Newsletter

The Paper Trail: January 23, 2024

EPA Backing Down from Environmental Justice Cases; Fake Biden Robocall Portends AI Voter Suppression; Top Cancer Center Retracts Dozens of Studies; and More. 

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

Announcements

The application deadline for a two-day intensive Boot Camp on the art and practice of oversight and investigations hosted by POGO, the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy, and The Lugar Center has been extended. This training is only open to staff in Congress. Apply at THIS LINK by Friday, January 26.

Working with the Media on Oversight & Investigations: POGO’s virtual training on how to work effectively with the media on oversight investigations will be Friday, February 2, at 12 noon. This event is only open to staff in Congress, GAO, and CRS. Register HERE.

Top stories for January 23, 2024

Authorities investigate threats to Democratic lawmakers: The Capitol Police and FBI are investigating remarks reportedly made by Roger Stone shortly before the 2020 election in which he expressed a desire for the deaths of two Democratic lawmakers. (Alan Feuer and Luke Broadwater, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: Capitol Police investigated more than 8,000 threats against lawmakers last year (Zoë Richards, NBC News)

The oligarch exemption for new business disclosure rules: After a multimillion-dollar lobbying blitz, venture capital funds, hedge funds, and private equity funds got themselves exempted from new federal disclosure rules designed to curb criminal activity. (Helen Santoro, The Lever)

Trades by former Fed officials created “appearance” of conflict: The Federal Reserve’s inspector general found that former Dallas Fed President Rob Kaplan and former Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren made personal investment decisions in a way that would make people question their integrity in policymaking but didn’t break any laws or policies. (Victoria Guida, Politico)

The EPA is backing down from environmental justice cases nationwide: The EPA is shying away from Civil Rights Act investigations in states that are hostile to environmental justice, due to fears that state challenges could make their way to a Supreme Court that appears ready to rule against the EPA. (Delaney Nolan, The Intercept)

FAA calls for more Boeing 737 checks after bolt findings: The FAA on Sunday recommended airlines operating Boeing 737-900ER jets inspect door plugs to ensure they are properly secured after some operators reported unspecified issues with bolts during inspections. (David Shepardson, Reuters)

🔎 See Also: Blinken stranded after Davos by Boeing, his old client (Katya Schwenk, The Lever)

Top cancer center seeks to retract or correct dozens of studies: The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, one of the nation’s foremost cancer treatment and research facilities, said it will ask medical journals to retract six research papers and correct dozens of others after a British scientist found the work was rife with manipulated or misleading data. (Benjamin Mueller, New York Times)

Free surgeries and prescriptions: White House staff got access to military health care despite being ineligible: Under the Trump administration, the White House Medical Unit sent ineligible White House staff to military hospitals for free specialty care and surgeries. The unit also dispensed hundreds of free prescriptions, including controlled substances, to people in the White House. (Patricia Kime, Military.com)

Israel-Hamas War

“Different rules”: Special policies keep U.S. supplying weapons to Israel despite alleged abuses: A review of internal State Department documents shows special mechanisms have been used to shield Israel from human rights laws and preserve its continued access to U.S. weapons. (Stephanie Kirchgaessner, The Guardian)

Group of feds causes firestorm after “walking out” over Biden’s Israel policies: Feds United for Peace, a group that says it represents employees at more than two-dozen agencies, is facing pushback after organizing a protest against the Biden administration’s policies regarding the Israel-Hamas war, with top Republican lawmakers suggesting their actions should result in their removal. (Eric Katz, Government Executive)

Insurrection

DOJ has a near-perfect record in Jan. 6 cases. But it’s starting to stumble: New setbacks have resulted in two defendants being released, at least temporarily, from prison terms, and several others having their cases indefinitely delayed. The unexpected hurdles are a reminder of the unprecedented nature of the attack and the uneasy fit of the laws prosecutors chose to deploy against those who participated in it. (Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, Politico)

🔎 See Also: Ex-soldier convicted of manslaughter for killing Iraqi civilian is arrested on Jan. 6 charges (Ryan J. Reilly, NBC News)

🔎 See Also: Why Jan. 6 insurrectionists sent a letter to the Folger Shakespeare Library (Meena Venkataramanan, Washington Post)

House Jan. 6 committee deleted files days before GOP majority in House: Rep. Barry Loudermilk accused the select committee of deleting files and saving materials under undisclosed passwords. (Mariana Labbate, The Messenger)

Jordan seeks answers from former Treasury official over flagged “MAGA” transactions: Rep. Jim Jordan requested a transcribed interview with a former Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) official for allegedly flagging financial transactions that had the phrases “TRUMP” or “MAGA” in them. (Lauren Sforza, The Hill)

“Swatting” targets all sides, raising fears: The trend of “swatting,” or calling in a false report of a crime to police in order to lure them to a location, is raising alarm among experts in political extremism and emergency management who say such incidents targeting public officials will continue to increase this year. (Ella Lee, The Hill)

