Washington is reeling after another batch of classified documents was discovered in the home of another high-profile politician – this time, former Vice President Mike Pence.
Pence’s lawyer characterized the documents as “a small number of documents bearing classified markings that were inadvertently transported to the personal home of the former vice president at the end of the last administration.” He said they were found Jan. 16 and placed in a secure safe until they could be returned to proper authorities.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden got a rare show of support from an unlikely source: Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who told reporters on Capitol Hill that he’d be “shocked if there’s anything sinister” in Biden’s mishandling of classified documents.
Here’s what else is happening in politics:
Former FBI official, accused of taking secret payments, to appear in federal court
A former FBI official, who once ranked as the bureau’s top counterintelligence agent in New York, will make a first appearance Wednesday in a D.C. federal court where he is charged with taking $225,000 in secret payments from a former Albanian intelligence operative who also served as an FBI informant.
Charles McGonigal, indicted separately this week in New York where he is accused of concealing a business relationship with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, first began accepting the cash payments from the Albanian operative a year before his 2018 retirement and hid the transactions from the FBI, prosecutors allege.
Prosecutors say McGonigal requested and received the cash from the operative who traveled extensively with McGonigal, including to Albania where the then-FBI official met with the prime minister to discuss oil drilling policies that could financially benefit his Albanian associate.
Federal authorities allege that the first of three payments was delivered to McGonigal Oct. 5, 2017, in parked car outside a New York City restaurant where the operative handed over about $80,000.
– Kevin Johnson
McCarthy picks former rivals and new allies for investigative committees
Speaker Kevin McCarthy picked a mix of Republican allies and rivals to serve on two, new investigative subcommittees, including members who previously blocked his path to lead the House and his new supporter, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Greene, who was previously ousted from Twitter for spreading COVID misinformation, will serve on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic – which will investigate the origins of the deadly outbreak. That panel also includes Rep. Michael Cloud of Texas, who previously blocked McCarthy’s bid for speaker in more than a dozen rounds of voting.
For the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, McCarthy picked two members who previously voted against him for speaker: Reps. Chip Roy of Texas and Dan Bishop of North Carolina. The only freshman on that committee is Rep. Harriet Hageman of Wyoming, who defeated former Rep. Liz Cheney – a leading member of the retired Jan. 6 committee.
– Candy Woodall
President Joe Biden, under siege from GOP lawmakers over his mishandling of classified documents, got a rare shoutout from a Capitol Hill Republican.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., vouched for Biden’s character Tuesday as the president faces intense scrutiny for his handling of classified information.
“I’ve known President Biden a long time,” Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill. “I’d be shocked if there’s anything sinister here.”
McCarthy says what it would take to remove Santos
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has spelled out what it would take to remove embattled freshman Rep. George Santos, who has admitted to lying to New York voters about his personal and professional background.
“If for some way when we go through Ethics and he has broken the law, then we will remove him,” he told reporters Tuesday. “The American public in his district voted for him. He has a responsibility to uphold what they voted for, to work and have their voice here, but at any time, if it rises to a legal level, we will deal with it then.”
Democratic members from New York, Reps. Daniel Goldman and Ritchie Torres, filed a complaint with the Ethics Committee earlier this month, urging the panel to investigate Santos and his campaign finance reports. He is also facing scrutiny at the local and state levels, with members of his own party calling on him to resign.
– Candy Woodall
GOP Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday he would not seat fellow California Reps. Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff to the House Intelligence Committee.
“I will put national security ahead of partisan politics,” he said during a news conference.
McCarthy has said Swalwell would be denied a security clearance in the private sector and that Schiff has lied to the public, claiming they are not fit to serve on the committee that handles classified information.
Democrats say it’s political revenge. Both California Democrats served on the panel in the last Congress and Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., has asked that they be reappointed, Unlike most standing committees, the speaker has great latitute in deciding who serves on the Select Intelligence Committee.
– Candy Woodall
Intelligence interception:McCarthy plans to block Democrats Swalwell, Schiff from House Intelligence Committee
Cost of Leopard 2 tanks
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced Wednesday that his country would provide 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks for Ukraine’s military, in a move that follows months of diplomatic pressure from Kyiv. It comes ahead of an expected announcement from the White House about sending M1 Abrams tanks to battlefields in Ukraine.
President Joe Biden is scheduled to discuss Ukraine at a noon White House event today.
Modern, capable tanks are seen as critical to Ukraine’s ability to resist an expected springtime offensive by Russian forces and to help the Ukrainians claw back parts of their country seized during the invasion ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Ukrainians operate Russian and Soviet-era tanks. Western tanks would provide them with vehicles that have more firepower, mobility and armor.
— Holly Rosenkrantz
- When were the documents discovered? The classified files were found Jan. 16 and placed in a secure safe until they could be returned to proper authorities, according to Pence’s lawyer, Greg Jacob.
- How many files were found? Pence’s lawyer characterized the documents as “a small number of documents bearing classified markings that were inadvertently transported to the personal home of the former vice president at the end of the last administration.”
- What Pence has said: Pence repeatedly denied knowledge of classified documents at his home last year. When asked explicitly by the Associated Press in August if he had such documents in his possession, he responded, “No, not to my knowledge.”
- What security analysts say: The country’s classified document woes are far from over yet. Security analysts told USA TODAY that the U.S. system of safeguarding classified presidential documents — especially during transfers of power — is in urgent need of improvement.
Vice President Kamala Harris will visit California in the aftermath of two mass shootings in her home state that killed 18 people and renewed the president’s push for gun control.
“Our hearts are with the people of California,” President Joe Biden said Tuesday. “The vice president’s going to be going out.”
Seven people died Tuesday in two shootings near the Northern California community of Half Moon Bay, just days after a rampage in Southern California killed 11. Harris is scheduled to visit Monterey Park, site of one of the shootings.
– Joey Garrison
Biden schedule today
President Joe Biden will make a noon announcement at the White House about Ukraine.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean -Pierre will hold a press briefing at 1:30 p.m.
Vice President Kamala Harris will address the Democratic caucus at the Capitol this morning. She departs Washington at 1:45 p.m. for California.
Harris will visit Monterey Park at 8:20 p.m. She will meet with families of the mass shooting victims there.
— Holly Rosenkrantz
Taylor Swift ticket debacle took center stage in the Senate
The Senate Judiciary Committee knew “All Too Well” how poorly Ticketmaster handled selling tickets to Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated tour as senators examined the lack of competition within the ticketing industry and grilled a Ticketmaster executive on the handling of the tickets.
The committee pulled no punches as they held the company accountable and questioned its practices, power over the ticketing market and whether the company, which merged with Live National Entertainment in 2010, was a monopoly.
There was no shortage of Swift references as senators – and a witness – engaged in true fan behavior, dropping lyrics throughout the three-hour hearing, including Connecticut Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who suggested to Joe Berchtold, the president and CFO of Live Nation, that the company “look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m the problem. It’s me.’”
– Sarah Elbeshbishi
Sour note:‘Industrial-scale ticket scalping.’ Senators grill Ticketmaster over Taylor Swift concert fiasco