Happy Monday! How’s this for a news story to kick off your week?
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- President Joe Biden’s personal lawyer Bob Bauer announced Saturday night the Department of Justice searched Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, for nearly 13 hours on Friday, collecting materials “within the scope” of its inquiry—including six additional “items with classification markings” dating back to his time as vice president and as a U.S. senator. The search was reportedly conducted by FBI agents while representatives from Biden’s personal legal team and the White House Counsel’s Office were present, but a White House spokesman said a warrant was not issued; Biden’s lawyers reached an agreement with the DOJ to allow the search. That said, a federal judge would have very likely had probable cause to issue a search warrant had Biden’s team not proactively granted investigators access. Several Senate Democrats have expressed concern about Biden’s handling of classified material, and at least two are now publicly supporting the ongoing special counsel investigation into the president.
- The Justice Department sent a letter last week to Rep. Jim Jordan, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, informing him the agency is unlikely to cooperate with oversight requests from House Republicans involving ongoing investigations. “The Department’s obligation to ‘protect the government’s ability to prosecute fully and fairly’ is vital to the Executive Branch’s core constitutional function to investigate and prosecute criminal matters,” Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte wrote. “The Department’s mission to independently and impartially uphold the rule of law requires us to maintain the integrity of our investigations, prosecutions, and civil actions, and to avoid even a perception that our efforts are influenced by anything but the law and the facts.”
- Citing officials familiar with the situation, multiple news outlets reported Saturday White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain will step down in the coming weeks and be replaced by Jeff Zients, a management consultant who held multiple economic and budgetary roles in the Obama administration and oversaw the Biden administration’s coronavirus response. Klain has reportedly informed Biden of his plans to leave, but will likely stay on through at least next month’s State of the Union address as Biden prepares to announce his re-election bid.
- At least 10 people were killed and 10 others injured when a gunman opened fire at a dance studio in the majority Asian-American city of Monterey Park, California, on Saturday night, as many were celebrating the Lunar New Year. Most of the victims were over the age of 50, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna, and authorities found the alleged gunman—a 72-year-old man also of Asian descent—on Sunday, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside the van in which he fled. The gunman reportedly attempted to open fire in a second dance studio a few minutes away from the first, but was thwarted and ran away.
- The White House announced Friday the Treasury Department will designate Russia’s Wagner Group as a Transnational Criminal Organization, placing additional sanctions on the private paramilitary group that’s been increasingly supplementing Russia’s army in Ukraine and around the world.
- Despite heavy lobbying from the United States and other Western countries, Germany did not budge over the weekend, officially remaining opposed to sending Leopard 2 tanks—or allowing other countries to send their Leopard 2 tanks—to Ukraine. There were some signs of softening, however: The country’s new defense minister said Germany would not prevent other countries from training Ukrainian soldiers on how to operate the Leopard 2 tanks, and Germany’s foreign minister hinted Sunday Berlin may allow Poland to send some of its tanks.
- U.S. Africa Command announced Friday that—at the request of the Somalian government—U.S. forces conducted a “self-defense” airstrike near the coastal Somali city of Galcad, killing approximately 30 members of the al-Shabaab terrorist group. USAFRICOM said more than 100 al-Shabaab fighters had attacked Somalia’s National Army, precipitating the strike that U.S. officials said resulted in no civilian casualties.
- The National Association of Realtors reported Friday the median existing-home sales price in the U.S. was $366,900 in December—down from a record $416,000 in June, but up 2.3 percent from December 2021—while sales of previously owned homes declined for the 11th straight month, down 34 percent year-over-year.
- Amid whispers he was considering retirement, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia announced Friday he will seek a third term in 2024, boosting Democrats’ odds of hanging onto the seat in what is likely to be a difficult year for the party nationwide.
Ding Dong! Diplomas Dying?
In journalism, if something happens once, it’s an anomaly. Twice, a coincidence. Three times, and it’s a trend.
That’s what looks to be happening with states relaxing requirements for government jobs. Last week, Pennsylvania’s newly minted Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro signed an executive order opening 92 percent of the state’s government jobs to people without four-year college degrees. Plus, he asked the state administrator to examine whether the other 8 percent could also drop the degree requirement.