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Politics Briefing: Ottawa earmarks $40-billion for Indigenous child welfare in tomorrow's fall economic statement – The Globe and Mail




BREAKING: The federal government is expected to announce this afternoon it has earmarked $40-billion in its fall economic statement for Indigenous child welfare compensation and long-term reform, The Globe and Mail has learned.

Three sources have confirmed to The Globe that Ottawa intends to make its plans known this afternoon, with two saying the amount in the economic statement will be around $40-billion. The sources are not being identified as they are not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. The fall economic statement will be released on Tuesday afternoon.

Parliamentary reporter Kristy Kirkup reports that since November, confidential talks have been taking place regarding Indigenous children who were unnecessarily taken into the child welfare system.

The goal of the talks was to reach an out-of-court settlement worth billions before the end of the year. The discussions have been facilitated by former Truth and Reconciliation Commission chair Murray Sinclair, who left the Senate last January.

More here on this developing story.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


MILITARY APOLOGY Defence Minister Anita Anand delivered an apology to survivors of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces on Monday and said countless lives have been harmed because of inaction and systemic failure.

She also said that for far too long, the government failed to dedicate enough time, money, personnel and effort to deal with sexual harassment, sexual assault and discrimination based on sex, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation in the military and the department.

Misconduct and abuse of power led to a crisis of broken trust in the defence team, she added.

“I apologize on behalf of the government of Canada, and on behalf of those elected officials who, throughout the history of the Canadian Armed Forces, had the responsibility to protect you and who failed to do so,” she said.

Gen. Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defence Staff, and deputy defence minister Jody Thomas were also to apologize, with the general speaking for the military and Ms. Thomas speaking for the Defence department itself.

Ahead of the apology, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there will always be additional work to do on the issue, and changing the culture in the military.

“This apology is an important part of recognizing their experiences, of seeing them and telling them we will be there for them going forward, but also that we recognize the mistakes of the past that weren’t worthy of the women and men who chose to serve their country and their armed forces,” Mr. Trudeau told a news conference on Monday morning. “It’s clear this is something we profoundly regret.”

SABIA SIDELINED – Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife and senior parliamentary reporter Steve Chase report on Michael Sabia, who spent decades helming major Canadian companies before the Liberal government recruited him to be deputy minister of the federal Department of Finance in late 2020. Though he said at the time that he accepted the job in order to drive an economic-growth agenda in Ottawa, many with direct knowledge of the department’s inner workings say he has not been able to deliver that agenda, nor has he made headway on reining in public spending. Story here.

FREELAND DIRECTIVE TO BANK OF CANADA – Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has told the Bank of Canada to continue targeting low and stable inflation, while also directing it to put considerable emphasis on achieving maximum employment when making monetary policy decisions. Story here.

N.B. SIGNS CHILDCARE DEAL – New Brunswick has signed a deal with Ottawa that will eventually reduce childcare costs to $10 per day. With New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories now on board, that leaves Ontario the only province that hasn’t yet committed to the program. Story here, from CBC.

CPC COUNCIL REJECTS PETITION – The governing body of the Conservative Party of Canada has officially ruled that a controversial petition pushing for an early vote on Erin O’Toole’s leadership is invalid. Story here.

ALBERTA ELECTION LAW PASSED – What is Bill 81, Alberta’s newly passed election law, all about? Calgary reporter Carrie Tait explains here.

FORD PITCHES ONTARIO AS ELECTRIC-VEHICLE MAKER – Doug Ford is pitching Ontario as the next electric-vehicle manufacturing powerhouse – seemingly a far cry from the Premier who three years ago cancelled incentives for people to buy them. Story here.

LIBERAL MP REJECTS CERB ALLEGATION – A Liberal MP from Alberta is denying an allegation that he offered a member of his community advice on how to cheat the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Story here.

FAREWELL TO MEL LASTMAN – Family and friends gathered Monday to say goodbye to former Toronto mayor Mel Lastman, who died on Saturday. Story here. Meanwhile, columnist and feature writer Elizabeth Renzetti looks back on Mr. Lastman’s life, including the birth of a new Toronto. Obituary here.


TODAY IN THE COMMONS – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, Dec. 13, accessible here.

