Weekly News Bites #017 | Republicans subpoena FBI record linking Biden to alleged criminal scheme
All of the top stories 📰 of the week in small bites.
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It’s FRIDAY, May 5! YAY
Some of the stories this week!
Republican lawmakers subpoena FBI record linking Biden to foreign national in alleged criminal scheme.
Justice Samuel Alito of the U.S. Supreme Court claims he knows who leaked a draft opinion indicating the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year.
Jeffrey Epstein’s private calendar shows meetings with a range of prominent individuals, including three with William Burns, the current director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
California legislature to vote on reparations bill for black residents whose ancestry is traceable to the slave trade.
Middle school teachers sue over policies requiring them to hide students' gender transitions from parents.
Russia has accused Ukraine of attempting to attack the Kremlin with drones in an effort to kill President Vladimir Putin.
El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser has declared a state of emergency ahead of the possible end of the Title 42 immigration policy.
Republican lawmakers in North Carolina have agreed on a proposal to limit most abortions to the first trimester of pregnancy.
Paramount has announced that Yellowstone, the most-watched show across broadcast and cable television, will air its final episodes in November.
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Republicans Senator Chuck Grassley and Representative James Comer, have issued a subpoena for an unclassified FBI record that allegedly contains information regarding a criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Joe Biden and a foreign national. The document in question, an FD-1023 form, is a tip sheet used by the FBI to record interviews with sources that may have witnessed a potential crime. Grassley claims that the document includes "very serious and detailed allegations implicating the current President of the United States." However, it is unclear what these allegations are, what is in the form, or whether there is any weight to them. The White House has characterized the claim as "unfounded" and politically motivated and accused Grassley and Comer of trying to malign the administration with unsupported allegations.
→ GOP Rep. Jim Jordan launches probe into the lack of arrests of protestors outside SCOTUS Justices’ homes after the Dobbs leak. Jordan pointed to a federal law prohibiting demonstrations that aim to interfere with or influence judges. In a letter requesting information from US Marshals Service Director Ronald L. Davis, Jordan referred to training materials that instructed marshals not to arrest protesters outside justices’ homes. Jordan accused the Biden administration of “weaponizing” federal law enforcement agencies for partisan purposes. The US Marshals Service said it is reviewing Jordan’s letter.
→ The debt-ceiling standoff between the Democrats and the Republicans has intensified with a month to go before the U.S. faces a first-ever default that could affect the global financial markets. Senate Republicans are demanding that President Joe Biden accept their party's debt-ceiling package or make a counteroffer. At the same time, Democrats have floated the possibility of advancing a "clean" debt-ceiling hike. Meanwhile, the House Democrats have revealed a long-shot plan to force a vote on a debt-limit hike even over the objections of Republican leaders by using an obscure mechanism called a discharge petition, which requires 218 lawmakers to pass bills the Speaker refuses to consider.
→ Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a new law prohibiting state officials from investing public money in ESG goals and bans ESG bond sales. The move is part of a wider effort by US Republicans against sustainable investing, which they feel prioritizes ESG goals over returns. The law could deny municipalities access to large pools of ESG-mandated capital, and it is a clear political message from DeSantis, a likely presidential candidate. The Left supports ESG as a way to invest in environmentally and socially conscious investments. At the same time, the Right sees ESG as a threat to business owners' religious and political liberties.
→ California legislature to vote on reparations bill for black residents whose ancestry is traceable to the slave trade. The California Reparations Task Force has released estimates and methodologies for payments to black residents who are descendants of American slaves. The Left says the payments would compensate for financial losses and injustices resulting from institutional racism and slavery, including over-policing Black communities, housing discrimination, and healthcare system inequity. The Right says the move aims to use taxpayer dollars for the left’s virtue signaling and would wreak massive damage on the already flailing economy.
Eligible residents could receive various payments, and an eligible person who lived their whole life in California and was 71 or older could receive up to $1.2 million. The task force will vote on the proposals, which may also include a formal apology for slavery and discriminatory state laws, and then send them to the California legislature for approval. The proposals are expected to face opposition from Republican lawmakers and some moderate Democrats.
