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The Paper Trail: December 1, 2023

Coast Guard Concealed Racism Report; M&Ms Harvested in Ghana by 5-Year-Olds; Weapons Stolen from U.S. in Iraq and Syria; and More. 

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The Paper Trail

Top stories for December 1, 2023

U.S. Coast Guard leaders long concealed a critical report about racism, hazing and sexual misconduct: U.S. Coast Guard leaders buried a 2015 report that exposed racism, hazing, discrimination, sexual assault, and retaliation at the agency. Some of the report’s findings mirrored those of another secret investigation into rapes and sexual assaults at the Coast Guard Academy. (Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken, CNN)

FDIC watchdog launches probe into agency leadership that allegedly allowed widespread harassment to fester: The FDIC’s inspector general launched an investigation into alleged sexual harassment and misconduct at the federal government’s top bank regulator. The announcement follows the agency’s announcement last week that it would create its own “special committee” to investigate the allegations. (Eric Katz, Government Executive)

U.S. used its Section 702 spy tool to disrupt Iran’s weapons program: U.S. intelligence officials say the controversial surveillance authority has been key to helping them stop the sale of certain weapons parts to Iran in recent years. The disclosure is the administration’s latest argument of Section 702’s importance to national security as it pushes for its renewal. (Erin Banco and John Sakellariadis, Politico)

Government watchdog to investigate selection of new FBI headquarters site: The GSA’s inspector general launched a probe into the selection of Maryland as the home of the FBI’s new headquarters, after Virginia lawmakers and even the bureau’s director raised concerns about a potential conflict of interest and other impropriety. (Zoë Richards, NBC News)

A rural post office was told to prioritize Amazon packages. Chaos ensued: Postal workers across the U.S. say they’ve been overwhelmed by Amazon packages, which is causing disruptions to mail service in their communities. Amazon is increasingly relying on postal carriers to make “last-mile” deliveries in harder-to-reach locations. (Caroline O’Donovan and Jacob Bogage, Washington Post)

Senators own up to $1.2 million in Big Oil stocks: Ten senators, including those on critical committees involved in climate regulations, own between $403,000 and $1.2 million in individual stocks of Big Oil companies. The vast majority — up to $1.1 million — is held by Republicans. (Caitlin Moniz and Linnaea Honl-Stuenkel, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)

Supreme Court Ethics

Senate Democrats vote to subpoena Harlan Crow, Leonard Leo in Supreme Court ethics probe: Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee requested details of gifts, transportation, lodging, travel, and private club access provided by billionaire GOP donor Harlan Crow that appear to have been tied in some cases to conservative legal activist Leonard Leo. (Riley Beggin, USA Today)

🔎 See Also: Leonard Leo firm received $21M from Leo-linked group (Hailey Fuchs and Heidi Przybyla, Politico)

Supreme Court weighs hearing Jan. 6 cases that could affect Trump prosecution: Three different appeals brought by January 6 defendants seek to dismiss a charge accusing them of obstructing an official proceeding, namely the certification by Congress of President Biden’s election victory. Donald Trump was charged with the same offense. (Lawrence Hurley and Ryan J. Reilly, NBC News)

Insurrection

Court filing reveals Rep. Scott Perry’s vast web of contacts in bid to reverse 2020 election: Newly disclosed text messages — contained in a court filing that appears to have been erroneously made public on Wednesday — reveal an extraordinary web of communications between Perry and key figures in President Trump’s orbit in the weeks after the 2020 election. (Kyle Cheney, Politico)

Dobbs Aftermath

Supreme Court to confront post-Roe abortion battles: Several key cases are being considered by the justices: Idaho’s emergency request to enforce its abortion ban, a challenge to a law establishing abortion clinic “buffer zones,” and a dispute over the availability of mifepristone. (Zach Schonfeld, The Hill)

Russia-Ukraine War

Bombenomics: Biden admin circulates map showing states that benefit from Ukraine aid: According to a graphic the administration circulated on Capitol Hill, Pennsylvania has received $2.36 billion in investments to build munitions and tactical vehicles for Ukraine, the most of any state. Meanwhile, Arizona is a close second with $2.26 billion, Texas and Arkansas received $1.45 billion and $1.48 billion, respectively, and Florida got $1.01 billion. (Lara Seligman, Connor O’Brien, and Joe Gould, Politico)

🔎 See Also: Opinion: Ukraine aid’s best-kept secret: most of the money stays in the U.S.A. (Marc A. Thiessen, Washington Post)

Police Misconduct

How a “Goon Squad” of deputies got away with years of brutality: For nearly 20 years, a loose band of sheriff’s deputies roamed impoverished neighborhoods across Rankin County, Mississippi, barging into homes in the middle of the night, accusing the occupants of dealing drugs, then handcuffing or holding them at gunpoint and torturing them into confessing or providing information. (Brian Howey and Nate Rosenfield, New York Times)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

Missiles and drones among weapons stolen from U.S. in Iraq and Syria: U.S. military outposts in Iraq and Syria are plagued by thefts of weapons and equipment by local militias and criminal gangs. Just how many thefts have occurred is unknown — perhaps even to the Pentagon. (Nick Turse, The Intercept)

