Where is Ron?
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is everywhere, only the media doesn’t know where he will be until about an hour and a half before the event he is scheduled to attend is announced. Most scheduling announcements are posted after business hours and are meant to inform media what the governor did, and who he met or spoke to that day.
We are going to DeSantis’ scheduling announcement delays as precautionary security measures.
Show Me Da Money Ron?
Former Florida Gov. and current Senator Rick Scott has called on Gov. DeSantis and other state governors to return all of the non-COVID-related stimulus funding they are set to receive as a result of President Joe Biden approving the $1.9 trillion pork-barrel project filled House measure.
DeSantis could not be reached for comment on whether he would return the federal funds.
Ron DeSantis @GovRonDeSantis-Florida has seen 9 consecutive months of private sector job growth. Our unemployment rate is 4.8% - far below the national rate of 6.3%.
AG Ashley Moody @AGAshleyMoody -Dose of Reality is a one-stop shop of information about opioid misuse, as well as resources for support.
family. Your bravery and selfless service to your community will never be forgotten. Rest in Peace.
“Biden Says Local Doctor And Preachers Not Trump Have ‘More Impact’ Persuading ‘MAGA Folks’ To Get COVID Vaccine” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – President Biden dismissed the notion that former President Donald Trump’s hold greater influence to convince “MAGA folks” who are skeptical of getting the COVID vaccine to get inoculating, arguing that “local doctors” and other people in communities have “more impact” than what his predecessor has to say. Following brief remarks at the White House Monday in kicking off his week-long promotional blitz for the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief law the president recently signed last Thursday, Biden was asked to comment on whether he felt Trump “should help to promote the vaccine among skeptics.” “Should President Trump help promote the vaccine among skeptics,” a reporter shouted the question to Biden. “I’m hearing a lot of reports from serious reporters like you saying that. I discussed it with my team and they say the thing that has more impact than anything Trump would say to the MAGA folks is what the local doctor, what the local preachers, what the local people in the community say,” Biden said in response to the shouted question. “So I urge all local docs and ministers and priests to talk about why, why it’s important to get that vaccine, and even after that, until everyone is in fact vaccinated, to wear this mask,” Biden added. Trump led the federal Operation Warp Speed in pouring billions into coronavirus vaccine research and development while Biden continues to take credit for accelerating distribution. The first two vaccines, produced by Pfizer and Moderna began being distributed in mid-December while Trump was president.
“Scott Calls On DeSantis, Other Governors To Return Non-COVID-Related Funds” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – Without specifically mentioning his home state of Florida and Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Rick Scott appeared on Fox News on Monday to reiterate his call for state governors to return all the non-COVID-related stimulus money that was recently appropriated in the $1.9 trillion funding law. “You ought to give it back,” said Sen. Scott to governors. When pressed about the $5.4 billion budget deficit Florida faces as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that he “might be hard-pressed not to accept the money,” Scott said that states were already sent $500 million to cover their COVID costs and that there could be another trillion dollars in federal assistance that has not been spent by states. “Look, if it’s not based on COVID response you know we ought to get the money back from all over the country,” added Scott. “So, I hope everybody. Every mayor, Every governor, says “money I don’t need to cover COVID. I’m going to give it back to the federal government.” The Floridian could not reach Gov. DeSantis for comment. Sen. Scott later released the following statement to follow up his remarks on Fox: “America is $30 trillion in debt and Democrats in Washington are haphazardly throwing money to anyone and everyone with no care for what it means for our future. Anyone in state and local government who calls themselves a fiscal conservative should know that the funding in the Democrats’ massive spending bill is not free money.”
