“As the Justice Department investigated who was behind leaks of classified information early in the Trump administration, it took a highly unusual step: Prosecutors subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, aides and family members. One was a minor,” the New York Times reports.
“All told, the records of at least a dozen people tied to the committee were seized in 2017 and early 2018, including those of Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, then the panel’s top Democrat and now its chairman.”
“The zeal in the Trump administration’s efforts to hunt leakers led to the extraordinary step of subpoenaing communications metadata from members of Congress — a nearly unheard-of move outside of corruption investigations.”
NBC News: Schiff calls for inquiry after report that Trump DOJ targeted Democrats in Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Dick Durbin said that Donald Trump’s former attorney generals, William Barr and Jeff Sessions, “must testify before the Senate judiciary committee under oath.” They added: “If they refuse, they are subject to being subpoenaed and compelled to testify under oath.”
Aaron Blake: Trump’s ever-present — and still growing — exploitation of the Justice Department.
“Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced Friday that his office is launching a probe following reports that the department had sought the records of journalists and prominent critics of former president Donald Trump on the House Intelligence Committee,” the Washington Post reports.
CNN: New Trump scandal shows the depth of his assault on America’s democratic foundations.
Politico: “In a phone interview, Barr said he didn’t recall getting briefed on the moves… Barr also said that while he was attorney general, he was ‘not aware of any congressman’s records being sought in a leak case.’” He also said Trump never encouraged him to target the Democratic lawmakers in this case.
“Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday plans to announce steps that the Justice Department can take to secure voting rights,” the New York Times reports. “Mr. Garland’s plans, expected to be announced Friday afternoon, come as Republican-led state legislatures push to enact new restrictive voting laws.”
“Interviews with more than a dozen election workers and top officials – and a review of disturbing texts, voicemails and emails that they and their families received – reveal the previously hidden breadth and severity of the menacing tactics,” Reuters reports.
Two particularly disturbing incidents come from Tricia Raffensperger, wife of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R-GA): “In late November, the family went into hiding for nearly a week after intruders broke into the home of the Raffenspergers’ widowed daughter-in-law, an incident the family believed was intended to intimidate them. That evening, people who identified themselves to police as Oath Keepers – a far-right militia group that has supported Trump’s bid to overturn the election – were found outside the Raffenspergers’ home.”
She also received a chilling text message: “You and your family will be killed very slowly.”
Brad Raffensperger: “The continuing false claims of a stolen election have led to violent/death threats, intimidation, and claims of prison time coming for elections workers. They keep coming. Real leaders need to take steps to stop it. So far they haven’t.”
Ron Brownstein: “While Sen. Joe Manchin is demanding that both parties agree on any further federal voting-rights legislation, a new study quantifies how completely Republicans have excluded Democrats from the passage of the restrictive voting laws proliferating in red states.”
“In places such as Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, and Montana, the most restrictive laws approved this year have passed on total or near-complete party-line votes, with almost all state legislative Republicans voting for the bills and nearly all Democrats uniting against them.”
“That pattern of unrelenting partisanship has left many state-level Democrats incredulous at the repeated insistence by Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, that he will support new federal voting-rights legislation only if at least some Republican senators agree to it.”
“If democracy were in jeopardy, I would want to protect it. But I don’t see it being in jeopardy right now.” — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), quoted by Forbes, when asked about some Democrats saying they would choose democracy over the filibuster.
Reuters: “A third member of a panel of outside advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has resigned in protest over the agency’s decision to approve Biogen Inc’s Alzheimer’s disease treatment despite the committee’s recommendation against doing so.”
“The 11-member committee voted nearly unanimously in November that Biogen’s drug should not be approved, citing inconclusive evidence that the drug was effective.”
“President Biden is increasingly unlikely to get his corporate or individual tax hikes, at least without reconciliation, and most venture capital firms are keeping their fingers crossed instead of prepping tax avoidance strategies,” Axios reports.
“VC lawyers and CFOs have spent the past couple of months discussing new fund structures that could offset the elimination of carried interest’s beneficial tax treatment, as proposed last month by the U.S. Treasury Department.”
“The most popular suggestion is to create special purpose vehicles for a fund’s nonmarketable securities, contributed in-kind via general partners, thus effectively locking in the carried interest. This would essentially be a tax deferral scheme, with the hope that a future president would reverse the carried interest move and/or lower capital gains rates.”
The Oregon House voted 59 to 1 to expel Rep. Mike Nearman (R), the first time it has ejected a sitting representative, the Oregonian reports. “Lawmakers removed Nearman because he let far-right demonstrators, some of whom were armed, into the Capitol on Dec. 21 while lawmakers were holding a special session. The Capitol was closed to the public due to the pandemic and remains so.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) “announced that Texas will build a border wall along the state’s boundary with Mexico — but provided no details on where or when,” the Texas Tribune reports. Abbott also directed Texas State Troopers to arrest migrants.