TRUDEAU ON BILL 21 – At a news conference Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he has always said he is against Quebec’s Bill 21, which has been in the spotlight in recent days since a teacher in Chelsea, Que., was removed from her Grade 3 classroom because the hijab she wears contravened the bill. “I don’t find that in a free and open society someone should lose their job because of their religion,” Mr. Trudeau said. “This is no longer a theoretical issue.” He said many Quebecers are concerned about someone losing their job due to their religion. “As I have said very often, we have not done away with the possibility of intervening as the federal government at some point in time.”

CRA OK – The Canada Revenue Agency said Monday that there is currently no indication that CRA systems have been compromised, or that there has been unauthorized access to taxpayer information because of this vulnerability. The agency took its online services offline over the weekend after learning of a possible security threat. In a statement, the agency said most digital services had been restored by Monday. More details here on the challenges the agency and other Canadian organizations have been facing.

HORGAN IN CANCER TREATMENT – British Columbia NDP Premier John Horgan was unable to attend the first provincial NDP convention since the 2020 B.C. election because he is currently undergoing cancer treatment, so instead offered remarks by video. Mr. Horgan, who is being treated for throat cancer, said his prognosis continues to be good. “I’m very optimistic for the future,” he said. His remarks are available here.

WATSON ISOLATING – Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told Global News he is in self-isolation after a staffer in his office tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday. “I don’t have any symptoms. I feel great. Just out of an abundance of caution, I got tested and we should get results later today,” Mr. Watson said Monday during a year-end interview over Zoom. Mr. Watson announced last week that he will not seek re-election next fall. Story here.

MACKLEM SPEECH – Tiff Macklem, Governor of the Bank of Canada, will be speaking Wednesday before the Empire Club of Canada by videoconference. The topic is the bank’s renewed monetary framework.

STATUS OF WOMEN MINISTERIAL MEETING – Federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for the status of women met virtually last Friday for their 39th annual meeting. The meeting was co-chaired by federal minister Marci Ien, and Laura Ross, Saskatchewan’s Minister for the Status of Women. Nova Scotia will host the next meeting in the fall of 2022.

THE DECIBEL – On Monday’s episode of The Globe and Mail podcast, available here, environment reporter Kathryn Blaze Baum explores the nascent world of natural assets, and looks at the complex issues around how values are ascribed to natural landscapes and why some people are worried about the consequences of this shift in thinking.


The Prime Minister attended private meetings and then announced a childcare agreement with New Brunswick. In Ottawa, he was joined by a group that included Families Minister Karina Gould and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, appearing virtually.


Private meetings. The Deputy Prime Minister participated virtually in a G7 finance ministers’ meeting, and then announced the Bank of Canada’s new mandate during a joint press conference with the Governor of the Bank of Canada, Tiff Macklem.


NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh met with members of Unifor and then with representatives from the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions and the Canadian Nurses Association.

No schedules released for other leaders.


Philippe J. Fournier of 338Canada reports here on the free-fall of the Quebec Liberals, whom he suggests could lose 14 seats in next year’s provincial election and be driven out of French-speaking Quebec. There are 125 seats in the Quebec National Assembly – the governing Coalition Avenir Québec has 75 as of November, and the Quebec Liberals have 27.


Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on why the Liberals are unlikely to change course on economic policy: This is a government that always talks about stimulating the economy, including the vulnerable in it, and having people’s backs with public funds – not about cooling off demand, pulling back, or tightening belts. That won’t change dramatically when Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland delivers the fall economic statement on Tuesday. The Liberals aren’t planning a sea change in next spring’s budget, either. Many economists argue Ms. Freeland should cut back a chunk of the stimulus package announced in April because of strong job and economic growth and inflation running at the highest rate in years. Don’t expect that.”

Kelly Cryderman (The Globe and Mail) on Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s focus on plans for a return to better times: NDP Leader Rachel Notley, the former premier, polls significantly higher than the current office-holder. Critics for and against health restrictions have called on the Premier to resign for his government’s pandemic-era decisions. Internal United Conservative Party strife flared up every couple of months this year. Governing party MLAs and members have slammed the Premier’s management style. A leadership review scheduled for April 9 in Red Deer is still a big test for Mr. Kenney. Members will have to show up in person, and pay a fee of $100 or less to attend and vote. So far, internal party opposition has failed to come together in a way that has truly challenged Mr. Kenney – getting through the past month’s UCP annual general meeting with no major flareups is seen as a win for his side. But many party members still believe the leadership question has to be settled well before a 2023 election. And that means Mr. Kenney isn’t out of the woods.”

