicial nominees.

5.44pm GMT

Biden urged to keep promise on supreme court nominee

Patty Murray, a member of the Senate Democratic leadership team, has already released a statement urging Joe Biden to keep his promise about nominating a Black woman to the supreme court.

“The Court should reflect the diversity of our country, and it is unacceptable that we have never in our nation’s history had a Black woman sit on the Supreme Court of the United States—I want to change that,” Murray said.

“There is no shortage of exceptional nominees who would serve with the judgment, qualifications, and ethical standards each Supreme Court Justice should embody—and Black women in America should be able to look at the highest court in the land and finally see themselves represented.”

Murray added that she is “ready to move as quickly as possible to consider and confirm a highly qualified nominee who will break barriers and make history as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court of the United States”.

Updated at 6.41pm GMT

5.34pm GMT

Joe Biden has previously promised that he will select a Black woman to fill the first supreme court vacancy of his presidency.

With that in mind, Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was confirmed to the DC circuit court last year, has been named as a likely contender for the nomination.

Elie Mystal of the Nation noted that Leondra Kruger of the California supreme court Michelle Childs of the South Carolina district court are also likely to be considered for the job.

5.28pm GMT

Although Stephen Breyer ’s retirement would give Joe Biden his first supreme court seat to fill, it would not alter the ideological split among justices.

As of now, there are six conservative justices and three liberal justices, including Breyer, sitting on the bench.

If Breyer retires, conservatives will maintain their significant advantage on the supreme court, although his departure will give Biden the opportunity to fill the seat with a younger liberal who may serve in the role for decades.

5.21pm GMT

If Stephen Breyer does indeed announce his retirement, the decision will have massive repercussions for the midterm elections in November.

Senate Democrats will attempt to approve Joe Biden ’s supreme court nominee before November, in case the party loses control of the upper chamber after the elections.

If Republicans take control of the chamber, they could block Biden’s nominee from getting confirmed or even receiving a hearing, as Mitch McConnell did when Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the court in 2016.

The high stakes of a supreme court confirmation may also reenergize voters on both ends of the political spectrum, as it underscores the importance of Senate control.

5.14pm GMT

According to NBC News’ Pete Williams, who broke the news of Stephen Breyer ’s planned retirement, the decision is not related to the supreme court justice’s health.

Breyer will turn 84 later this year, and he has served on the court since 1994, so he may have simply decided that it’s time to step down, Williams said.

5.07pm GMT

The White House would not provide any additional information after reports emerged that liberal supreme court Justice Stephen Breyer intends to announce his retirement.

“It has always been the decision of any Supreme Court Justice if and when they decide to retire, and how they want to announce it, and that remains the case today,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Twitter. “We have no additional details or information to share from @WhiteHouse.”

5.05pm GMT

Joe Biden promised during the 2020 presidential campaign that he would nominate a Black woman to the supreme court, which would be a historic first for the US.

In response to reports of Justice Stephen Breyer ’s planned retirement, progressives celebrated the prospect of Biden securing another historic achievement before the midterm elections in November.

Brian Fallon, executive director of the progressive group Demand Justice, said in a tweet, “Biden will get a chance to make history by putting the first Black woman on SCOTUS, and he will have many highly qualified candidates to choose from. One of those candidates, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson , was supported by all 50 Dems and three Republicans for DC Circuit last year.”

5.01pm GMT

Supreme court justice Stephen Breyer to retire - report

More major breaking news out of Washington: NBC News is reporting that liberal supreme court justice Stephen Breyer plans to retire.

Breyer’s retirement would give Joe Biden his first seat to fill on the supreme court, which is tilted six to three in favor of conservatives.

Breyer, who is 83, had faced calls from progressives to step down from the bench in order to allow Biden to select a new justice for the lifetime appointment.

4.40pm GMT

J oe Biden will meet with several CEOs this afternoon to discuss Democrats’ Build Back Better Act, the $1.75tn spending package that includes massive investments in healthcare, childcare and climate initiatives.

“This afternoon, I’m meeting with CEOs who support passing my Build Back Better Agenda to discuss how it’ll invest in American workers, grow our economy, and lower inflation in the long-term,” Biden said on Twitter.

Mary Barra of GM, Marc Benioff of Salesforce and Jim Farley of Ford are among those expected to be in attendance for the White House meeting, according to Punchbowl News.

The meeting comes one month after Joe Manchin blocked the bill in the Senate because of his opposition to the cost of the proposal, although there have been recent signs that the negotiations are restarting.

The White House has deflected questions about the talks, saying the president wants to remain private about the negotiations.

“We’re just not going to speak to or confirm any conversations the president has with members of the Senate moving forward,” press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

4.22pm GMT

The US deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman , repeated a US warning that a Russian assault could start in the next few weeks but said Vladimir Putin might wait until after his attendance at the Winter Olympics in China.

“I have no idea whether he’s made the ultimate decision but we certainly see every indication that he is going to use military force some time [between] now and middle of February,” Sherman said in an online discussion with the former Estonian president Kersti Kaljulaid .

“We all are aware that the Beijing Olympics are beginning on February 4th, the opening ceremony, and President Putin expects to be there. I think that probably President Xi Jinping would not be ecstatic if Putin chose that moment to invade Ukraine. So that may affect his timing and his thinking.”

4.06pm GMT

Blinken to hold briefing amid escalating tensions on Ukraine's border

The state department has just announced that secretary of state Antony Blinken will hold a press briefing this afternoon, amid escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

Blinken will speak to reporters at 12pm ET, so journalists will have a chance to ask the cabinet secretary questions in about an hour.

