Joe Biden is on the defensive again after investigators found more classified material at his Delaware home over the weekend, prompting some Democrats to express disappointment with the president. The House GOP is demanding information about visitors to Biden’s home from the Secret Service, though there are divisions within the party over how aggressive to be in their investigations.
Here’s what else happened today:
A jury found a January 6 rioter who kicked back at Nancy Pelosi’s desk guilty of all counts brought against him, while another defendant pleaded guilty to charges related to attacking police at the Capitol.
Four members of the Oath Keepers extremist group were convicted of seditious conspiracy by a jury in Washington DC.
We may find out more tomorrow about the legal hot water Donald Trump is facing in Georgia, when a judge determines whether to make public a special grand jury’s report into his campaign to meddle in the state’s 2020 election result.
Democrat Ruben Gallego announced he will run for the Arizona senate seat currently occupied by independent Kyrsten Sinema.
House Republicans want to kick three Democratic lawmakers from committee posts, but their leader Hakeem Jeffries wants to know why the GOP won’t do the same to admitted liar George Santos.
A familiar scene is playing out in the White House briefing room, as press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre bats away questions from reporters wanting to know more about the classified documents found at Joe Biden’s Delaware home and former Washington DC office.
The Guardian’s David Smith is there to see it for himself. Here’s Jean-Pierre trying to divert the press’s attention:
And responding to complaints from Democrats:
And generally not commenting:
Donald Trump’s attorneys have no plans to attend a hearing in Georgia tomorrow where a judge will determine whether to release a special grand jury’s report into the former president’s election meddling campaign in the state.
“On behalf of President Trump, we will not be present nor participating in Tuesday’s hearing regarding the possible release of the special purpose grand jury’s report,” Trump’s attorneys Marissa Goldberg and Drew Findling said in a statement.
“To date, we have never been a part of this process. The grand jury compelled the testimony of dozens of other, often high-ranking, officials during the investigation, but never found it important to speak with the President. He was never subpoenaed nor asked to come in voluntarily by this grand jury or anyone in the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. Therefore, we can assume that the grand jury did their job and looked at the facts and the law, as we have, and concluded there were no violations of the law by President Trump.”
Tomorrow’s hearing will determine whether the report from the special grand jury tasked with looking into Trump’s attempts to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election win in Georgia is made public. The investigation is seen as potentially a major legal threat to the former president.
Democrats have seized on the House GOP’s protection of admitted fraudster George Santos to argue that the Republicans have no standing to kick three lawmakers off committees.
House speaker Kevin McCarthy has threatened to remove Democratic representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the intelligence committee, and representative Ilhan Omar from the foreign affairs committee. According to Axios, Schiff earned McCarthy’s ire for promoting the “Steele dossier”, Swalwell for his association with a Chinese spy and Omar for comments that were seen as antisemitic.
On Saturday, Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries announced he would appoint Schiff and Swalwell back to their points on the intelligence committee, noting that McCarthy plans to seat Santos on unnamed committees in the House.
“At the same time that Republicans have threatened to deny seats on the Intelligence Committee to clearly qualified democratic members, serial fraudster George Santos has been placed on two standing committees of the House and welcomed into your conference,” Jeffries wrote. “The apparent double standard risks undermining the spirit of bipartisan cooperation that is so desperately needed in Congress.”
Because it’s a select committee, McCarthy can remove Schiff and Swalwell from the intelligence panel unilaterally. Ousting Omar from foreign affairs would require a vote in the House, and it’s unclear if that would be successful.
Four Oath Keepers found guilty of seditious conspiracy
Four members of the Oath Keepers extremis group have been found guilty of seditious conspiracy and other charges for the involvement in the January 6 insurrection, Politico reports:
The verdict, handed down by a federal jury in Washington DC, comes after the group’s founder Stewart Rhodes and co-defendant Kelly Meggs were convicted of seditious conspiracy in November, however three other defendants were acquitted of the charge.
Elsewhere in Washington, five members of the Proud Boys extremist group are in the middle of a trial over the January 6 attack that the Guardian’s Ramon Antonio Vargas reports is raising uncomfortable questions about the government’s strategy of seeking accountability for the insurrection:
While federal prosecutors are casting the Capitol insurrection trial of five far-right Proud Boys leaders as an attempt to bring participants of an attack on US democracy to account, the members of the group are using the proceedings to ask one question even some of their opponents on the political left agree is valid.
Why have prosecutors so far only focused their energy on the supporters of Donald Trump who are accused of a coordinated invasion of the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the congressional certification of his defeat to Joe Biden in the previous year’s presidential election? Is it because they regard the former Republican president himself – who urged his supporters to “fight like hell” that deadly day – as too formidable and them as easier targets?
Attorneys for the ex-Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and four of his lieutenants have sought to ingrain that question in the minds of jurors chosen after a particularly turbulent selection process which began last month and gave way to opening arguments and witness testimony beginning 12 January.