Donald Savoie (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on Canada’s deepening rural-urban divide and how that hurts all Canadians: Canada is a confederation of divides – a huge geographic mass that has been cut along shifting regional, linguistic and cultural lines over the course of more than 150 years. Elections tend to expose the cracks, as politicians work the wedges to encourage voters into one camp or another. And there’s one pan-Canadian rift that hasn’t received enough attention lately: the rural-urban divide. That divide only hardened in the most recent election. Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole needed to make inroads in urban Canada to win power; the Liberal Party’s Justin Trudeau needed to win more seats in rural Canada to win a majority. Both failed, and in doing so, delivered a very similar-looking Parliament that only reaffirmed the fault line.”

Don Braid (The Calgary Herald) on why Brian Jean’s weekend nomination win may be really bad news for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney: Jean is now the UCP candidate for the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election Premier Jason Kenney must call no later than Feb. 14, for voting in mid-March. If the former federal MP and Wildrose leader wins the seat, he will join the Premier’s UCP caucus as a sworn political enemy just in time for the April 9 leadership review in Red Deer. “I will not be supporting him in the leadership review and will be asking for his resignation as soon as possible,” Jean said in an interview. Kenney could still stop him cold by refusing to sign his papers. But the Premier has already said he would accept the man he defeated for the UCP leadership in 2017. He wouldn’t dare renege on that promise now.”

Max Fawcett (Canada’s National Observer) on how Justin Trudeau can prove he’s a feminist by passing the baton: “For as long as he has been involved in federal politics, Justin Trudeau has made it clear he’s a proud feminist. That stance has informed everything from the gender balance in his cabinet to policies like increasing paid leave for victims of family violence and the landmark new national childcare program. But if he wants to cement his legacy as Canada’s first openly feminist prime minister, he’s going to have to do something much more dramatic: step down. It’s no secret Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is well-positioned to take Trudeau’s job when it comes time for his proverbial walk in the snow. But it’s the timing of that walk that will determine whether he actually positions the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada for success or sets them up for the same kind of failure that Kim Campbell experienced in 1993.”

Murray Mandryk (The Regina Leader Post) on the Saskatchewan Party government stumbling through a very bad fall sitting of the legislature: “To suggest this was the worst fall sitting for a Saskatchewan government is to perhaps lack perspective of how brutal politics can be in this province when politicians gather after the first dusting of snow. For instance, we didn’t have the Opposition leader open up the first Question Period by – appallingly and without proof – accusing cabinet members of having prior knowledge and not alerting police of a cabinet colleague’s plan to kill his wife as we did in 1984 after the first-degree murder conviction of Colin Thatcher. When it comes to what constitutes a bad fall sitting in Saskatchewan politics, the bar is set pretty high. That said, this was a very bad fall sitting that saw the annual budget deficit creep to a historic $2.7-billion at the mid-year report and included accusations the government was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people because of failed public-health policies.”

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Something strange happening in Canadian politics – The Hill Times



CHELSEA, QUE.—Something strange has been happening in Canadian politics since the Trump contagion to the south. Voters elect a mostly reasonable, often affable, Member of Parliament only to discover, as they watch their MP climb the leadership ladder, that they are not so reasonable, not so affable after all. That, in fact, some are drifting rapidly from the centre to the fringe, even to tinfoil-hat territory.

It is evident, most recently, with Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, whose public appearances—tweets, videos, press conferences—have taken on an almost manic tone. One 40-second video has him bouncing around in front of the Parliament Buildings in -23 weather—“-37 in Yellowknife!”—accusing Liberal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault of threatening to shut down Canada’s energy sector in 18 months, leaving us all freezing in the dark.

First, Guilbeault could never achieve such a coup even if he tried. Governments move too slowly. Second, even the most ardent environmentalists acknowledge that renewables are not ready to replace fossil fuels that quickly. But, more important, OToole’s claim is not true—and he knew when he said it that it wasn’t true, as The Toronto Star’s Althia Raj underscores in a recent column.

