March 31, 2023

A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.

Howard Kurtz’s Cry For Help

For anyone who’s observed Fox News media reporter Howard Kurtz (no relation) over the years, this is a comedy-rich situation.

His network is facing what could be a historic, billion dollar defamation case by Dominion Voting Systems. The case has already revealed the corrosive, corrupt, self-serving, and deeply compromised inner workings of the Fox News operations. It puts the network at the center of promulgating the Big Lie that culminated in the Jan. 6 insurrection, produced a second impeachment of Donald Trump, and may yet lead to criminal charges against the former president. In other words, it’s the biggest story of our time — and Howie has been sidelined by his Fox News bosses, he revealed Sunday:

What’s On Scott Perry’s Phone???

We finally got to see the judge’s order allowing the Justice Department to access most of the records on the phone of Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA). Unsealed late Friday, but still partially redacted, the Dec. 28 order by the chief district judge in D.C. gave DOJ the go-ahead to review more than 2,000 records.

But, as you’ll recall, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals put that order on hold while it considered Perry’s appeal. Perry argues that the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause bars the executive branch from accessing his phone as part of its criminal investigation. Oral arguments were held on the appeal Thursday. The case is being closely watched in part because former Vice President Mike Pence is also expected to use the Speech or Debate Clause to avoid complying with a grand jury subpoena in the Jan. 6 investigation.

Howell ordered Perry to turn over 2,055 text messages, emails and attachments. She sided with him on some 161 other records on the phone, which DOJ was denied access to.

“What is plain is that the Clause does not shield Rep. Perry’s random musings with private individuals touting an expertise in cybersecurity or political discussions with attorneys from a presidential campaign, or with state legislators concerning hearings before them about possible local election fraud or actions they could take to challenge election results in Pennsylvania,” Howell wrote in her order.

The extent of the public reveals during Perry’s appeal seems to have prompted Chief Judge Beryl Howell to release the previously secret order. Howell last week had turned away media requests to make public some of the still-secret grand jury proceedings around claims of executive privilege raised by former President Trump.

Perry’s phone was seized by the FBI back in August. So we’re now six months into the legal battle over accessing its contents, just one of many threads of the investigation into the 2020 election subversion effort.

Will This Be Indictment Week In Georgia?

Joyce Vance tees up what could be a historic week, with a chance of a Trump indictment out of Georgia.

Katie Hobbs Goes After Former AG For Big Lie

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) has asked the state bar to examine whether former state Attorney General Mark Brnovich violated ethics rules when he buried findings from his office that debunked the Big Lie in the 2020 election.

Leonard Leo of Federalist Society Fame Targets ESG


A conservative nonprofit called Marble Freedom Trust and its consulting firm, CRC Advisors, are leading the anti-ESG push and have spent more than $10 million on the effort so far, mostly through the group Consumers’ Research, people familiar with the spending said.

The trust is overseen by Leonard Leo, a longtime leader at the Federalist Society, a network of lawyers that grooms conservative scholars, officials and judges. Mr. Leo helped former President Donald Trump choose conservative Supreme Court justices.

Dilbert Dumped After Scott Adams’ Racist Screed

Publishers raced to drop the long-running comic strip after Scott Adams’ offensive comments last week on his YouTube show about Black people being a “hate group.” Meanwhile, Elon Musk raced to Adams’ defense.

Energy Dept. Shifts Its Assessment Of COVID Origins

The U.S. intel community has long been divided over and unsure of the origins of the COVID virus. The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that one component of the IC — the Energy Department — has now shifted its assessment from the origins of COVID being uncertain to the pandemic originating with an accidental leak from a Chinese lab.

Until DOE made this shift, the FBI was the only IC component to conclude that a lab leak was the origin of COVID. The FBI is moderately confident of its assessment. DOE has low confidence in its own assessment. The remaining components of the IC are either undecided or have assessed that COVID arose from natural origins.

This was a highly contentious debate in the early days of the pandemic, with China hardliners, MAGA World and the Trump administration keen to pin the outbreak on China.

Scientific uncertainty is the norm, but that doesn’t always fit well in the current political moment.

Hang MTG On Them Every Time

Make Republicans own her:

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