A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.
Pence Is A Critical Jan. 6 Witness
The big news last evening, first reported by ABC News and then duplicated by every major news outlet, was that Special Counsel Jack Smith has subpoenaed former Vice President Mike Pence as part of his investigation into the 2020 election subversion scheme.
My reaction was a mixture of relief that it finally happened and chagrin that it took so long. You can’t fairly investigate Jan. 6 and the events leading up to it without Pence’s testimony. He’s a must-have witness.
To be fair, Pence and the Justice Department have reportedly been in negotiations for months over his testimony, so the subpoena is as much a culmination of one process as it is the beginning of another. Nonetheless, this has been a long time coming (though it remains unclear publicly when the subpoena issued).
A few points to capture the general reaction among close observers of the investigation:
- Pence’s executive privilege claims (or more precisely those Trump will raise to block some of Pence’s testimony) are not particularly strong.
- Remember that a series of secret court battles have been fought over executive privilege already and our best understanding is that DOJ succeeded in getting the testimony of Pence aides Marc Short and Greg Jacob.
- Pence has already divulged information in his own memoir that falls squarely within executive privilege. You can’t say it in your book then decline to testify about it to the grand jury.
Let me also flag the distressingly real possibility that under current precedent some of the most significant court decisions of the last half century around executive privilege and the ability to hold the president accountable for criminal conduct may happen in secret. That would be a disaster for the rule of law and democracy. Stay tuned on that front.
One last point: The Smith investigation appears to be pressing ahead resolutely now, but it’s hard not to think back to all the time Merrick Garland lost in 2021. The Pence subpoena comes more than two years after the fact, long enough for Pence to have published his memoir in the meantime.
Don’t Sleep On This One
The Pence subpoena sucked up all the oxygen yesterday, but we learned via CNN that former Trump national security adviser Robert O’Brien has also been subpoenaed by Jack Smith.
Biden Brings It On Social Security
President Biden seems to be relishing the leverage he has since the State of the Union in attacking Republicans over Social Security. He was in Florida yesterday, where Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) is a chief target, and wouldn’t you know but Scott’s controversial plan was hilariously placed on every seat at the Biden event:
…and these are waiting in the guest seats 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/xZflHTzYqA— Ray Roa (@rayroa) February 9, 2023
You’ll remember Scott rolled out his 12-point plan last year before the midterms while he was heading up the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, much to the consternation of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is still roasting Scott over it:
Biden himself pulled no punches at the Florida event: “Look, I know that a lot of Republicans, their dream is to cut Social Security and Medicare. Well, let me say this — if that’s your dream, I’m your nightmare.”
The Newest George Santos Dog Scandal Is A Head Scratcher
Help me make sense of this.
Politico first reported yesterday and other outlets confirmed that Rep. George Santos (R-NY) was charged in Pennsylvania in 2017 for writing bad checks totaling more than $15,000 to Amish dog breeders. Among the baffling details:
- The case didn’t come to a head until 2020, when Santos received a extradition warrant in New York.
- Santos allegedly told Pennsylvania law enforcement he worked for the SEC ( he didn’t).
- The charges were dropped after Santos claimed his checkbook had been stolen. The lawyer friend who helped Santos on the case now says she doesn’t believe his story given the serial fabrications that have since emerged.
- Soon after one of the bogus checks was written with “puppy” in the memo line, Santos’s fake dog charity held a puppy adoption event on Staten Island.
I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for all this. Right?
Another George Santos?!?!
The Washington Post has an in-depth report out this morning on the curious biography of another incoming thirtysomething GOP member of Congress that doesn’t quite add up.
The WaPo story doesn’t go so far as accusing Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) of fabricating her biographical details – and in fact her mother corroborates much but not all of her daughter’s account – but there is a lot of fishiness around certain aspects of her past and of her public identity.
Luna, 33, was plucked from relative obscurity by Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk in 2018 to be the group’s director of Hispanic engagement. But her Hispanic identity and hardcore conservatism seem to have emerged rather late in life, according to the Post report:
Twelve years before she was elected as the first Mexican American woman to represent Florida in Congress, Anna Paulina Luna was serving at Whiteman Air Force Base in Warrensburg, Mo., where friends said she described herself as alternately Middle Eastern, Jewish or Eastern European. Known then by her given last name of Mayerhofer, Luna sported designer clothing and expressed support for then-President Barack Obama.
Luna declined to comment to the Post.
Congresswoman Assaulted In DC Elevator
A man has been arrested for the alleged assault Thursday of Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN) in the elevator of her DC apartment building. Craig threw hot coffee on her assailant and was able to get away without serious injuries. The attack is not believed to be politically motivated.
Jason Miller is stepping down as CEO of the right-wing social media site GETTR to return to Donald Trump’s side as a senior adviser to his 2024 campaign.
In Case You Missed It
The ex-girlfriend of indicted former FBI official Charlie McGonigal keeps on talking, this time to Insider.
Her account of their year and half together while he was married includes him using a backup iPhone primarily for its encrypted WhatsApp messages and manilla envelopes passed to him by an ex-Russian diplomat who wined and dined them.
Lots of intriguing details but still so many more questions than answer about McDonigal.
Florida Won’t Quiz High School Athletes On Their Periods
After a national outcry, the Florida high school athletic association is dropping its requirement that athletes provide information on their menstrual cycles:
The four questions at the center of the controversy asked whether the student had a menstrual period, and if so, how recent it was. The form also asked “how old were you when you had your first menstrual period?” and “how many periods have you had in the past twelve months?”
The not-so-thinly veiled targeting of transgendered students, comes after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed a 2021 bill outlawing transgender women and girls from competing in women’s sports.
Death Toll Tops 20,000 In Turkey Earthquake
The human toll is staggering. The manmade environment is wrecked. The natural environment is showing incredible scars:
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