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House committee launches investigation into Pompeo's RNC speech from Jerusalem

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) is launching an investigation into Secretary of State Pompeo's address to the Republican National Convention for potentially violating rules that prohibit federal employees from engaging in certain political activities, the Daily Beast first reported.

Why it matters: Pompeo's decision to deliver his speech from Jerusalem breaks from the precedent of America's top diplomat staying out of partisan battles. Internal State Department memos approved by Pompeo himself warned employees — and specifically Senate-confirmed officials — not to attend political conventions, Politico reports.


  • "As the 2020 general election draws near, all Department employees are reminded to review and comply with the restrictions on political activities that apply to Department employees," Pompeo's office wrote in a cable sent last month to all State Department employees.
  • Castro, the chair of the House Foreign Affair's subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, has asked Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun to provide details on Pompeo's trip to Jerusalem and preparations for his speech.

What they're saying: “Secretary Pompeo will address the convention in his personal capacity," a State Department spokesperson emailed in a statement.

  • "No State Department resources will be used. Staff are not involved in preparing the remarks or in the arrangements for Secretary Pompeo's appearance. The State Department will not bear any costs in conjunction with this appearance," the spokesperson said.

Between the lines: The Hatch Act, which restricts federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity, hasn't been particularly effective in the Trump era.

  • The Office of Special Counsel determined that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway repeatedly violated the Hatch Act and recommended she be removed from the federal workforce, but no action was enforced.
  • The administration has also denied that President Trump's decision to deliver his RNC speeches from the White House is a violation of the Hatch Act.

Of note: Pompeo and his wife, Susan, are already being investigated by the State Department inspector general over allegations that they've improperly used federal resources for personal reasons.

TikTok gets more time (again)

The White House is again giving TikTok's Chinese parent company more time to satisfy its national security concerns, rather than initiating legal action, a source familiar with the situation tells Axios.

The state of play: China's ByteDance had until Friday to satisfy national security concerns raised by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS), which is chaired by Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin. This was the company's third deadline, with CFIUS having provided two earlier extensions.

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Federal judge orders Trump administration to restore DACA

A federal judge on Friday ordered the Trump administration to fully restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, giving undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children a chance to petition for protection from deportation.

Why it matters: DACA was implemented under former President Obama, but President Trump has sought to undo the program since taking office. Friday’s ruling will require Department of Homeland Security officers to begin accepting applications starting Monday and guarantee that work permits are valid for two years.

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Bay Area counties to enact stay-at-home order

Counties around the San Francisco Bay Area will adopt California’s new regional stay-at-home order amid surges in cases and ICU hospitalizations, health officials said Friday.

The big picture: California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a three-week stay-at-home order on Thursday that would go into effect in regions with less than 15% ICU capacity. Despite the Bay Area’s current 25.3% ICU capacity, health officials from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco and the city of Berkeley are moving ahead with a shelter-in-place mandate in the hopes of reducing risk.

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Podcast: Former FDA chief Rob Califf on the COVID-19 vaccine approval process

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing two emergency use authorization requests for COVID-19 vaccines, with an outside advisory committee scheduled to meet next Thursday to review data from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

Axios Re:Cap digs in with former FDA commissioner Rob Calif about the EUA process, the science and who should make the final call.

The U.S. economic recovery needs rocket fuel

Data: BLS. Chart: Axios Visuals

Friday's deeply disappointing jobs report should light a fire under Congress, which has dithered despite signs the economy is struggling to kick back into gear.

Driving the news: President-elect Biden said Friday afternoon in Wilmington that he supports another round of $1,200 checks.

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CDC: It's time for "universal face mask use"

The CDC is urging “universal face mask use” for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, citing recent case spikes as the U.S. has entered a phase of “high-level transmission” before winter officially begins.

Why it matters: Daily COVID-related deaths across the U.S. hit a new record on Wednesday. Face coverings have been shown to increase protection of the wearer and those around them, despite some Americans' reluctance to use them.

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Saudi Arabia and Qatar near deal to end standoff, sources say

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are close to a deal to end the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf following U.S.-mediated reconciliation talks this week, sources familiar with the talks tell me.

Why it matters: Restoring relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar would bring a sense of stability back to the Gulf after a 3.5 year standoff. It could also notch a last-minute achievement for the Trump administration before Jan. 20.

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President of Soros foundation leaves amid speculation of potential Biden role

Patrick Gaspard, who served as ambassador to South Africa under President Barack Obama, is stepping down as president of George Soros' Open Society Foundations, fueling speculation that he'll join the Biden administration, potentially as Labor secretary.

What to know: Before his stint as ambassador, Gaspard was Obama's political director in the White House, drawing upon his experience in the labor movement to advance Obama's legislative agenda on health care and financial services reform.

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