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The Paper Trail: June 7, 2024

SCOTUS Justices’ Gift Tally; Boeing’s Largest Plant in “Panic Mode”; Understanding Junk Fees; and More.

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The Paper Trail

Top stories for June 7, 2024

AG vows prosecution amid “unprecedented” spike in threats against career civil servants: Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged this week to use his authority to go after anyone making threats against career federal employees, which he said have spiked to previously unseen levels. He said DOJ has stood up a “threats task force” to investigate cases, and the department will “aggressively” seek penalties against those who engage in such conduct. (Eric Katz, Government Executive)

Sen. Kaine wants more career, fewer political-fundraising ambassadors: The U.S. doesn’t always send its best and brightest abroad to represent Washington. There have been many patronage appointees with no relevant qualifications who were chosen principally for their campaign support. (Joe Davidson, Washington Post)

Boeing’s largest plant in “panic mode” amid safety crisis, say workers and union officials: Boeing’s largest factory is in “panic mode” according to workers and union officials, with managers accused of hounding staff to keep quiet about quality and safety concerns. A mechanic at the Everett, Washington, facility claims it’s “full of” faulty 787 jets that need fixing. (Michael Sainato, The Guardian)

🔎 See Also: Families of victims who died in Boeing 737 Max 8 crashes urge DOJ to prosecute Boeing (Jennifer Dowling, FOX 13 Seattle)

The “trash” school: For decades, officials knew a school sat on a former dump — and did little to clean up the toxins: Dozens of schools across the country, predominantly in lower-income communities of color, sit on or adjacent to former or currently open landfills containing hazardous waste. No federal law prohibits new schools being placed on or near dump sites or requires schools to conduct cleanups. (Georgia Gee, The Intercept)

Cloudy with a chance of disaster: As climate change increases the likelihood of deadly landslides, cities like Juneau are stuck between a rock and a hard place. FEMA tracks landslide risks everywhere in the country except Alaska, and Congress has significantly underfunded landslide mitigation efforts. (Lois Parshley, The Lever)

Trump Conviction:

Far-right, white nationalists step up rhetoric after verdict

What Donald Trump’s criminal trial reveals about a potential second Trump administration

GOP plans aggressive “weaponization” investigations in wake of conviction

The GOP push for post-verdict payback: “Fight fire with fire”

Michael Cohen’s family doxxed after verdict

Israel-Hamas War

Israel secretly targets U.S. lawmakers with influence campaign on Gaza war: The Israeli government is running a $2 million influence campaign on X, Facebook, and Instagram targeting U.S. lawmakers and the public with pro-Israel messaging. The campaign also includes three fake English-language news sites. (Sheera Frenkel, New York Times)

Gaza aid pier suffered at least $22 million in damage, Pentagon assesses: The cost for repairs could rise to as much as $28 million. Critics say that instead of building the pier, the administration could have delivered aid into Gaza faster and at less cost by exerting greater pressure on the Israeli government to ease restrictions on aid moving through overland routes. (Dan Lamothe and John Hudson, Washington Post)

George Clooney called White House to defend wife’s work on Israel warrants: Actor George Clooney called one of President Biden’s top aides last month to complain about the president’s criticism of the International Criminal Court’s action against Israeli leaders — a case his wife worked on. (Tyler Pager and Ashley Parker, Washington Post)

Supreme Court Ethics

Thomas has accepted $4M in gifts during career: watchdog: Judiciary watchdog Fix the Court found current and former Supreme Court justices received nearly $5 million in gifts since the early 2000s, with Justice Clarence Thomas accounting for nearly all of it. Since 2004, Thomas has accepted 193 gifts worth $4,042,286, as well as an additional 126 “likely but not confirmed gifts” He reported only 27 of the gifts on his financial disclosures. (Lauren Irwin, The Hill)

McConnell suggests “discipline” for senators pressuring Supreme Court over Alito flags: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued that Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Sheldon Whitehouse, who are members of the Supreme Court bar, “potentially engaged in unethical professional conduct” in calling for Justice Samuel Alito to recuse himself from cases related to Donald Trump. (Kevin Breuninger, CNBC)

🔎 See Also: The Washington Post sat on a sizzling tip about Justice Alito. Why? (Erik Wemple, Washington Post)

