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Donald Trump faces new classified document charges with 1/6 charges in the on-deck circle; Congress ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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July 28, 2023


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Benjy Sarlin
Benjy Sarlin

Donald Trump was hit with new federal charges last night, with another round of federal indictments waiting in the on-deck circle. The man who spent seven years telling rally crowds about how Hillary Clinton’s lawyers destroyed email servers “with bleach” (it was actually software) is accused of telling his underlings to delete surveillance footage that was requested by the government. The superseding indictment also has new details on the “smoking gun” tape, in which Trump is accused of showing off a classified Iran document, which could complicate an explanation he gave to Semafor last month.

School’s out for summer in Congress. The Senate wrapped up the NDAA last night, and Morgan Chalfant has some of the highlights. But the House needs an extension on some of their final assignments, which unfortunately could shut down the government if not completed on time. Joseph Zeballos-Roig has the latest on what’s waiting for them when they return in September.

Steve Clemons is on vacation.


☞ White House: President Biden will sign an executive order today reforming how the U.S. military handles sexual assault cases, including shifting decision-making from commanders to independent military prosecutors. Vice President Harris is visiting Iowa today to talk about abortion rights.

☞ Senate: The upper chamber concluded work on the annual defense policy bill last night before heading home for a long August recess. Senate panels also advanced legislation on kids’ online safety and key appropriations bills. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the body would focus on averting a government shutdown, the FAA bill, and nominations when senators return.

☞ House: The House left town a day early, after passing legislation to fund veterans benefits and punting a vote on Republicans’ agriculture bill.

☞ Outside the Beltway: The Justice Department said it would open a civil rights investigation into the Memphis Police Department to determine whether officers engaged in discriminatory policing. The announcement came months after the death of Tyre Nichols, who was beaten by Memphis police officers.

Need to Know
REUTERS/Don Pessin

Former President Trump was hit with new charges Thursday for allegedly mishandling classified information and obstructing the Justice Department’s investigation. Federal prosecutors say Trump, his aide Walt Nauta, and a maintenance worker newly charged in the case, Carlos de Oliveira, tried to delete security footage of Mar-a-Lago that had been subpoenaed by the FBI, and that allegedly showed boxes containing classified information being moved, according to a superseding indictment filed by special counsel Jack Smith’s team. The document contains three new charges against Trump, including an attempt to “alter, destroy, mutilate, or conceal evidence.”

Among the new charges: Retaining the top secret Iran document that Trump allegedly showed to guests in that taped meeting at his Bedminster office in 2021. It was not previously known if the document referenced in the recording had been recovered by DOJ. Its existence could undercut Trump’s earlier suggestion to Semafor that he was holding unrelated papers in the audio recording and bragging that they were classified out of “bravado.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers met with Smith’s team regarding the separate investigation into the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. After reports said the attorneys were told to expect an indictment, Trump denied the news and said his attorneys explained that he “did nothing wrong.” Trump has already admitted to receiving a target letter in the investigation.

The Supreme Court temporarily cleared the way for construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline to resume, after a lower court had blocked work on the controversial pipeline despite it getting the green light in legislation signed by Biden to raise the debt ceiling.

Rep. Derrick Van Orden, R-Wis. is under fire after yelling and cursing at a group of 16- and 17-year-old Senate pages in the U.S. Capitol late Wednesday night. Upon seeing the pages resting in the rotunda during a vote on the defense bill, Van Orden called the teenagers “jackasses” and “pieces of shit,” screaming, “Wake the fuck up you little shits… get the fuck out of here, you are defiling the space,” according to an account in The Hill. Schumer addressed the outburst in a press conference on Thursday, calling it “utterly despicable.”

Morgan Chalfant, Benjy Sarlin and Emily Schultheis

Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: With both houses of Congress heading into summer recess, Punchbowl analyzes the challenges facing each of the top congressional leaders when they return this fall.

Playbook: Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn. has been receiving questions about whether he’d be willing to mount a 2024 primary challenge to Biden and is meeting with Democratic donors in New York next week to discuss the prospect, Politico reports.

The Early 202: House Appropriations Committee member Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Ohio told the Washington Post his party is working “in good faith” to keep the government from shutting down — but that hardline GOP members will eventually need to be willing to come to an agreement. “We’re not going to grind into a halt just because you can’t appease five people, six people,” he said.

Axios: Biden’s reelection team is expanding its strategy beyond just attacking Trump, focusing on the MAGA movement as a whole. That’s in part because, according to Axios, Democrats’ polling has found voters view the term “MAGA” more negatively than “Trump Republicans.”

Joseph Zeballos-Roig

The House left behind a pile of homework due right after vacation

REUTERS/Leah Millis


House Republicans left town for their long August recess on Thursday after passing one government funding bill and abruptly bailing on another, as tensions flared within the GOP conference over spending cuts and abortion.

The House passed a spending bill in a 219-211 vote that would fund the Department of Veterans Affairs and military-construction projects (sometimes known as MilCon-VA). GOP leaders had hoped to also approve another bill that would fund the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, sending GOP lawmakers home on a unified note. But they fell short of securing enough support for the legislation, which would impose hefty cuts to nutrition programs, among other measures.