Fight against “price gouging” on military parts heats up: Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. John Garamendi have stepped up their campaign to curb what they call widespread “price gouging” in contracts for military spare parts, expressing outrage that contractors are exploiting loopholes to avoid providing the government data to document that their prices are fair and reasonable. (John M. Donnelly, Roll Call)

U.S. military Osprey aircraft with 6 aboard crashes off southern Japan, at least 1 dead: Ospreys have had several accidents in the past, including in Japan, where they are deployed at both U.S. and Japanese military bases. (Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press)

The “John Wayne Saloon”: How day drinking went undetected at one of America’s top military bases: A clandestine saloon at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a base charged with crucial national security responsibility, triggered alarms at high levels and prompted an investigation into how officers were able to operate an off-the-books drinking establishment at the base. (Tom Vanden Brook and Kim Hjelmgaard, USA Today)

Business and Finance

Uncharitable giving: Tax deductions for charitable giving have become the province of the wealthy. But many millionaires and billionaires use the charitable deduction in a way that a large percentage of the money doesn’t flow to charities. (Judd Legum, Popular Information)

Citi is sued over sex abuse. Before 2022, it would have been a secret: A lawsuit filed by a female Citigroup employee is the most high-profile case to shine a light on Wall Street’s culture of sexual abuse and harassment since the enactment of a 2022 law that ended forced arbitration for such cases. (Emily Flitter, New York Times)

Candy company Mars uses cocoa harvested by kids as young as 5 in Ghana: Despite the company’s vow to eradicate child labor in its supply chain, children in Ghana as young as 5 years old are harvesting chocolate for Mars. (Debora Patta et al., CBS News)

Tech

Judge blocks Montana TikTok ban law: A Montana federal judge ruled that TikTok’s arguments held merit that the state’s ban on the app likely violates the First Amendment and the Commerce Clause, and that the ban is preempted by federal law. (Rebecca Kern, Politico)

Infrastructure

Federal officials investigating after pro-Iran group claims to have hacked water authority in Pennsylvania: The incident is one of several that have raised concerns about hackers and U.S. infrastructure vulnerabilities. (Kristina Sgueglia and Sean Lyngaas, CNN)

Biden administration to require replacing of lead pipes within 10 years: EPA’s proposed rule to rip out millions of pipes across the country could cost as much as $30 billion, but it could prevent another public health catastrophe like the one in Flint, Michigan. (Coral Davenport, New York Times)

As the nation’s largest landlord shifts its priorities, outrage ensues in Wyoming: The Bureau of Land Management faces a backlash in Wyoming and elsewhere as it puts more emphasis on conservation, recreation, and renewable energy development on public lands. (Timothy Puko, Washington Post)

Health Care

White House plans next year’s RSV immunization campaign following shortages: Demand for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) immunization products far exceeded what drugmakers anticipated this year. (Joseph Choi, The Hill)

U.S. rate of suicide by firearm reaches record level: The rate of suicides involving guns in the U.S. reached the highest level since officials began tracking it more than 50 years ago, according to a new CDC report. In some racial and ethnic groups, the rise was significantly steeper. (Emily Baumgaertner, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: New CDC life expectancy data shows painfully slow rebound from COVID (Joel Achenbach and Dan Keating, Washington Post)

The South is “the epicenter” of a new HIV crisis. Medicaid expansion could help: HIV is surging in the South, which the CDC has designated “the epicenter” of an emerging crisis particularly affecting seven states. (April Simpson, Center for Public Integrity)

ICYMI

Immigration and Border Security:

Whistleblower alleges failures in medical care at U.S. border facilities

Texas immigration enforcement is causing high-speed chase deaths

States thought fast work permits would solve their migrant problems. It hasn’t

Other News:

Senate takes first steps to refill federal workforce watchdog roles

U.S., India play down Sikh murder plot with wider Asia strategy at risk

Trump job application questionnaires revealed

How one man’s open records obsession sparked a fight over transparency and power in East Texas

Henry Kissinger, war criminal beloved by America’s ruling class, finally dies

Maine’s yellow flag law use spikes after Lewiston mass shooting

Because It’s Friday

TSA’s 2024 canine calendar will melt your travelin’ heart: TSA released its annual calendar honoring its hardworking, picture paw-fect, explosives-detecting dogs. (Forrest Brown, CNN)

Upcoming Events

📌 Oversight of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. House Judiciary Committee; Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government. Tuesday, December 5, 10:00 a.m., 2141 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Senate Judiciary Committee. Tuesday, December 5, 10:00 a.m., 216 Hart Senate Office Building.

📌 Annual Oversight of Wall Street Firms. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Wednesday, December 6, 9:30 a.m., 216 Hart Senate Office Building.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 GAO - Federal Facilities: Continued Oversight of Security Recommendations Needed. GAO-24-107137(PDF)

🔥📃 GAO - VA Disability Benefits: Board of Veterans’ Appeals Should Address Gaps in Its Quality Assurance Process. GAO-24-106156(PDF)

🔥📃 Brennan Center for Justice: Section 702 Backdoor Searches: Myths and Facts. November 30, 2023

Nominations & Appointments

Nominations

  • Juan Carlos Iturregui - Ambassador, Dominican Republic
  • Deven Parekh - Member, Development Finance Corporation Board of Directors
  • Kristen Sarri - Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
  • Douglas Craig Schmidt - Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, Department of Defense