Happy Tuesday! You learn something new every day you work in the news business.
Yesterday, for instance, we learned that iguanas have caused at least nine large-scale power outages in Lake Worth Beach, Florida over the past two years. “It’s a nightmare,” a spokesman for the city said.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- In addition to releasing the introduction of its final report, the January 6 Select Committee voted Monday in its last public hearing to formally accuse former President Donald Trump of four crimes for his conduct leading up to and on January 6, 2021: obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement, and incitement of an insurrection. The criminal referrals are unlikely to carry much weight with the Justice Department, but federal prosecutors will likely be interested in the thousands of pages of records and interview transcripts the committee has collected in recent months—and is set to release later this week. The committee also voted to refer four Republican lawmakers—including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy—to the House Ethics Committee for defying subpoenas, but the move is unlikely to result in any fines or discipline.
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday that congressional leaders will include an Electoral Count Act overhaul in the omnibus funding bill Congress plans to pass this week. The changes—targeted at preventing a repeat of the January 6, 2021 Capitol attack—would require 20 percent of members of both the House and Senate to object to a state’s electors to force a vote, and clarify that the vice president has a purely ministerial role in certifying presidential election results.
- Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday temporarily stayed a lower court’s ruling that would’ve required the Biden administration to end Title 42—a pandemic-era policy allowing border officials to quickly expel migrants—by Wednesday. A coalition of 19 Republican-led states asked the Supreme Court to stop the policy’s wind-down, and Roberts’ procedural stay provides time for the Court to decide whether to take on the case.
- European Union energy ministers on Monday agreed on a natural gas price cap that will take effect February 15 and block sales at prices more than about $37 dollars per megawatt hour above a global liquefied natural gas (LNG) price reference. The measure will be triggered if particular gas futures on the Dutch Title Transfer facility—the EU’s benchmark exchange—exceed $191 per megawatt hour for more than three work days in a row and the $37 above LNG prices threshold for the same period. The futures have been trading from about $100 to $160 since October after spiking to a record of about $370 in August when Russia throttled down its gas sales to Europe.
- Federal Judge Roger Benitez blocked a California law allowing private citizens to sue manufacturers of illegal guns, likely setting up a Supreme Court challenge that could have implications for the Texas abortion law California’s gun legislation is modeled after. Gov. Gavin Newsom welcomed the ruling, arguing it demonstrates Texas’ law is also unconstitutional.
- The Federal Trade Commission announced Monday it had reached a $520 million settlement with Epic Games—the maker of Fortnite—in response to allegations the company collected data on children under the age of 13 without their parents’ consent and tricked users into making unwanted purchases. Epic did not admit to any wrongdoing, but said it accepted the agreement because it wants to “be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.”
- Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced former CEO of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange, agreed on Monday to be extradited to the United States, where he has been indicted on eight counts of fraud, money laundering, and campaign finance violations. Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas—where FTX was headquartered—last week, and had been in a legal fight over his possible extradition in recent days.
- The Vatican dismissed prominent pro-life activist Frank Pavone from the clerical state, citing his alleged “blasphemous communications on social media” and “persistent disobedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop.” Pavone—ordained a priest in 1988 and leader of Priests for Life—had written numerous social media posts in recent years calling the results of the 2020 election into question, labeling Biden supporters “goddamn losers” and “God hating,” and urging his audience to vote Republican. Sources close to the case told The Pillar, a Catholic news organization, Pavone’s laicization had more to do with his “persistent disobedience” to his bishop than his public statements.
- Pope Francis told a Spanish outlet over the weekend that, nearly a decade ago, he signed a resignation letter and gave it to then-Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone “in case of impediment due to medical reasons.” Francis turned 86 on Saturday and has used a wheelchair since May, but has kept a busy schedule and plans to travel to Africa next month.
The beginning of the end for the January 6th Select Committee
The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol used its final hearing Monday to accuse former President Donald Trump of breaking at least four federal criminal laws in his attempt to subvert the 2020 presidential election. “Every president in our history has defended this orderly transfer of authority—except one,” said Rep. Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice chair. “January 6, 2021 was the first time an American president refused his constitutional duty to transfer power peacefully to the next.”
All nine members of the committee participated in the hearing Monday, detailing the multi-part plan by Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. In addition to issuing criminal referrals, they reviewed evidence from past public hearings, revealed new pieces of information, referred four congressmen to the House Ethics Committee for refusing to comply with subpoenas, and formally adopted the committee’s final report.