“Fauci Urges Trump To Tell MAGA Supporters To Get COVID Vaccine” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – Dr. Anthony Fauci is begging former President Trump to urge his followers to get the COVID vaccine, saying it would be a “game-changer” if he encourages Republicans, although Trump has already been vocal in doing so two weeks ago during his first post-White House remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace pointed to a recent NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist poll that shows 47 percent of Republicans don’t plan to get one of the three federally approved coronavirus vaccines, with 49 percent of those being Republican men. Fauci was asked “how much of a difference” would it make if Trump encouraged his supporters to get the vaccine jab. “I think it would make all the difference in the world. He’s a very wildly popular person among Republicans,” Fauci responded. “If he came out and said go and get vaccinated… It seems absolutely inevitable that the vast majority of people who are his close followers would listen to him.” “I just don’t get it, Chris, why they don’t want to get vaccinated,” Fauci added.
“Members of Congress from Florida weigh in on the American Rescue Plan” by WCJB Staff – As relief checks start hitting Americans’ bank accounts, North Central Florida congressmen are weighing in on the newly passed American Rescue Plan. President Joe Biden laid out his plan to implement the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package Monday and appointed Gene Sperling to lead the implementation. “First is 100 million shots in people’s arms will have been completed within the next 10 days. And 100 million checks in people’s pockets in the next hundred days. Shots in arms and money in pockets- that’s important,” said President Biden. Rep. Al Lawson (FL-05) said in a statement the law gives people the “urgent relief they need.” He said with the child tax credit, 272,000 children in Florida will be lifted out of poverty. The American Rescue Plan will also allocate $9.2 billion to Florida, and another 7.6 billion to local governments in the state. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida said the law has too much wasteful spending. He sent a letter to Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Rob Fairweather urging the Biden Administration to rescind $668 billion. In the Letter attached below, Scott breaks down which parts of the package should be cut.
“Legal experts: Florida employers can require employees to get vaccinated” by Fox 13’s Haley Hinds – With more people able to get COVID-19 vaccines and businesses taking steps to bring operations back to normal, can an employer require workers to get vaccinated? And what happens if an employee refuses? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance saying that generally, yes, "employers can mandate a COVID-19 vaccine as long as they comply with all federal EEO laws." There are a few exemptions and a recent survey found that many employers are in no hurry to put a mandate in place. Florida is one of those states where employers have the upper hand. As an at-will employment state, unless you're under contract or in a union, employees have few legal rights and can be terminated for just about anything. Employment Lawyer Cynthia Sass of Sass Law Firm in Tampa said those reasons can include refusing a vaccine if an employer requires it. "Generally, the answer is yes, and there are exceptions," Sass said. "If an employee can't get the vaccine for health reasons or because they have a disability or there's some religious reason why they can't get the vaccine, then the employer has to engage in what is called the interactive process to see if there's a reasonable alternative to that."
“To fully reopen, growing teacher shortage must be addressed by Legislature, union says” by WTSP’s Josh Sidorowicz – The Florida Education Association says school districts will not be able to fully reopen successfully unless state lawmakers prioritize higher salaries and multi-year contracts to address teacher shortages. It tops the list of legislative priorities for the state’s largest public teachers union. President Andrew Spar says state lawmakers should be doing whatever they can to protect resources for schools. It was during this same week last year families were learning spring break would be extended as the COVID-19 pandemic intensified. Florida's schools remained closed—fully virtual—until August. Since then, districts have offered the option for students to either attend in-person or virtually. The FEA says the number of students attending in person has risen from about 50 percent in the fall to more than 80 percent currently. But most districts have been hemorrhaging staff over the past year, too. “We are facing a critical shortage, we’d been facing it before the pandemic and it’s only gotten worse,” Spar said. “We need lawmakers to take steps to make sure we’re doing everything possible to get people into the teaching profession and more importantly to keep those in the teaching profession there.” Brandy Craven knows the issue first-hand. At one point this school year, the Pinellas County teacher says she had 45 4th graders in her virtual classroom. “They couldn’t hire another 4th-grade teacher to split the online students so the only other option was to overtax the teachers who already had students,” she said.
