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Federal prosecutors charge Japanese Yakuza leader in nuclear material trafficking conspiracy

U.S. prosecutors have charged a man identified as a leader of the Japanese organized crime syndicate Yakuza with conspiring to traffic nuclear materials from Myanmar to other countries, according to a superseding indictment announced Wednesday.

Authorities said they brought the charges against Takeshi Ebisawa after he and other associates in Thailand allegedly showed samples of nuclear material to an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent posing as a narcotics and weapons trafficker.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a press release that the U.S. worked with Thai authorities to seize the nuclear samples, which were subsequently transferred to U.S. law enforcement custody.

A U.S. nuclear forensic lab confirmed the samples contained uranium and weapons-grade plutonium, according to the DOJ.

Federal prosecutors stressed the significance of the charges against a leader of the Yakuza, a crime syndicate that operates in multiple countries around the world.

“Ebisawa’s criminal activities have included large-scale narcotics and weapons trafficking, and his international criminal network extends through Asia, Europe, and the United States, among other places,” the indictment states.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York said in a statement it’s “impossible to overstate the seriousness of the conduct alleged in today’s Indictment.”

“As alleged, Takeshi Ebisawa brazenly trafficked material containing uranium and weapons-grade plutonium from Burma to other countries. He allegedly did so while believing that the material was going to be used in the development of a nuclear weapons program, and the weapons-grade plutonium he trafficked, if produced in sufficient quantities, could have been used for that purpose,” Williams said.

“Even as he allegedly attempted to sell nuclear materials, Ebisawa also negotiated for the purchase of deadly weapons, including surface-to-air missiles,” Williams stated.

According to the indictment, the undercover DEA agent agreed to broker the sale of the nuclear materials from Ebisawa to an associate posing as an Iranian general.

Ebisawa has been charged along with another defendant who was also previously accused of international narcotics trafficking and firearm offenses in 2022. The pair will be arraigned before a judge Thursday afternoon.

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said the defendants allegedly offered the nuclear material “fully expecting that Iran would use it for nuclear weapons.”

“This is an extraordinary example of the depravity of drug traffickers who operate with total disregard for human life,” Milgram said in a statement.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen similarly warned of the potential danger if the nuclear material had actually been sold.

Olsen said Ebisawa was allegedly conspiring to sell the nuclear material from Myanmar “and to purchase military weaponry on behalf of an armed insurgent group.”

“It is chilling to imagine the consequences had these efforts succeeded, and the Justice Department will hold accountable those who traffic in these materials and threaten U.S. national security and international stability,” Olsen said.

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Border deal collapse raises pressure on DHS funding talks

Democratic appropriators say the collapse of the bipartisan border deal could pose added hurdles to the annual funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), particularly as they look to dial up pressure on Republicans.

“There are some challenges but we’re trying to address them,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas), top Democrat on the House subcommittee that oversees DHS funding, told reporters on Thursday, adding that negotiators “were expecting extra money on the supplemental – it didn’t happen.” 

The annual DHS measure is one the 12 appropriations bills Congress must pass before a pair of deadlines next month to avert partial government shutdowns. The bill covers funding for DHS and its agencies, including Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Cuellar said that he and Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio), head of the House subcommittee helping assemble the DHS funding bill, have been in contact and plan to huddle during recess next week to negotiate. 

“We just finished talking. We’re gonna talk over the weekend and talk next week,” he said. But he also acknowledged some of the challenges facing negotiators. 

“ICE is short to pay the pay raise … that’s going to be a billion dollars for the pay raise,” he said, while also noting funding for FEMA and other priorities.

“We’ve got needs for Coast Guard. We’ve got border security stuff. So, we got a little bit more money, but not as much as we were hoping.”

His comments come as various senior appropriators in both chambers have discussed the difficulty in crafting their funding bills with the added limits of a budget caps deal struck between President Biden and then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) last year. 

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who heads the subcommittee working out the DHS funding bill in the upper chamber, has also argued in recent weeks that the topline that negotiators are working from for the bill could be too low without a separate deal for emergency border funds. 

