“A lawyer for former Vice President Mike Pence discovered about a dozen documents marked as classified at Pence’s Indiana home last week, and he has turned those classified records over to the FBI,” CNN reports. “The FBI and the Justice Department’s National Security Division have launched a review of the documents and how they ended up in Pence’s house in Indiana.”
“The discovery comes after Pence has repeatedly said he did not have any classified documents in his possession.”
“Pence, seriously, we have this great thing going with Joe. C’mon man! And then he confessed to it. He couldn’t just destroyed it, we never would’ve known.” — Jesse Waters, on Fox News, suggesting that Mike Pence commit crimes to keep the heat on President Biden.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Sinclair Broadcasting that’s he’s known President Biden for a long time and “would be shocked” if there was anything sinister going on with his handling of classified documents.
“If you come to my house, you will find Chick-Fil-A bags all over the floor, but you’re not gonna find any classified information.” — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), on Fox News. Jeez, Lindsay, get your pool boy to do a little light cleaning.
Marcy Wheeler: “Until we have answers about some of the details that currently distinguish Biden and Pence from Trump — like whether they knew of the documents (both claim they did not), whether they ever accessed the documents after leaving office, whether we have reason to believe they’re harboring more — this should not be a story.”
“And the key difference, one that should be included in every story that tries to make such a comparison, is that Trump refused to give documents back, whereas Biden and Pence freely offered them up.”
The former roommate of Rep. George Santos (R-NY) compared him to the fraudster Anna Sorokin, who posed as a wealthy heiress to steal from businesses and members of New York’s high society, Insider reports. Gregory Morey-Parker to CBS News: “George Santos is whoever you want him to be at whatever time you want him to be. It’s just that simple. I called him the Anna Delvey of Queens.” Delvey is the name Sorokin used while enacting her con.
“Cascading revelations about New York Rep. George Santos’ pattern of lies and deception are putting increased scrutiny on powerful New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the fourth-ranking House Republican and a vocal supporter of Santos during his 2022 campaign,” CNN reports.
“Stefanik was a key validator for Santos in their shared home state and often touted the candidate in public and private forums. Several prominent GOP donors told CNN that they gave to Santos, who was largely unknown to them, because Stefanik, the state’s most influential elected Republican and a prolific fundraiser, backed him.”
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for the first time laid down what it would take to move against Rep. George Santos (R-NY), telling reporters that if the House Ethics Committee found that Santos broke the law, “then we will remove him.”
“Rep. George Santos’ congressional campaign reported dozens of transactions just cents below the threshold that would have triggered a requirement to preserve spending records — an unusual spending pattern that is now part of broader complaints about alleged financial improprieties,” Politico reports. “Santos, who admitted in December that he faked parts of his biography, already faces a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission alleging his campaign repeatedly reported suspicious expenses. Those included eight charges of exactly $199.99 at an Italian restaurant in Queens and another $199.99 charge at a Miami-area hotel where rooms do not usually go for less than $600 per night. The specific amount matters because campaigns are required by law to keep receipts or invoices for expenses greater than $200.”
Rep. George Santos (R-NY) claimed in an interview on a Brazilian podcast in December that he was the target of an assassination attempt. Said Santos: “The fear is real. It’s surreal what we live through here.”
Santos “filed a flurry of amended campaign finance reports, telling the feds, among other things, that a $500,000 loan he gave to his campaign didn’t, in fact, come from his personal funds as he’d previously claimed,” the Daily Beast reports. “However, while the new amended filing told us where the funds did not come from, it also raised a new question—where did the money come from?”
Washington Post: “Collectively, the accounts gathered by The Post offer a detailed picture of Santos’s efforts to recruit investors for Harbor City. In two instances, he inflated his own academic or professional credentials… In addition, Zoom recordings of workplace meetings show Santos offering anecdotes about his purported interactions with wealthy people — stories disputed by those involved — for potential inclusion in marketing materials or to impress prospective clients.”
“Two of the people he pitched said they did not realize until being contacted by a reporter that the man they’d known as ‘George Devolder’ was the newly elected congressman who among other things falsely claimed that his mother was working in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.”
The House GOP’s slim majority will be even slimmer for a while as Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) announced he would need “several weeks” to recover from a fractured pelvis, punctured lung, and torn neck ligaments after falling 25 feet off of a ladder.