→ House Speaker McCarthy says he’ll invite Israel PM Netanyahu to DC if Biden doesn’t. U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy has called on the White House to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for an official visit, citing the 75th anniversary of Israel's independence as a suitable occasion. President Joe Biden has not yet extended an invitation. His administration has expressed concerns over Netanyahu's plans to strip Israel's highest court of its power, settlement expansion on the West Bank, and violence between Israelis and Palestinians. McCarthy, who has close ties to Netanyahu and the Republican Party, has said that he will invite Netanyahu to Washington himself if the president does not extend an invitation.
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→ The death of a black homeless man, Jordan Neely, who died while being restrained on a Subway train by a former marine, has caused outrage and protests in New York. Witnesses said Neely was shouting at passengers and trying to tell them he was thirsty and hungry. The ex-marine, identified as Daniel J. Penny, put him in a chokehold, and two other male passengers helped to restrain Neely. Neely lost consciousness and later died. Neely was mentally ill and had been arrested over 40 times. The former marine was taken into custody but released without charge. However, the Office of Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York has ruled Neely's death a homicide. The ruling sparked protests in the city and led to calls for Penny to be arrested. Some Democrats have called his death a 'murder' and 'lynching,' but others have called Penny a hero for stepping in to protect himself and other passengers.
→ Jeffrey Epstein’s private calendar shows meetings with a range of prominent individuals, including three with William Burns, the current director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a college president, and a former White House counsel under Barack Obama. Many of these individuals say their connections with Epstein were purely professional or social, with some meeting him to discuss philanthropic opportunities and others to discuss academic or political topics. Epstein was a registered sex offender who brokered meetings after serving time in prison in 2008 for a sex crime involving a teenage girl.
The emails and schedules obtained by the WSJ also reveal that several prominent figures continued to associate with Epstein, travel with him, and request favors from him even after he was registered as a convicted sex offender. Larry Summers, former Harvard president, and Treasury secretary, met with Epstein more than a dozen times between 2013 and 2016. Woody Allen had almost monthly meetings with Epstein in 2014 and 2015, and Terje Rød-Larsen, a Norwegian diplomat, visited Epstein's New York townhouse so often that the staff knew to have cucumbers around for his gin. The documents also reveal that Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, visited Epstein's island twice and stayed at his townhouse once. In contrast, Leon Black, the billionaire co-founder of Apollo Global Management, had scheduled over 100 meetings with Epstein from 2013 to 2017. Many of the people who appeared on Epstein's calendars told reporters that they met with him for reasons related to his wealth and connections.
→ Four members of the Proud Boys have been found guilty of seditious conspiracy and other charges related to their involvement in the January 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol. The four defendants, Enrique Tarrio, Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs, and Zachary Rehl, were convicted of seditious conspiracy, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, as well as conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and other charges. The Proud Boys, a self-described "pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world," were accused of planning and carrying out a plan to stop the transfer of power to Joe Biden by disrupting Congress. The group viewed itself as "Trump's army" and was prepared for "all-out war" to stop Biden from becoming president, prosecutors said. The case went to the jury after U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly rejected multiple motions for dismissal.
→ Justice Clarence Thomas has been accused of failing to disclose accepting lavish vacations, using the private jet of Texas real-estate billionaire Harlan Crow, and not disclosing a property deal where Crow bought Thomas’s childhood home. New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has explicitly called for Thomas’ impeachment. Still, all nine justices sent a rare unanimous statement pushing back on attempts from Senate Democrats to implement new ethics oversight measures for the court, saying they voluntarily abide by these codes.
→ Justice Samuel Alito of the U.S. Supreme Court claims he knows who leaked a draft opinion indicating the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year, saying the leak created an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust among the nine justices. Alito says that the leak was intended to intimidate the court and make them change their decision on the Dobbs case, which he authored.
→ A new poll from the Associated Press reveals that trust in the news media continues to decline among Americans, with 75% of adults now believing that the media exhibits clear political polarization. Nearly half of those surveyed hold little or no trust in the media's ability to report news fairly and accurately. Recent scandals have contributed to the decline in trust, including apparent collusion between the media and government on COVID messaging and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken's involvement in crafting false statements about the origins of Hunter Biden's laptop. These revelations and the perception of political bias have led many Americans to seek alternative news sources.
→ Nordstrom has announced the closure of its Westfield Mall store and another nearby Nordstrom Rack in downtown San Francisco due to the deteriorating situation in the area. Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, the mall's owner, blamed the city's unsafe conditions, which have driven a growing number of retailers and businesses out of the area. The Westfield Mall’s Nordstrom will close at the end of August, and the Nordstrom Rack on Market Street will close on July 1. The city has seen numerous businesses struggle to cope with the high crime rate, with 20 retailers shutting down in Union Square since 2020.
