Rep. Connolly aides attacked with baseball bat, latest in debt ceiling talks: 5 Things podcast

On today's episode of the 5 Things podcast: Aides to Rep. Connolly attacked with baseball bat in his Virginia office

Aides to Rep. Connolly were attacked with a baseball bat Monday morning. Plus, USA TODAY White House Correspondent Joey Garrison has the latest on debt ceiling talks, a massive recall has been ordered for air bag inflators, USA TODAY Justice Department Correspondent Bart Jansen breaks down a report that criticized the FBI and Justice Department's investigations of Russian election interference, and electric vehicles face a new tax in Texas.

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Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Taylor Wilson: Good morning. I'm Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Tuesday, the 16th of May 2023. Today, the latest after a congressman's staffers were attacked. Plus, more debt ceiling talks, and a report criticizes the FBI for the investigation into Russian election interference.

Two staff members of Democratic Congressman Jerry Connolly were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries after being assaulted in the Congressman's Virginia office yesterday morning. An individual with a baseball bat entered his office and asked for the lawmaker before attacking the staffers. US Capitol Police said yesterday his motive was unclear, but it's the latest incident of violence against members of Congress, their families, or staffs.

In October, Paul Pelosi, husband of Democratic then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was hospitalized and had many surgeries after being attacked with a hammer. And in March, a member of Republican Senator Rand Paul's staff was attacked in Washington. According to Capitol Police, the number of threats against members of Congress has more than doubled in the past five years.

♦ Well another week brings more debt ceiling tensions. USA TODAY White House Correspondent Joey Garrison has the latest as the clock keeps ticking toward a potential default. Thanks for hopping on 5 Things today, Joey.

Joey Garrison: Hey, thanks for having me.

Taylor Wilson: President Joe Biden was scheduled to meet with lawmakers on Friday. That was canceled. Why did that meeting not happen?

Joey Garrison: Officials on both sides of discussions here, both White House staff and those working for the Congress members, stressed that the meeting was canceled not because of any particular breakdown, but really to allow what are staff level discussions, kind of the nitty gritty of all this, continue. Then they regroup this week. So later today, President Biden will welcome again Speaker McCarthy and the other congressional leaders at the White House, and they really are stressing that they don't think that it's a sign of things being at a worse state right now. In fact, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House Press Secretary, went as far as calling recent talks, "productive." So I wouldn't really read too much into it. I think meeting Tuesday is not that much different than meeting last Friday.

Taylor Wilson: And what do we expect to come out of this Tuesday meeting?

Joey Garrison: Over the weekend you kind of heard two different points of view, positions on talks right now from Biden and McCarthy. President Biden seemed fairly optimistic when he was approached by reporters in Rohoboth Beach, where his vacation home is, on Sunday. He said that, "I really think there's a desire on their part, the Republicans, as well as ours to reach an agreement, and I think we're able to do it." McCarthy seemed much less optimistic on Monday. He thinks that they're still far apart and he even had a jab at the White House saying it seems like they want to default more than a deal. So I think what's important here today is that both sides really start identifying some concrete ways that they could resolve a compromise, because one of the key things right now that McCarthy is saying is he says that they need to have a deal in place essentially by the end of the week in order for there to be enough time for Congress to take action before that June 1st deadline for a potential default.

Taylor Wilson: And Joey, we know that a lot of these conversations have centered on these proposed cuts that Republicans want tied to the debt ceiling. What cuts are Republicans most focused on as we get into this week?

Joey Garrison: Well, a big one is the work requirements for various social programs, and this has been a long standing demand, rallying cry for Republicans when it comes to things like Medicaid, food stamps, other forms of federal aid for low income individuals. Interestingly, President Biden on Sunday was asked about what his stance was, and he was quick to point out that he doesn't support toughening work requirements for Medicaid, but he seemed open when it came to other programs and applying more expansive or stronger work requirements to them. The big one, and most discussed, would be SNAP, which is the technical acronym for food stamps. Republicans, their legislation has more expansive work requirements for SNAP, so that could seemingly be one on the table.

And there's also been other areas of discussion for priorities of Republicans. That would be expediting permitting for oil and gas projects, rescinding unspent COVID 19 rescue funds and adding possible caps on future discretionary spending and budget funds. Those are all things that Republicans want to see, it was laid out in their debt ceiling bill. I understand them to be in play in these debt ceiling talks with the White House.

