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The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Frustrations with Garland grow among Jan. 6 committee members

The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Good morning, Early Birds! This is a good week to be a Beyoncé fan. Tell us about your favorite album, send really cool tips or do both: Thanks for waking up with us.

In today’s edition: The Education Department will soon unveil a proposal to make discrimination against transgender students a violation of federal civil rights law... The only question left for Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court nomination is whether she will get any Republican votes... President Biden signs a bill to make lynching a federal hate crime… Kyiv and Chernihiv accuse Russia of attacks despite promise to reduce strikes... but first...

On the Hill

Jan. 6 committee members pressure Attorney General Garland to act

Frustrated members of the House Jan. 6 committee are ratcheting up the public pressure on Attorney General Merrick Garland to pursue criminal charges against former Trump White House aides who are refusing to testify before the panel, arguing his failure to act is hurting their investigation.

After criticizing the Justice Department during a business meeting Monday night, lawmakers on the panel continued to vent Tuesday about the department having yet to criminally charge former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for contempt of Congress — a referral the House voted in support of nearly four months ago. 

They argued the Justice Department should also take speedy action against former Trump White House aides Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro after the committee approved criminal referrals against them Monday, which the House is expected to soon consider.

“It is important for the department to act and to act with alacrity for the principal reason that we're trying to prevent another January 6,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told reporters on Tuesday. 

  • “Those who push the big lie that led to violence continue to push that big lie. So we feel a sense of urgency and we hope the [DOJ] does also. To me, these cases…are pretty clear cut in that two of the witnesses simply refused to appear. So it shouldn't be that difficult for the [DOJ] to act.”

Congressional investigations have long been bedeviled by current or former White House officials invoking executive privilege to beat back subpoenas seeking their cooperation. At the outset o the committee's work, Schiff and other members said they believed the Jan. 6 committee would be able to get around this problem with the help of a Justice Department they expected would quickly pursue charges against recalcitrant witnesses.

While the DOJ indicted Steve Bannon on a contempt charge, they've yet to address Meadows, leaving committee members exasperated as valuable time slips away.

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) echoed concerns expressed by committee members and argued the three contempt referrals that have piled up for the DOJ to act on are “very clear” cases.  

  • “We're not a criminal body — we are just looking for the facts and circumstances around January 6 but in the course of that review, there are some very troubling things that we've come upon that we think if [the DOJ] would take a look at it, there would be something there,” Thompson told reports. “We don't have any knowledge that they are, but we don't have any knowledge that they are not.”

Thompson added that he hoped department leaders read U.S. District Judge David Carter's ruling that former president Donald Trump “more likely than not” committed federal crimes in trying to obstruct the congressional count of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021, and encouraged the department the reach out to the committee. 

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who declined to join the pressure campaign being waged by his colleagues against Garland, told reporters that he didn't think that there had been communication between the committee and Justice regarding the lingering contempt referral against Meadows. Regardless, he said the committee is still set on holding public hearings this spring

  • “I feel strongly that we restore the tradition of respect for the independence of the law enforcement function,” said Raskin. “That was one of the things that got trashed during the Trump period. And so I think that Congress and the president should let the Department of Justice and the attorney general do their job… Attorney General Garland is my constituent and I don't beat up on my constituents.”

President Biden told reporters earlier this week that he “would not tell the Justice Department what position to take or not take,” and wouldn't “instruct the Congress, either.” 

Looking ahead: White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said during a briefing on Monday that the White House will not assert executive privilege over the testimony of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump ahead of Kushner's voluntary appearance before the panel on Thursday. 

In the agencies

Title IX will ban anti-trans discrimination in coming rule

All eyes on Title IX: “Discrimination against transgender students would be a violation of federal civil rights law under proposed regulations the Education Department is expected to finalize in the coming weeks,” our colleague Laura Meckler reports. The administration expects to publish the proposed legislation in April.

  • “Title IX bars discrimination on the basis of sex in education, and the new rules would make clear this includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among other things,” two people familiar with a draft of the proposed regulation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly comment on the subject told Meckler.
  • “Regulations carry the power of law. The rules, if finalized, would set up a clash with state laws that bar transgender women from competing in women’s sports. Those statutes are already being challenged in the courts.”

From the courts

Ketanji Brown Jackson on track for confirmation by end of next week

Will they, or won’t they? Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson met with Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Susan Collins (Maine) Tuesday in an effort to shore up bipartisan support for her nomination. It was her second meeting with the Maine Republican. 

  • “With all 50 Democrats and independents expected to support Jackson, virtually assuring her confirmation, most of the remaining suspense surrounds how many Republican votes she will pick up, if any,” our colleagues Amy B Wang and Seung Min Kim write.
  • Sixteen senate lawmakers have publicly opposed Jackson’s nomination. They include John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, who announced his decision Tuesday. “I cannot in good conscience vote for a Supreme Court justice whose record indicates that she will allow her personal political opinions to shape her judicial decisions,” he said.

Game plan: “The White House and Democratic senators are eyeing just a handful of Senate Republicans as potential votes in favor of Jackson,” per our colleagues. “The most likely candidates are Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who voted to confirm Jackson to the federal appeals court last year, and Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who opposed her on that occasion but has said for weeks he is keeping an open mind when it comes to her elevation to the Supreme Court.” 

Here’s where two swing votes stand, as of Tuesday evening: We don’t know. 🤷

  • Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah): Undecided. Romney told CNN’s Kasie Hunt that he “hasn’t yet made up his mind over how he will vote.” “I’ll complete that analysis and then reach a decision, but I’ve not reached my decision,” Romney said.
  • Sen. Susan Collins (Maine): Undecided. Collins told reporters Tuesday that she would make a decision “relatively soon.” “Collins is viewed as the most likely Republican ‘yes’ vote,” the Hill’s Jordain Carney writes. “She’s supported every Supreme Court nominee since she joined the Senate except Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whom she opposed because the vote came just weeks before the 2020 election.

At the White House

Biden signs anti-lynching bill into federal law

A century later: “Biden on Tuesday signed into law the Emmett Till Antilynching Act to make lynching a federal hate crime, in a historic first that comes after more than a century of failed efforts against racial violence,” our colleagues Amy B Wang and Felicia Sonmez write.

  • “For a long time, lynching was pure terror to enforce the lie that not everyone, not everyone belongs in America, not everyone is created equal,” Biden said at a ceremony in the Rose Garden after he signed the bill at the White House. “Innocent men, women and children hung by nooses from trees, bodies burned and drowned and castrated. Their crimes? Trying to vote, trying to go to school, trying to own a business or preach the gospel. False accusations of murder, arson and robbery. Simply being Black.”

More: What an anti-lynching law means in 2022.

The war in Ukraine

The latest: “Ukrainian authorities said Wednesday that attacks continued overnight around Chernihiv and Kyiv, despite Russia’s pledge during Tuesday’s peace talks in Turkey to ‘drastically reduce’ attacks in both areas," our colleagues Annabelle Timsit, Amy Cheng, Rachel Pannett, Adela Suliman and Ellen Francis report

  • “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a video address released late Tuesday, said Moscow’s assurances ‘do not silence the explosion of Russian shells.’”
  • The Pentagon’s top officer overseeing U.S. troops in Europe, Gen. Tod D. Wolters, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday that intelligence officials may have overestimated Russia’s military ahead of its invasion of Ukraine as U.S. intelligence assessments that Kyiv could fall within days proved inaccurate.

What we’re reading about the war: 

The Media

What we’re reading (about everything else): 


What the American people really want to know: 

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