“Joe Biden wants to keep roughing up his opponents over Social Security and Medicare,” Semafor reports.
“The president earned a memorable shower of boos from Republican lawmakers during this week’s State of the Union, after he accused them of using the debt ceiling as leverage to wrangle cuts from the programs. On Thursday, he’s headed to Tampa, Fla. for a speech the White House says will double down on the issue.”
“Clearly, having the House Republican caucus behaving the way they are, and are signaling strongly they will continue to behave, is going to give the president an easy contrast. What the House Republican caucus is doing for him is giving him a way to draw a contrast between what he is for — what he’s trying to get done, and who he’s trying to get it done for — with the House Republicans.”— White House adviser Anita Dunn, quoted by the New York Times.
Washington Post: “Biden, with no presumptive Republican opponent likely to emerge for months, appears happy to run against the outspoken House Republican conference, which he portrays as controlled by extremist figures. And the newly powerful Republican lawmakers seem to relish depicting Biden as an elderly president who is out of his depth.”
“Biden and a set of vocal House Republicans seemed satisfied with the verbal brawling. White House officials let it be known that the exchanges prompted applause and high-fives among Biden aides, some of whom had gathered around televisions in the office of White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) — who during the speech cupped her hands around her mouth and screamed ‘Liar!’ — recorded a video just minutes after leaving the chamber bragging about her outburst.”
Democratic political consultant James Carville described Republican lawmakers who heckled President Biden during his State of the Union speech as “white trash,” the HuffPost reports.
Said Carville: “I tell people I have the equivalent of a PhD in white trashology, and we saw real white trash on display.”
He added: “The level of white trashdom in the Republican Party is staggering. I mean, for somebody that has observed it for a long time like I have, I’ve never seen it manifest itself on a level that it’s manifesting itself.”
Top House Republicans, including Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), defended their members for heckling President Biden and calling him a “liar” during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, ABC News reports.
Said McCarthy on Fox News: “Well, the president was trying to goad the members, and the members are passionate about it — but the one thing that the president was saying was something that he knew was not true.”
New York Times: “The repeated outbursts that interrupted the State of the Union address encapsulated the ethos of the new Republican majority, which styles itself after former President Donald Trump.”
“House Republicans are divided on whether the raucous heckling of President Biden during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night was inappropriate — or whether it helped them effectively communicate their position to the American public,” The Hill reports.
“Many Republicans thought the uproar in response to Biden’s comment accusing Republicans of wanting to sunset Social Security and Medicare was justified, blaming the president for ‘instigating’ a desired reaction that would put Republicans in a bad light. But some expressed doubts about the rowdiness that followed.”
“Rep. George Santos’ (R-NY) work for a company that allegedly orchestrated a Ponzi scheme attracted scrutiny from federal regulators, according to a witness who has fielded questions from investigators,” CBS News reports.
“Santos has said he wasn’t aware of any wrongdoing at Harbor City, where he began working in 2020. He was not named in the SEC’s complaint against the firm, but a childhood friend said federal investigators called her after she spoke publicly about witnessing Santos’ investment pitch.”
“Rep. George Santos (R-NY) was charged with theft in Pennsylvania’s Amish Country in 2017 after a series of bad checks were written in his name to dog breeders,” Politico reports. “The charge was dismissed and his record expunged after Santos claimed someone had stolen his checkbook.”
Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA) will introduce an expulsion resolution against Rep. George Santos (R-CA) this afternoon, CBS News reports.
Chad Wolf, who served as Trump’s acting homeland security secretary, spent four hours under questioning by Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team investigating the 2020 election subversion scheme, Bloomberg reports:
Wolf sat for a four-hour recorded discussion under oath a few weeks ago with several FBI agents and Justice Department lawyers rather than appear before a federal grand jury, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
“Former national security adviser Robert O’Brien has been subpoenaed by special counsel Jack Smith in both his investigation into classified documents found at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and the probe related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election,” CNN reports.
“O’Brien has been asserting executive privilege in declining to provide some of the information that prosecutors are seeking from him.”
“O’Brien considered resigning from his post over Trump’s response to the violence on January 6, 2021, but ultimately decided to remain in the job… The National Security Council should have been involved in the handling of classified documents at end of the Trump presidency, and O’Brien may have knowledge of how those records ended up at Mar-a-Lago.”
The House passed a resolution Thursday condemning China for its “brazen violation of United States sovereignty” and seeking more information from the White House, the latest development in the spy balloon saga that has gripped Washington since late last week, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The resolution passed 419-0.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), leaving a classified briefing on China, said that he believes the Biden administration made the right decision to wait and shoot down the suspected spy balloon — breaking with most Republicans, CNN reports.