“The department is way over budget, because of the high numbers of presentations they have,” he said earlier this month, adding “the supplemental is designed to help the administration afford the high costs of crossings.”

Murphy served as the chief Democratic negotiator in monthslong discussions with Republicans that produced the bipartisan border and national security supplemental package.

The bill grew out of a White House supplemental budget request that paired DHS funding with aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

Discussing some of the hurdles negotiators now face in crafting the annual DHS funding bill, Cuellar described the task as “challenging in trying to have enough money,” adding a supplemental package “would make our life a lot easier.”

But some Republicans have also sought to turn the attention back on Democrats on the issue of funding. 

Asked about Murphy’s comments last week, Sen. Katie Britt (Ala.), top Republican on the Senate subcommittee serving alongside him, pushed back.

“Let’s just rewind to the fact that President Biden, when he put forth his budget a year ago for DHS, he gave him a 1 percent cut across the board,” Britt said last week, but she added, “it’s not just having the money, it’s making sure the money is used in the right way.”

“Do you know that we have 1.3 million people in this nation that have been given due process and have final orders of removal, and we needed the administration to take it serious to actually remove those individuals that are here unlawfully,” Britt argued.

And responding to Cuellar’s comments on Friday, Britt said in a statement, “If ICE detention capacity is truly a newfound priority of theirs, we can alleviate these concerns in ongoing FY24 appropriations work.”

“Instead of Democrats sending money to NGOs that want to defund ICE, they should support robust funding for ICE detention capacity and removal operations,” she argued. 

The GOP push to fund immigration enforcement and defund immigration processing runs directly counter to the view from the left, which sees current enforcement funding as wasteful.

Immigration advocates scoffed at the idea that DHS law enforcement agencies, especially ICE, are underfunded.

“The idea that ICE is this poor, underfunded agency is simply counterfactual,” said Heidi Altman, director of policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center.

As appropriations talks picked up in Congress, ICE officials this week leaked plans to release detainees and cut detention space if the agency’s budgetary woes aren’t resolved.

Advocates don’t see those plans as a threat, rather as a long-overdue cost-cutting and humanitarian measure.

ICE’s complaints were especially strident to advocates because the agency’s exposure to increased border apprehension numbers is less than that of CBP or USCIS and because they view ICE’s detention system as expensive and problematic.

On Friday, 50 House Democrats led by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) and Melanie Stansbury (N.M.) called on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to turn over a 2022 ICE memo that recommended closing or downsizing detention facilities that cost the agency $235 million a year.

The Democrats pointed out that 90 percent of detained immigrants are housed in for-profit facilities, which are “incentivized to cut costs, including on staffing and health care, to pad their profits.” 

“Further, the Fiscal Year 2023 omnibus appropriations bill that has been extended through March provides DHS with the funding to detain 34,000 individuals in civil immigration detention. Currently, DHS is detaining over 38,000 individuals, yet many of the private immigration facilities included in the memorandum hold substantially fewer people than ICE pays for,” wrote the lawmakers.

“As such, even while detaining 4,000 people over the level set by Congress, the Department is simultaneously overpaying private detention companies to provide substandard care to migrants who aren’t even housed within their facilities. This is untenable.”

ICE officials did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

As lawmakers scramble for another vehicle for Ukraine and Israel funding, members on both sides are looking for legislative solutions with border add-ons that can win bipartisan support. That includes a recent emergency funding bill unveiled Friday that proposes the return of the “Remain in Mexico” policy, among other border measures.

However, the bill already faces stiff odds in the House, amid opposition from conservatives pressing for even stricter policies. 

Such border policies are likely to run afoul with many in the Democratic caucus.

Party leadership has also doubled down on calls for House GOP leaders to instead bring up the latest national security bill that passed the Senate, minus the previous border deal, in advance of the House measure’s rollout.

