Sarah Huckabee Sanders to give SOTU rebut; FBI to search Pence offices for records: Updates

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Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders will give the Republican rebuttal to President Joe Biden's State of the Union address next week. Also, House Republicans removed Rep. Ilhan Omar from her spot on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Here's what else is going on in politics:

  • Pence offices to be searched: Federal authorities and representatives of Mike Pence have been discussing a voluntary search of the former vice president’s Indiana home and a Washington, D.C., office for additional classified records, according to media reports.

  • Hunter Biden is going on the offensive: He asked the Justice Department to probe former President Donald Trump's allies about the release of data on his laptop.

  • Biden's work on AAPI issues: Key initiatives to address AAPI hate crimes have not yet launched despite being a centerpiece of his administration.

  • Bill Clinton returns to White House: The former president is set to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

  • Nancy Pelosi said she'd support Adam Schiff: If Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., steps down, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she'll support Rep. Adam Schiff's bid for Feinstein's seat.

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Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., leaves her office at the Longworth House Office Building on Thursday in Washington, D.C.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., leaves her office at the Longworth House Office Building on Thursday in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Ilhan Omar blocked from serving on House Foreign Relations Committee

The Republican-led House Thursday voted to remove Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee over previous comments she made about Israel that members of both parties viewed as antisemitic.

Republican leaders have threatened to take action against Omar over a number of controversial statements she's made since she came to Capitol Hill four years ago. A prominent progressive in Congress, Omar, who is Muslim, has been a fierce critic of Israel's treatment of Palestinians and routinely questions U.S. aid to the Middle East ally.

"This debate today is about who gets to be an American," Omar said on the House floor Thursday. "I am an American. An American who was sent here by her constituents to represent them in Congress."

- Rachel Looker   

Rep. Ilhan Omar ousted from committee: GOP removes Rep. Omar from Foreign Relations Committee, citing her comments on Israel

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former Trump aide, to deliver rebuttal to Joe Biden's SOTU address

Republicans have tapped Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders to give their response to President Joe Biden’s upcoming State of the Union Address Tuesday.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy made the announcement on Twitter praising Sanders and urging everyone, including Biden, to watch.

Saying she was “grateful for this opportunity” the 40-year-old governor said Thursday there is a “new generation of leaders ready to defend our freedom against the radical left and expand access to quality education, jobs, and opportunity for all.”

Sanders, who previously served as White House press secretary under former President Donald Trump, coasted to victory last November to become Arkansas' first woman and youngest governor.

– Phillip M. Bailey

FBI expected to search Pence locations for govt records

Federal authorities and representatives of Mike Pence have been discussing a voluntary search of the former vice president’s Indiana home and a Washington, D.C., office for additional classified records, according to media reports.

The anticipated action comes after the FBI searched President Joe Biden’s Delaware vacation home Wednesday, the third Biden location where authorities have sought additional government records.

No classified documents were recovered at Biden’s Rehoboth Beach residence, but the FBI took some handwritten notes dating to his time as vice president.

Plans for a Pence-related search, first reported Thursday by the Wall Street Journal, follow the discovery last month of a small number of documents bearing classified markings at the former vice president’s Indiana home. CNN also reported that authorities are expected to search a Washington office linked to Pence.

The Justice Department and a Pence spokesperson declined comment Thursday.

- Kevin Johnson

House GOP launches another investigation

The House Judiciary Committee is deepening its investigation of political bias with a new focus on Charles McGonigal, a former FBI special agent who pleaded not guilty last week to charges of money laundering and violating U.S. sanctions in connection to a Russian oligarch.

In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday, Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., requested documents, personnel records and communications related to McGonigal by Feb. 16.

McGonigal, who led the FBI’s counterintelligence division in New York for 22 years until 2018, is accused of working for Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

- Candy Woodall

Law barring guns for people with domestic violence restraining orders is unconstitutional, court rules

A federal appeals court Thursday ruled that a law barring people who are the subject of a domestic violence restraining order from possessing a firearm is unconstitutional in a case likely headed to the Supreme Court.

A three-judge panel of the Louisiana-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit said the federal law may have been based on “salutary policy goals meant to protect vulnerable people in our society,” but that it still conflicts with the Second Amendment.

The ruling from the judges – two of whom were appointed by former President Donald Trump and a third by former President Ronald Reagan – is a result of the Supreme Court’s major guns ruling last year, in which a 6-3 majority said that in order to pass constitutional muster a gun regulation must be consistent with the nation's “historical tradition of firearm regulation."

The Justice Department said it will "seek further review" of the decision.

"Nearly 30 years ago, Congress determined that a person who is subject to a court order that restrains him or her from threatening an intimate partner or child cannot lawfully possess a firearm," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Thursday. "Whether analyzed through the lens of Supreme Court precedent, or of the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment, that statute is constitutional."

