Former Vice President Mike Pence became the latest prominent Republican to propose sunsetting Social Security and Medicare, telling Fox News that “we can replace the New Deal with a better deal.”
“Top House Republicans are exploring significant changes to the nation’s food stamps program, including benefit cuts and stricter work requirements, as some in the new majority scramble for ways to slash government spending this year,” the Washington Post reports.
“The early discussions have come in the context of the budget, as GOP leaders look to deliver on their promise to eliminate the federal deficit over the next decade. But their policy decisions could carry great consequences for the roughly 41 million people who receive monthly food aid — and find themselves scrounging in the face of high bills.”
“House Republicans are planning a series of attention-grabbing hearings outside of Washington, guided by a 15-page, private playbook,” Axios reports.
“Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) has amended his 12-point Rescue America plan to say that his proposal to sunset all federal legislation in five years does not apply to Social Security, Medicare or the U.S. Navy,” The Hill reports. Too late, Rick.
Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) who was hospitalized last week after feeling lightheaded, checked himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Wednesday night to receive treatment for clinical depression, the New York Times reports.
Said Adam Jentleson, his chief of staff: “While John has experienced depression off and on throughout his life, it only became severe in recent weeks.”
“The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency got a first-hand look Thursday at the toll left by a freight train derailment in Ohio, where toxic chemicals spilled or were burned off, leaving the stench of fresh paint nearly two weeks later,” the AP reports. “EPA Administrator Michael Regan, who walked along a creek that still reeks of chemicals, sought to reassure skeptical residents that the water is fit for drinking and the air safe to breathe around East Palestine, where just under 5,000 people live near the Pennsylvania state line.”
Said Regan: “I’m asking they trust the government.”
“A Georgia judge on Thursday released parts of a report produced by an Atlanta-area special grand jury investigating efforts by President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia — though the panel’s recommendations on potential charges will remain secret,” the Washington Post reports.
A key finding: “We find by unanimous vote that no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election.”
Another one: “A majority of the Grand Jury believes that perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses testifying before it. The Grand Jury recommends that the District Attorney seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling.”
The rest of the panel’s findings will remain sealed — including what the judge described as “a roster of who should (or should not) be indicted, and for what, in relation to the conduct (and aftermath) of the 2020 general election in Georgia.”
Donald Trump reacts on Truth Social: “Thank you to the Special Grand Jury in the Great State of Georgia for your Patriotism & Courage. Total exoneration. The USA is very proud of you!!!”
Since that’s not what the excerpts of the special grand jury report said, it’s safe to conclude he’s worried he’ll be Indicted.
David Kurtz: “I remain baffled by how long it’s taken the Justice Department to pull the trigger on this subpoena (assuming it’s the first and only subpoena of Meadows in its Jan. 6 probe, and there’s no sign of any others). Clearly, Meadows is so high up in the scheme that you wouldn’t start with him, but even allowing for working your way through other witnesses first, this has taken an extraordinarily long time to come to fruition. Only now will litigation kick off over the claims and privileges Meadows will likely assert as grounds not to comply with the subpoena, another source of delay.”
Elie Honig: “Merrick Garland couldn’t have subpoenaed Mike Pence and Mark Meadows in, say, late 2021… why, exactly?”
“The most prominent stars and highest-ranking executives at Fox News privately ridiculed claims of election fraud in the 2020 election, despite the right-wing channel allowing lies about the presidential contest to be promoted on its air, damning messages contained in a Thursday court filing revealed,” CNN reports.
“The messages, included in a legal filing as part of Dominion Voting System’s $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox News, showed that Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham brutally mocked lies being pushed by former President Donald Trump’s camp asserting that the election was rigged.”
“Fox News Chairman Rupert Murdoch emailed CEO Suzanne Scott in November 2020 to say then-President Donald Trump was toast, and that the network should focus on boosting Republican U.S. Senate candidates in Georgia,” Mediaite reports.
Wrote Murdoch: “These people should be watched, if skeptically. Trump will concede eventually and we should concentrate on Georgia, helping any way we can. We don’t want to antagonize Trump further, but Giuliani taken with a large grain of salt. Everything at stake here.”
President Biden remains “a healthy, vigorous, 80-year-old male who is fit to successfully execute duties of the presidency,” his physician wrote in a memo released hours after the president underwent a routine annual physical on Thursday morning, the Washington Post reports.
