by Gabe Fleisher
Good morning! It’s Tuesday, March 29, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 224 days away. Election Day 2024 is 952 days away.
Happening now: Negotiators from Russia and Ukraine are meeting in Istanbul, Turkey for the latest round of peace talks.
It appears the talks might be yielding progress: per Reuters, Russia has promised to “drastically scale down its military operations around Kyiv,” while Ukraine has signaled openness to concessions on its plans to join NATO and on some of its contested territory.
I’ll have more on the latest from Ukraine tomorrow. This morning, let’s take a look at the latest developments in the investigation of January 6:
Trump’s 7-hour gap
One of the enduring phrases to come from the Watergate scandal is the “18½-minute gap,” a reference to a missing stretch from President Richard Nixon’s tape recordings on a key day in June 1972.
To this day, it is unknown what Nixon might have said during the 18½ minutes, or whether the conversation was accidentally or intentionally erased.
Now Donald Trump has a mysterious records gap of his own — but his lasts more than 7 hours.
This morning, the Washington Post and CBS News reported that there is a 7 hour, 37 minute gap in the official White House phone logs from January 6, 2021 that were turned over to the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack that day.
The phone logs shows no record of Trump holding any phone calls between 11:17 a.m. and 6:54 p.m. on January 6 — just as the Capitol was being assaulted — despite acknowledgements by Trump allies such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) that they spoke to the then-president as the attack was unfolding.
As the Post and CBS write, the House select committee is now “scrutinizing whether it received the full logs from that day.” But the panel is also investigating whether Trump sought to skirt record-keeping laws by communicating through “burner phones,” backchannels, or phones of aides.
According to the Presidential Records Act (PRA) — put in place after the Nixon tapes fiasco — any presidential phone call related to official duties is supposed to be recorded by the White House. There has been numerous reporting on the Trump administration’s potential violations of the PRA.
“I have no idea what a burner phone is, to the best of my knowledge I have never even heard the term,” Trump told the Post and CBS News in response to their reporting.
One person close to the committee told the two news outlets that the records gap is of “intense interest” to the panel, while a lawmaker on the committee said they are investigating the Trump White House for a “possible coverup” of the president’s January 6 activities.
And are you ready for one more piece of Watergate symmetry? News of the 7-hour gap was reported this morning by the legendary Watergate chronicler Bob Woodward, who returned to the pages of the Washington Post to break the news. (Woodward shared the byline with his Trump-era collaborator Robert Costa, who recently moved to CBS News.)
What else we’re learning about January 6
This morning’s revelation about the 7-hour gap came after a volcano of developments in the January 6 investigation on Monday. Here’s what else went down:
A federal judge said that it was “more likely than not” that Trump committed a felony while attempting to overturn the 2020 election. The ruling from Judge Davis Carter, a Clinton appointee, came in a case relating to Trump legal adviser John Eastman’s attempts to block the House January 6 committee from obtaining his emails.
- Eastman sought to shield the documents by invoking attorney-client privilege, but Carter sided with the committee in saying that the privilege did not apply because there was reason to believe the emails were tied to a criminal act by Trump and Eastman.
- “The illegality of the plan was obvious,” Carter said of the plot concocted by Eastman and Trump to reverse the election on January 6, while ordering Eastman to turn over his emails to the panel.
- To be clear: Trump has not been charged with anything, and this was just a civil case relating to Eastman’s emails, so there is little practical effect to the judge’s suggestion of likely criminality.
The January 6 committee is calling Ginni Thomas and Jared Kushner. Per CNN, the panel is planning to request an interview with Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Meanwhile, ABC News reported that Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and top aide, would be appearing voluntarily before the committee on Thursday.
- The New York Times had previously reported that the committee had been divided on whether to seek testimony from Thomas, amid reporting that she had been more involved than previously known with efforts to overturn the election.
- Meanwhile, congressional Democrats are stepping up their calls for Thomas’ husband to recuse himself from any Supreme Court cases related to January 6.
The committee also voted to hold two more Trump aides in contempt. The House panel voted unanimously on Monday night to hold former Trump advisers Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas from the committee.
- The next step is for the full House to vote on whether to hold the duo in contempt. The citation then goes to the Justice Department, which decides whether or not to criminally charge them.
- The House has already voted, on the committee’s recommendation, to hold Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows and former chief strategist Steve Bannon in contempt. The DOJ has moved forward with prosecuting Bannon, but has yet to make a decision on Meadows.
Every morning, WUTP’s team of contributors rotate to offer a briefing on the latest news in a different policy area.
It’s Tuesday, so Kirsten Shaw Mettler is here with the week’s top education headlines:
Educator strikes are on the rise. During the pandemic, both higher-ed and K-12 teachers were praised for their work. But now, as educators battle burnout, shifting COVID restrictions, and anger over curriculums, some teachers feel frustrated and ignored. K-12 teachers have staged a number of notable strikes over the past few months, including a 3-week long strike in Minneapolis just ending this week.
A partnership between unions could change education labor organizing forever. The governing councils of the Association of American University Professors (AAUP) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) approved a formal affiliation agreement, which — if supported by members — would unite the two groups’ 300,000+ members for an incredibly strong organizing bloc.
The Biden administration is calling on schools to protect students with disabilities. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona wrote in a letter to educators and parents last week that “extra precautions may be needed to protect our students, friends, neighbors, and loved ones who are at increased risk of severe illness.”
The letter was released in response to the latest CDC guidelines, which allow most schools in the country to drop mask mandates. The letter explains that, despite these guidelines, schools may need to adapt to fulfill the needs of students with disabilities, by requiring masks for those in classes with an at-risk student, for example.
What’s your leaders in Washington are doing today. (All times Eastern)
What Biden will do: Receive his daily intelligence briefing (8:45 am), meet with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore (10:45 am), deliver a joint statement with Lee (12:45 pm), pay his respects to the late Rep. Don Young as his body lies in state at the Capitol (2:05 pm), and deliver remarks as he signs the Emmett Till Antilynching Act into law (4 pm).
- What will Biden and Lee talk about? “Upholding freedom of the seas, advancing supply chain resiliency, addressing the crisis in Burma, and fighting climate change,” plus “efforts to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific” and the war in Ukraine, per the White House.
- Who was Don Young? The Alaska Republican died on March 18 at age 88, after serving in the House for 49 years. He was the longest-serving Republican in congressional history.
- What will the new law do? Named for 1955 lynching victim Emmett Till, it will make lynching a federal hate crime. The bill passed Congress earlier this month after failing to do so for 120 years.
What about Harris: The veep will also meet separately with Lee (1:35 pm) and then will attend the bill signing (4 pm). Harris will also deliver remarks at the bill signing.
What the Senate will vote on: Discharging the nomination of Lisa Cook to be a Federal Reserve governor, confirming the nominations of Nani Coloretti to be Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and C.S. Eliot Kang to be Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation.
- Wait, what’s happening with Cook’s nomination? The Senate Banking Committee tied when voting on whether to advance her nomination to the Senate floor. That means the full Senate must discharge her nomination from the committee before moving on with the nomination, adding an extra step before she can be confirmed.
- Also, these three bills postponed from yesterday: S. 2629, the Better Cybercrime Metrics Act; H.R. 3359, the Homicide Victims’ Families’ Rights Act; and H.R. 4738, the COVID-19 American History Project Act.
- What’s the question in the case? Torres asks whether Congress can authorize individuals to sue state agencies, sparked by a dispute over a 1994 law that allows veterans to sue their employers if they don’t give them the same or a similar job after returning from military service. Read more via SCOTUSBlog
What else to watch: Biden’s communications director Kate Bedingfield will hold the daily White House press briefing (3 pm).
- Also, Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson will meet with Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who is seen as one of the handful of possible Republican votes for her confirmation (3:15 pm).
Before I go...
Something to make you feel better: “People became kinder” in 2021, Adam Grant of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School recently pronounced on Twitter.
He noted that the World Happiness Report released earlier this month found that “global rates of helping strangers, volunteering, and giving to charity are nearly 25% above pre-pandemic levels.”
“The dominant response to suffering is not selfishness,” he added. “It‘s compassion. The worst of times bring out the best in us.”
Here’s the graph from the report on the percentage of respondents in each continent who said they helped a stranger last year:
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