7 min read

Trump's nightmare week

The January 6th committee plans to refer Trump for criminal charges, while the Ways and Means committee is poised to release his tax returns.
Trump's nightmare week
(Photo: House January 6th committee)

Good morning! It’s Monday, December 19, 2022. The 2024 elections are 687 days away.

Thanks for your understanding over the last 10 days, as WUTP took a brief pause during my final exams. I’m happy to report that all my tests are over, every paper is written, and the first semester of my junior year is in the books.

I don’t like taking off from WUTP during newsworthy periods, but juggling the newsletter and school — always a challenge — can get particularly hard during finals, so I appreciate your understanding and your patience.

The newsletter will be back in your inbox all week, during what will be an unusually week before Christmas, partly for reasons I’ll outline below. My plan is then to take next week off — which will hopefully be an actually quiet one, with the president and Congress both out of town — and then return the week after, just in time for the new Congress to be sworn in.

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Previewing Trump’s nightmare week

Since announcing his 2024 presidential campaign, former President Donald Trump has had some pretty bad weeks. There was Attorney General Merrick Garland’s announcement, in November, that (another) special counsel had been appointed to investigate him. Then, the following week, there was the controversy sparked by his dinner with two of America’s most prominent anti-semites.

And then there was the first week in December, when many Republicans rebuked him for calling for the “termination” of the U.S. Constitution and his family business was convicted of criminal tax fraud. CNN dubbed it the “kind of week [that] could break Donald Trump.”

Get ready for another bad Trump week, as a pair of House committees prepare to release long-awaited fruits of their investigations into him. Let’s break down what to expect:

MONDAY: After a year and a half of investigating the Capitol riot, the House January 6th committee will hold its final public meeting at 1 p.m. Eastern Time today. On the agenda: Voting to criminally refer Trump to the Justice Department.

Per Politico, the panel is expected to recommend Trump be charged for violating three statutes: 18 U.S.C. 2383, for allegedly inciting insurrection; 18 U.S.C. 1512(c), for allegedly obstructing an official proceeding, and 18 U.S.C. 371, for allegedly engaging in conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Although the referral will be historic — it’s the first time a congressional panel has recommended criminal charges against a former president — it will hold no actual legal weight. Special Counsel Jack Smith, appointed by Garland, is already investigating Trump for January 6th and will continue to. However, in the course of making the criminal referral, the committee could release new evidence previously unseen by the public and possibly even by the DOJ. Watch today’s meeting

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the January 6th committee chairman. (Agriculture Department)

➞ TUESDAY: The House Ways and Means Committee will put a bow on an investigation that has been going on even longer than the January 6th probe. The committee labored for more than three years to obtain copies of Trump’s tax returns from the IRS, and finally — after an order from the Supreme Court — succeeded in its quest last month.

Trump was the first president since Nixon not to release his tax returns. Ways and Means received them from the IRS under a 1924 federal law that allows the committee to request any taxpayer’s returns.

But what will the committee do with the tax returns now that it has obtained six years of them? That will be the topic of a committee meeting on Tuesday. The tax returns could become public as soon as that day, if Ways and Means members decide to release them.

Like the January 6th committee, Ways and Means is running up against a ticking deadline, as Republicans will take over control of all House committees when the new Congress begins next month.

Protesters calling for Trump’s tax returns to be released. (Fibonnacci Blue)

➞ WEDNESDAY: This is when the House January 6th committee is expected to release its final report to the public. The panel is poised to formally vote at today’s meeting to release the report; the committee may also unveil an executive summary today, but the full thing will likely drop on Wednesday.

Democrats, and maybe even some Republicans, hope the report will include previously unknown details about Trump’s actions before and during January 6th, gleaned from the committee’s hundreds of interviews (including with top Trump insiders).

The report is expected to include eight chapters, summing up everything from Trump’s efforts to pressure state legislators and former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election to his 187 minutes of inaction during the Capitol riot itself. Full transcripts of the committee’s interviews are also expected to be included.

January 6th rioters outside the Capitol. (Tyler Merbler) 

Meanwhile: Trump’s 2024 campaign has been floundering since he announced, and it’s unlikely this week’s reminders of the extraordinary events of January 6th will help.

A Wall Street Journal poll last week showed Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) beating Trump in a hypothetical Republican primary contest, 52% to 38%, representing a huge loss of support for the ex-president whose lock on the GOP was once unquestioned.

👀 What else to watch this week

Lawmakers are racing to fund the government. Congress voted last week for a continuing resolution (CR) to keep government funding at its current levels, but the stopgap measure will expire on Friday — meaning lawmakers have until then to pass a full $1.7 trillion spending package. As always, the pressure to get out of town may end up being the best motivation to get the bill across the finish line: no member of Congress wants to spend Christmas in Washington, away from their families.

  • The spending bill, which is known as an omnibus package, is expected to include a provision reforming the Electoral Count Act, the vague 1887 bill governing presidential elections that Trump attempted to use to his advantage in 2020.

Team Biden is stepping up preparations for a 2024 run. According to the Washington Post, Biden’s advisers are preparing for his prospective re-election campaign to be more digitally focused, including a greater push to attract young voters through messaging on TikTok. The 80-year-old president is expected to take the holidays to discuss with his family whether he should run for the White House one more time. Per CNN, though, the prospect of another Biden run has already received support from the most important vote: First Lady Jill Biden.

Is Twitter about to get a new CEO? After his latest rounds of controversy, suspending (and then reinstating) several journalists and banning links to competing social media platforms, Twitter owner Elon Musk posted a poll on the website Sunday about whether he should step down as the company’s CEO. The poll drew 17.5 million votes, and Musk stepping down won, 57.5% to 42.5%. He said beforehand that he would abide by the poll but has yet to respond to the results.  

Another Sunday tweet from Musk. (Twitter)

🗓 What your leaders are doing today

All times Eastern. Click on an event’s time to watch or listen to it.

Executive Branch

President Biden will start his day in Wilmington, Delaware, where he spent the weekend. He’ll receive his daily intelligence briefing (8 am) and then travel to Washington. After returning to the White House, he’ll meet with President Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador (1:30 pm) and host a Hannukah reception (7 pm).

  • Ecuador meeting: Biden and Lasso will “consult on a range of regional and global issues, including Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war in Ukraine,” per a White House statement.
  • Hannukah reception: As part of the event, the White House Carpentry Shop has created its first-ever menorah, which will also be the first Jewish artifact ever added to the White House archival collection. Participants in the menorah lighting will include Holocaust survivor Bronia Brandman, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker (who was held hostage in a Texas synagogue in January), and the granddaughter of famed American rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Vice President Harris is in Washington but has no public events on her schedule.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold her daily press briefing (2:30 pm).

Legislative Branch

The Senate will convene (3 pm) and hold debate on the nomination of Martin Gruenberg to serve as chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which oversees the banking industry and insures deposits at American banks in case they fail.

The chamber may vote this afternoon on Gruenberg’s nomination or hold a vote on the omnibus spending bill, if it is ready for floor action.

The House will not meet today.

The House January 6th committee will hold its final public meeting (1 pm).

Judicial Branch

The Supreme Court will not meet this week.

👋 Before I go...

Here’s something fun: “Decorations, long the domain of Christmas, have seeped into Hanukkah,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Instead of the Elf on the Shelf, there is the Mensch on the Bench, and blue and white tinsel garlands with tiny menorahs, as well as Hanukkah-specific items such as ‘Live, love, latke’ signs.”

Keep reading about the nascent Hannukah-industrial complex. And Happy Hannukah to those who celebrate! 🕎

👍 Thanks for reading.

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— Gabe