Texas primaries offer peek at GOP ideological battle

The Texas primaries on Tuesday offer opening battles in a wider ideological war for the direction of the Republican Party, specifically the role former President Trump should play in its future.

Why it matters: It’s still eight months until November, but we’ll soon have the first glimpse of several important factors for the 2022 midterm cycle: Trump’s lasting power, which faction of the Republican Party voters will reward and whether overall turnout reflects future voter enthusiasm or apathy.

  • The former president’s involvement in state and local races reflects his larger ’22 midterm strategy: to install loyalists throughout federal and state government, as Axios’ Jonathan Swan and Andrew Solender have reported.

The state of play: Trump is backing Republicans up and down the Texas ballot, from U.S. House to statewide office to state legislature — some in races where you wouldn’t normally see buy-in from a former president.

  • He’s endorsed Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, both of whom are facing primary challengers, as well as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
  • The AG’s race is the most interesting: Paxton, who’s mired in corruption scandals, faces credible foes in Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman.
  • A Nexstar poll of the race had Paxton at 43%, Bush at 20% and Gohmert and Guzman each at 12%. If that matched the results, Paxton and Bush would face each other in a runoff election.

By the numbers: Trump’s endorsement appears to be significantly boosting Paxton, but some GOP strategists tell Axios they expect that race will still result in a runoff.

  • Nearly half the respondents in the Nexstar poll say Trump’s endorsement makes them more likely to vote for Paxton, while 16% say less likely.
  • By contrast, just 25% say Paxton’s indictment for securities fraud makes them less likely to vote for him.

Trump also has made 16 endorsements for U.S. House in Texas — 15 f0r incumbents — but the most interesting races will be where he isn’t backing anyone at all:

What’s next: Trump’s endorsement will be put more to the test elsewhere later this cycle, when his hand-picked insurgents begin to square off against Republican incumbents he’s deemed insufficiently loyal.

  • Those include Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the latter two of whom voted for his impeachment.

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Exclusive: Disney inks deal with Samba TV as measurement partner

Disney on Tuesday will announce a new deal with Samba TV, a digital measurement company, to provide alternative data to Disney advertisers looking to better understand how their content is viewed in real-time via streaming.

Why it matters: Samba is the first third-party vendor that Disney has officially named as a partner, as it looks to broaden the types of measurement solutions it offers its advertisers in the digital world.

Disney has been testing new measurement solutions with nearly 100 vendors — including iSpot.tv, LiveRamp, VideoAmp, Viant and Moat — for years.

  • It’s also been working with traditional measurement providers, like Comscore and Nielsen, on new products through trials with large ad agencies, like Omnicom Media Group and Publicis Groupe.
  • More vendor partnerships will debut in the coming months, said Lisa Valentino, executive vice president of Disney sales, who manages client solutions and addressable enablement.

Details: The new deal is being announced ahead of Disney’s second annual Tech & Data Showcase event on March 3, which highlights the company’s new ad tech innovations.

  • Instead of hosting one big “upfront” event, or a presentation given annually to advertisers that showcases fall TV programming, Disney has pivoted toward hosting a series of mini-events in the spring that highlight innovation in different areas, like sports and storytelling. It will still host a culminating presentation on May 17th.

In partnering with Samba, Disney will be able to provide its advertising partners access to Samba’s “True Reach and Frequency tool,” which shows the number of people that watched a piece of content, even on different devices.

  • That type of data, called a “de-duplicated” reach, has historically been difficult for advertisers to measure with streaming that happens across many devices.
  • Samba tracks viewership via proprietary technology that’s embedded directly into smart TVs, said Ashwin Navin, co-founder and CEO of Samba TV. That’s different from other measurement providers that gather streaming data from set-top boxes.
  • Customers opt into Samba’s measurement tech through their smart TVs, which gives Samba full ownership of their data.
  • The 14-year-old measurement company today has its technology installed in 46 million devices and partners with 24 different smart TV manufacturers, per Navin.

Be smart: Around 40% of Disney’s TV advertising supply is now streaming, Valentino said. “That’s going to tip in the coming year.”

  • As such, the company has chosen to focus on vendors that can provide real-time streaming data across linear TV and streaming.
  • Most of Disney’s streaming inventory comes from free ad-supported streaming via Hulu, and some from ESPN+. The vast majority of Hulu’s 40 million+ on-demand subscribers are on the ad-supported plan.

The big picture: The pandemic-driven shift to streaming forced TV companies to find new measurement alternatives faster than expected.

