David Ignatius: “The public spectacle of a spy balloon floating over America has been an embarrassment for the Biden administration, to be sure. But the administration can claim that it waited for the most opportune moment to destroy the balloon and capture its secret payload — and that the strange affair was a net intelligence plus for the United States…”
“The secrets part of the story should be clearer if the Pentagon recovers the intelligence-collection pod that the balloon was carrying, as officials expected on Saturday would be possible. The pod apparently fell into the Atlantic largely intact, the official said, and it should provide a useful opportunity to examine and reverse-engineer Chinese intelligence and communications systems.”
“Thus, from an intelligence standpoint, Pentagon officials believe that the strange week-long balloon voyage was ultimately of more benefit to the United States than to China. By waiting until the balloon was over U.S. territorial waters, the Biden administration was able to maximize the likelihood that the pod could be recovered while minimizing the risk that Americans would be injured by falling debris.”
NBC News: “The 2024 presidential race looms large over Biden’s State of the Union address, even though he has yet to announce whether he’s running for re-election. With a captive audience that traditionally assembles once a year, he isn’t about to pass up the chance to explain why voters should give him a second term.”
“Biden will use the speech to reach a wider audience that may have only a passing interest in politics and policy, and assure its members that he’s enacted plans that will make their daily commutes shorter and their prescription drug bills lower, a person close to the White House said.”
The Hill: Five things Biden is likely to say and not say in the State of the Union.
“President Joe Biden and the White House are launching a new offensive against House Republicans, blasting the party for eyeing Medicare cuts in a bid to paint the GOP as trying to harm seniors,” Politico reports.
“This morning, the White House will issue a release singling out a bill just filed by freshman Rep. Andy Ogles (R-TN) that would repeal the Inflation Reduction Act. The White House notes that the Democratic bill allowed Medicare to negotiate lower drug costs, which AARP cheered as a “historic measure” that would save seniors money. It also limited annual out-of-pocket drug costs to $2,000 and capped co-pays for insulin at $35 for those on Medicare.”
“They’ll be releasing state-by-state data indicating how this would affect constituents in different areas.”
“A prospective congressional aide has accused Representative George Santos of ethics violations and sexual harassment, according to a letter the man sent to the House Committee on Ethics and posted to Twitter on Friday,” the New York Times reports.
“The man, Derek Myers, briefly worked in Mr. Santos’s office before his job offer was rescinded earlier this week, according to the letter.”
“Mr. Myers said in the letter that he was alone with Mr. Santos in his office on Jan. 25 when the congressman asked him whether he had a profile on Grindr, a popular gay dating app. Then, he said, Mr. Santos invited him to karaoke and touched his groin, assuring him that his husband was out of town.”
“Add Broadway producer to the long list of George Santos’s fabrications,” Bloomberg reports.
“While running for Congress in 2021, Santos told some potential donors he was a producer on the musical Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, according to people familiar with the discussions. That show, which ran from 2011 to 2014, was an ill-fated production that lost tens of millions of dollars and suffered from technical mishaps and actor injuries.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) is asking the Secret Service for “all documents and communications related to visitor information” related to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and former Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana residence, Politico reports.
“The U.S. reached an agreement that gives it access to four more military bases in the Philippines, broadening Washington’s efforts to counter China’s influence and strengthening an alliance that a few years ago appeared in danger of collapse,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Pete Buttigieg said Thursday that he’s planning on staying in his job as Transportation secretary, which he called “the best job in the federal government,” Politico reports. Said Buttigieg: “I don’t have any plans to do any job besides the one I’ve got.”
“He swatted aside questions about any plans to run for president in 2024 or a bid for an open Senate seat in Michigan.”
“Rep. Elise Stefanik, who became a GOP favorite by aggressively defending former President Trump, is in position to be a bigger player on the national stage — possibly as his 2024 running mate,” Axios reports. “Stefanik will be a prominent voice on the high-profile House panel investigating what Republicans call the ‘weaponization’ of U.S. law enforcement and security agencies against conservatives.”
New York Times: “Rarely has a lobbyist enjoyed the access to a House speaker that Jeff Miller has with Mr. McCarthy, a California Republican. As Mr. McCarthy has gained power, Mr. Miller’s prominent place in his orbit has drawn increased scrutiny from watchdog groups that track political influence as well as from conservatives who see him as an unaccountable power behind the throne whose presence is starkly at odds with their increasingly populist, anti-corporate message.”
“The House Judiciary Committee fired off its first subpoenas under the leadership of Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), targeting a trio of Biden administration officials including Attorney General Merrick Garland over a short-lived memo dealing with threats against school board members,” The Hill reports.
“The subpoenas, sent also to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, follow a series of more than 100 letters on the 2021 memo from Judiciary Republicans.”
Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) was overheard in an elevator on Capitol Hill calling the vote to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from the Foreign Affairs Committee the “stupidest vote in the world,” the Daily Beast reports.
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), who was reportedly next to him in the elevator, agreed and added that the action could make Omar a “martyr.”
It’s worth noting that both Buck and Simpson voted in favor anyway.
Said Clyde: “I hear that this little pin that I’ve been giving out on the House floor has been triggering some of my Democratic colleagues. Well, I give it out to remind people of the Second Amendment of the Constitution and how important it is in preserving our liberties.”
“The assault-rifle pins have angered Democrats, who began noticing them in recent days before they knew of their origin.”
“Former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign will pay $450,000 as part of a settlement of a long court fight over its use of nondisclosure agreements,“ the New York Times reports.
“The proposed settlement with Jessica Denson, a former campaign aide whom the campaign tried to silence as she claimed she was the target of abusive treatment and sexual discrimination by another campaign member, effectively invalidates the nondisclosure agreements that hundreds of officials from Mr. Trump’s first presidential run signed.”
“The North Carolina Supreme Court, which flipped to a Republican majority with last year’s elections, said Friday it would rehear a redistricting case and a voter ID case – cases that the state’s GOP legislature had lost when they were previously before the state’s highest court,” CNN reports.
“The redistricting case has since traveled to the US Supreme Court, where the justices have been weighing whether to hand down a far-reaching decision that would transform the authority state courts have to place limits on how state legislatures configure election rules. The US Supreme Court heard the redistricting case – Moore v. Harper – in December but is not expected to issue a decision until spring or early summer.”
Washington Post: “The showdown in North Carolina reflects similar efforts underway in several conservative states that have become destinations for post-Roe abortion care. In Florida and Nebraska — where laws still allow the vast majority of abortions to continue — conservatives are also pushing for six-week bans, which, together with the same kind of ban in North Carolina, could dramatically reshape the national abortion landscape once again.”
CNN: “Jordan allies have gone out of their way in recent weeks to claim the usually hyper-partisan attack dog wants to take a more methodical approach in turning up the heat on his primary target – the Biden Justice Department. … But around Washington, skepticism abounds.”
Washington Post: “On any given day now, the new GOP majority posts a half-dozen or more members on CNN and MSNBC — two networks that increasingly became no-go zones for conservative lawmakers in the Trumpian era of ‘fake news’ attacks. Republicans have appeared on streaming network news shows online and done interviews on those nightly news shows for cable.”