Bad Watchdog Season 2 launches June 20.

Newsletter

The Paper Trail: May 21, 2024

Congress Demands Answers About Border Patrol Bigotry; Police Evade Facial Recognition Bans; Justice Alito’s Beer Boycott; and More.

The Paper Trail logo in front of government buildings in Washington, DC

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

Top stories for May 21, 2024

Mistrust between farmers and the government is jeopardizing bird flu response: Dairy farmers, increasingly polarized following the COVID pandemic and worried about economic damages, are hiding likely bird flu cases in cows from government officials. (Anna Kramer, NOTUS)

🔎 See Also: Farm animals are hauled all over the country. So are their pathogens (Emily Anthes and Linda Qiu, New York Times)

Congress members demand answers about slurs, bigotry from Border Patrol agents: Reps. Robert Garcia and Dan Goldman asked for an update on DHS’s efforts to quash racism and bigotry within its ranks after reports of widespread use of anti-immigrant slurs among Border Patrol agents. (Roque Planas, HuffPost)

Top Education officials were warned of FAFSA overhaul hurdles in 2020: Long before the Education Department’s overhaul of the federal student aid application fell apart this year, officials who now lead the department were warned of a complex and time-consuming effort and its potential pitfalls. (Zach Montague, New York Times)

Analysis: Supreme Court will decide if a president has total immunity: There are three possible outcomes in Trump v. United States, in which the Supreme Court will decide whether the former president can be prosecuted for attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election. (Sarah Turberville, The Constitution Project at the Project On Government Oversight)

Israel-Hamas War

Blinken orders crackdown on Israel-Hamas leaks: Not only did classified materials make it into press reports, but also fresh proposals to broker a cease-fire and secure the release of hostages held by Hamas. Those leaks made tricky negotiations even harder and eroded trust within the department, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. (Alexander Ward, Politico)

Administration officials see Biden as complicit in Gaza famine: The Biden administration has been accused of being complicit in enabling a famine in Gaza by failing to sufficiently act on repeated warnings from its own experts and aid agencies. (Richard Hall, Bel Trew, and Andrew Feinberg, The Independent)

Business titans privately urged NYC mayor to use police on Columbia protesters, chats show: A group of billionaires and business titans, collaborating through a WhatsApp chat started after the October 7 attack with the goal of shaping public opinion on the Israel-Hamas war, has brought its influence to bear on the highest levels of the Israeli government, the business world, and elite universities. (Hannah Natanson and Emmanuel Felton, Washington Post)

Supreme Court Ethics

Photo of upside-down flag at Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s house raises concerns: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin on Friday called on Justice Alito to recuse himself from cases related to the 2020 election after the release of a photo showing an upside-down American flag flying at his home in January 2021. (Devin Dwyer, ABC News)

🔎 See Also: Justice Alito sold Bud Light stock amidst anti-trans boycott effort (Chris Geidner, Law Dork)

Insurrection

“We’ll see you at your house”: How fear and menace are transforming politics: From City Hall to Congress, public officials increasingly describe threats and harassment as a routine part of their jobs. The barrage of menace has changed how public officials do their work, terrified their families, and driven some from public life altogether. (Danny Hakim, Ken Bensinger, and Eileen Sullivan, New York Times)

Police Misconduct

Police departments sell their used guns. Thousands end up at crime scenes: According to ATF data, more than 52,000 police guns have turned up at crime scenes since 2006. Many of the weapons were resold or traded in by law enforcement agencies to firearms dealers. (Chris Hacker, CBS News)

These cities bar facial recognition tech. Police still found ways to access it: As cities and states push to restrict the use of facial recognition technologies, some police departments have quietly found a way to keep using the controversial tools: asking for help from other law enforcement agencies that still use them. (Douglas MacMillan, Washington Post)

Political Misbehavior

Watchdog agency to crack down on Hatch Act violators, including at the White House: White House aides and employees who improperly engage in political activity will now face disciplinary reviews before a third party rather than a unilateral decision by the president, a change designed to close a loophole in existing enforcement. (Eric Katz, Government Executive)

Donald Trump wants to control the Justice Department and FBI. His allies have a plan: Trump has vowed on the campaign trail to curtail the DOJ’s independence and turn it into an attack dog for conservative causes and a weapon to be used against his opponents. Trump allies and advisers are now assembling proposals for achieving this objective. (Gram Slattery, Sarah N. Lynch, and Andrew Goudsward, Reuters)

