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The Republican-controlled Tennessee state legislature voted last week to expel a Democratic state representative for an anti-gun-violence demonstration, but on Monday, a Nashville council voted to send him back to represent his constituents (WTVF).

Over the course of four days, Tennessee’s ouster of two Black Democratic state representatives, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, sparked a national uproar over partisanship, alleged racism, free speech and mass shootings. Jones returned to work in Tennessee on the same day that a 23-year-old with a rifle in Kentucky killed five bank colleagues and injured nine people, yet another tragedy amid the nation’s debate about guns. Pearson, too, may be back in the legislature soon and the punishment the two men received helped to expand the size of the audience for their message.

At the same time on Monday, leaders in more than 300 pharmaceutical and biotech companies protested a ruling by a conservative federal judge in Texas who last week banned the abortion pill mifepristone while challenging the scientific process in which it was approved decades ago by the Food and Drug Administration.

The Justice Department is appealing. A federal judge in Washington state countered the Texas judge. And it is likely the Supreme Court will eventually hear the case. Drug and biotech executives are in an uproar because politics collided with research and drug approvals, with repercussions beyond whether pregnancies can be terminated in America, by whom, with what method and when (Reuters).

“We call for the reversal of this decision to disregard science, and the appropriate restitution of the mandate for the safety and efficacy of medicines for all with the FDA, the agency entrusted to do so in the first place,” the companies wrote in an open letter that included the signature of Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

The Texas judge’s decision suggests the possibility of bans on vaccines and contraception for women, said Ovid Therapeutics CEO Jeremy Levin. 

“This is a nightmare scenario for the industry,“ Levin added. “It’s the single worst threat to the industry in over 50 years.” 

Court battles over abortion since last summer’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade are still rippling through state legislatures, into health care and medical decision making, through communities large and small, into international commerce and drug development, and back to Congress.

House Democrats moved Monday to try to protect access to abortion pills after the Texas judge’s ruling. Reps. Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.) and Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas) reintroduced the Protecting Reproductive Freedom Act, which would reaffirm the FDA’s approval authority for abortion medication over state laws. It would also protect doctors’ ability to provide abortion medication through telehealth (The Hill).

The Hill: What to expect as legal battle heats up over Texas abortion ruling.

2024 Watch: President Biden on Monday said he is running but is not ready to formally announce his reelection campaign (The Hill). … Here’s why Sen. Bob Casey’s (D-Pa.) reelection announcement on Monday tees up one of the most closely watched Senate races next year (The Hill).

Related Articles

▪ The Hill: Trump on Monday filed an appeal seeking to block former Vice President Mike Pence from testifying before a federal grand jury hearing with evidence related to Jan 6. 

▪ The Hill: Trump on Monday used social media to try to discourage Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) from seeking the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. “I believe that if he decides to run for President, which will only hurt and somewhat divide the Republican Party, he will lose the cherished and massive MAGA vote, and never be able to successfully run for office again,” candidate Trump wrote. 

▪ The Associated Press: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), 77, expects to return to the Senate next week for votes following weekend surgery for a leg fracture. 

LEADING THE DAY

➤ ADMINISTRATION 

© Associated Press / Susan Walsh | National Security Council spokesman John Kirby at the White House on Monday.

Wide-ranging leaks of classified Pentagon documents has left the United States on cleanup duty as it contends with revelations detailing the extent U.S. agencies have penetrated Russian intelligence outlets and spied on allies, write The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch and Laura Kelly. While the breadth of the leak and the damage it wrought is not yet fully realized, dozens of documents from February and March labeled top secret were posted to social media platforms and hundreds more may be circulating on other niche areas of the internet. 

The intelligence community is now grappling with the escape of information that could be used as a roadmap for determining how the U.S. has been collecting data about Russian efforts in Ukraine — and how they can cut them off. U.S. allies, meanwhile, have had to publicly confront the revelations laid out in the documents.

“If you’re the Ukrainians, or you’re the allies, you’re pissed off as hell,” Daniel Fried, a former U.S. ambassador to Poland, told The Hill. “Especially because the Americans are usually ones to lecture about security. It’s always a bad idea to wag your finger because it can be your turn.” 

▪ NPR: How will the Ukraine document investigation work? A former Department of Justice “leak czar” explains.

▪ The New York Times: Clues left online might aid the leak investigation, officials say.

Among the leaked documents are those revealing that Ukraine could run out of missiles within weeks, writes The Hill’s Alexander Bolton, putting pressure on the Biden administration and NATO allies to increase support for the war effort and raising questions about whether Congress may need to pass another Ukraine aid package before the end of the year. The move would speed up the timeline of a confrontation over foreign aid and military spending between Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the Senate. 