They do so even as the strategy has not proven effective in other cases where it has been suggested that it is really Trump who is culpable for the Capitol attack – not his less powerful sycophants and camp followers.
He’s an admitted liar, but House Republicans nonetheless refuse to dump newly elected representative George Santos. Why? The Guardian’s David Smith tries to figure it out:
“He didn’t just steal from a service dog. He didn’t just steal from a dying service dog. He stole from a disabled homeless veteran’s dying service dog. Oh my God. You evil and stupid!”
That was how Leslie Jones, guest host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, summed up just one of this week’s revelations about US congressman George Santos, whose shameless fabulism has stunned Washington, a capital that thought it had smelt every flavour of mendacity from politicians.
“What does this man have to do get thrown out of Congress?” Jones asked, echoing the thoughts of many. “He’s a fucking liar.”
Yet the answer is that, far from being expelled from the House of Representatives, Santos, 34, was rewarded with assignments on two of its committees. The vote of confidence appeared to be an expedient calculation by the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, aware Republicans have such a slim majority that even losing one seat would make it much harder to pass legislation.
But it was also a decision, critics said, that showed the party of Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower has lost its moral compass. Stuart Stevens, a political consultant and author of It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump, said: “Santos is a perfect example of the collapse of the Republican party.
“It shows that the party stands for nothing. It seems like a million years ago but there was a time when we said character was destiny. Nobody even knows who this guy is. We literally don’t know his real name.”
The day so far
Joe Biden is on the defensive again after investigators found more classified material at his Delaware home over the weekend, prompting some Democrats to express disappointment with the president. The House GOP is demanding information about visitors to Biden’s home from the Secret Service, but there are divisions within the party about how aggressive to be with their investigations.
Here’s what else has happened today so far:
A jury found a January 6 rioter who kicked back at Nancy Pelosi’s desk guilty of all counts brought against him, while another defendant pleaded guilty to charges related to attacking police at the Capitol.
We may find out more about the legal hot water Donald Trump is facing in Georgia on Tuesday, when a hearing is held to determine whether to make public a special grand jury’s report into his campaign to meddle in the state’s 2020 election result.
Democrat Ruben Gallego announced he will run for the Arizona senate seat currently occupied by independent senator Kyrsten Sinema.
The Democratic leader in the House Hakeem Jeffries has weighed in on gun control following this weekend’s mass shooting in California that left 10 people dead:
Police today made public the identities of two victims of the shooting, but have yet to give a motive for attack.
Another January 6 rioter has pleaded guilty to charges related to attacking the police, CBS News reports:
Jury convicts Jan 6 rioter who put feet on Pelosi's desk
Richard Barnett, who during the January 6 insurrection was pictured sitting in a chair with a foot on then-House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk, has been found guilty of all charges against him, Politico reports:
As CBS News reports, Barnett testified in his own defense during the federal trial and directly addressed the jury, with no apparent effect:
Arrested two days after the insurrection, Barnett was often combative during his case’s lengthy journey through the court system.
When Joe Biden’s aides first discovered classified documents at his former office in Washington DC, they thought that was the only location such material would be found.
But it wasn’t – more secrets were found at his home in Wilmington, Delaware. The mistaken belief that such documents would only be found in one place has led to the drip of discoveries over the past weeks, the New York Times reports, and kept the issue in the news, particularly after the justice department took the significant step of appointing a special counsel to handle the matter.
Here’s more from the Times’ report:
Former officials familiar with the packing up of Mr. Biden’s office in the White House and the vice president’s Naval Observatory home at the end of the Obama administration had told Mr. Biden’s lawyers that there were two primary sets of materials, the people said.
One set was believed to be material that might be useful to Mr. Biden for his post-vice-presidential career in public life or teaching, like his speeches and unclassified policy memos about topics he was interested in. Those materials were initially shipped to two transition offices and then on to his office at the Penn Biden Center when it opened in 2018. (The National Archives and Records Administration would keep original copies of the official records.)
The other set, the people said, was believed to contain no official records. It was supposed to be material like political campaign-related documents and old campaign memorabilia, which are exceptions to what counts as presidential records. Those boxes were shipped to the garage of his Wilmington residence, the people said.
Mr. Biden’s personal lawyers, led by Bob Bauer, told the Justice Department they had no basis to believe official records had gone anywhere but the Penn Biden Center after it notified them on Nov. 10 that it was scrutinizing the classified files. The lawyers stopped conducting their own review of how the documents could have gotten there and told the department what steps they had taken up to that point, the people said.
House Republicans have pledged to scrutinize Joe Biden, but that’s nothing compared to the voluminous legal trouble facing Donald Trump. On Tuesday, we may learn new details of one of the most consequential investigations involving the former president, the Guardian’s Sam Levine reports:
A court hearing on Tuesday will mark one of the most significant developments in a Georgia investigation examining whether Donald Trump and allies committed a crime in their efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Here’s all you need to know about that hearing and what to expect next.
