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Biden says GOP 'threatening to destroy' economy; Elon Musk meets with lawmakers: Recap

Members of the Republican National Committee are gathering in Southern California as the party wrestles with how to position itself for the 2024 election in the aftermath of lackluster midterm results.

Divisions about the path forward are on display ahead of a vote Friday for RNC chair.

Here's what else is happening in politics:

  • The National Archives has sent  a letter to representatives of former presidents and vice presidents asking them to examine whether they have classified information.

  • California state bar seeks to revoke the law license of Donald Trump lawyer John Eastman.

  • Biden at Virginia union hall accuses Republicans of "threatening to destroy" the economy with its positions on the debt limit and proposed cuts to domestic programs.

  • Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao responded to Trump's repeated racist remarks about her.

  • Schiff announces Senate bid: Rep. Adam Schiff, who this week was blocked from serving again on the House Intelligence Committee, plans to run for Senate in California. No word on whether the current occupant of that seat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, is running again.

  • Senators look to 2024. Several senators have already launched 2024 reelection campaigns and primary challengers in some races are starting to emerge.

  • Video of the attack on Pelosi's husband to be released: A judge in California ruled late Wednesday that video footage of Paul Pelosi's attack could be released.

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Elon Musk meets with McCarthy and Jeffries

After a closed-door meeting, Speaker Kevin McCarthy quipped to reporters about a rare 58th birthday gift: a visit from Elon Musk.

It appears it was actually a business meeting with Musk and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

The tech magnate was spotted going into the speaker’s office late Thursday afternoon, as the House considered more than 20 amendments to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve Act.

After the meeting, the Twitter CEO used his social media site to explain his appearance on Capitol Hill. “Just met with @SpeakerMcCarthy & @RepJeffries to discuss ensuring that this platform is fair to both parties,” Musk said in a tweet.

His visit comes two weeks before the House Oversight Committee is expected to hold hearings on what Republicans describe as collusion between Twitter and the federal government. They claim the social media site suppressed information about Hunter Biden’s laptop and censored GOP views on the platform. Twitter employees have been invited to testify.

— Candy Woodall

In case you missed it: McCarthy plans to block Democrats Swalwell, Schiff from House Intelligence Committee

Biden calls for ‘peaceful protests’ before release of body camera footage in Tyre Nichols case

President Joe Biden said the family of Tyre Nichols deserves a “swift, full and fair investigation” into his death and called for “peaceful protests” after five former Memphis police officers were charged Thursday with second-degree murder.

“Outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable,” Biden said in his first statement on the Nichols case. “Violence is destructive and against the law. It has no place in peaceful protests seeking justice.”

Nichols, 29, died Jan. 7 after a police traffic stop that resulted in “two confrontations with police,” according to Memphis police. Nichols "complained of a shortness of breath,” police said. Video from police-worn body cameras of the interaction is scheduled for release Friday evening. Nichols was black. The five officers charged in the case are also Black.

“We cannot ignore the fact that fatal encounters with law enforcement have disparately impacted Black and Brown people,” Biden said, renewing his call for policing reform legislation that stalled in Congress last year.

- Joey Garrison

Memphis police incident: 'This was criminal': Former Memphis police officers arrested, face murder charges in Tyre Nichols' death

California will seek to disbar Trump lawyer John Eastman

California’s state bar is seeking to revoke the law license of John Eastman, the lawyer who spearheaded an effort to use slates of fake electors in battleground states to overturn the 2020 election in favor of former President Donald Trump.

The state bar alleges that Eastman violated his duty to uphold the U.S. and California state constitutions in an attempt to “usurp the will of the American people and overturn election results for the highest office in the land.”

“There is nothing more sacrosanct to our American democracy than free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power,” George Cardona, chief trial counsel to California’s state bar, said in a statement. “...(Eastman) must be held accountable.”

Eastman holds law licenses in both Washington, D.C. and California.

– Ella Lee

Trump allies: State election officials tell Jan. 6 committee of pressure, threats from Trump and allies

Biden: Republicans are ‘threatening to destroy’ economy over debt ceiling

President Joe Biden arrives to speak at the Steamfitters Local 602 in Springfield, Virginia, on Thursday.
President Joe Biden arrives to speak at the Steamfitters Local 602 in Springfield, Virginia, on Thursday.

President Joe Biden accused Republicans Thursday of "threatening to destroy" the economy over brinkmanship on the debt limit and proposed GOP cuts to domestic programs.

