The Paper Trail: September 8, 2023

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.


Working with Whistleblowers on Oversight and Investigations: POGO’s virtual training on how to work safely and effectively with whistleblowers will be Friday, September 22 at 12 noon. This event is only open to staff in Congress, GAO, and CRS. Register HERE.

Top stories for September 8, 2023

First revamped science policy falls short of fulfilling Biden’s promise to protect scientists, watchdogs say: HHS, the first agency in the Biden administration to change its policies to protect career scientists from political influence, has taken some positive steps, according to watchdog groups, but is still falling short of ensuring civil servants working in science and research don’t face reprisal and “bad-faith actors” are held accountable. (Eric Katz, Government Executive)

The U.S. government is eager to restore powers to keep dangerous chemicals out of extremists’ hands: The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program let DHS inspect facilities where chemicals are used or stored to check their security systems and required those facilities to vet prospective employees for terrorism links. But the program expired in July, after Congress failed to renew it. (Rebecca Santana, Associated Press)

Poor families could see cuts to food aid as Congress battles over budget: The roughly 6 million Americans who are part of the WIC program, which helps poor families with young children get access to healthy foods, could see big cuts as Congress nears a showdown over the budget. (Tony Romm, Washington Post)

Top Biden cyber official accused of workplace misconduct at NSA in 2014 — and again at White House last year: Besides revealing deputy national security adviser Anne Neuberger’s alleged interpersonal and managerial shortcomings, an inspector general report provides a rare, unflattering self-examination of a post-Snowden NSA filled with competing egos, long-standing rivalries, and mutual distrust. (Noah Kulwin and Sam Biddle, The Intercept)

FDIC needs to sharpen its cyberthreat sharing with financial institutions, OIG says: Though the FDIC has taken steps to improve its cyberthreat information-sharing with financial institutions, a report found the FDIC had internal threat-sharing information resources that it hadn’t shared with industry partners. (Carten Cordell, Government Executive)

America’s state supreme courts don’t look like America: Over the last 33 years, America’s state high courts have become less reflective of the nation’s racial and ethnic makeup. The share of women on the bench has dramatically increased but still falls short of women’s share of the population. (Aaron Mendelson, Center for Public Integrity)

Supreme Court Ethics

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse files ethics complaint over Justice Samuel Alito interview: Sen. Whitehouse asked Chief Justice John Roberts to take action regarding an interview in the Wall Street Journal in which Justice Alito questioned Congress’ power to impose ethics rules on the Supreme Court. (Lawrence Hurley, NBC News)

Clarence Thomas’ Corrected ethics disclosure form is not actually correct: Justice Thomas’ 2022 financial disclosure continues to conceal the value of largesse from his conservative benefactor, Harlan Crow. (Steven Lubet, Slate)

Kavanaugh predicts “concrete steps soon” to address Supreme Court ethics concerns: Speaking at a judicial conference this week, Justice Kavanaugh stopped short of addressing the issue of a code of ethics for the Supreme Court. (Julie Carr Smyth, Associated Press)


Lawsuit seeks to block Trump from appearing on Colorado’s 2024 ballot: The suit, filed by a government watchdog organization on behalf of a group of voters, is part of a growing national effort to disqualify Trump from running again in 2024 under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. (Jesse Paul and Sandra Fish, Colorado Sun)

Former Trump adviser Navarro convicted of contempt of Congress: A jury found former Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro guilty on two counts of contempt. He is the second Trump associate to be convicted for spurning the House January 6 committee. (Andrew Goudsward and Sarah N. Lynch, Reuters)

Special counsel election probe continues with focus on fundraising, voting equipment breaches: Jack Smith is still investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election. Recent developments indicate Smith is probing how money raised off baseless claims of voter fraud was used to fund attempts to breach voting equipment in states won by Joe Biden, with a focus on former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell. (Zachary Cohen and Paula Reid, CNN)

🔎 See Also: Appeals court limits special counsel’s effort to access Rep. Scott Perry’s phone (Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, Politico)

FBI searches for growing number of Jan. 6 fugitives: A growing number of insurrection defendants absconded and became fugitives after their arrests or initial court appearances. At least six became — or were — fugitives over the course of this summer; four are from the Tampa, Florida area. (Scott MacFarlane, CBS News)

Ex-leader of Proud Boys sentenced to 22 years in Jan. 6 sedition case: The penalty imposed on Enrique Tarrio was the final sentence to be lodged against the five Proud Boys members who were convicted of seditious conspiracy. Three other men in the case — Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl, and Dominic Pezzola — received prison sentences between 10 and 17 years. (Alan Feuer, New York Times)

Dobbs Aftermath

As abortion laws drive obstetricians from red states, maternity care suffers: Doctors who handle high-risk pregnancies are fleeing states with restrictive abortion laws. Idaho has been particularly hard hit. (Sheryl Gay Stolberg, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: Abortions rose in most states this year, new data shows (Amy Schoenfeld Walker and Allison McCann, New York Times)