What exactly is happening on Tuesday?
Since May of last year, a special purpose grand jury in Fulton county, Georgia has been investigating whether Donald Trump committed a crime under state law when he tried to overturn the 2020 election by pressuring state officials to try and overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state.
The grand jury concluded its work earlier this month. On Tuesday, there will be a hearing to determine whether the grand jury’s report should be made public. The special grand jury – which consisted of 23 jurors and three alternates – has recommended its report be made public.
Top Republican investigator demands details of visitors to Biden's Delaware home
Republican House oversight committee chair James Comer wants the Secret Service to provide information about all visitors to Joe Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware home, after investigators found additional classified materials there this weekend.
“The U.S. Secret Service protected President Biden during the time he stored these classified materials at his Wilmington residence. Given the White House’s lack of transparency regarding President Biden’s residential visitor logs, the Committee seeks information from the Secret Service regarding who had access to his home since serving as Vice President,” wrote Comer, who is leading a number of investigations into the Biden administration.
He is demanding the Secret Service by 6 February release “all documents and communications related to visitor information at President Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware home from January 20, 2017, to present.”
Comer’s request comes after Biden’s personal lawyer announced over the weekend that the FBI had found six more classified items dating to the president’s time as senator and vice president at his home in Wilmington. The oversight chair had previously requested the White House release visitor logs for the property, but the administration said it kept no such records.
Imagine the January 6 committee, but controlled by Republicans and investigating not Donald Trump’s attempts to cling to power, but an array of alleged scandals involving Joe Biden and his Democratic allies.
According to Politico, some in the GOP are pondering giving Democrats a taste of the medicine they spent the past two years serving them when they investigated Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss. They’re pondering aggressive uses of subpoenas, hearings and contempt citations to tar the Biden administration ahead of the 2024 election, all modeled on the January 6 select committee that held tightly scripted, closely watched hearings throughout last year.
“They’ve almost changed the rules … [Are] we going to continue that pattern? Look, we want to get as much information as we can get, and they’ve written a new playbook, so we’ll have to talk about it as a committee and as a conference,” James Comer, Republican chair of the House oversight committee, said in an interview with Politico.
Or as Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole put it: “Turnabout is fair play, and they were warned this at the time – on everything from kicking members off committees … two impeachment efforts, everything else.”
But to some Republicans, the idea of a January 6-style inquiry into Biden’s misdeeds – perhaps the “weaponization of the federal government” the House GOP says it will investigate – is risky and counterproductive.
“If we get into a tit for tat — I don’t think that will serve Republicans, Congress or the American people well,” North Dakota’s Kelly Armstrong said in the piece, which also notes that Democrats involved in the January 6 committee are skeptical that its tactics can be effectively replicated by the GOP.
Progressives and the right wing of the Republican party are polar opposites politically, but there may be unusual common ground in both sides’ apparent willingness to cut defense spending, the Guardian’s Joan E Greve reports:
Progressives have recently found themselves in an unfamiliar position: in agreement with members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus.
Some of the latter caucus’s members have recently called for re-examining the amount of money spent by the US military, echoing demands that progressives have issued for years. Although progressives are clear-eyed about their ideological differences with “America first” Republicans on foreign policy, they encourage a renewed debate over the Pentagon’s budget.
“The idea that effective American foreign policy requires this [level of spending], I think, is not only wrong,” said Matt Duss, a former foreign policy adviser to progressive senator Bernie Sanders, “it’s just absurd and unsustainable.”
The Freedom Caucus reportedly pushed for spending cuts as part of their negotiations with Kevin McCarthy, who offered concessions to fellow Republicans to secure the House speakership earlier this month. One of those concessions involved a promise to cap fiscal year 2024 discretionary spending at fiscal year 2022 levels, after Republicans expressed outrage over the $1.76tn omnibus funding bill that Joe Biden signed into law last month.
If such a fiscal policy were evenly applied to all federal agencies, the department of defense would see its budget cut by $75bn compared with this fiscal year.
That possibility has simultaneously sowed division among House Republicans and attracted the interest of progressives. They hope the latest dust-up over the Pentagon’s budget will spark what they consider to be an overdue conversation over US defense spending, which will hit a record high of $858bn this fiscal year.
In an a video that stretches for more than three minutes, Democratic House representative Ruben Gallego alternates between English and Spanish in describing his upbringing in Arizona, decision to serve in the Marines and his reasoning for challenging Kyrsten Sinema.
The ad is short on personal attacks against Sinema or the Republicans and more focused on telling Gallego’s story. Here it is below:
Republicans are gleeful over Ruben Gallego’s entrance into Arizona’s Senate race, because it raises the possibility of a three-way split between voters that could benefit the GOP.
