The Hill’s Morning Report — Jan. 6 panel: Trump should be criminally charged
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol on Monday used its final appearance on the public stage to recommend severe criminal charges against former President Trump while accusing four sitting GOP lawmakers — including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) — of ethical lapses for their refusal to cooperate with the probe.
The panel on Monday recommended that the Department of Justice investigate the ex-president for inciting an insurrection, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement and obstruction of an official proceeding. The referrals mark the culmination of the committee’s 18-month probe of the Jan. 6 attack and the role Trump — as well as key allies — played before, during and after the riot.
“Faith in our system is the foundation of American democracy. If the faith is broken, so is our democracy,” committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said during the meeting. “Donald Trump broke that faith. He lost the 2020 election and knew it, but he chose to try to stay in office through a multipart scheme.”
The committee has long contended the former president broke the law, but its forthcoming report — of which it released the executive summary Monday — is expected to make the case in vivid detail and highlight those around Trump who enabled him to further the lie of a stolen election. Whether Trump or any of the others named by the committee will be charged rests entirely with DOJ prosecutors, but panel members have stressed the impact their referrals could have on public opinion — viewing the report and panel presentations as part of building a historical record around the attack (The Hill and Politico).
The Jan. 6 select committee also said four House Republicans — McCarthy and Reps. Scott Perry (Pa.), Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Andy Biggs (Ariz.) — violated congressional ethics rules by defying subpoenas for testimony and documents. The panel referred them for a review by the bipartisan House Ethics Committee, but it’s unlikely there will be action taken against the sitting members (The Hill).
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday issued a terse response to the select committee’s decision to refer criminal charges against Trump (The Hill).
“The entire nation knows who is responsible for that day,” McConnell said in a statement. “Beyond that, I don’t have any immediate observations.”
Trump himself responded to the panel’s decision on his social media network Truth Social, saying the decision makes him “stronger.”
“These folks don’t get it that when they come after me, people who love freedom rally around me,” he wrote. “It strengthens me. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
The Hill: How Trump is likely to be haunted by the Jan. 6 panel long after its exit.
Senate Republicans are stepping out of the way and essentially giving the DOJ a green light to pursue the Jan. 6 committee’s criminal referrals against Trump, writes The Hill’s Alexander Bolton. While the House GOP leadership has rallied to Trump’s defense and is expected to dismantle the Jan. 6 committee, GOP senators are letting the work speak for itself and not doing much to attack its conclusions or shield Trump from the political fallout.
The signal from Senate Republican leaders is clear: If DOJ special counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the department’s own probe into the attack, indicts Trump, he won’t face much pushback from them.
The Hill’s Niall Stanage has five key takeaways from the Jan. 6 panel’s last meeting.
▪ Politico: “He’s got a huge problem”: Former Vice President Mike Pence is struggling to find his path back to the White House.
▪ The New York Times: Rep.-elect George Santos, a Republican from New York, says he’s the “embodiment of the American dream.” But he seems to have misrepresented a number of his career highlights.
▪ The Hill: Santos’ lawyer: NYT report is a “shotgun blast of attacks.”
▪ The Hill: Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) says she won’t support McCarthy without a mechanism to remove the Speaker.
LEADING THE DAY
© Associated Press / J. Scott Applewhite | Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) at the Capitol on Monday.
Leading lawmakers unveiled a $1.7 trillion end-of-year spending bill early this morning as they race to pass the sweeping piece of legislation by week’s end. Federal government funding expires at midnight on Friday.
According to the office of Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the so-called omnibus bill would provide the military with $858 billion in funding this fiscal year, a nearly 10 percent increase over current spending. It would fund domestic programs at more than $772 billion — including nearly $119 billion, or a 22 percent increase, for veterans’ medical care.
The biggest hold-up to releasing the text on Monday came from a dispute among Democrats related to the location of the FBI’s new headquarters, Politico reports.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and other Marylanders were pushing to insert language into the bill that would favor their home state by changing, while Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) were lobbying to keep language out of the spending bill — which would favor their home state of Virginia.
Both sides ultimately agreed to disagree and worked out a deal requiring the head of the General Services Administration to meet with representatives from both states.
McConnell on Monday touted the year-end deal on an omnibus spending package as a victory for Republicans because it will boost defense spending above the rate of inflation and increase nondefense spending at a lower rate than inflation, effectively resulting in a cut (The Hill).
“The administration wanted to cut funding for our armed forces after inflation while massively increasing spending on nondefense,” he said on the Senate floor. “Republicans have taken the president’s bizarre position and flipped it on its head.”
Lawmakers are racing against the clock to move the bill forward before the Dec. 23 deadline. The Senate is expected to act first on the bill, seeking an agreement to pass it before Thursday night and then send it to the House.
