1/ Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate the classified government records discovered at Biden’s private home and office. Biden said he was “cooperating fully and completely” with the Justice Department investigation into how classified information and government records from his time as vice president were stored. Federal law enforcement officials have interviewed multiple aides who worked for Biden in the final days of the Obama administration. Garland announced the appointment of former U.S. attorney Robert Hur after it was reported that a second batch of documents with classified markings were discovered in a space used by Biden since the Obama administration. “The extraordinary circumstances here require the appointment of a special counsel for this matter,” Garland said. “This appointment underscores for the public the department’s commitment to independence and accountability, and particularly sensitive matters and to making decisions indisputably guided only by the facts and the law.” Republicans on the House Oversight Committee, meanwhile, said that the appointment of a special counsel would not stop them from investigating Biden’s “mishandling of classified documents.” Biden said he was surprised to learn that classified documents were found at a private office he previously used, adding that his lawyers voluntarily and immediately contacted the National Archives to return the documents. Trump, meanwhile, intentionally didn’t return his documents after being repeatedly asked by the National Archives to do so, forcing a standoff for months that led to a subpoena and FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. (CNN / Associated Press / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / Politico / Bloomberg / CNBC)
2/ Kevin McCarthy suggested that the House would consider expunging one or both Trump impeachments. While McCarthy wasn’t explicit, he said “I would understand why members would want to bring that forward,” adding “and we’d look at it.” McCarthy also expressed sympathy for the things Trump “went through” as president. Trump was impeached twice: in 2019, for pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, and in 2021, for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection. (Washington Post)
3/ Kevin McCarthy defended George Santos despite the freshman lawmaker admitting to lying about his background and multiple probes into his financial disclosures, campaign finances, and legal issues. “A lot of people here” have fabricated parts of their resumes, McCarthy claimed. Santos, meanwhile, has refused bipartisan calls for his resignation. “I wish well all of their opinions, but I was elected by 142,000 people,” Santos said. “Until those same 142,000 people tell me they don’t want me, uh, we’ll find out in two years.” (Axios / CNN / NBC News)
Efforts to elect George Santos may have run afoul of campaign finance rules. “The Federal Election Commission said it had no evidence that RedStone Strategies was registered as a political group, and there do not appear to be any records documenting its donors, contributions or spending.” (New York Times)
George Santos was paid for work at company accused of Ponzi scheme later than previously known. “Santos received payments as recently as April 2021 from a financial services company accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of a “classic Ponzi scheme,” according to a court-appointed lawyer reviewing the firm’s assets.” (Washington Post)
4/ U.S. inflation fell to 6.5% in December compared with a year earlier – a sixth straight monthly decline. The annual inflation rate declined from 7.1% in November and a four-decade high of 9.1% in June. On a month-to-month basis, inflation fell by 0.1% in December. The Federal Reserve aims for 2% inflation on average. Cooling inflation puts the Fed on track to reduce the size of its interest-rate increases to a quarter-percentage-point starting in February. The central bank’s current benchmark rate is 4.3% after holding rates near zero for two years following the coronavirus pandemic. (Associated Press / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNBC / New York Times / NBC News)
5/ Alabama’s attorney general suggested that a pregnant person could be prosecuted for taking abortion pills despite the Biden administration expanding access to the drugs. Alabama’s near-total abortion ban, which took effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, exempts abortion seekers from prosecution and instead targets providers. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall nevertheless suggested that the state could still prosecute pregnant people under a 2006 state chemical endangerment law used to protect children from exposure to illicit drugs. Chemical endangerment is a felony in Alabama. Prosecutors have since extended the law to apply to pregnant people who take any drugs while pregnant or exposed their fetuses to drugs, essentially treating a fetus as a distinct person, regardless of their level of development. (Washington Post / 1819 News / AL.com / The Hill / CBS News)
6/ Republican legislators in Virginia introduced a bill to count a pregnant person’s fetus as a passenger in the car pool lane on highways, advancing so-called personhood laws that seek to protect the rights of the unborn through unconventional means. The legislation would require a pregnant person to have their pregnancy “certified” with the state Transportation Department, which would then be “linked” to automated toll collection devices in vehicles. Republicans in Texas introduced a similar measure last year. (NBC News)
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