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The Hill’s Morning Report — Pentagon faces big question: How did this happen?

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There are dozens of obvious questions that emerge from the FBI’s arrest on Thursday in Massachusetts of a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman accused of illegally sharing classified defense information.

The focus on Thursday was on Jack Teixeira, the junior enlisted airman, who allegedly triggered the largest dissemination of U.S. secrets since Edward Snowden. How did someone in his position access the documents that began circulating on social media months ago? The Defense Department faces tough questions from Congress, the White House and allied intelligence agencies. Some of the highly classified information circulating on social media and chat rooms had been created to brief senior leaders at the Pentagon, The Washington Post reported. How did it make its way to the National Guard?

In a year in which House and Senate lawmakers in both parties are wringing their hands over TikTok and Chinese spy balloons, Russia’s detention of a U.S. journalist on spy charges and revelations about classified documents turning up in the homes of sitting and former presidents and a former vice president, the Pentagon is expected to be grilled.


It is important to understand that we do have stringent guidelines in place for safeguarding classified and sensitive information. This was a deliberate, criminal act — a violation of those guidelines,” Defense Department spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters (The Hill).


The Hill: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, reacting to the leak of classified materials, ordered a review of intelligence access, accountability and control procedures.

President Biden, traveling in Ireland on Thursday, indicated to reporters that he knew the Justice Department and intelligence agencies were closing in on a suspect, but he drew a distinction between the fact that secret information leaked in the first place and the quality and shelf life of the secrets that leaked. He said he was concerned “that it happened. But there’s nothing contemporaneous that I’m aware of that’s of great consequence” (The New York Times). Nonetheless, the materials, some of which were hand copied and others photographed, have upended relations with American allies and exposed weaknesses in the Ukrainian military.

The Hill: Conservative firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) on Thursday defended the accused leaker and criticized the administration. “Jake Teixeira is white, male, christian, and antiwar. That makes him an enemy to the Biden regime,” she wrote on Twitter.

Before the FBI’s arrest and Teixeira’s arraignment on Thursday, The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the suspect shared materials with a circle of online friends on the gaming Discord chat platform. In that group, Teixeira’s handle was jackthedripper, according to the Post. Teixeira allegedly told members of the online group Thug Shaker Central that he worked as a technology support staffer for the Massachusetts Air National Guard and at a base on Cape Cod, explaining that he was able to access classified documents through his job, one Discord source told The Post. 

Attorney General Merrick Garland, who spoke briefly at the Justice Department on Thursday, said Teixeira was arrested in connection with the “unauthorized removal, retention and transmission of classified national defense information.” His wording tracked the Espionage Act. Conviction could result in a penalty of up to 10 years in prison per count.

In a statement, the FBI, which worked with law enforcement in North Dighton, Mass., to search a residence and arrest Teixeira, said the bureau would hold “accountable those who betray our country’s trust and put our national security at risk.”

The revelations may scramble the debate in Congress and among allies to send more sophisticated weapons to bolster Ukraine’s defense. That discussion will resume when the House and Senate return to Washington next week. 

Numerous lawmakers have traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his team this year. 

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told NBC News,“I am worried about the fatigue of the public opinion in the United States, which is going to impact, probably, the thinking of many politicians. In particular, that early next year [the U.S.] primaries begin and this can have [a] serious impact on the attitude towards Ukraine.”

A senior Ukrainian official on Thursday downplayed the impact of the U.S. leaks, saying they would have no effect on a critical Ukrainian offensive planned for the coming weeks (The Wall Street Journal).

The intelligence disclosures “have no operational significance,” Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, told the Journal. “They have no impact on the front line or the planning of the General Staff.”


Related Articles

The New York Times: A trail of digital evidence led to a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman.

The New York Times: The latest leaked documents differ from past intelligence breaches.

The Washington Post: Teixeira comes from a patriotic family.

▪ 2024 Watch: GOP battle isn’t just a Trump-DeSantis race (The Hill’s The Memo).“A third option”: Nikki Haley-Tim Scott rivalry intensifies in GOP presidential race (The Washington Post). 

The Hill: 2024 Republicans descend on the NRA convention in the shadow of mass shootings.

The Hill: Donald Trump Jr. blasts Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for “campaigning in Ohio” amid Florida flooding.


