House Republicans grill Twitter execs on Hunter Biden laptop story, Nikki Haley to visit NH: recap

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President Biden's combative State of the Union address Tuesday night signaled more than a new year: It welcomed a different presidency.

And the GOP is ready to take it on.

The House Oversight Committee held its first hearing Wednesday investigating Biden and his family, where former Twitter executives faced questions about media coverage of Hunter Biden’s laptop. It's the start of a string of probes into the president that the GOP promised to conduct after retaking the House in November

Here's what else is happening in politics:

  • Mitt Romney zings George Santos: Utah Sen. Mitt Romney at the State of the Union address joined the growing number of Republicans in shunning freshman Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., calling him a "sick puppy."

  • Biden hones in on working-class messaging as he prepares for a 2024  bid.

  • Former GOP South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is already lining up her presidential campaign tour scheduling visits to New Hampshire following her expected presidential announcement next week in her home state.

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Biden: Items found in classified documents probe were 'stray papers'

President Joe Biden said items seized by the Department of Justice in its classified documents probe were “to the best of my knowledge…from 1974, stray papers.”

"There may be something else. I don't know,” Biden told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff Wednesday.

After the president’s lawyers found a small number of classified documents in his former office in November, the FBI retrieved other documents from his Wilmington, Delaware home.

Biden has previously said he was surprised to learn the files from his past service in the White House and Congress contained classified material. “As they packed up my offices to move them, they didn’t do the kind of job that should have been done to go thoroughly through every single piece of literature there,” Biden told Woodruff.

– Maureen Groppe

Stray papers: Biden: Items found in DOJ classified documents probe were 'stray papers' from decades ago

From office to beach house: Timeline of investigation into Joe Biden classified documents

Biden's first stop after State of the Union is Wisconsin where he touts economy

Fresh off his State of the Union speech, President Joe Biden arrived in Wisconsin Wednesday to press an economic message he hopes appeals to blue-collar workers in the Badger State who have in recent years diverted their support to Republican candidates.

"A typical middle-class family for decades was the backbone of America. The middle class has been hollowed out — it's been hollowed out," Biden said at the Laborers' International Union of North America training center in DeForest, 14 miles north of Madison.

Biden made his first stop in Dane County to promote his economic plan that he argues will address the challenges of an aging population and a stagnant workforce. But he arrives at a time when most Wisconsin voters don't approve of the way he is handling the presidency and as voters nationally are sour on the idea of a 2020 rerun between Biden and Trump. A recent poll by the Marquette University Law School that showed 34% wanting Biden to run in 2024 and 29% backing a Trump campaign for president.

- Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Biden in the Badger State: With an eye on a 2024 reelection bid, President Joe Biden takes his economic message to union workers in Wisconsin

Eying White House run, Nikki Haley plans to visit key primary state of New Hampshire

Nikki Haley is serving notice that she will not be a South Carolina-centric presidential candidate.

Her campaign announced Wednesday that, after next week's announcement speech in Charleston, S.C., Haley will hold town hall-style events in New Hampshire, which is also expected to host an early 2024 primary.

The Charleston speech is next Wednesday. The next day, Feb. 16, Haley hosts a town hall in Exeter, N.H. The day after that, Feb. 17, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador under Donald Trump campaigns in Manchester, N.H.

Haley will be the first big-name Republican to formally challenge ex-President Donald Trump, whose 2016 victory in New Hampshire propelled him to the GOP nomination.

– David Jackson

Former U.N. Ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks during the Iowa Republican Party's Lincoln Dinner, on June 24, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa.
Former U.N. Ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks during the Iowa Republican Party's Lincoln Dinner, on June 24, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa.

More: Nikki Haley to launch 2024 presidential bid in Charleston on Feb. 15, taking on Trump: sources

‘I called them out’: Biden relishes GOP outburst over Social Security, Medicare

President Joe Biden happily revisited a contentious moment of his State of the Union address, claiming Wednesday that he “called out” Republicans who heckled him when he accused them of wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare.