Insurrection

Former Trump aides charged in Wisconsin over 2020 elector plot: Wisconsin’s attorney general filed charges against Trump campaign aide Michael Roman and attorneys Kenneth Chesebro and James Troupis for their involvement in a fake elector scheme. The three were each charged with one felony count of forgery. (Patrick Marley, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: Regretful Wisconsin fake elector says he was tricked into signing phony document claiming Trump won in 2020 (Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes)

Analysis: Trump’s lawyers in lawsuits claiming he won in 2020 are getting punished for abusing courts and making unsupported claims and false statements: Over the past four years, federal judges and state bar disciplinary authorities have taken action to protect the integrity of the U.S. judicial system by penalizing attorneys who filed meritless lawsuits claiming that the 2020 presidential election results were invalid. (Elise J. Bean, The Conversation)

Dobbs Aftermath

Conservative attacks on birth control could threaten access: Since the Supreme Court overturned the right to abortion two years ago, antiabortion activists have been trying to curtail birth-control access by sowing misinformation about how IUDs, emergency contraception, and birth-control pills work. (Lauren Weber, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: Senate Republicans block bill to protect access to contraception (Sahil Kapur et al., NBC News)

Russia-Ukraine War

U.S. to send new $225 million military aid package to Ukraine, officials say: The latest aid package will include ammunition Ukrainian forces could use to strike targets inside Russia to defend the city of Kharkiv. (Lolita C. Baldor and Matthew Lee, Associated Press)

Ukraine frustrated with U.S. over F-16 pilot training: Ukrainian officials are pressing the U.S. and other countries to ramp up their F-16 pilot training. It’s the latest hurdle in the drawn-out effort to get the fighter jets to Ukraine. (Lara Seligman, Erin Banco, and Paul McLeary, Politico)

Political Misbehavior

Bush-era national security officials warn against Schedule F: Republican former national security officials urged lawmakers to abandon the GOP's growing embrace of Schedule F, arguing there are better ways to hold poorly performing or malfeasant federal workers accountable than politicizing the civil service. (Erich Wagner, Government Executive)

COVID-19

New report underscores the seriousness of long COVID: According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, long COVID involves up to 200 symptoms, can affect people of all ages and demographic groups, and can last for months or years. (Pam Belluck, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: “Unusual” cancers emerged after the pandemic. Doctors ask if COVID is to blame (Ariana Eunjung Cha, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: Whooping cough cases double in the U.S., a potential legacy of the pandemic (Mark Johnson and Sabrina Malhi, Washington Post)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

Lawmakers blast VA over executive bonus scandal, but secretary declines to offer any heads: VA Secretary Denis McDonough told Congress on Tuesday that his office has clawed back about 92% of the $11 million in improper bonuses paid out to senior executives at the agency. He also testified that VA has added new layers of review to the bonus process. (Eric Katz, Government Executive)

VA employees warn of stark consequences from hiring restrictions: VA employees are sounding the alarm about new initiatives to limit hiring at the agency, saying critical health care positions are being left short-staffed. (Eric Katz, Government Executive)

Business and Finance

Feds raid corporate landlord, escalating nationwide criminal probe of rent increases: In recent years, rents have skyrocketed nationwide. There are several factors behind the increases, including an overall housing shortage, but the DOJ is investigating another possible cause: a massive criminal conspiracy among corporate landlords. (Judd Legum, Popular Information)

Analysis: Loaded up with junk: Most Americans are unfamiliar with terms like “ancillary revenue,” “shrouded attributes,” or “partitioned pricing,” but they’re familiar with the feeling of being scammed, tricked, or flat-out deceived by “junk fees” when shopping for products and services. (Hassan Ali Kanu, The American Prospect)

Tech

One Facebook ad promotes a for-profit college. Another a state school. Which ad do Black users see? New research found Facebook’s advertising algorithm produced evidence of racial discrimination in its delivery of ads for education opportunities, providing further proof that, despite efforts to improve its advertising system, Facebook’s algorithm that decides who sees which ads is still biased along racial and gender lines. (Sam Biddle, The Intercept)

After Jan. 6, Twitter banned 70,000 right-wing accounts. Lies plummeted: A new study suggests that if social media companies want to reduce misinformation, banning habitual spreaders may be more effective than trying to suppress individual posts. (Will Oremus, Washington Post)