The leak has created an intelligence threat for Ukraine’s forces ahead of an expected counteroffensive this spring, as the documents shared on social media offer extensive details about munitions, training and air defense systems at a critical point in the fight. The material reveals insight into Ukraine’s military capabilities, including battalion sizes, training on advanced weaponry and deployment of heavy combat vehicles, such as Leopard II tanks. They also give a view into Kyiv’s shortcomings, and Kurt Volker, a distinguished fellow with the Center for European Policy Analysis, said the leak is worrying because it gives the world a “snapshot” of U.S. assessments and judgements on the war in Ukraine (The Hill).

John Kirby, a spokesperson on national security issues, told reporters that Biden was first briefed late last week and has been updated throughout the weekend. But he otherwise reiterated that the administration is still working to answer basic questions about who or what is responsible for the leak of classified information (The Hill).

“We know that some of them have been doctored. I won’t speak to the validity of all the documents … We’re still working through the validity of all the documents we know are out there,” Kirby said. “I think we just need to be careful right now speculating or guessing what might be behind or who might be behind a potential leak here of classified information. We need to let the process sort of bear itself out.”

The Washington Post has details about leaked documents pertaining to alleged secret plans by Egypt to supply rockets to Russia and U.S. doubts that a Ukraine counteroffensive will yield big gains. The Associated Press reports on Russian operatives claimed new ties with the United Arab Emirates.

▪ Politico: The U.S. is in crisis mode with allies after recent intelligence leaks that relate to Ukraine.

▪ The Wall Street Journal: South Korea to probe the circumstances of leaks of classified documents in the United States.

▪ Reuters: Canada reiterates Five Eyes intelligence sharing commitment after U.S. intel leak.

▪ Politico: “I’m sick to my stomach”: Pentagon officials shocked by intel leaks.

▪ The Wall Street Journal: The U.S. deems Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich “wrongfully detained” by Russia.

Biden faces a ticking clock on the resumption of student loan payments by the end of the summer — but will he allow it to go off? As The Hill’s Lexi Lonas reports, the payments, paused amid the coronavirus pandemic, are set to begin either 60 days after the Supreme Court makes a ruling on Biden’s student debt forgiveness program or 60 days after June 30, the White House has said. Biden also previously said the payments would resume at the beginning of 2023 and that there would not be another extension of the pause, which began under Trump in 2020. 

Although the White House won’t discuss the possibility of a Plan B if the high court strikes down Biden’s relief proposal, experts believe yet another extension of the loan payment pause is a possibility.  

Meanwhile, the president is set to travel to his ancestral homeland this week, write The Hill’s Alex Gangitano and Brett Samuels, in a closely-watched visit as he celebrates the 25th anniversary of the peace deal between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Biden, who often touts his Irish heritage, has repeatedly underscored the importance of the Good Friday Agreement, a cherished diplomatic legacy of former President Bill Clinton — which showcased his skill as a mediator between the nationalists, who seek a united Ireland, and the unionists, who want to remain part of the United Kingdom. According to Jonathan Powell, who as chief of staff to then-Prime Minister Tony Blair led the negotiations on behalf of the British government, Biden approaches Irish issues from a sentimental rather than a diplomatic perspective. 

“Biden has an interest in it,” Powell told The New York Times. “It’s not necessarily a live political interest, but a historical family interest in Ireland.”

While abroad, the president is set to address the Irish parliament and visit two counties where he has family ties. 

On Monday — the official anniversary of the agreement — nationalists in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, threw petrol bombs and other missiles at officers during an illegal parade. Kirby said at a press briefing that Biden is “more than comfortable” visiting Northern Ireland despite the recent violence (The Guardian).

▪ CNN: “Biden ate our chips”: Ireland prepares for a presidential homecoming.

▪ NPR: Poetry-loving Biden heads to Ireland, home of the “best poets in the world.”

▪ Bloomberg News: Biden faces awkward talks abroad as U.S. reels from intel breach.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

➤ INTERNATIONAL 

Mines, trip wires and booby traps are go-to defensive tools for Russia’s military, inflicting grievous wounds on infantry or stalling armored vehicles, meaning de-mining is expected to play a pivotal role in Ukraine’s anticipated counteroffensive this spring, as Kyiv seeks to push back Russian forces and shift the momentum in the war (The New York Times). Ukrainian officials are playing down a report that Kyiv is amending some plans for a counteroffensive due to a leak of classified U.S. documents (Reuters).

“The enemy switched to so-called scorched earth tactics from Syria,” Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, said of Bakhmut. “It is destroying buildings and positions with air strikes and artillery fire.” 

▪ The New York Times: After protests in Poland over Ukrainian grain supplies, Kyiv and Warsaw reach a deal.