  • NBCUniversal made a splash when it announced iSpot.tv as its first alternate partner for measurement ahead of the Olympics and the Super Bowl.
  • ViacomCBS announced a new partnership with VideoAmp last year.
  • WarnerMedia is in the early stages of looking for its own set of alternative measurement partners and is testing with iSpot.tv, Comscore and VideoAmp.

What to watch: While some media companies are looking to map out vendors and standards that could be adopted industry-wide, Disney says it just wants to build out a suite of measurement solutions that work for its specific clients’ needs.

  • “Disney is not in the business of scoring players,” Valentino said.

Go deeper: TV networks overhaul measurement system amid streaming surge

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Diplomats walk out on Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in protest at UN

Diplomats from mainly Western countries staged walkouts of two meetings when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov began a remote address on Tuesday.

Driving the news: Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva led the walkout at the UN Human Rights Council and was followed by approximately 100 people, a council spokesperson told Axios.

  • The walkout left just a few diplomats in the room, including envoys from Russia, China, Syria and Venezuela.
  • Lavrov said that he had planned to attend the sessions but was unable to because European countries banned Russian airlines from their airspace, AP reports.

Around the same time, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was addressing the European Parliament remotely. He received standing ovations before and after his speech.

What they’re saying: During his speech to the Human Rights Council and a disarmament meeting in Geneva, Lavrov accused Ukraine of looking to acquire nuclear weapons, an unfounded claim that the Russian government has used to justify its invasion of Ukraine, per the New York Times.

  • He also said that the current “hysteria” in the U.S., NATO and the European Union confirmed that “it was and still is the aim of the U.S. and all its allies built by Washington to create an ‘anti-Russia,'” the Times notes.

Lavrov’s speech was “yet another example of his government’s duplicity in invading Ukraine,” said Michele Taylor, U.S. ambassador to the Human Rights Council, per the Times.

Go deeper: Ukraine war enters new, uglier phase

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Zelensky accuses Russia of terrorism as Ukraine war enters new, uglier phase

Kharkiv’s local city hall in the aftermath of a Russian missile strike. Photo: State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A miles-long armored Russian military convoy nearing Kyiv and the targeting of civilian areas in Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, may herald a new phase of fighting after six days of stiff Ukrainian resistance.

The latest: Russia’s Ministry of Defense said Tuesday it would strike targets in Kyiv tied to “information attacks” from Ukraine’s security services, urging Ukrainians living near such facilities to leave their homes. Soon after, images emerged of Kyiv’s TV tower surrounded by smoke. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said TV channels were off air for the time being.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky released a new video accusing Russia of war crimes for its siege of Kharkiv, a mostly Russian-speaking city near the border that has endured some of the heaviest shelling of the conflict.
  • He also spoke to the European Parliament in an emotional address on Tuesday and urged the EU to admit Ukraine as a member, saying that Ukrainians were fighting to be “equal members of Europe.” (Watch the full video).

What’s happening: Kharkiv’s historic Freedom Square — one of the largest city squares in Europe — was hit by a Russian missile strike, causing massive damage to the local city hall. “After the attack on Freedom Square in Kharkiv, Russia is a terrorist state,” Zelensky said in a new video.

  • A Ukrainian military spokesman for the northern district claimed that Belarusian troops had crossed the border into the Chernihiv region, north of Kyiv. Belarus dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko still denies his troops will join the invasion.
  • The southeastern port city of Mariupol has been surrounded by Russian troops and “has practically no electricity and centralized heating,” according to the mayor.
  • A senior Pentagon official said Monday that seizing Mariupol and Kharkiv would allow Russia to cut off eastern Ukraine and the Ukrainian forces there.
  • Zelensky has said all of Russia’s major cities are being blocked off. The mayor of Kherson, near the Russian-controlled Crimea, said in a Facebook post Tuesday that the Russian military was “setting up checkpoints at the entrances” of the city.
  • Air raid sirens sounded in Kyiv again overnight, as Russian forces sought to encircle the capital. “If we protect Kyiv, we will protect the state. This is the heart of our country,” Zelensky said.
  • More than 500,000 refugees have fled to neighboring countries, including Poland, Hungary, Romania and Moldova, the U.N. said.
Emergency personnel carry a victim out of Kharkiv’s damaged city hall. Photo: Sergey Bobok/AFP via Getty Images

The big picture: Peace talks ended with no sign of concessions Monday.

  • The Ukrainian side emerged from the talks with little optimism, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown no flexibility thus far.
  • Putin told French President Emmanuel Macron that Ukraine must disarm, proclaim its neutrality, and recognize Crimea as Russian, per state media.