“Florida House of Representatives debate if school board members should be paid” by WEAR-TV’s Rebekah Castor – Should school board members be paid? That's the question up for debate in the Florida House of Representatives right now. House Republicans want Florida voters to decide. If a proposal passed both the state House and Senate, it will be on the general election ballot in 2022. The joint resolution (HJR 1461) was filed in the Florida House of Representatives 3 weeks ago by a Republican legislator from Clay County. The proposal says "members of a district school shall serve without compensation." If passed, those elected and reelected after November 8th, 2022 will not receive a salary. On Friday, the House Secondary Education & Career Development Subcommittee meeting voted to move the amendment forward. District 2 Representative Alex Andrade is on this committee. "When it's a volunteer body, it gives that trust that people are doing it for the right reasons," Andrade said, Monday. Andrade emphasizes that his support for the resolution does not reflect on the work of the Escambia and Santa Rosa County school boards. He admits he's received pushback, but says not paying school board members is a common practice across the U.S. "Florida is actually an outlier on this," Andrade said. "We're working to align with other school districts around the country."
“Florida Republican introduces bill banning transgender girls from school sports” by WTSP’s Andrew Krietz – A Republican lawmaker recently introduced a bill in the Florida Legislature that would ban transgender girls from participating in women's sports, the Miami Herald reports. HB 1475 filed late last month by State Rep. Kaylee Tuck, R-Lake Placid, also would require any dispute of the student's biological sex to be resolved by a health care provider by examinating "the student's reproductive anatomy." Florida's bill to restrict transgender women in sports is like those elsewhere across the country. The New York Times reports, citing the ACLU, that at least 25 states have had similar bills introduced during this year's legislative sessions. Freedom for All Americans, an organization that champions protections for LGBTQ people and is tracking the status of similar bills, says some bills "ill almost certainly attempt to single out and target LGBTQ people for unfair and unequal treatment." State Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, who similarly introduced SB 2012, would allow transgender girls to participate in girls' sports but would need to reach the same testosterone standard of the Olympics, the Herald said. Neither she nor Tuck could cite an instance when interviewed by the newspaper where a transgender athlete unfairly impacted scholastic athletic competition in Florida. "I don’t think we should wait until there is a problem to have a policy," Tuck told the Herald.
“New data shows Florida economy continues to improve” by WPTV’s Forrest Saunder – There's still work to do. New numbers released Monday showed Florida's economy has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels but is making strides. In a data update, the Department of Economic Opportunity said Florida unemployment dropped 0.3 percentage points from December to January, landing at 4.8%. That figure is better than the national average of 6.3% and a big fall from the state's peak of 14.2 percent in May. Florida gained 1,700 private-sector jobs, according to the report. The top industries include:
Trade, Transportation and Utilities with 4,400 new jobs
Construction with 3,500 new jobs
Education and Health Services with 3,200 new jobs
Other services with 1,700 new jobs
The state's tourism workers continued to suffer. The leisure and hospitality industry lost about 9,800 positions. Economists attributed most of this to recent layoffs at Florida theme parks.
“Lawmakers from South Florida tour border, say Biden policy leads to dangerous migrant journey” by Local 10’s Glenna Milberg – The firsthand look was brief but bracing. South Florida’s newest members of Congress, Reps. Maria Salazar and Carlos Gimenez toured a processing site and met families at the United States’ southern border Monday, a tour with Republican leadership blaming President Joe Biden for a migrant surge. “I spoke to a family that told me it took them 22 days to come from Honduras,” said Gimenez, R-District 26. “They were incentivized by the rhetoric, by the change of policy.” Said Salazar, R-District 27: “It’s our girls — Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua — that are being raped. It’s our girls, the children that are being trafficked.” Increasing numbers of people are overwhelming border facilities, made more challenging by the COVID-19 pandemic and perceptions that the Biden administration would be more welcoming than his predecessor. “It’s a complicated problem, no doubt about it,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. “We are sending the message clearly in the region — now is not the time to come, but also we want to ensure people are treated with humanity.” The administration dispatched FEMA over the weekend to help border agents with processing and caring for the migrants, especially children who arrive alone. “The options here are, send the kids back on the journey, send them to unvetted homes, or work to expedite, moving them into shelters where they can get health treatment by medical doctors, educational resources, legal counseling,” Psaki said.
“Florida’s big tech censorship bill clears second committee” by News 4 Jax’s Jake Stofan – Legislation seeking to increase transparency in big tech and fight back against social media censorship is moving quickly through the Florida House after it cleared its second committee stop Monday. Republicans believe conservatives are being unfairly targeted by big tech censorship, but Democrats argue the GOP-sponsored legislation is a response to former President Donald Trump’s de-platforming from Twitter and Facebook. “I think that everybody should, at least if we’re being intellectually honest, be able to agree that yeah, there is a double standard here,” State Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, said. Burgess is sponsoring legislation that would require social media companies to inform users why their accounts were blocked or disabled within 30 days of action being taken on the accounts. “The notice is provided to the user, no matter who they are or what they do and you know, just to let them know why,” he said. A similar bill in the House goes much further, requiring social media companies to publish standards for censoring users on their sites and apply them in a consistent manner. The legislation would also create a cause of action, allowing Floridians to sue if they feel they were wrongly banned, and it imposes fines on companies that censor political candidates.
“Proposed bill would protect domestic violence victims in Florida” by WCJB’s Staff – At any given time an abuser is stalking a woman who has sought refuge in a domestic violence center, but under Florida law, there is nothing law enforcement can do to stop the harassment. New legislation may soon give them a tool to take action. Florida is one of 19 states that require the location of domestic violence safe houses or shelters to be confidential, but it’s also one of 11 nationally with no penalties for disclosure by someone other than a shelter employee. “We’ve had continuous problems over the years with abusers or their friends or their family finding out where the shelter is located, and then essentially stalking the victims outside the shelter, waiting for them to leave,” said Emily Mitchem, Executive Director of Refuge House. But legislation would make it a misdemeanor for disclosing where a shelter is located. A second offense would be a felony. “Multiple domestic centers in Florida have reported drones flying over the confidential shelter, recording the video and publishing the confidential information online,” said State Senator Ileana Garcia, who is sponsoring the bill. The legislation has already gotten tentative approval in the Senate and a final vote could come as early as this week. A second bill would protect the staffs’ identity. “And they stalked one of the staffers who work at the domestic violence staffer. Followed them to their car, and demanding information about their victims. This particular staffer was so just horrified about the entire incident, she actually quit,” said bill sponsor Representative David Borrero.
“Dem Sen. Cardin caught on hot mic telling Buttigieg how Dems will jam trillions of dollars for infrastructure” by Fox News’ Houston Keene – Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., was caught on a hot mic telling Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg that the budget reconciliation process would "most likely" be needed to get an infrastructure package into the end zone. While at a Monday press conference featuring Buttigieg, Cardin was caught on a C-SPAN mic saying that Democrats will "most likely have to use reconciliation" to push an infrastructure package through Congress. Cardin also told Buttigieg that the infrastructure bill will be constructed in a "similar" way to the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that President Biden signed last week. "Ultimately, it’s going to be put together similar to how the American Rescue Plan was put together …," Cardin was caught saying. "Most likely, we’re going to have to use reconciliation." Budget reconciliation is a parliamentary procedure that gained recognition as the Democrats looked for an avenue to get their COVID-19 relief bill, the American Rescue Plan, past a Senate filibuster and to President Joe Biden’s desk. It allows lawmakers to sidestep Senate filibusters. So no 60-vote requirement there. All you need is to find a simple majority to pass whatever bill you insert into a budget reconciliation package.