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Turner sparks backlash with cryptic call to declassify 'national security threat'

House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner (R-Ohio) is coming under fire — including from members of his own party — after sparking alarm with a cryptic call to declassify information about a “serious national security threat.”

The explosive request stirred a panic on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, where lawmakers raced to a secure area of the Capitol basement to learn the confidential details of the unnamed threat. 

A day later, Turner’s actions are spurring backlash from some of those lawmakers, who say the threat was not imminent and his warnings were overstated. Others, though, are standing behind the Ohio Republican, defending his integrity and backing his call to release the information.

The episode has highlighted the eroding trust between different wings of the Republican Party, with some of Turner’s harshest critics leveling accusations that he made the comment to advance legislative priorities they opposed: Ukraine aid and reforms to the nation’s warrantless surveillance powers, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

“It was irresponsible,” said Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), a member of the Judiciary Committee. “I think he was trying to motivate the Ukraine funding and a clean FISA reauthorization. I know he’s passionate about both of those things, but I feel like he might have been using that announcement to motivate both of those, and shouldn’t have done that.”

Some prominent Democrats also joined the chorus of critics, saying Turner’s actions risked exposing sensitive intelligence information to America’s enemies. 

“This is stuff that should not be made public, and the reason for that is: We’re trying to protect sources and methods. We’re trying to make sure that adversaries don’t know what we know, unless we think it’s to our advantage. And then also we’re trying to make sure that we preserve [the identity of] the people who are giving that information, and how we’re getting it. And this places that at risk,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, told CNN on Thursday morning.

Smith emphasized that there are circumstances when it’s advantageous to America’s security interests that certain information be disclosed publicly.

“But that is a decision that is made at the highest levels of the executive branch. It’s not a decision that one individual member of Congress wakes up one day and decides he’s going to do on his own,” Smith said. “So this is a highly, highly risky move, and I don’t have an explanation for it.”

But claims Turner had ulterior motives in calling for the release of the information were roundly rejected by those that work with him on the Intelligence Committee. 

“Anybody who’s familiar with what is the situation here, they should be thanking and hugging Mike Turner. Trust me,” Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) said, adding that he supports the chair’s call to have the information released publicly.

Turner sent a letter to House colleagues Tuesday informing them that the full Intelligence Committee voted to make information available to members regarding “an urgent matter with regard to a destabilizing foreign military capability that should be known by all Congressional Policy Makers.”

On Wednesday, Turner took that message public, releasing a short statement disclosing the “serious national security threat” and calling on President Biden to declassify the information — a move that caught even other members of the Intelligence Committee by surprise.

Turner has thus far not addressed his reasons for Wednesday’s public release, instead focusing on the full committee’s decision to share the information with House lawmakers a day earlier.

“The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence worked in consultation with the Biden Administration to notify Congress of this national security threat,” Turner said in a statement on Thursday, noting the 23-1 committee vote to allow other members to see it.

“In addition, language in the bipartisan notification issued by the Chair and Ranking Member to all Members of the House was cleared by the Administration prior to its release.”

And after leaving a briefing with national security adviser Jake Sullivan, he also stressed the need to work with the Biden administration on the matter.

“We believe that it was important enough to notify other Members of Congress as this is unfolding. There will be, I think, times in which the Congress needs to be engaged and support the administration,” he said Thursday.

White House national security communications adviser John Kirby confirmed Thursday that the threat pertained to a Russian anti-satellite capability.

“While I am limited by how much I can share about the specific nature of the threat, I can confirm that it is related to an anti-satellite capability that Russia is developing,” Kirby said at the White House press briefing.

“I want to be clear about a couple of things right off the bat. First, this is not an active capability that’s been deployed. And though Russia’s pursuit of this particular capability is troubling, there is no immediate threat to anyone’s safety. We are not talking about a weapon that can be used to attack human beings or cause physical destruction here on Earth,” he added.

The GOP’s right wing saw Turner’s statement as a ploy to advance stalled aid to Ukraine and to sink a bill that would reauthorize the nation’s warrantless surveillance power — a fear that led one Republican to call for an inquiry into Turner.