→ Fed Chairman Powell admits that the U.S. is headed toward a recession in a Russian prank call posing as Ukrainian President Zelensky. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell was tricked into an extended phone call in January with Russian pranksters posing as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In the video posted on social media, Powell appears to discuss the economic impact of interest rate hikes, stating that a recession is almost as likely as very slow growth this year. A spokesperson for the Federal Reserve confirmed the phone call but stated that it was a friendly conversation, and no sensitive or confidential information was discussed. The matter has been referred to appropriate law enforcement, and the spokesperson did not comment on whether the incident demonstrated a security lapse or what steps would be taken to prevent it from happening again. The prank call incident has raised questions about the security of the Federal Reserve at a time when it is facing intense scrutiny over its interest rate hikes, which are intended to cool the economy and slow inflation.
→ JPMorgan Chase has acquired First Republic Bank, the fledgling institution that collapsed in March, in a monumental deal for the banking industry. JPMorgan has taken on all $92 billion of First Republic's deposits, both insured and uninsured, along with most of its assets. The purchase will also see the bank share First Republic's financial losses with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which is offering $50 billion in financing. Although the purchase provides stability to the banking industry, economists warn that the US economy is still heading towards a recession in the near future.
→ The Federal Reserve is poised to raise interest rates to a 16-year high again. This increase will be their sixth in the past year as they try to slow down the economy and curb inflation. Officials may pause after this increase, but this decision will depend on how the economy responds to previous rate hikes. The Fed is carefully considering the impact of its policy decisions on bank failures and potential economic activity. While some officials are concerned about the impact of tightening credit conditions, others believe the Fed may need to continue to raise rates beyond this week to prevent the economy from growing too fast.
→ During an episode of the "Dear Schuyler" podcast, Lia Thomas said that real feminists would endorse his participation in swimming competitions against women. Thomas says any feminist who opposes him competing in women's sports is “using the guise of feminism to sort of push transphobic beliefs.” Lia is accused of mansplaining feminism and is criticized for taking away opportunities from female athletes who have been working hard for years to get to where they are.
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→ Two middle school teachers at Rincon Middle School in Escondido, California, are suing their school district and the California State Board of Education over policies requiring educators to hide students' gender transitions from parents. The policies allegedly require teachers to use preferred pronouns or gender-specific names requested by students during school hours but revert to biological pronouns and legal names when speaking to the student’s parents. The teachers argue that this violates their First Amendment rights and parental rights. The district maintains that it is merely complying with state and federal law, and the California Department of Education states that schools must respect the limitations that a transgender student places on the disclosure of their transgender status, including not sharing that information with the student’s parents.
→ The U.S. struggles to replenish ammunition stockpiles amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. US plans to increase production of key munitions have fallen short due to shortages of chips, machinery, and skilled workers. Arms manufacturers have tried to boost production of Javelin antitank missiles, artillery shells, guided rockets, and more but years of stop-start Pentagon funding for munitions and moving production lines overseas have made it difficult to ramp up. The US has committed to giving Ukraine more than $36bn in arms, including rounds of munitions for howitzers, tanks, portable rocket launchers, and advanced guided missile systems. Production of 155mm howitzer shells has become a focus of the defense industry’s push.
→ Russia has accused Ukraine of attempting to attack the Kremlin with drones in an effort to kill President Vladimir Putin, an allegation that Ukraine promptly denied. The incident is seen as a significant escalation in the 14-month conflict between the two countries. The U.S. Secretary of State said that the reports of the attack had not been validated and urged caution, while Russia threatened to retaliate. Videos of the incident suggest that a drone was aimed at the Kremlin but exploded before it could reach it. Victory Day, a major public holiday commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, is approaching. The event was seen as an opportunity for Putin to rally Russians behind his actions in Ukraine.
→ Iran has seized a second oil tanker, the Panama-flagged Niovi, in the Strait of Hormuz, according to the US Navy, with Tehran claiming it was on a judicial order following a complaint. It follows Iran's seizure of the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker Advantage Sweet in the Gulf of Oman on 29 April. Maritime security firm Ambrey said that seizure was likely in response to a US court-ordered seizure of an oil cargo aboard the Suez Rajan. Heightened military activity and regional geopolitical tensions continue to pose serious threats to commercial vessels.