“Cuomo has 'preoccupation with his hand size,' former aide Charlotte Bennett tells investigators” by Fox News’ Thomas Barrabi – A former aide who accused New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment told investigators Monday that the embattled Democratic leader has a "preoccupation with his hand size." The former aide, Charlotte Bennett, met with outside investigators for more than four hours as part of New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation into the allegations against Cuomo. Bennett provided "more than 120 pages of contemporaneous records" as well as "other examples of documentary evidence," according to her attorney, Debra Katz. "We remain confident that their investigation will substantiate Charlotte’s claims of sexual harassment against Gov. Cuomo, as well as the failure of his senior staff to meet their mandatory reporting requirements under the very laws he signed," Katz said in a statement. "She also provided detailed information about the sexually hostile work environment the Governor fostered in both his Manhattan and Albany offices and his deliberate effort to create rivalries and tension among female staffers on whom he bestowed attention." "One piece of new information that came to light today was the Governor’s preoccupation with his hand size and what the large size of his hands indicated to Charlotte and other members of his staff," she added.
“US to house up to 3,000 immigrant teens at Dallas convention center” by Associated Press – The U.S. government plans to use the downtown Dallas convention center to hold up to 3,000 immigrant teenagers as sharply higher numbers of border crossings have severely strained the current capacity to hold youths, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press. The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center will be used for up to 90 days beginning as early as this week, according to written notification sent to members of the Dallas City Council on Monday. Federal agencies will use the facility to house boys ages 15 to 17, according to the memo, which describes the soon-to-open site as a "decompression center." U.S. Health and Human Services is rushing to open facilities across the country to house immigrant children who are otherwise being held by the U.S. Border Patrol, which is generally supposed to detain children for no more than three days. The Border Patrol is holding children longer because there is next to no space in the HHS system, similar to the last major increase in migration two years ago. A tent facility operated by the Border Patrol in Donna, some 165 miles (265 kilometers) south of Dallas, is holding more than 1,000 children and teenagers, some as young as 4. Lawyers who inspect immigrant detention facilities under a court settlement say they interviewed children who reported being held in packed conditions in the tent, with some sleeping on the floor and others not able to shower for five days.
“Capitol Police officer suspended after anti-Semitic reading material found near his work area” by CNN’s Zachary Cohen and Caroline Kelly – A US Capitol Police officer has been suspended after anti-Semitic reading material was discovered near his work area on Sunday, according to a department spokesperson. The spokesperson said in a statement that Capitol Police acting Chief Yogananda Pittman on Monday ordered the officer to be suspended and the officer will remain suspended pending an outcome of an investigation by the department's Office of Professional Responsibility. "We take all allegations of inappropriate behavior seriously," Pittman said. "Once this matter was brought to my attention, I immediately ordered the officer to be suspended until the Office of Professional Responsibility can thoroughly investigate." The Washington Post first reported the officer was suspended after a congressional aide reportedly saw the document in plain sight at a checkpoint. A printed copy of the Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion was left on a table inside an entrance to a House building, according to photos obtained by the Post. The text is a work of fiction published in a Russian newspaper in 1903, purporting to be documents showing a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. The falsified papers were used as propaganda and influenced Adolf Hitler, according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
“Schumer keeps pressure on Biden to cancel $50,000 in student loan debt” by CNN’s Katie Lobosco – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is keeping the pressure on President Joe Biden to forgive $50,000 in federal student loan debt. The New York Democrat said Monday that the Justice Department is currently conducting a legal review on whether Biden has the authority to issue blanket forgiveness on student debt. But Biden has repeatedly resisted calls from Schumer and other Democrats like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to cancel $50,000 per student loan borrower -- making it very clear during a CNN Town Hall last month that he does not support the idea. Biden has expressed support for canceling $10,000 per borrower, but has argued that the government shouldn't forgive debt for people who went to "Harvard and Yale and Penn." He's also indicated that he believes Congress should make changes through legislation, which would make them harder to undo -- though White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said that the administration was open to reviewing an executive option. When asked Monday about whether Congress should take the first step, Schumer argued it would take too long and there are many other key priorities at the moment that the Senate is focused on. "I think it will be much harder to do legislatively. We have not seen our Republican colleagues jump at this opportunity," he said on a press call with his colleagues Warren and Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey.
