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Former President Trump’s actual tax returns are set to be released on Friday, following the release last week of six years of tax return information as part of reports into the presidential audit program. The documents revealed that Trump wasn’t being regularly audited by the IRS and was reporting big business losses each year.
While tax experts aren’t expecting huge revelations from the raw returns for 2015 to 2020, the more detailed documents could provide additional information on key areas of interest regarding the former president’s businesses and professional associations, writes The Hill’s Tobias Burns.
“Those of us who are interested in his relationship with Russia will be looking for any kind of confirmation of what Don [Trump] Jr. said in 2008 that Trump interests had received much of their money from Russian sources,” former CIA officer and journalist Frank Snepp told the Hill.
Meanwhile, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol is closing up its business with the release of thousands of pages of transcripts — and the interviews with various people surrounding Trump have included a number of bombshells. The Hill’s Stephen Neukam has rounded up the five most interesting things mentioned in the interviews, from the allegation that former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows burned documents during the transition, to indications that the committee agreed to shield the testimony of a number of witnesses from the Department of Justice — including those dealing with criminal proceedings stemming from the Capitol breach.
▪ The Hill: Trove of Jan. 6 panel depositions offers new insights on fateful day.
▪ NBC News: Federal judge says Trump may have signaled to supporters “to do something more” than just protest.
▪ The Hill: Donald Trump Jr. details efforts to sway father on Jan. 6 in panel deposition.
Minority Leader and House Speaker hopeful Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is in the very last stretch before the Speakership elections on Jan. 3. Some members expect the Speakership fight to go to multiple ballots and possibly last days, as infighting between GOP lawmakers is threatening to derail the proceedings (NY1).
The fight over the gavel could have an unintended victim: House staff. As Politico reports, guidelines sent to committees lay out a messy, complicated process for how the race will have a trickle-down effect on everything from paying committee staff to student loan repayments.
“Committees need to be aware that should a House Rules package not be adopted by end of business on January 13 no committee will be able to process payroll since the committee’s authority for the new Congress is not yet confirmed,” according to the memo sent out to House committees.
Politico: Battleground Republicans say they’ll only vote for McCarthy for speaker. More than a dozen GOP lawmakers, including members-elect, wrote in a letter that they would not back any “so-called shadow ‘consensus candidate.’”
▪ The Hill: Questions loom at CNN after difficult year.
▪ Politico: The presidential race is entering a new phase. Here’s who’s best positioned.
▪ Vox: The best, worst, and just plain dumb of American politics in 2022.
LEADING THE DAY
➤ MORE POLITICS
Rep.-elect George Santos’ (R-N.Y.) general election opponent on Thursday called for a House investigation into Santos over biographical fabrications he told on the campaign trail.
“We call upon Congress and demand Congress conduct a House ethics investigation into George Santos,” Robert Zimmerman (D) said Thursday.
Zimmerman’s comments come a day after Republican District Attorney Anne Donnelly promised to prosecute Santos if he committed any crimes. Federal and state authorities are also probing Santos’s finances and fabricated backstory he spoke about while he ran for office — concerning where he worked, went to school and even volunteered (Politico).
▪ The Washington Post: A tiny newspaper on Long Island broke the Santos scandal, but no one paid attention.
▪ The New York Times: What can the House do to address Santos’s falsehoods?
▪ The Washington Post: Santos said 9/11 “claimed my mother’s life.” She died in 2016.
The outgoing Democratic Congress has proved a disappointment for immigration activists, writes The Hill’s Rafael Bernal. Over the past two years, a number of immigration reform bills simmered on the legislative back burner and sometimes caught flickers of national attention, but leadership never found the right time to give immigrants top billing.
Republicans are expected to crack down on environmental and socially conscious investing, known as environmental, social and governance investing (ESG), when they retake the House next year. The broad term encompasses attempts to invest ethically, and can include actions by the government, investment firms and banks or individuals.