COVID-19

Medicaid unwinding deals blow to tenuous system of care for Native Americans: About a year into the process of redetermining Medicaid eligibility after the COVID public health emergency, more than 20 million people have been kicked off the program. Native Americans are particularly vulnerable to losing coverage and face greater obstacles to reenrolling in Medicaid or finding other coverage. (Jazmin Orozco Rodriguez, KFF Health News)

Kabbage to pay $120M in PPP fraud settlements with DOJ: Small-business lender Kabbage agreed to pay up to $120 million for allegedly defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program by submitting thousands of false claims for loan forgiveness, loan guarantees, and processing fees. (Caitlin Mullen, Legal Dive)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

Fat Leonard bribery cases fall apart because of prosecution blunders: Prosecutorial misconduct in the Fat Leonard investigation has caused several cases to unravel and is threatening to undermine more in what's been called the “most extensive, tawdry and ethically problematic scandal” in the Navy’s history. (Craig Whitlock, Washington Post)

General says he warned that Afghanistan would get “very bad, very fast”: Austin Scott Miller, the last four-star U.S. commander based in Kabul, is among about 20 witnesses to meet with the House Foreign Affairs Committee in its investigation of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The committee is expected to issue a report of its findings this summer. (Dan Lamothe, Washington Post)

White House lauds PACT Act as it hits 1 million toxin claims granted to vets: The VA still has many more claims to work through: Last year, veterans submitted more than 2.4 million claims, a 39% increase from 2022, for a total of 4.17 million claims. (Brad Dress, The Hill)

Business and Finance

Watchdog readies crackdown on predatory lending after Supreme Court win: The Supreme Court ruling last week that upheld the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s authority is expected to ease some of the logjam at the agency, which plans to restart its aggressive crackdown on predatory lenders. (Tony Romm, Washington Post)

Tech

Scarlett Johansson says OpenAI copied “Her” voice after she said no: The incident highlights the limited legal apparatus to prevent actors from having their likeness mimicked by AI without their permission. (Nitasha Tiku, Pranshu Verma, and Gerrit De Vynck, Washington Post)

Infrastructure

U.S. says cyberattacks against water supplies are rising, and utilities need to do more to stop them: The EPA warns that cyberattacks against water utilities are becoming more frequent and more severe. About 70% of utilities inspected by federal officials over the last year violated standards meant to prevent breaches and other intrusions. (Michael Phillips and Mathew Daly, Associated Press)

Health Care

Weight-loss promoters are reeling after TikTok crackdown: Seeking to rein in weight-loss drug promotional videos, TikTok says the new rules are intended to block body-shaming imagery and related harmful messages. There are also concerns that influencers are not giving consumers a full picture of the risks of the drugs. (Daniel Gilbert, Washington Post)

High price of popular diabetes drugs deprives low-income people of effective treatment: The makers of Ozempic and Mounjaro charge up to $1,000 a month for the drugs and insurers are reluctant to pick up the tab, forcing low-income patients to resort to less effective treatments. (Renuka Rayasam, KFF Health News)

🔎 See Also: Hims & Hers says it’s selling a GLP-1 weight loss drug for 85% less than Wegovy. Here's the price (Megan Cerullo, CBS News)

ICYMI

Immigration and Border Security:

A new challenge for asylum seekers: lawyer shortages

U.S. Border Patrol’s centennial anniversary gala canceled

Other News:

Embattled FDIC chair to step down when a successor is confirmed

Investigate whether drinking played role in chaotic House hearing, senior Democrat Jamie Raskin says

Rudy Giuliani’s birthday bash ends in chaos when he’s served papers for AZ fake electors case

Judge blocks Biden administration from enforcing new gun sales background check rule in Texas

New 9/11 evidence points to deep Saudi complicity

Social Security, Export-Import Bank among survey’s worst federal workplaces

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.

📌 Oversight of the U.S. Department of Energy. House Committee on Oversight and Accountability. Thursday, May 23, 9:00 a.m., 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 Oversight of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. House Judiciary Committee. Thursday, May 23, 10:00 a.m., 2141 Rayburn House Office Building.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 GAO - Priority Open Recommendations: Nuclear Regulatory Commission. GAO-24-107311 (PDF)

🔥📃 Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction: U.S. Funds Benefitting the Taliban-Controlled Government: Implementing Partners Paid at Least $10.9 Million and Were Pressured to Divert Assistance. SIGAR 24-22-AR (PDF)

🔥📃 LittleSis et al.: Fossil Fuel Finance Hub: How does Wall Street drive the climate crisis? May 21, 2024