10 Things in Politics: DOJ treads lightly on Trump

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Good morning! Welcome back to 10 Things in Politics, your weekday look at the biggest stories in DC and beyond. Sign up here to receive this newsletter.

Send tips to bgriffiths@insider.com or tweet me at @BrentGriffiths.

Here's what we're talking about:


1. INSIDE MAIN JUSTICE: The relative silence at the Justice Department is telling. Nearly 100 days into the Biden administration, it appears a DOJ probe into former President Donald Trump is taking a backseat to investigations in New York and Georgia. With this in mind, Insider explored the DOJ's hesitancy to take on Trump.

Here's a peek at what we found:

There are many fraught questions at play: Fairly or unfairly, former DOJ officials say a federal case against Trump would risk playing into the same "lock her up" mentality that the former president spread against his opponents. An investigation, if it were to become public, could also easily consume Biden's presidency.

  • DOJ veterans say this is why the attorney general wants to avoid it: "I think the truth is [Merrick] Garland wants an investigation of Trump like he wants a hole in the head. It's the last thing he wants as attorney general," a former top Justice Department official told Insider.

There's no shortage of avenues for a probe: The former special counsel Robert Mueller documented multiple instances of potential obstruction of justice, there's the hush money to Stormy Daniels, and a former prosecutor has said the investigation into the deadly Capitol riot could extend to Trump.

  • The best bet, they say, would be to try to privately test the waters: "If I'm Garland and [newly confirmed deputy attorney general Lisa] Monaco, I get a briefing that I don't tell anybody about," a former federal prosecutor said. "I figure out if there's a way to do an initial review without sending out grand-jury subpoenas and without going public."

Our exclusive report takes you inside the DOJ's Trump "problem."


2. Biden's climate pledge has a difficult path to reality: The president committed to slashing greenhouse-gas emissions over the next decade during his virtual climate-change summit. This would require sweeping changes to virtually every aspect of American society, The New York Times reports. Experts who have gamed out what the non-binding pledge would mean predict that more than half of new vehicles sold would need to be electric, virtually all coal-fired plants would need to shutter, and the number of wind turbines and solar panels would need to quadruple. It's achievable, but it is an enormous challenge.

Much of it would require congressional buy-in: But some Republicans are pointing to an uncomfortable reality. While the US is doubling its efforts, China and India, two of the world's biggest polluters, are staying silent.

WATCH: Climate scientists debunk 13 myths about global warming

Screen Shot 2021 04 23 at 3.12.15 AM


johnson & johnson covid vaccine

3. There's a key meeting on the future of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine today: Insider spoke to five members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel that will vote on what to do with the vaccine. Federal officials previously called for a pause after six reports of rare blood clots in young and middle-age women who'd recently been vaccinated. Barring any major surprises, they all seemed eager to resume using the J&J shot.

  • Key quote: "I think it's extremely unlikely that we're going to say it's too risky to use this vaccine," said Dr. Jose Romero, chair of the advisory committee, and director of the Arkansas Department of Public Health. He suggested the issue is likely an "abnormal immune response" in a very small number of patients.

Meanwhile, hospitals are overrun in India as virus variants run rampant: Insider spoke with people on the ground about the devastation this wave has caused.


4. The Senate easily passes anti-Asian hate-crime legislation: The bill would direct the Justice Department to expedite the review of coronavirus-related hate crimes and improve public reporting of hate crimes. Calling the proposal "too broad," Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri was the only lawmaker to vote against it.


The family of George Floyd salutes Daunte Wright during his funeral services at Shiloh Temple International Ministries in Minneapolis, Thursday, April 22, 2021.

5. Hundreds mourn at funeral for Daunte Wright: Politicians and relatives and loved ones of George Floyd, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, and Emmett Till attended a service for Wright. Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was killed by Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Porter during a routine traffic stop. Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy. He said: "I haven't seen a funeral like this since Prince, well, we came to bury the prince of Brooklyn Center, because you hurt one of our princes."


6. Washington moves of the week: Former HUD Secretary Ben Carson landed a consulting gig, the Transportation Department filled a post for the first time in over 40 years, and the DNC beefed up its comms operation. Here are some of the other biggest moves this week.

Dr. Robert C. Hampshire became the DOT's chief science officer, a job that hasn't been filled since the Reagan era. Carson is now a special consultant for Galectin Therapeutics Inc. And former acting US Attorney in Washington Michael Sherwin has joined the law firm Kobre & Kim.

Read the rest of our exclusive list here.


7. The top things for your calendar, all times Eastern: 

  • 9:25 a.m.: Vice President Harris travels to Plymouth and Concord, New Hampshire, during a visit to tout Biden's jobs plan.
  • 9:15 a.m.: Biden delivers remarks and participates in the second day of the climate summit.
  • 11:30 a.m.: Jen Psaki holds the White House daily news briefing. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will join her.
  • 10 p.m.: EPA Secretary Michael Regan, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and other top officials appear on CNN's "Climate Crisis" town hall.

8. Biden reportedly will propose doubling capital-gains taxes for wealthy Americans: He wants to implement a 39.6% capital-gains tax for people earning $1 million or more. The White House would use this to help the next part of Biden's infrastructure plan focused on childcare and education. More on the plan that to be unveiled during Biden's primetime address next week.


9. Experts say the other officers charged in George Floyd's death are almost certain to plead guilty: Former officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng are expected to go to trial in August. "I'm almost 100% confident that likelihood of guilty pleas in all three cases has just gone up by a lot," one expert said.


Ma Rainey Netflix

10. Get ready for Oscar weekend: The Academy Awards are airing on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC, and we've got a look at what to expect. First off, our predictions. From the late Chadwick Boseman to "Nomadland," here's who we think will be the night's big winners.


One last thing.

Today's trivia question: Today is the bard's birthday. On that note, do you know which of Shakespeare's plays future-President Abraham Lincoln referenced in his maiden speech on the House floor? Email your guess and a suggested question to me at bgriffiths@insider.com.

Have a great weekend. I'll see you on Monday!

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