The Paper Trail: February 20, 2024

J6 Judges Deal With Conspiracy Claims; The White House’s Lax Medical Unit; Are Dating Apps Turning Us Into Addicts?; and More. 

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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 20, 2024

White House launches federal spending inventory: The White House last week launched the Federal Program Inventory, a searchable federal spending website containing information about more than 2,300 federal grant, loan, and direct payment programs. (Natalie Alms, Government Executive)

“No prescription needed”: Inside a White House clinic’s “systemic problems”: Former members of the White House Medical Unit confirmed that in both the Trump and Obama White Houses, the unit passed out sedatives and stimulants without proper prescriptions, provided free medical equipment and services to ineligible staffers, and used aliases in electronic health records to disguise patients’ identities. Former staffers said those practices were shaped by Dr. Ronny Jackson, who led the unit under President Obama and continued to exert control over it as President Trump’s personal doctor. (Dan Diamond and Michael Kranish, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: The top doctor for CBP tried to order fentanyl lollipops for a helicopter mission in New York, whistleblowers say (Julia Ainsley, NBC News)

Is the Pentagon hiding war crimes? The Pentagon isn’t retaining comprehensive records of alleged war crimes in its global military operations as required by the DOD’s own policies, according to a report. The report found that an entire year’s worth of records that could include such allegations have gone missing from the command center overseeing operations in the Middle East. (Freddy Brewster, The Lever)

As DEI gets more divisive, companies are ditching their teams: After George Floyd’s murder in 2020, companies made big pledges about racial equity, hiring teams dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Now, in the face of increasing conservative backlash, corporate America is pulling back. (Taylor Telford, Washington Post)

Facial recognition: coming soon to an airport near you: Biometric technology, which uses an individual’s unique physical identifiers like their face or fingerprints, is expanding at airports across the U.S. and around the world. The technology could mean enhanced security and faster passenger processing, but it also raises privacy and ethics concerns. (Christine Chung, New York Times)

Supreme Court Ethics

Senate Judiciary Committee has yet to subpoena Harlan Crow or Leonard Leo: More than two months after authorizing subpoenas for two key figures in the Supreme Court’s ethics controversies, Senate Democrats have yet to issue them. “Still working on it,” said Judiciary Committee chair Dick Durbin. (Andy Kroll, ProPublica)


Regretful Wisconsin fake elector says he was tricked into signing phony document claiming Trump won in 2020: State criminal charges have been filed against fake electors in Georgia, Michigan, and Nevada. Wisconsin’s fake electors haven’t been charged. One of them, Andrew Hitt, an attorney and former chairman of the state Republican Party, claims he and the other GOP electors were tricked by the Trump campaign. (Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes)

How judges in D.C. federal court are increasingly pushing back against Jan. 6 conspiracy theories: Judges in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who share responsibility and oversight of more than 1,200 insurrection prosecutions, are still confronting false claims about what happened on January 6. “In my 37 years on the bench, I cannot recall a time when such meritless justifications of criminal activity have gone mainstream,” said Judge Royce Lamberth. (Scott MacFarlane, CBS News)

Dobbs Aftermath

Trump allies plan new sweeping abortion restrictions: Allies of Donald Trump and former Trump administration officials are planning ways to restrict abortion rights if he returns to power that would go far beyond proposals for a national ban or the laws enacted in conservative states. Their plans involve circumventing Congress and leveraging the powers of the federal bureaucracy. (Lisa Lerer and Elizabeth Dias, New York Times)

The powerful constraints on medical care in Catholic hospitals across America: The expansion of Catholic hospitals nationwide leaves patients at the mercy of the church’s directives, which are often at odds with accepted medical standards in areas of reproductive health. (Rachana Pradhan and Hannah Recht, KFF Health News)

Frozen embryos are children, Ala. high court says in unprecedented ruling: The Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling that frozen embryos are people and there can be liability for destroying them could imperil in vitro fertilization and affect the hundreds of thousands of patients who depend on treatments like it each year. The first-of-its-kind ruling comes as at least 11 states have broadly defined human life. (Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, Washington Post)


High-risk patients alarmed by CDC’s plan to ease COVID isolation guidance: Concerns among medically vulnerable people are growing as the CDC prepares to drop its long-standing recommendation that those with COVID isolate for five days. At the same time, the few remaining policies guaranteeing paid leave for employees with COVID are coming to an end. (Fenit Nirappil and Lena H. Sun, Washington Post)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

Trump’s NATO threats expose limits of Congress’s power: Donald Trump’s menacing rhetoric toward NATO is shining a light on what little power Congress has in protecting America’s commitments to the alliance. That’s unlikely to change despite recently passed legislation requiring a two-thirds approval from the Senate before any withdrawal from NATO. (Laura Kelly, The Hill)

Musk’s SpaceX forges tighter links with U.S. spy and military agencies: SpaceX is deepening its ties with U.S. intelligence and military agencies, winning at least one major classified contract and expanding a secretive company satellite program called Starshield for national-security customers. Little is known about SpaceX’s Starshield unit, which counts a former Air Force general among its leaders. (Micah Maidenberg and Drew FitzGerald, Wall Street Journal)

Business and Finance

Capital One to acquire Discover, creating a consumer lending colossus: The deal, which is raising antitrust concerns, will be one of the first tests of regulatory scrutiny on bank deals since the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said last month that it intended to slow down approvals for mergers and acquisitions. (Lauren Hirsch and Emma Goldberg, New York Times)

These farmworkers created America’s strongest workplace heat rules: At a time when companies are resisting government efforts to regulate heat safety, the Fair Food Program, created in 2011 by a nonprofit that represents farmworkers, has convinced many businesses to voluntarily follow even stricter standards. (Nicolás Rivero and Eva Marie Uzcategui, Washington Post)

Opinion: It’s not just wages. Retailers are mistreating workers in a more insidious way: In recent years, part-time work has become the default at many large chain stores. But part-time work leaves many workers trapped in jobs that don’t pay enough and aren’t predictable enough to plan a life around. (Adelle Waldman, New York Times)


What will generative AI mean for the racial wealth gap? There is concern generative AI will disproportionately affect Black people, who have the highest unemployment rates in the nation and are in jobs that the technology will likely replace. (April Simpson, Center for Public Integrity)

🔎 See Also: FTC cracks down on AI impersonation scammers (Alexandra Kelley, Government Executive)

Tinder, Hinge “deliberately” turn users into swiping addicts, lawsuit says: Are dating apps turning us into addicts instead of helping us find love? Yes, claims a class-action lawsuit brought against the owner of Tinder, Hinge, and The League. (Jennifer Hassan, Washington Post)


Immigration and Border Security:

Their asylum case seems strong. But instead of hope, they feel despair

Texas to build 80-acre border base for National Guard troops

Other News:

Trump fraud trial penalty will exceed $450 million

Plans to expand U.S. chip manufacturing are running into obstacles

This under-the-radar Supreme Court case could wreak havoc on society

After a decade and $1.2 billion, NASA reveals its booty from Bennu: 121 grams

14 GOP-led states have turned down federal money to feed low-income kids in the summer. Here’s why

Louisiana overhauled its prison system. Now Republicans may undo changes

WikiLeaks founder Assange may be near end of long fight to stay out of U.S.