New York Times: “There was no indication in Dr. O’Connor’s letter on Thursday that Mr. Biden had undergone any kind of mental capability assessment like the Montreal (MoCA) or other screening tests, which can be done in a few minutes and which are considered sensitive to early changes hinting at dementia.”
“Dr. Thomas Wisniewski, the director of cognitive neurology at N.Y.U.-Langone Medical Center, said in an interview that all 80-year-olds should have such minimal mental-screening tests as part of a general assessment.”
“Dr. Wisniewski said the testing should be done not because a physician suspects that something is wrong in a patient, but because the incidence of dementia in 80-year-old patients is sizable, about 30 percent. Performing the test does not imply one has dementia or a problem, he said.”
Joe Perticone: “Elon Musk’s unstable reign at Twitter is continuing to draw media attention. At times, the Tesla billionaire has behaved in ways that would appear to run afoul of the standard Republican criticisms of Big Tech: He has arbitrarily changed the platform’s rules to benefit himself, altered algorithms to fit his personal agenda, and colluded with powerful officials and sympathetic journalists to shape his company’s public narrative.”
“That’s why it’s so strange that Musk’s antics do not appear to have irked any Republicans.”
“Tesla will open some of its fast chargers, which had been exclusive to its customers, to all electric vehicles by the end of next year, the Biden administration said on Wednesday as it announced a broad effort to improve charging and encourage more people to buy battery-powered vehicles,” the New York Times reports.
“President Biden said the three highflying objects taken down over North America following the shooting down of an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon were likely tied to private companies or related to recreation or scientific research, saying they were removed out of an abundance of caution,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Following days of questions about the administration’s response, Mr. Biden said of the three objects that ‘nothing right now suggests they’re related to China’s spy balloon program.’ He said he has directed his team to develop sharper rules for distinguishing objects that present safety risks and require action.”
He added: “But make no mistake, if any object that presents a threat to the safety and security of the American people. I will take it down.”
“A small, globe-trotting balloon declared ‘missing in action’ by an Illinois-based hobbyist club on Feb. 15 has emerged as a candidate to explain one of the three mystery objects shot down by four heat-seeking missiles launched by U.S. Air Force fighters since Feb. 10,” Aviation Week reports.
“A small circle of intelligence officials at the Pentagon during the Trump administration monitored a series of mysterious objects—now suspected to be balloons—but the incidents were never reported to the White House because it wasn’t clear what they were,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Marina Yankina, a high-ranking Russian defense official in the war against Ukraine, was found dead Wednesday after falling from a high-rise window in an apartment building, the New York Post reports.
Anne Applebaum: “I think what has happened is that the Ukrainians have shown, first of all, that their army and their military were far better prepared, psychologically, and in terms of planning, than anybody had guessed. The country didn’t produce lots of ammunition in advance. They didn’t reinforce their cities in advance. There were things in retrospect that could have been done, and if you go around Ukraine, you hear people say that. And it would have been nice to have wider, broader social preparation, but the army was prepared.”
“And the army has also shown itself to be very creative. It uses what equipment it has, whether it’s drones you can buy on the internet, and they call it MacGyvering. Fixing them up to be able to do other things they weren’t supposed to be able to do. They’re extremely creative. They use their weapons well. There is no hint, by the way, of any corruption to do with the army.”
“And the other thing that has been, again, not surprising if you knew Ukraine, but really, by comparison to other societies in other times and places, Ukrainian society, the way in which spontaneous volunteer groups have organized themselves, whether to help the army, or to help refugees, or to run cities: people really rising to the challenge in extraordinary ways.”
“I’m gonna try to help explain to the American people that defeating the Russians in Ukraine is the single most important event going on in the world right now… there should be a bipartisan support for this.” — Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), on Fox News.
A new bankruptcy court filing shows that right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been “holding firearms” for those who participated in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the Washington Post reports.
Jones has filed for bankruptcy but has nearly $10 million in assets and spends almost $100,000 a month, according to court filings., the BBC reports.
“The Georgia GOP spent more than $200,000 last year to bankroll the legal fees of phony Republican electors who could face criminal charges amid Fulton County’s probe of whether Donald Trump and his allies committed crimes while trying to overturn his election defeat,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.
