Happy Wednesday! And happy National Step In A Puddle And Splash Your Friends Day to all who are celebrating. Keep your head on a swivel.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- The House voted 365-65 on Tuesday to establish the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, and 221-211 to establish the Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. The former will be chaired by GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, the latter by GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio. Rep. Pete Aguilar, Democratic caucus chairman, told reporters yesterday House Democrats plan to participate in all select committee investigations on the docket for Republicans.
- Russian mercenary forces in Ukraine claimed they captured the small Donbas town of Soledar en route to the strategic city of Bakhmut on Tuesday, seeming to confirm an assessment by British intelligence officials outlining recent Russian progress in the east. The development represents the first major success for the Russian military in months, but the battle for Bakhmut will be a slog: Ukrainian forces have been defending the city for months, remain in control of supply routes, and have additional military aid from the United States and Europe en route.
- The Pentagon announced Tuesday between 90 and 100 Ukrainian soldiers will travel to the United States next week for a months-long training program at Fort Sill in Oklahoma on how to operate, maintain, and sustain the Patriot missile system the U.S. announced would be included in a recent aid package.
- Weeks after congressional Republicans forced his hand, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a memo Tuesday announcing the Pentagon was formally dropping its COVID-19 vaccine mandate that had been in place since August 2021 and led to the discharge of more than 8,000 troops. The Pentagon will continue to promote vaccination to “enhance operational readiness,” Austin’s memo reads, and it will allow commanders to consider troops’ immunization status in making deployment and assignment decisions. Those discharged for refusing the shot will not automatically be reinstated, but Austin said they can petition their military department’s Dispatch Review Boards to “individually request a correction to their personnel records.”
- In a speech delivered in Sweden on Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell pushed back on some of his progressive critics who argue the central bank has not done enough to combat climate change. “It is essential that we stick to our statutory goals and authorities, and that we resist the temptation to broaden our scope to address other important social issues of the day,” he said. “Without explicit congressional legislation, it would be inappropriate for us to use our monetary policy or supervisory tools to promote a greener economy or to achieve other climate-based goals. We are not, and will not be, a ‘climate policymaker.’”
- Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of California announced Tuesday she is running for the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein, 89, is expected to announce she won’t seek reelection in 2024 but hasn’t yet. By jumping in now, the progressive Porter gets an early leg up on what is expected to be a crowded primary field: Reps. Adam Schiff, Barbara Lee, and Ro Khanna are all reportedly weighing bids of their own. A former aide recently accused Porter of mistreating staff, a charge the congresswoman disputes.
Classified Documents for Me but not for Thee
Elected officials tend to excel at the pivot, as an action totally excusable—nay, even noble!—when taken by my team is suddenly destructive, despicable, and disqualifying when taken by yours. Monday’s news that classified documents had been found in a private office of President Joe Biden offered a great opportunity for such partisan pirouettes: Former President Donald Trump has a fresh target across the aisle for finger-pointing as he downplays his own mishandling of presidential and classified documents.
After leaving the Obama White House, Biden did what any self respecting out-of-office politician would do: Set up a think tank. Though an alum of Syracuse and the University of Delaware, Biden became an honorary professor at the University of Pennsylvania and helped set up the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. He quickly returned to the campaign trail but kept a think tank office near the Capitol. On November 2, while packing up boxes to close down the office one of Biden’s personal attorneys reportedly found—in a locked closet, according to Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president—a manila folder labeled “personal.” The lawyer opened it—then closed it again, an anonymous source familiar told CNN. Biden’s team swiftly informed the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) it had found classified documents.
Asked about the files while in Mexico Tuesday, Biden says he didn’t know about them until November. “I was briefed about this discovery and surprised to learn that there are any government records that were taken there to that office,” he said, adding his lawyers recommended he not ask about their contents. “I don’t know what’s in the documents.” The White House hasn’t fully explained why it took two months and a CBS News report to make the document discovery public. Ian Sams, a senior adviser to the White House Counsel’s Office, told the Washington Post the Department of Justice’s review of the situation means the White House is “limited in what we can say at this time.”