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Political notebook

Justice Department requests transcripts from Jan. 6 committee

Attorney General Merrick Garland appears to be ramping up the pace of his investigation into the 2021 Capitol riot.SARAH SILBIGER/NYT

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has asked the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack for transcripts of interviews it is conducting, which have included discussions with associates of former president Donald Trump, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

The move, coming as Attorney General Merrick Garland appears to be ramping up the pace of his investigation into the 2021 Capitol riot, is the clearest sign yet of a wide-ranging inquiry at the Justice Department.

The House committee has interviewed more than 1,000 people so far, and the transcripts could be used as evidence in potential criminal cases, to pursue new leads, or as a baseline text for new interviews conducted by federal law enforcement officials.

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Aides to Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and chair of the committee, have yet to reach a final agreement with the Justice Department on what will be turned over, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the investigations.

On April 20, Kenneth A. Polite Jr., the assistant attorney general for the criminal division, and Matthew M. Graves, the US attorney for the District of Columbia, wrote to Timothy J. Heaphy, the lead investigator for the House panel, advising him that some committee interviews “may contain information relevant to a criminal investigation we are conducting.”

Polite and Graves did not indicate the number of transcripts they were requesting or whether any interviews were of particular interest. In their letter, they made a broad request, asking that the panel “provide to us transcripts of these interviews, and of any additional interviews you conduct in the future.”

Spokespeople for the Justice Department and the House committee declined to comment.

A subpoena reviewed by The New York Times indicates that the Justice Department is exploring the actions taken by rally planners.

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Prosecutors have begun asking for records about people who organized or spoke at several pro-Trump rallies after the 2020 election as well as anyone who provided security at those events, and about those who were deemed to be “VIP attendees.”

They are also seeking information about any members of the executive and legislative branches who may have taken part in planning or executing the rallies, or tried to “obstruct, influence, impede or delay” the certification of the election, as the subpoena put it.

New York Times

Trump’s candidates face challenges in Pa., N.C.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Former president Donald Trump on Tuesday faces the strongest test yet of his ability to shape a new generation of Republicans as voters in Pennsylvania and North Carolina decide whether to rally around his hand-picked choices for critical Senate seats.

As this year’s midterm primary season enters its busiest stretch with races also unfolding in Kentucky, Oregon, and Idaho, Trump is poised to notch several easy wins. In North Carolina, US Representative Ted Budd is expected to best a packed field of GOP rivals, including a former governor. And in Pennsylvania’s GOP race for governor, far-right contender Doug Mastriano was already leading before Trump backed him over the weekend.

But Trump’s preferred Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, Mehmet Oz, has divided conservatives who are typically in lockstep with Trump. Some are suspicious of the ideological leanings of the celebrity heart surgeon who gained fame as a frequent guest on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show. Oz has spent much of the campaign in a heated fight with former hedge fund CEO David McCormick.

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That’s allowed commentator Kathy Barnette to emerge in the final days of the primary as a conservative alternative to both Oz and McCormick. Should she win the primary and general election, Barnette would be the first Black Republican woman elected to the US Senate.

Trump, who has held campaign-style rallies with Oz, insists he is the best candidate to keep the Senate seat in Republican hands in the fall. Given his level of involvement in the race, a loss would be a notable setback for the former president, who is wielding endorsements as a way to prove his dominance over the GOP ahead of a potential 2024 presidential run.

“I think he’s tough. He’s very smart. He’ll be helpful,” Trump told a Philadelphia radio station on Tuesday, referring to Oz. “I also think he’s the one that’s gonna win the election. You know that’s not an easy election to win.”

Democrats have their own high-profile primaries. In Pennsylvania, progressive Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman has dominated the Senate race but was forced off the campaign trail by a stroke. The 52-year-old tweeted a picture of himself casting an emergency absentee ballot from the hospital and his campaign later released a statement saying he was undergoing surgery to implement a pacemaker with a defibrillator, which should address the root cause of his health scare.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who was unopposed for his party’s governor’s nomination, tweeted that he had mild COVID-19 systems that were forcing him from the campaign trail.

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In North Carolina, Cheri Beasley is the clear front-runner in her 11-candidate primary for the Democratic Senate nomination. If she prevails in November, Beasley would be the state’s first Black senator — and if she, or Barnette, get to the Senate either would be just the third African American woman ever elected to the chamber.

Tuesday’s contests could ultimately determine how competitive the general election will be this fall, when control of Congress, governor’s mansions, and key elections posts are up for grabs. That’s especially true in the perennial political battleground of Pennsylvania, where some Republicans are already worried that Mastriano is too extreme to woo moderates who are often decisive in general elections.

“There’s definitely some concern in large factions of the party,” said Pennsylvania Republican strategist Vince Galko.

More fundamentally, Tuesday’s primaries could test voters’ commitment to democratic principles. Barnette is running even further to the right than Oz and participated in the January 2021 rally that turned into an insurrection at the US Capitol.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

House spending bill tackles formula shortage

WASHINGTON — House Democrats unveiled a $28 million emergency spending bill Tuesday to address the shortage of infant formula in the United States.

Representative Rosa DeLauro, the Democratic chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the bill would help the Food and Drug Administration take important steps to restore the formula supply in a safe and secure manner.

The funding would increase FDA staffing focused on the formula shortage to boost inspections, prevent fraudulent products from getting onto store shelves, and acquire better data on the marketplace, lawmakers said.

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The shortage stems from a February recall by Abbott Nutrition that exacerbated ongoing supply chain disruptions among formula makers, leaving fewer options on stores shelves across much of the country.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ex-lawmaker set to plead guilty

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Former Representative Corrine Brown, whose initial conviction in a charity and tax fraud case was tossed out by an appeals court, will plead guilty before a second trial, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

US District Judge Timothy Corrigan scheduled a change of plea hearing Wednesday morning for Brown, a once-powerful Florida Democrat who had previously pleaded not guilty to 18 charges including mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, and filing false tax returns.

Brown’s lawyers did not immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment. It was not clear which specific charges Brown would plead guilty to.

The second trial had been set to begin Sept. 12. Brown’s original 2017 conviction was thrown out by the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals because Corrigan improperly removed a juror during deliberations who had said the “Holy Spirit” told him she was innocent.

Brown, 75, served about two years of a five-year sentence before her release in April 2020 because of fears her age made her more susceptible to the coronavirus pandemic in prison.

Before the fraud case, Brown represented the Jacksonville area in Congress for about 25 years.

ASSOCIATED PRESS