Infrastructure

As nuclear power flails in the U.S., White House bets big on a revival: The nuclear power industry is hampered by cost overruns, engineering setbacks, and major doubts about viability. The White House says the country has no choice but to make nuclear power a workable option again. (Evan Halper, Washington Post)

For U.S. schools in disrepair, federal infrastructure dollars can’t come soon enough: The average American public-school building is nearly half a century old. Congress allocated more than $1 trillion to rebuild America’s infrastructure, but in many cases the money reaches communities too slowly. (Mark Strassmann, CBS News)

A key Atlanta water main break is now fixed, but a boil advisory is still in place for many, city says: Atlanta’s woes are part of a larger issue of aging infrastructure throughout Canada and the U.S., where more than 30% of water mains are over 50 years old and water main breaks cost taxpayers $2.6 billion each year. (Elizabeth Wolfe, Rebekah Riess, and Amy Simonson, CNN)

Health Care

Radiation victims’ law set to expire as deal eludes GOP: Congress is poised to let expire a law giving benefits to victims of U.S. nuclear testing. If the law isn’t renewed, additional people won’t be able to have their claims processed, and screenings for impacted communities could stop. (Rachel Frazin, The Hill)

Thousands of children got tested for lead with faulty devices: What parents should know: Magellan Diagnostics, a company that makes tests for lead poisoning, resolved criminal charges that it concealed a malfunction that resulted in inaccurately low results. The Justice Department said the malfunction produced inaccurate results for potentially tens of thousands of children and other patients. (Julie Appleby, KFF Health News)

ICYMI

Immigration and Border Security:

New immigration policy already causing Biden legal headaches

Analysis: Biden’s border shutdown follows in Clinton and Obama’s footsteps

CBP disposes of and loses migrants’ personal belongings due to unclear policy, watchdog says

Other News:

Kushner’s deal with pro-Russia Serbs raises hackles

Steve Bannon ordered to report to prison by July 1 to serve contempt of Congress sentence

Inside the controversy over Rep. Nancy Mace’s reimbursements

FDA reverses its ban on Juul e-cigarettes

FDA panel rejects MDMA-aided therapy for PTSD

How Congress became the “last plantation”

Because It’s Friday

How Gustav the pigeon broke the first news of the D-Day landings: On June 6, 1944, the first report of the D-Day landings arrived at a Royal Air Force base near Portsmouth, England, not by radio transmission but by a grizzle cock pigeon named Gustav, who flew for over five hours across a distance of 150 miles amid darkened skies and a 50-m.p.h. headwind to deliver the news. (Zita Ballinger Fletcher, Military Times)

Upcoming Events

📌 AI, Misinformation, and the 2024 Elections. Johns Hopkins University and Vox Media. Monday, June 10, 5:30 p.m. - 7:15 p.m., Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Center, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC.

📌 Coast Guard Oversight: Sexual Assault and Harassment. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; Subcommittee on Investigations. Tuesday, June 11, 3:30 p.m., 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

📌 Oversight of the FDIC’s Failed Leadership and Toxic Workplace Culture. House Committee on Financial Services. Wednesday, June 12, 10:00 a.m., 2128 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 Addressing Oversight and Safety Concerns in the Department of Defense’s V-22 Osprey Program. House Committee on Oversight and Accountability; Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs. Wednesday, June 12, 10:30 a.m., 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 Crossing the Line: Abortion Bans and Interstate Travel for Care After Dobbs. Senate Judiciary Committee. Wednesday, June 12, 2:00 p.m., 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

📌 Oversight of the Bureau of Land Management. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Thursday, June 13, 9:30 a.m., 366 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 GAO - Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Health and Human Services | Office of Personnel Management | Social Security Administration | Department of Justice | Department of Labor | General Services Administration

🔥📃 GAO - Ukraine: Status and Use of Supplemental U.S. Funding, as of First Quarter, Fiscal Year 2024. GAO-24-107232 (PDF)

🔥📃 Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington: Bankrolling the Big Lie: Corporations and industry groups who have given to members of Congress who voted against certifying the 2020 election. June 4, 2024

Nominations & Appointments

Nominations

  • Mark G. Eskenazi - Member, Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission
  • Kin Moy - Ambassador, Vietnam
  • Julie Smith - Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • James Story - Ambassador, Mozambique