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Attorney General Merrick Garland held in contempt of Congress

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The head of the Department of Justice, Attorney General Merrick Garland, held in contempt of Congress. And “life-threatening” flooding in south Florida as more torrential rain is expected Thursday. These stories and more highlight The Morning Rundown for Thursday, June 13, 2024.

Attorney General Merrick Garland held in contempt of Congress

In an effort led by Republicans, the U.S. House voted to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress Wednesday, June 12. Lawmakers also voted to refer the top Department of Justice official for criminal charges. 

It comes after Garland refused to turn over audio recordings of President Joe Biden’s interviews with former special counsel Robert Hur as part of the probe over his handling of classified documents. 

The 216-207 vote fell along party lines, with only one Republican, Rep. David Joyce of Ohio, voting against it. 

The vote marks a major escalation in a months-long dispute over the recordings — which started after President Biden asserted executive privilege over the files. The DOJ has stood by the decision not to release the recordings, saying they’ve already provided transcripts. 

DOJ officials wrote in an affidavit the transcripts accurately match the audio “except for minor instances” — like leaving out filler words or when words were repeated when spoken. 

House Republicans argue the recordings are crucial to their impeachment inquiry into the president, which has stalled. 

“He is refusing to comply with a lawful subpoena,” Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson said of AG Garland. “And that’s a problem under Article I. We have to defend the Constitution. We have to defend the authority of Congress. We can’t allow the Department of Justice, an executive branch agency, to hide information from Congress. We have important oversight responsibilities, and that is what is being pursued here.” 

Attorney General Garland responded to the decision to hold him in contempt late Wednesday night saying, “It is deeply disappointing that this House of Representatives has turned a serious congressional authority into a partisan weapon. Today’s vote disregards the constitutional separation of powers, the Justice Department’s need to protect its investigations and the substantial amount of information we have provided to the committees.” 

U.S. and Ukraine set to sign 10-year security pact at G7 summit  

President Joe Biden is in Italy Thursday, June 13, for the G7 summit, where he is expected to sign a 10-year bilateral security pact with Ukraine. This agreement is said to better strengthen the long-term security relationship between the two nations, with commitments to continue training Ukrainian armed forces, enhance weapons production cooperation and increase intelligence sharing. 

The G7 leaders are also set to endorse a plan to provide Ukraine with $50 billion in loans, using frozen Russian assets to fund the initiative. 

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan mentioned that while the major aspects of the plan have been agreed upon, some details will still need to be finalized. 

Additionally, on Wednesday, June 12, the U.S. expanded its sanctions against Moscow to include Chinese companies that supply semiconductors. This move aims to pressure Beijing over its support for Russia and address issues of industrial overcapacity. 

The summit will also address other critical global issues, including the Middle East, migration and artificial intelligence. 

ACLU sues Biden administration over new asylum rule

The Biden administration is facing its first lawsuit over President Joe Biden’s recent order temporarily shutting down the U.S.’ southern border. The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a coalition of immigrant advocacy groups, is the first big challenge to the executive order put in place just over a week ago. 

The restrictions bar migrants from seeking asylum when border encounters rise above 2,500 per day. 

In its first week implemented, the number of migrants crossing has fallen by 25%, according to Department of Homeland Security officials. However, the number of migrants coming over is still more than the number allowed — about 3,000 per day. 

The executive action was meant to make illegal border crossers ineligible for asylum, but officials say thousands of migrants a day are still being released into the U.S. because of “limited options.” 

The lawsuit did not seek an emergency injunction to block the new rule, so it will stay in place while the challenge plays out in court. 

Federal Reserve holds interest rates steady

The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady Wednesday, June 12, potentially delaying any rate cuts until December. Fed Chair Jerome Powell, speaking after a two-day policy meeting, said the U.S. economy’s growth and unemployment rates are performing better than long-term sustainable levels, prompting the decision to maintain the current rate. 

During a press conference, Powell said inflation has been decreasing without severely impacting the economy and he anticipates this trend could continue. The Fed plans a gradual return of inflation to its 2% target. 

“We know that reducing policy restraint too soon or too much could result in a reversal of the progress that we’ve seen on inflation,” Powell said. “At the same time, reducing policy restraint too late or too little could unduly weaken economic activity and employment. In considering any adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the committee will carefully assess incoming data, the evolving outlook and the balance of risks.” 

