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News & Politics Thread (Part 6)

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  • Atypical
    Dec 1st, 2011

    Supreme Court says it is unable to identify leaker of draft abortion decision
    BY ZACH SCHONFELD 01/19/23 2:42 PM ET


    The Supreme Court on Thursday indicated it was unable to identify the source of the leak of a draft opinion that showed the court striking down Roe v. Wade.

    In a public report detailing an investigation into the leaked opinion, which also upheld Dobbs v. Jackson in favor of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, the Supreme Court ultimately concluded the leak was likely not the result of a hack. It also lays out extensive attempts investigators took to determine if an employee disclosed the document.

    The report details efforts to collect court-issued laptops and mobile devices from “all personnel who had access to the draft opinion” but that to date, investigators “have found no relevant information from these devices.”

    As part of the investigation, employees requested to do so provided call and text records as well as billing statements for personal devices over a certain time period.

    Also examined were any connections between court employees and reporters, in particular contacts made with Politico, the publication that first reported the draft opinion, which included a copy of the opinion itself. Interviews with nearly 100 court employees were conducted.

    An unsigned statement by the court called the leak an “extraordinary betrayal of trust.”

    “In May 2022, this Court suffered one of the worst breaches of trust in its history: the leak of a draft opinion. The leak was no mere misguided attempt at protest. It was a grave assault on the judicial process,” the start of the statement read.

    Within hours of the leak, Chief Justice John Roberts directed the court’s marshal to investigate the source, calling it a “singular and egregious breach.”

    In June, the Supreme Court officially struck down Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey by upholding Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, eliminating the constitutional right to the procedure and handing states authority to drastically limit or ban abortions.

    The official court opinion largely mirrored the one that was leaked. The landmark Roe v. Wade decision would have reached its 50th anniversary this Sunday.

    Beyond Supreme Court justices, the report revealed that 82 court employees had access to the draft opinion, with most having received it in February, nearly three months before Politico published it.

    Investigators interviewed 97 employees as part of the probe, all of whom denied disclosing the opinion and signed sworn affidavits, although a few admitted to telling their spouses about the draft opinion or vote count.

    The report also notes that it did not substantiate any speculation promoted on social media about the leak’s source.

    A few remaining matters are pending, but the marshal suggested the probe may ultimately only be able to provide recommendations to prevent future leaks.

    “In time, continued investigation and analysis may produce additional leads that could identify the source of the disclosure,” the report states. “Whether or not any individual is ever identified as the source of the disclosure, the Court should take action to create and implement better policies to govern the handling of Court-sensitive information and determine the best IT systems for security and collaboration.”

    The public version of the report lists seven recommendations for the court, including tailoring access to draft opinions, strengthening employee training and considering support of introduced legislation that would expressly prohibit unauthorized disclosures.

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    D.C. Mayor to Biden: Your Teleworking Employees Are Killing My City
    Washington has the highest work-from-home rate of any major city. With an empty downtown, the city faces a real risk of economic peril.
    01/20/2023 04:30 AM EST


    At the swearing-in this month for her third term as the District of Columbia’s mayor, Muriel Bowser delivered a surprising inaugural-address ultimatum of sorts to the federal government: Get your employees back to in-person work—or else vacate your lifeless downtown office buildings so we can fill the city with people again.

    It was a somewhat daring political gesture, albeit couched in polite terms. For one thing, the federal government is led by Joe Biden, the guy Bowser will be urgently counting on to wield his veto when the newly Republican House of Representatives tries to interfere with her not-quite-sovereign city. There’s a reason D.C. mayors don’t typically call out Democratic presidents.

    For another thing, Bowser’s demand amounted to telling the boss of a lot of her constituents—a good chunk of whom appear to like remote work—to force staff back to the office.

    In the process, the Democratic mayor has landed on the same page as some of the most conservative members of the House GOP majority, who last week cosponsored the SHOW UP bill, which would mandate that federal agencies return to their pre-Covid office arrangements within 30 days. House Oversight Committee chair James Comer also signaled plans to turn the panel’s investigatory energy toward alleged telework failures.

    Being a person who residents blame when they have to start commuting again—let alone being a blue-city Democrat who makes strange bedfellows with GOP ultras—is the sort of thing usually avoided by a pol skilled enough to win a landslide third term as mayor, as Bowser just did.

    But the way the local government sees it, something has to give or else the city is in deep trouble.

    There are days when downtowns in other American towns can almost look like they did before 2020. In the 9-to-5 core of Washington, though, there’s no mistaking the 2023 reality with the pre-Covid world. Streets are noticeably emptier and businesses scarcer. Crime has ticked up. The city’s remarkable quarter-century run of population growth and economic dynamism and robust tax revenues seems in danger.

    Officials now privately worry about a return to the bad old days when the District, unable to pay its bills, was forced to throw itself on the mercy of Newt Gingrich’s Congress. And while some of the broad factors that caused the whipsaw change from municipal optimism to civic anxiety are beyond any local pol’s control, bringing Uncle Sam’s workers back is something denizens of D.C.’s government think mayoral cajoling might affect.