Said Romney: “I believe that the administration, the president, our military and intelligence agencies, acted skillfully and with care. At the same time, their capabilities are extraordinarily impressive. Was everything done 100% correctly? I can’t imagine that would be the case of almost anything we do. But I came away more confident.”
“A day before the suspected Chinese spy balloon entered US airspace over Alaska, the Defense Intelligence Agency quietly sent an internal report that a foreign object was headed towards US territory,” CNN reports.
“The report – also known as a ‘tipper’ – was disseminated through classified channels accessible across the US government. But it wasn’t flagged as an urgent warning and top defense and intelligence officials who saw it weren’t immediately alarmed by it.”
“The Chinese balloon that crossed the U.S. was outfitted with antennas likely capable of collecting communications, a senior State Department official said Thursday, adding that the Biden administration is preparing to take action against China’s surveillance program,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Providing details the U.S. has gathered since tracking and shooting down the balloon, the official said the balloon was also equipped with large solar panels capable of powering an array of intelligence-collection sensors. The manufacturer of the balloon has a direct relationship with the Chinese military.”
“As President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy begin talks over the debt limit and federal spending, CBO reports that the nation’s fiscal outlook has grown slightly worse in recent months. This is going to make a bipartisan deal that much harder to reach,” Punchbowl News reports.
“The federal government took in just under $1.5 trillion during the first four months of FY2023 (October to January) while spending topped $1.9 trillion.”
“The federal budget deficit is widening rapidly, according to the latest estimates by the Congressional Budget Office, raising the risk of the Treasury running out of cash earlier than expected amid a debt-ceiling standoff,” Bloomberg reports.
“The CBO figures show that spending is picking up, while revenues are coming in weaker than last year. In 2022, the Treasury enjoyed a record tax haul, thanks in part to booming job and wage growth, along with the powerful rallies in financial markets in 2021 that yielded funds via capital-gains levies. But market routs last year suggest tax revenues from that source will now be much weaker.”
Donald Trump’s official Facebook and Instagram accounts have officially been restored, the Washington Free Beacon reports. “It is unclear whether Trump will use the platform—though the former president was reinstated on Twitter last November, he has still not used his account, opting instead to use his own platform, Truth Social.”
Daily Beast: “The last-minute surprise centers on the one piece of physical evidence—an infamous black coat dress—that Carroll says she was wearing when he allegedly forced her against a wall at a Manhattan department store and sexually assaulted her.”
“For three years, Carroll has hectored Trump over the tantalizing prospect that his DNA is still on the dress—a prospect that’s been made even more tantalizing because Trump won’t submit to a DNA test.”
“So it seems like a bombshell development that, last week, Trump finally agreed he will—at some point—let his lawyers collect a sample of his DNA for comparison.”
“The truth, as with most things involving Trump, is far more complex.”
“President Biden focused attention on the role his staff played while packing up his papers after he left government, suggesting that documents marked classified were found in various locations that he used after leaving the vice presidency because workers didn’t do a thorough job sifting through his papers,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Said Biden: “As they packed up my offices to move them, they didn’t do the kind of job that should have been done to go thoroughly through every single piece of literature that’s there.”
“A U.N. aid convoy has crossed into rebel-held northwest Syria through Turkey, the first since the earthquake disaster flattened neighborhoods in both countries,” the Washington Post reports.
“The combined death toll climbed above 20,000 on Thursday, with rescuers racing against time to find survivors in the frigid cold.”
“Turkey’s stock exchange suspended trading for the first time in 24 years, following a selloff that erased $35 billion from the value of its main equities gauge in the wake of two devastating earthquakes,” Bloomberg reports.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Russia-U.S. relations are in a state of “unprecedented crisis” without any sign of improvement, the AP reports.
Said Ryabkov: “I don’t see any prospect for a productive political and diplomatic process. We have a very deep and unprecedented crisis in Russia-U.S. relations. The Biden administration has driven them into a deadlock.”
“Iran appears to be modifying the attack drones it’s providing to Russia so that the explosive warheads can inflict maximum damage on infrastructure targets inside Ukraine,” CNN reports.
“Iran has given Russia hundreds of drones to use in its war in Ukraine, many of which have targeted Ukraine’s power grid and energy facilities to devastating effect. The drone attacks, as well as barrages by Russian missiles, have left Ukrainian civilians across the country without heat, electricity or running water during the freezing winter months.”
The new more aggressive posture from Hunter Biden that I mentioned last week is taking on more concrete shape:
Washington attorney Abbe Lowell, who took over as Biden’s counsel in December, sent the “litigation hold” letters on Wednesday to 14 people allegedly linked to efforts to generate coverage critical of the 53-year-old son of President Joe Biden, according to a person familiar with the development.