Powell said while some details of future rate cuts are still being finalized, the timing of these cuts will depend on a range of economic data, including labor market health and growth projections. 

As the Fed’s latest interest rate announcement was made, Straight Arrow News’ own Simone Del Rosario and former Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig had live analysis of the future of monetary policy. You can watch that here

‘Life-threatening’ flooding in south Florida

For the third day in a row, heavy rain is threatening more destructive flooding in south Florida Thursday, June 13. It comes after storms turned streets into rivers and water rushed into homes, Wednesday, June 12. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, R, declared an emergency for five counties after dangerous flooding immobilized the operations of critical infrastructure, including major interstates, roadways, schools, and the Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports. 

On Tuesday night, June 11, a record-breaking eight inches of rain hit Florida’s west coast in just three hours. 

Flood watches are in effect through Friday night, June 14, across south Florida, which is the state’s most populous area, as more rounds of heavy rainfall are expected. 

Meteorologists say many parts of the state are likely to see double-digit rainfall totals by the time the storms fully pass. 

Russian warships conduct drills 100 miles off coast of Florida

Three Russian warships and a nuclear-powered submarine conducted drills Tuesday, June 11, in the Atlantic Ocean while en route to Cuba. The Russian defense ministry said the drills involved simulated attacks on distant mock targets. 

The Russian fleet arrived in Cuba Wednesday, June 12, just 100 miles from Florida’s Key West. It’s set to move to Venezuela on Monday, June 17. 

These exercises mark the first joint Russian naval and air maneuvers in the Caribbean since 2019. 

Despite the proximity, Cuba has assured these visits are routine among allies and the vessels carry no nuclear weapons, posing no threat to the region. 

The White House views these drills as Russia’s response to U.S. support for Ukraine but does not see them as a threat to U.S. national security. 

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[KARAH RUCKER]

IN AN EFFORT LED BY REPUBLICANS — THE U.S. HOUSE HAS VOTED TO HOLD ATTORNEY GENERAL MERRICK GARLAND IN CONTEMPT OF CONGRESS… AND REFER THE TOP DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE OFFICIAL FOR CRIMINAL CHARGES. 

IT COMES AFTER GARLAND REFUSED TO TURN OVER AUDIO RECORDINGS OF PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN’S INTERVIEWS WITH FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL ROBERT HUR — AS PART OF THE PROBE OVER HIS HANDLING OF CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS. 

THE 216 TO 207 VOTE FELL ALONG PARTY LINES, WITH ONLY ONE REPUBLICAN — REPRESENTATIVE DAVID JOYCE OF OHIO — VOTING AGAINST IT. 

THE VOTE MARKS A MAJOR ESCALATION IN A MONTHS-LONG DISPUTE OVER THE RECORDINGS… WHICH STARTED AFTER PRESIDENT BIDEN ASSERTED EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE OVER THE FILES. 

THE D-O-J HAS STOOD BY THE DECISION NOT TO RELEASE THE RECORDINGS — SAYING THEY’VE ALREADY PROVIDED TRANSCRIPTS. 

DOJ OFFIICALS WRITING IN AN AFFIDAVIT THE TRANSCRIPTS ACCURATELY MATCHES THE AUDIO “EXCEPT FOR MINOR INSTANCES” — LIKE LEAVING OUT FILLER WORDS OR WHEN WORDS WERE REPEATED WHEN SPOKEN. 

HOUSE REPUBLICANS ARGUE THE RECORDINGS ARE CRUCIAL TO THEIR IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY INTO THE PRESIDENT — WHICH HAS STALLED. 

Rep. Mike Johnson | R-LA, House Speaker 

“He is refusing to comply with a lawful subpoena. And that’s a problem under Article One. We have to defend the Constitution. We have to defend the authority of Congress. We can’t allow the Department of Justice, an executive branch agency to hide information from Congress. We have important oversight responsibilities, and that is what is being pursued here.” 