→ Illegal immigrant Francisco Oropesa, who had been deported on 4 previous occasions and who shot five of his neighbors in Cleveland, TX, including an 8-year-old child, was captured and is now in custody. Texas authorities have also arrested the wife and a friend of Oropesa. The wife and friend were charged with helping the suspect evade capture for four days. The killings occurred in San Jacinto County after neighbors asked Oropesa to stop firing his semiautomatic rifle in his yard because it kept their baby awake. Instead, Oropesa reloaded, entered the home of the neighbors, and killed five. The victims were from Honduras, and not all family members. Oropesa was apprehended on Tuesday after a manhunt conducted by local, state, and federal officials.
→ The Biden administration is sending 1,500 troops to the southern border ahead of the repeal of Title 42 on May 11. Title 42 is a Trump-era immigration order that allows for the swift deportation of migrants. Federal officials hope that the troops will help curb the impact of the anticipated surge in illegal immigration once the order is lifted. Border towns such as El Paso are sounding the alarm, with the mayor declaring a state of emergency and preparing for the unknown. The impending surge is expected to be even more severe as border agents will have less authority to deport those who are detained. On May 12, Border Patrol authorities will return to enforcing standard immigration law.
→ El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser has declared a state of emergency ahead of the possible end of the Title 42 immigration policy in the US. According to an unconfirmed report, up to 35,000 asylum seekers are waiting in Juarez, Mexico, hoping to cross the border on May 11. The Title 42 policy directs the rapid return of migrants to Mexico due to health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Leeser warned that the policy’s end would not change other aspects of immigration policy, and those attempting to cross the border without documentation would be deported. The declaration aims to help the city handle the large number of migrants expected to arrive across the border.
→ Republican lawmakers in North Carolina have agreed on a proposal to limit most abortions to the first trimester of pregnancy. If passed, it would limit elective abortions to 12 weeks gestation, a drop from the current 20 weeks. The proposal is part of Republican lawmakers' ongoing efforts to limit abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to end a pregnancy last year. The bill has received immediate condemnation from Democrats, with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper stating that he "strongly opposed" the measure. However, the Republicans hold a large enough majority in both houses of the legislature to override Cooper's veto.
The bill includes exceptions for rape and incest until 20 weeks and for fetal life-limiting anomalies until 24 weeks. It also has an exception to save the life of the mother. Additionally, the bill includes criminal provisions related to abortion and child care. Physicians who fail to care for a child born alive after an attempted abortion will be fined $250,000. Those who illegally provide abortion drugs to women or advertise them will face a fine of $5,000.
→ Montana Gov. Gianforte signs legislation stating abortion is not covered by the “right to privacy.” Montana Governor Greg Gianforte has signed five new abortion restrictions into law as part of a package that builds on "historic progress" made in 2021. The most significant of these is a bill that contradicts a ruling from the state Supreme Court nearly 25 years ago that stated the right to privacy in the Montana Constitution does include the right to abortion. The new bill could lead to a review of this ruling. The package also bans abortions after 24 weeks, except to protect the life of the mother, and requires babies born alive after a failed late-term abortion to be protected. Planned Parenthood has already sued to block one bill, which requires an ultrasound before having an abortion, from going into effect.
→ Paramount has announced that Yellowstone, the most-watched show across broadcast and cable television, will air its final episodes in November, but the franchise will continue with a straight-to-series order of a sequel named Yellowstone. The new installment will stream on Paramount+ and not Peacock, and it will operate outside the confines of the NBCUniversal arrangement that its predecessor had. The series, from franchise mastermind Taylor Sheridan, is set to debut in December and is famously prolific and fast. While the casting is unknown, it is rumored that Matthew McConaughey is in talks to star in the sequel. The news comes after Kevin Costner, who stars in Yellowstone, refused to work more than a week on the show's final season.
→ Over 11,000 film and television writers have gone on strike after the Writers Guild of America failed to reach a new deal with Hollywood studios. Late-night talk shows are likely to be the hardest hit, with all four big broadcast shows immediately going dark, and other popular shows, including Bill Maher on HBO, "The Daily Show," and "Saturday Night Live," also expected to shut down temporarily. The strike has been prompted by the desire for higher wages and more recognition, with streaming at the center of the strike. The writers want a new residual pay structure that mirrors the old syndication model more closely, especially when a show becomes a hit.