The Trump administration might be over, but its ability to generate controversy continues. On Sunday, The New York Times reported that in February 2018 the Department of Justice (DOJ) subpoenaed Apple for the account information of former Trump White House Counsel Don McGahn and his wife.
The company complied with the subpoena, according to anonymous sources who spoke with the Times. A nondisclosure order prevented it from notifying the McGahns about the request until May of this year.
This news comes on the heels of revelations last week that the DOJ under former President Donald Trump had subpoenaed Apple and Microsoft for the account information of journalists and Democratic lawmakers as part of a leak investigation.
Targets of these subpoenas included Reps. Eric Swalwell (D–Calif.) and Adam Schiff (D–Calif.) as well as reporters at CNN, the Times, and The Washington Post.
Apple spokesperson Fred Sainz said in a statement to the Post on Friday that the DOJ had asked the company to cough up subscriber information for 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses. Sainz said that Apple had no knowledge of the nature of the investigation and that it only turned over subscriber information, and not pictures or the content of emails.
Microsoft also told the Post it had handed over subscriber information for an unnamed congressional staffer in response to a DOJ subpoena.
Democrats have expressed outrage at the subpoenas."President Trump repeatedly and flagrantly demanded that the Department of Justice carry out his political will and tried to use the Department as a cudgel against his political opponents and members of the media. It is increasingly apparent that those demands did not fall on deaf ears," Schiff said to Vox in a statement.
Schiff stoked controversy in 2019 when he included Rep. Devin Nunes' (R–Calif.) phone records in an Intelligence Committee report on Trump's impeachment.
DOJ Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz has said that he will probe whether these requests for lawmakers' and reporters' records violated the department's policies and if the underlying investigation was "based upon improper considerations."
U.S Attorney General Merrick Garland will meet with the heads of media outlets today to discuss these subpoenas. The DOJ also announced Saturday that it will stop secretly collecting journalists' records. Press freedom groups praised that policy change while also demanding more details on its specifics.
Rep. Joaquin Castro's (D–Texas) latest crusade is to increase Hispanic representation on the silver screen, and he's willing to play hardball with the entertainment industry to get the job done. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, he said state lawmakers should require film studios' casts and crews to be more representative of state populations as a condition of receiving subsidies and tax credits.
Let's take New Mexico. My good friend, Michelle Lujan Grisham, who proceeded me as chair of the Hispanic Caucus, is the governor there. I expressed my concern on this issue to her. New Mexico is about 43% Latino. Well again, you're talking about an industry getting tax breaks from a state where 43% percent of the taxpayers are Latino. Yet that group of people only has access to 3 or 4% of the work, in front of and behind the camera.
I just think at some point, as policymakers, you've got to ask yourself, how does it make sense to make all these people subsidize their own exclusion? We cannot subsidize our own exclusion.
I do think part of the answer is a diversity inclusion rider. In fact, I think the diversity inclusion riders are essential and necessary in any kind of tax credit or tax incentive program for the industry. Because the industry has not demonstrated that it's going to be a good actor on its own. I think more lawmakers are waking up to this reality.
Another option would be to eliminate the special benefits state governments provide to the film industry. Of course, doing that would give lawmakers less leverage to boss private businesses around about their hiring practices.
Sen. Susan Collins (R–Maine) said Sunday that a gas tax hike would not be part of any bipartisan infrastructure deal. Instead, the senator re-upped the idea of imposing a new fee on electric vehicles.
"Right now, they are literally free riders because they're not paying any gas tax," she said, according to Politico. Slapping electric vehicle owners with a new fee has been a mainstay of Republican infrastructure proposals in the party's negotiations with the Biden administration. Given how small the electric vehicle market is, a fee on these vehicles is unlikely to pay for much new infrastructure spending.
The White House has proposed paying for its own infrastructure plan with a corporate tax hike, an idea that has zero support among Republicans.
A bipartisan group of 10 senators, five Republicans and five Democrats, said in a statement last week that they had reached an agreement on a framework for an infrastructure package that's both fully paid for and does not include tax increases. Politico notes that this framework doesn't include a final price tag or what exactly those pay-fors might be.
Liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias suggested in a Bloomberg column over the weekend that lawmakers should pass a big infrastructure spending bill and then figure out later how to pay for it all. What could possibly go wrong?
• A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by current and former employees of Houston Methodist Hospital challenging its requirement that they all be vaccinated against COVID-19.
• Speaking of vaccines, San Francisco's latest public health order requires workers at hospitals, skilled nursing homes, residential care facilities, shelters, and jails to have their shots, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. People who obtain medical or religious exemptions to this requirement will have to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.
• President Joe Biden is trying to shore up support for NATO during his first overseas trip after his predecessor spent most of his time in office demonizing the alliance. The Quincy Institute's Stephen Wertheim argues in a New York Times essay this morning that liberals should have no love for the organization either.
• Vice President Kamala Harris' non-answer to a question about whether she'll visit the U.S.-Mexico border deemed "cringeworthy."
• An eight-party coalition has succeeded in ousting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after 12 years in office.
• Actor Ned Beatty has died.
• The trial of former Myanmar President Aung San Suu Kyi starts this week. The Nobel Peace Prize recipient was ousted in a military coup earlier this year.
• Shortages continue to plague America's post-pandemic economic recovery.