“White House staff no longer tested for Covid-19 daily” by CNN’s Jason Hoffman, Kaitlan Collins and Caroline Kelly – White House staff working in-person are no longer tested for Covid-19 every day as those on campus have been increasingly vaccinated, a recent change to testing protocol, according to an administration official familiar with the process. White House spokesperson Kevin Munoz said in a statement to CNN that the White House "maintains strong Covid-19-related protocols in order to create a safe workplace for its employees," such as mandatory mask wearing, social distancing and "regular testing." "Our testing protocol is informed by a range of factors, including an employee's vaccination status, and is only one of a host of measures in place to mitigate risk in the workplace," Munoz said. Prior to the change, only those who were coming in contact with a top leader -- such as President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris or other senior level staff -- were getting tested daily. If a staff member was not going to be in contact with those people, they already were not being tested daily. News of the testing changes was first reported by Axios. The Biden administration has made significant changes from the White House protocols under former President Donald Trump, who during his time in office long dismissed the gravity of the virus and eschewed practices like social distancing and mask wearing.
“U.S. Outreach to North Korea Has Gone Unanswered, White House Says” by WSJ’s Sabrina Siddiqui and Michael R. Gordon – The Biden administration has reached out to North Korea to launch a dialogue on Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs but has yet to receive a response, the White House said Monday. “Our goal is to reduce the risk of escalation. But to date, we have not received any response,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “Diplomacy continues to remain our first priority.” Ms. Psaki didn’t explain how the Biden administration had tried to contact North Korea nor spell out what its message had been. The administration is currently conducting a review of its policy toward North Korea, which may be completed in coming weeks. The U.S. has a number of ways to reach out to Pyongyang, including contact through North Korea’s mission to the United Nations, use of an intelligence channel the Obama administration established for sensitive communications with North Korea, and messages through Sweden, the U.S.’s “protecting power” in the country. Washington and Pyongyang haven’t held nuclear talks since October 2019. The negotiations are held up over U.S. demands that North Korea give up its nuclear weapons program and long-range missiles in return for relief from U.S. sanctions.
“Germany, France, Italy Suspend Use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 Vaccine” by WSJ’s Jenny Strasburg and Bojan Pancevski – Germany, Italy, France and Spain joined the ranks of European countries that have temporarily halted use of the Covid-19 shot made by AstraZeneca AZN 0.72% PLC over blood-clot concerns, dealing another blow to the continent’s sluggish vaccination rollout and threatening the credibility of the vaccine itself. A cascade of cautionary pauses that started last week picked up Monday. Denmark was the first to suspend the shots. Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands and Iceland have also said they would wait for Europe’s bloc-wide medicines regulator to investigate a small number of serious blood-clotting issues among people who had received the AstraZeneca shot. That regulator, the European Medicines Agency, is expected by Thursday to give its verdict on safety and potential risks from a review of the reported cases. The agency on Monday repeated an advisory from last week that for now it is recommending countries keep using the vaccine, saying the benefits outweigh possible risks. The EMA, which acts much like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in regulating medicine across the European Union, has said there was no evidence of a link between the reported blood clots and the vaccine.
“Purdue Pharma Owners Increase Settlement Offer to $4.28 Billion” by WSJ’s Jonathan Randles and Sara Randazzo – The family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP agreed to pay roughly $4.28 billion—a larger sum than previously promised—to resolve lawsuits accusing it of helping to fuel the opioid epidemic. The payment from members of the Sackler family is part of a larger restructuring plan filed Monday night in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, N.Y., that is intended to get Purdue out of chapter 11. The plan is a critical milestone in the Stamford, Conn.-based drugmaker’s bankruptcy and the culmination of months of negotiation between members of the Sackler family and states, personal-injury plaintiffs and other creditors. A group of around half of all U.S. states has repeatedly demanded more money from the Sackler family, a concession included in Monday’s plan. At the time of its September 2019 bankruptcy filing, the family had agreed to pay $3 billion with the promise of up to another $1.5 billion contingent on the sale of its international business. The new offer guarantees $4.28 billion, paid in installments over the next decade. A key piece of the restructuring plan, which includes another $1.5 billion in cash and expected proceeds from OxyContin sales, is ensuring that the money will largely be spent to help abate the nation’s opioid crisis, rather than going into the general coffers of state and local government creditors.