“You had a chairman of the Intelligence Committee who used political agenda, his own political agenda, quite frankly Biden’s political agenda, to try to scare Congress into passing a piece of legislation,” said Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) after writing a letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to review Turner’s actions.

Ogles has yet to view the classified information himself, telling Politico he “chose not to look at the classified information” so that he “can discuss the classified information.” Massie echoed that sentiment, saying he did not go to view the intelligence because he thought it was “trying to motivate opposition to the FISA debate and or trying to motivate Ukraine money.”

The claims are coming only from those opposed to Ukraine aid or those who are eager to amend the warrantless surveillance bill to require court order before viewing any intelligence information incidentally collected on Americans. 

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) accused Turner of taking actions to spike a coming vote on the FISA bill by threatening to tank a rule vote on it, which sets parameters for debate on legislation.

“He brought down the bill by saying he’d vote against the rule. And he then offered all of us a briefing on highly classified material, calling for it to be declassified so we could all see how horrible the threat is,” Issa said. “That is a very, very easy-to-see attempt to change the outcome of the FISA vote.”

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), an Intelligence Committee member, agreed with Turner’s call to declassify. He said the timing was “a 100 percent coincidence” that was based on national security developments, not legislative priorities, and called accusations to the contrary “a little bit of a conspiracy theory.” 

“Ogles needs to f***ing check himself,” Crenshaw said.

“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Like it’s absurd, it was a deeply absurd action. I’m tired of people making extremely passionate, opinionated actions based on no knowledge.”

And Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) also defended Turner’s judgment. 

“He has a lot of integrity. So I would hope that’s not the case,” McCaul said.

He did, however, cite complications to Turner’s plans for release.

“As long as they are able to scrub it in terms of sources and methods, but a lot of it’s so highly technical, I think it’d be very difficult to do,” McCaul said.

Some Democrats also defended Turner’s integrity, even as they questioned the way he went about calling for declassification. 

“I know it’s fashionable just to beat up the other side,” said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), a former member of the Intelligence panel. “In my heart of hearts, my first gut reaction was: He did it because he thought we should know.”

Fitzpatrick, another Intel member, predicted the public can make its own judgments about Turner’s decision soon. 

“I believe that the administration will be declassifying this,” he said, “and then you’ll all know, and you can make that decision for yourself.”

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Speaker Johnson says Russian threat known to Congress for ‘weeks’

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Thursday said Congress has been aware for “weeks” of the threat of Russia developing an anti-satellite weapon and that a response from the U.S. should be immediate, following a classified briefing with President Biden’s senior national security advisers.  

Johnson said he was first informed in January that Russia was developing an anti-satellite capability — a threat that was thrust into the news this week by a public warning issued by House Intelligence Chair Mike Turner (R-Ohio).

“This is a matter that we’ve known about for a few weeks. We requested a meeting with the president. I did, we did in writing in January,” Johnson told reporters Thursday evening after coming out of a classified briefing.

The letter was sent January 31, his office said.

The lawmakers were briefed Thursday evening at the Capitol by national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and a representative from the Pentagon, the lawmakers said.

Johnson stood alongside Turner and Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, after the briefing and expressed confidence the Biden administration has a plan to confront the Russian threat.

“The United States can’t rely on other nations to handle matters like this. We must do it ourselves, and we will,” Johnson said.

Turner described the threat as a “Russian anti-satellite weapon” and added he is supporting the administration’s response. 

“We all came away with a very strong impression that the administration is taking this very seriously and that the administration has a plan in place,” he said.

“We look forward to supporting them as they go to implement it. I think the Department of Defense today has indicated that what we’re discussing is a Russian anti-satellite weapon.”

Turner issued a cryptic statement Wednesday calling on Biden to declassify information about a “serious national security threat” to allow for public discussions about how the U.S. should respond. Members of his party have said he acted with “reckless disregard.”

The tone of unity from the lawmakers and confidence in the administration marked a departure from tensions with the White House immediately after Turner publicized his concern.

