10 straight days: How Biden navigated the war, Covid and the Supreme Court
Sunday February 20
If there was one message that Mr. Biden wanted to reinforce for his National Security Council in the Situation Room on Sunday morning, it was that the United States was staying “in step with its allies and partners”, as the secretary of ‘State Antony J. Blinken. put it later.
This desire was at the heart of the American response that Mr. Biden had devised with Mr. Blinken; Jake Sullivan, his national security adviser; and others. The results would become clear soon enough, as Mr Biden’s team repeatedly waited for European nations to issue sanctions before following suit.
Diplomacy, including a 15-minute call between Mr. Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, had done little to calm Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who had become frustrated with Mr. Biden’s warnings about an invasion. On Sunday, on his way home from the Munich security conference, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Mr. Biden of Air Force Two.
She had repeatedly told Mr. Zelensky that the United States believed a Russian invasion was imminent, she told Mr. Biden. And she had assured the Ukrainian president that the administration was ready to impose economic sanctions with its European allies.
But issues of war and diplomacy gave way – briefly – to issues of public health. That afternoon, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Mr. Biden’s top public health adviser, arrived with some good news: We might finally be able to take off our masks.
Mr Biden had come under increasing pressure from Democratic governors to address the anxiety of voters exhausted by the restrictions. But, as he promised, he was waiting for CDC Federal health officials had been working for weeks on guidelines suggesting that 70% of Americans could stop wearing masks, the start of a transition from pandemic to an endemic disease that would become a part of everyday life.
But that Sunday, he had little time to dwell on the pandemic. Later that afternoon, aides ushered him into the state dining room, where a desk awaited him. It was his first opportunity to practice a first draft of his State of the Union address.