Day 101: "One god-awful mess."
1/ The FBI warned Rudy Giuliani in late 2019 that he was the target of a Russian disinformation operation aimed at damaging Biden ahead of the election. Giuliani received a so-called “defensive“ briefing by the FBI while involved with Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign and efforts in Ukraine to dig up dirt about Biden and his son, Hunter. Despite the warning, Giuliani continued to try and find damaging information on the Bidens, meeting with Kremlin-tied associates and publicly pushing misleading and unsubstantiated claims that were part of a Russia disinformation campaign. The FBI seized Giuliani’s cellphone and other electronic devices this week as part of a long-running criminal investigation into whether he acted as an unregistered foreign agent. (Washington Post / CNN / NBC News)
2/ The Trump administration’s firing of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine is at the center of the federal criminal investigation into Rudy Giuliani. At least one of the search warrants executed this week seeks evidence related to Marie Yovanovitch and her role as ambassador. Guiliani worked to oust Yovanovitch, believing she had been obstructing his efforts to dig up dirt on the Biden family. Federal authorities are expected to check Giuliani’s electronic devices for communications between him and Trump administration officials about Yovanovitch before she was recalled in April 2019. (New York Times)
3/ Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz’s close friend wrote a “confession” letter last year detailing how he and Gaetz paid for sex with multiple women, including a minor who was 17 at the time. Joel Greenberg’s letter was part of a failed attempt to secure a pardon from Trump – with the help of Roger Stone – for their alleged sex crimes, which the Justice Department is investigating. “On more than one occasion, this individual was involved in sexual activities with several of the other girls, the congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District and myself,” Greenberg wrote. “From time to time, gas money or gifts, rent or partial tuition payments were made to several of these girls, including the individual who was not yet 18. I did see the acts occur firsthand and Venmo transactions, Cash App or other payments were made to these girls on behalf of the Congressman.” Stone wrote to Greenberg on Jan. 13: “I hope you are prepared to wire me $250,000 because I am feeling confident.” The pardon effort was not successful. (Daily Beast / CNN / Vanity Fair / Washington Post)
4/ Mitch McConnell and 37 Republicans called on Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to remove the “1619 project” from federal grant programs. The project reframes American history around August 1619 when the first slave ship arrived and the legacy that slavery played in shaping the country. Biden’s Education Department has proposed a grant program for schools that would incentivize them to use tools like the 1619 Project in their classrooms. In a letter, McConnell and republicans argued that the project tells a revisionist history of America’s founding and claimed that the administration put “ill-informed advocacy ahead of historical accuracy.” (Politico / CNN)
5/ The Biden administration returned more than $14 billion to the Pentagon, which was diverted by the Trump administration for the construction of a wall at the southwestern border. The administration also plans to cancel all related construction contracts. The Defense Department said the reclaimed funds would be returned to accounts designated for “schools for military children, overseas military construction projects in partner nations, and the National Guard and Reserve equipment account.” (ABC News / The Hill / Politico)
6/ Biden blamed the Trump administration for the problems at the U.S.-Mexico border, saying his administration inherited “one god-awful mess at the border.” Biden added that the border situation is the result of “the failure to have a real transition — cooperation from the last administration, like every other administration has done.” (NBC News)
7/ Republicans in the Florida Legislature passed an election overhaul bill that would place restrictions on ballot drop boxes and residents’ ability to vote by mail. The bill will limit the use of drop boxes and restrictions on where drop boxes cab be placed, add new voter ID and signature requirements, require voters to request an absentee ballot for each election, limit who could collect and return ballots, and restricts who can hand out items – including food or water or election-related material – for voters waiting in line. Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Fox News that he “of course” would sign the bill. (New York Times / NPR / CNN / NBC News / Washington Post)
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