    According to census data, Washington has the highest work-from-home rate in the country. Week-to-week numbers from the security firm Kastle Systems back this up: The company, whose key fobs are used in office buildings around the country (including the one that houses POLITICO), compiles real-time occupancy data based on card swipes in its 10 largest markets. D.C. is perennially dead last.

    To some extent, this status is a function of Washington’s economy (which is long on knowledge workers and professionals, short on factories and warehouses) and its demographics (which are thick with the sorts of blue-state rule-followers who most energetically embraced Covid precautions). But it’s also a function of the city’s top employer.

    Federal telework policies vary, but in general they’re generous—a major change from the situation that prevailed before 2020. Pre-pandemic, only 3 percent of feds teleworked daily, even as the private-sector workforce across the country had made at least some strides. After Covid, parts of the government caught up in a hurry, embracing telework in the name of public health. Officially, a lot of the changes are only temporary, but it’s hard to see things simply flop back to the way they were.

    Last year, when Biden in his State of the Union address signaled his intent to bring workers back, it caused alarms among some workers—and not much impact on most agencies’ occupancy rates.

    For federal employees, and the public they serve, the new flexibility has some upsides. Beyond the fact that some people just don’t much like commuting to an office every day, the prospect of being able to work from home even if home means Tennessee or Texas is good for retention, since a federal paycheck goes a lot farther once you leave one of the nation’s priciest metro areas. (It also might accomplish, inadvertently, the longtime GOP goal of moving chunks of the bureaucracy away from the capital).

    To people who depend on commuters’ lunch-hour spending or transit fees, the change is less welcome. According to John Falcicchio, the city’s economic-development boss and Bowser’s chief of staff, the federal government’s 200,000 D.C. jobs represent roughly a quarter of the total employment base; the government also occupies a third of Washington office space—not just the cabinet departments whose ornate headquarters dot Federal Triangle, but plenty of the faceless privately held buildings in the canyons around Farragut Square, too.

    “It is a challenge to have a quarter of the economy sitting on the sidelines,” Falcicchio says. The total number of jobs has dropped significantly, notably in hospitality. “We think that’s because those jobs are really kind of indirect jobs that are somewhat dependent on the vibrancy that the federal government being in the office offers.”

    “Or another way to look at it is Metro,” the regional transit system, he says. “It’s about a third of what it used to be.” When rider revenue plunges, the local jurisdictions have to make up for it out of their general funds — money that could otherwise go to schools or public safety. It’s a dangerous cycle for any municipality.

    In the local nightmare scenario, a downtown that’s perpetually short of workers has disastrous knock-on effects: Taxes on retail sales and commercial real estate don’t come in, public services get cut back, transit gets slower, empty streets feel increasingly scary, and the capital regains its 1980s-era image as a place people flee.

    The problem, from the workers’ point of view, is that shoring up Metro’s finances or the city’s reputation isn’t really their job.

    “Everybody’s got sympathy for the businesses that cater to office workers,” says Jacqueline Simon, the policy director for the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal union. “But it’s not the obligation of the federal workforce to make sure those businesses have customers.” Simon says that low unemployment and the fact that many private-sector salaries outpace the wages for analogous public-employee jobs means that the feds need to play nice on telework or risk a recruitment crisis.

    Or, as one unhappy HUD employee more colorfully put it to me: “I was not hired to be an economic engine.”

    The employee says staff are in a kind of limbo as they await permanent new arrangements. It has triggered a generational divide, among other things. “I hear absurd shit from people who have been there forever, that they bought a house in Chevy Chase in the ’80s and love it,” while younger staff who have to pay skyrocketing 21st century mortgages fantasize about cheaper cities or shorter commutes.

    When we spoke this week, Falcicchio was in diplomatic mode, stressing that the mayor’s inaugural was less about calling out the feds than asking them to partner on things like tapping existing programs that might transfer underused properties to locals. He also made clear that Bowser wasn’t calling for the same back-to-normal as Comer’s legislation: Her own government currently expects non-frontline workers to be in offices at least three days a week, not five, something he said would be a good model for feds, too.

    “Our experience has been that we are more productive when we’re working together in person,” he said. “We don’t have to do that every single day of the week …. It is a matter of what is the best way for us to work together to deliver for our taxpayers. Those are the ultimate bosses.”

    The HUD worker’s question—are they hired to perform specific tasks that may or may not benefit from physical proximity, or to be part of a complex economic ecosystem that requires human presence?—went unanswered.

    Bowser, of course, isn’t the only mayor dealing with the fallout from the abrupt upending of office work. And to her credit, she’s not just hoping that the company town’s main employer will simply fix everything with an HR edict. The back half of that get-to-the-office-or-give-up-your-buildings demand was part of a larger plan to turn downtown D.C. into something it hasn’t been for a century, since the days when K Street was home to simple rowhouses: A heavily residential neighborhood.

    Eyeing schemes to turn underused office buildings into apartment blocks, Bowser has vowed to eventually bring 100,000 residents downtown, a somewhat far-fetched ambition which would mean that, in theory, the city’s office district would become dotted with schools and grocery stores and other emblems of neighborhood life.