White House national security communications adviser John Kirby said Thursday the administration was assessing whether any intelligence sources and methods had been compromised with Turner’s announcement, or if it had hurt the U.S.’s ability to make contact with the Russians to directly raise concerns on the threat. 

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Special counsel Robert Hur to testify publicly on Biden investigation

Special counsel Robert Hur will appear publicly before the House Judiciary Committee on March 12 to answer questions about his investigation into President Biden’s handling of classified records.

The hearing, confirmed by a source familiar, comes as Republicans have called his failure to recommend charges for Biden part of a broader “double standard” amid former President Trump’s prosecution on Espionage Act charges.

In a joint statement last week, House GOP leadership, led by Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), argued that the special counsel’s decision to not charge the president for his handling of classified materials “exposes a two-tiered system of justice with politically motivated charges while carrying water for another amid similar allegations.”

Republicans have also made it clear they are eager to ask Hur about his comments on Biden’s memory.

Three House committees on Monday asked Hur to turn over recordings and transcripts from his interview with Biden.

“Although Mr. Hur reasoned that President Biden’s presentation ‘as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory’ who “did not remember when he was vice president’ or ‘when his son Beau died’ posed challenges to proving the President’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the report concluded that the Department’s principles of prosecution weighed against prosecution because the Department has not prosecuted ‘a former president or vice president for mishandling classified documents from his own administration,’” House Oversight and Accountability Chair Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), House Judiciary Chair Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and House Ways and Means Chair Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) wrote in a letter.

“The one ‘exception’ to the Department’s principles of prosecution, as Mr. Hur noted, ‘is former President Trump.’ This speaks volumes about the Department’s commitment to evenhanded justice.”

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White House monitoring Russian ‘anti-satellite’ capability, cautions no cause for alarm

The Biden administration is monitoring Russia’s pursuit of an “anti-satellite” capability but cautioned there’s little threat to Americans’ personal safety.

“It’s not an active capability and it has not yet been deployed,” White House national security communications adviser John Kirby said Thursday, a day after the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee raised alarm over a dangerous national security threat posed by Russia. 

Kirby called Russia’s pursuit of an “anti-satellite” capability “troubling,” reiterating there is no immediate threat to anyone’s safety. 

“We’re not talking about a weapon that can be used to attack human beings or cause physical destruction here on Earth,” Kirby said. 

Kirby said the U.S. plans to “engage directly with the Russians about this” and will work through the next steps, but had not yet made contact with Russian counterparts.

“I don’t want to minimize the potential here for disruption,” he said. “It could affect services here on Earth, there’s no question about that.”

“Any anti-satellite capability should be of general concern,” Kirby added, noting private and public satellites circling the Earth do communications, command and control, transportation, financial, and commercial concerns.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan is expected to brief lawmakers Thursday on Capitol Hill over the intelligence surrounding the Russian threat, but Kirby said the White House had not made a decision yet to declassify the intelligence as requested by Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio). 

“We make decisions about how and when to publicly disclose intelligence in a careful deliberate and strategic way, in a way that we choose,” Kirby said.

“We’re not going to be knocked off that process, regardless of what, in this particular case has found its way into the public domain,” he added. “I can assure you that we will continue to keep members of Congress as well as our international partners and all of you and the American people as fully informed as possible.”

But Kirby said the White House is assessing with the intelligence community if Turner’s announcement Wednesday had compromised sources and methods of intelligence gathering that is considered before such information is declassified.

“We’re asking ourselves that very question right now, because we want to be able to make sure we’re not or in any way, shape or form, anyone, could potentially compromise sources and methods. So we’re working our way through that analysis with the intelligence community.”

Kirby also said it’s also unclear if Turner’s publicizing the Russian threat had compromised efforts by the administration to engage with Russian officials.

“We’ll have to see,” he said.

Updated at 2:54 pm.

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GOP colleague accuses Turner of 'reckless disregard,' asks for formal inquiry

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A House Republican is calling for an inquiry into House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner (R-Ohio), saying his vague call to declassify a national security threat was done with “reckless disregard.”