What Guilbeault has vowed to do—elaborating on an international commitment first endorsed by Stephen Harper in 2009—is end federal subsidies to fossil fuel companies by 2023. It’s a tall order, but it is no sneak attack: it was promised in the Liberals’ election campaign and now, at last, they are preparing to deliver. In an interview with The Narwhal, Guilbeault mentioned “eliminating fossil fuels” in a list of his government’s ambitions, an obvious error (he had spoken previously of eliminating fossil fuel *subsidies*.)

As Raj reports, O’Toole publicly acknowledged the minister “made a mistake” in a Zoom presentation, before an unusually animated O’Toole made his video, distorting Guilbeault’s intention. The Conservative leader apparently doesn’t care, because that is the way politics works these days. Hysterical exaggerations, often flatly untrue, advanced without a shred of shame or remorse.

Consider the Conservative leader’s recent condemnation of Justin Trudeau for “normalizing lockdowns” and single-handedly bungling the management of the pandemic, by failing to provide rapid tests and PPE. By now, everyone knows that lockdowns are determined by provinces and not by Ottawa— indeed, premiers are more inclined to ignore federal suggestions than embrace them.

As to rapid tests, some will recall stories a year ago of millions of rapid tests gathering dust in provincial storerooms, of premiers, like British Columbia’s John Horgan, reluctant to use them because they were seen to be not as reliable as lab-based PCR tests. In fact, as Trudeau underscored last week, his government has sourced 425 million rapid tests overall. Some 85 million were delivered to provinces before December, and the Omicron onslaught, and another 35 million last month. And, as O’Toole must surely know, another 140 million are arriving now and being distributed.

There have been, and still are, shortages in some provinces, but the problem can hardly be laid at the feet of the federal government—certainly, not entirely—as anyone following the news knows. But this distortion is of a piece with O’Toole’s incoherence on the pandemic.

He and his wife are both vaccinated, after an early bout of COVID, and he regularly urges everyone to get their shots. He supports mandatory vaccines for the Canadian Armed Forces—as a veteran and proud defender of the military—yet is ambiguous about his own caucus, playing with words to hide the fact that there are some vaccine resisters in the Conservative ranks.

He also took up the cause of long-haul truckers who were resisting mandatory vaccines to be imposed by the federal government this week. O’Toole claimed the requirement would disrupt crucial supply chains and called for rapid testing instead. Then, in a confusing climb-down, the government backed away from its vaccine deadline insisting that any unvaccinated Canadian drivers quarantine for several days before coming home. Unvaccinated American truckers will be turned back.

Vaccines, quarantines, rapid tests: any way this unfolds there will be (hopefully short-lived) supply chain disruptions and, ultimately, little daylight between O’Toole’s and Trudeau’s positions.

O’Toole also accuses the prime minister of characterizing all vaccine resisters as “racists” and worse, which is not what Trudeau said. In fact, he and O’Toole are in agreement that some who haven’t been vaccinated may be fearful, uninformed, or unable to manoeuvre the system. Trudeau’s target is the small minority of wilful resisters and protesters, with links to far-right movements who are also anti-immigrant, anti-feminist, and anti-government.

Yet O’Toole wants “reasonable accommodation” for all resisters and suggests frequent testing rather than vaccines—except, he must know the rapid tests are not as reliable when it comes to detecting Omicron. Meanwhile, the pandemic runs rampant, hospitals are overwhelmed and parents are worried sick for their school-age children.

To keep his ragged band of followers from splitting asunder, O’Toole—a formerly likeable, middle-of-the-road backbencher and junior minister in Harper’s government—is behaving like an unhinged bile-machine. It is particularly laughable when he accuses the prime minister of avoiding taking a stand on Quebec’s discriminatory Bill 21, of “attempting to play both sides” by leaving it to Quebecers to decide the issue, rather than forcefully defending the bill’s victims, notably Muslim women schoolteachers. Laughable, because that is exactly what O’Toole has been doing.

The brilliant political cartoonist, Michael de Adder, summed up public reaction to this new, hyperactive O’Toole with a depiction of a giant hand, labelled Public Opinion, flicking a tiny O’Toole away like an annoying fly.

For all that, O’Toole is a model of reserve compared to Maxime Bernier. Old-timers (guilty) remember Bernier as a dapper, friendly urban sophisticate with libertarian economic views—hence the sobriquet, Mad Max. However, he was thought to be socially liberal and displayed no overtly anti-immigrant, or social conservative views as a member of Harper’s cabinet.

