Axios PM

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February 08, 2024

Good afternoon. Today's newsletter, edited by Sam Baker, is 670 words, a 2.5-min. read. Thanks to Sheryl Miller for copy editing.

1 big thing: Report questions Biden's memory

a picture of the special prosecutor's statement

Photo: Via Justice Department

President Biden's memory appears to have "significant limitations," the special counsel investigating his handling of classified documents said in a detailed report today.

๐Ÿ“ฆ The big picture: Special counsel Robert Hur, who was appointed to be a federal prosecutor by then-President Trump, said he won't prosecute Biden, despite finding that he "willfully" retained classified information, posing "serious risks to national security."

  • But investigators' descriptions of their interviews with the president could still cause him serious political damage.

"He did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended ('if it was 2013 โ€” when did I stop being Vice President?'), and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began ('in 2009, am I still Vice President?')," the report says.

  • "He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died," it continues. "And his memory appeared hazy when describing the Afghanistan debate that was once so important to him."

The report says that's part of the reason investigators decided not to charge Biden โ€” because "at trial, Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory."

The other side: "We do not believe that the report's treatment of President Biden's memory is accurate or appropriate," Biden's personal counsel Bob Bauer and Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, wrote in a letter to the special counsel.

Go deeper ... Read the report ... Biden's statement

2. Trump may finally get a win in court

Trump gives a press conference at Mar-a-Lago
Former President Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., after today's hearing. Photo: Rebecca Blackwelli/AP

The Supreme Court seems likely to put former President Trump back on the ballot in GOP primaries, breaking his recent streak of legal losses, Axios' Sam Baker and Erin Doherty report.

โš–๏ธ Driving the news: A majority of the justices seemed uncomfortable today with Colorado's decision to kick Trump off the ballot over his role in Jan. 6.

  • "I think that the question that you have to confront is why a single state should decide who gets to be president of the United States," Justice Elena Kagan said during the court's oral arguments.
  • The justices didn't seem to coalesce around one specific rationale to overturn Colorado's decision โ€” but a clear majority seemed to know where they wanted to end up, and they have plenty of options to get there.

โšก๏ธ Between the lines: Any legal victory would also be a welcome change of pace for Trump and his campaign.

  • A New York jury last month ordered him to pay $83 million in E. Jean Carroll's defamation lawsuit, and he's still facing a slew of criminal charges.

๐Ÿ”ฎ What's next: Just this week, a federal appeals court rejected Trump's claims that he's immune from prosecution for his role in Jan. 6. That case will likely arrive at the Supreme Court soon.

3. Catch me up

Photo of lava shooting into the sky in southwest Iceland
A view of the Sylingarfell volcano erupting, north of Grindavรญk, Iceland, today. Photo: Marco Di Marco/AP
  1. ๐ŸŒ‹ Remember that big volcano that erupted in Iceland this past December? It's erupting again. Details.
  2. ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky replaced the country's top military general, the most significant shake-up since Russia's invasion. Go deeper.
  3. ๐Ÿ“ž The FCC banned the use of AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls, although it will be extremely difficult to enforce, The Wall Street Journal reports.

4. ๐Ÿ›ธ UFO sightings, mapped

๐Ÿ‘ฝ Reported UFO sightings per 100k residents
Data: National UFO Reporting Center, U.S. Census Bureau; Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

The American West is the place to go if you want to spot some UFOs, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Erin Davis report.

  • ๐Ÿ‘€ Lincoln County, Nevada, home to Area 51, a top-secret Air Force base, had the most UFO sightings of any U.S. county, according to the National UFO Reporting Center โ€” a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization where people can file reports of unusual phenomena.

๐ŸŒ˜ Between the lines: UFO sightings tend to happen in the parts of the U.S. where the night sky is the darkest.

  • Many of these sightings are likely military activity (especially those near Area 51, which has a storied history of classified aircraft tests), satellites or scientific phenomena โ€” not aliens.

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