"My Republican friends, they seemed shocked when I raised the plans of some of their members and their caucus to cut Social Security," Biden, speaking at a union hall near Madison, Wis., said.  “And Marjorie Taylor Greene and others stood up said, ‘Liar, liar.’ Reminds me of, ‘Liar Liar, house on fire.”

He then cited a plan put forward last year by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., to sunset all federal programs after five years; and read off past statements from Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, about entitlements.

“They sure didn’t like me calling them on it,” Biden said. “I found it interesting, when I called them out on it last night, it sounded like they agreed to take these cuts off the table … Well, I sure hope that's true. I’ll believe when I see it.”

- Joey Garrison

Biden’s trip to Wisconsin to highlight workforce for new clean-energy manufacturing

President Joe Biden’s post-State of the Union trip Wednesday to Wisconsin will seek to bring attention to his administration’s efforts to train a manufacturing workforce with new skills in clean energy.

Biden will speak at the Laborer's International Union of North America's training center in DeForest, Wis., outside of Madison. He is expected to highlight the role of unions in training a workforce that will help deliver the president's promises of clean energy, rebuilt roads, bridges and water supplies, and strengthened American manufacturing.

His remarks are part of a direct appeal to disaffected blue-collar voters, who Biden and Democrats desperately need to win back to improve their prospects in the 2024 election.

Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which passed Congress last year, included $370 billion in climate incentives for companies that build electric vehicles, batteries, solar panels, wind turbines and produce other forms of clean energy.

-- Joey Garrison and Karl Ebert 

What is the 1870 button lawmakers wore during the State of the Union?

Eagle-eyed viewers of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday might have noticed a number of congressmembers sporting buttons printed with the year 1870.

Many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, along with some other Democrats, wore 1870 pins as a way to spotlight the need for policing reform. The year 1870 is the first on record when a free, unarmed Black man was killed by police – Henry Truman, who in March of 1870 chased down and shot by Philadelphia police.

The pins were distributed by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., who said in a statement on Twitter: "153 years later the Black community is still waiting for justice."

-Anna Kaufman, Ella Lee

Goldman calls Ukraine allegations after President Biden ‘categorically false’

Rep. Dan Goldman, who previously served as a Democratic lawyer in the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump, challenged the main accusation Wednesday against President Joe Biden stemming from his son’s laptop.

Goldman, D-N.Y., said the accusation in a New York Post story about the laptop is that as vice president Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its prosecutor general for investigating Burisma, a company that employed Hunter Biden. But Goldman said the coordinated policy of the U.S. and Europe was to oust the prosecutor for not investigating corruption.

“We’ve seen no actual evidence for any lies or any support for Joe Biden being involved in anything having to do with Ukraine other than promoting U.S. foreign policy,” Goldman said.

--Bart Jansen

Goldman questions reasons for Twitter hearing about suppression of laptop story

Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., questioned why the House Oversight and Accountability Committee was holding a hearing about Hunter Biden’s laptop because stories about President Joe Biden were wrong or showed no links to corruption.

The chairman, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., interrupted Goldman to ask if he was sure he was right. Goldman said none of the allegations of Biden corruption stemming from the laptop have been proven.

“I hope you are not abusing power as chairman of this committee and that you are not wasting taxpayer dollars on a fishing expedition into a civilian child of a president for political purposes,” Goldman told Comer.

--Bart Jansen

White House: Republicans’ heckling provided ‘split screen’ for Americans

The White House seized on heckling that came from Republicans during President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, arguing Wednesday that it provided a striking “split screen” about the two parties.

“You saw what the Republicans are all about, which was jeering and behaving in a way that Americans don’t want,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. She contrasted their outbursts with Biden, who she characterized as focused on results. “We're going with the approach of continuing to deliver on key important issues.”

The chorus of Republican boos, led by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Ga., came as Biden accused them of wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare and later when he discussed ending the Fentanyl crisis. It made for a gift to the White House, which has worked to highlight the polarizing Greene’s influence in the Republican Party.

-- Joey Garrison

Raskin: House GOP inquiry into Twitter ‘silly’

The top Democrat on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee called the Republican inquiry into Twitter “silly” because the company is private and can make any decisions it wants to whether to publish stories such as one about Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., called the inquiry an “authentically trivial pursuit” because the Twitter only blocked links to a New York Post story about the laptop for two days and later apologized for the action. But he said people still tweeted about the laptop, just without links to the story.

