Hello and welcome back to the D.C. Memo. This week you can find me celebrating the return of cherry blossom season to D.C. If you’ve never been to the District in the March-April time period, you haven’t experienced the beauty of the cherry trees here (nor have you had to navigate through the worst lines and traffic the city sees almost all year). It’s the time of year when seemingly every bar and café have a cherry blossom cocktail or latte, and tons of local businesses have themed cherry blossom events. There’s also the cherry blossom 10K race around the Tidal Basin … have I said cherry blossom enough? Aside from springtime glee, here’s what else happened in Washington this week: Biden gave the SOTU to mixed reviews, the Jan. 6 select committee delivers bad news to Trump and Rep. Ilhan Omar fights to end no-knock warrants across the country.
What state is our union in?
President Biden gave his first State of the Union address Tuesday night. I won’t go into too much detail here, because I wrote a whole story on it this week. Here are some general highlights:
Biden spent a lot of time on Ukraine: The president said that he would not put American troops on the ground in Ukraine, but if Russia invaded any European Union country, it would be a different story. He also commended Ukrainians for their bravery and condemned Russia as the aggressor.
Some heckling came from the crowd: Biden got boos from some people in the crowd at various points in the speech, and was interrupted by Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert while he was talking about veterans affected by burn pits.
Inflation is bad, but Biden didn’t say how he’d fix it: Well, he did say that a good way to fight inflation was to “lower your costs, not your wages.” I’m no economist, but it seems like the solution to the highest inflation rate in 40 years might be a bit more complicated than that.
The Minnesota delegation reacted about how you’d expect: Minnesota’s Republican representatives were critical of Biden’s speech, while the Democrats were in support of it. Nothing new here. The two parties united in support of Ukraine, but that’s about it.
A bombshell legal filing
A war in Ukraine, the State of the Union, and now this: On Wednesday night, the Jan. 6 select committee — led by Reps. Bennie Thompson (D- MS) and Liz Cheney (R-WY) — is now asserting that former President Donald Trump “and others” may have committed fraud and obstruction in trying to overturn the 2020 election.
This may sound like nothing new, but this latest filing is the committee’s clearest statement yet on what it considers possible criminal activity by Trump. Something to keep in mind: No former U.S. president has ever been charged with a crime (but a few have been accused).
The committee’s lawyers for the first time laid out their theory of a potential criminal case against the former president. They said they had accumulated evidence demonstrating that Trump, the conservative lawyer John Eastman and other allies could potentially be charged with criminal violations including obstructing an official proceeding of Congress and conspiracy to defraud the American people. The committee also found evidence that Trump’s repeated lies that the election was stolen amounted to common law fraud.
They’re not taking any chances, either — the committee asked the judge in the case to review case material behind closed doors.
Fifth District Rep. Ilhan Omar introduced the Amir Locke End Deadly No-Knock Warrants Act, which bans quick-knock warrants, all nighttime warrants, as well as the use of flash-bang stun grenades, other explosive devices, chemical weapons or any military-grade firearms.
The bill also would set up strict limitations on the use of no-knock warrants in drug-related investigations.
Omar’s bill is named after Amir Locke, the 22-year-old who was fatally shot last month by a Minneapolis SWAT officer during a no-knock warrant execution tied to the investigation of a St. Paul murder. Locke was asleep on his cousin’s couch at the time of the shooting. His name was not listed on the warrant.
Mark Hanneman, the officer who shot Locke, has not been charged with any crime and is currently on paid administrative leave as the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigates the shooting.
“Far too often, no-knock warrants and raids have severe and deadly consequences, resulting in property damage, trauma, and death,” Omar said in a statement announcing the bill. “It is unconscionable that no-knock warrants continue to be in effect with little to no restrictions, regulations, and regard for the impact on lives. These preventable tragedies result in mistrust and leave behind deep wounds for families and communities that have a long history of aggressive over-policing.”
Lots of lawmakers won’t like this
Second District Rep. Angie Craig introduced a bill Thursday that might upset quite a few members of Congress.
The No Tax Dollars for First-Class Flights Act would do exactly what its name suggests: If this bill passes, members of Congress would no longer be able to use taxpayer dollars for first-class flight tickets.
“Serving your community in Congress is a privilege – but taxpayers should not foot the bill for special privileges or perks. Especially today, when Americans all across the country are cutting costs and tightening their belts, Members of Congress have no business using taxpayer funds to fly first-class,” Craig said in a statement. “I am proud to introduce this long-overdue reform to cut down on waste and ensure that elected officials are working only to serve their communities.”
When I saw the press release announcing this bill, I couldn’t help but think of something I saw on the “Overheard District” Instagram account, which collects submissions from people in the D.C. area of wacky things they overhear. One submission came from the D.C. airport, where someone overheard a member of Congress trying to upgrade to first class, but the section was full.
“OK Congressman, which one of your constituents should I downgrade, because they’re gonna see you sit in their seat,” the gate agent responded. I really wish I knew which member this was.
What I’m reading
- “Resistance, desire, hope: How 3 Black queer photographers look at love,” Washington Post. Black queer people have historically not been given the same space in the media as their white, heterosexual counterparts to celebrate what love can look like. This piece not only celebrates the art created by three photographers, but shares their thoughts on the work that they’ve done and how they look at and think about Black queer love.
- “Chef José Andrés makes emotional plea as he helps feed Ukrainian refugees at Poland border,” CBS News. If you haven’t heard of chef José Andrés before, he is a D.C. legend. He leads a couple of the city’s best restaurants, and also is known for incredible humanitarian work. His World Central Kitchen team worked to feed people in D.C. during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and in Haiti after the country’s most recent devastating hurricane. He’s been at this since 2010. Now, Andrés traveled from D.C. to Poland to give hot meals to refugees fleeing Ukraine. I’d highly recommend watching the video embedded in this article to see Andres talk about what he’s seen at the border.
That’s all from me this week. Thanks for reading. As always, please feel free to send any questions, comments or stories of when a member of Congress stole your first class airline ticket to firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on Twitter at @byashleyhackett.