“They seem determined to be the party of chaos and catastrophe,” Biden, speaking from a steamfitters union hall in Springfield, Virginia, said after the release of a new report on the gross domestic product that showed better-than-expected growth in the fourth quarter of last year.

House Republicans have not released a unified economic plan. The Republican Study Committee, which includes about 160 Republicans, last year endorsed raising the retirement age to 70 to qualify for Social Security benefits. Still, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has insisted Republicans have no plans to cut Social Security and Medicare, even as Biden warns the two programs could be slashed if Republicans get their way.

Financial markets are on edge that a failure to raise the debt limit would lead to the nation's first-ever default, a scenario that economists fear could plunge the economy into a recession. Biden has said he won't negotiate with Republicans seeking to use the debt ceiling to achieve unspecified spending cuts.

– Joey Garrison

Elaine Chao addresses Donald Trump's racist comments about her

Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao chided her one-time boss – former President Donald Trump – this week, speaking out about him repeatedly making racist comments about her. 

Trump on Truth Social on Monday targeted Chao with a racial charged nickname and her husband, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as he attempting to link them to the classified documents found in a Washington, D.C. office that has been used by President Joe Biden. Chao responded by slamming the former president for the slurs he has repeatedly used against her.

“When I was young, some people deliberately misspelled or mispronounced my name,” Chao, an Asian-American who served as transportation secretary in Trump’s administration, said in a statement to USA TODAY. “Asian Americans have worked hard to change that experience for the next generation. He doesn’t seem to understand that, which says a whole lot more about him than it will ever say about Asian Americans.”

-  Marina Pitofsky

More: 'Says a whole lot more about him': Elaine Chao speaks out about Donald Trump's racist comments on her

National Archives asks former presidents, VPs to recheck their offices for classified material

The National Archives has sent a letter to representatives of former presidents and vice presidents dating back to the Reagan administration asking them to examine whether they have classified information in their possession, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The request was apparently prompted by investigations involving former President Donald Trump, current President Joe Biden, and former vice president Mike Pence and their handling of classified material.

Other recipients of the National Archives request include the offices of former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan, and former vice presidents Dick Cheney, Al Gore, and Dan Quayle.

An official with one of the recipient offices confirmed the letter, but would not discuss it. The offices of Obama, Bush, and Clinton have said they have no classified material in their possession.

CNN, which first reported the letter, said former presidents and vice-presidents are being asked to "re-check their personal records for any classified documents or other presidential records in the wake of classified documents discovered in the homes of" Trump, Pence, and Biden.

– David Jackson

National Archives letter to ex-presidents: National Archives asks ex-presidents and vice presidents to look for classified documents

Records request: After Trump, Biden, Pence, are other former presidents holding classified documents? We asked.

'Rules there for a reason': FBI's Wray urges compliance with classified document rules

FBI Director Christopher Wray Thursday briefly addressed growing questions about officials’ handling of classified documents, saying “rules are there for a reason.”

While not specifically commenting on the pending special counsel investigations involving former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, in addition to new disclosures about the recovery of documents at former Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana home, Wray said such inquiries are a “regular part” of the bureau’s Counterintelligence Division’s work.

“And people need to be conscious of the rules regarding classified information,” Wray said at an unrelated Justice Department briefing. “Those rules are there for a reason.”

- Kevin Johnson

House to vote on Strategic Production Response Act. What is it?

The House is voting on legislation Thursday that would limit President Joe Biden's authority to withdraw oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve after Republicans claim he misused the power for political gains.

The bill, labeled the Strategic Petroleum Response Act (H.R. 21), would prevent an administration from withdrawing oil from the reserves unless there is an increase in the percentage of federal lands that produce oil and gas to match the percentage withdrawn.

The bill is unlikely to become law; it does not have the votes to pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the Biden administration has said it would veto it in any case. It comes after Biden ordered the largest withdrawal in U.S. history last year, a move that plummeted the reserves' levels to their lowest since 1984.

– Rachel Looker

More on this bill: In House vote on Strategic Production Response Act, GOP aims to limit oil reserve withdrawal

FBI dismantles website of notorious ransomware gang Hive

Federal authorities dismantled a website operated by a notorious ransomware gang, known to extort millions of dollars from victims as part of a global cybercrime operation.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the FBI late Wednesday seized a cache of computer servers in Los Angeles supporting the group known as Hive, while foreign law enforcement partners took control of a similar network in Europe to take down the operation which had targeted 1,500 victims in 80 countries.

