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Durham Report Raises Security Questions

It’s Wednesday, February 16th, and this is your Morning Wire. Listen to the full podcast:

1) Durham Report Raises Security Questions

The Topline: The special counsel’s allegations of spying on Trump in the White House have former and current lawmakers asking questions.

Quote Of The Day: “We knew they were running spies into the campaign, but what we never knew is that they would be able to compromise servers and take internet data from President Trump, specifically as a candidate, but then…actually taking and scraping information from the White House, which is supposed to be the most protected communications architecture in the world.”

– Former Congressman Devin Nunes

Eva Marie Uzcategui/Stringer/Getty Images

The Findings

On Friday, Special Counsel John Durham revealed more details connected to charges against Michael Sussman, a lawyer who represented the Clinton campaign, who is being charged with lying about that affiliation when he presented evidence to the FBI. 

On at least two occasions, Sussman met with intelligence agencies to bring information about supposed “Russian collusion.” Information which later was proved false. Durham also found that some of the information provided to the CIA in 2017 appeared to include protected White House communications.

The tech executive cited by Durham as helping to provide the data on Trump responded late Monday. The executive, Rodney Joffe, who worked for Neustar at the time, admitted through a spokesperson that a report on Trump was provided to the CIA. Joffe’s spokesperson said cyber-security researchers “prepared a report of their findings, which was subsequently shared with the CIA.” 

Joffe has not been charged with anything. So far, only Sussman has been charged and he is pleading not guilty.

Response

The New York Times says what Durham has alleged is not technically “spying,” but others outlets, such as The Wall Street Journal, say, “Trump really was spied on.” They called the Russia collusion story “one of the dirtiest tricks in U.S. political history.”

The White House and Hillary Clinton have refused to comment so far, but several Republicans have responded, including Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), the top-ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and former Congressman Devin Nunes, who led the House Intelligence Committee when this saga began in 2016. 

Nunes is now the CEO of the Trump Media and Technology Group. He said he was surprised by some of Durham’s findings, and the use of Sussman to push the false claims was part of a larger strategy of concealing the political motives behind it.

Brendan Smialowski / AFP / BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/ Contributor via Getty Images

2) Most Democrats Oppose Biden Running Again

The Topline: As new polling shows President Joe Biden sinking to record lows in popularity, Democrat leaders appear to be distancing themselves from key 2020 campaign promises.

Biden

A new poll from CNN revealed that 51% of Democrat voters prefer another candidate run in 2024 other than President Joe Biden. 

In the rolling average of national polls, Biden’s approval rating is at 41% with his disapproval rate at 54%. So far this month, Biden hasn’t risen above 43% approval in any national polls. At this point last year, he was at 54% approval and only 37% disapproval. 

Even when his performance on the economy and foreign policy dropped during the winter, the majority of Americans still supported his handling of COVID. However, now only 44% of Americans approve on that front. 

CNN published another poll last week asking Americans what they thought Biden was doing well, and 56% of respondents couldn’t name a single thing they approve of. 

Democrats

Democrats held a clear advantage all year in polling regarding which party voters prefer in the midterms. Now, Republicans have a commanding lead in generic congressional polling. 

Democrat leaders appear to be aware of this shift in voter sentiment and have started to reverse course on a number of issues they campaigned on in 2020. For example, they’ve reversed on mask mandates and lockdowns, after calling for them all year. They’ve gone largely silent on Critical Race Theory and Black Lives Matter, and they’ve even pulled back on issues like Defunding the Police, which Speaker Pelosi called “dead,” on Sunday.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

3) FDA Changes Tune On China-Developed Drugs

The Topline: As western drug companies seek to introduce drugs into the U.S. that were developed in China, the FDA is signaling it may not approve. 

FDA

Food and Drug regulators in the U.S. are wary of some drugs that have been developed in China, specifically regarding the standard of studies looking at medicines there. They’re also worried that U.S. patients haven’t been part of the studies for those medicines.

This could affect the strategies of some drugmakers in the West, like Eli Lilly and Novartis, which were potentially going to make billions of dollars in sales by transferring drugs from China to America. For example, Lilly was hoping to push out a China-developed lung-cancer immunotherapy and offer it at a lower cost than similar medicines already for sale. 

In a document posted online last week, FDA staff said the data from the clinical trial, which was done solely in China, “are not applicable to the U.S. population and U.S. medical practice.”

On Thursday, FDA advisers voted against supporting the FDA’s approval of the drug from Lilly and its Chinese partner Innovent Biologics.

Concerns

A report published in the British Medical Journal in 2016 found that more than 80% of clinical trial data put forward for new drug registrations in China were “revealed as fraudulent or substandard by the country’s drug regulator.”

In 2019, the FDA approved a lymphoma treatment that had mainly been tested in China, with some participants in the U.S. That same year, Richard Pazdur, director of the FDA’s cancer-drugs division, spoke at a medical conference and said the FDA would accept Chinese-only drug-study outcomes if the data were “quality.” 

Some experts in the industry considered this wording as providing a go-around for China-tested medicines to be accepted in the U.S. without going through longer trials in America

Now, the FDA and the advisory panel appear to be more concerned with the lack of diversity of the participants in these types of studies. 

On Thursday, Pazdur spoke about the shift, saying, “Over the past two or three years, this country has experienced tremendous social change.” He said they “clearly heard from all patient groups that they want faces like theirs.” He said, “[s]ingle countries submissions is a step backward in achieving the racial diversity that we need in the United States.”

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Other Stories We’re Tracking

Prince Andrew
Prince Andrew has agreed to settle a sexual assault lawsuit brought by Virginia Giuffre according to a letter from her attorney. The amount of the settlement has not been disclosed. Giuffre claims Prince Andrew sexually abused her when she was under 18 years old. Giuffre settled a civil lawsuit against Jeffrey Epstein for $500,000. The Prince was scheduled to be deposed in March after a judge rejected his request to dismiss the case. A letter from Giuffre’s attorney says, “Prince Andrew regrets his association with Epstein, and commends the bravery of Ms. Giuffre.”

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