But GOP members argue that ESG could harm the fossil fuel industry — the main driver of climate change — and that the government should not be providing incentives to foster it (The Hill).
▪ The Hill: Treasury delays new restrictions for electric vehicle tax credits, drawing Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) ire.
▪ Politico: Senate GOP dealmakers depart just as Congress control splits.
As defeated Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s (R) election challenge nears an end, GOP strategists suggest she may soon take a conservative media gig or perhaps pursue national political aspirations, writes The Hill’s Zach Schonfeld. Whatever path she takes, they stress that her staunch views won’t win over Arizona independents and moderate Republicans.
The White House launched its first major broadside in response to incoming House Republicans who are likely to spearhead aggressive oversight of the administration. In letters to those lawmakers, a top lawyer for the president pledged that the administration would operate in good faith with them, but also said that oversight demands made by congressional Republicans during the last Congress would have to be restarted (Politico).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
Russia attacked Ukrainian cities with scores of missiles in one of its heaviest barrages of the war, pressing further with a campaign to destroy civilian targets as officials in Moscow denounced the prospects of peace talks in the coming months (Bloomberg News and Reuters).
“Senseless barbarism,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter. “These are the only words that come to mind seeing Russia launch another missile barrage at peaceful Ukrainian cities ahead of New Year.”
For months Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked Western countries for further air defense help to combat the Russian attacks. The United States last week announced nearly $2 billion in additional military aid, including the Patriot air defense system, which offers protection against aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping via video conference, where Putin said Xi would make a state visit to Russia in spring 2023, marking a public show of solidarity from Beijing for the war in Ukraine. Putin added the visit would “demonstrate to the world the closeness of Russian-Chinese relations” (Reuters and CNN).
▪ The Atlantic: How China is using Putin.
▪ Reuters: Most Ukraine regions suffer power outages after Russian missile barrage.
▪ The Wall Street Journal: The bravery and the recklessness of Ukraine’s improvised army.
Israel’s government was sworn in Thursday, putting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu back in charge of a right-wing and religiously conservative administration that will likely test ties with the United States and Europe, amid fears that it will undermine the country’s democracy and stability.
The policies the government — Israel’s most right-wing to date — has pledged to pursue have raised concerns about increased tensions with Palestinians, the undermining of Israel’s judicial independence and a rollback of protections for the LGBTQ and other marginalized communities (The New York Times).
Biden on Thursday marked Netanyahu’s swearing-in by saying that his administration will continue to support the two-state solution in the Middle East, warning that he will oppose policies that endanger it (The Hill).
The Washington Post: Pelé, Brazil’s “king of soccer,” dies at 82. Quick, agile, adept with both feet and laser-like with his headers, he helped Brazil win three World Cup titles.
■ Sudden Russian death syndrome, by Elaine Godfrey, contributor, The Atlantic. https://bit.ly/3YRNvJH
■ Why 2022 was a very good year, by Jonathan Alter, contributor, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3vn0zJt
WHERE AND WHEN
🎆 Happy New Year from us at Morning Report! We hope you had a wonderful 2022, and can’t wait to keep you informed about all the newsy things 2023 is sure to have in store. Kristina Karisch will be back in your inboxes on Jan. 3, and Alexis Simendinger returns to the newsletter on Jan. 4.
👉 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 Tuesday, Jan. 3.
The Senate will convene at 9:30 a.m. for a pro forma session.
The president has no public schedule. He and first lady Jill Biden are in St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands, with their family.
The vice president is in Los Angeles with second gentleman Doug Emhoff.
The first lady is in St. Croix with the president.
➤ AIR TRAVEL
Progressives are taking aim at Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg over the Southwest Airlines holiday travel fiasco that continues to cause mass delays and cancellations across the country.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a leading left-wing lawmaker, took to Twitter on Thursday to question the Transportation Department’s handling of the debacle, referencing a June recommendation from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) asking department officials to demand airlines compensate travelers for canceled or significantly delayed flights and cover their basic expenses like food and accommodations (The Hill).