    Whether that’s sound urbanism and wise civic stewardship is to be determined. But what’s clear already is that the current moment represents another zig in the relationship between federal Washington and hometown D.C.—a change that, even if it mainly takes place at the municipal-news level, will likely impact the way national government and politics works.

    Over its 200-plus years as the capital, hometown Washington’s culture has shaped federal work product in subtle ways and profound ones. During the early years of the republic, a slavery-ridden, Southern ambiance predominated locally just as the Slave Power exercised an outsize influence over national government. (In those days, the Congressional buttinskis who infuriated locals were often progressive northerners like ex-President John Quincy Adams, who sought to end the slave trade in the District.)

    By the second half of the twentieth century, a much-changed Washington had many of the same problems that plagued other big cities in an age of urban crisis. The result, in local politics, was a different sort of stand-off pitting disenfranchised local residents in a city that now had a Black majority against an often hostile Congressional leadership. Suburban sprawl and the perception of urban crime also meant that the upper echelons of the federal bureaucracy now tended to be populated with people who retreated after work from a supposedly scary city back home to vanilla suburbs—with whatever impact that may have had on their policy thinking.

    In the last couple decades, though, an entirely new reputation has taken hold: A glittering, prosperous #Thistown. Concern about dysfunction gave way to worry about gentrification and whether middle-class workers could afford to live pretty much anywhere in the metro area. (As the FBI planned a move to the suburbs recently, city officials didn’t really even fight the departure like they would have 30 years ago: The bureau’s Pennsylvania Avenue spot could throw off more money as an upscale private-sector development.) It’s no coincidence that this change happened just as the capital’s chattering classes seemed to completely miss the alienation and economic stagnation in less sexy parts of the country that would upend national politics.

    Even if the mayor does somehow manage to prod more feds back to their offices soon, longer-term plans for a Washington less dependent on government workers represent a significant transformation.

    Bowser’s conjuring of a residential downtown may evoke images of urban charm—more Paris, less Brasilia—but it comes with risks. Federal employment has helped shield the region against recessions. A municipal budget more tied to residents’ income taxes than to commercial property and sales revenues is less protected. Likewise, a lot of the nice things purchased with federal help are tied to Washington’s status as government office HQ. Uncle Sam helps underwrite Metro, for instance, because it is workforce transit. Less workforce means less justification for the subsidy.

    What would that scenario mean for Americans who don’t have personal reasons to worry about the state of the District’s school budget or the health of its subway system? To optimists, the idea of a more spread-out government less tied to one place might augur less groupthink and a broader focus. To pessimists, it could just as easily portent still more tribal isolation, shorn of even serendipitous lunchtime run-ins. The same will eventually go for contracting and a whole host of government-adjacent industries, which according to Terry Clower, who studies the region from his perch at Virginia’s George Mason University, will inevitably take their cues from federal HR mavens.

    Falcicchio says it’s not really an either-or: Making downtown more of a 24-hour neighborhood, he says, will have the effect of making it a more desirable place for people to come back to offices. He says employers in more lively neighborhoods have had an easier time luring workers back than ones in the central core, where 92 percent of use is commercial.

    At the end of the day, banking on federal workers is probably not a long-term strategy for the capital that was in many ways built by those very jobs. The future of all work is likely to look really different, and government can’t lag for long, no matter what it decides this year. Which means the capital will have to compete in ways that it didn’t used to.

    “People kind of want to live in places that give them the opportunity at reasonable prices,” says Yesim Sayim, who runs a local think-tank called the D.C. Policy Center. “They don’t particularly care about the flag that adorns the sky.” Washington always worked well for people, a place that may not have offered the startup-economy upsides of Manhattan or Silicon Valley, but also didn’t come with the risks of an employer going out of business. “But now, if you have a chair and a computer, the world is your oyster. And the presence of a job in D.C. is not necessarily a reason for someone to move to D.C.”

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    Zients to replace Klain as White House chief of staff
    BY ALEX GANGITANO 01/22/23 1:51 PM ET


    Jeff Zients, the former White House coronavirus response coordinator, is expected to replace Ron Klain as White House chief of staff, two sources familiar with the plans told The Hill.

    Zients left his role as Biden’s first COVID-19 czar in April 2022 after advising the pandemic response effort and was replaced by Ashish Jha. He returned this fall ahead of the midterm elections to assist Klain with preparations for staff turnover as well as other projects.

    The White House declined to comment.

    Zients was director of the National Economic Council under former President Obama and before that was acting director of the Office of Management and Budget. Between the Obama and Biden administrations, he was chief executive officer of an investment firm, Cranemere, and was on the board of directors of Facebook.

    Klain will likely leave following President Biden’s State of the Union address on Feb. 7, The New York Times first reported. Klain, who has been in the role for longer than any other Democratic president’s chief of staff, is expected to remain in his current role for some time to help his successor acclimate.

    Prior to government, Zients was a management consultant for Mercer Management Consulting, which is now Oliver Wyman, and Bain & Company. He also was CEO and chairman of the Advisory Board Company alongside David Bradley, the former owner of The Atlantic. Zients, who is a Washington, D.C., native, formed a group with Colin Powell and others in 2005 to purchase the Washington Nationals.

    Zients would enter the role as Biden readies for a possible reelection bid. The president is on track to signal that he will seek another term around the time of the State of the Union.

    Klain’s exit is expected to precede broader staff changes as some in the White House transition out to work on a 2024 reelection campaign. Klain, a longtime Biden adviser, has told colleagues since the midterm elections in November that he is preparing to leave.

    The news of a chief of staff turnover came as Biden’s approval dropped to 40 percent, which is nearing his record low, this week after the discovery of classified documents from his time as vice president.

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    George Santos on drag photos: “I had fun at a festival”
    BY OLAFIMIHAN OSHIN 01/22/23 6:29 PM ET


    Embattled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) appeared to shift his response to photos apparently showing him in drag years ago, after saying earlier this week that reports that he performed as a drag queen were “categorically false.”

    Reporters barraged Santos with questions about the photos as he arrived at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Saturday, according to CNN.

    “No, I was not a drag queen in Brazil, guys,” Santos responded. “I was young, and I had fun at a festival. Sue me for having a life.”

    Reuters published a story last week in which two former acquaintances of Santos told the news wire that the 34-year-old lawmaker participated in drag queen contests and cross-dressed in gay pride events in Brazil some 15 years ago.

    Santos denied those reports in a tweet on Thursday.

    “The most recent obsession from the media claiming that I am a drag Queen or ‘performed’ as a drag Queen is categorically false,” he wrote. “The media continues to make outrageous claims about my life while I am working to deliver results. I will not be distracted nor fazed by this.”

    On Saturday, Santos also avoided answering questions about where the $700,000 that he lent to his campaign came from and about his recent appointments to two House committees, ABC7NY.

    “I have spoken with the voters. I have been in district the whole week. I have been taking calls. I have received federal grant applications for projects in the district and I look forward to serving the people,” Santos told a WABC reporter.

    Santos, who defeated Democrat Robert Zimmerman in New York’s 3rd Congressional District in November’s midterm elections, is facing investigations from federal authorities over potential campaign finance violations and an investigation from Nassau County over lies during his campaign.

    Santos’s lies range from inventing his professional résumé as a Wall Street financier, claiming to be Jewish and have grandparents who fled the Holocaust, claiming to have played volleyball for a university he did not attend, and stating that he ran a charity that saved animals.

    In one of the latest accusations, two military veterans say Santos stole thousands of dollars from a fundraiser for a dying dog in 2016. He has denied those claims.

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    Police identify deceased 72-year-old suspect in Monterey Park mass shooting
    BY JULIA MUELLER 01/22/23 9:11 PM ET


    Police have identified the suspect in Saturday night’s mass shooting in Monterey Park, California, as Huu Can Tran, a 72-year-old Asian man.

    Authorities say Tran died after shooting himself in a van that police surrounded Sunday in nearby Torrance.

    The shooter killed 10 and injured 10 others following a Lunar New Year celebration in the Los Angeles County city of Monterey Park. A separate incident occurred in neighboring Alhambra shortly thereafter, but no one has been reported injured.

    “We still are not clear on the motive,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna told reporters Sunday evening. “The investigation continues and that is something that… we want to know. We want to know how something like this, something this awful can happen.”

    Torrance police officers located a white van matching a description from the shooting and followed it into the parking lot of a shopping center, according to Luna.

    When officers got out of their vehicle to contact the van’s driver, a gunshot rang out. The officers did not return fire.

    The officers pulled back and two armored SWAT vehicles responded to the scene as backup, but examination of the scene found the suspect had sustained a self-inflicted gunshot wound, he added. The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.

    “Investigators conducted a search of the vehicle and determined the male inside the van was the mass shooting suspect,” Luna said at the press conference, noting that the vehicle’s plates are assumed stolen.

    “During the search, several pieces of evidence were found inside the van, linking the suspect to both locations in Monterey Park and Alhambra. In addition, a handgun was discovered inside the van.”

    Luna said there were “no outstanding suspects” from the shooting, but emphasized that the investigation was ongoing.

    The sheriff on Sunday noted that most of the victims were in their 50s, 60s, or older.

    Authorities are also looking into Tran’s criminal and mental health history as they examine possible motives in the case.

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    Gallego announces campaign for Sinema Senate seat
    BY CAROLINE VAKIL 01/23/23 8:32 AM ET


    Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) announced on Monday that he would be running for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (I-Ariz.) Senate seat, teeing up the possibility of an incumbent-on-incumbent general election challenge against the senator.

    “Growing up poor, all I had was the American dream. It kept me going: as a kid sleeping on the floor, a student scrubbing toilets, a Marine losing brothers in Iraq,” Gallego said in a post on Twitter announcing his candidacy.

    “Today, too many Arizonans see their dream slipping away,” Gallego added. “I’m running for the U.S. Senate to win it back for you!”

