A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.
Don’t Be Fooled!
The House GOP’s hilarious-if-it-weren’t-so-corrupt subcommittee to attack the same federal law enforcement apparatus investigating many House Republicans and Donald Trump kicks off its first hearing today. It’ll be a doozy. It’s titled “Hearing on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.”
This is a full-frontal attack on the rule of law masquerading as a probative investigation. Period. End of sentence.
The witness list includes:
U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, Iowa
U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, Wisconsin
U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin, Maryland
Former U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii
Mr. Thomas Baker, Former FBI Agent
Professor Jonathan Turley, George Washington University Law Center
Mr. Elliot Williams, Principal, the Raben Group
Ms. Nicole Parker, Former FBI Agent
You’ll see a lot of news coverage of this hearing that will serve to amplify and legitimize it. House Republicans could run the Barnum & Bailey Circus into a Capitol Hill hearing room and political reporters would still cover it as a hearing because … it’s in a hearing room duh what are you, stupid?
Just remember, the Justice Department under Donald Trump was more politicized (the extent of which we’re still learning!) than at any time since Watergate. And the Trump play, adopted in full by the House GOP, is to accuse your opponents of exactly the wrongdoing you’re committing. It’s an obvious and easy-to-follow playbook. Don’t be fooled.
House GOP Stunt Backfires
Yesterday’s much-hyped House oversight committee hearing targeting Twitter didn’t always go as planned. It turns out the Trump White House did the very thing that conservatives have loudly claimed (without much evidence) that the Deep State did: pressured Twitter to censor unfavorable content. In one notable example, the Trump White House tried to get Twitter to take down this 2019 Chrissy Teigen tweet about Trump:
Jack Smith’s Team Questioned Chad Wolf
Chad Wolf, who served as Trump’s acting homeland security secretary, spent four hours under questioning by Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team investigating the 2020 election subversion scheme, Bloomberg reports:
Wolf sat for a four-hour recorded discussion under oath a few weeks ago with several FBI agents and Justice Department lawyers rather than appear before a federal grand jury, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Michael Cohen Meets With Manhattan Prosecutors
His mixed role as witness and cheerleader for the Manhattan DA’s investigation into the Stormy Daniels’ hush money payments makes Michael Cohen a less-than-reliable narrator (not to mention that he served as Donald Trump’s fixer for years!). But if you’re closely following DA Alvin Braggs’ revived investigation, it should be noted that Cohen met with prosectors for the 15th time yesterday and said a 16th meeting is planned.
Fetterman Hospitalized Overnight In DC
Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), who suffered a stroke last year during his Senate campaign, was hospitalized overnight in DC after feeling light-headed. His staff drove him to the hospital and reported that initial indications are he did not suffer another stroke.
Biden Takes It To Republicans On Social Security
Fresh off his ad-libbed State of the Union attacks on congressional Republicans for wanting to eliminate Social Security, President Biden heads to Tampa for an event focused on Social Security and Medicaid.
Wednesday, Biden was in Wisconsin, hammering by name Republicans who have touted eliminating or severely reigning in Social Security: Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Rick Scott (R-FL).
The press coverage of Social Security still suffers from a lack of familiarity with how the program works. Many reporters are also bamboozled by Republican word games around Social Security “reform.” They feel perfectly comfortable saying Republicans oppose abortion, but they retreat to “Democrats claim Republicans oppose Social Security” because the GOP has disguised its intentions. But dismantling Social Security and Medicare has been an animating Republican policy position for at least as long as its well-documented opposition to abortion rights. Just say it.
Nationwide Ban On Abortion Bill Could Come Soon
The renegade federal judge in Amarillo, Texas, who is a favorite venue for conservatives will soon be poised to issue a ruling on mifepristone:
Eighteen states already have restrictions on the pills, many of them as part of near-total bans on abortion. But a ruling from Kacsmaryk — an appointee of former President Donald Trump — could either cut off access to the drugs in the mostly Democratic-led states where they remain legal or reinstate rules mandating that patients only be able to receive them in-person from a physician. Kacsmaryk previously worked for a conservative group, First Liberty Institute, that brought cases aimed at restricting abortion access.
Project Veritas Reportedly Puts James O’Keefe On Paid Leave
The board of Project Veritas is set to meet today to consider the future of right-wing provocateur James O’Keefe with the organization, NY Mag reports. O’Keefe is reportedly on paid leave, but the organization wouldn’t confirm details of his employment status.
The writing on the wall: The board has apparently reinstated two executives whom O’Keefe recently fired.
Project Veritas is under federal investigation for its role in the Ashley Biden diary scheme, and laid off part of its staff just before Christmas.
Biden Addresses Classified Documents Investigation
In an interview with PBS’ Judy Woodruff, President Biden tiptoed a bit further into describing how he wound up with classified documents in his personal possession:
What was not done well is, as they packed up my offices to move them, they didn’t do the kind of job that should’ve been done, to go thoroughly through every piece of literature that’s there.
The best of my knowledge, the kind of things they [investigators] picked up are things that — from 1974, stray papers. There may be something else, I don’t know.
Hunter Biden Goes On The Offensive
The new more aggressive posture from Hunter Biden that I mentioned last week is taking on more concrete shape:
Washington attorney Abbe Lowell, who took over as Biden’s counsel in December, sent the “litigation hold” letters on Wednesday to 14 people allegedly linked to efforts to generate coverage critical of the 53-year-old son of President Joe Biden, according to a person familiar with the development.
Reporter Arrested While Covering DeWine Press Conference
DC-based Evan Lambert of News Nation was in Ohio covering a train derailment when he was arrested while doing a live hit from the back of a press conference being given by Gov. Mike DeWine (R).
Biden Being Biden
Reporter Jennifer Bendery carefully watched President Biden’s slow exit from the House chamber after the State of the Union, as a he worked the room and the room worked him. (This is the benign flipside to Biden’s sometimes cringey creepster tendencies.) It’s old-school politicking, glad-handing, schmoozing, and story-telling that you just don’t see much of anymore. Biden’s bipartisan aspirations often don’t fit the needs of the current moment, but they’re a reminder of a role politics can play in bridging divides, softening differences, and marshaling collective effort – at least when one of the major political parties isn’t trying to burn it all down.
Biden’s post-speech amble out of the House chamber starts here:
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I recently was of the opinion that experience in DC was overrated but I WAS WRONG. Biden's 50 years of DC experience is exactly what we need after the Republican debacle of orangehead, and the debacle to come.