LEADING THE DAY

➤ CONGRESS

Pressure is mounting on Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), 89, to step down from her long-held seat in the upper chamber after two House Democrats — including one from the Golden State — called on her to resign as she remains sidelined after a February diagnosis with shingles, which has held up Senate business. As The Hill’s Mychael Schnell and Al Weaver report, Feinstein responded to calls for her resignation on Thursday with a request to be temporarily replaced on the Judiciary Committee, but that may not be enough for lawmakers who want to see her call it quits before her planned retirement at the end of 2024.

“I guess my question is: why not just take the step and resign instead of going through all of these motions?” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), the first House Democrat to call for Feinstein’s resignation, told CNN on Thursday. Khanna is the co-chair of Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D-Calif.) campaign to replace Feinstein in the Senate. Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) are also vying for the seat. 

Khanna defended his comments after former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) questioned the move, telling The Hill’s Hanna Trudo that Feinstein is “simply unable now to fulfill her duties” and should step down.

“It’s sad to see,” he said on Thursday afternoon, speaking in a wide-ranging interview in Des Moines. “It’s sad to see her in this state where she is missing votes, where we’re not being able to confirm judges because of her absence on the Judiciary Committee. I just think that we should have someone in that role who can do the job right now.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) next week will ask the Senate to let another member temporarily serve on the Judiciary Committee. Senators would need to agree to such a resolution (CNN).

The New York Times: Feinstein for years has suffered from acute short-term memory issues that have raised serious concerns among those who interact with her.

The Hill: Pelosi on calls for Feinstein to resign: “I’ve never seen them go after a man who was sick in the Senate.”

The Washington Post analysis: The Feinstein situation turns ugly.

NBC News: Republicans want to make it difficult for the Senate to replace Feinstein on a key panel.

Politico: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) faces a push to name a Black woman to the Senate if Feinstein retires.

The New York Times: Injuries and illness slow senators, as well as the Senate itself.

The Hill: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he will return to Washington on Monday after a five-week absence following injuries in a fall.  

House Republicans entered the majority in January with a long list of policy priorities and investigative inquiries. As The Hill’s Mychael Schnell breaks down in a timeline of the conference’s major moments, in its first 100 days, the conference has ticked-off a number of those tasks — lawmakers passed messaging bills to appeal to the base, opened investigations into a variety of areas, and clinched bipartisan victories on matters like China and COVID-19.  

The Hill: Pelosi seeks balance 100 days into her newfound tenure as a rank-and-file member.

Meanwhile, in the wake of former President Trump’s indictment and arrest in Manhattan on charges in a hush money case, a group of GOP lawmakers has introduced legislation that would bar any state or local prosecutor from using federal funds to investigate a president. The bill singles out Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s (D) office and would force it to return federal funding. 

While Republicans have claimed Bragg’s prosecution is purely political, Bragg recently filed a lawsuit seeking to block a subpoena from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), accusing him of improperly interfering in an ongoing prosecution (The Hill).

➤ ADMINISTRATION

The Supreme Court will face its first test in the battle over abortion pills after the Department of Justice on Thursday announced it would ask it to pause a ruling set to take effect this weekend that would significantly hamper the availability of mifepristone. Abortion-rights advocates, along with medical and legal experts, said the ruling threatens to throw the availability of mifepristone into chaos if it is allowed to take effect.

“The Justice Department strongly disagrees with the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA to deny in part our request for a stay pending appeal,” Garland said in a statement on Thursday. “We will be seeking emergency relief from the Supreme Court to defend the FDA’s scientific judgment and protect Americans’ access to safe and effective reproductive care.”

While the Supreme Court is not required to consider the case, legal experts and advocates said the stakes are too high for it to ignore (The Hill and The Wall Street Journal).

The Washington Post: Unpacking the flawed science cited in the Texas abortion pill ruling.

New York magazine’s Intelligencer: How far will the Supreme Court go this time? The fate of the abortion pill now lies with the same justices who killed Roe v. Wade.

ProPublica: GOP donor Harlan Crow bought property from Clarence Thomas. The justice did not disclose the deal.

The Florida legislature on Thursday passed a six-week abortion ban that DeSantis quickly signed into law (The Hill). 

Politico: DeSantis could be walking into a general election trap on abortion.

The Hill: The White House blasts Thursday’s Florida abortion bill as “extreme and dangerous.” 

As Biden continues his trip through Ireland, the president is clearly feeling comfortable on the Emerald Isle. Biden is spending most of his trip to Ireland this week exploring his family’s roots, from the shoemaker who sailed from Newry in 1849 in search of a better life in America to the brick-seller in Ballina who sold 28,000 bricks to pay for his own family’s passage to the U.S. (CNN and The Washington Post). 