“We’ve never seen a situation, at least not on my watch, with this volume of disruptions, so this is going to take an extraordinary level of effort by Southwest,” Buttigieg said in a televised interview with ABC earlier this week. “And we will mount an extraordinary effort to make sure that they’re meeting their obligations.”
Southwest, which has been caught in a vexing tangle of misplaced staff, thousands of canceled flights and technical problems since last week’s storm, said Thursday that it plans to return to normal operations on Friday “with minimal disruptions.” According to FlightAware, more than 2,300 of Southwest’s flights — or about 58 percent — were canceled on Thursday (The New York Times). The Wall Street Journal reports that employee volunteers rebuilt crew schedules manually after storm disruptions overwhelmed systems and led to thousands of canceled flights.
▪ Bloomberg News: Southwest’s silver lining: memories of gaffes fade fast.
▪ The Wall Street Journal: Southwest promises to reimburse customers affected by meltdown.
➤ PANDEMIC & HEALTH
Hospitals across the country have experienced near-constant crises since the pandemic hit in 2020, Vox reports. In addition to the persistent threat of COVID-19, there were unexpectedly brutal waves of respiratory syncytial virus last summer and again in the fall. Monkeypox put hospitals on high alert for a very different kind of infectious disease.
The fragility of the U.S. health care system was laid bare by the pandemic. Heading into 2023, there is little sign of relief for overworked and overwhelmed health care providers.
“The future is not next year. The future is 10 years from now that you’re working on right now,” said Terry Scoggin, CEO of Titus Regional Medical Center in Mount Pleasant, Texas. “It’s hard to get people to think about 10 years from now when they haven’t gotten over what happened 10 months ago.”
The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) process for approving the Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm, was “rife with irregularities,” according to the report from a congressional investigation, which was released on Thursday. The report shows the agency’s actions “raise serious concerns about FDA’s lapses in protocol,” in approving a drug that harbored great concerns over efficacy. The 18-month investigation, initiated by two congressional committees after the FDA approved the drug, also strongly criticized Aduhelm’s manufacturer, Biogen (The New York Times).
▪ The Hill: Biden administration seeks to rescind Trump-era “conscience” protections for health workers.
▪ The New York Times: After half a century, Anthony Fauci prepares for life after government.
Information about COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot availability can be found at Vaccines.gov.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,092,456. Current U.S. COVID-19 deaths are 2,530 for the week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The CDC shifted its tally of available data from daily to weekly, now reported on Fridays.)
And finally … 👏👏👏 Bravo to winners of this week’s Morning Report Quiz! We asked about political moments that defined 2022 and readers delivered. Thank you to everyone who’s answered the quiz for your thoughtful guesses each week.
Here’s who Googled or guessed their way into The Hill’s championship trivia team: Paul Harris, Patrick Kavanagh, Cliff Grulke, Bob McLellan, Jane Heaton, Charles Hantl, Amanda Fisher, David Peikin, Richard Fanning, Barton Schoenfeld, Neil Bergsman, Harry Strulovici, Vita Treano, Steven Abern, Mike Purdy, Barbara Golian, Jack Barshay, Randall Patrick, Dom Sacco, Steve James, Joan Domingues, Corinne Khederian, Jerry LaCamera, Stan Wasser and Luther Berg.
They knew that when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) mixed up the Gestapo and the Spanish cold soup gazpacho — resulting in the ever-memorable term “gazpacho police” — she was criticizing routine security checks by the Capitol Police.
They knew that prior to assuming the presidency in Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky had a career as a comedian.
They knew Liz Truss cemented her record-breaking short term as U.K. prime minister when she resigned after only 44 days in office.
And finally, they knew that much of Sen.-elect John Fetterman’s (D-Pa.) social media strategy hinged on trolling Republican opponent Mehmet Oz’s long-term residence in New Jersey.
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!