Also in today’s edition of ‘Regular Order’ for March 24, 2023:
Parkland father arrested outside gun hearing.
Lawmakers to visit Jan. 6 defendants in jail.
Lindsey Graham rebuked by Ethics panel.
HUSH MONEY. The New York prosecutor repeatedly attacked this week by Republicans in Congress - over the investigation of Donald Trump's porn star hush money case - told GOP lawmakers on Thursday to get lost. Rejecting calls for his testimony, Alvin Bragg's office said there was 'no legitimate basis for a Congressional inquiry.'
LETTER. "The District Attorney's office is obligated…to protect the independence of state law enforcement functions from federal interference," a letter to GOP lawmakers stated. "Congress cannot have any legitimate legislative task relating to the oversight of local prosecutors enforcing state law."
GOP. Bragg's stinging reply did not sit well with Republicans. "Alvin Bragg is a left wing partisan prosecutor who puts politics over justice," said Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN). "Bragg's case to charge former President Donald Trump is an incredible abuse of authority," said Rep. William Timmons (R-SC).
CIVIL. I will admit that I almost spit out my Coke when I got to the part in Bragg’s letter where it said the House Republican requests for documents and testimony were ‘an unlawful incursion into New York's sovereignty.’ Yep - Manhattan was going states’ rights on the GOP.
TRUMP. As much as Republicans might not like this New York situation, Trump faces legal jeopardy on multiple fronts. One of Trump’s attorneys is reportedly being forced to testify in D.C. today - before a federal grand jury - about the classified documents case involving Trump. And don’t forget about the Jan. 6 investigations.
TIKTOK. There was absolutely nowhere to hide yesterday for TikTok CEO Shou Chew, who was battered for hours at a hearing by both parties - as many lawmakers accused him of lying about the involvement of China in his company. “TikTok is a weapon used by the Chinese Communist Party to spy on you and manipulate what you see," said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).
PROJECT TEXAS. If the TikTok CEO thought his company's 'Project Texas' - a bid to safeguard the user data of Americans at offices inside the U.S. - would ease concerns with TikTok on Capitol Hill, he was sadly mistaken. "This Project Texas is simply not acceptable," said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the top Democrat on the panel.
BAN. Inside the hearing room and outside of the Capitol, Republicans called for a complete ban on the app, citing the Chinese spying threat. "The Chinese Communist Party should not be allowed to conduct psychological warfare on our children and spy on our phones," said Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL).
SPYING. It led to some answers which raised eyebrows. "Has ByteDance spied on American citizens?" asked Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL). "I don't think that 'spying' is the best way to describe it," Chew replied.
DEMS. Many Democrats raised broader questions about inappropriate content on TikTok. "TikTok knows the negative effects it can have on young women, political extremism and more," said Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA).
BILL. The absolute drubbing of the TikTok CEO immediately raised questions about whether Congress would take some type of legislative action. Speaker McCarthy told reporters on Thursday that he’s open to the idea - stay tuned.
GRAHAM. The Senate Ethics Committee last night publicly reprimanded Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for soliciting money to help the campaign of Senate candidate Herschel Walker during the last election. Why is that an ethics issue? Because Graham asked people to contribute to Walker while doing a Fox News interview in a Senate office building.
RULES. It may seem odd to outsiders, but lawmakers are not allowed to solicit campaign donations from their offices, or anywhere in the Capitol complex. That's why House and Senate campaign offices are located close by - so they have somewhere to go to make those calls.
NOT THE FIRST. It wasn't the first time the Ethics Committee thought about acting against Graham. He had used an interview in another Senate office building back in 2020 to plug his reelection campaign and to ask for contributions. "You are hereby admonished," the letter stated.
UKRAINE. The House Foreign Affairs Committee will consider a resolution today asking the Pentagon and State Department for documents about aid approved for Ukraine. The measure's chief sponsor is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who has been one of the sharpest critics of U.S. aid to the Zelenskyy government.
MRS. GREENE OF GEORGIA. Greene's resolution would require the Biden Administration to turn over all documents, charts, tables, audio recordings, phone and email records, correspondence, financial statements, and any communications related to Ukraine.
RUSSIA. The Russian invasion was front and center for Pentagon officials yesterday as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testified before Congress. "We will support Ukraine's defense for as long as it takes," Austin said.
CRIMEA. But there might be limits. Asked about the desire by Ukraine to push Russia out of Crimea, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley made clear that might not happen. "That is an extraordinarily difficult goal to achieve militarily.”
REGULAR ORDER. If you know someone who might be interested in ‘Regular Order,’ help me spread the word about my newsletter. You can give a gift subscription to someone you know - and support independent journalism along the way on Capitol Hill. And you can also just buy me a drink after another wild week of news.
SUBPOENA. House Republicans have given Secretary of State Antony Blinken until Monday evening to turn over documents about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) had set a deadline for yesterday - when Blinken was testifying before McCaul's Foreign Affairs Committee. "I have the subpoena - it's right here," McCaul said, as he pressed Blinken for information.
DISSENT. Of all the documents requested by the GOP, what Republicans really want to see is a cable sent back to the State Department by a group of U.S. diplomats in Kabul who opposed the Afghan withdrawal - what's known as a 'dissent cable.'
