Happy Thursday! Declan is back from a few days off just in time to point out the Chicago Cubs have the longest active winning streak in baseball. Don’t let them get hot right before the trade deadline!
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Hunter Biden’s plea deal to resolve two misdemeanor tax charges and a felony gun possession charge hit a wall yesterday when Judge Maryellen Noreika expressed concern over the agreement, prompting Biden to plead not guilty to the charges. She scrutinized the deal’s scope, meaning, and even constitutionality. “You all are saying, ‘Just rubber stamp the agreement,’” Noreika said. “I’m not in a position to accept or reject it. I need to defer.” Biden will likely change his plea to guilty if the judge ultimately signs off on the deal.
- Members of the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee approved another 25-basis point interest rate increase Wednesday, after previously pausing the hiking campaign at the committee’s July meeting. The central bank’s target federal funds rate range is now between 5.25 and 5.5 percent—the highest level since 2001. Fed Chair Jerome Powell declined to say whether additional hikes are to come at the September meeting but noted the Fed’s staff are no longer forecasting a recession.
- Retired Maj. David Grusch, a former intelligence officer in the Air Force, told the House Oversight Committee during a hearing yesterday that the U.S. government is secretly operating a UFO retrieval and reverse engineering program. He also alleged that the government has recovered “non-human biologics” from recovered unidentified items. Republican Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee accused the Pentagon—which has denied the claims—of covering up details around the supposed program.
- The presidency of Niger announced on X—the platform formerly known as Twitter—that its army is ready to retaliate against members of the Presidential Guard who launched a coup against the palace yesterday. They said President Mohamed Bazoum—who remains detained by the insurrectionists along with his family—is doing well. The U.S. and its allies have called for the soldiers to abandon the attempted coup against Bazoum, the first democratically elected leader in the country since it achieved independence from France more than 50 years ago.
- President Biden nominated Gen. David Allvin Wednesday to be the next Air Force Chief of Staff—Allvin currently serves as the Air Force’s vice chief of staff. If confirmed, he would replace the current chief Gen. C.Q. Brown, whom Biden tapped earlier this year to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Both Allvin and Brown’s nominations are currently stalled by a hold placed on scores of nominations by Alabama GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville, who is protesting the Biden administration’s policy of paying for the travel of military personnel seeking abortions..
- The White House also announced yesterday that Biden intends to tap former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley to serve as the Social Security Administration’s top official. O’Malley will take over from acting Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi, who has led the agency since Biden fired a Trump-appointed commissioner who was only two years into his six-year term. O’Malley will be tasked with finding a lifeline for the program, which is expected to deplete the funds for its key programs by 2035.
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared to abruptly freeze and seemed unable to speak during a press conference on Capitol Hill yesterday. McConnell, 81, later told reporters he was okay, with an aide attributing the incident to light-headedness. McConnell was hospitalized with a concussion after falling in March.
- Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor died at 56 yesterday. O’Connor was known for her 1990 cover of the Prince song “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which was the number one single of the year and earned the singer three Grammy nominations.
‘Sweetheart’ Deal Sours
If you think you know where Hunter Biden’s legal saga is headed next, think again.
We’re not insulting your intelligence—even Biden’s defense team and those prosecuting him aren’t sure how this thing will end. They thought they were, but the plea deal they’d hashed out fell apart after facing scrutiny from a judge yesterday, leading Biden to enter a (possibly temporary) not guilty plea. As much as White House officials would like to put this story behind them, it’s not going anywhere fast.
Under the deal the two sides agreed to last month, the president’s son would have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors for failing to pay more than $100,000 in income taxes in 2017 and 2018, reportedly in exchange for the prosecution recommending probation rather than prison time. Biden would have also entered a pre-trial diversion agreement to address a felony gun charge related to his efforts to purchase a gun while an active drug user. Prosecutors would drop the latter charge if Biden stayed sober and didn’t commit further offenses.