On Thursday, addressing Parliament, he turned to the lawmakers and said, “If you forgive the poor attempt at Irish: Tá mé sa bhaile. I’m at home. I’m at home. I only wish I could stay longer.”

✍️ Biden, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, McConnelland House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), among other leaders,made Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of 2023. 

Pelosi, writing for the magazine about Jeffries, said, “In becoming the first ever Black congressional leader, Hakeem has made history. Under his leadership, Democrats will make progress. Leader Jeffries is already doing a terrific job in the fight for Democratic values and against Republican extremism.”


IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

INTERNATIONAL 

Ukraine’s foreign minister said his country won’t budge from its demand that Russia withdraw its forces from Crimea — which it illegally annexed in 2014 — as well as from other parts of Ukraine that were more recently annexed by Moscow. Dmytro Kuleba called the war in Ukraine “a bleeding wound in the middle of Europe” and said all his country’s territory must be treated equally in dealing with the Kremlin (The Associated Press).

China on Friday announced it won’t sell weapons to either side in the war in Ukraine, responding to Western concerns that Beijing could provide military assistance to Russia. While China has maintained that it is neutral in the conflict, it has backed Russia politically, rhetorically and economically at a time when Western nations have imposed punishing sanctions and sought to isolate Moscow (The Associated Press).

The Washington Post: Russia says China agreed to secretly provide weapons, leaked documents show.

The Washington Post: Russia names Ukrainian suspect in blast that killed pro-war blogger.

Reuters: Ukrainian forces pull back as Russia mounts a “re-energized” Bakhmut assault.

NBC News: Russia says it may discuss prisoner swap involving American reporter, just not yet.

After French President Emmanuel Macron sent shockwaves across Europe when he said the continent should chart an independent course on Taiwan and not act as a “follower” to the U.S., German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Thursday struck a significantly different tone. Speaking during a three-day trip to China, Baerbock said the European Union “cannot be indifferent” to tensions over Taiwan and stressed that close ties with partners like the U.S. would be crucial “when we face our own security threats” (Politico EU).

The New York Times: After shunning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for years, the Arab world is returning him to the fold.

The Associated Press: Promising new malaria vaccine for kids approved in Ghana.

The Wall Street Journal: Brazilian president seeks deeper trade ties in China visit.

The Associated Press: North Korea fires missiles that may have been a new type of weapon.

WORK

When Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s chief executive, declared 2023 as the “year of efficiency” at his company, that translated into mass layoffs. There have been two rounds of cuts over the past six months, with two more to come; in total, they’ll eliminate more than 21,000 people. After closing 5,000 open positions, the sum amounts to 30 percent of his company’s workforce.

As The New York Times reports, the layoffs and absentee leadership, along with concerns that Zuckerberg is making a bad bet on the future, have devastated employee morale.

Meanwhile, the number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits last week rose by 11,000 to 239,000, indicating a small but notable increase in layoffs in a generally strong U.S. labor market, the Labor Department said Thursday (MarketWatch).

The Washington Post: Lock-outs, mass emails, closed offices: Virtual layoffs are normal now.

CNN: About 100,000 nurses left the workforce due to pandemic-related burnout and stress, study finds.

Offices across the country are sitting vacant or underused, showing the staying power of the work-from-home era. But the empty cubicles aren’t just a headache for bosses eager to gather teams in person; investors and regulators, who are on high alert for signs of trouble in the financial system following recent bank failures, are now homing in on the downturn in the $20 trillion U.S. commercial real estate market.

“Although this is not yet a systemic problem for the banking sector, there are legitimate concerns about contagion,” said Eswar Prasad, an economics professor at Cornell University (CNN).

The Washington Post: 100 years of work: See how the office has evolved, in pictures.

The Wall Street Journal: A new way to push people back to offices: tying pay to attendance.


OPINION

■ I oversaw the Massachusetts Air National Guard. I cannot fathom how this happened, by Juliette Kayyem, contributing writer, The Atlantic. https://bit.ly/3ogwTNB 

■ The Supreme Court has no code of conduct, and it’s starting to show, by Steven Lubet, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3KTOtzX


WHERE AND WHEN

📲 Ask The Hill: Share a news query tied to an expert journalist’s insights: The Hill launched something new and (we hope) engaging via text with Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack. Learn more and sign up HERE.

