Happy Wednesday! At a recent virtual summit, Whole Foods Market reportedly asked its suppliers to consider lowering their prices in order to bring overall costs down for consumers.
Geez, why didn’t anybody think to do that earlier?
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- The State Department sent a report to Congress Tuesday accusing Russia of violating the New START nuclear arms treaty by refusing site inspections and ignoring U.S. requests to discuss compliance concerns. This is the first time the U.S. has found Russia out of compliance with the agreement—which seeks to limit the number of deployed nuclear warheads and bombs to about 1,550—since it was enacted in 2011. Russia’s deputy foreign minister said this week it’s “very possible” the treaty will not be renewed when it expires in 2026.
- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup issued a statement Tuesday agreeing to scale up their two countries’ joint military exercises, which had been scaled back under the Trump administration as part of negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Austin also reaffirmed the United States’ extended deterrence commitments to South Korea in the face of the North Korean nuclear threat.
- The Justice Department charged four more people yesterday in connection with the 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, bringing the total number of defendants in U.S. custody to seven after three men linked to the assassination were arrested last year. Two Haitian-American citizens and a Colombian citizen were charged with conspiring to commit murder, while another Haitian-American citizen was charged with smuggling goods from the United States.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday employer spending on wages and benefits—a closely watched indicator of inflation—increased 1 percent last quarter, slowing from the 1.2 percent quarter-over-quarter increase in Q3 2022. The data will be of particular interest to the Federal Reserve, which is likely to announce today it is slowing the pace of interest-rate hikes.
- The European Union’s statistics agency reported Tuesday the Eurozone’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew 3.5 percent in 2022, outpacing both China and the United States for the first time since 1974. Economists expect the Eurozone’s growth to cool in 2023, however, as high energy prices and rising interest rates put a damper on economic activity.
- Citing two sources familiar with the investigation, CBS News reported Tuesday FBI agents searched President Joe Biden’s offices at the Penn Biden Center in November, a step neither the White House nor Biden’s personal attorneys had disclosed during the president’s ongoing classified document saga. The search was allegedly conducted in cooperation with Biden’s lawyers, and came days after those lawyers found the first set of documents at the center. It’s not clear whether the FBI’s search produced additional material with classification markings.
- A new study from the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research—conducted in conjunction with the Treasury Department—found black taxpayers are at least three times more likely than other Americans to be the target of IRS audits. The study does not allege any overt discrimination by IRS agents, but rather a computer algorithm favoring audits that will be simpler to conduct. As a result, black Americans—less likely to report business income, and more likely to file returns with potential errors that are easy to identify—have reportedly faced a disproportionate amount of scrutiny. “Historic challenges and underfunding have led to audit rates for those at the top of the distribution decreasing more than the correspondence audits of those at the bottom in the last decade, which should change,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo wrote last fall.
- After a private sit-down with GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Republican Rep. George Santos of New York told House colleagues on Tuesday he will temporarily step down from his committee assignments on the House Small Business and Science, Space, and Technology committees. In a statement Tuesday, the embattled congressman thanked the speaker for “allowing me to take time to properly clear my name.” Santos, who fabricated much of his resume and has been asked to resign by members of his own party, vacates his committees as McCarthy is expected to hold a vote to strip Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of her committee assignment over past comments she’s made about Israel that members of both parties called antisemitic.
- Mitch Daniels, the former Republican governor of Indiana and president of Purdue University, told Politico on Tuesday that, after much consideration, he will not run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Mike Braun, who announced in November he plans to run for governor in the state. Republican Rep. Jim Banks has already announced his candidacy for the open seat.
In 2020, former FBI official Charles McGonigal spoke on an Atlantic Council panel about corruption in Russia’s security services. “You are seeing an erosion in any rule of law,” he said. “It would be akin to having in the United States the FBI as a rogue element, operating at the behest of the highest bidder.”
Russia’s security forces are indeed impressively corrupt, but in hindsight it’s possible McGonigal was also projecting just a bit: The Department of Justice alleges that shortly before and after leaving the FBI, McGonigal took money from foreign nationals—including a sanctioned Russian oligarch—in exchange for services and favors. If the allegations are proven, his seniority and authority over sensitive investigations make this a major black eye for the Bureau and U.S. law enforcement—but also evidence of the agencies’ commitment to prosecuting even senior officials’ misdeeds despite risking a reputational hit.