Happy Thursday! “Kyle from Chicago,” visiting Nashville for the NHL Draft last night, was stopped on the street this week by the crew from The Penalty Box podcast for a man-on-the-street interview about hockey and the Chicago Blackhawks’ pick of once-in-a-generation talent, Connor Bedard, as the number one overall selection. “On a scale of one to ten, how much would you say you know about hockey?” He responded: “I didn’t play professionally or anything, so probably like a four?” He was being…modest. Unbeknownst to the interviewer, “Kyle from Chicago” was Blackhawks General Manager, Kyle Davidson. Well played.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Gary Shapley—an IRS whistleblower who testified before the House Ways and Means Committee—told Fox News’ Bret Baier Wednesday that the Department of Justice blocked the IRS from executing a search warrant as part of its investigation into Hunter Biden. In a redacted transcript released last week, Shapley told the committee the DOJ also prevented the U.S. attorney overseeing the investigation from bringing felony charges against Biden on at least two occasions. Also Wednesday, President Joe Biden denied he was involved or present in 2017 when his son Hunter Biden allegedly texted a Chinese businessman claiming he was with his father as leverage to push for payments.
- Wildfire smoke drifting down from Canada caused air quality alerts for dangerous pollutants in 20 states across the United States on Wednesday, reaching as far south as Atlanta and Birmingham. The National Weather Service predicts air quality will improve today.
- The Biden administration is reportedly considering new export controls that would restrict China’s ability to obtain certain artificial intelligence technologies. Shares of U.S.-based chip producer Nvidia—which created a new, weaker chip for Chinese buyers to evade previous U.S. export restrictions—fell 1.8 percent Wednesday.
- Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński announced Wednesday the country will boost security at its border with Belarus to prepare for the arrival of Wagner Group fighters exiled to the country after the Russian paramilitary group’s aborted rebellion against the Kremlin. Polish officials estimate 8,000 Wagner fighters will come to Belarus—which is already at odds with Poland over migrant flows—and Kaczyński said Poland will increase its troop presence and build unspecified defenses along the border.
- Daniel Penny—the U.S. Marine veteran who choked and killed New Yorker Jordan Neely on a subway in May after the mentally ill man began acting aggressively toward commuters—pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges on Wednesday. Penny was indicted by a New York grand jury last month.
- Israeli officials have reportedly detained four Jewish Israeli settlers accused of burning Palestinians’ cars and looting homes in the West Bank during settler riots, which began after a Palestinian terror attack Tuesday killed four Israelis near Eli, an Israeli West Bank settlement. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday denounced the riots, but authorized 1,000 new settler homes in Eli as a “response to terror.”
- Former U.S. Senator and Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker died Wednesday at the age of 92. A Republican willing to buck his party throughout his three terms in the Senate, Weicker’s political career was kickstarted by his prominent role in the body’s Watergate investigation.
Intel Community Releases Little COVID Intel
Our TMD writers are no strangers to missing deadlines, but even we were struck by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines’ tardiness. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) was statutorily required to release a report on June 18, but the agency published it more than a week late—and it came in at a measly 10 pages long.
Depending on where you’re standing, the long-awaited declassified ODNI report on the pandemic’s origins demonstrates either a lack of proof for the COVID lab leak theory or the theory’s continued viability. With more questions than answers, some lawmakers continue to scrutinize funding for coronavirus research conducted at labs like the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
The House and Senate unanimously passed the COVID-19 Origin Act of 2023 in March, requiring ODNI to declassify intelligence on COVID’s origins in light of the Department of Energy (DOE) assessment that the virus had likely originated in a lab. Anyone hoping for a clear verdict, however, will be sorely disappointed. The resulting report reiterated previously known fractures among intelligence agencies over how the pandemic likely began—the FBI and the DOE believe COVID stemmed from a lab incident, four unnamed agencies and the National Intelligence Council fault natural transmission, and the CIA and another unnamed agency remain undecided. “Variations in IC analytic views on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic largely stem from differences in how agencies weigh intelligence reporting and scientific publications and intelligence and scientific gaps,” the ODNI concluded.