“Silly does not begin to capture this obsession,” Raskin said.

--Bart Jansen

Former Twitter execs on suppressing laptop story: ‘decisions here aren’t straightforward’

Former Twitter executives told a House panel that decisions about what to block from the social media site are difficult, but they had qualms about suppressing news of Hunter Biden’s laptop in 2020.

James Baker, Twitter’s former deputy general counsel, told the House Oversight and Accountability Committee there was no collusion with any government agency or political campaign about how to handle posts about the laptop.

Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former global head of trust and security, said the company aims to remove dangerous posts and removed 33,000 accounts in the second half of 2021 for promoting terrorism or violent extremism and more than 100,000 for promoting the sale of illegal goods and services.

“The decisions here aren’t straightforward and hindsight is 20/20,” said Roth, who disagreed with suppressing the laptop story.

--Bart Jansen

White House: House hearing on Twitter and Hunter Biden ‘bizarre political stunt’

The White House blasted the House hearing about Twitter suppressing news of Hunter Biden’s laptop as “a bizarre political stunt” pursuing “long-debunked conspiracy theories” .

Ian Sams, a Biden spokesperson, said work remains on top bipartisan priorities such as tackling inflation, raising wages and investing in manufacturing. Instead, “House Republicans are making it their top priority to stage a bizarre political stunt,” he said in a statement.

“As the president has said and made his focus, the American people expect their leaders to work together in a bipartisan way on the issues that most impact their lives and their families, not attack his family with long-debunked conspiracy theories,” Sams said.

--Bart Jansen

More: Chinese spy balloon went over other US missile and nuclear weapons sites, lawmaker says

Fact checks from Biden’s 2023 State of the Union address

President Joe Biden at Tuesday's State of the Union touted his administration’s achievements and offered an agenda for Congress this year.

But the president left out important context from his nearly 72 minute long speech.

USA TODAY fact-checked 15 themes from Biden’s address. Here’s what was missing.

-USA TODAY staff

GOP spars with Biden over Social Security, Medicare amid debt ceiling debate

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., stood up from her seat in the back of the House chamber to heckle President Joe Biden after he said that “some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset” while discussing the need to raise the debt ceiling in order to avoid a US default.

Social Security and Medicare are two of the federal government's most expensive and most popular programs and have long been a source of heated debate during discussions about the national debt and federal spending.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Republicans won't cut the programs, but Democrats say the math will force those cuts if the GOP demands lower government spending.

-- Erin Mansfield, Candy Woodall

Mitt Romney: Rep. George Santos a ‘sick puppy’

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney at the State of the Union address joined the growing number of Republicans who have said embattled freshman Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., shouldn't be in Congress.

Santos has admitted to embellishing parts of his personal and professional resume, but Romney said they are lies, not embellishments. To embellish, he said, is to say you got an A instead of an A-. "Lying is saying you graduated from a college you didn't even attend."

"If he had any shame at all, he wouldn't be there," Romney told reporters after the address.

Candy Woodall

More: Marjorie Taylor Greene, other Republicans spar with Biden over Social Security, Medicare

Biden focuses on working-class message as he prepares for 2024 bid

The country is at an inflection point, as President Joe Biden likes to say. So, too, is Biden's presidency, as he prepares to compete for a second term in office.

Biden's descriptions of how infrastructure investments will benefit middle class families are not resonating with blue-collar workers – particularly white voters who didn't attend college. Many defected from the Democratic Party over the last decade and offered Biden lukewarm support in the last presidential election.

Ahead of an expected re-election announcement in the coming weeks, Biden is making a concerted effort to bring working-class Americans back into the fold. His first stop on his post-State of the Union tour will be at a union-run apprenticeship and training facility in Wisconsin, a state that epitomizes the challenges that Democrats face in the 2024 election with independents and workers who have been hard hit by the decline in American manufacturing.

– Francesca Chambers and Joey Garrison

'Four more years': Biden hints at 2024 as he rallies Democratic Party leaders in Philadelphia

Comer: Twitter able to ‘suppress and delegitimize’ news about Hunter Biden’s laptop

Rep. James Comer plans to open his hearing on Twitter’s suppression of news about Hunter Biden’s laptop by accusing the social media platform of making censorship decisions on the fly in the past and working hand-in-hand with the FBI to monitor communications.

Comer, the chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, is expected to say the FBI advised senior Twitter officials to question the validity of any Hunter Biden story as potential Russian disinformation. But Comer, R-Ky., said the result was to "suppress and delegitimize" information about alleged Biden family business schemes.

“Twitter, under the leadership of our witnesses today, was a private company the federal government used to accomplish what it constitutionally cannot: limit the free exercise of speech,” Comer is expected to say in opening remarks. "It worked hand-in-hand with the FBI to monitor the protected speech of Americans—receiving millions of dollars to do so."

– Bart Jansen

Biden traveling to Wisconsin and Florida after speech

Biden administration officials will hit the road this week, holding events in at least 20 states to highlight parts of the president’s message.

Biden himself will talk about his economic agenda in Wisconsin Wednesday and will discuss Social Security and Medicare in Florida Thursday.

Vice President Kamala Harris is heading to Georgia and Minnesota. Multiple other Cabinet members are also fanning out across the country.

– Maureen Groppe

'We're turning it around': Biden says Democrats must pay attention to working class voters

House panel to quiz former Twitter executives about coverage of Hunter Biden’s laptop

The House Oversight and Accountability Committee is scheduled to hear Wednesday from three former Twitter executives about the suppression of news about Hunter Biden’s laptop, the first salvo in an inquiry into his potential influence on his father, President Joe Biden.

Twitter initially blocked distribution of New York Post stories about the laptop in October 2020, weeks before the election, in a decision the former CEO called “unacceptable.” The committee chairman, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., wants to talk to Yoel Roth, former head of trust and safety; Vijaya Gadde, former chief legal officer; and James Baker, former general counsel, about the incident.

But Joe Biden has denied getting involved with his son’s business deals in Ukraine or China, or profiting from them. Hunter Biden’s lawyers called for a criminal investigation of the distribution of the laptop’s contents. And Democrats blasted the inquiry as “hyper-partisan” conspiracy theories that have been debunked.

– Bart Jansen

Sanders: Biden has 'failed' American people; calls for 'new generation'

Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas, at age 40 the youngest governor in the country, didn't hesitate to point out that 80-year-old Joe Biden is the oldest president in history – and added that it is time for a "new generation" of Republican leadership.

"Biden and the Democrats have failed you," Sanders said in the formal GOP response to Biden's State of the Union address. "It's time for a change."

Speaking from the governor's mansion in Little Rock, Ark., Sanders cited domestic issues like inflation, immigration, and crime. Also criticizing the president's foreign policy, Sanders said Biden is "unfit" to be Commander-in-Chief.

Citing the Republican majority in the House, Sanders said: "We will hold the Biden administration accountable."

– David Jackson

More: In Republican response to Biden's State of the Union, a vow to block the president's agenda

House Intel chairman: China’s spy balloon went to other sensitive missile and nuclear weapons sites

House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said China’s surveillance balloon maneuvered over sensitive U.S. military sites in addition to the ones in Montana that it passed over before being shot down off the South Carolina coast Saturday.

“If you take the path that this balloon did, and you put up an X every place where you have a missile defense site, actual nuclear weapons infrastructure, you're going to follow this path,” Turner said in a briefing with reporters. “So I think the natural conclusion is it is intelligence gathering with respect to try to affect in some way the command and control of our missile defense and nuclear weapons.”

Turner did not elaborate on that or share other details about the ongoing investigation into China’s balloon, in some cases citing the classified nature of the information. But he said the U.S. intelligence community is scheduled to brief him and other members of congressional leadership who comprise the Gang of Eight later this week on the balloon and efforts to gain any intelligence from the recovery of it.

– Josh Meyer

More: DOD did not think the spy balloon was a military threat when it was first detected

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: GOP grills Twitter on Hunter Biden laptop: Haley to visit NH; recap