Newsletter

The Paper Trail: March 19, 2024

The Great Unknown About U.S. Weapons in Ukraine; IRS Slow to Hire Revenue Agents; Losing the War on Election Disinformation; and More. 

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The Paper Trail

Announcements

The Office of the Whistleblower Ombuds will have a pop-up tabling event in the Rayburn Cafeteria, Thursday, March 21 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. House staff can stop by to learn more about the Office and pick up copies of their latest resources. For more information, please contact Charmise Jackson at [email protected].

On Monday, March 25 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy is sponsoring a bipartisan workshop for House and Senate committee clerks and administrative personnel handling oversight investigations, hearings, and reports. To share oversight tips and network with peers, please RSVP by sending an email to [email protected].

Top stories for March 19, 2024

The great unknown about the U.S. weapons deluge in Ukraine: According to the GAO, the Pentagon isn’t conducting adequate oversight of the billions of dollars in weapons it’s sending to Ukraine, a country that was previously a hub for the illicit arms trade. (Freddy Brewster, The Lever)

TikTok threat is purely hypothetical, U.S. intelligence admits: In interviews and testimony to Congress, the leaders of the FBI and CIA and the director of national intelligence have been careful to qualify TikTok’s national security threat as purely hypothetical. (Ken Klippenstein, The Intercept)

Four big questions following massive health care hack: The February cybercriminal attack on Change Healthcare raises bigger questions about the digital security of the U.S. health care system. (John Sakellariadis, Politico)

Applications for revenue-generating IRS jobs are “far below” agency goals: The IRS is failing to bring on its first wave of specialists to focus on increasing compliance for large corporations, large partnerships, and high-income individuals. The agency has made some progress but is still facing headwinds that are largely outside of its control. (Eric Katz, Government Executive)

“It feels impossible to stay”: The U.S. needs wildland firefighters more than ever, but the federal government is losing them: Wildland firefighters, the highly trained men and women protecting communities from immolation, earn the same base pay as fast-food servers while taking severe risks with their physical and mental health. Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service is having trouble filling its ranks. (Abe Streep, ProPublica)

United Boeing plane that landed with missing panel prompts investigation: The FAA is looking into why a Boeing plane was missing an external panel after a San Francisco to Oregon flight last week. (Ellen Francis and Amber Ferguson, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: After 787 dive, Boeing alerts airlines to issue with pilot-seat switches (Ian Duncan and Lori Aratani, Washington Post)

House GOP launches investigation into DOJ’s immigration judge “gag order”: The panel’s probe revolves around DOJ’s notice to immigration judges — after the National Association of Immigration Judges lost its recognition as a union — instructing them to no longer speak publicly without prior approval. (Eric Katz, Government Executive)

Israel-Hamas War

As Gaza war rages, U.S. military footprint expands across Middle East: The war in Gaza and worsening humanitarian crisis there have taught President Biden a lesson many presidents have learned before: It’s not so easy to quit the Middle East. (Steve Hendrix, Susannah George, and Missy Ryan, Washington Post)

Supreme Court Ethics

U.S. Supreme Court justices, judges face new rules for disclosing free trips: Under new U.S. Judicial Conference rules, Supreme Court justices and federal judges will no longer be able to avoid disclosing the value of travel-related gifts by classifying such free trips as “reimbursements” on their financial disclosure forms. (Nate Raymond, Reuters)

Insurrection

How Trump’s allies are winning the war over disinformation: Three years after Donald Trump’s posts about rigged voting machines and stuffed ballot boxes went viral, he and his allies have achieved a stunning reversal of online fortune: Social media platforms now provide fewer checks against the intentional spread of lies about elections. (Jim Rutenberg and Steven Lee Myers, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: Supreme Court wary of states’ bid to limit federal contact with social media companies (Adam Liptak, New York Times)

Supreme Court lets public office ban stand for “Cowboys for Trump” founder: The court gave no reason for turning down the appeal of Couy Griffin, a New Mexico county commissioner who was convicted for his participation in the insurrection and became the first public official in more than a century to be banned from public office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. (Sopan Deb, New York Times)

Jan. 6 defendant got 2 congressional internships after she allegedly breached the building: Since January 6, 2021, Isabella DeLuca gained a right-wing following and burnished her résumé with two congressional internships. On Monday, she was criminally charged for storming the Capitol and helping to force the evacuation of the very chamber from which she drew a salary. (Kyle Cheney, Politico)