Turner on Wednesday called on President Biden to declassify intelligence on a “serious national security threat,” writing it was needed “so that Congress, the Administration, and our allies can openly discuss the actions necessary to respond to this threat.” 

But Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) on Thursday accused Turner of having ulterior motives, citing the battle over both funding for Ukraine and a bill to reauthorize the nation’s warrantless spy powers — each of which has raised some Republican opposition.

“This revelation by the chairman was done with a reckless disregard of the implications and consequences said information would have on geopolitics, domestic and foreign markets, and the well-being and psyche of the American people,” Ogles wrote in a letter first reported by Punchbowl.

“In hindsight, it has become clear that the intent was not to ensure the safety of our homeland and the American people, but rather to ensure additional funding for Ukraine and passage of an unreformed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA.) This act constituted poor judgment at a minimum and a complete breach of trust influenced by the pursuit of a political agenda at the maximum.”

Ogles said Turner’s actions “revealed to the American people an imminent and perhaps existential threat to the United States of America.”

The Tennessee Republican has not yet gone to review the information that is available to all lawmakers, telling Politico he “chose not to look at the classified information” so that he “can discuss the classified information.”

Reporting indicates the intelligence Turner was concerned about dealt with Russian nuclear capabilities in space as related to American satellites.

Turner’s office did not directly address Ogles’s complaints about his but defended his decision to more broadly release the classified information to members of Congress, something done with approval of the committee as well as the White House.

“The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence worked in consultation with the Biden Administration to notify Congress of this national security threat,” Turner said.

“In addition, language in the bipartisan notification issued by the Chair and Ranking Member to all Members of the House was cleared by the Administration prior to its release. The House Intelligence Committee voted 23 to 1 to make this information available to Members of Congress. White House officials confirmed that, in their view, the matter was ‘serious’.”

But the chair has become increasingly isolated in his quest to release the information to the public, with other lawmakers failing to echo his push for its declassification.

Several other leaders in Congress stressed that while alarming, the information Turner was referring to did not require immediate action and said no threat was imminent.

Intelligence ranking member Jim Himes (D-Conn.) held back criticism of Turner on Wednesday but said, “Thanks, Mike,” when a reporter noted the panic being caused by the statement.

“Look, Mike is right to highlight this issue. But it’s so sensitive that [we’re] right now not publicly discussing. And I don’t want people thinking that, you know, Martians are landing or that your Wednesday is going to be ruined. But it’s something that the Congress, the administration does need to address in the medium-to-long run,” Himes said.

And Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) also sought to quell alarm after Turner’s statement.

“I saw Chairman Turner’s statement on the issue and I want to assure the American people, there is no need for public alarm,” Johnson told reporters in the Capitol on Wednesday. “We are going to work together to address this matter, as we do all sensitive matters that are classified.”

“We just want to assure everyone: Steady hands are at the wheel, we’re working on it, and there’s no need for alarm,” he added.

Senate Intelligence officials also downplayed the immediacy, saying they had been “rigorously tracking this issue from the start.”

“The Senate Intelligence Committee has the intelligence in question, and has been rigorously tracking this issue from the start,” Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) and ranking member Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a joint statement.

“We continue to take this matter seriously and are discussing an appropriate response with the administration,” they wrote. “In the meantime, we must be cautious about potentially disclosing sources and methods that may be key to preserving a range of options for U.S. action.”

Ogles noted that Turner leads the Intelligence panel at the behest of Johnson.

“As the Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence is solely appointed by the Speaker and under your direct purview, should the Chairman retain his post, you have a duty and an obligation to reassure this body (Congress) and the American people that the processes of the Intelligence Committee have not been corrupted by the very institutions they are charged with monitoring,” Ogles wrote.

“It is with great reticence that I formally request an inquiry as to any impact the Chairman’s statements may have had on U.S. foreign and domestic policy.”

Updated at 3:46 p.m.

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House Homeland Security Chair Mark Green to retire

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House Homeland Security Committee Chair Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) announced Wednesday he is retiring from Congress, saying he wants to “go out with a win” after impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

“I’ve accomplished what I wanted to do. I wanted to get a great border security bill done. We did that, and I wanted to hold the administration accountable and we just impeached for the first time a sitting Cabinet secretary,” Green told reporters on the Capitols steps.

Mayorkas, who was impeached with just one vote to spare, is the first Cabinet official impeached since the 1870s.

“I’ve learned being here that the fight isn’t in Washington. I think the fight is with Washington,” Green said.

Green, who will leave at the end of the session, is serving his first term as chair, and his exit makes him the fourth GOP chair to announce their retirement.

Green, 59, was first elected to represent Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District in 2018. The district is rated “solid Republican” by the nonpartisan election handicapper the Cook Political Report.

The Tennessee Republican was mum about his plans, including whether he is considering a run for another office such as the 2026 Tennessee gubernatorial race, but he told The Hill he would volunteer for former President Trump’s campaign.

“I’m gonna go help Donald Trump win the presidency,” he said.

As chair, Green has prioritized investigations of the Department of Homeland Security, primarily focusing on Mayorkas.

But the vote to impeach the secretary required two attempts, with three Republicans joining Democrats to defeat the resolution, citing concerns the GOP was abusing impeachment power and failing to meet the constitutional standards for the process.

A second vote succeeded only after House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) returned to Washington after undergoing treatment for blood cancer.

The articles are not expected to get much consideration by the Democrat-led Senate.

Updated at 6:24 p.m.

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Speaker Johnson nixes plans to take up warrantless surveillance bill this week

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) abandoned plans to bring a bill to the House floor this week that would reauthorize the nation’s warrantless spy program, a second failure to consider legislation that has sparked a battle between two powerful committees.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows the government to spy on noncitizens located abroad, has divided the House’s Intelligence and Judiciary committees, who are at odds over whether the program should include a warrant requirement.

“In order to allow Congress more time to reach consensus on how best to reform FISA and Section 702 while maintaining the integrity of our critical national security programs, the House will consider the reform and reauthorization bill at a later date,” Raj Shah, a spokesperson for Johnson, wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. 

Section 702 of FISA only allows for the targeting of foreigners outside the U.S., but their communications with U.S. citizens can be swept up in the process, something critics see as allowing backdoor searches on Americans.

Republicans last year were unable to reach consensus on competing proposals from the two panels over how to address the reauthorization, with Congress ultimately failing to consider either package and avoiding its end-of-year expiration with a short-term extension into April.

But this year’s bill, hashed out by a working group of members from the two committees, is again igniting pushback.

Though an amalgamation of both panels’ bills, it more closely resembles last year’s Intelligence package and does not include the warrant requirement demanded by Judiciary members.

The warrant requirement sought by Judiciary members is considered a red line by the intelligence community, which warns it would leave the U.S. blind to information it’s lawfully collected and unable to respond in real time.

The decision to pull the bill comes as the House appeared poised to consider the warrant requirement as an amendment on the House floor, giving the entire body a chance to weigh the issue.

“I think we were going to win on the warrant requirement,” House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said.

“I don’t think the House – either body – has ever had a straight up and down vote on the warrant requirement to query U.S. persons in the 702 database. And we need that straight up, up and down vote, real, full debate. I think the country needs to see that. And I think as I said before, I think that the amendment was gonna pass.”

But Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said the bill was pulled over opposition from Intel members over the insertion of language that would open the door to consideration of language from another bill that would bar the government from buying information from data brokers.

“I’m frustrated that we’re all of the sudden trying to create a FISA showdown this week,” he told Politico. 

It’s not clear when the bill will next be considered, but Congress is about to leave for a two-week recess. The return in March will give lawmakers a little over a month to consider a bill before the authorities expire.

Updated at 7:08 p.m.

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House Intel chair calls on Biden to declassify details on 'serious national security threat'

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House Intelligence Chair Mike Turner (R-Ohio) made a cryptic call for President Biden to declassify information about a “serious national security threat” to allow for public discussions about how the U.S. should respond.