Blinken has previously warned that any movement of Russian forces into Ukraine would be met with a severe response from the US and its allies.

“If a single additional Russian force goes into Ukraine in an aggressive way, as I said, that would trigger a swift, a severe and a united response from us and from Europe,” Blinken said Sunday.

Related: Blinken says Nato united on Ukraine as EU ministers prepare to meet

3.47pm GMT

US and allies considering deploying more troops to eastern Europe - report

The US and its Nato partners are considering sending thousands more troops to allied countries in eastern Europe, due to escalating fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

CNN reports :

The deployments -- numbering approximately 1,000 personnel from each -- would be similar to the forward battle groups currently stationed in the Baltic States and Poland, two defense officials said. Among the countries considering accepting the deployments are Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, all three officials said. No final decisions have been made.

The US and UK are among those considering the new, pre-invasion deployments, but not all 30 NATO members are willing, according to a European diplomat. Therefore, the US is in discussions to send the additional forces on a bilateral basis or, as one official described it, as a ‘coalition of the willing.’

Asked yesterday about potential troop deployments to Ukraine, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration was focused on working in conjunction with Nato in all military efforts.

“We’re working through Nato to plus-up support in our eastern flank countries. That is what Nato is there for, and we are committed to the sanctity of that alliance,” Psaki said.

“Just to be clear, there is no intention or interest or desire by the president to send troops to Ukraine. Nato is a forum to support our eastern flank partners and countries, and that’s what the focus has been on.”

Updated at 4.01pm GMT

3.26pm GMT

Before the meeting in Paris, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov , said Moscow was willing to take unspecified “appropriate measures” if its security demands were not met. The US is due to give a written answer later this week.

Russia wants assurances that Ukraine and Georgia will never be allowed to join Nato and has called for a pullout of Nato forces from eastern Europe, including Romania and Bulgaria, and a return to 1997 levels of deployment.

Joe Biden ’s US administration has dismissed the demands, which amount to a cold war-style zone of influence for Russia, as a non-starter. The White House has placed 8,500 troops on heightened alert to deploy to Nato countries in eastern Europe if necessary.

On Tuesday President Biden said he would consider personal sanctions against Vladimir Putin if Russia further invaded Ukraine, as well as “enormous consequences” that would damage the Russian economy.

Related: Ukraine and Russia to hold Paris talks in latest effort to ease tensions

3.09pm GMT

Officials from four countries meet in Paris to discuss Ukraine

Senior officials from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine are meeting in Paris today, in the latest effort to deescalate tensions along Ukraine’s border.

The talks come two days before French President Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine.

However, Russia’s outrage over allied countries’ shipments of weapons to Ukraine make any kind of deescalation seem unlikely at this moment.

Another US shipment of equipment of munitions and equipment arrived in Ukraine yesterday, as part of allied countries’ security assistance to Kyiv.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, accused the West of supplying Ukraine with “lethal weapons” and told members of his country’s parliament that Russia “would not sit idly by in this situation”.

3.09pm GMT

Russia does not currently have enough troops on the border with Ukraine to carry out a full-scale military invasion and occupation of the country, according to western experts and senior officials in Kyiv.

They believe a Russian attack to capture most or all of Ukraine in the near future is unlikely, despite an unprecedented buildup of about 125,000 Russian soldiers, and military exercises due to take place next month in Belarus, within striking distance of the capital.

In an article published on Monday , Ukraine’s former defence minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk said the Kremlin has not yet amassed the several hundred thousand troops necessary for a large-scale operation, on the border and in Russian territory behind the frontline.

“If Russia was conducting preparations for a large-scale invasion, it would have been much more noticeable,” Zagorodnyuk said, in a paper written with colleagues from his Kyiv thinktank, the Centre for Defence Strategies.

Read the Guardian’s full report:

Related: Focused Russian attack on Ukraine seen as more likely than full-scale invasion

3.09pm GMT

US weapons arrive in Ukraine as Biden faces test over allies' unity

Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.

Tensions continue to escalate over Ukraine, as the US and its allies prepare for the possibility of a Russian invasion that would have massive reverberations around the world.

Joe Biden said yesterday that Vladimir Putin continues to build up his forces along Ukraine’s border, adding that a Russian attack “would be the largest invasion since” the second world war.

Meanwhile, another US shipment of equipment and munitions arrived in Ukraine yesterday, as the country’s allies offer them assistance in the face of Russian aggression.

Biden’s efforts to keep the alliance together are the latest test of his leadership. The AP reports:

Biden is trying to pull off the kind of alliance on the international front that has eluded him on his domestic agenda as he faces defeats on voting rights and his signature $2.2tn domestic and climate spending bill.

Now, he faces a complicated and globally more dangerous task: keeping the West unified as it faces what White House officials say is an increasingly likely further invasion of Ukrainian territory ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The pileup of difficult moments is providing a major test of the twin pillars of Biden’s 2020 candidacy: that he could get things done competently at home and restore America’s standing in the world after Donald Trump ’s volatile four years in the White House.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Comments / 18

Rickisright
01-27

No matter how you chalk it up…it’s racism. When you use your power to place a person in a powerful position because of the color of their skin, it’s racism. We do need diversity I agree, but not this way.

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G Smitty
01-27

Well he decided to pick a woman VP before looking at a resume and we saw how that ended up🤣🤣🤣🤣 God help us!🖕🤣

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12
TRIP6IX
01-28

Oh cool. We’re allowed to discriminate by race and gender now during the hiring process? When did they do away with the EEO Commission? I must’ve missed it.

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3

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