ATTORNEY GENERAL GARLAND RESPONDED TO THE DECISION TO HOLD HIM IN CONTEMPT LATE LAST NIGHT — SAYING “IT IS DEEPLY DISAPPOINTING THAT THIS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES HAS TURNED A SERIOUS CONGRESSIONAL AUTHORITY INTO A PARTISAN WEAPON. 

TODAY’S VOTE DISREGARDS THE CONSTITUTIONAL SEPARATION OF POWERS, THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT’S NEED TO PROTECT ITS INVESTIGATIONS, AND THE SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNT OF INFORMATION WE HAVE PROVIDED TO THE COMMITTEES.” 

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN IS IN ITALY THURSAY FOR THE G-7 SUMMIT, WHERE HE IS EXPECTED TO SIGN A 10-YEAR BILATERAL SECURITY PACT WITH UKRAINE. 

THIS AGREEMENT IS SAID TO BETTER STRENGTHEN THE LONG-TERM SECURITY RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE TWO NATIONS, WITH COMMITMENTS TO CONTINUE TRAINING UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES, ENHANCE WEAPONS PRODUCTION COOPERATION, AND INCREASE INTELLIGENCE SHARING. 

THE G-7 LEADERS ARE ALSO SET TO ENDORSE A PLAN TO PROVIDE UKRAINE WITH 50 BILLION DOLLARS IN LOANS… USING FROZEN RUSSIAN ASSETS TO FUND THE INITIATIVE. 

WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR JAKE SULLIVAN MENTIONED THAT WHILE THE MAJOR ASPECTS OF THE PLAN HAVE BEEN AGREED UPON, SOME DETAILS WILL STILL NEED TO BE FINALIZED. 

ADDITIONALLY, ON WEDNESDAY, THE U.S. EXPANDED ITS SANCTIONS AGAINST MOSCOW TO INCLUDE CHINESE COMPANIES THAT SUPPLY SEMICONDUCTORS. 

THIS MOVE AIMS TO PRESSURE BEIJING OVER ITS SUPPORT FOR RUSSIA AND ADDRESS ISSUES OF INDUSTRIAL OVERCAPACITY. 

THE SUMMIT IS ALSO ADDRESSING OTHER CRITICAL GLOBAL ISSUES, INCLUDING THE MIDDLE EAST, MIGRATION, AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. 

THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION IS FACING ITS FIRST LAWSUIT OVER PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN’S RECENT ORDER TEMPORARILY SHUTTING DOWN THE U-S’ SOUTHERN BORDER. 

THE LAWSUIT — FILED BY THE AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION ON BEHALF OF A COALITION OF IMMIGRANT ADVOCACY GROUPS — IS THE FIRST BIG CHALLENGE TO THE EXECUTIVE ORDER PUT IN PLACE JUST OVER A WEEK AGO. 

THE RESTRICTIONS BAR MIGRANTS FROM SEEKING ASYLUM WHEN BORDER ENCOUNTERS RISE ABOVE 25-HUNDRED PER DAY. 

IN ITS FIRST WEEK IMPLEMENTED — THE NUMBER OF MIGRANTS CROSSING HAS FALLEN BY 25 PERCENT, ACCORDING TO DHS OFFICIALS. 

HOWEVER — THE NUMBER OF MIGRANTS COMING OVER IS STILL MORE THAN THE NUMBER ALLOWED — ABOUT 3 THOUSAND PER DAY. 

THE EXECUTIVE ACTION WAS MEANT TO MAKE ILLEGAL BORDER CROSSERS INELIGIBLE FOR ASYLUM — 

BUT OFFICIALS SAY THOUSANDS OF MIGRANTS A DAY ARE STILL BEING RELEASED INTO THE U.S. BECAUSE OF “LIMITED OPTIONS.” 

THE LAWSUIT DID NOT SEEK AN EMERGENCY INJUNCTION TO BLOCK THE NEW RULE — SO IT WILL STAY IN PLACE WHILE THE CHALLENGE PLAYS OUT IN COURT. 

THE FEDERAL RESERVE HELD INTEREST RATES STEADY WEDNESDAY, POTENTIALLY DELAYING ANY RATE CUTS UNTIL DECEMBER. 