The House will convene on Monday at 2 p.m. 

The Senate meets at 3 p.m. on Monday to resume consideration of the nomination of Radha Plumb to be a deputy under secretary of Defense.

The president will depart Dublin for County Mayo, Ireland, to tour the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock. Biden will visit the North Mayo Heritage and Genealogical Centre’s family history research unit and then speak at Saint Muredach’s Cathedral. The president will return to Dublin to fly back to the United States.

Vice President Harris will speak to the New York City convention of National Action Network hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton.   

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been traveling with the president in Ireland, departs today bound for Hanoi, Vietnam.

Economic indicator: The Census Bureau at 8:30 a.m. will release its advance monthly retail report for March. (Helpful read: The Wall Street Journal’s Greg Ip described the rapidly cooling labor market).


ELSEWHERE

HEALTH & WELLBEING

🚬 New York, California and several other states on Wednesday announced a $462 million settlement with Juul Labs, resolving lawsuits claiming that the company aggressively marketed its e-cigarettes to young people and subsequently fueled a vaping crisis.

State attorneys general conducted investigations that found Juul executives were aware that their initial marketing lured teenage users into buying its vaping pens but did little to address the problem as the vaping rate exploded among that demographic. In New York City and the Hamptons, the company held glamorous parties and “falsely led consumers to believe that its vapes were safer than cigarettes and contained less nicotine,” according to Letitia James, New York’s attorney general (The New York Times).

The Washington Post: The administration will widen Medicaid and Affordable Care Act health coverage to immigrants known as Dreamers who are legally in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was created during the Obama-Biden administration.

🍨 There’s a curious finding scientists keep encountering that goes against just about every nutrition rulebook out there: among diabetics, eating half a cup of ice cream a day can be associated with a lower risk of heart problems. Needless to say, it’s raised eyebrows in the field, even though the finding has popped up time and time again over the past decades.

“I still to this day don’t have an answer for it,” Mark A. Pereira, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, told The Atlantic. “We analyzed the hell out of the data.”

It turned out that pretty much across the board — low-fat, high-fat, milk, cheese — dairy foods appeared to help prevent overweight people from developing insulin-resistance syndrome, a precursor to diabetes. But that was especially true if eating a “dairy-based dessert” like ice cream, which was associated with dramatically reduced odds of developing the resistance. 


THE CLOSER

And finally … 👏👏👏 Take a bow, winners of this week’s Morning Report Quiz! We asked about bureaucratic federal designations in the headlines this week and discerning news consumers delivered.

Here’s who went 4/4: Ki Harvey, Harry Strulovici, Peter John, Don Swanson, Stan Wasser, Paul Harris, Patrick Kavanagh, Ray Jackson, Mary Anne McEnery, Richard Baznik, Kathleen Kovalik, Steve James, Jeanne Kosch, Mark Roeddiger, Lynn Gardner, Jeremy Serwer, Robert Bradley, Terry Pflaumer, Luther Berg, Barbara Golian, Catherine Hicks, Tom Chabot, Rachel A. Humphrey, James Hay, Jack Barshay, Pam Manges and Bob McLellan.  

They knew that the State Department on Monday ramped up its efforts to free American Evan Gershkovich by officially designating that Russia “wrongfully detained” the journalist for alleged spying.

Biden’s drug czar on Wednesday used an official “emerging threat” designation for “tranq,” a mix by drug dealers of the veterinary tranquilizer Xylazine and fentanyl. The “emerging threat” designation requires creation of a federal plan within 90 days to deal with the deadly trend. 

Some Democrats in Congress this week advised the administration to apply specific “enforcement discretion” at the Food and Drug Administration in response to a federal judge’s order to ban the abortion pill mifepristone

The government on Tuesday labeled Sami Mahmud Mohammed al Uraydi a “specially designated global terrorist.” The designation primarily freezes all assets and property subject to U.S. jurisdiction.


Stay Engaged

We want to hear from you! Email: Alexis Simendinger and Kristina Karisch. Follow us on Twitter (@asimendinger and @kristinakarisch) and suggest this newsletter to friends!


Tags abortion pill Classified documents leak DOJ Donald Trump FBI Ireland Jack Teixeira Joe Biden Marjorie Taylor Greene Morning Report President Joe Biden Senate Supreme Court Volodymyr Zelensky

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File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)
In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)

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