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The Paper Trail: May 17, 2024

Schedule F is a Risk to Seniors; Russia Honing Election Disinfo Strategy; National Monument Expansion a Mixed Blessing; and More. 

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The Paper Trail

Top stories for May 17, 2024

Analysis: “Schedule F” plan to gut civil service puts seniors at risk: Donald Trump’s plan to revive Schedule F, which would entail filling much of the federal government workforce with unqualified partisan loyalists, would threaten the health and lives of older Americans. (Joe Spielberger, Project On Government Oversight)

An inspector general warned the Justice Department of gaps in its security clearance appeals process: The DOJ’s inspector general warned that the department is out of compliance with federal whistleblower protection policies covering employees with security clearances, increasing the risk that the security clearance review process could be weaponized against whistleblowers. (Erich Wagner, Government Executive)

FDIC's chairman faces bipartisan criticism following a report about the agency’s toxic culture:

Republican and Democratic lawmakers criticized FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg’s leadership following the release last week of a report that found the banking regulator was rife with “sexual harassment, discrimination and other personal misconduct,” including alleged instances of Gruenberg’s “demeaning and inappropriate” behavior toward staff. (Sean Michael Newhouse, Government Executive)

House Democrats launch probe of Trump’s dinner with oil executives: Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are investigating Donald Trump’s meeting with oil executives last month at Mar-a-Lago, where he asked the executives to steer $1 billion to his 2024 campaign and promised to reverse President Biden’s environmental policies. (Maxine Joselow, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: Serbia approves contract with Jared Kushner for hotel complex (Eric Lipton, New York Times)

Biden’s national monument expansion applauded by allies, but big obstacles loom: A presidential order expanding the boundaries of two national monuments in the West has renewed concern as to whether the federal government is even able to manage its existing protected monument lands. (Kirk Siegler, NPR)

U.S. says Boeing breached 2021 737 MAX criminal prosecution deal: The DOJ said in a court filing that Boeing is out of compliance with a 2021 agreement that shielded the company from criminal prosecution over fatal 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019. The DOJ will decide by early July whether to prosecute Boeing. (David Shepardson and Mike Spector, Reuters)

Russian disinformation videos smear Biden ahead of U.S. election: Internet warriors aligned with Russia appear to be honing their election disinformation strategy. The tactics of 2016 and 2020 could be used again, with new refinements. (Julian E. Barnes and Steven Lee Myers, New York Times)

“The restrictions are unbelievable”: States target voter registration drives: Since the 2020 election, at least six states have passed laws cracking down on voter registration drives. Many groups view the laws as an existential threat to their work, and several shut down operations rather than risk financial penalties or prison time. (Aaron Mendelson and Ashley Lopez, Center for Public Integrity)

🔎 See Also: Supreme Court allows second majority-Black district in Louisiana over liberal dissents (John Fritze and Fredreka Schouten, CNN)

Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse

Coal dust concerns mount after Baltimore bridge collapse: The Key Bridge collapse caused a slowdown in coal exports, leaving the industry scrambling to figure out how to move the coal as stockpiles grow. Area residents worry the stockpile will affect air quality. (JC Whittington, Politico)

Crew trapped on Baltimore ship, seven weeks after bridge collapse: The Dali’s crew, made up of 20 Indians and a Sri Lankan national, has been unable to disembark because of visa restrictions, a lack of required shore passes, and ongoing investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board and FBI, whose seizure of the crew’s cell phones left them largely without communication with the outside world for weeks. (Bernd Debusmann Jr., BBC News)

Barge hits bridge connecting Galveston and Pelican Island, causing partial collapse and oil spill: Opened in 1960, the Pelican Island Causeway Bridge was rated as “poor” according to the Federal Highway Administration’s 2023 National Bridge Inventory released last year. The state had been scheduled next year to begin constructing a replacement bridge. (Juan Lozano and Lekan Oyekanmi, Associated Press)

Israel-Hamas War

“We are more complicit:” Biden’s Israel policies spur feds to protest at the White House: While the protesters voiced frustration at feeling silenced within their agencies, State Department officials and the union representing Foreign Service staff recently praised the administration for welcoming dissent and allowing internal discussions about the conflict. (Eric Katz, Government Executive)

Classified Documents

House Judiciary votes to hold AG Garland in contempt over audio of Biden's Hur interview: After the White House asserted executive privilege over the audio and video recordings of Special Counsel Robert Hur’s interviews with President Biden in his classified records investigation, the House Judiciary Committee yesterday advanced a resolution to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress. (Brooke Singman, Fox News)

Supreme Court Ethics

At Justice Samuel Alito’s house, a “stop the steal” symbol on display: After the 2020 election, Trump supporters contesting the legitimacy of Biden’s victory displayed an upside-down American flag outside their homes, on their cars, and in online posts. One of the homes flying an inverted flag during that time was the residence of Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito. (Jodi Kantor, New York Times)

Insurrection

Trump blasts his trial judges. Then his fans call for violence: When Donald Trump attacks the integrity of judges hearing cases against him, his followers often respond with posts urging that the jurists be beaten, tortured, and killed. Experts on extremism liken the Trump supporters calling for violence against judges to the January 6 Capitol rioters and warn that Trump’s actions undermine the legitimacy of the judiciary. (Peter Eisler, Ned Parker, and Joseph Tanfani, Reuters)

