US defense chief urges Ukraine ceasefire in call with Russian counterpart – live | US politics

US Defense Secretary urges ceasefire in call with Russian counterpart

Lloyd Austin, the US defense secretary, held a call with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Friday in which he called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukrainethe Pentagon said.

During the call Austin also “emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication”, according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

The call is the first time Austin had spoken with Shoigu since February 18, six days before Russia invaded Ukraine.

The call came after Republican senator Rand Paul blocked the passage of a $40bn aid bill for Ukraine on Friday. The bill will be taken up again next week.

Russia has shown no signs of halting its aggression. On Friday the UK ministry of defense said Russia was stepping up its attacks near the cities of Izyum and Severodonetsk, in eastern Ukraine, in an attempt to “envelop Ukrainian forces”.

Interim Summary

It’s been a lively morning so far in US political news and there is more to come, so do stay tuned.

Here’s where things stand:

  • US defense secretary Lloyd Austin held a call with Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu on Friday in which he called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine
  • In an overt break from Donald Trump, former US vice president Mike Pence will hold a rally on May 23 with Georgia governor – and Trump foe – Brian Kemp, a day before Georgia’s midterms Republican primary

US Defense Secretary urges ceasefire in call with Russian counterpart

Lloyd Austin, the US defense secretary, held a call with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Friday in which he called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukrainethe Pentagon said.

During the call Austin also “emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication”, according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

The call is the first time Austin had spoken with Shoigu since February 18, six days before Russia invaded Ukraine.

The call came after Republican senator Rand Paul blocked the passage of a $40bn aid bill for Ukraine on Wednesday. The bill will be taken up again next week.

Russia has shown no signs of halting its aggression. On Friday the UK ministry of defense said Russia was stepping up its attacks near the cities of Izyum and Severodonetsk, in eastern Ukraine, in an attempt to “envelop Ukrainian forces”.

Bernie Sanders has written an interesting op-ed piece today on his new Medicare for All bill, and it has been published in an interesting place: FoxNews.

The op-ed appears to be an attempt to reach out to Americans who might not normally hear Sanders’ case for universal healthcare.

It focuses on the cost and corruption of the medical healthcare system, as Sanders champions his bill, which has 15 co-sponsors in the Senate. The legislation be implemented over a four-year period and would guarantee health care in the United States as a fundamental human right to all.

“Despite spending more than twice as much on healthcare as the average developed country our health outcomes are worse than most. For example, our life expectancy is about 4.5 years lower than Germany’s and we have the highest infant mortality rate of almost any major country on earth,” Sanders writes.

Sanders continues:

Now, if Medicare for All was so great, you might ask, why hasn’t it been enacted by now? Why hasn’t the United States joined every major country on earth in guaranteeing health care for all?

Well, the answer is pretty straightforward. Follow the money. Since 1998, in our corrupt political system, the private health care sector has spent more than $10.6 billion on lobbying and over the last 30 years it has spent more than $1.7 billion on campaign contributions to maintain the status quo. And, by the way, they are “bi-partisan.” In fact, they own many of the politicians in both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Here is the bottom line: If every major country on earth can guarantee health care to all and achieve better health outcomes, while spending substantially less per capita than we do, there is no reason, other than greed, that the United States of America cannot do the same.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, will give her last briefing today, before reportedly taking up a tv host role at MSNBC.

PSAKI’s departure will mark the end of a 16-month stint as Joe Biden’s chief spokesperson. Karine Jean-Pierre, currently the principal deputy press secretary, will be taking overbecoming the first Black person and the first out gay person in the role.

In joining MSNBC – a move that has not been officially announced, but was revealed by Axios last month – Psaki is following a well-trodden path of White House communications to television pundit.

A slew of Donald Trump’s four former White House press secretaries, Kayleigh McEnany has gone on to be a Fox News host, while Sean Spicer has his own show on the right-wing network Newsmax.

Karine Jean-Pierre and Jen Psaki.
Karine Jean-Pierre and Jen Psaki. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

Maya Yang

Multiple rallies are set to take place on Saturday across the country as abortion rights activists take to the streets in opposition to the news that a majority of the Supreme Court favors overturning Roe v Wade, according to a draft ruling leaked on May 2.

The so-called “Bans Off Our Bodies” marches will take place across small towns and major cities, including Washington, DC, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Birmingham and Chicago.

A coalition of pro-choice advocacy groups, including Planned Parenthood, UltraViolet, Move On and the Women’s March, is helping organize Saturday’s nationwide protests.

“This Saturday we are taking to the streets to express our outrage—and our determination,” Planned Parenthood Action Fund executive director Kelley Robinson said in a press statement.

“Abortion access is in crisis, and Planned Parenthood organizations are proud to stand with partners and millions of thousands of people nationwide to come together and show that we reject the rollback our rights and freedoms,” she added.

With tens of thousands expected to turnout across the country, Saturday’s protests could be the biggest women-focussed protest since the first official Women’s March, held in Washington with support marches in other cities on January 21, 2017, the day after donald trump was inaugurated as president.

The brash Republican took the White House despite allegations from dozens of women about sexual harassment and misconduct, which he has always denied, and the emergence on the eve of the 2016 election of a tape of him boasting that he just approaches women he is attracted to and grabs “them by the pussy”.

In Washington DC, protestors are expected to march from the Washington Monument to the Supreme Court, which has been heavily shielded with metal barricades since protests immediately erupted after the draft decision was leaked that the supreme court is minded, with its conservative super-majority, to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe decision that established a woman’s constitutional right to seek an abortion in America.

Many anti-abortion activists are also expected to turn out in support of banning the procedure.

A pro-choice demonstrator holds a sign with a coat hanger, a symbol of the reproductive rights movement, in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC.
A pro-choice demonstrator holds a sign with a coat hanger, a symbol of the reproductive rights movement, in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC. Photograph: Stefani Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Pence breaks overtly from Trump

Former US vice president Mike Pence plans to hold a rally for incumbent Georgia governor Brian Kemp on the eve of that state’s midterms Republican primary – in very public defiance of former president donald trump who has chosen to support Kemp’s GOP rival.

The Georgia primary is on May 24 and Pence will hold the rally for Kemp on May 23.

Trump, who has repeatedly attacked Kemp for refusing to entertain his outlandish and untrue claims of vote fraud, has endorsed former David Perdue for the governorship, the former US Senator who lost his seat to Democrat Jon Ossoff in a sensational sweep by Democrats to turn Georgia blue in 2020.

Pence has gently gone against Trump in recent months. In March Pence told Republican donors that “there is no room in this party for apologists for Putin”, comments which came a few days after Trump had called the Russian leader “smart” and “savvy”.

Pence has also disputed Trump’s nonsense claim that the former vice-president could have overturned the 2020 election.

But Pence’s enthusiastic endorsement of Kemp is his most overt pushback against Trump yet. It marks a big change from Pence, who was a famously sycophantic deputy during Trump’s four-year term.

Beyond the Pence-Trump intrigue, the Georgia governor primary will offer a revealing look at Trump’s influence over Republican voters – and the future of the Republican party.

Trump has had some hits with his endorsed candidates for the Senate and the House so far this year, but appears to wield less influence in governors races. Trump endorsed Charles Herbster for Nebraska governor, but Hebster lost this week.

The former president has also endorsed a primary contender to Brad Little, the sitting governor of Nebraska, but Little is expected to win easily next week.

Pence to hold rally with Georgia governor and Trump foe

Good morning and welcome to the Guardian’s coverage of daily US political news.

Mike Pence has made himself a target for the ire of his former boss, by announcing he will holding a rally with Georgia governor – and Trump foe – Brian Kemp.

Politico reported that Pence will hold an event with Kemp on May 23, the day before a contentious Georgia primary. Trump, who has repeatedly attacked Kemp for refusing to entertain his outlandish and untrue claims of vote fraud, has endorsed Kemp’s rival, David Perdue.

It sets up what will be revealing clash between Pence and Trump, who apparently remains furious that Pence did not do more to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Trump has campaigned for Perdue, and the former president’s political action committee has pumped money into Perdue’s campaign. But polling from April showed Kemp was likely to defeat Trump’s man in the Republican primary.

In a statement, Pence called Kemp “one of the most successful conservative governors in America”, per Politico.

“Brian Kemp is my friend, a man dedicated to faith, family and the people of Georgia,” Pence said. “I am proud to offer my full support for four more years of Brian Kemp as governor of the great state of Georgia.”

In other news, Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator, single-handedly held up a bill on Thursday which would have pledged $40bn aid for Ukraine. Paul’s blockage delayed passage of the measure into next week – the Senate has scheduled an initial procedural vote on the bill for late Monday afternoon.

Joe Biden will urge states to spend their coronavirus relief money on policing, according to Associated Press. Biden will speak from the Rose Garden this afternoon, where he will highlight how some states have already spend their money on policing and public safety, and urge other local officials to do the same.

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