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News brief: Ukraine's war tactic, DOJ subpoenas Trump aides, Minn. nurses strike


We have a clearer idea today of just how Ukraine seized back so much of its own territory.


It seems Ukraine used a head fake. Last week, much public attention focused on a Ukrainian drive to the south. U.S. General Mark Milley discussed it on NPR's MORNING EDITION.

MARK MILLEY: Part of the skill of generalship and battle is to concentrate enough forces at the time and place of your choosing to achieve the desired effects. And that is what the Ukrainians are trying to do.

INSKEEP: Except, it turns out the Ukrainians were concentrating their forces somewhere else and struck by surprise in the east.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre is with us. Greg, this is exactly how it works in football. A quarterback will pump fake to the right, get the defense to bite and then throw left. How did it work on the battlefield?

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Well, that's a pretty good analogy, A. Ukraine talked for weeks about this offensive in the south. And it did seem strange to be giving away the game plan. But it did convince the Russians. And they moved some of their best troops from the east to the south to reinforce positions there. But, of course, this left the Russians thinned out in the east. And that's exactly where Ukraine struck. Dara Massicot is with the RAND Corporation. And she says Russia left itself very vulnerable.

DARA MASSICOT: I wasn't surprised at the cascading effects of poor morale on the Russian side. The rumors that the Ukrainians are attacking then spreads down the line. And people give up their positions. They give up their ammunition. They leave behind their equipment. It turns very rapidly into this panicked retreat, which is really what we saw this weekend.

MARTÍNEZ: So Greg, how much territory have they now taken?

MYRE: You know, it's pretty hard to keep up because it's moving so fast. Ukraine isn't providing many details. And reporters have been restricted from the front lines. But President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his Monday night address that Ukraine has now taken over 2,000 square miles this month. So now Ukraine faces a tough decision. If it keeps pressing ahead, it could risk overextending its own forces. But if it doesn't keep pressing, this may allow the Russians a chance to regroup.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, the U.S. has sent more than $13.5 billion in security aid to Ukraine. How much can we connect the dots here?

MYRE: Well, this huge amount of aid and weapons and intelligence sharing has certainly allowed the Ukrainians to do things they just weren't in position to do at the start of the war, like this offensive. But a senior U.S. military official cited the American role is just one of several factors contributing to Ukraine's success. He says, since the beginning of the war, Russia has overestimated its own military. It has underestimated Ukraine. And it never expected Ukraine would get this level of support from the U.S. and the West. The official says Russia has struggled with morale, logistics, the ability to sustain operations. And over time, this can culminate in the kind of breakdown that we've just seen.

MARTÍNEZ: This Ukrainian offensive has really reshaped the battlefield to some degree. Is it also maybe reshaping the broader conversation about the war in the West?

MYRE: Yeah. You know, a big part of the Western debate, and particularly in Europe, has centered on whether Ukraine could actually take back land that Russia had captured. If Ukraine couldn't reverse the Russian gains or if there was a stalemate, shouldn't there then be talks on ending the war even if this means painful compromises? But Ukraine has now shown decisively that it can recapture territory from Russia. So I think we're likely to hear more about what sort of weapons Ukraine needs to keep its offensive going and whether Russia's military is capable of regrouping after a major setback.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Greg Myre. Greg, thanks a lot.

MYRE: My pleasure.


MARTÍNEZ: The Justice Department has issued new subpoenas in the January 6 investigation.

INSKEEP: The New York Times and CNN are reporting the subpoenas went to dozens of people in former President Trump's circle. Investigators seem to be digging into Trump's post-election fundraising and other actions as he tried to stay in office after his election defeat.

MARTÍNEZ: Zachary Cohen is a national security reporter for CNN. Zachary, the Justice Department has subpoenaed more than 30 people with close connections to the former president. Who's among them?

ZACHARY COHEN: Yeah, that's right. This is really a big group. You know, it includes top officials from Trump's political fundraising and former campaign operation. You know, some of the bigger names include Bill Stepien, Trump's former campaign manager. He was really the center of Trump's orbit during that latter part of 2020 as, you know, the attempt to overturn the election was happening. You have Sean Dollman, who worked for Trump's 2020 presidential campaign as the chief financial officer, and then, of course, Dan Scavino, who is Trump's former deputy chief of staff. Now, you'll remember Scavino - the January 6 committee wanted Scavino to come in and talk to them. Ultimately, he refused. And the Justice Department decided not to hold him in contempt. But Scavino is among those who our sources say received a subpoena. And really, at the end of the day, this is just the latest sign that the Justice Department's probe into January 6 and efforts to overturn the 2020 election is intensifying.

MARTÍNEZ: So what kind of information, specific information, is the DOJ trying to find out?