“The votes aren’t there for the bill because a lot of people have a lot of concerns,” Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., told Semafor, adding he’d been communicating with GOP leaders. He said there were disagreements over proposed spending cuts that go beyond what’s been approved in committees and abortion-related provisions that hardline conservatives are demanding.

The result: Congress is gone for six weeks with less progress than they hoped for on must-pass bills ahead of a potential government shutdown in the fall.

“We have an October 1 problem; we have a January 1 problem,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., a Republican on the House Appropriations panel, referring to a pair of key funding deadlines. “How we address those is gonna be a pretty heavy lift for leadership, as evidenced by the fact that we just lost two Republicans on that last vote. We shouldn’t be losing any.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he met with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to find common ground on government funding. “I don’t want the government to shut down,” McCarthy said at a press conference.


The House will next convene on Sept. 12 faced with a time-crunch and a legislative pile-up. At that point, House Republicans still need to pass 11 more spending bills with 12 legislative days left until the Sept. 30 funding deadline to avert a shutdown, and two of them are still bogged down in committee: Labor-HHS-Education and Commerce-Justice-Science.

In the Agriculture-FDA spending bill, conservatives are seeking to include language reversing the FDA’s new rule expanding access to mifepristone, the abortion pill, through the mail and retail locations. Biden-district Republicans in particular are balking at the provision, Politico reported.

Some are starting to suggest that a stopgap funding measure will be needed to keep the government open beyond Sept. 30 while Republicans inch towards a broader funding agreement. “I sincerely hope we get something resolved by Sept. 30,” Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., another Republican on the Appropriations panel, said. “That’s probably going to look like a shorter-term CR.”


Senate appropriators on Thursday reached a milestone and passed all 12 appropriations bills out of committee for the first time since 2018. There’s been little of the partisan rancor that’s characterized similar proceedings in the House, and senators seem eager to bring them to the floor.

“My hope is that Leader Schumer will bring a mini-bus of two or three of our bills to the Senate floor immediately upon our return,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations panel, told reporters.


What’s in and out of the Senate’s big defense bill


The Senate wrapped up work on their version of the mammoth annual defense policy bill, the NDAA, late Thursday, passing it in a bipartisan vote. Here’s a rundown of some of the more interesting items that did (and didn’t) get hitched to the bill in the upper chamber. It will all need to be reconciled with the House, which passed its own bill in a partisan vote after adding provisions on hot-button issues like transgender healthcare, abortion, and diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.


Oversight of U.S. assistance to Ukraine won’t get another boost, after the Senate defeated an amendment from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. that would have added Ukraine to the portfolio of the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. Another amendment from Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. that would have established a new inspector general office to oversee Ukraine assistance also failed, albeit more narrowly.


The Senate easily approved an amendment that would require companies to disclose investments in national security sectors in China and other “countries of concern,” as well as another that would require the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to scrutinize foreign purchases of U.S. businesses in the agriculture or biotechnology sectors.

An amendment from Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. — a presidential candidate — would require the Treasury Department to report on gifts or grants to U.S. colleges and universities by Chinese companies on a department sanctions list.


Senators expect to work toward more comprehensive legislation regulating artificial intelligence in the fall, but a few initial provisions were added to the defense bill as part of a “manager’s amendment.” As told by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, they would boost reporting on the use of AI in the financial services industry and set up a program to track down vulnerabilities in AI systems used by the Pentagon.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion

The White House singled out some of its concerns with the bipartisan bill in a statement Thursday afternoon, without threatening a veto. The administration objected to provisions affecting the Pentagon’s diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, including those that would temporarily freeze hiring for these positions and limit the pay scale of DEI employees (pieces that were included in the bill before it hit the Senate floor).

— Morgan Chalfant

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Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. is working on her own bill to give the executive branch the power to take action against foreign-owned technology companies like TikTok on national security grounds, after a similar effort ran into trouble over concerns about its scope and impact on free speech.

Cantwell told reporters Thursday that the bill was being drafted with input from the Biden administration. “You want to give people tools that they can use and you want to set parameters that give somebody the oversight,” she said.

An aide described the measure as an alternative to the RESTRICT Act, a measure from Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va. and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. That bill, which would give the administration the power to ban TikTok or other foreign platforms, has amassed two dozen cosponsors since its introduction in March but also ran into significant opposition due to its broad language, which critics said could be used to target politically disfavored companies and speech rather than genuine national security threats.

Cantwell’s bill would build in more congressional oversight, the aide said, and create two new mechanisms to examine data and information technology supply chains. The aide suggested the goal was not to ban entire platforms, but rather to give the administration tools to address national security concerns while also protecting free expression.

Morgan Chalfant

One Good Text

Dr. Laura Grego is a senior scientist and serves as the research director in the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.


Stories that are being largely ignored by either left-leaning or right-leaning outlets, according to data from our partners at Ground News.

WHAT THE LEFT ISN’T READING: Anti-abortion activists are suing the state of Vermont over its so-called Shield Law, saying it restricts the speech of crisis pregnancy centers. The law, which went into effect earlier this year, allows the state to fine facilities that provide “misleading” information about their services.

WHAT THE RIGHT ISN’T READING: Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo. introduced a bill Thursday that would end solitary confinement in federal prisons, jails and detention centers, calling the practice “psychological torture.”

Principals Team
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