The Paper Trail: February 13, 2024

FDA Slow to Warn Public About CPAPs; State Department Still Pale, Male and Yale; Cross-Border Sewage Threatens San Diego; and More.

The Paper Trail logo in front of government buildings in Washington, DC

Delivered Tuesdays and Fridays, The Paper Trail is a curated collection of the government news you need to know. Sign up to get this newsletter delivered to your inbox.

The Paper Trail


Join the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy on Monday, February 26, at 12:15 p.m. ET for a Zoom webinar presentation of Professor Jason MacDonald’s award-winning paper surveying 50 years of oversight investigations by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The presentation will be followed by discussion and Q&A.

Top stories for February 13, 2024

FDA repeatedly rejected safety claims made by Philips after the CPAP recall but waited to alert the public, emails show: As Philips Respironics reassured the public that its recalled sleep apnea devices were safe, internal emails show the FDA told the company its testing failed to account for the impact on patients who had used the devices for years. (Debbie Cenziper, Michael D. Sallah, and Michael Korsh, ProPublica)

Some 6,600 current and former employees impacted in a January GAO data breach: Last month, CGI Federal, a contractor involved in GAO’s financial management systems, notified GAO of a data breach impacting approximately 6,600 people, primarily current and former GAO employees from 2007 to 2017, as well as some companies doing business with GAO. (David DiMolfetta, Government Executive)

Department of Education takes steps to speed up college financial aid awards after bumpy FAFSA rollout: The Education Department is facing criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for the flawed rollout of the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) program. (Katie Lobosco, CNN)

The State Department is still pale, male, and Yale: Despite promises to make America’s diplomatic corps more diverse under Secretary of State Antony Blinken, little progress has been made. The department continues to hear concerns related to discrimination, harassment, and other abuses faced by employees of color. (Jonathan Guyer, The New Republic)

Congress to examine U.S. spy agencies’ work on Havana Syndrome: The House Intelligence Committee is investigating how the CIA concluded that no hostile power was responsible for the mysterious ailments, a finding some whistleblowers have challenged. (Julian E. Barnes, New York Times)

SEC’s “Gag Rule” denounced as “occupational death sentence”: A long-running battle over the SEC’s policy of barring defendants who settle with the agency from speaking out against the charges is gaining new momentum in the courts, although the challenge is considered a long-shot. (Declan Harty, Politico)

Classified Documents

House GOP in discussions with Biden special counsel Robert Hur for testimony: House Republicans reached out to special counsel Robert Hur to discuss having him testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee about his report on President Biden’s handling of classified documents. (Annie Grayer, Paula Reid, and Jeremy Herb, CNN)

Trump attends closed-door hearing in Florida classified docs case: Yesterday’s court activity comes amid concern by prosecutors that Judge Aileen Cannon will endanger trial witnesses if she doesn’t rescind a ruling to unseal their identities. (Kimberly Leonard, Josh Gerstein, and Kyle Cheney, Politico)


Trump asks Supreme Court to keep Jan. 6 trial on hold, citing 2024 election: Monday’s filing asks the justices to temporarily suspend — pending a formal appeal to the Supreme Court — the rejection by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit of Trump’s claim that he is immune from prosecution for actions he took while in office. (Ann E. Marimow, Washington Post)

Russia-Ukraine War

Senate passes aid to Ukraine, but fate is uncertain in a hostile House: The measure would provide an additional $60.1 billion for Kyiv — which would bring the total U.S. investment in the war effort to more than $170 billion — as well as $14.1 billion for Israel’s war against Hamas and almost $10 billion for humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones, including Palestinians in Gaza. (Karoun Demirjian, New York Times)

Ukraine claims Russian forces using Starlink network in occupied areas: Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, which owns Starlink, claims it doesn’t do business of any kind with the Russian government or its military. (Maria Kostenko and Simon Cullen, CNN)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

VA plans to expand Agent Orange disability benefits to cover exposure in a dozen new states: The public has 60 days to comment on the VA’s proposal, which would expand eligibility for Agent Orange disability benefits to Vietnam-era veterans. VA officials also plan to widen eligibility for veterans who were sickened by herbicides used after World War II in the Demilitarized Zone in Korea in the 1950s and in areas off the shores of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. (Patricia Kime,


San Diego County faces multifront health threat amid transboundary sewage flow from Mexico: Cross-border sewage contamination — a result of inadequate infrastructure and urbanization — poses a persistent public health threat with significant socioeconomic and legal implications. (Sharon Udasin, The Hill)

Health Care

Staggering rise in catheter bills suggests Medicare scam: Doctors, state insurance departments, and health care groups say the recent spike in claims for urinary catheters that were never delivered suggests a far-reaching Medicare scam. Medicare’s Center for Program Integrity declined to say whether the agency was investigating the billings. (Sarah Kliff and Katie Thomas, New York Times)

Doctors and parents are scrambling after asthma inhaler switch takes popular medication off the market: Flovent, one of the most commonly prescribed childhood asthma medications, is no longer being manufactured in the U.S. The manufacturer took if off the shelves January 1 and replaced it with an identical generic version, but what seemed to be a straightforward swap has left some doctors and parents in the lurch. (Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, CNN)

Analysis: Why are Republicans more likely to suffer hearing loss? Hearing loss appears to be yet another manifestation of the urban-rural divide. The partisan gap could also be attributed to gun ownership. (Andrew Van Dam, Washington Post)


Immigration and Border Security:

Migrants face cold, perilous crossing from Canada to New York

Other News:

The planet needs solar power. Can we build it without harming nature?

What is code-switching? Why Black Americans say they can’t be themselves at work

Columbia University targeted by expanding House antisemitism investigation

Upcoming Events

📌 Webinar: Pulling Back the Curtain on Who is Targeting State Supreme Courts to Limit Our Freedoms. Democracy Alliance. Tuesday, February 13, 3:00 p.m. ET.

📌 Oversight of the United States Marshals Service. House Committee on the Judiciary; Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance. Wednesday, February 14, 10:00 a.m., 2141 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 VA’s HR Office: Did Leaders Ignore and Perpetrate Sexual Harassment? House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Wednesday, February 14, 10:15 a.m., 360 Canon House Office Building.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 GAO - Online Extremism: More Complete Information Needed about Hate Crimes that Occur on the Internet. GAO-24-105553 (PDF)

Nominations & Appointments


  • Willie L. Phillips Jr. - Chair, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission