Skip Navigation
Breaking News

The Ticker

Breaking news from Washington and beyond

Illustration by Dave Murray

Kevin McCarthy Officially Boots Schiff and Swalwell From House Intelligence Committee

Meanwhile, the House speaker is also pushing for a vote to remove Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has unilaterally moved to remove Representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the House Intelligence Committee.

McCarthy made his decision to reject the pair’s reappointments to the committee on Tuesday night, citing supposed “misuse of this panel during the 116th and 117th Congress.”

At a conference the same evening, McCarthy expounded after a reporter asked how he can support placing serial liar George Santos on committees while blocking Democrats from serving on particular ones. The House speaker spoke forcefully as he recycled old talking points.

McCarthy cited a briefing he received on Swalwell’s alleged connections to a Chinese spy, arguing that this disqualified Swalwell from serving on the Intelligence Committee. Axios reported on what actually happened: A suspected Chinese operative developed ties with politicians in the Bay Area, interacting with Ro Khanna, Tulsi Gabbard, Swalwell, and others. But Swalwell has not been found to have actually done anything wrong; once the FBI alerted Swalwell about its concern for the operative, he immediately cut ties with her.

As for Schiff, McCarthy seems to be targeting him for allegedly lying about whether he knew the whistleblower who prompted the impeachment inquiry into whether former President Trump pressured Ukrainian President Zelenskiy to investigate Joe Biden in exchange for military aid. There’s no hard proof of Schiff lying about this, and McCarthy and Republicans just as well have aimed to invalidate the impeachment inquiry overall.

McCarthy had said that he will respect the will of the voters to defend his refusal to block Santos from committees, or even push for his removal; he has used the same logic in saying he will still allow Schiff and Swalwell on other committees. A good-faith interpretation would show McCarthy is at least principled in his committee delegation. But his rationale for blocking Schiff and Swalwell from committees seems less about actual security concerns and more about teeing off on Democrats who heavily invested in impeaching Trump.

In the last Congress, Democrats removed Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar from committees after they incited violence against other members of Congress.

Meanwhile, McCarthy has been pushing the House to vote to block Representative Ilhan Omar from serving on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where she has served for the past four years. A Somali American Muslim woman and vocal critic of human rights abuses by governments—including ones the United States has allied itself with—Omar is an easy target for a Republican Party undergirded by both racism and undying allegiance to America, no matter the abuses it is guilty of or contributes to.

Schiff, Swalwell, and Omar released a joint statement calling out McCarthy’s actions as being part of a “corrupt bargain in his desperate, and nearly failed attempt to win the Speakership, a bargain that required political vengeance against the three of us.”

U.S. Set to Send Tanks to Ukraine in Major Reversal From Biden Administration

As the United States plans to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine, Germany also confirmed it will send its Leopard 2 tanks to the country.

MATEUSZ SLODKOWSKI/AFP
A U.S. Army M1A2 Abrams battle tank at the Baltic Container Terminal in Gdynia, Poland, on December 3

The United States will send Abrams tanks to Ukraine, President Joe Biden announced Wednesday, reversing course on a major step in aiding Kyiv retake territory from Russia.

Washington will send 31 tanks to Ukraine, Biden said during a press conference.

Early reports on Tuesday evening of the U.S. agreeing to send Abrams tanks likely helped convince Germany to provide Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. The German government confirmed Wednesday that it would send 14 Leopard tanks to Kyiv. Berlin had been holding out on sending battle tanks until Washington agreed to do the same, as Russia has repeatedly warned that providing tanks to Ukraine would be seen as a major provocation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed Germany’s decision, saying it would provide a “green light for partners to supply similar weapons.” Other Western nations such as Poland have been waiting for Germany’s go-ahead before providing Leopards to Ukraine.

The U.S. had previously resisted sending Abrams tanks to Ukraine, citing difficulties with maintenance and training. Just last week, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl told journalists that Pentagon officials were worried about giving Kyiv a piece of equipment that its soldiers “can’t repair, they can’t sustain, and that they over the long term can’t afford.”

Ukraine has repeatedly asked for battle tanks, which both its leaders and international defense analysts believe could help turn the tide of the now nearly yearlong war.

Al Jazeera defense analyst Alex Gatopoulos noted that modern Western tanks have been designed with the specific goal of defeating Russian-made ones. He also pointed out that southern Ukraine is flat, making the terrain ideal for using tanks as “armoured fists that can punch through defensive lines.”

The decision to send Abrams tanks also comes as opinions in Washington begin to split over Ukraine. Republicans, particularly in the House of Representatives, are losing their taste for providing so much aid to Kyiv. Meanwhile, Democrats have been pushing Biden to officially designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, something he has been adamant he will not do.

This post has been updated.

Mike Pompeo Blasted for Calling Jamal Khashoggi an “Activist” Whose Murder Got Too Much Attention

Trump’s former secretary of state said the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Washington Post journalist, was overblown.

Mike Pompeo speaks at a podium
Rachel Mummey/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is under fire for his comments about Jamal Khashoggi, the The Washington Post journalist who was brutally murdered by agents of the Saudi Arabian regime in 2018.

Khashoggi was a columnist at the Post and a prominent critic of the Saudi kingdom. He was last seen alive in October 2018 entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to collect paperwork. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is accused of ordering a team of Saudi agents to capture and dismember Khashoggi.

In his new book, Pompeo magnanimously acknowledges that Khashoggi’s killing was “outrageous, unacceptable, horrific,” but he spends several pages decrying what he considers the “disproportionate global uproar” and “faux outrage” over the journalist’s death.

Pompeo argues that Khashoggi was an activist, not a journalist, and his death was blown out of proportion by a media that was trying to fracture U.S.-Saudi ties.

Post publisher and CEO Fred Ryan released a statement Tuesday slamming Pompeo’s comments as “shameful” and “vile falsehoods,” noting that the CIA—which Pompeo led from 2017 to 2018—had concluded that Khashoggi was murdered on the orders of MBS, as the Saudi prince is known.

Pompeo proceeded to dig his heels in, insisting the U.S. was better off not trying to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah state”—which President Joe Biden seems to have failed to do anyway—and falsely labeling Khashoggi a “part-time stringer,” as if his employment status makes his fate more or less worthy of outrage.

“Whatever [Pompeo] mentions about my husband, he doesn’t know my husband. He should be silent and shut up the lies about my husband,” Hanan Elatr Khashoggi, the journalist’s widow, told NBC News. “It is such bad information and the wrong information.… This is not acceptable.”

Pompeo is rumored to be considering a 2024 presidential run and is clearly trying to curry favor among the main base of his former boss Donald Trump. Pompeo is embracing similar themes of friendliness toward Saudi Arabia and strongmen, as well as hostility toward journalists and peddling falsehoods.

Classified Documents Found at Mike Pence’s Home in Indiana

The former vice president recently insisted that he did not take any classified documents from the White House, and criticized Joe Biden for doing so.

Mike Pence sitting in front of a blue background, talking and making a hand gesture
Thos Robinson/Getty Images for The New York Times

Classified government documents were found at the home of former Vice President Mike Pence, CNN reported Tuesday.

Pence’s lawyers found about a dozen classified documents in his Indiana residence last week and immediately alerted the FBI. The discovery is a direct contradiction of Pence’s insistence that he had never taken government records.

When asked in a CNN interview last November if he took classified documents from the White House, Pence responded, “I did not,” while conflictingly nodding his head.

The discovery also comes after multiple batches of classified documents were found in President Joe Biden’s Delaware home and former private office. It is actually oddly easy to take such documents by mistake at higher levels of government, where officials are allowed to keep copies of records, according to Larry Pfeiffer, a former CIA officer who ran the White House situation room under President Barack Obama.

There’s this level of human frailty here that just plays into this situation,” Pfeiffer told NPR on January 19, after the second batch of Biden documents was found. “I’ve known several people who have retired, and after they retire, they’re going through their box, and it’s like, whoa, how did that get in here?”

Pfeiffer noted that those discoveries are not treated as very big deals. Biden, former President Donald Trump, and now Pence are all under such intense scrutiny because they are either sitting or recent leaders, which is a situation we have not seen before.

Pence also criticized Biden for keeping classified documents, calling out what he considered a “double standard” between the way Biden and Trump have been treated. “It’s just incredibly frustrating to me,” Pence said on the conservative Hugh Hewitt Show, slamming the FBI for “massive overreach.”

In the same CNN interview where he denied taking classified documents, Pence said he saw “no reason to have” such records.

There are huge differences between Biden and Trump, though. Biden, and even Pence, found relatively few documents, immediately alerted the proper authorities, and appear to be cooperating with the investigations into how the classified information ended up there.

Trump, on the other hand, hoarded hundreds of documents and refused to cooperate, resulting in the FBI raiding his Mar-a-Lago estate.

Why Are Joe Manchin and John Hickenlooper Already Endorsing Kyrsten Sinema?

The two Democratic senators have expressed support for Sinema, who switched her party to independent, over Ruben Gallego, who is running as a Democrat.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

After Arizona Representative Ruben Gallego announced his candidacy for Kyrsten Sinema’s Senate seat on Monday, most congressional Democrats remained noncommittal about who they will back (if not, perhaps, hinting support for Gallego).

There were two notable exceptions, however: West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Colorado Senator John Hickenlooper, per Punchbowl News. “I think having a voice like that—she says what she thinks. And I think she adds value to the caucus,” Hickenlooper said. “The problem is she’s too moderate as a Democrat—well, that’s half the time what they say about me!”

Hickenlooper also nodded toward Senators Angus King and Bernie Sanders as two independents who caucus with the Democrats, citing them as examples for why Sinema should apparently be seen no differently. “I can’t imagine not supporting her,” he said.

Manchin, meanwhile, said he’s “totally supportive” of Sinema and said leadership “should support someone who brings basically some peace, if you will, or some rational thinking on some of this stuff without being pushed far left and far right.”

It’s understandable why most Democrats aren’t expressing their preferences one way or another. It’s still very early, and Sinema is still a voting and committee-sitting senator in a narrowly Democratic-led Senate. What’s more fascinating is why senators would so publicly express their support for Sinema given how early it is, how Sinema has not even expressed her 2024 intentions, and how Kari Lake or some other far-right Republican may soon announce their candidacy, raising the stakes of the race all the more.

Manchin’s early support for Sinema is unsurprising in a “Manchinema” universe that has plagued politics over recent years, obstructing a voter-won Democratic agenda and watering down legislation in favor of corporations at the expense of everyone else.

Hickenlooper’s support, on the other hand, seems less immediately intuitive. A look at his record at least presents an ideological affinity between him and Sinema. A longtime fossil fuel–favoring politician, Hickenlooper has been a linchpin for corporate influence in government. Hickenlooper famously shilled for fracking at a 2013 hearing, as he described drinking a glass of Haliburton-produced fracking fluid alongside Haliburton executives.

He was one of seven Democrats that joined Republicans to block a fracking ban in 2021.

Hickenlooper has shifted somewhat left on climate, perhaps propelled by the moment or by the 2020 primary challenge against him by Andrew Romanoff, endorsed by the likes of Bill McKibben and the Sunrise Movement. Still, Hickenlooper seems to find some kinship with his fellow “too moderate” Sinema.

The entrance of a Republican like Lake into the race, as well as Sinema’s moves from here on out, will indicate how eager Democrats actually are to rid themselves of her antics and how far they’re willing to go (and risk) to make it happen.

White Nationalist and Nazi Nick Fuentes Is Back on Twitter

Elon Musk’s Twitter has reinstated Fuentes’s account. Just last week, Fuentes called Hitler “really fucking cool.”

Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Nazi, white nationalist, and Taliban fan Nick Fuentes is back on Twitter.

Fuentes was originally banned from Twitter in July 2021 for his dangerous and violent rhetoric about people of color, women, Jewish people, immigrants, LGBTQ people, Covid-19, and much more.

Even after being banned from Twitter (and several other social media platforms), Fuentes continued his venomous tirade against everyone and everything in the world that is not him. He has proudly said he’s “just like Hitler,” has called for the right to embrace becoming a “truly reactionary party,” and has said that “Catholic monarchy, and just war, and crusades, and inquisitions” are much better than democracy.

Just last week, Fuentes called Hitler “a pedophile … also really fucking cool.”

And now Elon Musk’s Twitter has brought him back.

Fuentes proudly announced his return Tuesday morning:

Musk’s reinstatement of Fuentes legitimizes all the vicious garbage the Nazi has spewed, and essentially returns to him a massive avenue to spread it further:

And in an era of Twitter where the “For you” tab seems to operate more like a TikTok-ified right-wing funnel, amplifying accounts that many users would have no business seeing, the danger of Fuentes’s return cannot be overstated.

The reinstatement comes after Musk’s repeated failed attempts to bring Kanye West, known now as Ye, back to Twitter. In December, West appeared alongside Fuentes on Alex Jones’s InfoWars, where he peddled Nazi propaganda, Holocaust denialism, and support for Hitler. Later that night, he posted a swastika. Musk reneged and finally resuspended West. This episode was shortly after West and Fuentes shared a dinner with former President Donald Trump—one that relatively few Republicans denounced, by the way.

Fuentes’s return follows the reinstatement of other Nazis such as Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi publication The Daily Stormer. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jordan Peterson, vicious transphobe Megan Murphy, and Trump himself round up other prominent individuals who have had their accounts reinstated after committing various and numerous Twitter policy violations.

Gavin Newsom Says Second Amendment Is “Becoming a Suicide Pact” After Yet Another Mass Shooting

At least seven people were killed in the Half Moon Bay shooting. California is reeling from three mass shootings in three days.

Mario Tama/Getty Images
California Governor Gavin Newsom stands near the scene of a deadly mass shooting at a ballroom dance studio on January 23, in Monterey Park, California.

California Governor Gavin Newsom slammed the Second Amendment as his state reels from its third mass shooting in as many days.

Newsom was visiting Monday evening with victims of the tragic Monterey Park shooting when he received reports that there had been another shooting in Half Moon Bay, which killed seven people and injured one more.

Just a few hours earlier, he told CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell that the Second Amendment, which many Americans believe guarantees them unfettered access to guns, is “becoming a suicide pact.”

“Nothing about this is surprising. Everything about this is infuriating,” he said of the Monterey Park attack.

The Half Moon Bay attack is California’s third mass shooting in just three days. A 67-year-old gunman opened fire on a mushroom farm and a nearby trucking facility. The victims were primarily Chinese laborers. It came just hours after a shooter attacked a gas station in Oakland, killing one person and wounding seven others. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as one where four or more people are shot.

The Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay attacks are the deadliest in their respective counties’ recent history. The Half Moon Bay massacre was the thirty-seventh mass shooting in the U.S. in 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive. There has already been another mass shooting since Half Moon Bay, meaning there have been more mass shootings than there have been days this year.

California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, but they’re not foolproof when regulations at the national level have so many loopholes. As The Washington Post noted, “The state’s strict gun laws are incapable of fully preventing gun violence in a country where gun ownership is widely considered a constitutionally protected right, firearms move freely between states with vastly different regulations and gun-control measures are dotted with exceptions.”

The Problem With Jeff Zients, Biden’s New Chief of Staff

The White House is planning to appoint Zients, a former private equity executive accused of “profiteering in health care,” as the next chief of staff.

Jeffrey Zients sits at a table with a binder, notepad, and pen in front of him (right profile shot)
Alex Wong/Getty Images

It’s been a day since President Joe Biden picked Jeff Zients, his former Covid-19 response adviser, to replace Ron Klain as his chief of staff, and the reaction has not been pretty.

Zients comes from the private equity world and is estimated to have a net worth of between $89 and $442 million, according to MarketWatch. He made a lot of this money investing in health care corporations. Zients’s investment fund, Portfolio Logic, featured multiple firms that paid millions of dollars in settlements for alleged Medicare and Medicaid fraud. He was also one of the original investors in the popular Washington, D.C., bagel chain Call Your Mother (one of the few local restaurants the Bidens have frequented).

Zients served under President Barack Obama as director of the National Economic Council and acting director of the Office of Management and Budget. He won praise under Obama for helping to repair the Healthcare.gov website after a bungled rollout, and again under Biden for his handling of the massive Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

But he only served as Biden’s Covid czar for a year, stepping away after the administration was accused of failing to prepare for the delta and omicron waves, sharing confusing messaging about testing and booster shots, and allowing Covid prevention funding to dry up. Both Public Citizen and the Center for Economic Policy and Research criticized Zients’s tenure, particularly his refusal to allocate resources for vaccination efforts abroad.

Jeff Hauser, founder of the nonprofit Revolving Door Project accused Zients of “profiteering in healthcare” and said Biden risks his legacy with the nomination. Progressive groups are worried that Zients will be less amenable to the causes that they and even the Biden administration have championed. Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, expressed hope that Zients will prove them wrong.

“Ron Klain has been an open ear and even-handed engager of actors across the Democratic Party,” Green said in a statement. “Whomever the next chief of staff is, that will be the continued hope and expectation.”

Who Is Brandon Johnson? More on the Chicago Mayoral Challenger With a History in Organizing

Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson says Chicago deserves a progressive mayor “willing to invest in people.”

Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson smiles and holds his arms out
Erin Hooley/AP/Shutterstock
Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson speaks to supporters during a public listening session at Principle Barbers, in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago.

In the past 34 years,* there have been only three mayors in Chicago: Richard Daley, from 1989 to 2011; Rahm Emanuel, from 2011 to 2019; and Lori Lightfoot since then. Now a field of nine candidates are running to unseat Lightfoot next month and become Chicago’s mayor. Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson sat down to talk to The New Republic about how he’s looking to come out of left field and upset expectations.

Johnson, a teacher and organizer, has emerged among the top candidates in a race that requires the winner to cross a simple majority threshold. If no candidate reaches at least 50 percent in next month’s election, which is the likely case, the top two vote-getters will proceed to an April runoff. Johnson, whose candidacy garnered no opinion from more than 70 percent of voters as recently as last month, is already putting up a formidable fight.

Polling averages from the four most recent polls have Representative Jesús “Chuy” Garcia leading the pack at 20.75 percent, conservative Democrat and former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas at 18.25 percent, Lightfoot at 15.2 percent, and Johnson at 13.55 percent. Johnson has also been endorsed by SEIU’s Local 73 and Chicago Teachers Union and officials like Representatives Delia Ramirez and Jonathan Jackson (son of Reverend Jesse Jackson). Such endorsements led Johnson to outpace every other candidate in fundraising over the final quarter of 2022, much of the money coming from unions.

One of 10 children in a household fathered by a pastor and carpenter, Johnson told TNR his upbringing was “where you learned, right away, how to lean on one another.” That lesson guided Johnson’s path forward, toward a politics that embraces that spirit.

“Chicago can be better with a progressive mayor who loves people and is willing to invest in people,” Johnson said. “The safest cities in America all have something in common: They invest in people.”

After obtaining his master’s degree in teaching, Johnson began teaching social studies in the Chicago Public Schools system. In 2011, he joined organizing efforts with the Teachers Union, helping organize the 2012 Chicago teachers’ strike that earned teachers a 17.6 percent pay rise over four years. The strike also reframed education reform efforts to speak more directly to student concerns: class sizes; funding for music, art, and physical education; paid teacher preparation time; and less standardized test emphasis.

In 2018, Johnson ran against an incumbent to become a Cook County commissioner, member of a board overseeing the second-largest county in the United States. Since serving on the commission, he led the passage of a housing ordinance that took on rental discrimination against people with criminal histories. He also supported the Chicago Public Schools’ strike in 2019, appearing at a solidarity rally and writing newspaper opinion letters in support of striking teachers and staff.

Now, in a race where crime and public safety have steered the conversation, the progressive is rejecting the decades-long “tough on crime” stance. “This so-called toughness that politicians or insiders have just been recycling over the past 40 years has failed us—in the most dramatic of ways,” Johnson said. He points to Chicago being among the cities with the highest police spending per capita in the country, while schools and mental health facilities shutter. “What’s most disturbing, whether it’s Lori Lightfoot, whether it’s Congressman Garcia who has essentially copied and pasted the same so-called public safety plan of the person he endorsed four years ago, they’re using the same stale failed talking points and policies that have not kept our community safe.”

Johnson proposes investing more in areas like mental health and housing, but he also wants to fully fund year-round youth employment opportunities and create an Office of Community Safety. He is seeking deeper crime prevention rather than just crime response.

“This is not radical, right? The fact that employment and investment in people is considered a progressive idea, and is not just a humanitarian idea, tells you everything that’s wrong with the same old stale politics and policies that continue to make it to debates,” Johnson said. “They shouldn’t be allowed to debate failed policy. We should just retire any policy that has failed people for the past 40 years.”

Johnson is a man buoyed by hope while having plenty of reasons not to. He has taught in a school system where he says even his students wished he taught at a “good school.” And he has seen how the coldness of the world can leave someone. “My older brother Leon was my hero. He was very talented, but he had untreated trauma. He died addicted and unhoused. If the city and this country actually provided more support to mental health—if those resources were available for my brother, I do believe he would be allowed today to see his grandchildren.”

Yet he’s channeled those experiences into his candidacy. “The city of Chicago can be saved by doing what safe American cities do, and that’s what I’m gonna do as mayor: invest in people and the services that people rely on and those that actually do the work.”

With just over a month to go, the road ahead certainly is not an easy one. But Johnson has already convinced thousands that his vision is worth hoping for.

“I’m grateful that there is so much hope that we can provide the city,” Johnson said. “And to transform this city into a place where it’s safe for everyone … it’s very humbling to be in a moment where this could be a historical moment that people will look to for guidance as other cities look to do the same thing.”

* This post originally misstated the number of years in which Chicago has had only three mayors.

M&Ms Gets Rid of Candy Mascots After Fox News Wouldn’t Stop Complaining About Women Characters

M&Ms is putting the spokescandies on “indefinite pause,” after right-wing backlash to the women mascots’ shoes, weight, sexuality, and mere existence.

Screenshot/Fox News

Cancel culture has gone too far: After widespread right-wing backlash over being too “woke,” M&Ms are doing away with their decades-old talking candy mascots.

Earlier this month, M&Ms introduced a limited-edition package with all-female M&Ms, including a new purple female character, as part of a campaign to celebrate women in business. But on Monday, Mars Wrigley announced it was replacing the talking M&Ms entirely with comedian Maya Rudolph.

The decision comes after what is objectively the weirdest news cycle at Fox News. Host Tucker Carlson complained bitterly about the new character, apparently having nothing better to do than body-shame the purple peanut M&M. This comes almost exactly a year after he devoted an entire show to decrying how the green and brown M&Ms were “less sexy” since they changed their footwear.

Another panel on Fox News began by asking, “Will M&Ms still melt in your hands if M&Ms are trans?” (There were no trans or nonbinary M&Ms.)

All of the changes at M&Ms are clear attempts to capitalize on any social justice trends of the moment, but not only is Carlson oblivious, he somehow is not the only one taking changes to a cast of anthropomorphized candies so personally. Conservative author Brigitte Gabriel demanded, “Why does the left hate men so much?” British tabloid The Daily Mail also accused the candy brand of being “woke.”

The talking M&M “spokescandies” we know and love were first introduced in 1994. Over the years, they have appeared in countless advertising campaigns, including a classic Christmas ad.