OnPolitics: President talks inflation, Putin, COVID at first press conference of the year

·4 min read

Happy hump-day, OnPolitics readers!

The Biden administration will ship 400 million free N95 masks to distribution sites nationwide starting this week. The effort is part of a push to combat the raging omicron COVID-19 variant.

Americans can pick up the masks starting late next week at "tens of thousands" of pharmacies, thousands of community centers and other locations, the White House said.

Individuals will be limited to three masks per person to ensure accessibility. The White House calls the distribution effort "the largest deployment of protective equipment in U.S. history."

It's Amy and Chelsey with today's top stories out of Washington.

President holds first press conference of the year

President Biden fielded questions about COVID-19, inflation, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine at his first press conference of 2022.

The president promoted his Build Back Better agenda as a plausible solution to domestic problems plaguing the country.

“If price increases are what you’re worried about, the best answer is my Build Back Better plan,” Biden said of inflation, which reached a 39-year high in December.

Biden also expressed confidence that Congress would pass pieces of the $1.85 trillion dollar bill before the 2022 midterm elections. “I think we can break the package up, get as much as we can now, and come back and fight for the rest later,” he said.

The president called the Supreme Court's decision to strike down his vaccine-or-testing requirement this month a "mistake."

"I think we've seen an increase, not a decrease (in cases)," he said.

He also addressed the tension between Russia and the Ukraine, and said Putin will face “severe economic consequences” should he decide to invade. The Russian president has stationed hundreds of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border.

“I do not think he wants a full-blown war,” Biden said of Putin.

Real quick: stories you'll want to read

  • "Don't question my faith": Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, lashed out at a young woman of indeterminate age whom he accused of questioning his faith at a Montgomery County Tea Party PAC meeting Monday.

  • Supreme Court Justice push back on masking dispute: Supreme Court Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch pushed back on reporting that the two are engaged in a dispute over mask wearing inside the nation's highest courtroom amid the surging COVID-19 pandemic.

  • What we know about Ukraine: American and Russian officials have been increasingly pessimistic about the possibility of a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, with one Russian diplomat saying last week that talks between the two sides were at a "dead end.”

  • SCOTUS may side with Sen. Ted Cruz: The Supreme Court hinted Wednesday it may side with Sen. Ted Cruz and rule that a federal law violates the First Amendment because, in the name of curbing corruption, it limits how candidates are repaid when they lend to their own campaign.

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New York AG says Trump Organization misled banks, tax officials

The New York attorney general’s office told a court late Tuesday that its investigators had uncovered evidence that former President Donald Trump’s company used “fraudulent or misleading” asset valuations to get loans and tax benefits.

The court filing said that state authorities haven’t yet decided whether to bring a civil lawsuit in connection with the allegations, but that investigators need to question Trump and his two eldest children as part of the inquiry.

Trump and his lawyers say the investigation is politically motivated.

In the court documents, Attorney General Letitia James’ office gave its most detailed accounting yet of a long-running investigation of allegations that Trump's company exaggerated the value of assets to get favorable loan terms or misstated what land was worth to slash its tax burden.

Trump's assets in question: The Trump Organization, it said, had overstated the value of land donations made in New York and California on paperwork submitted to the IRS to justify several million dollars in tax deductions.

The company misreported the size of Trump's Manhattan penthouse, saying it was nearly three times its actual size – a difference in value of about $200 million, James' office said, citing deposition testimony from Trump's longtime financial chief Allen Weisselberg, who was charged last year with tax fraud in a parallel criminal investigation.

"No one saw the world in a more elegant and glamorous way." Rest in peace to André Leon Talley, fashion industry icon and former creative director of Vogue, who passed away at 73 Tuesday t. — Amy and Chelsey

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: President Biden talks COVID-19, Putin, economy at 2022 news conference

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