But Turner’s call was largely out of step with other voices in Congress who said the matter, while serious, was no call for alarm.

The ranking member on the panel, Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), said it was not one of great urgency and that “people should not panic.”

“Today, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has made available to all Members of Congress information concerning a serious national security threat,” Turner said in the statement.

“I am requesting that President Biden declassify all information relating to this threat so that Congress, the Administration, and our allies can openly discuss the actions necessary to respond to this threat.” 

Late Tuesday, Turner sent a “Dear Colleague” letter noting the committee voted to make information about “an urgent matter with regard to a destabilizing foreign military capability that should be known by all Congressional Policy Makers.”

Lawmakers are invited to the committee’s sensitive compartmented information facility space to review the information over the rest of the week, according to the letter obtained by The Hill.

But lawmakers were mum about the contents of the intelligence amid reports it related to the potential for Russian aggression from space.

ABC News reported Wednesday that the intelligence concerned Russian plans to use nuclear weapons in space to target U.S. satellites. 

CNN also reported Wednesday that the intelligence in question relates to Russia, while Politico reported Tuesday that it’s related to space. 

Turner, who often sends statements in conjunction with Himes, did not do so Wednesday.

Himes held back criticism of Turner but said, “Thanks, Mike,” when a reporter noted the panic being caused by the statement.

“Look, Mike is right to highlight this issue. But it’s so sensitive that [we’re] right now not publicly discussing. And I don’t want people thinking that, you know, Martians are landing or that your Wednesday is going to be ruined. But it’s something that the Congress the administration does need to address in the medium to long run,” Himes said.


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During a White House briefing Wednesday, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said he was “surprised” Turner sought to go public with the information while the White House was organizing a briefing.

“I reached out earlier this week to the Gang of Eight to offer myself up for a personal briefing for the Gang of Eight and scheduled a briefing for the four House members for tomorrow,” Sullivan said.

“All I can tell you is I’m focused on going to see him, sit with him as well as the other House members of the Gang of Eight,” he added.

“This  administration has gone further and in more creative, more strategic ways dealt with the declassification of intelligence in the interest of the United States than any administration in history.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said there was no need for “alarm.”

“I saw Chairman Turner’s statement on the issue and I want to assure the American people, there is no need for public alarm,” he told reporters in the Capitol on Wednesday. “We are going to work together to address this matter as we do all sensitive matters that are classified.”

Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), an Intel member, echoed that sentiment.

“There’s a lot of very volatile things that we have to address. This is one of them. This is something that requires our attention — there’s no doubt,” Crow said. “It’s not an immediate crisis, but something we have to be very serious about.”

Senate Intelligence officials also downplayed the immediacy, saying they had been “rigorously tracking this issue from the start.”

“The Senate Intelligence Committee has the intelligence in question, and has been rigorously tracking this issue from the start,” Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) and ranking member Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a joint statement.

“We continue to take this matter seriously and are discussing an appropriate response with the administration,” they wrote. “In the meantime, we must be cautious about potentially disclosing sources and methods that may be key to preserving a range of options for U.S. action.”

Turner’s announcement falls amid debate over whether to reauthorizes Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows for the warrantless surveillance of noncitizens located abroad.

A bill to reauthorize the program could reach the House floor as soon as Thursday, with privacy advocates in Congress lobbying hard to amend the bill to include a warrant requirement that is strongly opposed by the intelligence community.

Turner’s announcement spurred skepticism from proponents of a warrant requirement.

“Bizarre timing considering we are trying to end warrantless government surveillance this week,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) wrote on X.

And Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) called Turner a “spy guy” in questioning the timing of his call.

“Very interested to learn about this threat,” he wrote on X.

“Also very interested to know why the spy guys are raising mysterious alarms right before we’re about to reform illegal domestic surveillance under FISA.”

Mychael Schnell and Brett Samuels contributed. Updated at 3:45 p.m.