#046 | Government Surveillance of 'MAGA' and 'Trump' Transactions
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Rep. Jim Jordan Investigates Government Surveillance of 'MAGA' and 'Trump' Transactions
Rep. Jim Jordan, Chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, has raised significant concerns over the alleged flagging of financial transactions containing politically sensitive terms such as "MAGA" and "Trump." According to documents obtained by the Subcommittee, federal agencies instructed financial institutions to monitor transactions using these terms following the events of January 6, 2021.
Reportedly spearheaded by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), this involved distributing materials to financial institutions that provided suggested search terms and Merchant Category Codes (MCCs). These were intended to help identify transactions for federal law enforcement. Alarmingly, this included politically oriented terms and extended to more innocuous activities like purchasing religious texts or shopping at sporting goods stores.
The Subcommittee's findings suggest that this surveillance extended to private transactions of Americans, raising serious questions about the infringement of civil liberties and potential political targeting. For example, transactions at stores like Cabela's or Dick's Sporting Goods, or the purchase of religious texts like Bibles, may have been flagged under this program.
Rep. Jordan has called for interviews with senior intelligence officials, including Noah Bishoff, former FinCEN Director, and Peter Sullivan, an official within the FBI's strategic partnership engagement section. The aim is to shed light on the extent and rationale behind this surveillance, particularly concerning its implications on fundamental civil liberties.
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News of the Week
Supreme Court Reevaluates Chevron Deference: A Turning Point in Administrative Law
The debate over Chevron deference, which the Supreme Court heard arguments for on Wednesday and is currently reconsidering, highlights a pivotal issue in administrative law and the balance of power between branches of government. The case of Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo specifically challenges this long-standing legal doctrine.
At the heart of the Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo case is a dispute over the costs associated with compliance with federal regulations. The National Marine Fisheries Service requires commercial fishing vessels to carry observers to monitor their catches and ensure compliance with conservation regulations. The controversy arises from the rule that vessel owners must bear these observers' $700 daily cost. The plaintiffs argue that this requirement, not explicitly outlined in the governing legislation, is an overreach of the agency's interpretive authority.
Critics of Chevron deference, including those in support of the plaintiffs in this case, argue that it gives too much power to unelected agency officials, enabling them to create laws without proper legislative oversight effectively. They contend this undermines the constitutional separation of powers and democratic accountability.
On the other side, proponents of Chevron deference argue that federal agencies possess the necessary expertise to interpret complex and technical regulations in their respective fields. They suggest that without such deference, courts, which may lack specific expertise, would be burdened with the task of interpreting every ambiguous regulation, potentially leading to inconsistent and uninformed decisions.
Those in favor of maintaining Chevron deference also point out that it allows for a more efficient and adaptable regulatory system. Agencies can respond more swiftly and effectively to changing circumstances and emerging issues within their areas of expertise than the legislative process typically allows.
The Supreme Court's decision on this matter could have far-reaching implications for the future role of federal agencies in interpreting and enforcing regulations. It will determine whether the judiciary takes on a more active role in interpreting ambiguous laws or continues to defer to the expertise of agencies. This decision could reshape administrative law's landscape and governmental power dynamics.
Federal vs. State: The Legal Showdown at the Southern Border
The ongoing border dispute in Texas, centered around Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, has escalated into a significant legal and political showdown between the state and the federal government.
Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott intensified his approach to border security by taking control of Shelby Park, a key location in Eagle Pass along the U.S.-Mexico border. Abbott had fences erected around the park, effectively barring not only illegal border crossings but also federal Border Patrol agents. This action is part of Abbott's broader strategy to address the influx of illegal migrants into Texas.
On January 14th, the situation took a turn when the Biden administration issued a cease and desist order to the state of Texas. This order demanded that Texas stop impeding the U.S. Border Patrol's access to a critical stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border near Shelby Park, which spans approximately two and a half miles along the Rio Grande. If Texas did not comply the DHS would refer the matter to DOJ "for appropriate action and consider all other options available to restore Border Patrol's access to the border."
In a defiant response on Wednesday, Texas refused to comply with the federal demand. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton firmly rejected the federal government's position in a Department of Homeland Security letter. Paxton argued that the federal government's letter both misrepresented the facts and misunderstood the legal situation. He criticized it for failing to recognize the on-the-ground realities in Shelby Park and accused the Biden administration of advocating for "open-border policies."
This stand-off highlights a broader clash between state and federal authorities over border security and immigration policy. Texas officials, led by Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton, contend that their actions are necessary due to what they perceive as the federal government's failure to secure the southern border adequately. On the other hand, the Biden administration argues that Texas's actions are obstructing the federal government's ability to enforce immigration laws and process migrants.