▪ The Associated Press: Ukraine, Russia send home around 200 troops in prisoner swap.

▪ Politico EU: You don’t scare us: Slovakia shrugs off Kremlin energy retaliation for arming Ukraine.

▪ Politico: “A whole appeasement psychology”: How America let Russian President Vladimir Putin off the hook after Crimea.

▪ The Hill interview: Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal arrives in D.C. at make-or-break moment.

Thousands of Israelis, including government ministers, marched toward the evacuated outpost of Evyatar in the occupied West Bank on Monday to support settlement expansion, as tensions mounted between Israelis and Palestinians, who held a counterprotest nearby. Tensions are mounting as the new far-right Israeli government enacts policies that support settlement recognition and expansion. Last month, parliament paved the way for Jewish settlers’ return to four settlements in the West Bank by amending a 2005 law that ordered their evacuation, a move condemned by the Palestinian Authority and the European Union (Reuters).

Haaretz: In a U-turn, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces that Yoav Gallant will remain defense minister.

In the final day of military exercises choreographed to raise pressure on Taiwan while stopping short of an escalation that could set off a conflict, China sent record numbers of military aircraft, as well as naval ships and an aircraft carrier near the island Monday.

Beijing — which claims Taiwan, a self-governed democracy, as its territory — has said the three days of drills were retaliation against a visit by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to the United States last week and her meeting with McCarthy (The New York Times). In response, Taiwan said it would “never relax” its efforts to strengthen combat readiness and would closely monitor China’s missile forces and movements of the Shandong aircraft carrier (Reuters).

▪ The Washington Post: King Charles III’s coronation: Two carriages, five swords and a crown emoji.

▪ The Washington Post: Ethiopian plan to disarm regional forces sparks protests in Amhara.

OPINION

■ Tennessee’s attack of first amendment right to protest turns attention away from real issues, by Tameka Greer, guest columnist, The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal. https://bit.ly/3mrFQDu

■ How Trump and abortion became losing issues for the GOP, by Douglas E. Schoen, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3MyaxkX

WHERE AND WHEN

📲 Ask The Hill: Share a news query tied to an expert journalist’s insights: The Hill launched something new and (we hope) engaging via text with Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack. Learn more and sign up HERE.

The House will hold a pro forma session at 11 a.m. on Thursday. Lawmakers will return to the Capitol next week. 

The Senate meets on Thursday at 8:45 a.m. for a pro forma session.  

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 8:30 a.m. He will depart the White House at 9:30 a.m. to travel to the United Kingdom and Ireland with scheduled events through Friday. He will arrive at 9:10 p.m. local time in Belfast, Northern Ireland and remain overnight. Biden, a “son of Ireland” (The Guardian), will dive into his itinerary on Wednesday to celebrate 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement (Politico). 

© Associated Press / Peter Morrison | President Biden will visit Hillsborough’s Main Street in Northern Ireland during his trip to mark the Good Friday Agreement this week.

Vice President Harris will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland at 2:30 p.m. in the vice president’s ceremonial office. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to meet with Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo at the Department of State at 10:15 a.m. He is to meet at 11 a.m. with DefenseSecretary Lloyd Austin, Manalo, and Philippine Senior Under Secretary and Officer in Charge of the Department of National Defense Carlito Galvez for a U.S.-Philippines ministerial dialogue plenary session about regional security. At noon, Blinken will host a working lunch with Austin, Manalo and Galvez. They will continue at 1:05 p.m. with a plenary session about modernizing the U.S.-Philippines alliance. At 1:45 p.m., the foursome will turn to counterterrorism, security sector governance and human rights. About 25 minutes later, they’ll discuss global prosperity and partnership. Blinken at 3:15 p.m. will hold a joint press conference along with Austin, Manalo and Galvez.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will host a press conference at the Treasury Department at 11:30 a.m. ahead of this week’s meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington, D.C. The World Bank schedule for today, including live streamed events, is HERE. The IMF schedule is HERE.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra will travel today to Greensboro, N.C., for two events. He will visit Triad Adult + Pediatric Medicine health center at 10:10 a.m., where he’ll be joined by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D), Rep. Kathy Manning (D-N.C.) and local stakeholders to talk about prescription drugs and Medicaid. At 11 a.m. at University of North Carolina Greensboro Union Square campus, Becerra and Manning will convene a roundtable about reproductive health care and hold a press conference.  

ELSEWHERE

➤ STATE WATCH

In Kentucky on Monday, a mass shooting at a bank in downtown Louisville resulted in the deaths of five people as of this morning (The New York Times). The gunman, identified as a 23-year-old bank employee, was also killed by police at the scene. At least nine people, including police, were injured (Reuters). It was the 15th mass killing in the country this year.