Dobbs Aftermath

Telehealth abortions now account for nearly 1 in 5 in U.S., with thousands accessed under shield laws each month, report says: Most abortions in the U.S. are medication abortions, and telehealth has become an increasingly common way to access abortion pills. Telehealth abortions have surged in recent months. (Deidre McPhillips, CNN)

State lawmakers have targeted restricting sex education since the Dobbs ruling, especially in states banning abortion: Less than halfway through the year, 2024 has already broken the record for the most sex education bill proposals in state legislatures. At least 135 bills — the majority of which would place restrictions on sex education in K-12 public schools — have been introduced or are currently active. (Annette Choi, CNN)

In Idaho, don’t say “abortion”? The state’s public university professors say a law prohibiting state employees from “promoting” or “counseling in favor of” abortion limits their ability to teach. (Lillian Mongeau Hughes, Center for Public Integrity)

COVID-19

How the pandemic reshaped American gun violence: The number of people living near fatal gun violence grew drastically during the pandemic, as a surge in killings not only worsened violence in neighborhoods that were already suffering but also spread into new places. (Robert Gebeloff et al., New York Times)

U.S. halts funding to virus research organization linked to pandemic probes: EcoHealth Alliance has been the target of investigations since the earliest days of the pandemic, with the New York nonprofit facing accusations that its experiments with bat coronaviruses could have contributed to the development and spread of COVID. EcoHealth and its defenders claim the organization is being scapegoated. (Dan Diamond, Washington Post)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

Military sexual assault totals down, but trust among women remains low: A new Pentagon report found that less than half of women in the military trust their chain of command to properly handle reports of sexual assault, even as the number of assault cases fell significantly last year. (Leo Shane III, Military Times)

Business and Finance

Seeking access to Congo’s metals, White House aims to ease sanctions: A White House deal to allow sanctioned Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler to cash out his copper and cobalt mining positions in the Democratic Republic of Congo is strongly opposed by human rights activists and some administration officials. (Eric Lipton, New York Times)

Big trouble in Intern City: Remote work and higher pay have made D.C. internships harder to find. (Michael Schaffer, Politico Magazine)

Tech

“Chelsea” asked for nude pictures. Then the sextortion began: Young men are being coerced into sending naked pictures to scammers pretending to be women — who then demand money. The consequences of “financial sextortion” can be devastating. (Sarah Maslin Nir, New York Times)

Health Care

TikTok scam promises popular weight loss drugs without a prescription: Weight loss drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic have exploded in popularity, prompting a shortage. Scammers on social media have taken notice by offering to ship weight loss drugs for lower prices and without a prescription. Consumers duped by the ads can be harmed in several ways. (Anna Werner and Kelsie Hoffman, CBS News)

Senior-care referral site “A Place for Mom” stays mum on neglect: It calls itself the nation’s leading “trusted advisory service,” but in reality A Place for Mom is a referral service that is paid large fees by assisted-living facilities and doesn’t independently assess their records. More than a third of its most highly recommended facilities in 28 states were cited for neglect or substandard care in the past two years. (Christopher Rowland et al., Washington Post)

Biden announces DOJ marijuana move: Marijuana and drug policy experts are underwhelmed by the move, saying it doesn’t go far enough to address the issues surrounding marijuana’s criminalization. (The Hill)

ICYMI

Immigration and Border Security:

Mexico is stopping nearly three times as many migrants now, helping keep U.S. border crossings down

U.S. announces effort to expedite court cases of migrants who cross the border illegally

Trump allies draw up plans for unprecedented immigration crackdown

Other News:

The Supreme Court has delivered a victory for a financial watchdog, and all agencies with alternative funding

How the federal government can save money by following a to-do list

Texas governor pardons ex-Army sergeant convicted of killing Black Lives Matter protester

Asian students face racism, harassment at school. What would make it stop?

Because It’s Friday

Are tacos and burritos sandwiches? A judge in Indiana ruled yes: An Indiana county judge ruled Monday that tacos and burritos are “Mexican-style sandwiches,” adding meat to an age-old debate. (Praveena Somasundaram, Washington Post)

Upcoming Events

📌 Restoring Congressional Oversight Over Emergency Powers: Exploring Options to Reform the National Emergencies Act. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Wednesday, May 22, 10:00 a.m., 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

📌 Outstanding or Unsatisfactory?: Examining Whether the Biden Administration is Holding VA’s Leaders Accountable. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs; Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Thursday, May 23, 2:30 p.m., 360 Cannon House Office Building.

📌 Smart Defense Spending: Reforms for a Stronger and More Accountable Pentagon. Project On Government Oversight and National Taxpayers Union. Friday, May 24, 12:00 noon - 1:00 p.m., 2043 Rayburn House Office Building.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 DOJ OIG: Management Advisory Memorandum: Notification of Concerns Regarding the Department of Justice’s Compliance with Whistleblower Protections for Employees with a Security Clearance. 24-067 (PDF)

🔥📃 GAO - 2024 Annual Report: Additional Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Billions of Dollars in Financial Benefits. GAO-24-106915 (PDF)

🔥📃 GAO - F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Program Continues to Encounter Production Issues and Modernization Delays. GAO-24-106909 (PDF)

🔥📃 Sabato’s Crystal Ball: The State Supreme Court Skirmishes. May 16, 2024