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10 Things in Politics: Gaetz's pals think FBI is reading his texts




  • In Politics
  • 2021-10-13 09:47:10Z
  • By Business Insider

Welcome back to 10 Things in Politics. Sign up here to receive this newsletter. Plus, download Insider's app for news on the go - click here for iOS and here for Android. Send tips to bgriffiths@insider.com.

Here's what we're talking about:

  • Matt Gaetz's friends assume the FBI is reading their messages to the embattled congressman

  • There's a 2nd Facebook whistleblower, and she also wants to testify before Congress

  • House Democrats approved a 2-month debt-limit hike. Every House Republican opposed it.

With Phil Rosen.

Rep. Matt Gaetz
Rep. Matt Gaetz's friends think his phone is being monitored. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite  

1. BURN(ER) AFTER READING: Matt Gaetz's friends think twice these days before texting the Republican Florida congressman. One Gaetz friend told Insider the sprawling anti-corruption inquiry involving a sex-trafficking investigation into the congressman "makes people hesitant to reach out."

Here's what else people close to Gaetz are saying:

No one wants to be connected to the legal cloud: "No one wants to inject themselves into anything while there's 16 dozen people looking into everything that comes into that phone," one friend told Insider. (Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing. He also so far has not been indicted.)

  • A former official says it's possible Gaetz's communications are being monitored: In a public corruption inquiry involving a sitting congressman and perhaps multiple other government officials, it's a fairly safe assumption that at some point investigators would've sought to obtain court-authorized surveillance of Gaetz's communications, said Frank Figliuzzi, a former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence.

Read more about how Florida politicos are "sitting back with popcorn" as they wait for the next shoe to drop.

2. House Democrats approve a two-month debt-limit hike: It amounts to a momentary reprieve as Senate Republicans are already pledging to block any future renewal of America's ability to pay its bills. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the legislation soon. Every House Republican voted against raising the US debt ceiling.

3. US says its borders with Canada and Mexico will soon open to fully vaccinated travelers: Officials say they will lift travel restrictions in November for fully vaccinated tourists. The US has already been open to some categories of travelers, but the latest changes will apply to those looking to visit family or shop in the US. This signals a new phase for tourism as US officials roll back pandemic-related travel restrictions.

4. Democrats are still at odds as Biden's agenda hangs in the balance: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to wrap up negotiations on the party's massive $3.5 trillion social-spending plan by the end of the month, Politico reports. But Democrats are privately worried their disagreements could drag on until December, a month already jam-packed with must-pass legislation to keep the government open and pay its bills. Pelosi has suggested trimming the size of the spending bill and limiting the length of its key programs as ways to further keep costs down. Here's where things stand on the core of Democrats' agenda.

5. There's a second Facebook whistleblower: A former employee named Sophie Zhang also said she had shared inside documents with a US law agency and is ready to testify before Congress. She has criticized what she believed was Facebook's failure to stop authoritarian governments from abusing its platform. Here's the rundown on Facebook's next whistleblower.

6. Biden is getting hammered in the polls: Biden is in a predicament close to what President Barack Obama found himself in during his first term, but the COVID-19 pandemic and a diminished standing among voters unaffiliated with a party are unique to the current president. Biden's support among independents has fallen so much that he's nearing Trump territory.

  • Key stats: Biden started with a 61% approval rating among independents polled by Gallup, an unprecedentedly high mark. That support has steadily decreased in each month of his presidency, dropping to 37% in September directly following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and Biden's vaccine mandate for employers.

American Airlines Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
American Airlines Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner  

7. Top companies flout Texas' ban on vaccine mandates: American Airlines, the nation's largest carrier, and Southwest announced they wouldn't be complying with Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on private companies requiring employees to a COVID-19 shot. Both airlines cited their belief that Biden and his administration's actions superseded any state-level requirements. Abbott is calling on the Texas legislature to pass a law backing up his executive order. Legal experts also say Texas' ban is unlikely to be enforceable.

8. Coroner finds Gabby Petito died of strangulation: Petito died as a result of "manual strangulation/throttling," according to an official document filed by the coroner and viewed by Insider. She was reported missing during a summer cross-country road trip that she took with her now-missing fiancé, Brian Laundrie, who remains the subject of an FBI-led manhunt. More on the news.

9. California is banning the sale of gas-powered lawncare tools: Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation over the weekend that would require all new small off-road engines, a type of small engine primarily used in landscaping equipment, to emit zero emissions by 2024, The Washington Post reports. California is the first state to enact such a ban, though a state board could delay its implementation if the ban is found to be unfeasible. More on the debate raging in the state and what the future might hold.

Taco Bell
Taco Bell  

10. Have a bad date story? So does this TikTok influencer: Elyse Myers said a guy she met on a dating app once forgot his wallet and made her pay for 100 tacos he ordered at the Taco Bell drive-thru. The social-media video of Myers' "worst date ever" has amassed 2.4 million likes and 43,000 comments on TikTok. Watch her explain the crunchy and cringy night.

Today's trivia question: Today marks the anniversary of the laying of the White House's cornerstone. Who was the first president to step into the Oval Office?

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