- John Fritze

More: Gun rights supporters ecstatic, safety experts appalled: Supreme Court ruling reverberates across nation

Hunter Biden attorneys demand Fox News, Tucker Carlson retract reporting

Lawyers representing Hunter Biden sent a letter to Fox News and personality Tucker Carlson demanding the network retract reporting from a broadcast last month or face a possible defamation lawsuit.

Attorney Bryan Sullivan referred to "false and defamatory" statements about Hunter Biden making rent payments to his father Joe Biden "in what Mr. Carlson implied was essentially a money laundering scheme" and separate suggestions that Hunter Biden had unauthorized access to classified documents while at the president's residence.

Fox News did not immediately respond to inquiries.

– Kevin Johnson

Federal authorities investigating George Santos’ role in service dog fundraising scheme

The FBI has sought information from a Navy veteran in connection with an online fundraising scheme allegedly involving embattled New York freshman lawmaker George Santos, who is accused of skimming $3,000 pledged to help the veteran’s dying service dog. The federal law enforcement contact with Richard Osthoff was first reported Wednesday by Politico.

Michael Boll, president of the New Jersey Veterans Network who also was involved in efforts to help Osthoff’s pit bull named Sapphire, told USA TODAY that he was expected to discuss the matter with the FBI.

The FBI did not immediately respond to inquiries. Joseph Murray, the lawmaker’s lawyer, told USA TODAY that he was unaware of the FBI’s inquiries. “Nobody has called us,” Murray said.

– Kevin Johnson

Hunter Biden lawyers go on offensive: Hunter Biden lawyers urge probes of Trump allies, demand Tucker Carlson retract reporting

Gas stoves: Sens. Joe Manchin, Ted Cruz bill would prevent funds to ban them

Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, teamed up on a bipartisan bill in support of protecting gas stoves.

The bill would prevent the Consumer Product Safety Commission from using federal funds to ban gas stoves or impose regulations that would "substantially increase" their costs, according to a Thursday press release.

Gas stoves came under fire after reports that the CPSC was considering a ban on the kitchen appliance amid rising concern about harmful indoor air pollutants they emit. Agency commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. clarified in a Jan. 9 tweet that the agency “isn't coming for anyone's gas stoves.”

– Ella Lee

Gas stove bans explained: Are natural gas stoves actually a 'hazard'? Why are they suddenly controversial?

Joe Biden’s top economic adviser Brian Deese is leaving

President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser, Brian Deese, is stepping down, the president announced Thursday.

Biden said Deese was critical to passage of major economic legislation, including pandemic relief funding, an infrastructure package, a bill boosting domestic manufacturing of computer chips, and a package of health care, climate change and corporate tax initiatives.

The White House did not name who will replace him as director of the National Economic Council.

– Maureen Groppe

Pelosi to back Adam Schiff for Senate if Feinstein retires

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks to reporters inside the U.S. Capitol Building about her husband Paul Pelosi's recovery on Jan. 27.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks to reporters inside the U.S. Capitol Building about her husband Paul Pelosi's recovery on Jan. 27.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will endorse Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.,  for the Senate seat still held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein if the senior lawmaker does not seek reelection.

“If Senator Feinstein decides to seek re-election, she has my whole-hearted support. If she decides not to run, I will be supporting House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, who knows well the nexus between a strong Democracy and a strong economy,” Pelosi said in a statement shared by Schiff’s Senate campaign.

Though Feinstein, the longest-serving woman senator, has not yet announced plans to retire, candidates are already vying for her seat. Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., was the first to announce a bid.

-Ella Lee

Ron Klain hints that Biden will run for reelection in 2024

President Joe Biden still hasn’t said whether he will run for re-election in 2024, but his outgoing chief of staff seemed to give a hint Wednesday about the president’s plans.

"I look forward to being on your side when you run for president in 2024,” Ron Klain, signing off as White House chief of staff, told the president at a transition event welcoming the new chief of staff, Jeff Zients.

Biden, who turned 80 in November, is widely expected to announce his re-election in the coming weeks or months. His top advisors months ago started meeting to discuss the campaign and potential Republican challengers, and on Tuesday Biden headlined a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in New York.

– Joey Garrison

Hunter Biden asks DOJ to probe Trump allies over laptop

Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, is seen during the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House on April 18, 2022.
Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, is seen during the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House on April 18, 2022.

A lawyer for Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, on Wednesday requested that the Justice Department investigate people close to former President Donald Trump who played a part in accessing or spreading personal data from a laptop.

The laptop, which a computer repair shop owner says was dropped at his Delaware store in 2019, held emails related to the younger Biden’s foreign business dealings, according to the New York Post, which broke the story in October 2020. Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign swiftly seized on the issue.