Taylor Wilson: And Joey, all eyes are obviously on the clock. We've heard lawmakers need to figure something out by June 1st to avoid a default. As you mentioned, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said a deal needs to be in place by this weekend. How much time is actually left?

Joey Garrison: Well, it's interesting you asked that because there needs to be progress this week. I mean, it would be a really bad sign if on Tuesday that these two sides come away still pointing fingers of each other and not really making any step towards progress. The President on Wednesday is slated to go to Japan for the G7 Summit before later going to Australia, but he's left the door open to actually not doing that trip if a deal still isn't in place and if talks are going awry. So that would be a pretty extraordinary step by the President. As far as an end date, I mean, they need something to pass really, perhaps a couple days before June 1st. Because as we get closer to that date, you could see the markets beginning to disrupt in anticipation that a default is truly on the table and something that could unfortunately happen.

Joey Garrison: Hey, thanks for having me on.

♦ Taylor Wilson: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has ordered a Tennessee airbag manufacturer to recall 67 million products. But the company, ARC Automotive, refused to comply, according to a letter the government agency published online. The NHTSA said airbag inflaters made by the company were involved in at least two fatal incidents when the inflaters ruptured. The NHTSA says that once airbag inflaters ruptured during frontal airbag deployment, metal fragments can be propelled into the vehicle. At least 12 vehicle manufacturers have used the inflaters in question. Last week a vice president for ARC said the company strongly disagrees with the conclusion that a safety defect exists in the 67 million products.

♦ Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham has released a final report criticizing the department and the FBI for the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. I spoke with USA TODAY Justice Department Correspondent Bart Jansen to learn more. Thanks for hopping back on the show, Bart.

Bart Jansen: Thanks for having me.

Taylor Wilson: What is Durham criticizing specifically in this report, Bart?

Bart Jansen: Basically, he's saying that the FBI embarked on an investigation with little or no substantive evidence to begin the probe. That they began it with some accusations that were unvetted, unverified, and so perhaps shouldn't have embarked on the investigation as aggressively as they did right from the jump.

Taylor Wilson: Durham contrasted the treatments of former President Donald Trump and former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. What did he say the difference was here?

Bart Jansen: Well, he noted that when there were other potential investigations that dealt with figures in the Clinton campaign, that they looked for more information, and then when they embarked on one of the matters that they actually gave a briefing to the Clinton campaign to warn them, "Hey, this is going on and we're taking a look at it." In contrast, they jumped into the Trump investigation and almost immediately started applying for surveillance approvals from a federal court against four people, and then never did give a briefing to the Trump campaign about what they were looking into. Now, of course, the argument was that if you alert the campaign that you are investigating that they are perhaps colluding with the Russians, that you're perhaps tipping off the subjects of the investigation.

Taylor Wilson: And Trump as President often argued that the Russian investigation was a hoax. He used this word a lot. Did Durham use similar language?

Bart Jansen: He doesn't use the word hoax, and he acknowledged that the FBI and the Justice Department have changed their training programs and changed policies under this new leadership. All the folks at the top of the Justice Department and the FBI have turned over since these activities happened in 2016, 2017. So he said, well, it just would've been... If the current policies were in place, then we wouldn't have a problem. But Trump did call the report a vindication of his accusations, because he thought the investigation should have never been started. I mean, that's what he says. I guess it'll be up to readers to make a judgment.

Taylor Wilson: And you mentioned these policies that the FBI and Justice Department have overhauled. Can you just tell us a little bit more about what kinds of reforms they've made in recent years?

Bart Jansen: They're effectively providing more broad based training and approvals at higher levels for counterintelligence surveillance. So basically they want everybody on the same page, and then they want higher level approvals of folks to say yeah, you ought to go ahead and start looking at whatever evidence has come across them.

Taylor Wilson: All right. Bart Jansen, always great info for us. Thanks so much.

Bart Jansen: Thanks for having me.

♦ Taylor Wilson: Electric vehicle owners in Texas face a new tax. The state's Republican governor Greg Abbott signed a new law over the weekend that'll tax the vehicles for $200 a year, according to the Dallas Morning News. That's after a $400 fee to register a new electric vehicle. Owners of hybrids and gas fueled vehicles don't face the same tax. They pay a 20 cent per gallon gas tax. The new law for EVs takes effect on September 1st.

Thanks for listening to 5 Things. If you like the show, please subscribe and leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. And if you have any comments, you can reach us at I'm back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.

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