“The Democrat civil war is on in Arizona. Chuck Schumer has a choice: stand with open borders radical Ruben Gallego or back his incumbent, Senator Kyrsten Sinema,” Philip Letsou, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement.
If Democrats and independents split their ballots between Sinema and Gallego, it could allow a GOP candidate to retake Arizona’s Senate seat in 2024 – a year where Democratic senators from several red states will also be seeking re-election.
Democrat Ruben Gallego announces run for Kyrsten Sinema's senate seat
After spending months alienating her ostensible allies in the Biden administration and Democratic party at large, senator Kyrsten Sinema last year announced she would leave the party and continue representing Arizona as an independent. Sinema said she would continue to work with her former allies in the Senate, but her decision nonetheless infuriated Democrats, and today a popular congressman announced he would run against her in the 2024 election. The Guardian’s Joan E Greve has the latest:
The Democratic congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona announced on Monday that he will run for the Senate, teeing up a potential battle against incumbent Senator Kyrsten Sinema next year.
Gallego, a marine combat veteran who has served in the House of Representatives since 2015, made the widely expected announcement in a campaign video that was filmed in his Phoenix area congressional district.
In the video, Gallego explains his unlikely journey to the House as the son of an immigrant mother who struggled to make ends meet. If elected, Gallego, who is of Mexican and Colombian descent, would be the first Latino to represent Arizona in the Senate.
“Growing up poor, the only thing I really had was the American dream,” Gallego says. “I’m running to be the senator of Arizona because you deserve somebody fighting for you and fighting with you every day to make sure you have the same chance at el sueño americano.”
The announcement comes after months of speculation. Whispers of Gallego’s plans grew louder last month, when Sinema announced she would switch her party affiliation from Democratic to independent, although she continues to caucus with Senate Democrats.
“At a time when our nation needs leadership most, Arizona deserves a voice that won’t back down in the face of struggle,” Gallego said at the time. “Unfortunately Senator Sinema is once again putting her own interests ahead of getting things done for Arizonans.”
Joe Biden said he had “no regrets” about how he handled the matter of classified materials dating from his stints as vice-president and senator that have been found at a former office and at his home in Delaware.
That didn’t sit well with Joe Manchin, a Democratic senator who acted as a power broker in the past Congress and spoiler for progressive priorities. “I think he should have a lot of regrets,” Manchin said in a Sunday appearance on NBC News, adding that if he was in a similar position, he would hold his staff accountable, but “the buck stops with me.”
Here are his full comments:
Speaking to CNN, fellow Democratic senator Dick Durbin was similarly critical of Biden, but hit back at Republicans’ insistence that what the president did was no different than Donald Trump’s stashing of government secrets at Mar-a-Lago. “At its heart, the issue is the same. Those documents should not have been in the personal possession of either Joe Biden and Donald Trump. But what happened and followed from it is significantly different,” Durbin said. “Donald Trump defied those who knew the documents were in place, and ultimately led to, involuntarily, a court order and a search of his Mar-a-Lago hotel resort to find out how many documents were there.”
Joe Biden, “embarrassed, as he should have been,” Durbin said, allowed the justice department and other agencies to search his property for additional classified material. “It is outrageous that either occurred, but the reaction by the former president and the current president could not be in sharper contrast,” Durbin said.
Here’s his full interview:
Democrats express frustration with Biden over document discoveries
Good morning, US politics blog readers. Joe Biden might have spent the weekend outside Washington DC, but he could not escape the growing furor over classified documents turning up in his possession. The latest batch were discovered when the president made the unusual step of allowing federal agents to search his residence in Wilmington, Delaware, during which they seized six more items. His Democratic allies are walking a fine line between shaking their finger at a lifelong politician who should have known better when it comes to classified material, and making the case that Biden is being far more transparent than Donald Trump, who stands accused of doing nearly the same thing, albeit in greater quantities and far more deliberately. “It diminishes the stature of any person who is in possession of it,” Democratic senator Dick Durbin told CNN in an interview Sunday, when asked about the president’s handling of the secrets. Expect to hear more about this today.
Here’s what else is going on:
Kyrsten Sinema has a challenger for Arizona’s Senate seat: Democratic House representative Ruben Gallego. After repeatedly infuriating progressives, Sinema left the Democratic party last year to serve as an independent, though she says she’ll continue to work with Biden’s allies. Democrats will have to decide whether to support her re-election, or back a risky bid to oust her in a swing state.
The White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, briefs reporters at 2pm eastern time, who will surely pester her for more details about the documents investigation.
Tensions with China will probably rise again when the Republican House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, makes a visit to Taiwan in the coming months, Punchbowl News reports. Beijing reacted with fury when his Democratic predecessor Nancy Pelosi did the same last year.