That was then. Bernier, of course, has become a vehement anti-vaxxer, anti-masker, a critic of the immigration Quebec needs to fill jobs, and, since losing the leadership to O’Toole in 2019, a harsh critic of his former rival. He calls O’Toole #RedErin and “wet noodle” and vows NEVER to go back “to that morally and intellectually corrupt party.”

Bernier sees “fascists coming out from under rocks everywhere,” as he noted in a recent tweet, this one aimed at Alberta’s NDP health critic David Shepherd, who expressed cautious support for mandatory vaccines. He routinely calls Trudeau a fascist. The Toronto Star “is run by hateful fascists.” RCMP Chief Brenda Lucki is “gestapo” for asking Canadians to report suspicious internet activity.

Bernier also opposes the recently proposed Quebec tax on the unvaccinated— probably a trial balloon, rather than enforceable policy—and says Premier Francois Legault’s government “is responsible for the death of thousands of elderly Quebecers in nursing homes. Now it wants to force the unvaccinated to pay for its abysmal management of the pandemic.”

Bernier has his high-profile fans, including Dr. Jordan Peterson, the Canadian academic who made an international reputation opposing trans rights, or “radical trans ideology,” and taking on wokeism in all its manifestations. Peterson also likes Conservative finance critic, Pierre Poilievre, noting on Twitter last week: “It’s nice to see a politician with some courage. You should have run for the Conservative leadership, and maybe you could bring Max Bernier back on board. He has some spine, too.”

Poilievre was flattered by the vote of confidence from “an outstanding, world-renowned Canadian thinker.” When chided by Liberals for his praise of the discredited psychology professor, Poilievre replied, with typical subtlety: “There’s more brainpower in Dr. Peterson’s pinky finger than in all the bobbleheads in the Liberal caucus combined.”

So goes the debate within the new politics. (Rebel News Ezra Levant tweeted, after O’Toole posted a coded defence of “LIBERTY” last week, in a nod to anti-vaxxers: “You weird liar.”) It is steeped in vitriol, fuelled by resentment and untethered from facts. As Alberta Premier Jason Kenney once famously said of Trudeau, it has “the intellectual depth of a finger bowl.”

But it is dangerous and corrosive, nonetheless. Bernier is able to muster large crowds in downtown Montreal on a frigid January day. His People’s Party of Canada (PPC) is gaining strength in Alberta and Saskatchewan. As for Poilievre—shrewd, ambitious, coldly calculating, a master of the personal smear—he could well replace O’Toole when the time is right.

Many voters would not want these harsh, angry men—no matter their politics—sitting on the local school board, never mind running the country.

But there is no telling what will happen if Trudeau stumbles—as he inevitably will; as all long-serving prime ministers do.

O’Toole may look benign in retrospect.

Susan Riley is a veteran political columnist who writes regularly for The Hill Times.

The Hill Times 

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Poroshenko, Former President, Returns to Ukraine, Roiling Politics – The New York Times



Petro O. Poroshenko, a former president, returned to Kyiv on Monday facing possible arrest, adding internal political turmoil to a threat of Russian invasion.

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s former president and a leading opposition figure, Petro O. Poroshenko, returned Monday to Kyiv, where he faced possible arrest, adding internal political turmoil to the mounting threat of a Russian invasion.

Mr. Poroshenko’s return brought into focus Ukraine’s wobbly politics, which were mostly in the background in recent weeks as the United States and its allies in Europe scrambled to forestall Russian military intervention.

He arrived Monday morning at Kyiv’s Zhuliani airport, where a scene erupted at passport control. Mr. Poroshenko said border guards for some time refused to allow him to enter the country, though he was due to appear at a court hearing later in the day in Kyiv. He later passed the border control but said authorities had confiscated his passport.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has been embroiled in a long-running feud with Mr. Poroshenko, who was president from 2014 to 2019. Mr. Poroshenko faces a court hearing late Monday morning on charges of high treason and supporting terrorism.

His appearance in the capital where he once governed comes after a week of mostly futile negotiations between Russia and the West seeking a solution to tense disagreements over the security of Eastern Europe.

In Kyiv, opinions differed on whether the threat of an arrest was just another maneuver in Ukraine’s typically byzantine politics at home, or something more ominous related to the Russian threat.