Dobbs Aftermath

More women choose abortion pills as states crack down: A new study found that medication abortion rose to account for nearly two-thirds of abortions in the U.S. in 2023, and that the number and rate of abortions performed in the U.S. climbed last year even with near-total bans in more than a dozen states. (Jennifer Calfas, Wall Street Journal)

COVID-19

What the data says about pandemic school closures, four years later: There is broad acknowledgment among public health and education experts that extended school closures did not significantly stop the spread of COVID, while the academic harms for children have been large and long-lasting. (Sarah Mervosh, Claire Cain Miller, and Francesca Paris, New York Times)

Up to 5.8 million kids have long COVID, study says. One mother discusses the “heartbreaking” search for answers: Doctors say most children with long COVID recover after several months, but about a third experience symptoms even one year later. Diagnosing is difficult because long COVID can look different in children. (Sara Moniuszko and Michael George, CBS News)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

Consulting firm McKinsey’s role in VA opioid prescriptions sparks new concerns among lawmakers: House lawmakers are demanding answers from the VA about consulting firm McKinsey and Company’s role in the department’s decisions to prescribe opioids to veterans while it was also advising opioid manufacturers on how to sell opioids to the VA. (Rachel Nostrant, Military.com)

Business and Finance

The 6% commission on buying or selling a home is gone after Realtors association agrees to seismic settlement: The National Association of Realtors agreed to end landmark antitrust lawsuits by paying $418 million in damages and eliminating a longstanding practice that critics say drove housing prices artificially higher. (David Goldman and Anna Bahney, CNN)

Biden administration bans ongoing uses of asbestos: Industries will have to transition away from asbestos, although the EPA said they will have a “a reasonable transition period” to do so. A 2019 study estimated that nearly 40,000 Americans die each year from asbestos-related illnesses. (Rachel Frazin, The Hill)

The SAT is coming back at some colleges. It’s stressing everyone out: A patchwork of admissions test policies is wreaking havoc on students, parents, and college admissions consultants. (Hannah Natanson and Susan Svrluga, Washington Post)

Tech

Supreme Court clarifies when public officials can block citizens on social media: The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that whether a government official can block a constituent or delete their comments on their personal social media account hinges on whether that official was given the authority to speak on the government’s behalf on the matter addressed in the posts and the official exercised that authority. (Chris Teale, Route Fifty)

Infrastructure

Two-thirds of Chicago kids under 6 exposed to lead in water, study estimates: More than 9.2 million households connect to water through lead pipes and lead service lines, disproportionately affecting low-income communities and people of color, according to the Biden administration. About 400,000 of those are in Chicago, the most of any American city. (Frances Vinall, Washington Post)

Health Care

Failure of ALS drug puts a spotlight on controversial FDA approvals: Critics say the FDA has gone too far greenlighting drugs despite concerns about their effectiveness. (Daniel Gilbert, Washington Post)

Medicare pays millions for remote vital sign monitoring. Is it worth it?: Some experts say remote monitoring’s huge growth — spurred during the pandemic — has outpaced oversight and evidence of how the technology is best used. Federal law enforcement officials say they’re conducting investigations after a surge in complaints about some remote patient monitoring companies. (Phil Galewitz and Holly K. Hacker, Washington Post)

ICYMI

Immigration and Border Security:

Biden toughened asylum screening. It won’t contain a new border surge

Supreme Court extends temporary hold on Texas immigration law

Other News:

Peter Navarro must report to federal prison after Supreme Court rejects bid to delay sentence

Kushner deal in Serbia follows earlier interest by Trump

NIH probe of Havana syndrome finds no sign of brain injuries

Want to see Detroit ethics disclosures? We got them — it wasn’t easy

DNA tests are uncovering the true prevalence of incest

Upcoming Events

📌 An Assessment of the Biden Administration’s Withdrawal from Afghanistan by America’s Generals. House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Tuesday, March 19, 1:00 p.m., 2172 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 Reforming Federal Records Management to Improve Transparency and Accountability. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Wednesday, March 20, 10:00 a.m., 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

📌 The Continued Assault on Reproductive Freedoms in a Post-Dobbs America. Senate Judiciary Committee. Wednesday, March 20, 2:30 p.m., G50 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

📌 Implementation of the U.S. Anti-Corruption Strategy. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Thursday, March 21, 10:30 a.m., 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Assessing State Department Compliance with Oversight. House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Subcommittee on Oversight and Accountability. Thursday, March 21, 2:00 p.m., 2172 Rayburn House Office Building.