MCCAUL. "The American people need to see this," McCaul told Blinken at yesterday's hearing. "We need to know what their dissent was. Why were they objecting to your policy in the failed withdrawal from Afghanistan?”
BLINKEN. The Secretary of State didn't exactly say he would live up to the new Monday deadline, citing the classified nature of the cable, and questions about confidentiality . "I read every dissent channel cable that I get," Blinken said, opening himself to questions about the details.
AMERICANS. At the same hearing, Blinken acknowledged that ‘about 175’ Americans remain in Afghanistan. "Forty-four are ready to leave,” Blinken said without giving details. "We are working to secure their freedom.”
GUNS. A House Oversight subcommittee hearing had to recess for a few minutes on Thursday after an incident in the hall outside a hearing on the ATF and gun rights. "Does the Capitol Police not do their jobs?" asked a very perturbed Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX) who was chairing the hearing. "What in the hell is going on?"
AUDIENCE. The dispute erupted when the mother of a student killed in the Parkland, Florida mass school shooting interrupted Fallon. He had her removed from the hearing room, and then her husband was taken into custody by police out in the hallway. Video showed him pinned to the ground by officers.
MANUEL. If you think this was just about showing up Republicans - think again. The husband, Manuel Oliver, was tossed out of the White House last summer when he interrupted President Biden during remarks about a gun safety bill approved by Congress. "We have to do more than that," Oliver yelled.
MEMBERS. Meanwhile, lawmakers tussled with each other inside as well, most notably Fallon and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), as the hearing was marked by sharp comments from both sides. It was a stark reminder that there is almost no middle ground when it comes to gun violence.
DESANTIS. Here on Capitol Hill, we can't help but watch what's going on in the GOP race for 2024. What the past two weeks have shown me is that Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is going to have to step up his game if he's going to take on Donald Trump for the Republican nomination.
UKRAINE. We've now seen DeSantis completely play to the Trump wing of the GOP on Ukraine - by downplaying the Russian invasion as a 'territorial dispute' - only to then walk back most of that a week later after a very negative reaction from Republicans on Capitol Hill.
ATTACKS. As for Trump, he has not let up on DeSantis, despite being focused on his legal troubles in New York. "He is, for a Republican, an average Governor," Trump said, reminding people that his endorsement greatly helped DeSantis win in 2018.
BELOW THE BELT. Trump has also made clear he's ready to hit DeSantis hard, darkly hinting that the Florida Governor might be a pedophile or gay. If you're going to run against Trump, you better be ready. Maybe DeSantis is prepared. And maybe he is not.
JANUARY 6. Led by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), a group of lawmakers will today visit the Washington, D.C. jail where some January 6 defendants are being held for trial. Greene and other Republicans have labeled them 'political prisoners,' claiming they are being subjected to harsh conditions because of their crimes.
CODEL. 13 other Republicans will join Greene: Luna FL, Biggs AZ, Timmons SC, Higgins LA, Grothman WI, Burchett TN, Perry PA, Boebert CO, Donalds FL, Burlison MO, Brecheen OK, Collins GA, and Pfluger TX. Democrats belittled the trip as an effort to whitewash the violence of Jan. 6.
DEMS. "This MAGA-led tour is nothing more than Speaker McCarthy making good on his promise to give control of the Committee to extreme Republican voices," Democrats on the House Oversight Committee said. Two Dems - Rep. Summer Lee (D-PA) and Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-TX) will be on the tour.
TAPES. I realized this week that I have not seen Tucker Carlson or Fox News play any more internal security tapes from Jan. 6. It only confirms what I said from the beginning, that the tapes would reveal nothing sinister about that day - other than the violence from Trump supporters.
REQUEST. I've sent in my own request to Speaker McCarthy's office to see the tapes, but haven't heard anything back. We'll see if any reporters will be given a chance to review the tapes - other than Fox News.
RAP SHEET. A Michigan man who got into the Capitol through a broken window on Jan. 6 was sentenced to nine months in prison. With a Go-Pro camera strapped to his head, Anthony Puma made it into a Senator's office where rioters were smoking pot. He boasted that he had been tear gassed and pepper sprayed.
RAP SHEET II. A Texas man who rifled through the desks of Senators on the Senate floor pleaded guilty to a felony charge related to his actions on Jan. 6. Joshua Johnson said he came to the Capitol to 'stop the steal' - the bogus charge that the 2020 election had been stolen from Donald Trump.
TAX MAN. It turns out that when you stop cutting the IRS budget and hire people to answer the phones - it leads to immediate improvements in customer service for US taxpayers. Isn't that a good thing? That's my column this week for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
MUSE OF HISTORY. March 24, 1939. On this date, Treasury Secretary Robert Morgenthau told the House Ways and Means Committee that it might be proper to hold off on a scheduled increase in payroll taxes designed to fund the Social Security system. At a hearing, Morgenthau suggested that the feds did not want to build too large of a Social Security surplus. At a news conference (page 11) the next day, FDR said all options were open - and Congress soon voted to freeze the payroll tax.
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From what I read, not only did the Congress hold off on that one scheduled payroll tax increase, but a bunch of others as well. And yes, I think you are absolutely right - that left us in a situation where the system wasn't funded as well for the long term as it should have been - and was originally designed to be...
It sounds like a good phrase to put on a t-shirt to sell on Capitol Hill