Russia-Ukraine War

Blinken announces $1 billion Ukraine aid package during surprise visit: The upcoming package brings the U.S. security assistance total to more than $43.2 billion. (Amanda Macias and Holly Ellyatt, CNBC)

Elon Musk acknowledges withholding satellite service to thwart Ukrainian attack: Elon Musk acknowledged that he denied satellite internet service in order to prevent a Ukrainian drone attack on a Russian naval fleet last year. The Starlink service, which is operated by Musk’s SpaceX rocket company, has been a digital lifeline in Ukraine for both civilians and soldiers. (Victoria Kim, New York Times)

Police Misconduct

Fatal police shooting of pregnant Ohio woman raises concerns over firing at moving vehicles: Body camera video of the killing of Ta’Kiya Young last month is raising concerns about police policies regarding shooting at moving vehicles. Only 32 police departments in the 100 largest U.S. cities have some form of restriction on firing at moving vehicles. (Claudia Lauer, Associated Press)


Child care is about to get more expensive, as federal funds dry up: As states run out of $24 billion in funds Congress had set aside for child care during the pandemic, an estimated 70,000 child-care centers are expected to close, leaving parents with even fewer, and less affordable, options. (Abha Bhattarai, Washington Post)

Long COVID poses special challenges for seniors: The dozens of symptoms collectively known as long COVID, or post-COVID, can sideline anyone who has been infected. But they take a particular toll on some older patients, who may be more prone to certain forms of the illness. (Paula Span, New York Times)

DOJ finds poor care at New Jersey state-run veterans homes during pandemic violated Constitution: The investigation found “dysfunctional management style” and inadequate pandemic infection control and medical care at the Menlo Park and Paramus veterans homes. (Dustin Racioppi, Politico)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

Marines’ top general “ruthlessly” rides out Tuberville’s military hold: Gen. Eric Smith, selected by President Biden to become the Marine Corps’ next top officer, is one of more than 300 senior military leaders whose nominations are on hold. For the foreseeable future, Smith — along with the incoming heads of the Army, Navy and, soon, the Air Force — must do his job with limited authority. (Dan Lamothe, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: Three service secretaries to Tuberville: stop this dangerous hold on senior officers (Carlos Del Toro, Frank Kendall, and Christine Wormuth, Washington Post)

Justice Department, Navy streamline process for settlement payouts to victims of toxic water at Camp Lejeune: The new process is an effort to speed up the processing of thousands of claims filed by Marines, their families, and civilian employees seeking compensation for damages caused by exposure to contaminated water at the base. (Hannah Rabinowitz, CNN)

The inside story of how the Navy spent billions on the “Little Crappy Ship”: Littoral combat ships were supposed to launch the Navy into the future. Instead, they broke down, and many of their weapons never worked. Now the Navy is getting rid of the $500 million ships — one of which is less than five years old. (Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica)

After blocking Lockheed Martin acquisition, FTC allows another defense firm to close the deal: After blocking top defense contractor Lockheed Martin from acquiring rocket propulsion firm Aerojet Rocketdyne over monopoly concerns, the FTC quietly allowed L3 Harris, another major contractor that hired a former senior Pentagon official, to secure the deal. (Austin Ahlman, The Intercept)


840,000 Afghans who applied for U.S. resettlement program still waiting: The State Department’s inspector general outlined steps the department took to improve processing of special immigrant visas for Afghans who worked with Americans and faced risks for doing so. But challenges remain. (Rebecca Santana, Associated Press)

Business and Finance

SBA program upended in wake of Supreme Court affirmative action ruling: Thousands of Black, Latino, and other minority business owners are scrambling to prove that their race puts them at a “social disadvantage” after a federal judge struck down a key provision of the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program, extending the Supreme Court’s recent affirmative action ruling. (Julian Mark, Washington Post)

Home insurers cut natural disasters from policies as climate risks grow: In the aftermath of extreme weather events, major insurers are no longer offering coverage to homeowners in vulnerable areas and raising monthly premiums and deductibles. (Jacob Bogage, Washington Post)

Drivers squeezed as auto insurance costs soar across the U.S.: Car insurance rates have been soaring, even as other types of inflation have cooled. (Eli Tan and Aaron Gregg, Washington Post)


In monitoring child sex abuse, Apple is caught between safety and privacy: Apple is caught between activists who want the company to do more to protect children from sexually explicit images and privacy advocates who want it to maintain the promise of secure devices. (Tripp Mickle, New York Times)

How worried should we be about AI’s threat to humanity? Even tech leaders can’t agree: AI pioneers are fighting over which of the technology’s dangers is the scariest. One camp argues that it could lead to “existential danger,” while the other says concern should focus on how AI could cause harm in our daily lives, such as misinformation about elections and amplification of human biases. (Sam Schechner and Deepa Seetharaman, Wall Street Journal)

🔎 See Also: 2 senators propose bipartisan framework for AI laws (Cecilia Kang, New York Times)