Government Shutdown Avoided with Last-Minute Spending Bill, Tensions Rise Over Border Policies
Congress has passed a continuing resolution bill that extends federal funding into March. The House passed the bill with a 314-108 vote, with notable opposition from conservative Republicans. This measure, the third of its kind in recent months, aims to provide lawmakers more time to reconcile differences over full-year spending bills for the fiscal year that began in October.
The extension is a split approach, funding some federal agencies until March 1 and others until March 8. Despite the House Freedom Caucus's strong opposition to the bill for exceeding their preferred spending levels, a significant number of Republicans joined Democrats in passing it.
In the backdrop of this legislative action, discussions on a separate spending package are underway. This package is focused on providing wartime aid to Ukraine and Israel, along with strengthening U.S.-Mexico border security. House Speaker Mike Johnson is at the center of these discussions, facing pressure from both sides. While the White House, Democrats, and some centrist Republicans are pushing for a joint deal on Ukrainian aid and border security, Johnson and hardline conservatives oppose some of its provisions, such as allowing 5,000 green cards per day for illegal migrants.
During a recent White House meeting, Johnson emphasized the need for robust border security measures, citing issues like cartel influence, human trafficking, and the surge in fentanyl-related deaths. He also stressed the importance of comprehensive immigration reform. However, this stance has led to criticism from Democrats, who disapprove of linking additional aid to Ukraine with changes in border security policies.
2024 GOP Race Heats Up: Trump’s Landslide in Iowa and Strategic Shifts Among Rivals
The 2024 U.S. Presidential election is shaping up to be a noteworthy contest following the Iowa caucuses. Former President Donald Trump, who has been a dominant figure in the GOP, emerged victorious in Iowa with a significant lead over his closest rivals, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis. Trump secured 51% of the vote, achieving the largest margin since Bob Dole in 1988.
Haley decided to skip the New Hampshire Republican primary debate. Trump has not participated in any of the Republican primary debates so far. “We’ve had five great debates in this campaign,” Haley said in a statement released as she campaigned in New Hampshire. “Unfortunately, Donald Trump has ducked all of them. He has nowhere left to hide. The next debate I do will either be with Donald Trump or with Joe Biden. I look forward to it.” Her comments came in the wake of the Iowa caucuses, where she garnered just over 19% of the vote, trailing DeSantis, who earned 21%.
Haley's decision to skip the New Hampshire debate may have been influenced by the outcomes of the previous debates, particularly the last one where she faced off against DeSantis. Despite her efforts, she did not perform as expected and ultimately finished behind DeSantis in Iowa. This outcome could have played a role in her strategic decision to focus her campaign efforts elsewhere.
Ron DeSantis, who finished second in Iowa, is recalibrating his campaign approach. Just six days before the New Hampshire primary, DeSantis has decided to reallocate the majority of his staff to South Carolina, the home state of his rival Nikki Haley. This decision reflects his campaign's focus on South Carolina’s primary, which is just over a month away. The move also follows another round of layoffs by his leading super PAC, Never Back Down, which has transferred several of its Iowa staffers to other early states. After finishing a distant second to Trump in Iowa, the layoffs and staff shifts signal DeSantis's changing strategy.
Vivek Ramaswamy withdrew from the race after finishing fourth in Iowa and shifted to endorsing Trump, further consolidating Trump's position as the frontrunner. Ramaswamy, who had been campaigning as a political outsider, chose to join Trump in New Hampshire and potentially sway his supporters in Trump's favor.
Alarming 100% Mortality Rate in Humanized Mice: Wuhan Scientists Create Potent COVID Variant
Chinese scientists at the Wuhan lab have reportedly created a new strain of COVID-19, named GX_P2V, with alarmingly lethal results in experimental settings. This mutated virus, derived from GX/2017, a coronavirus initially found in Malaysian pangolins, demonstrated a 100% mortality rate in humanized mice, specifically targeting their brains. This discovery has reignited debates and concerns about gain-of-function research's safety and ethical implications.
The study involved engineering a virus to test its effects on mice genetically modified to mimic human biology. The virus's lethality in these experiments highlights the potential risk of such a disease spilling over to humans, emphasizing the urgent need to thoroughly understand the pathogenic mechanisms of related viruses. This is particularly crucial as the world grapples with the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adding to the controversy, there are indications that this research might have received funding from the US, potentially through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This aspect, if confirmed, could lead to significant international and scientific discourse about the funding and oversight of high-risk virological research.
The revelation that the Wuhan lab is still conducting gain-of-function research, especially studies that could lead to highly virulent and potentially transmissible viruses, is a topic of grave concern. It raises questions about global scientific responsibility, biosafety protocols, and the need for robust international oversight in conducting and funding such high-stakes research.
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