Since June 2021, federal authorities said, Hive had reaped more than $100 million in ransom payments from schools, hospitals and a range of private companies.

– Kevin Johnson

Read more on the FBI operation: FBI dismantles ransomware gang Hive's website. $130 million in ransom payments averted.

Adam Schiff announces bid for California Senate seat

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., announced Thursday he is launching a campaign to run for Senate.

Schiff, who has served in the House since 2001, was a member of the House Intelligence Committee in the last Congress and was a key figure during the Jan. 6 hearings to investigate the attack on the Capitol. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy blocked Schiff this week from serving on the Intelligence Committee in the 118th Congress.

Schiff will be the second candidate vying for the Senate seat currently held by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has not announced whether she will seek reelection or retire. California Democratic Rep. Katie Porter announced earlier this month she is also vying for the seat.

- Rachel Looker

Paul Pelosi attack video to be released

Over the objections of prosecutors, a judge has ruled that the footage of the attack on Nancy Pelosi's husband can be released. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Stephen M. Murphy ruled there was no reason to keep the footage secret, especially after prosecutors played it in open court during a preliminary hearing last month.

Paul Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi's husband, was asleep at the couple's San Francisco home on Oct. 28 when someone broke in and beat him with a hammer. Prosecutors have charged 42-year-old David DePape in connection with the attack.

DePape pleaded not guilty last month to six charges, including attempted murder. Police have said DePape told them there was "evil in Washington" and he wanted to harm Nancy Pelosi because she was second in line to the presidency. His case is pending.

- The Associated Press

How the Paul Pelosi attack unfolded: A break-in, a conversation, a 911 call, then violence

The battle to lead the RNC

All three contenders to lead the Republican National Committee are supporters of former President Donald Trump but are arguing about candidate recruitment and get-out-the-vote efforts.

RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, seeking a fourth term, faces opposition from California attorney Harmeet Dhillon and MyPillow founder Mike Lindell. McDaniel is favored to win, but opponents are roaming the halls of a beach resort in Dana Point, Calif., seeking support.

"We will decide if we're serious about winning in 2024," Dhillon tweeted this week. Republican delegates are also discussing party rules and procedures, including plans for debates among the GOP presidential candidates in 2024.

RNC: Republicans are preparing for their national convention in Milwaukee. First, they have to decide who will lead the RNC

Biden to highlight the economy in Virginia amid fight over debt ceiling

President Joe Biden will travel Thursday to Springfield, Virginia where he is expected to discuss what the administration says is progress bolstering the economy.

Biden is visiting the Steamfitters Local 602 union hall. His afternoon remarks will follow the release of fourth-quarter 2022 gross domestic product figures. The White House has warned of catastrophe if House Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling.

Failure to act would lead to the nation's first-ever default on its debt. Biden has said that would lead to a “calamity that exceeds anything that’s ever never happened in the history of the United States.”

- Joey Garrison

Meta to lift bans on Trump Facebook, Instagram accounts

Former President Donald Trump speaks to guests at Mar-a-Lago on Election Day in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Former President Donald Trump speaks to guests at Mar-a-Lago on Election Day in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Meta Platforms, Facebook's parent company, will reinstate former President Donald Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts in the upcoming weeks as Trump prepares another presidential run, ending the two-year suspension.

The company indefinitely banned Trump's accounts following the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack to reduce the risk of violence as Mark Zuckerberg, the company's CEO, accused Trump of trying "to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden."

Trump responded to the ban being lifted on Truth Social: "Such a thing should never again happen to a sitting President, or anybody else who is not deserving of retribution!"

– Sarah Elbeshbishi

Countdown to 2024: Porter, Gallego launch bids for Senate seats

Democrats currently have a narrow majority in the upper chamber but that will be tested next year. Thirty-four seats in the Senate will be up for grabs in the upcoming election with Democrats (including independents who caucus with Democrats) currently occupying a majority – 23 – of those seats.

Here are the candidates who have announced their Senate plans for 2024:

  • Indiana Republican Rep. Jim Banks.

  • Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego.

  • West Virginia Republican Rep. Alex Mooney

  • California Democratic Rep. Katie Porter

  • Ohio Republican state Senator Matt Dolan

- Rachel Looker

GOP committee picks: Far-right Reps. Boebert, Gosar and Greene are on committees probing Biden. What does that mean?

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Live updates: Musk meets with lawmakers; Trump lawyer in trouble