“House Republicans have started to weigh a series of legislative proposals targeting Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, part of a broader campaign to slash federal spending that could force the new majority to grapple with some of the most difficult and delicate issues in American politics,” the Washington Post reports. “Only weeks after taking control of the chamber, GOP lawmakers under new Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) have rallied around firm pledges for austerity, insisting their efforts can improve the nation’s fiscal health. They have signaled they are willing to leverage the fight over the debt ceiling — and the threat of a fiscal doomsday — to seek major policy concessions from the Biden administration.”
Catherine Rampell: “They say they want to reduce deficits — but meanwhile have ruled out virtually every path for doing so (cuts to defense, cuts to entitlements, wiping out nondefense discretionary spending, or raising taxes).”
“Sorting out the country’s fiscal challenges is a worthwhile goal – one that should be achieved through the usual process lawmakers use for spending and taxation decisions, i.e., the budget process. There is no universe, though, in which holding the debt limit hostage (i.e., threatening not to pay our bills) would promote greater fiscal health.”
Punchbowl News: “The White House plans to invite McCarthy to meet with Biden before the Feb. 7 State of the Union. The meeting isn’t scheduled yet, and the details are still in flux. Still, both sides believe it will happen before Biden’s annual speech to Congress.”
The Economist: “That suggests that the only way through the impasse is a bruising political negotiation. There is no way to improve America’s fiscal trajectory without restructuring its entitlement programs, which some Republicans are keen for and Democrats will never accept. The result may be that the kind of self-imposed austerity that plagued the Obama years makes a comeback.”
“At the moment, neither side has any incentive to back down. Impending market cataclysm might be the only motivating factor, though it will not arrive for several months. Trillion-dollar chicken has a while yet to go.”
“Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry on Tuesday privately warned fellow House Republican leaders to be reasonable and realistic as they demand federal spending cuts in exchange for raising the nation’s debt ceiling,” Bloomberg reports. “McHenry, who has emerged as a critical player in the House’s narrow GOP majority, warned Republicans of the ramifications of a catastrophic debt default, arguing that behaving recklessly could lead to the US losing its position as the world’s dominant reserve currency.”
“As Washington prepares for a drawn-out clash over raising the debt limit, House Republican leaders are embarking on an education campaign to make sure their members understand how the debt limit works, the consequences of failing to raise the ceiling, and the difference between a garden-variety government shutdown and a potential debt default,” the Washington Post reports.
“Some GOP members have made statements on social media or in interviews that show a lack of understanding about the policy details regarding the legal limit on how much the government can borrow and what could happen if that cap isn’t increased in time.”
“Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday unilaterally exiled Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the House Intelligence Committee, making good on a longstanding threat to expel the California Democrats in his first major act of partisan retribution since taking the majority,” the New York Times reports.
“The move was a much-anticipated tit-for-tat after Democrats, then in the majority, voted in 2021 to eject two Republicans, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar, from congressional committees for internet posts that advocated violence against their political enemies. It was also payback for the decision by Nancy Pelosi, then the House speaker, to bar Republicans who had helped former President Donald Trump spread the election lies that fueled the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol from sitting on the special committee investigating the riot.”
“Now that he is in control, Mr. McCarthy sought to punish Mr. Schiff and Mr. Swalwell, two favorite foils of Republicans who had played key roles in the two impeachments of Mr. Trump, though he denied that his decision was retaliatory. Instead, he argued that both men had displayed behavior unbecoming of the committee tasked with overseeing the nation’s intelligence services.”
Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IL) slammed Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) plan to strip some Democrats’ committee seats. Said Spartz: “As I spoke against it on the House floor two years ago, I will not support this charade again.” She added that McCarthy “needs to stop ‘bread and circuses’ in Congress and start governing for a change.”
Politico: “Democratic leaders are working to have no defections on the vote to remove Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee when it comes up for a full House vote as soon as next week. And even Democrats who have vocally taken issue with her stance on Israel are now urging colleagues on both sides of the aisle to allow her to remain on the panel.”
“Taking Omar off panels only requires a simple majority vote, but even that could prove difficult for a House GOP with a historically slim margin — and a second public defector emerging Tuesday, as Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) joined Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) in declaring that she wouldn’t vote for yanking Omar.”
“Speaker Kevin McCarthy has named a mixed bag of members to Republicans’ sprawling investigative panel, including conservative hardliners, leadership allies and Rep. Jim Jordan — who represents a combination of both — to lead it,” Politico reports.