    There had been speculation for months that Gallego would run for Sinema’s seat in 2024 as he mounted jabs at the senator. The senator added a new variable to the possible 2024 Arizona Senate race by announcing late last year she would be changing her party affiliation to independent, though she has not formally announced whether she’ll be running for the Senate in two years.

    Democrats in Congress have viewed Sinema at times as a roadblock to passing Democratic priorities as she and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have defended the filibuster, a rule that requires most pieces of legislation to require at least 60 votes to pass in the Senate.

    While Gallego focused on introducing himself in his first campaign ad—including growing up as one of four children with a single mother and speaking about his educational and military experience in Iraq—his campaign platform and first interviews since his announcement has shown that his primary target is Sinema.

    “I’m better for this job than Kyrsten Sinema because I haven’t forgotten where I came from,” Gallego said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press published on Monday. “I think she clearly has forgotten where she came from. Instead of meeting with the people that need help, she meets with the people that are already powerful.”

    The congressman also has a section on his campaign webpage titled, “Kyrsten Sinema betrayed Arizona families,” arguing that Sinema has put wealthier individuals and groups ahead of her constituents.

    Though no Republicans have formally entered the 2024 Senate race, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Senate Democrats will be forced to contend with whether to support Sinema should she choose to run again or support Gallego.

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    FDA panel to consider annual COVID-19 vaccine shots
    BY JOSEPH CHOI 01/23/23 11:53 AM ET


    The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) advisory panel on vaccines is set to consider an annual schedule for the coronavirus vaccine, akin to how flu vaccines are administered, when it meets this week.

    The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) will meet Thursday to discuss how to simplify and streamline the COVID-19 vaccination process, including the composition of coronavirus vaccines and the recommended scheduling for these shots.

    The rapid evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, resulting in variants with an improved ability to escape immune protection, means that “periodically updating the composition of COVID-19 vaccines as needed,” as was done with the updated bivalent booster, requires consideration, according to panel documents posted Monday.

    The panel said it anticipates evaluating the composition of the COVID-19 vaccine annually in June and making a recommendation for the following year—though it acknowledged the difficulties of mounting a globally coordinated vaccine recommendation.

    “FDA anticipates conducting an assessment of SARS-CoV-2 strains at least annually and to engage VRBPAC in about early June of each year regarding strain selection for the fall season,” the VRBPAC documents said.

    While acknowledging that COVID-19 and the flu are not identical, VRBPAC said the deployment of the bivalent COVID-19 boosters, created to target both the ancestral strain of the virus as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants, was “analogous” to annual flu vaccinations.

    The committee will also consider transitioning to a simplified immunization schedule in which a two dose series of vaccines is given to young children, older adults and immunocompromised individuals while everyone else is given a single dose.

    And it will look at whether to move to using the same vaccine composition for all vaccine shots in a series. Under current FDA guidance, the updated bivalent boosters are authorized for individuals who have completed their primary COVID-19 vaccinations, which are geared toward the ancestral strain of the virus.

    “This simplification of vaccine composition should reduce complexity, decrease vaccine administration errors due to the complexity of the number of different vial presentations, and potentially increase vaccine compliance by allowing clearer communication,” the panel said.

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    Classified documents found at Mike Pence’s Indiana home
    BY BRETT SAMUELS 01/24/23 12:19 PM ET


    Documents with classified markings were found at former Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana home last week, officials confirmed Tuesday.

    Pence’s team notified the National Archives last Wednesday that a small number of documents were “inadvertently boxed and transported” to the former vice president’s home at the end of the last administration. Pence was “unaware of the existence of sensitive or classified documents at his personal residence,” his lawyer wrote to the Archives.

    The findings at Pence’s residence come as President Biden faces mounting criticism, which had also come from Pence, over the discovery of classified materials at Biden’s old office at a Washington, D.C., think tank and at his Delaware home.

    Greg Jacob, the attorney representing Pence, wrote to the Archives that Pence used outside counsel with experience handling classified documents to review records stored at his personal home after several classified documents were found at Biden’s home earlier this month.

    Lawyers conducting the search found “a small number of documents that could potentially contain sensitive or classified information interspersed throughout the records.”

    Pence’s team was unable to provide an exact number of documents recovered or additional descriptions of the materials because they were locked away until they could be turned over to the National Archives.

    In a Sunday letter to the Archives, Jacobs explained that FBI agents came to Pence’s home on Thursday night to collect the documents that had been stored away. He indicated that Pence agreed to turn over the two boxes with materials containing classified markings, as well as two other boxes with copies of administration records.

    Jacobs expressed confidence that a thorough review would find the majority of documents in all four boxes were copies of records that had already been sent to the Archives.

    “Vice President Pence has directed his representatives to work with the National Archives to ensure their prompt and secure return,” he wrote about the documents. “Vice President Pence appreciates the good work of the staff at the National Archives and trusts they will provide proper counsel in response to this letter.”