Hunter Biden’s request for a criminal inquiry represents a shift to an offensive strategy on the laptop. The Justice Department does not have to take action based on the younger Biden’s letter, and it’s unclear at this time if it will. The president's son faces his own, separate tax evasion investigation by the Justice Department.

– Ella Lee, Associated Press

Hakeem Jeffries: Vote on removing Ilhan Omar from committees is ‘about political revenge’

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries called Republicanss move to block Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., from serving on the House Foreign Relations Committee a “double standard,” saying Republicans refuse to denounce anti-Semitic tropes used by members of their own party.

“House Republicans should have one standard equally applied,” he said Thursday.

“What’s going to take place on the floor today is not a public policy debate, it’s not about accountability, it’s about political revenge,” he said.

– Rachel Looker

Hunter Biden-focused House hearing to feature testimony from former Twitter employees

Three formerly high-ranking Twitter employees will testify before the GOP-led House Oversight committee in a hearing focused on the social media platform’s role in suppressing a New York Post story about a laptop that contained information on President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

The hearing, which is set to be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, will feature testimony from former Twitter employees Vijaya Gadde, who was chief legal officer; James Baker, who was deputy general counsel; and Yoel Roth, who was global head of trust & safety.

– Ella Lee

Biden schedule today: a visit from Bill Clinton

President Joe Biden will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the landmark Family and Medical Leave Act this afternoon with former President Bill Clinton, who signed the bill into law.

Biden will also meet this afternoon with members of the Congressional Black Caucus who asked for a sit-down to push for negotiations on police reform. The meeting comes the day after Vice President Kamala Harris attended the funeral for Tyre Nichols and called on lawmakers to pass police reform legislation that’s stuck in Congress.

In the morning, Biden will speak at the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday and lunch privately with Jordan’s King Abdullah.

--Maureen Groppe

House vote to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from committee expected Thursday

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., joined by Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 25.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., joined by Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 25.

House Republicans are prepared to oust Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., from the Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters they have the votes to do it.

Why they are trying to remove her: GOP members have accused her of making anti-Semitic remarks. She was criticized by both Democrats and Republicans for suggesting pro-Israel lobbyists were buying political favors – a comment for which she apologized.

Omar said on Twitter, “We vote our districts” and accused Republicans of censorship. She and other Democrats have said removing her – and Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell last week – is political payback for GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar being removed in the last Congress for incendiary comments and sharing posts that depicted violence against another lawmaker.

– Candy Woodall

What we know: Rep. George Santos quits House committee seats amid uproar over lies

Key Biden initiatives to address AAPI hate crimes not yet launched

Despite making racial justice a centerpiece of his administration, and releasing a first-of-its-kind strategy to serve the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities earlier this month, key initiatives of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act have yet to be launched.

A review by USA TODAY found that the Department of Justice will start funding two state-level hate crime reporting hotlines next month, nearly two years after the legislation passed. The Department of Justice did not respond to questions on training local law enforcement on hate crimes reporting.

“In government, things do take time,” said Krystal Ka‘ai, executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. “To truly root out hate, you cannot just simply sign a policy or issue a directive and things just change overnight."

– Erin Mansfield and Rebecca Morin

Related: Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders see gains under Biden, but issues remain

Bill Clinton returning to White House for Family and Medical Leave Act anniversary

Former President Bill Clinton returns to the White House Thursday to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act, the first legislation he signed into law as president.

President Joe Biden had hoped to build on the 1993 law by requiring that the 12 weeks of leave available to workers be paid time off. Biden will renew his call for that policy. But after it wasn’t included in Democrats’ major package on health care, climate change and corporate taxation last year, it’s even less likely to be revived now that Republicans control the House.

Instead, Biden will take steps to expand leave opportunities for federal workers, including during their first year on the job when they’re not eligible for paid parental leave or for unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

– Maureen Groppe

From office to beach house: Timeline of investigation into Joe Biden classified documents

Biden to continue discussion on debt limit with McCarthy

President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had a “frank and straightforward dialogue” about a range of issues Wednesday, according to a readout of the meeting from the White House.

“President Biden made clear that, as every other leader in both parties in Congress has affirmed, it is their shared duty not to allow an unprecedented and economically catastrophic default,” the readout of the meeting said. “The United States Constitution is explicit about this obligation, and the American people expect Congress to meet it in the same way all of his predecessors have. It is not negotiable or conditional.”

The White House said Biden welcomes a separate discussion with congressional leaders on the debt limit and that the president and McCarthy agreed to continue the conversation.

– Rebecca Morin

Recap: McCarthy, Biden to continue talks on debt limit; Nikki Haley to take on Trump in 2024

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., talks with reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington following his meeting with President Joe Biden, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) ORG XMIT: DCSW303
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., talks with reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington following his meeting with President Joe Biden, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) ORG XMIT: DCSW303

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sarah Huckabee Sanders to give GOP rebuttal, Omar ousted from panel