FBI used Foreign Surveillance Act to spy on Jan. 6 protesters
Also: DeSantis's gears up for his presidential bid
👋 Good morning, and welcome back. The alleged corruption within the FBI has become a public focal point in recent years. So much so, that the 2024 GOP frontrunners are prioritizing reforming or even completely replacing the institution. Although it's unclear whether they'll be able to deliver, their stance signals a growing American distrust of our intelligence structures.
Today, the team is covering:
📃 Ron DeSantis’s legislative sweep,
👀 FBI broke protocol to spy on protestors,
🗳 DeSantis's 2024 Iowa strategy,
➕ And everything else you need to know.
DeSantis signs a host of conservative bills as he prepares to launch his 2024 campaign
What’s going on: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to announce his presidential campaign next week. In the past month, he has signed numerous conservative bills into law and held speeches in various states, possibly in an attempt to appeal to Republican voters ahead of a bid for the presidency.
Some of the legislation DeSantis recently signed includes:
On trans issues: Gender transition procedures for minors and drag shows in front of children are now banned. Classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation is banned until eighth grade, and trans people must use restrooms and locker rooms corresponding with their biological sex.
Other social issues: In April, DeSantis signed a six-week abortion ban (with exceptions for rape and incest) and legalized concealed carry without a permit. Another measure will defund diversity and equity programs at state colleges and universities.
Health care: Physicians can now decline to provide care (excluding emergency services) to patients based on their moral or religious beliefs, and another measure prohibits COVID-related mandates imposed by governments or businesses.
Immigration and trafficking: Four bills crack down on human trafficking, and new immigration legislation makes it harder for businesses to hire illegal immigrants and limits illegal immigrants’ access to social services.
Political strategy: For months, DeSantis has avoided questions about a presidential campaign and largely ignored Republican candidate Donald Trump’s jabs at him. Now, he is angling further right than Trump on certain cultural issues, presumably to win over Trump supporters. Recent polls show Republicans favor Trump over DeSantis by a large margin.
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WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
✈️ Mexico issues its first “nonbinary” passport with an “X” gender marker. Mexico will now join the chorus of nations rejecting biological reality by allowing passport applicants to avoid marking male or female with an “X” option. LGBT activists are apparently unhappy that the new system “confuses” the supposed difference between sex and gender and “reinforces a stigma” against people who identify as nonbinary.
⚖️ Man who ran over a Republican teen with his car pleads guilty to manslaughter. Shannon Brandt of North Dakota admitted to running over and killing a teen whom he thought was a “Republican extremist” while intoxicated. Foster County State Attorney Kara Brinster lowered his charges from murder to manslaughter earlier this month. Brandt is out on bond and faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
🪖 Russia gains ground in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. Russia claims to have completely overtaken the city, which holds symbolic importance for Ukraine and has seen some of the most intense fighting in the war thus far. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenksyy says his forces have held on to part of it. "They’ve destroyed everything,” he said. “There are no buildings …. It’s [a] tragedy.”
🗳️ Washington state removes the ID requirement for voter registration and requires a Social Security number. State residents will only have to present the last four digits of their Social Security number to register online. Those who apply for a driver’s license or other identification will be automatically registered to vote by doing so. The measures are intended to ease the voting process but could pose security risks as Americans’ Social Security numbers are exposed constantly.
The FBI abused warrantless surveillance tool to spy on political protesters, donors
What’s new: In a newly released court document from April 2022, a federal judge found that the FBI improperly used a digital database to look up information on individuals over 278,000 times between 2020 and early 2021. Under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a 9/11-era protocol, agents are allowed to search the database if they have reason to believe they will find evidence of foreign influence or crimes, but they repeatedly failed to meet that threshold. The FBI now claims that staff misunderstood the requirements at the time and that it has since fixed the problem.
What were they looking for? The government searched for the personal data and communications of Black Lives Matter protesters in 2020 and January 6 protesters in 2021, baselessly claiming that it might find evidence of foreign influence. Based on the same reasoning, it also looked up information on donors for a congressional candidate, whose name isn’t revealed in the court document. Its other searches had to do with seemingly unrelated criminal cases.
Why it matters: The Biden administration has urged Congress to vote to renew Section 702 before it expires at the end of the year, saying that its intelligence-gathering powers are vital against China and other threats. But in light of these abuses, Republicans and Democrats say that there must be reforms to the system first. This controversy adds to recent scrutiny of the FBI from lawmakers and presidential candidates as part of an ongoing push to rein in the federal bureaucracy.
Watching 2024: Former President Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, and Vivek Ramaswamy have all called for serious reform of the FBI.
A history of partisan abuse: In 2016, the agency used false information to obtain FISA warrants on former President Donald Trump’s campaign adviser to wiretap his phone. In this case, the FBI made over 23,000 separate searches for people suspected to be involved in the January 6 riot, while there were only 133 searches for people involved with Black Lives Matter protests.
DeSantis’s big bet on Iowa amid the Trump feud
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to formally announce his presidential campaign soon, setting the stage for a showdown with former President Donald Trump. DeSantis' strategy to claim the GOP 2024 nomination? An all-out push in Iowa.
Why it matters: Despite trailing behind Trump further than ever in the polls, DeSantis sees a path to victory through Iowa, traditionally the first state to award delegates in a primary. The Florida governor is reportedly planning to invest substantial resources into the Iowa caucuses, potentially visiting all 99 of the state's counties. He plans to imitate the same strategy behind Ted Cruz's surprise Iowa win in 2016.
However, the strategy could backfire due to…
Note: This is a small excerpt from yesterday’s Upward+ weekend edition.
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IN THE LOOP
🚨 Twenty-four GOP governors have promised to help Texas Gov. Greg Abbott secure his state’s southern border.
📃 A border security bill advancing in the Texas Legislature would increase the penalty for human smuggling and make illegal border crossing a crime.
🚌 New York City Mayor Eric Adams says migrants should be sent to every city in America. “If everyone takes a small portion of that … it is not a burden on one city.”
👀 The late sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein reportedly blackmailed Bill Gates with the knowledge that Gates had an affair with a Russian woman in her 20s.
🚫 The NAACP says in a travel advisory that Florida is “openly hostile” to black and LGBT people.
What do you think should be done regarding the FBI?
Poll results will be in tomorrow’s newsletter.
POLL RESULTS FROM LAST FRIDAY
Do you think entertainment is being ruined by political ideologies?
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 👍 Yes (97.8%)
⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 👎 No (0.7%)
⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🤔 Unsure (1.5%)
✍️ Today’s newsletter was written by Ari, Hudson, and Joanna and edited by Alyssa.
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