FED CHAIR JEROME POWELL, SPEAKING AFTER A TWO-DAY POLICY MEETING, SAYS THE U.S. ECONOMY’S GROWTH AND UNEMPLOYMENT RATES ARE PERFORMING BETTER THAN LONG-TERM SUSTAINABLE LEVELS, PROMPTING THE DECISION TO MAINTAIN THE CURRENT RATE. 

DURING A PRESS CONFERENCE, POWELL SAID INFLATION HAS BEEN DECREASING WITHOUT SEVERELY IMPACTING THE ECONOMY AND HE ANTICIPATES THIS TREND COULD CONTINUE. THE FED PLANS A GRADUAL RETURN OF INFLATION TO ITS 2-PERCENT TARGET. 

JEROME POWELL | FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN  

“We know that reducing policy restraint too soon or too much could result in a reversal of the progress that we’ve seen on inflation. At the same time, reducing policy restraint too late or too little could unduly weaken economic activity and employment. In considering any adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the committee will carefully assess incoming data, the evolving outlook and the balance of risks.” 

[KARAH RUCKER]

POWELL SAYS WHILE SOME DETAILS OF FUTURE RATE CUTS ARE STILL BEING FINALIZED, THE TIMING OF THESE CUTS WILL DEPEND ON A RANGE OF ECONOMIC DATA, INCLUDING LABOR MARKET HEALTH AND GROWTH PROJECTIONS. 

AS THE FED’S LATEST INTEREST RATE ANNOUNCEMENT WAS MADE… OUR OWN SIMONE DEL ROSARIO AND FORMER KANSAS CITY FED PRESIDENT THOMAS HOENIG HAD LIVE ANALYSIS OF THE FUTURE OF MONETARY POLICY. YOU CAN WATCH THAT HERE.

FOR THE THIRD DAY IN A ROW — HEAVY RAIN IS THREATENING MORE DESTRUCTIVE FLOODING IN SOUTH FLORIDA… AFTER WEDNESDAY’S STORMS TURNED STREETS INTO RIVERS AND RUSHED INTO HOMES. 

FLORIDA GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS DECLARED AN EMERGENCY FOR FIVE COUNTIES AFTER DANGEROUS FLOODING IMMOBILIZED THE OPERATIONS OF CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE — INCLUDING MAJOR INTERSTATES, ROADWAYS, SCHOOLS AND THE MIAMI AND FORT LAUDERDALE AIRPORTS. 

ON TUESDAY NIGHT ALONE — A RECORD-BREAKING EIGHT INCHES OF RAIN HIT FLORIDA’S WEST COAST IN JUST THREE HOURS. 

FLOOD WATCHES ARE IN EFFECT THROUGH FRIDAY NIGHT ACROSS SOUTH FLORIDA — WHICH IS THE STATE’S MOST POPULOUS AREA — AS MORE ROUNDS OF HEAVY RAINFALL ARE EXPECTED. 

METEOROLOGISTS SAY MANY PARTS OF THE STATE ARE LIKELY TO SEE DOUBLE-DIGIT RAINFALL TOTALS BY THE TIME THE STORMS FULLY PASS. 

THREE RUSSIAN WARSHIPS AND A NUCLEAR-POWERED SUBMARINE CONDUCTED DRILLS TUESDAY IN THE ATLANTIC OCEAN WHILE EN ROUTE TO CUBA.  

THE RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY SAID THE DRILLS INVOLVED SIMULATED ATTACKS ON DISTANT MOCK TARGETS. 

THE RUSSIAN FLEET ARRIVED IN CUBA WEDNESDAY — JUST 100 MILES FROM FLORIDA’S KEY WEST — AND WILL LATER MOVE TO VENEZUELA ON MONDAY. 

THESE EXERCISES MARK THE FIRST JOINT RUSSIAN NAVAL AND AIR MANEUVERS IN THE CARIBBEAN SINCE 2019. 

DESPITE THE PROXIMITY, CUBA HAS ASSURED THESE VISITS ARE ROUTINE AMONG ALLIES — AND THE VESSELS CARRY NO NUCLEAR WEAPONS, POSING NO THREAT TO THE REGION. 

THE WHITE HOUSE VIEWS THESE DRILLS AS RUSSIA’S RESPONSE TO U.S. SUPPORT FOR UKRAINE BUT DOES NOT SEE THEM AS A THREAT TO U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY.