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Bipartisan lawmakers call on Trump to launch investigation into Alexei Navalny poisoning

The top Democrat and Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee sent a letter to President Trump on Tuesday requesting an investigation into the alleged poisoning of Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader and leading critic of President Vladimir Putin.

Why it matters: Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Michael McCaul (R-Texas) note that U.S. law requires the administration to determine within 60 days whether an accused country has used chemical weapons in violation of international law. If this is the case, U.S. sanctions must be imposed.


The big picture: The Trump administration previously slapped sanctions on Russia under the same Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 after determining that the Kremlin used a nerve agent to target former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal on British soil.

The other side: Trump told reporters last Friday he doesn't "know exactly what happened" to Navalny, despite the German government's assessment that the poisoning was conducted with Novichok — the same agent used to target Skripal.

  • "We have not had any proof yet, but we will take a look. ... I would be very angry if that is the case." Trump said Friday of the German government's analysis.
  • World leaders including U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg have condemned the attack and demanded an independent investigation.

What they're saying: "The poisoning of Mr. Navalny is particularly disturbing given that a Novichok agent was also used in a March 2018 attack on former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England," Engel and McCaul wrote.

  • "Those responsible for this despicable attack must be held accountable, and Russian President Vladimir Putin must know that he and his cronies will not be allowed to violate international law with impunity."

Donald Trump's political team disavows "Patriot Party" groups

Donald Trump's still-active presidential campaign committee officially disavowed political groups affiliated with the nascent "Patriot Party" on Monday.

Why it matters: Trump briefly floated the possibility of creating a new political party to compete with the GOP — with him at the helm. But others have formed their own "Patriot Party" entities during the past week, and Trump's team wants to make clear it has nothing to do with them.

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DOJ watchdog to probe whether officials sought to improperly alter election results

The Justice Department's inspector general will investigate whether any current or formal DOJ officials "engaged in improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome," the agency announced Monday.

Driving the news: The investigation comes in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged that Jeffrey Clark, the head of DOJ's civil division, had plotted with President Trump to oust acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen in a scheme to overturn the election results in Georgia.

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Biden signs order overturning Trump's transgender military ban

President Biden signed an executive order on Monday overturning the Trump administration's ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.

Why it matters: The ban, which allowed the military to bar openly transgender recruits and discharge people for not living as their sex assigned at birth, affected up to 15,000 service members, according to tallies from the National Center for Transgender Equality and Transgender American Veterans Association.

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GOP Sen. Rob Portman will not run for re-election, citing "partisan gridlock"

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced Monday he will not run for a third term in the U.S. Senate in 2022, citing "partisan gridlock."

Why it matters: It's a surprise retirement from a prominent Senate Republican who easily won re-election in 2016 and was expected to do so again in 2022.

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Merger Monday has been overrun by SPACs

Five companies this morning announced plans to go public via reverse mergers with SPACs, at an aggregate market value of more than $15 billion. And there might be even more by the time you read this.

The bottom line: SPAC merger activity hasn't peaked. If anything, it's just getting started.

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Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the virus that first appeared in the U.K. and in South Africa, the company announced on Monday.

Yes, but: The vaccine was as effective against the strain from U.K., but saw a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant. Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," according to the company.

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Xi Jinping warns against "new cold war" in Davos speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that a "new cold war" could turn hot, and must be avoided, in a speech on Monday to at World Economic Forum’s virtual “Davos Agenda” conference.

Why it matters: Xi didn't refer directly to U.S.-China tensions, but the subtext was clear. These were his first remarks to an international audience since the inauguration of President Biden, whose administration has already concurred with Donald Trump's determination that China is committing "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, and issued a warning about China's aggression toward Taiwan.

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MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell moves the goalposts on a run for Minnesota governor — again

The will-he-or-won't-he speculation surrounding a possible gubernatorial run by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell is destined to continue at least a bit longer.

What he's saying: Lindell told Axios that his focus is currently on proving his (baseless) claims of election fraud. He won't make a decision until that fight is resolved.

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