“Two charged for pepper-spraying police officer who died after assault on U.S. Capitol” by Reuters’ Sarah N. Lynch and Brad Heath – The U.S. Justice Department on Monday charged two men with pepper-spraying three Capitol Police officers, one of whom later died, during the Jan. 6 assault on Congress by Donald Trump supporters trying to overturn his election defeat. Julian Elie Khater and George Pierre Tanios are facing multiple counts, including assaulting police with a deadly weapon, after investigators said they sprayed at least three officers with an unidentified, but powerful, chemical agent. One of those officers, Brian Sicknick, was later rushed to a hospital and died the next day. Khater and Tanios are not charged with killing Sicknick, whose cause of death remains unclear. A law enforcement source familiar with the matter said it is still too early in the probe to know if Tanios or Khater directly bear any responsibility for Sicknick’s death. According to the complaint, the FBI said the two men “appeared to time the deployment of chemical substances to coincide with other rioters’ efforts to forcibly remove the bike rack barriers that were preventing the rioters from moving closer to the Capitol building.” Khater, 32, of State College, Pennsylvania, was arrested as he disembarked from an airplane at Newark Airport in New Jersey. Tanios, 39, of Morgantown, West Virginia, was arrested at his residence in West Virginia. The two men grew up together in New Jersey, according to the criminal complaint.
“IRS partially shields some stimulus payments from debt reductions” by Politico’s Toby Eckert – The IRS has agreed not to reduce economic stimulus payments for some people who owe federal tax debts, the agency’s in-house watchdog said Monday. However, the move won’t shield people with some other debts, including state taxes and overpayments of certain federal benefits. Unequal treatment: At issue is a change Congress made late last year in how people owing government debts would be treated if they received coronavirus relief payments approved in March and December as a credit on their 2020 taxes, instead of direct payments as most people did. Those who received the “recovery rebate credits” would see their credits reduced to settle unpaid federal and state taxes, Social Security and Veterans Affairs debts, student loan debt, and child support obligations. Highlighting the issue: National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins flagged the unequal treatment in January, saying that millions of people could have their credits reduced, particularly those most in need of relief money because of the coronavirus pandemic, including veterans, Social Security recipients and students. She urged the IRS to use its own authority to fix the problem, at least for those who have federal tax debts, and the agency has agreed to do so, Collins wrote in a blog Monday. "It has committed to doing so as quickly as practical," she wrote. Limited reach: However, she noted that the change won’t cover those who have already filed their 2020 returns or file them before the IRS can make a necessary computer programming change. It also won't affect most categories of debt.
“An unlikely Trump turncoat shows the GOP way to resist his influence” by Politico’s Melanie Zanona – Jaime Herrera Beutler is not one to make waves on Capitol Hill. But during Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, she almost created a tsunami. After she publicly revealed damaging details about Trump’s phone call with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Herrera Beutler was nearly ensnared in the Senate trial herself — an episode that later landed her in the GOP leader's office. There, during a previously unreported interaction, she got a chance to explain her thinking behind divulging the Trump-McCarthy exchange to reporters, constituents and local officials. And while Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) wouldn’t discuss their private conversation, she stood by her actions surrounding Jan. 6 in a 30-minute interview. In Herrera Beutler’s view, a member of Congress' toughest challenge is "when your own team does something you don't like, and you have to step out and oppose them." Herrera Beutler's stint in the national spotlight hasn't faded yet. After a 12-year House career spent steering clear of controversy, her high-profile moment of rebellion against a former president who's still molding the GOP in his image made her into a potential prototype for how to cross Trump and survive in the party. Though Republicans are already lining up to primary her, she's already shown how to win in a suburban and rural district that became increasingly competitive under Trump.