Impact on Russia: Russia’s currency is collapsing due to unprecedented, crippling Western sanctions. Massive corporations continue to announce said they will suspend or restrict operations in Russia, most recently shipping giant Maersk.

  • The Russian central bank raised interest rates from 9.5% to 20% and announced a raft of measures — including the suspension of stock trading on the Moscow Exchange — in response.

Expand chart

Data: UNHCR; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

As Russia’s economy begins to unravel and its military suffers setbacks, military analysts expected the fighting to grow more intense and dangerous for civilians.

  • Michael Kofman, a leading expert on Russia’s military at CNA, says Moscow’s plans of sprinting to Kyiv and forcing a swift surrender — ideally with limited Western sanctions or domestic blowback — have largely failed. He expects more artillery and air power.
  • Meanwhile the military convoy, estimated to stretch over 40 miles, moved to withing 17 miles of Kyiv from the north as of Monday afternoon, according to satellite imagery from Maxar.

State of play: Russian forces have claimed the most territory in the south.

  • In Berdyansk, a town near Mariupol now under Russian control, residents shouted at occupying troops to go home and sang the Ukrainian national anthem in the main square. Elsewhere, civilians have attempted to block the advance of tanks with their bodies.
  • Morale appears low among Russian forces, who didn’t know until the last minute that they’d be ordered to invade a country they don’t see as an adversary, Kofman said.
  • Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said any Russian soldier who voluntarily surrendered to Ukrainian captivity would receive 5 million rubles ($47,000).
Russian convoy north of Kyiv. Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

NATO countries continued to promise and provide hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of weaponry.

  • Norway became the latest NATO country to join the fray on Tuesday, pledging to send up to 2,000 M72 anti-tank grenade launchers to Ukraine.
  • Russia warned it would hold countries that provide such weaponry responsible if they’re used to attack Russian troops.
  • Former President Dmitry Medvedev also tweeted a warning Tuesday that “in human history, economic wars quite often turned into real ones.”
  • As with Putin’s Sunday announcement that he would put Russia’s nuclear deterrent on alert, it was an ominous indication that this war could intensify.

For the record: A senior U.S. defense official said Monday that Russia has deployed nearly 75% of its assembled combat power inside Ukraine but has failed to achieve air superiority and is struggling with logistical issues, like military vehicles running out of fuel.

  • Russia still has a good deal of capabilities “on the sidelines,” including most of its air force, Kofman said. He’s expecting a new scale of warfare in the days to come.
Zelensky (C) signs an application for EU membership. Photo: Ukrainian Presidency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

What else is happening: Zelensky said he’d allow prisoners with combat experience to be released to help defend Ukraine and “compensate their guilt.”

Go deeper: Get the latest with the Ukraine-Russia dashboard

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with developments in Kharkiv, Okhtyrka and Kherson.

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Supreme Court hints at constraining Biden on climate

The Supreme Court looks likely to limit the executive authority to issue sweeping climate rules without new legislation, but it’s unclear if they’ll unite around broader limits on regulatory power.

Catch up fast: The high court held arguments Monday in related cases about now-defunct regulations to curb carbon emissions from the electricity sector, the second-largest U.S. source of heat-trapping gases.

A few takeaways:

1. New limits appear likely. Harvard Law professor Richard Lazarus said there appear to be six votes to “align” the case with recent rulings against the federal eviction moratorium and vaccine mandates.

  • That would prompt the court to “sharply cut back on EPA’s authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal-fired power plants,” he said via email.

2. The appetite to go big is unclear. A huge question is whether the court’s 6-3 conservative majority will set a precedent that broadly cuts executive power to regulate on “major questions” absent explicit congressional blessing.

  • “While some warned this case could be a Waterloo for the administrative state, most of the oral argument focused narrowly on how to interpret the relevant provisions of the Clean Air Act,” Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan Adler said in a post yesterday.
  • “The major questions doctrine was raised repeatedly throughout the argument, largely as an input to the statutory interpretation inquiry, rather than as a stalking horse for the nondelegation doctrine.”

3. Timing is everything. The argument occurred just hours after United Nations-convened scientists issued a massive report that finds global warming is reshaping the world more rapidly and severely than was known several years ago.

  • The case is unfolding as President Biden’s push for massive new federal investments in clean energy has stalled in Congress. That puts a heavier burden on the federal agencies to act via regulation, even as their authority is now in doubt.