Dobbs Aftermath

She filed a complaint after being denied an abortion. The government shut her down: Abortion rights advocates say the Biden administration is failing to follow through on its promise to aggressively enforce a federal law touted as a workaround to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. (Caroline Kitchener and Dan Diamond, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: Biden and Harris target abortion laws, and Trump, on Roe’s 51st anniversary (Katie Rogers, New York Times)

Russia-Ukraine War

How Biden can bypass Congress on Ukraine aid: U.S. weapons makers are teaming up with Kyiv to produce military gear in the war-torn country — likely, in part, at U.S. taxpayers’ expense. (Julia Gledhill, Responsible Statecraft)

Families of U.S. vets killed in Ukraine urge Congress to continue the fight: More than 30 American veterans have died in Ukraine since February 2022. (Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose)

Police Misconduct

Uvalde shooting report sharply critical of police response, leaders: Attorney General Merrick Garland last week punctuated a scathing 575-page report on police failures during the 2022 massacre at Robb Elementary School by declaring that “lives would have been saved” if local and state officers had “followed generally accepted practices.” (Arelis R. Hernández, Devlin Barrett, and Mark Berman, Washington Post)

Washington state officers acquitted in death of Manuel Ellis to receive $500K to leave police department: The city of Tacoma released copies of the “voluntary separation” agreements with the three officers last week as the police chief announced that none of the officers violated the use-of-force policy in effect at the time. One officer was found to have violated a policy concerning courtesy. (Associated Press)

Business and Finance

How Walmart’s financial services became a fraud magnet: More than $1 billion in fraud losses were routed through Walmart gift cards and money transfers between 2013 and 2022. Walmart has a financial incentive to avoid cracking down. (Craig Silverman and Peter Elkind, ProPublica)

He hit three monster bets — and then the sportsbook wouldn’t pay: Sportsbooks use an “obvious error” clause in their fine print to avoid paying big winners. Industry observers say the practice is increasing. (Danny Funt, Washington Post)

Tech

Climate denialists find new ways to monetize disinformation on YouTube: Content creators developed new tactics to evade YouTube’s blocking of videos that make false claims about climate change. (Ashley Belanger, Ars Technica)

Fake Biden robocall encourages voters to skip New Hampshire Democratic primary: The incident heightened concerns about the use of AI to spread misinformation and cause voter suppression. (Jacob Rosen, CBS News)

Health Care

Big Pharma hiked the price of 775 drugs this year so far: Pharmaceutical companies have raised the list prices of 775 brand-name drugs so far this year, with a median increase of 4.5%, exceeding the rate of inflation. (Beth Mole, Ars Technica)

Congressional watchdog will launch inquiry into FDA oversight of medical device recalls: Sens. Dick Durbin and Richard Blumenthal urged the GAO to investigate the FDA’s oversight of medical device recalls, citing reports that the agency failed to issue warnings about Philips Respironics breathing machines exposing users to hazardous particles and fumes. (Haajrah Gilani et al., ProPublica)

Risk of wildfire smoke in long-term care facilities is worse than you’d think: Every year, wildfires across the western U.S. and Canada send plumes of smoke into the sky, and an astonishing amount gets into long-term care facilities housing people considered an at-risk population for smoke exposure. (Kylie Mohr, CBS News)

ICYMI

Immigration and Border Security:

Supreme Court allows Biden administration to remove razor wire on U.S.-Mexico border

Texas, U.S. in legal standoff as state refuses to comply with directive on border access

9 Democratic governors push Biden and Congress to address migrant crisis

Other News:

Massachusetts ballot commission dismisses 14th Amendment case against Trump

The failed promise of independent election mapmaking

Elizabeth Holmes barred from federal health programs for 90 years

Department of Justice joins antitrust lawsuit challenging NCAA’s transfer rules

House Republicans to introduce bill boosting SEC oversight

White House urges schools to address absenteeism amid troubling data

State-backed Russian hackers accessed senior Microsoft leaders’ emails, company says

Hot Docs

🔥📃 DHS OIG: Summary of Previously Issued Recommendations and Other Insights to Improve Operational Conditions at the Southwest Border. OIG-24-10(PDF)

🔥📃 VA OIG: VA Should Enhance Its Oversight to Improve the Accessibility of Websites and Information Technology Systems for Individuals with Disabilities. 22-03909-19(PDF)

🔥📃 Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy: Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States (7th edition). January 2024

Nominations & Appointments

Appointments

  • Doreen Patricia Greenwald - Member, Federal Salary Council
  • Daniel Mathews - Member, Public Buildings Reform Board
  • Timothy D. Murray - Member, Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico
  • Juan A. Sabater - Judge, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • Gregory C. Simon - Member, President’s Commission on White House Fellowships