In our news wrap Friday, Ukraine blamed Russia for a sweeping cyberattack that left government websites unusable as the White House warned that Russia may attack its own allies in Ukraine as a pretext to invade. Also, Oath Keepers leader was arraigned for his alleged role in the Jan. 6 assault, and Ohio’s Supreme Court rejects new congressional districts drawn up by Republicans.
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Hospitals in at least 24 states are edging close to capacity tonight, as COVID patients keep arriving.
Government data also shows more intensive care units are running out of beds. Meanwhile, a federal Web site will begin taking orders Wednesday for free COVID tests. There is a limit of four per home.
We will return to the hospital crunch after the news summary.
The leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia pleaded not guilty today to a federal charge of seditious conspiracy. Stewart Rhodes is accused in connection with the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol; 10 of his followers are also charged. A federal magistrate in Plano, Texas, ordered that Rhodes to remain in jail for now.
Another Republican congressman who voted to impeach President Trump over the assault on the U.S. Capitol is retiring. Representative John Katko of New York said today that he will not seek reelection. He is the third of 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment to opt against running again.
The White House warned today that Russia may attack its own allies in Ukraine and blame the Ukrainian government. A U.S. official who asked not to be named said — quote — "Russia has already prepositioned operatives to conduct a false flag operation in Eastern Ukraine."
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Moscow wants an excuse to invade.
Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary:
We are concerned that the Russian government is preparing for an invasion in Ukraine that may result in widespread human rights violations and war crimes, should diplomacy fail to meet their objectives.
The Russian military plans to begin these activities several weeks before a military invasion, which could begin between mid-January and mid-February.
The release of the U.S. intelligence came after talks involving Russia, the U.S., and NATO failed to make any progress.
In Ukraine today, a sweeping cyberattack left many official government Web sites unusable. The hackers posted a message in Russian, Ukrainian and Polish. It warned readers to — quote — "be afraid and expect the worst."
Some in Kiev quickly blamed Russia.
Antono Serikov, Resident of Ukraine (through translator): It looks like a sabotage. In the current unstable times for the relations between Ukraine and its neighbor in the east, it can be a message, I think, or it is a clear sign of instability of the relations.
Ukraine's state security service said that the attack does resemble previous attacks blamed on hackers linked to Russian intelligence.
Russia's FSB security service, in fact, says that it has arrested and charged members of the ransomware group known as REvil. It said the operation was carried out at the request of the United States. The hackers are suspected in last year's attacks on the Colonial Pipeline and on the world's biggest meat-packing company.
Some 75,000 students in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have missed class for a second day after a cyberattack. The city's public schools said that it cannot access a database that tracks attendance and emergency contacts. It is unclear if the hackers are demanding a ransom.
A Milwaukee man accused of driving his SUV through a Christmas parade will stand trial for murder. The attack, in late November killed six people and injured 61. Darrell Brooks Jr. appeared in court in Waukesha today. The presiding officer found ample evidence to prosecute him on 77 charges.
The Supreme Court of Ohio today rejected new congressional districts drawn up by Republicans. The court found that the districts unduly favor GOP candidates. It gave state lawmakers 60 days to draw up a new map.
President Biden has announced three nominees to the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors. They include a former Fed official, Sarah Bloom Raskin, and two Black economists, Lisa Cook and Philip Jefferson. If confirmed by the Senate, Cook would be the first Black woman on board of the Fed.
And, on Wall Street, stocks had an up and down day. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 201 points to close at 35911. The Nasdaq rose 85 points. The S&P 500 added three.