4. There’s probably no escape hatch. The majority seems ready to weigh in, despite Biden officials’ argument that the case isn’t ready for action because there are currently no power plant CO2 regulations in place.

  • “Chief Justice Roberts made it clear that he thinks the case is justiciable even though the government made a strong argument that any ruling would be only an advisory opinion,” University of Maryland law professor Robert Percival tells Axios via email.

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Historically neutral countries turn on Putin after Ukraine invasion

Switzerland on Monday adopted European Union sanctions against Russia over its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine — a historic move given the country’s history of maintaining neutrality toward armed or political conflicts between other states.

Why it matters: Swiss sanctions are the latest sign that traditionally neutral countries are turning on Moscow.

  • Sweden, an EU member that is not in NATO, announced Sunday it would send thousands of weapons and $50 million in funding directly to the Ukrainian military despite its historically neutral position in global conflicts.

Details: Geneva is a major financial center and commodities trading hub, and it’s believed that many Russian oligarchs and other Russian economic elite have money in Swiss banks, according to AP.

  • The sanctions target President Vladimir Putin, several other governmental officials and Russian businesses. Switzerland also closed its airspace to all flights from Russia.

The big picture: Other nations have dropped traditions in response to Moscow’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.

  • Germany said it would send Ukraine 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger missiles in a complete reversal of its restrictive arms export policy.
  • Non-NATO members Finland and Sweden also attended a virtual summit with NATO leaders after Russia’s invasion, which prompted a warning from Moscow that their admittance into the defensive treaty would trigger “serious military-political consequences,” according to AP.
  • Israel, which has maintained good relations with both Ukraine and Russia, called Russia’s invasion a “violation of the world order” and said it would vote in favor of a UN General Assembly resolution condemning Moscow.

Go deeper:

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional details on the Swiss sanctions.

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Startup raises $65 million to “grow” cement

Biomason, a Durham, N.C.-based startup that’s using microorganisms to “grow” cement, raised $65 million in Series C funding led by venture capital firm 2150.

Why it matters: Cement manufacturing is estimated to be responsible for around 8% of global carbon emissions.

  • Other investors include Celesta Capital, Novo Holdings and Martin Marietta Materials.

How it works, per FastCompany’s Adele Peters: “The company starts with recycled aggregate, the tiny bits of material that cement holds together in concrete. Then it adds its (safe) strain of bacteria, along with calcium, carbon, and nutrients. The combination jump-starts the creation of calcium carbonate, the “biocement” that acts like glue. Unlike traditional cement manufacturing, it works in ambient temperatures, without the need for high heat.”

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Russian forces shell civilian areas during Ukraine peace talks

Ukrainian and Russian officials arrived at the Ukraine-Belarus border for peace talks that kicked off at 6am ET Monday, as President Volodymyr Zelensky warned on Day 5 of the invasion that the next 24 hours would be “crucial” to Ukraine’s fate.

The latest: A senior U.S. defense official told reporters that Russia’s advance on Kyiv from the north moved only 5 kilometers from Sunday, putting them roughly 25 kilometers outside the center of the capital.

  • Russia has deployed nearly 75% of its assembled combat power inside Ukraine, and has launched approximately 380 missiles so far, the official said.
  • Five days into the war, Russia has still not achieved air superiority over Ukraine, with its ground forces “running out of gas and having logistics problems,” the official added.
  • The official said the Russians’ goal continues to be to “encircle Kyiv from multiple locations,” and to capture the cities of Kharkiv and Mariupol to allow them to section off eastern Ukraine.

State of play: An adviser to Zelensky tweeted at 9:40am ET that a third round of talks were getting underway, nearly four hours after negotiations began.

  • As peace talks were ongoing, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said dozens of civilians had been killed and hundreds wounded by indiscriminate shelling in Kharkiv, a city on the border with Russia.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron had a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which Putin said a deal “is possible only if Russia’s legitimate security interests are unconditionally taken into account,” according to a Kremlin readout.
  • The State Department accused Russia on Monday of “widespread” human rights abuses during the invasion: “Russia’s invasion has damaged and destroyed schools, hospitals, radio stations, and homes, killing and injuring civilians, including children.”

The big picture: Zelensky’s office called for an “immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of troops from Ukraine” as several high-ranking Ukrainian officials headed to the talks, but he expressed little optimism that the negotiations would result in an end to the attack.

The room where peace talks will take place. Photo: Foreign Ministry of Belarus handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

What else is happening: In his latest address, Zelensky called for Ukraine’s immediate accession to the EU — one day after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Ukraine is “one of us and we want them in.”

