Biden faces new pressures over Russia’s war with Ukraine: The Note

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska is speaking about Russia's war with Ukraine.

June 02, 2022, 6:03 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Nearly 100 days into a grinding and tragic conflict, a new voice is emerging at a critical moment for President Joe Biden as he seeks to manage the U.S. response.

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska is speaking out about the personal toll of Russia's war with Ukraine -- the burdens borne by children and family as well as the costs for her nation and all nations if they give in to Russian demands.

"You just can't concede … parts of your territory. It's like conceding a freedom," Zelenska told ABC News' Robin Roberts in an interview airing Thursday on "Good Morning America."

Asked about the importance of assistance from other nations, Zelenska replied: "It's really important because you feel you're not alone."

PHOTO: Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska, holds a teleconference with Queen Mathilde of Belgium, to discuss the National Program of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support from the Mariinsky Palace, May 31, 2022, in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska, holds a teleconference with Queen Mathilde of Belgium, to discuss the National Program of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support from the Mariinsky Palace, May 31, 2022, in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Ukraine Presidency via Planet Pix via ZUMA Press Wire

The power of her voice is not in enumerating Ukraine's asks, as her husband has done consistently over the past several months. The Biden White House is clearly aware of those asks and more as the president continues to calibrate expectations and define limitations.

When Biden explained the latest military aid he is providing Ukraine in a New York Times op-ed, he made clear weapons will only be for use "on the battlefield in Ukraine" -- which is to say, not in Russia. He also said he would not "seek a war between NATO and Russia," and that -- despite a previous assertion that Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power" -- "the United States will not try to bring about his ouster in Moscow."

"We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia," Biden wrote.

Biden has been clear on that point from the start. But at a moment when the president's credibility is being tested at home on inflation, baby formula and so much else, pain being felt in Ukraine could still break through in ways that are difficult to anticipate.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Several states are moving forward with gun reform legislation, getting ahead of congressional negotiations that may or may not yield any change on the issue.

It comes as victims of the Uvalde school shooting are laid to rest and after the conclusion of funeral services for victims of the Buffalo grocery shooting.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state's Democratic-led legislature is pushing a package of 10 gun-related bills. Among the proposals is raising the minimum age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle to 21, restricting the purchase of body armor and expanding eligibility to file protection orders in connection with "red flag" laws.

PHOTO: Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during a press conference at the future Long Island Rail Road Concourse, in May 31, 2022, in New York.
Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during a press conference at the future Long Island Rail Road Concourse, in May 31, 2022, in New York.
Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

"Within the last month, two horrific mass shootings in Buffalo and in Texas have rattled this nation to our core and shed a new light on the urgent need for action to prevent future tragedies," Hochul said. "New York already has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, but clearly we need to make them even stronger.

Lawmakers in New Jersey and California have also pushed gun reforms. Those states, however, are all led by Democrats, while Republican-led states, like Texas, are far less likely to embrace such reforms. Advocates would argue that the piecemeal approach to gun reform limits its efficacy, and many want to see more far-reaching change through federal legislation.

Attempts to pass federal gun reform measures have repeatedly failed after deadly mass shootings, and there aren't any signs to indicate that current negotiations will fare better. Even President Biden expressed his doubts to reporters Wednesday.

"I've been involved [in negotiations]," Biden said. "I'm just not confident."

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Amid a national reckoning over gun reform in the wake of the deadly Uvalde shooting, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called for the state legislature to create special committees to make recommendations on issues that would "prevent future school shootings." The governor said lawmakers should examine topics covering school safety, mental health, social media, police training and firearm safety.

The move is not a call for a special legislative session, which would have set forth a process that could ultimately pass laws. The Texas governor is the only person who can call for a special legislative session, and his chosen priority policies are the only items the legislature could address during it.

PHOTO: Greg Abbott, governor of Texas, speaks during a news conference in Uvalde, Texas, on May 25, 2022.
Greg Abbott, governor of Texas, speaks during a news conference in Uvalde, Texas, on May 25, 2022.
Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina on Wednesday called Abbott's move "very weak" in a statement, adding that committees already studied school safety after the 2018 Santa Fe High School and the 2019 El Paso Walmart shootings. Despite past recommendations "schools obviously aren't safe from mass shooters," Molina said.

"This is because the governor and legislators refuse to address the real issue and enact reasonable gun laws to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them. The governor didn't even put this issue on the agenda for the new committees," Molina said.

The development is also edging onto the campaign trail with Abbott's Democratic challenger, Beto O'Rourke, tweeting, "Anyone can call for a committee. Only a governor can call a special session. Do your job."

So far, Abbott has not publicly ruled out calling for a special session, but it seems unlikely the incumbent governor would take on the endeavor amid an already tense reelection campaign.

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

20. That's the number of years we've known how to prevent school shootings like the one that took place last Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas. FiveThirtyEight's Maggie Koerth spoke with researchers who published some of the first research on mass shootings in schools more than 20 years ago, and what she found is that many of the recommendations they made then are still valid now. Read more from Maggie on why the U.S. keeps missing opportunities to prevent mass shootings.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Start Here begins Thursday morning with ABC legal analyst and co-host of "The View" Sunny Hostin on the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard verdict. Then, ABC Supreme Court contributor Kate Shaw and former clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia, John Bask, discuss the Second Amendment and gun ownership. And, ABC's Adisa Hargett-Robinson details a California reparations report aimed at remedying systemic racism. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • At 11:15 a.m., President Joe Biden joins a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response Dr. Ashish Jha deliver a briefing at 3 p.m.

Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

Related Topics

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events