Analysts suggested that Mr. Zelensky might be seizing on the distraction of the Russian military buildup on the Ukrainian border to sideline an opponent, or that he hoped to tamp down possible opposition protests if he is forced to make unpopular concessions to Moscow to avoid an invasion.

“Maybe he thinks that with forces on the border, Ukrainians won’t protest” an arrest of the opposition leader, said Volodymyr Yermolenko, editor in chief of Ukraine World, a journal covering politics. If so, he said, it is a risky move.

“With the situation on the border, when everybody is yelling, ‘There will be a war,’ it’s very strange,” Mr. Yermolenko said of the spectacle of Ukraine’s two leading politicians squabbling despite the existential threat to their country. “It just seems ridiculous.”

Polls have consistently shown Mr. Zelensky and Mr. Poroshenko to be Ukraine’s most popular politicians. Mr. Poroshenko has a base of support in Ukrainian nationalist politics, particularly in the country’s western regions, which want closer ties with Europe, and he has criticized Mr. Zelensky for giving ground in peace negotiations with Russia to resolve the war in eastern Ukraine.

Sergei Supinsky/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Poroshenko left Ukraine last month, saying he had meetings in Europe. Prosecutors say he left to avoid a court hearing.

Mr. Zelensky’s aides have said that the charges against Mr. Poroshenko are justified and that courts decided the timing of the arrest and other actions, including the freezing of Mr. Poroshenko’s assets earlier this month.

The former president was accused of missing a court hearing last month while traveling abroad. He returned to Ukraine on Monday despite reports in the Ukrainian news media that a court had issued a sealed order for his arrest.

Mr. Poroshenko left the presidency in 2019, when he lost an election to Mr. Zelensky, a former comedian who ran as an outsider to politics who would fight corruption and uproot the entrenched interests of Ukraine’s political class. Mr. Zelensky’s popularity has since slumped. Opinion polls today show only a slight advantage in a potential future election against Mr. Poroshenko, who is now a member of Parliament in the European Solidarity party.

In an interview before his return to Ukraine, Mr. Poroshenko said that his arrest might help Mr. Zelensky sideline a rival but that the political instability would play into the hands of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

“He wants to undermine the stability in Ukraine,” Mr. Poroshenko said of Mr. Putin. “He analyzes two versions: One version is a military aggression through the Ukrainian-Russian or Ukrainian-Belarusian border. The second is just to undermine the stability inside Ukraine, and in this way just stop Ukraine from our future membership in NATO and in the E.U.”

Mr. Poroshenko offered no evidence of a Russian hand in the political turmoil and described internal Ukrainian feuds as the most likely cause of the legal pressure he faced. But he said Mr. Zelensky might hope to win concessions from Russia by arresting a politician aligned with the nationalist wing of Ukrainian politics.

“I am absolutely confident this is a very important gift to Putin,” Mr. Poroshenko said. “Maybe with this gift he wanted to launch a negotiation with Putin, as a precondition.”

Andriy Dubchak/Associated Press

After massing tens of thousands of soldiers on Ukraine’s border through the fall, Russia demanded last month that the United States and NATO pull back forces from countries in Eastern Europe and guarantee that Ukraine not join the Western alliance.

Diplomatic talks last week with Russia ended inconclusively, and Russian officials now say they are awaiting a written response to their demands from the United States.

As a contingency, in case diplomacy fails, Ukraine has also been quietly pursuing talks with Russia and proposed a bilateral meeting between Mr. Zelensky and Mr. Putin. On Friday, the Ukrainian presidential chief of staff, Andri Yermak, suggested a three-way video conference with the Russian and Ukrainian leaders and President Biden.

Mr. Poroshenko’s controversial return was not the first sign of political turmoil. In November, just as Russia was ramping up its deployments along the border, Mr. Zelensky told journalists that Russia was also planning a coup.

He said Russian operatives were seeking to draw one of Ukraine’s wealthy businessmen, Rinat Akhmetov, into a plot against his government. The businessman was “being dragged into a war against the Ukrainian state,” Mr. Zelensky said, but he provided no evidence and made no move to arrest Mr. Akhmetov.

Mr. Akhmetov vehemently denied any involvement in a plot to undermine Mr. Zelensky’s government.

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New documents show census officials concerned about political interference from Trump's Commerce Department – CNN



(CNN)Newly released documents appear to show top career officials at the Census Bureau had drafted a memo of concerns during the Trump administration’s attempts to exert political pressure on the bureau during the 2020 population count.