“A lawyer for former President Donald Trump retained an attorney to represent himself as prosecutors step up their inquiry into the handling of sensitive documents at Trump’s Florida residence,” Reuters reports.
“Evan Corcoran, who has represented Trump in interactions with the government over presidential records taken to his Mar-a-Lago resort, has turned to Michael Levy, a prominent white-collar lawyer in Washington.”
“The office of embattled Republican congressman George Santos was surrounded by a police barricade on Wednesday as local residents delivered a petition calling on him to resign,” The Independent reports.
“Around 25 residents visited his district office in Douglaston, Queens, and asked to speak with the congressman. The protesters were turned away by a member of his staff, who said Mr Santos was in the building but would not speak to a ‘mob.’”
In his first congressional race in 2020, Rep. George Santos (R-NY) created a “Devolder Santos for Congress Recount” committee less than 24 hours after Election Day — a fundraising committee that raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supposedly in connection with a recount, the Daily Beast reports. But Santos ultimately lost that race to Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) by more than 46,000 votes and that recount never happened.
Rep. George Santos (R-NY) gave an interview to Fox 5 News to answer questions about his finances and an ethics investigation. When asked to comment on reports claiming that more than $365,000 is missing from his campaign filings, he pleaded ignorance: “I don’t know about any missing money. That’s news to me.” Santos also said he loaned $705,000 from his personal finances to his campaign and doesn’t understand why anyone would make a big deal about it.
As for all the $199 expenses on his campaign finance disclosures, just short of the amount that would require itemized receipts, he claimed they could simply be clerical mistakes.
A month before his election to Congress last November, Rep. George Santos (R-NY), the scandal-plagued New York Republican, falsely referred to himself as “halachically Jewish” while courting donations from pro-Israel activists at a fundraising event in South Florida, Jewish Insider reports.
“The Supreme Court on Thursday canceled arguments in a challenge to ending a pandemic-era immigration measure, a step that suggested it may dismiss the case based on the Biden administration’s announcement that the health emergency would end in May,” the New York Times reports.
“The justices had been scheduled to hear arguments over the measure, known as Title 42, on March 1. A terse entry on the court’s docket on Thursday announced that the case had been removed from the calendar and gave no further explanation.”
Punchbowl News: “By the time the Senate leaves today for the week-long Presidents Day Recess, the body will have confirmed another seven judges this week. Schumer will have filed cloture on another nominee to take up when the Senate returns as well.”
“Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is coming under pressure from conservatives on his panel and outside Congress to slow down consideration of President Biden’s judicial nominees,” The Hill reports.
“Graham has voted for more of Biden’s nominees than any other Republican on the Judiciary Committee, something that is coming under scrutiny from conservatives after Democrats this week celebrated the 100th successful confirmation of a Biden judicial nominee.”
“Justice Department officials in Washington have taken over the corruption investigation into Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, removing the case from the hands of the federal prosecutors in Texas who’d long been leading the probe,” the AP reports.
“The move was disclosed in a statement by state prosecutors handling their own case against Paxton. It’s the latest development in the federal investigation into the attorney general, who came under FBI scrutiny in 2020 after his own top deputies accused him of bribery and abusing his office to help one of his campaign contributors, who also employed a woman with whom Paxton acknowledged having had an extramarital affair.”
“Nicola Sturgeon is resigning as Scotland’s first minister in a move that stunned her pro-independence party and fired the starting pistol on the race to succeed her,” Politico reports.
“The SNP leader — who has led the Scottish National Party and the country’s devolved government since 2014 — made the shock announcement at a hastily arranged press conference Wednesday from her official residence in Edinburgh.”
Politico: “Crypto advocates are resisting Warren’s push, and some dismiss her as an outlier. But her budding partnership with GOP lawmakers reflects broader forces that are poised to unite progressives and conservatives, watchdog groups and bankers, who share common cause in wanting to derail the unfettered growth of crypto.”
Wall Street Journal: Crypto investors brace for more crackdown from regulators.
Politico: “GOP lawmakers see a major flaw in their states’ near-total abortion bans: Some local prosecutors won’t enforce them.”
“Republicans in Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Texas — frustrated by progressive district attorneys who have publicly pledged not to bring charges under their state’s abortion laws — have introduced bills that would allow state officials to either bypass the local prosecutors or kick them out of office if their abortion-related enforcement is deemed too lenient.”
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