▪ Roll Call: Both parties claim wins in massive omnibus spending bill.
▪ Politico: Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-Ala.) swan song is a spending spat within his party. The veteran appropriator, days from retirement, is becoming the GOP face of a $1.7 trillion deal he helped ink. And he’s fine with the blowback from conservatives.
▪ The Washington Post: Congress clinches deal to fund Medicaid programs in Puerto Rico, other territories.
Republicans are bracing for the release of information about Trump’s tax returns by the House Ways and Means Committee before Democrats hand over control of the lower chamber to Republicans in the new year. As The Hill’s Tobias Burns reports, the committee announced a meeting this afternoon regarding “documents protected under Internal Revenue Code section 6103,” the rule under which the committee was able to obtain Trump’s tax records.
Roll Call: More support for fossil fuels is on the Energy and Commerce agenda.
The incoming House Republican chairs of 14 different committees are urging their members to back McCarthy’s bid for Speaker, even as he has struggled to tamp down a small bloc of “never Kevin” rebels (Politico).
➤ MORE POLITICS
A special election to replace the seat of the late Rep. Donald McEachin (D) in Virginia’s 4th Congressional District has Democrats scrambling to meet a filing deadline for today’s rushed primary, writes The Hill’s Brad Dress.
While Republicans united easily behind a nominee over the weekend, Democrats are left with three candidates vying for the seat, and the quick deadline gave each of them little time to campaign and pick up new voters. The primary quickly became contentious when state Sen. Joseph Morrissey — the only Democrat in the Virginia House of Delegates with antiabortion views — began his campaign by targeting Democratic leaders for hosting the primary on a weekday. The favored candidate, meanwhile, is state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, who, if she goes on to win the special election, would become the first Black woman to represent Virginia in the U.S. House (Roll Call).
In the weeks and months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and walked back federal protections for abortion rights, campaign strategists kept making the same startling finding in focus groups across the country: Abortion didn’t just awaken Democratic voters. It was actually persuading swing voters. The memo, Politico reports, called the issue a “massive vulnerability for Republicans,” and interviews with more than 50 elected officials, campaign aides and consultants from both parties show how abortion shaped the 2022 midterm elections.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
The Supreme Court on Monday issued a temporary block on the Biden administration’s plans to end the pandemic-era Title 42 immigration policy. The move is intended to give critics and supporters of the effort more time to make their arguments.
The decision was the result of 19 conservative states that filed an emergency appeal Monday, asking the justices to block a lower court ruling requiring President Biden to end the Title 42 deportations by midnight on Wednesday.
For weeks, the administration has been bracing for the end of Title 42 — a policy that was invoked at the onset of the pandemic — which allowed officials to turn away migrants at the southern border. The lifting of the authority would result in a return to traditional regulations at a time of mass migration in the Western Hemisphere.
The Biden administration tried to phase out the program earlier this year, but a coalition of mostly Republican-led states successfully sued to block the Department of Homeland Security from ending its enforcement (CNN and USA Today).
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday made a rare visit to Belarus, meeting with close ally President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been under mounting pressure from Moscow to provide more support for the war in Ukraine.
Putin’s visit took place as Russia continued its nighttime attacks on Ukraine’s power plants and other crucial infrastructure. In Kyiv, the trip escalated concerns about the possibility of a new ground offensive that could use Belarus as a launching pad (The New York Times).
The U.S. has accused United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres of “apparently yielding to Russian threats” by not sending officials to Ukraine to inspect drones used by Russia that the administration and allies say were supplied by Iran. Iran has acknowledged the use of its drones, but maintains they were sent to Russia before the invasion. Britain, France, Germany, the U.S. and Ukraine, however, say the supply of the drones violates a 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution enshrining the Iran nuclear deal.
“We regret that the U.N. has not moved to carry out a normal investigation of this reported violation,” U.S. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Robert Wood told a Security Council meeting on Monday (Reuters).
European Union (EU) energy ministers on Monday agreed on a gas price cap following weeks of talks on the emergency measure as the bloc seeks to tame the continent’s energy crisis. The cap marks the EU’s latest attempt to lower prices that have pushed energy bills higher and driven record high inflation after Russia cut off most of its gas deliveries to Europe earlier this year (Reuters).
▪ The New York Times: From zero COVID to no plan: After micromanaging China’s COVID-19 strategy for nearly three years, the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, has suddenly left the populace to improvise.
▪ Reuters: China races to bolster health system as COVID-19 surge sparks global concern.
▪ Vox: A bad year for the bad guys. In key countries around the world, 2022 was the year democracy proved it could fight back.
© Associated Press / Michael Probst | A gas station in Frankfurt, Germany, on Oct. 5.
■ How will history remember Jan. 6? by Lydia Polgreen, columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3jhukIP
■ Elon Musk’s latest delusion: He thinks Twitter can replace journalism, by David Atkins, contributor, Washington Monthly. https://bit.ly/3Wn2BF2
WHERE AND WHEN
👉 The Hill: Share a news query tied to an expert journalist’s insights: The Hill launched something new and (we hope) engaging via text with Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack. Learn more and sign up HERE.
The House will convene on Wednesday, with votes postponed to 6:30 p.m.
The Senate will convene at 10 a.m.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m.
The vice president will ceremonially swear in Kiran Ahuja as Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Sandra Thompson as Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Shelly Lowe as Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Maria Rosario Jackson as Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts at 3:50 p.m.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has no public events scheduled.
Twitter’s potential for a viable future under Musk appears to have reached its bleakest point in the course of his roughly seven-week run as its owner, writes The Hill’s Rebecca Klar. Over the weekend Musk faced a familiar chorus of criticism from politicians, pundits and regulators in the U.S. and abroad over his ever-changing Twitter policies and suspensions of journalists. But even some of Musk’s Silicon Valley supporters have recently changed their tune and balked at Musk’s latest decisions as “Chief Twit.”
Since taking the company private when closing his $44 billion deal in October, Musk hasn’t been beholden to a board, but he indicated Sunday he may make the decision to “step down” based on results of a Twitter poll.
▪ Bloomberg News: Musk says “no one wants” top Twitter job, but some people raise their hands.
▪ The Street: Musk defines two key criteria for the new CEO of Twitter.
▪ Axios: Twitter investors are divided on Musk moves.
© Associated Press / Rebecca Blackwell | FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried is escorted out of court in Nassau, Bahamas on Monday.
Disgraced cryptocurrency exchange founder Sam Bankman-Fried — whose company, FTX, declared bankruptcy in November — on Monday agreed to be extradited to the United States after a chaotic morning of legal maneuvering in which he was moved back and forth between court and prison in the Bahamas. Jerone Roberts, a local defense lawyer, told reporters that Bankman-Fried agreed to the extradition voluntarily, against “the strongest possible legal advice.”
“We as counsel will prepare the necessary documents to trigger the court,” Roberts said. “Mr. Bankman-Fried wishes to put the customers right, and that is what has driven his decision.”
Within a month of FTX’s collapse, federal prosecutors had filed criminal charges against Bankman-Fried. He also faces civil fraud charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (The New York Times and Reuters).
Vox: Meta is facing the test of its lifetime. In an internal memo, a top exec says a “perfect storm of skepticism” won’t deter Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse plans.
➤ PANDEMIC & HEALTH
Cost concerns can prevent more than 20 percent of Americans between the ages 50 and 80 from seeking emergency medical care even when they think they may need it, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Managed Care.
Most of the more than 2,000 older Americans surveyed reported concerns about the costs of emergency department visits. Those most likely to say they’d skip emergency care due to cost are individuals in their 50s and early 60s, women, those who lack health insurance, people with household incomes below $30,000 and those who say their mental health is fair or poor (The Hill).
“As an emergency physician, I have seen patients come to the emergency room having postponed their care,” lead author Rachel Solnick, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Health System in New York, said in a release. “They often come in sicker than they would have been had they received care sooner.”
▪ Nature: Vaccination rates are falling, and it’s not just the COVID-19 vaccine that people are refusing.
▪ CNN: Which prevention measures will help keep viruses at bay this Christmas? A medical analyst explains.
▪ The New York Times: Scientists have made rapid progress in customizing drugs for ultrarare diseases. The hard part now is making such treatments on a large scale.
Information about COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot availability can be found at Vaccines.gov.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,087,521. Current U.S. COVID-19 deaths are 2,703 for the week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The CDC shifted its tally of available data from daily to weekly, now reported on Fridays.)
© Associated Press / Holden Law | Snow passed through Duluth, Minn. on Dec. 15.
And finally… ❄️ Grab your parkas and prepare for a blizzard: In the days leading up to Christmas, two disruptive, dangerous and extreme weather systems are set to affect large parts of the Lower 48.
Meteorologists forecast a very intense storm that will produce blinding snow, heavy rain and howling winds, and an associated outbreak of exceptionally cold air. It’s set to develop in the Midwest and Great Lakes toward the end of the week, unleashing heavy snow and strong winds. The storm, which may qualify as a “bomb cyclone” could bring extreme impacts from snow and wind from the Plains to the interior Northeast between Thursday and Christmas Eve, The Washington Post reports.
And while not everyone will see heavy snow this week, only areas outside California and the Southwest will escape what the National Weather Service is calling “a massive surge of arctic air.”
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