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10 Things in Politics: Biden’s Arizona election-audit problem

1. RAISING THE ARIZONA QUESTION: Pressure is increasing on the Department of Justice to intervene in the GOP-led Arizona election audit. Elections experts tell Insider that there is a need for the federal government to get involved given the lack of transparency about what even local Republican officials have dismissed as a sham.

  • Key quote: “Everyone has pointed out the myriad of problems with the so-called audit, and yet it continues on,” said Grant Woods, a former Republican attorney general of Arizona who has become a Democrat. “At some point, we’re going to have to make a point in this country that you can’t do this.” Woods said he had reached out to the DOJ to encourage it to deploy people to Arizona who could more closely monitor the audit.

But officials are far from united in what Washington should do:

Some advised staying as far away as possible: One official worried that the unintended consequence of such an action could be akin to the deadly Capitol riot. “Could there be another riot or interaction like they had on January 6? You bet,” said Steve Gallardo, the only Democratic official on the board of supervisors in Maricopa County.

  • Others think the best thing to do is nothing at all: If Democrats believe the audit “is a train wreck, then they should let the train run off the track, not stop the train from breaking,” said Bennie Smith, a Democratic election official in Tennessee, who has traveled to Arizona to monitor the audit.

The DOJ has warned Arizona’s Senate president that the audit could be violating federal law: Pamela Karlan, the principal deputy assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, expressed concern to the Arizona Senate’s president, Karen Fann, about reports that ballot and other election materials were being destroyed and compromised under the supervision of Cyber Ninjas, the cybersecurity firm hired to help with the audit that has no previous election-related experience.

The audit may also be done soon: Ken Bennett, the Arizona Senate liaison overseeing the Maricopa County audit, said the hand count could finish this week with a report issued late next month or early August. Of course, previous government-run audits found nothing amiss. Local officials have also promised to challenge whatever report is issued.

More on the competing pressures on the Justice Department.

2. Four million Americans quit their jobs in April — a 20-year record: Companies were advertising 9.3 job million openings at the end of April, up 12% from the previous month, the Labor Department said. The number of vacancies grew most in the accommodation and food-service sectors, which are opening up after more than a year of pandemic restrictions. Businesses have reported severe labor shortages in recent weeks.

3. The Pentagon is reportedly weighing airstrikes after Afghanistan withdrawal: Military officials are looking into the possibility of supporting Afghan forces with airstrikes depending on the threat of the Taliban taking control over a major city in the country, The New York Times reports. The Biden administration initially planned to end US air support when troops were withdrawn, but concern over the consequences of withdrawal is said to have prompted it to reconsider. Officials said no decisions had been made.

4. Progressives draw a red line on infrastructure talks: A handful of Democratic senators went public with their outrage after a White House official acknowledged during an interview that Biden might not get some of his most ambitious climate proposals in a final infrastructure bill, Politico reports. Lawmakers are reportedly worried that climate concerns will lose out in the push for a bipartisan deal.

  • Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts:
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President Donald Trump held a Bible while visiting St. John’s Church across from the White House on June 1, 2020. 

5. Watchdog says protesters were not cleared for a Trump photo op: Law-enforcement officials cleared Lafayette Park in Washington, DC, to put up fencing — not to enable then-President Donald Trump’s now-infamous photo op at St. John’s Church in June 2020, an internal watchdog for the Interior Department concluded in a report. The report focused largely on the Park Police and did not interview Secret Service officials or other agencies about what happened that day. More on the report’s conclusions here.

6. US reportedly set to buy 500 million Pfizer vaccine doses to ship around the world: The Biden administration is lining up 500 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s two-dose coronavirus vaccine, The Washington Post reports. This latest development comes on the heels of the Biden administration promising 80 million vaccine doses to be exported in conjunction with the World Health Organization’s COVAX effort. More on the vaccine diplomacy here.

7. World’s largest beef supplier paid $11 million to hackers: JBS made a ransom payment to hackers after they temporarily knocked out the company’s plants that process roughly one-fifth of the US’s meat, The Wall Street Journal reports. A top executive said the payment was made to shield the company from further disruption and to try to minimize the hack’s effects on the supply chain. Amid a wave of attacks, some federal officials support barring companies from making such ransom payments.

8. Dr. Fauci has had enough: Dr. Anthony Fauci lashed out at his critics, saying the recent string of attacks on him were “quite frankly, attacks on science.” Fauci told MSNBC, “People want to fire me or put me in jail for what I’ve done — namely, follow the science.”

9. A New York mayoral frontrunner tried to put to bed concerns that he lives in New Jersey: Brooklyn’s borough president, Eric Adams, showed reporters a basement unit in a row house where he insisted he lived when not sleeping in the office. A Politico New York investigation raised questions on where Adams lived given conflicting public information and where he’d been observed sleeping most nights. Adams previously said he was living in his office. Rival campaigns quickly seized on the saga.

Elephants roaming through a neighborhood in China earlier this month. 

10. A herd of 15 elephants is wandering around China and wreaking havoc: The elephants have been on the move for a year, since they left their reserve in the Yunnan province in southwestern China. On their journey, they have knocked on people’s doors, put their trunks through residents’ windows, strolled into a car dealership, and destroyed over $1 million of crops. Photos of their expedition.