👋 Away Message: It's infrastructure week at WTF HQ! This will be the last edition of WTFJHT until May 31. WTF is taking a much needed break to retool ahead of what is shaping up to be a very consequential midterm cycle (we've also had a few unresolvable scheduling snafus/conflicts here, so I'm just going to take a mulligan on this one). In the mean time, we've built a little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding! I'm going to miss you. You'll hear from us again on Tuesday, May 31. Thanks for being here.
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1/ Nancy Pelosi plans to appoint a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol after Senate Republicans blocked the creation of an independent, bipartisan commission. While Pelosi has not formally announced the committee, she suggested during a House Steering and Policy Committee meeting that she would move forward with plans to form an independent panel modeled after the 9/11 Commission in “pursuit of truth.” The House passed legislation last month to establish a bipartisan commission, but Senate Republicans filibustered the bill. (Politico / CNN)
2/ Biden’s Justice Department could end up defending Trump in lawsuits seeking to hold him accountable for the Jan. 6 attack, including one filed by two U.S. Capitol Police and one filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell, which alleges that Trump incited the riot in an effort to stop Congress from certifying Biden as the election winner. In an unrelated defamation case against Trump by author E. Jean Carroll, who contends that Trump raped her 25 years ago and then lied about it while in office, the Biden DOJ argued that presidents enjoy immunity for their comments while in office, including the right to a defense by government lawyers. The Biden Justice Department, meanwhile, declined to comment on whether it would use the same legal rationale of presidential immunity as the basis for intervening in other lawsuits Trump faces. (Reuters / Vanity Fair)
3/ Attorney General Merrick Garland backed away from a comprehensive review of actions by the Trump Justice Department, calling it “a complicated question.” Garland noted, however, that the department’s independent inspector general was already investigating related issues, including leak hunts, attempts to overturn the election, and whether Trump had improperly used the department’s powers to investigate and prosecute. (New York Times)
4/ Four Saudi operatives who killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi received paramilitary training in the U.S. a year before. The training of the Saudi Royal Guard was approved by the State Department and provided by Tier 1 Group, an Arkansas-based security company, under a license first issued in 2014, which continued through at least the first year of Trump’s term. Khashoggi was strangled and dismembered in 2018 after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The CIA concluded that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directed the operation. Trump later bragged that he protected the prince from Congress after ordering the assassination of Khashoggi. (New York Times)
5/ A Navy counterterrorism training document suggests that socialism is a “terrorist ideology.” A section of the training document, titled “Introduction to Terrorism/Terrorist Operations,” groups anarchists, socialists, and neo-nazis into the same “political terrorist” ideological category. The training document is designed for masters-at-arms, the Navy’s internal police. (The Intercept)
6/ Roughly 900 Secret Service employees tested positive for the coronavirus since March 2020. More than half – 477 – were responsible for protecting Trump and Pence, as well as their families and other government officials. More than 11% of Secret Service employees were infected. (Associated Press / Washington Post)
7/ Biden will replace the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Supreme Court ruled that Biden had the authority to replace the agency’s director, Mark Calabria, who was appointed by Trump. (Bloomberg / New York Times / NBC News)
8/ Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation requiring the state’s public colleges and universities to survey students, faculty, and staff about their political views. As part of his push against the “indoctrination” of students, DeSantis threatened to cut funding from state universities that he determines doesn’t promote “intellectual diversity.” DeSantis also signed two other education bills mandating new civics and “patriotism” education requirements in K-12 schools, including teaching about the “evils” of communist and totalitarian governments. (Tampa Bay Times / Business Insider)
9/ Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed a bill that would require schools teach children about domestic violence and child abuse. Abbott said the “bill fails to recognize the right of parents to opt their children out of the instruction.” Abbott also vetoed a bill that would have banned the use of heavy chains to tether dogs outside and leave them without drinkable water, adequate shade or shelter. (Texas Tribune / The Hill / The Guardian)
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