“A number of Democrats are growing increasingly nervous that the White House could agree to a bipartisan infrastructure deal that scales back key climate-change initiatives, prompting a lobbying push that has included former vice president Al Gore making his case directly to President Biden,” the Washington Post reports.
“The private warning last month from the climate hawk and Democratic grandee comes as Biden faces growing unease among liberals — including many administration officials — about his pursuit of Republican support for his next major spending package.”
“President Biden’s relentless focus on passing an infrastructure bill is increasingly dividing his party, as many Democrats fear that the drawn-out negotiations could derail the rest of Biden’s agenda and imperil what they see as the urgent need to protect voting rights,” the Washington Post reports.
“Biden initially consolidated Democrats behind his legislative strategy, but that support is eroding amid Republican-led efforts to restrict voting in key states. Prominent Democrats warn that as talks drag on, Biden risks ending up without either an infrastructure bill or legislation to derail a Republican electoral advantage that could last a generation. Now, some are pressuring Biden to shift his focus and make voting rights his top priority.”
One big problem: Democrats don’t have the votes in the Senate to pass a voting rights overhaul.
Peggy Noonan: “I want to say something about the meaning of 1/6 and why it is so important we set ourselves to knowing all that happened that day.
“It’s not just ‘the past’ and we can’t just ‘move on.’ It’s a story that’s still happening.”
“People experienced it differently. Most of us were chilled and horrified as we saw the pictures of men in assault gear climbing the face of the Capitol, breaking in, swarming the Rotunda. It was a shock to see the Capitol breached.”
“But some weren’t horrified.”
A California police chief turned “Stop the Steal” organizer has been indicted on conspiracy charges by a D.C. grand jury—along with five other alleged Capitol rioters, the Daily Beast reports. The men are members of the Three Percenters militia group, and brought two-way radios, bear spray, knives, stun batons, bulletproof vests, and a range of other weaponry to use in storming the Capitol.
A government watchdog has determined that — despite media reporting at the time — police did not clear Lafayette Park last summer so Trump could pose for his now-infamous photo holding a Bible, ABC News reports.
“The Interior Department’s inspector general did not determine whether law enforcement acted inappropriately against demonstrators last year and did not focus on individual incidents of police use of force, but found that poor communication between agencies and ineffective dispersal warnings ‘may have contributed to confusion during the operation and the use of tactics that appeared inconsistent’ with initial plans.”
Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Sims (D) was booed and then had his microphone cut off after calling a Republican abortion restriction bill “one more unnecessary overreach in a grossly, predictably misogynistic agenda — an agenda pursued by a party that is 100% white, in a chamber that is 70% male.” Replied Sims: “Your boos mean nothing to me. I’ve seen what makes you cheer.”
Associated Press: “In what appear to be the final days of his historic 12-year rule, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not leaving the political stage quietly.”
“The longtime leader is accusing his opponents of betraying their voters, and some have needed special security protection. Netanyahu says he is the victim of a ‘deep state’ conspiracy. He speaks in apocalyptic terms when talking about the country without his leadership.”
Bloomberg: “The disclosure of the personal income and tax data of some of the wealthiest Americans has been referred to additional federal investigators to probe the leak of confidential information, an Internal Revenue Service official said.”
Politico: “Ways and Means Committee Republicans on Thursday said the leak of tax information on rich Americans like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and other billionaires erodes trust in the IRS and should disqualify President Joe Biden’s proposals to boost agency enforcement. GOP members of the panel — without citing evidence — blamed IRS insiders for the criminal breach of private taxpayer data, and suggested the timing was fishy.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) told Steve Bannon on his podcast that she does not believe in evolution, preferably accepting the teaching of the Bible instead. Said Greene: “I don’t believe in evolution… I don’t believe in that type of so-called science. I don’t believe in evolution. I believe in God.”
CNBC: “An unprecedented wave of evictions could come crashing down on the U.S. when the CDC’s national eviction moratorium expires at the end of this month.”
“Even as the pandemic fades and signs of normalcy return, more than 10 million Americans, or 14% of U.S. renters, are still behind on their housing payments.”
The Hill: “With a rare joint statement, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her entire leadership team on Thursday sought to quell a growing controversy over Rep. Ilhan Omar’s remarks equating war crimes committed by the U.S. and Israel to those by the Taliban and Hamas terrorist groups.”
“The joint statement came after Omar responded to a request from a dozen Jewish House Democrats to ‘clarify’ what she meant in her original remarks.”