Other records show career officials alarmed by pressure from political appointees to alter processes for tallying undocumented immigrants and citizenship data that would likely result in GOP gains in the US House of Representatives. The records are among hundreds of documents that the liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s law school obtained in a lawsuit filed in September 2020.
The New York Times was the first to report on the Census Bureau records.
An email among senior officials at the Census Bureau from September 2020 discusses the Commerce Department, which oversees the bureau, and what the officials considered to be an “unusually high degree of engagement in technical matters, which is unprecedented.”
The email and other documents came out as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit between the Brennan Center and the Department of Commerce, as well as eight other federal agencies. The email shows that the officials drafted a memo and planned to discuss with then-Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross his apparent interest in areas the Census Bureau officials perceived to be under the bureau’s independent jurisdiction, separate from its parent agency. The issues involved technical aspects of the population count including the privacy of census participants, the use of estimates to fill in missing population data, pressure to take shortcuts to produce population totals and political pressure for a last-minute push to identify and count undocumented immigrants.
In an email to CNN, Ross said he had no recognition of seeing the memo at any meeting in which the set of topics was discussed with him. The Census Bureau did not return CNN’s multiple requests for comment.
The Census Bureau’s population estimates are used for reapportionment, the process of reallocating House districts among the 50 states. But the Trump administration also wanted the bureau to separately tally the number of undocumented immigrants in each state. Then-President Donald Trump had ordered the tally in a July 2020 presidential memorandum, saying he wanted to subtract them from House reapportionment population estimates, CNN reported at the time.
Trump had already sought to use the census as a way to advance his immigration priorities as President. In June 2019, the Supreme Court rejected his administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
The FOIA suit ended in October 2020, when the trial court granted the Brennan Center’s motion for a preliminary injunction, forcing the agencies, including the Commerce Department, to produce most of the requested documents to the Brennan Center on a rolling basis. All of the documents were made public last week, revealing for the first time new details about the struggle that senior census officials had faced when counteracting the Trump administration’s political influence at the agency.
Other undated records released as part of the same suit suggest that the Commerce Department planned to have Ross make personal calls to 10 Republican governors in order to lobby them to provide state records to “enhance the frame from which citizenship status is determined.” There was no evidence to suggest that similar calls were made to Democratic governors, according to the Brennan Center’s analysis of the FOIA documents it received.
The records also show that Census Bureau officials tasked with carrying out Trump’s July 2020 memo did not think it was achievable due to timing and technical restraints. In August 2020, emails addressed to then-Bureau Director Steven Dillingham, appointed by Trump, and political appointee Nathaniel Cogley said the bureau “has been consistently pessimistic” about the feasibility of determining undocumented populations and that “under the best, most legally defensible methodology, we are at great risk of not being able to carry out the policy outlined in the Presidential Memorandum by December 31, 2020.”
Another email suggests that political appointees joined the 2020 census count process late in the game when Dillingham introduced two of them to career officials at the bureau in August 2020 “to accomplish much work in a short period of time.” The email states that the two appointees, Cogley and Benjamin Overholt, were “interested in” efforts to produce citizenship data. An internal watchdog report in 2021 cited the two appointees for leading the administration’s efforts to produce a last-minute report on undocumented populations in the final days of the Trump administration.
Soon after the inspector general report revealed the push to produce a tally of noncitizens that career officials said could not be assembled, Dillingham, who denied the accusations of partisan interference at the bureau, resigned nearly a year before his term had been scheduled to end, dashing the possibility of being fired by the then-incoming Biden administration.
Dillingham and Cogley did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. Attempts to reach Overholt have been unsuccessful.
In addition to Ross’ apparent interest in Census Bureau affairs, other FOIA records show the Commerce Department under the Trump administration was in close contact with anti-immigration groups leading up to the 2020 census count.
Records show Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for reduced immigration, emailing directly with Ross in December 2019 about the group’s recent report on “long-term consequences of mass immigration and the apportionment of House seats. … ” The email opens with a reference to a call from Ross.
The FOIA records also reveal a connection between a Commerce Department official and a former Trump adviser known for his work in the administration peddling unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. An email chain shows a Commerce Department employee putting Cogley in contact with the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky, a member of Trump’s failed voter fraud commission.

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