  • 16 Ukrainian children have been killed and 45 have been wounded during the war, while Russia has suffered 4,500 casualties, Zelensky said. International monitors have not verified these numbers.
  • Zelensky said that he will allow prisoners with combat experience to be released to help defend the country and “compensate their guilt.”
  • Ukraine’s deputy defense minister also claimed Ukraine has received “thousands” of requests from foreign volunteers to join a new “International Legion” to fight Russia.
  • Russia closed its airspace to Germany, France, the U.K. and 33 other countries, after the EU froze out Russian aircraft on Monday.
  • More than 500,000 refugees have fled to neighboring countries, including Poland, Hungary, Romania and Moldova, the U.N. said.

Zoom out: Russia’s currency collapsed in overnight trading, with the ruble plummeting against the dollar as the West imposed unprecedented, crippling sanctions and massive corporations said they would end their business in Russia.

  • The Russian central bank raised interest rates from 9.5% to 20% and announced a raft of measures — including the suspension of stock trading on the Moscow Exchange — in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding.
  • The Biden administration announced Monday morning that Russia’s central bank will be prohibited from undertaking transactions in dollars under a new concerted effort by the U.S. and its allies that is set to accelerate Russia’s economic tailspin.

Go deeper: Get the latest with the Ukraine-Russia dashboard

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Putin’s war may herald a new energy era

There are fresh signals that the invasion of Ukraine could seismically reshape the West’s energy relationship with Russia.

Driving the news: Germany, a huge buyer of Russian gas, on Sunday announced new steps to buffer itself from Vladimir Putin.

  • They include building new liquefied natural gas import terminals, expanded gas storage, and perhaps, reversing plans to close nuclear plants.
  • Also Sunday, U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss floated the idea of G7 limits on Russian oil and gas imports.

The big picture: It’s part of wider European efforts to boost reserves and clean power that are taking on new urgency in light of Russia’s war.

  • The European Commission, per several reports, is slated to soon propose larger gas storage requirements.
  • Reuters reports that a draft plan also aims to speed renewables deployment as a way to fight climate change and boost energy security.

Reality check: Major new Western sanctions have thus far avoided taking direct aim at Russia’s oil and gas exports.

Driving the news, part 2: BP, citing Russia’s attack, pledged yesterday to divest its 19.75% stake in Russian state-controlled oil giant Rosneft.

  • And last night, Norway-based oil-and-gas giant Equinor said it’s exiting its joint ventures in Russia and halting new investments there.

What we’re watching: Anna Mikulska, an expert in Russian energy markets and geopolitics, said the BP move likely heralds a wider trend.

  • “[The] Russian state is now viewed as a malign actor and, hence, dealing with Russian state-owned companies will be viewed in a negative light, could become scrutinized and will definitely bring public discontent,” she said via email.
  • Mikulska, a fellow with Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, said she’s watching, for example, to see whether Exxon and Shell also back away from their work in Russia.

The intrigue: The Russian invasion is causing ripples in U.S. lobbying and energy debates.

  • Oil-and-gas industry groups are jointly urging President Biden to bolster policy support for U.S. LNG exports and back off leasing restrictions, among other moves.

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Zelensky calls on international court to investigate Russia for war crimes

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday Russia’s unprovoked attacks “show signs of genocide” and called on the international court at The Hague to investigate.

Driving the news: In a video address posted on Facebook, Zelensky said Russia “deserves an international tribunal. We are documenting their crimes. And there would have been many more of these crimes if it hadn’t been for our courageous defenders,” per a translation on CNN.

The latest: Ukrainian troops were holding off a massive assault from Russia’s military in Kyiv on Sunday, as street fighting erupted in Kharkiv after President Vladimir Putin’s forces entered Ukraine’s second-largest city.

  • Ukraine confirmed that Russian forces blew up a gas pipeline in Kharkiv.
  • The UN has confirmed at least 240 civilian casualties since the invasion began, but says the “real figures are considerably higher.”

What he’s saying: “We have to call a spade a spade. Russia’s criminal actions against Ukraine show signs of genocide. I spoke about this with the UN Secretary-General,” Zelensky said.

  • Russia has claimed it does not attack civilians, an assertion Zelensky has repeatedly called “a lie.”
  • “They lied when they said they would not target civilian population. Since the first hours of the invasion, Russian troops have been hitting civilian infrastructure.”
  • “This is terror,” Zelensky added.
  • Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that Russia was committing “war crimes,” per CNN, and deliberately attacking civilians.

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