    The findings at Pence’s home make him the third former or current top U.S. official to have stored classified materials from his time in office at his home, following Biden and former President Trump. The Presidential Records Act requires presidents and vice presidents to turn documents over to the National Archives for proper preservation after their elected terms end.

    In a post on his Truth Social platform responding to the latest classified documents news, Trump said his former vice president “is an innocent man.”

    “He never did anything knowingly dishonest in his life,” Trump said. “Leave him alone!!!”

    While Biden and Pence notified the Archives and turned the materials over, Trump was uncooperative with federal officials after they requested he return documents stored at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. The fight culminated in an FBI search at the estate in August, and the Justice Department has appointed a special counsel to investigate Trump’s handling of classified materials, as well as his actions surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack.

    Pence was asked in Iowa last summer in the wake of the FBI search whether he had retained classified information upon leaving office.

    “No, not to my knowledge,” he said at the time.

    CNN first reported that documents with classified markings were found at Pence’s home.

    Pence has been among the Republicans criticizing Biden in recent weeks over the discovery of classified documents at his old office and his Wilmington home from Biden’s time as vice president and as a Delaware senator.

    Pence praised the decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate Biden’s handling of the documents, arguing it would have been a double standard to name one for Trump’s case but not the current president’s.

    The former vice president was also critical of the Biden White House for waiting roughly two months to disclose that it found classified materials at the president’s old office from the time they were first discovered on Nov. 2, 2022.

    Pence is weighing whether to run for president in 2024, having visited early voting states including Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire frequently over the past year.

    It’s unclear whether Tuesday’s disclosure will affect his standing with voters, but some were quick to highlight how his handling of the documents compared to Trump.

    “This discovery by Pence’s attorney is a very interesting reinforcement of the contrast between how Biden & Pence are properly cooperating and returning documents versus Trump stealing them, hiding them, and obstructing justice into their return,” said David Brock, president of Facts First USA.

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    Schiff jumps into California Senate race
    BY AL WEAVER 01/26/23 10:22 AM ET


    Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) officially launched his bid for the Senate on Thursday, making him the second entrant in the Democratic battle to potentially replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

    “The fight for our democracy and working families is part of the same struggle. Because if our democracy isn’t delivering for Americans, they’ll look for alternatives, like a dangerous demagogue who promises that he alone can fix it,” Schiff said in a press release. “We need a fighter in the U.S. Senate who has been at the center of the struggle for our democracy and our economy.”

    Schiff’s announcement follows Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) jumping into the race earlier this month.

    Feinstein has not said whether she will run for a sixth term in office, but she is widely expected to retire at the end of her current term. Others, including Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), are also said to be plotting potential runs for the seat.

    “I have just tremendous respect for her and—more than respect—admiration and affection,” Schiff told the Los Angeles Times of Feinstein. He said he informed her of his plans and spoke to her on Wednesday.

    “I think she will make her own decision about an announcement when she feels ready to do so,” he said. “She’s earned that right, and I certainly respect her to do that whenever she determines the time is right.”

    The news came two days after Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) followed through on his plan to boot Schiff, along with Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), from the House Intelligence Committee, which Schiff had chaired for the past four years.

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    McCarthy taps Garret Graves for resurrected House GOP leadership position
    BY EMILY BROOKS 01/26/23 11:08 AM ET


    House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) selected his close ally Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) to be chair of the Elected Leadership Committee, resurrecting the role within GOP leadership.

    The selection was made official at Wednesday’s House GOP Conference meeting, according to a GOP source. Punchbowl News first reported McCarthy’s selection of Graves on Thursday.

    The Elected Leadership Committee chair is an ad-hoc position that has not been filled in more than a decade. But resurrecting it has previously been floated as a fallback opportunity for rising stars in the House GOP. Former Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) was last appointed to the role by former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in 2010.

    In selecting Graves, McCarthy is increasing the number of his allies in House GOP leadership after making many concessions throughout a prolonged Speakership election battle at the start of the year.

    Graves was part of a small group of key negotiators, along with members like Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) and French Hill (R-Ark.), who helped craft a deal to sway 20 McCarthy detractors to support him for Speaker after multiple failed ballots.

    Punchbowl News reported that Graves will work to put further restrictions on earmarks, which were brought back in the last Congress as “community project funding” after a decadelong ban. Many members who opposed McCarthy pushed to again eliminate earmarks, but the House GOP Conference overwhelmingly rejected a resolution to ban the practice in November.

    Graves was previously the ranking member on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis in the last Congress, and is a potential contender for governor of Louisiana in 2023. He was first elected to the House in 2014.

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    Trump’s Facebook, Instagram accounts to be reinstated
    BY STEPHEN NEUKAM 01/25/23 5:12 PM ET


    Former President Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts will be reinstated in the coming weeks, according to the platforms’ parent company, Meta.

    Meta handed down a two-year ban on Trump’s accounts in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, a suspension that the company called “unprecedented.”

    Now it will unlock the accounts in the coming weeks, but will apply heightened penalties for future offenses of its user guidelines, according to a release from the company on Wednesday.