Politico: “The turf battle has flown largely under the radar, but it threatens to undermine one of House Republicans’ most highly visible priorities for their new majority. Investigating Hunter Biden is one of the few things they could do unilaterally, at least in theory. But the DOJ looms as a potential roadblock.”
“In fact, Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-KY) suggested in a brief interview with Politico that the Justice Department should hold off on issuing any indictment against Hunter Biden so Republicans can complete their probe.”
“Over the last few years, a new variant of H5N1 has spread widely through wild and domestic bird populations around the world. It has taken an unusually heavy toll on wild birds and repeatedly spilled over into mammals, such as foxes, raccoons and bears, that might feed on infected birds,” the New York Times reports.
“But a recent mink farm outbreak was a new and troubling development, scientists said.”
“The global bird flu outbreak is worsening, highlighting the challenge farmers and officials face in reining in the deadly virus,” Bloomberg reports.
“Farms across Europe and North America have suffered severe outbreaks, and cases are also picking up in South America — including in Bolivia, which borders major chicken producer Brazil. Egg-laying hens have been among the hardest hit, boosting prices of the grocery staple and further squeezing consumers.”
Eighteen states already have restrictions on the pills, many of them as part of near-total bans on abortion. But a ruling from Kacsmaryk — an appointee of former President Donald Trump — could either cut off access to the drugs in the mostly Democratic-led states where they remain legal or reinstate rules mandating that patients only be able to receive them in-person from a physician. Kacsmaryk previously worked for a conservative group, First Liberty Institute, that brought cases aimed at restricting abortion access.
“The Supreme Court has failed to reach consensus on an ethics code of conduct specific to the nine justices despite internal discussion dating back at least four years,” the Washington Post reports.
“President Joe Biden and Joe Manchin met at the White House about a month ago on a topic that’s critically important to the West Virginia senator: implementing the sweeping tax, climate and health care law that both men shaped,” Politico reports.
“And if you ask Manchin, things have not gone well since that huddle. That’s because the West Virginia Democrat is livid about how his party’s president and his administration are rolling out a party-line bill that served as a crowning achievement for both men — and he’s particularly peeved at a delay in new guidelines on who gets the law’s generous electric vehicle tax credits.”
“In addition to lobbying the president at the previously unreported Jan. 3 sitdown, Manchin has introduced a bill that would halt the credits until Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen implements strict requirements for electric-vehicle battery sourcing. As Manchin sees it, using the credit to boost U.S.-manufactured rather than overseas-made vehicles is essential to making the law succeed.”
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) “has turned over hundreds and hundreds of private emails, text messages and diary entries to reporter McCay Coppins for a book coming in October — including real-time communications among many of the most powerful figures in American politics,” Axios reports.
“This volume of disclosure is unheard of for a major sitting officeholder — a trove historians dream of but rarely get. The emails and journal pages span Romney’s 2012 campaign as the Republican presidential nominee.”
“For nearly two years, Romney secretly met with Coppins, a staff writer for The Atlantic and fellow member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the Mormons.”
“Speaker Kevin McCarthy vowed during his party’s campaign to win control of the House that things would be different when Republicans took over, with new policies on the agenda, new people in charge and ‘something that hasn’t been done in years’: a new ritual of reading every single word of the Constitution aloud from the floor on Day 1,” the New York Times reports.
“That did not happen. On Day 1, Mr. McCarthy was embarking on an epic negotiation to win over right-wing holdouts in what would become a grueling, 15-ballot election to become speaker, preparing a broad set of concessions he would ultimately make to win the post. And he has been slow to get started on the ambitious policy agenda Republicans have laid out.”
“But on Tuesday, 35 days after the dawn of their majority and hours before President Biden was set to give his State of the Union address in the chamber, Republicans stood one by one for a 43-minute recitation of the document. It was the latest in a string of symbolic actions the party has taken — many of them aimed at signaling patriotism and a devotion to the nation’s founding principles — to show that the House is under new management.”
Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh will be formally installed as the next Executive Director of the NHL Players’ Association in the coming days following the State of the Union address by Presiden Biden, the Daily Faceoff reports.
Playbook: “His contract is expected to include a roughly $3 million annual salary and allow him to live in Boston.”
Two sources tell NBC News that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has been making calls to the White House and labor leaders on behalf of former Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) to replace Labor Secretary Marty Walsh when he formally steps down.
However, other sources say that Julie Su, formerly Secretary of Labor in California and currently Walsh’s deputy, is the heavy favorite.