America is using up its groundwater like there’s no tomorrow: Many of the aquifers that supply U.S. water systems, and which have transformed vast stretches of the country into some of the world’s most bountiful farmland, are being severely depleted. These declines are threatening irreversible harm to the American economy and society. (Mira Rojanasakul et al., New York Times)

🔎 See Also: Big farms and flawless fries are gulping water in the land of 10,000 lakes (Dionne Searcey and Mira Rojanasakul, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: A Colorado city has been battling for decades to use its own water (David Gelles, New York Times)

The $53,000 connection: The high cost of high-speed internet for everyone: While most internet connections in the U.S. will cost far less, the expense to reach some remote communities has triggered concerns over the ultimate price tag for the federal government’s “Internet for All” program. (Ryan Tracy, Wall Street Journal)

Health Care

Medical credit cards can be poison for your finances, study finds: Medical credit cards have proliferated as more Americans struggle to afford treatment. But these cards come with serious downsides that could cost you dearly. (Aimee Picchi, CBS News)

Federal officials propose new nursing home standards to increase staffing: The nation’s most thinly staffed nursing homes would be required to hire more workers under new rules proposed by the Biden administration. But the proposal falls far short of what both the industry and patient advocates believe is needed to improve care for most of the 1.2 million Americans in nursing homes. (Jordan Rau, New York Times)

The share of U.S. drug overdose deaths caused by fake prescription pills is growing: The share of overdose deaths involving counterfeit pills more than doubled between 2019 and 2021, and more than tripled in western states. The victims are more often younger, Hispanic or Latino. (Joe Hernandez, NPR)


Immigration and Border Security:

Biden’s immigration policies are working, officials say, though workforces are being stretched thin

Trump’s border wall caused significant damage and destruction to environmental and cultural resources

New Texas law asks Customs and Border Patrol to act as state law enforcement

Texas “floating border wall” fails to deter migrants

Immigrant girl on Chicago-bound bus from Texas died from infection, other factors

Other News:

USPS regulator promises enhanced oversight of DeJoy’s reforms

I worked in federal prison sweatshops for 23 cents an hour

Chinese gate-crashers at U.S. bases spark espionage concerns

Sen. Tim Scott never disclosed buying stocks he recently said he owned

What $50 million can buy: Inside the sleek new White House Situation Room

Twitter accused of helping Saudi Arabia commit human rights abuses

The new reality for college dining halls: dozens of dietary restrictions

Because It’s Friday

LED lights are erasing our view of the stars — and it’s getting worse: America is quickly switching to LED lights in order to save money and energy, but the change is causing a rise in light pollution. (David Schechter, Haley Rush, and Chance Horner, CBS News)

The Green Weenie can be whatever color you want in the new “Terminal Lance” coloring book: A new coloring book for Marines will keep them from eating crayons and use them instead to color pictures and do other fun activities. (Blake Stilwell,

Hot Docs

🔥📃 GAO - DOD Service Contracts: Actions Needed to Identify Efficiencies and Forecast Budget Needs. GAO-23-106123(PDF)

🔥📃 GAO - Southwest Border: Additional Actions Needed to Address Cultural and Natural Resource Impacts from Barrier Construction. GAO-23-105443(PDF)

🔥📃 VA OIG: Nonadherence to Requirements for Processing Gulf War Illness Claims Led to Premature Decisions. 22-02194-152(PDF)

🔥📃 Project On Government Oversight / Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington: Routine Disqualification: Every State Has Kept Ineligible Candidates Off the Ballot, and Trump Could Be Next. September 5, 2023

Nominations & Appointments


  • David O. Barnett Jr. - United States Marshal for the District of New Mexico
  • Christopher Charles Fonzone - Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel
  • Janice Miriam Hellreich - Member, Board of Directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  • Paul Herdman - Member, Board of Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation
  • French Hill - U.S. Representative, U.N. General Assembly
  • Colleen Holland - Judge, United States District Court for the Western District of New York
  • David Huitema - Director, Office of Government Ethics
  • Mustafa T. Kasubhai - Judge, United States District Court for the District of Oregon
  • John A. Kazen - Judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas
  • Janet Keller - U.S. Representative, U.N. General Assembly
  • Barbara Lee - U.S. Representative, U.N. General Assembly
  • Stuart Alan Levey - Member, Board of Directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation
  • Jacob J. Lew - Ambassador, Israel
  • Ramona V. Manglona - Judge, United States District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands
  • Courtney Diesel O’Donnell - United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
  • Shanlyn A. S. Park - Judge, United States District Court for the District of Hawai’i
  • Jamel K. Semper - Judge, United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
  • Kirk E. Sherriff - Judge, United States District Court for the Eastern District of California
  • Micah W. J. Smith - Judge, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Hawai’i
  • Calvin Smyre - U.S. Representative, U.N. General Assembly
  • Michael G. Whitacre - Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration
  • Erik Woodhouse - Head of the Office of Sanctions Coordination
  • Jeffrey Worthe - U.S. Representative, U.N. General Assembly