COHEN: Some of the subpoenas were really broad in scope. But at a core level, they're looking for documents and, in some cases, testimony before a grand jury in Washington, D.C. Now, as far as the kind of information they're looking for, it's really a range of issues. The Justice Department, in some of these subpoenas, wants information about, you know, the effort to put forward slates of fake electors in key battleground states. Some of the subpoenas want information about Trump's primary fundraising and political vehicle, the Save America PAC, the organizing of the Trump rally on January 6 and any communication with a broad list of people who worked to overturn the 2020 election results - so really covering a lot of ground there in these subpoenas and, really, a broad scope.

MARTÍNEZ: What do you make of the timing of these latest subpoenas because I know we're very close to the midterm elections? And typically, the DOJ tends to kind of keep it on the DL when it comes to this kind of stuff, especially this close to an election.

COHEN: That's right. This activity really came in the days just before the Justice Department starts what is really its pre-election quiet period. And that's a 60-day period before the midterm election. You know, the department generally seeks to avoid taking overt investigative action and politically sensitive investigations to really avoid the appearance of trying to affect the election. So this is really a flurry of activity before that 60-day period is expected to begin.

MARTÍNEZ: What does, then, this suggest about where this investigation is now heading?

COHEN: Well, based on the topics covered in the subpoenas and the kind of information they're looking for, it really does look like the next step in trying to get information about - just about everything related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election, as well as any potential connections to the fundraising efforts of the Trump campaign in the political operation and potentially connecting to the violence on January 6. So really, it looks like the DOJ is still covering a very broad scope as far as investigations are concerned. So we'll have to see how that plays out going forward.

MARTÍNEZ: What about for former President Trump? What could this mean for him?

COHEN: It really remains to be seen. It's - again, they're really covering a broad scope here. But there's been several people, really, in his inner orbit that received subpoenas recently. So we'll have to see if they go in and they speak to the grand jury or they hand over the information the DOJ is looking for.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. CNN national security reporter Zachary Cohen. Zachary, thanks.

COHEN: Thank you.


MARTÍNEZ: Thousands of Minnesota nurses are on strike. They walked off the job yesterday to protest poor working conditions at several local hospitals. The nurses demand, among things, changes to their shift schedules and higher wages. And a strike also highlights the nationwide nursing shortage that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. And there are signs that similar strikes could happen in other states. For more, we're joined by Minnesota Public Radio health reporter Michelle Wiley. Michelle, the hospital and the nurses have been negotiating for a while now. What issues have kept them apart?

MICHELLE WILEY, BYLINE: Yeah. So there are a number of issues that are still on the table. Nurses are asking for, you know, things around safety, for staff retention, so keeping people from leaving for more lucrative positions or from leaving the profession altogether. Wages is an issue, as you mentioned. There's a pretty wide gulf between what nurses are asking for and what the hospitals are offering. But one of the key issues is staffing levels. Many of the nurses I spoke to on the picket line say staffing is their No. 1 issue. Tricia Ryshkus is a nurse at Children's Minnesota hospital in Minneapolis and a member of the negotiating team there.

TRICIA RYSHKUS: We do the work. We're the kids experts. We're the ones that take care of the patients. We need a say in how things go.

WILEY: At a press conference Monday, nurses actually said they'd be willing to come down on what they've asked for in wage increases - that's 30% over three years - if hospitals were willing to meet their demands over staffing. But so far, they say, they haven't made much progress on that issue.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, I know there's a lot of hospitals involved in this. That means hundreds of patients. How is this affecting care for these patients?

WILEY: Yeah. So just to add some context, nurses voted to authorize this strike in August. So hospitals have had some time to hire travel nurses to come fill-in. That said, the Twin Cities Hospitals Group, which represents several of the impacted facilities, says, there will likely be interruptions in service. There could be some longer wait times that folks experience. So they are encouraging people with non-emergency needs to seek out other venues like urgent care or a telehealth appointment.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, normally, there's not a set number of days for a strike when it happens. But this is specifically a three-day strike. So how did they come up with three days?

WILEY: Yeah. So when nurses authorized the strike, they were required to give 10 days of notice. They also voted on how long they wanted to walk out for. And they landed on those three days. So this isn't like we've seen in some strikes where we'll reach the end and there could be an extension. Union officials have been very clear the strike will end Thursday morning at 7 a.m.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. But what if there's no resolution after these three days, after it's supposed to be over?

WILEY: You know, this came up at a press conference on Monday with union president Mary Turner. And this is what she had to say.


MARY TURNER: The strike ends at 7 a.m. And we continue in our contract fight. If you're going to ask for strategy beyond these three days, that we have to go back as a group to figure out.

WILEY: I think what this has shown is that the nurses are willing to take this step, you know? What's sort of unique about this strike is union officials told me that they don't have a traditional strike fund. So folks out this week are unpaid. And that just shows that they're really serious about the issues that they've raised and are willing to walk out without pay over them.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Michelle Wiley from Minnesota Public Radio telling us about the nurses' strike in Minnesota. Michelle, thanks.

WILEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.