    Meta’s President for Global Affairs Nick Clegg said on Twitter after the announcement that the company had needed to determine whether the public risk that had surfaced on Jan. 6, 2021, had receded enough to allow Trump back onto the platform.

    “Our determination is that the risk has sufficiently receded, and that we should therefore adhere to the two-year timeline we set out,” the company said.

    The looming reinstatement from Facebook and Instagram comes after his Twitter account was reinstated in November after Elon Musk took over the platform. Trump has sent mixed messages about whether he will return to the platforms after communicating mainly through his own social media site, Truth Social.

    He responded to Meta’s announcement Wednesday by criticizing the initial decision to suspend him.

    “FACEBOOK, which has lost Billions of Dollars in value since ‘deplatforming’ your favorite President, me, has just announced that they are reinstating my account. Such a thing should never again happen to a sitting President, or anybody else who is not deserving of retribution!” he wrote.

    Meta said that the lifting of Trump’s ban is also coming with new guardrails to deter repeat offenders, including heightened penalties for public figures who are returning from suspension related to civil unrest.

    “The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying—the good, the bad, and the ugly—so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box,” Meta added in a statement announcing its decision.

    However, Meta added that it does not mean there are “no limits” to what people can say on its platforms.

    “When there is a clear risk of real world harm—a deliberately high bar for Meta to intervene in public discourse—we act,” it added.

    Under the new protocols, Trump’s content could be removed and he could face another suspension of between one month and two years, according to the company.

    Meta’s Oversight Board, which is the body that makes content moderation decisions on Facebook and Instagram, said in a statement after the announcement that it had no role in deciding whether to allow Trump back on the sites.

    “Today’s decision to reinstate Mr. Trump on Meta’s platforms sat with Meta alone—the Board did not have a role in the decision,” the board said.

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    College Board: States have not influenced our new African American studies course
    The College Board, in its Thursday letter to its members, said the course has “been shaped only by the input of experts and long-standing AP principles and practices.”

    01/26/2023 04:30 PM EST


    The College Board on Thursday defended its African American Studies Advanced Placement course by rebuking claims that Florida or other states have influenced its new framework that has yet to be unveiled.

    Their letter comes as Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis claimed success in potentially changing the course, and Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, a Democrat, has sent his own letter urging the nonprofit that oversees AP exams not to follow Florida’s lead, calling it “political grandstanding.”

    “To be clear, no states or districts have seen the official framework that will be released on February 1, much less provided feedback on it,” the College Board said in a letter to its membership that was obtained by POLITICO.

    The DeSantis administration made the decision earlier this month to bar high school students from taking the new course over concerns that the lessons run “contrary” to state law that restricts how race is taught in the classroom and that it “significantly lacks educational value.”

    DeSantis, who said the original coursework “pushed an agenda,” claimed victory this week after the College Board announced changes could be expected by the framework’s unveiling on Feb. 1. The state’s feedback included scrapping the lessons flagged by Florida officials, such as pieces on “Black Queer Studies,” advocacy for reparations, activism, and intersectionality, which is a piece of critical race theory.

    Critical race theory is the study of how racism has been weaved into American laws and institutions throughout history. Most public school officials across the country say they do not teach the theory.

    “We are glad the College Board has recognized that the originally submitted course curriculum is problematic, and we are encouraged to see the College Board express a willingness to amend,” Alex Lanfranconi, director of communications for the Florida Department of Education, said in a statement on Wednesday. “AP courses are standardized nationwide, and as a result of Florida’s strong stance against identity politics and indoctrination, students across the country will consequentially have access to an historically accurate, unbiased course.”

    On Wednesday, Pritzker urged the College Board to “refuse to bow to political pressure” and maintain its course. “I am extremely troubled by recent news reports that claim Governor DeSantis is pressuring the College Board to change the AP African American Studies course in order to fit Florida’s racist and homophobic laws,” he wrote, adding that he will “not accept any watering down” of history.

    The College Board, in its Thursday letter to its members, said the course has “been shaped only by the input of experts and long-standing AP principles and practices.” More than 300 professors of African American Studies from more than 200 colleges nationwide, including dozens of historically Black colleges and universities, were consulted in developing the official course framework. The yearlong framework development process was completed in December.

    “We invite everyone to read the framework for themselves when it is released; it is a historic document that deserves your attention,” the letter from College Board said.

    Andrew Atterbury and Shia Kapos contributed to this report.

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    McDaniel wins reelection as RNC chair in contentious election
    BY CAROLINE VAKIL 01/27/23 3:19 PM ET


    Ronna McDaniel won a fourth term to head the Republican National Committee (RNC) during a secret ballot vote by members on Friday, capping off a contentious election spurred by calls within the party for new leadership.

    McDaniel fended off two challengers—California attorney Harmeet Dhillon and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a staunch denier of the 2020 presidential election results.

    She received 111 votes, while Dhillon received 51 and Lindell received four. Former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), who did not ultimately make a run for RNC chair, also received one vote.

    The last three elections have proven disappointing for Republicans: The party lost the House in 2018, lost the Senate and presidency in 2020 and only gained a thin majority in the House in 2022. Many in the party cited last November’s midterms as a reason to elect fresh blood, as McDaniel oversaw the RNC through the last three elections.