The victims, between the ages of 40 and 64, were identified as Joshua Barrick, Juliana Farmer, Tommy Elliott, James Tutt and Deanna Eckert, Louisville police said. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) said Elliott, a senior vice president at the bank, was one of his closest friends who helped him launch his political career (The Associated Press and CNN). 

“When we talk about praying, I hope people will for those that we are hoping can make it through the surgeries that they are going through. And then we’ve got to do what we have done these last three years after everything, we’ve got to wrap our arms around these families,” Beshear said at a Monday press conference. “Our bodies and our minds are not meant to go through these types of tragedies.”

© Associated Press / Timothy D. Easley | Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) in Louisville on Monday.

▪ The Associated Press: What we know about victims of the Louisville bank shooting.

▪ The New York Times: Here is a partial list of U.S. mass shootings in 2023.

▪ The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people are shot (either killed or injured), excluding the shooter. 

▪ Axios: Gun deaths among children are soaring.

In Florida, LGBTQ advocacy groups and state lawmakers are gearing up for another uphill battle against DeSantis and the Republican Party. The GOP-controlled legislature appears poised to expand a controversial education law that would restrict discussion in public school classrooms of sexual orientation and gender identity (The Hill).

➤ HEALTH & WELLBEING

The White House is launching a $5 billion-plus program to accelerate development of new coronavirus vaccines and treatments for both COVID-19 and new coronaviruses that might emerge in the future. An array of scientists, public health experts and politicians have called for the initiative, warning that existing therapies have steadily lost their effectiveness and new ones are needed. “Project Next Gen” would take a similar approach to partnering with private sector companies to expedite development of vaccines and therapies that “Operation Warp Speed,” the Trump-era program that sped coronavirus vaccines to patients, did in 2020. 

“It’s been very clear to us that the market on this is moving very slowly,” Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus coordinator, told The Washington Post. “There’s a lot that government can do, the administration can do, to speed up those tools … for the American people.”

▪ The Hill: Biden signs bill ending national COVID-19 emergency.

▪ CNN: Americans hold mixed views on getting back to “normal” after COVID-19, new polling shows. 

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by social and communication difficulties as well as repetitive behaviors. It’s being diagnosed more frequently in girls as more doctors, teachers and parents have been on the lookout for early signs of the condition over the past decade. Studies have shown that girls with autism are more likely than boys to camouflage their social challenges, and girls are often treated differently by adults, such as being told to smile or being encouraged to participate more in group play (The New York Times).

“There have always been autistic girls,” Catherine Lord, a psychologist and autism researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the Times. “I think people didn’t knock themselves out to be aware that girls might be treated slightly differently.”

▪ The Washington Post: Stress linked to 37 percent higher chance of cognitive issues after age 45. 

▪ The Washington Post: Research with exotic viruses risks a deadly outbreak, scientists warn. 

THE CLOSER

© Associated Press / Craig Ruttle | A KIA EV9 on display at the New York International Auto Show on April 5.

And finally … 🚘 The New York International Auto Show, which wraps up this weekend, has attracted plenty of media coverage, especially as we obsess about the future of vehicles Americans love to drive. From EV technology to style points to sticker shock, automobiles still represent possibilities and aspirations among many U.S. consumers (just ask the president about his restored Chevrolet Corvette).

The New York Times reports that luxury cars today are gadget-stuffed, four-wheeled supercomputers, spawning designer debates about whether automotive screens are too enormous, clunky and distracting for drivers.

“I think we’ve reached Peak Screen,” Klaus Busse, Maserati’s head of design, who previously led design for Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Lancia, told the Times. “Screens have their right of existence — they do a lot of things better than physical switches. It’s just been pushed a little too far.”

Touch screens have morphed into expansive control centers, transitioning to augmented-reality windshields, at least in a BMW planned for release in 2025.

▪ Consumer Reports: Highlights from the 2023 New York Auto Show.

▪ The Associated Press (poll): About half of U.S. adults, or 47 percent, say it’s not likely they would buy an electric vehicle. About 4 in 10 U.S. adults say they are at least somewhat likely to switch. 

▪ CarScoops: Politics and cars: Ford Motor Co. says it is the “most American of all car companies,” announcing this week that it built more than 1.8 million vehicles in the United States last year.

▪ Bloomberg News: The Biden administration this week in Detroit is expected to announce the toughest-ever pollution rules for automobiles, while stopping short of mandating EVs or banning gas-fueled vehicles.

Lastly, car fanatics, what would you bid for a rare automobile license plate at a charity auction? In Dubai, the answer was a record-setting $15 million on Saturday (Bloomberg News) What the debt limit standoff means for the banking crisis What will happen to mifepristone now?

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