“House Republicans on Wednesday pushed for details about sales of Hunter Biden‘s artwork, an early step as they step up an investigation into the business dealings of President Biden’s son,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The Biden administration is leaning toward sending a significant number of Abrams M1 tanks to Ukraine and an announcement of the deliveries could come this week,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The announcement would be part of a broader diplomatic understanding with Germany in which Berlin would agree to send a smaller number of its own Leopard 2 tanks and would also approve the delivery of more of the German-made tanks by Poland and other nations. It would settle a trans-Atlantic disagreement over the tanks that had threatened to open fissures as the war drags into the end of its first year.”
“The Pentagon is racing to boost its production of artillery shells by 500 percent within two years, pushing conventional ammunition production to levels not seen since the Korean War as it invests billions of dollars to make up for shortfalls caused by the war in Ukraine and to build up stockpiles for future conflicts,” the New York Times reports. “The new investment in artillery production is in part a concession to reality: While the Pentagon has focused on fighting wars with small numbers of more expensive precision-guided weapons, Ukraine is largely relying on howitzers firing unguided shells.”
“The Biden administration asked Israel for the old Hawk anti-aircraft missiles it has in storage in order to transfer them to Ukraine,” Axios reports.
“Israel has so far rejected most U.S. and Ukrainian requests to provide advanced and defensive weaponry to Ukraine over concerns that such a move could create tensions with Russia and harm Israeli security interests in Syria.”
The Doomsday Clock was moved forward on Tuesday to 90 seconds to midnight, the closest it’s ever been to signaling imminent human-caused catastrophe, USA Today reports.
“In a small flourish of bipartisanship, the House overwhelmingly passed legislation to revamp federal hiring practices by enabling agencies to use skills-based assessments and real-world experience to evaluate candidates, instead of educational requirements,” Politico reports.
Politico: “Americans’ average income has beaten inflation for the past six months, driven by the plummeting cost of gas, along with drops in furniture, cars and other goods.”
“Under pressure to address the nation’s soaring housing costs, the Biden administration on Wednesday announced significant new actions to protect tenants and make renting more affordable,” the Washington Post reports.
“While inflation has fallen for the past six months, average rental prices have continued to increase rapidly, disproportionately hurting vulnerable households that spend the bulk of their budgets on rent. Meanwhile, the country is stuck in a massive housing shortfall, complicating efforts to lower costs or simply find enough places for the 44 million American renter households to go.”
Palm Beach Post: “Members arrived the second day surprised to see Trump with a five-point lead… But Trump never played the first round as he was attending a funeral in North Carolina of ardent supporter Lynette Hardaway, known by the moniker ‘Diamond’ of the conservative political commentary duo Diamond and Silk.”
“Trump told tournament organizers he played a strong round on the course Thursday, two days before the tournament started, and decided that would count as his Saturday score for the club championship. That score was five points better than any competitor posted during Saturday’s first round.”
Trump called it a “great honor” to have won.
Pope Francis criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality as “unjust,” saying God loves all his children just as they are and called on Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome LGBTQ people into the church, the AP reports.
Said Francis: “Being homosexual isn’t a crime.”
“Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has introduced a bill that would ban members of Congress from trading and owning stocks, using the name of his legislation to take a jab at Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA),” The Hill reports. “Hawley on Tuesday introduced the Pelosi Act — or the Preventing Elected Leaders from Owning Securities and Investments Act — renewing a legislative push to curtail stock trading by lawmakers that has failed over the last few years.”
Hawley said that he would also introduce a bill to ban the short video app TikTok in the United States, Reuters reports. Said Hawley: “TikTok is China’s backdoor into Americans’ lives. It threatens our children’s privacy as well as their mental health. Now I will introduce legislation to ban it nationwide.”
The Georgia prosecutor investigating former President Donald Trump and his allies for possible criminal interference in that state’s 2020 presidential election told a judge Tuesday that decisions on whether and whom to charge in the probe “are imminent,” CNBC reports. “Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis cited that plan during a hearing in Atlanta, where she urged the judge to keep sealed for now a final special grand jury report that was assembled to gather evidence and hear testimony for that investigation.”
David Graham: “What actually will happen is unpredictable. We don’t know what pieces of evidence—or even what investigations—might exist that aren’t public, we don’t know how prosecutors will wield the discretion the law affords them, and, of course, we don’t know how a jury might fall on any charges that end up being tried.”
“But the mountains of evidence already before the public—about Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election, about his handling of government documents, and about his previous interactions with the justice system—suggest a fierce conflict to come.” Said former federal prosecutor Paul Rosenzweig: “He has learned that due process is the Achilles’ heel of liberal democracy. He’s weaponized the court systems all of his life.”
Several House Republicans are declining invitations to attend a White House reception for freshman House members on Tuesday evening in protest of the event’s Covid rules, Axios reports.
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