    McDaniel, in brief remarks, told RNC committee members that she heard the concerns from those who voiced criticism in the wake of the November elections while also projecting unity within the party.

    “We need all of us. We heard you, grassroots. We know. We heard Harmeet, we heard Mike Lindell. But with us united and all of us going together, the Democrats are going to hear us in 2024 when we take back the White House and the Senate,” she said to applause in the room.

    While the incumbent was predicted to win, the race was another example of intraparty tensions.

    Some top Republicans, like former President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), avoided weighing in the race. But others waded in, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who told Charlie Kirk, the founder of the conservative Turning Point USA, in an interview aired Thursday, “I think we need to get some new blood in the RNC.”

    “I like what Harmeet Dhillon has said about getting the RNC out of D.C. Why would you want to have your headquarters in the most Democrat city in America? It’s more Democrat than San Francisco is,” he added.

    Dhillon’s campaign website offered the names of only 29 state chairs and RNC committee members endorsing her, noting it was a “partial list.”

    Meanwhile, more than 150 Republican donors endorsed McDaniel in the leadership race, and some lawmakers, like Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), also backed the incumbent.

    “.@GOPChairwoman has played a major role in helping turn Florida red and fighting for conservative values across the country,” Scott tweeted. “Thank you Ronna for all you’ve done to help elect strong Republicans in the Sunshine state!”

    McDaniel has defended her tenure in the RNC, arguing that she was not responsible for the way Republicans performed in the November midterms.

    “I’m not the coach. I don’t pick the players, the voters do. I don’t call the plays, the candidates pick their own plays,” she told Semafor in an interview published earlier this month.

    “I mean, we defied history in 2018, picking up three Senate seats in a midterm year. We picked up 15 seats in 2020 in the House, which was unprecedented, and then this year, winning back the House,” she also noted at the time.

    But Dhillon and some members of the party remained unconvinced, arguing that the GOP could have had better election cycles. The RNC election follows a contentious House Speaker race, which saw a group of Republicans splitting from the rest of the caucus before electing Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) in the 15th vote.

    Trump cheered on McDaniel’s win in a post on his Truth Social, writing, “Congratulations to Ronna McDaniel on her big WIN as RNC CHAIR.”

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    Memphis authorities release graphic video of police beating Tyre Nichols during arrest
    BY CHEYANNE M. DANIELS 01/27/23 7:24 PM ET


    Memphis authorities on Friday evening released graphic video showing the arrest of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who died after a traffic stop on Jan. 10.

    Federal, state, and local authorities had warned that the footage of five former police officers, who are all Black men, was horrific and appalling, bracing the Memphis community and the country for what they would see.

    Over the course of the video, officers pepper-spray, deploy a stun gun, and beat Nichols.

    Nichols can be heard repeatedly screaming for his mother throughout the beating. At least one officer can be heard repeatedly yelling for Nichols to “gimme your hands,” though Nichols already appeared to be on the ground.

    Final video footage from a police camera mounted on a pole show Nichols surrounded by the officers, with at least three simultaneously punching and kicking him. Officers who were not physically participating in the beating did not intervene or attempt to stop those who were. At least eight officers were present at the scene.

    Video of the arrest was taken from polecam, SkyCop, and police body camera footage.

    The five police officers were fired from the department last week. On Thursday, they were charged with second-degree murder and other offenses.

    The officers were part of the SCORPION unit of the Memphis police. Attorneys for Nichols’s family have called for that unit to be disbanded.

    SCORPION, or the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods unit, is a 50-person unit that polices particular areas of the city—which disproportionately end up in Black and brown communities, the attorneys argued.

    “What we’ve seen this month in Memphis and for many years in many places, is that the behavior of these units can morph into ‘wolf pack’ misconduct that takes away a person’s liberty or freedom to move, akin to a kidnapping,” attorneys Benjamin Crump and Antonio Romanucci said in an open letter.

    “These often aggressive encounters flat out destruct trust between police and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve, but as we saw in the tragic and unnecessary death of Tyre Nichols, can also lead to physical injury or death when the culture of unchecked, pro-active policing overtakes common sense.”

    Two unidentified firefighters have not been charged, but Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said Thursday it is possible more charges could be forthcoming.

    Nichols’s family had already seen the video before its release. His stepfather, Rodney Wells, called the footage “horrific.” His mother, RowVaughn Wells, said she was unable to watch the full video.

    Crump, the famed civil rights attorney representing the family, likened the footage to that of Rodney King, a Black man brutally beaten by Los Angeles police officers during a traffic stop in 1991.

    Ahead of the release, Memphis, Tenn., Police Chief Cerelyn Davis called the incident “heinous, reckless, and inhumane.”

    Davis on Friday said police decided to release the video on a Friday evening instead of during the workweek so any potential protests would not be as disruptive to people in school or at work.

    Officials in cities around the country are now calling for peaceful protests in response to the video.

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    Oct 22nd, 2022

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