👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
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1/ The Biden administration reached a $231 million deal for 8.5 million at-home, over-the-counter Covid-19 rapid tests. The test, made by Ellume, “can detect Covid with roughly 95 percent accuracy within 15 minutes.” The FDA granted an emergency use authorization in December for the tests, which are expected to cost about $30 each. (NPR / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~103,334,000; deaths: ~2,236,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~26,297,000; deaths: ~443,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
Top Trump officials actively lobbied Congress to deny states any extra funding for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout last fall. Paul Mango, the former deputy chief of staff for policy at the Department of Health and Human Services, repeatedly argued that states didn’t need more federal funding because they hadn’t spent the $200 million provided by the government earlier in the year. (STAT News)
The Biden administration is trying to locate upwards of 20 million vaccine doses that have been sent to states but have yet to record as being administered to patients. (Politico)
The Biden administration warned health care providers against holding Covid-19 vaccine doses for second shots that could be administered for initial shots. Andy Slavitt, a senior adviser to the White House’s Covid response team, said providers should be confident that there will be a steady supply of doses and that stockpiling “does not need to happen and should not happen.” (CNN / Politico)
Dodger Stadium’s Covid-19 vaccination site was temporarily shut down after about 50 protesters gathered at the entrance, which included members of anti-vaccine and far-right groups. (Los Angeles Times)
FEMA asked the Pentagon to ready as many as 10,000 troops to support 100 Covid-19 vaccination sites nationwide. The goal is to administer 450,000 vaccinations a day. (CBS News)
2/ A group of 10 Republican senators proposed a $618 billion coronavirus relief plan – about one-third the size of Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal. The proposed GOP package provides $160 billion for testing and vaccines, extends the $300 weekly unemployment insurance payments until July, and provides $1,000 direct payments. Democratic leaders, meanwhile, are prepared to pass Biden’s stimulus plan through a process called budget reconciliation, which allows legislation to pass with just 51 votes. (NBC News / Politico / CBS News / NPR / New York Times / Bloomberg / CNN / Axios / Wall Street Journal)
3/ Biden is reportedly open to scaling down his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package but the $618 billion GOP counterproposal is “not going to scratch the itch.” In particular, the White House said it is open to scaling down stimulus checks for families making more than $150,000 per year. According to Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, “The risk is not that [Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion package] is too big. The risk is that it is too small.” Biden, meanwhile, agreed to meet with Republicans senators to discuss their Covid counterproposal. Ahead of the meeting, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer filed a joint budget resolution that they said will pave the way for “the landmark Biden-Harris coronavirus package,” declaring that “the time for decisive action is now.” (CNN / Washington Post / New York Times / Politico)
4/ The Congressional Budget Office projected that the economy will recover to its pre-pandemic size by the middle of 2021 – faster than previously expected. The nation’s unemployment rate, however, will remain above its pre-pandemic levels through the rest of this decade. Under the CBO’s projections, the unemployment rate would average 4.1% from 2026 to 2031, well above the 3.7 percent it averaged in 2019. The CBO projections do not assume any new stimulus, including Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan. (Washington Post / CNBC / New York Times / NBC News / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)
5/ Trump’s five impeachment lawyers quit after he wanted his defense to focus on his baseless claim that the election was stolen from him. Trump’s lawyers planned to question whether impeaching a president who has already left office was unconstitutional. Trump, however, wanted his defense team to argue during his second impeachment trial that he won the 2020 election and that it was stolen from him while citing his own false claims of election fraud. Trump also reportedly insisted that the case was “simple” and has told advisers he could argue it himself and save the money on lawyers. Trump’s Senate trial for his role in inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol begins Feb. 9. (Washington Post / CNN / New York Times / Politico / NBC News)
Trump named two lawyers, David Schoen and Bruce Castor, who will represent him in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate. Schoen has disputed official reports that Jeffrey Epstein, who was accused of sexually abusing dozens of girls, killed himself in jail, and maintains his belief that Epstein may have been murdered. Castor, meanwhile, declined to prosecute Bill Cosby in 2005. (Washington Post / Bloomberg / New York Times)
The rally that preceded the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol was funded in part by a top Trump campaign donor. The heiress to the Publix Super Markets chain, Julie Jenkins Fancelli, donated about $300,000 through a top fundraising official for Trump’s 2020 campaign, which Alex Jones, a noted conspiracy theorist, helped facilitate. Fancelli paid for more than half of the roughly $500,000 rally at the Ellipse where Trump spoke. Fancelli tapped Caroline Wren, who served as a deputy to Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, at Trump Victory, to organize the event with Ali Alexander, a far-right activist and leader of the “Stop the Steal” movement. Wren was listed as a “VIP Advisor” in the National Park Service permit for the rally. Federal Election Commission records show that Fancelli has donated more than $1 million to Trump Victory, Trump’s campaign, and the Republican National Committee since 2018. (Wall Street Journal / ProPublica)
Trump and the Republican Party raised $255.4 million in the weeks following the Nov. 3 election as he tried to undermine and overturn the results. (New York Times)
6/ A New York judge ordered Trump’s tax firm to turn over documents to New York Attorney General Letitia James. In December, Judge Arthur Engoron of State Supreme Court in Manhattan ordered the Trump Organization to produce records related to an investigation into whether Trump had inflated his assets in financial statements to secure bank loans and reduce his tax bill. The Trump Organization argued that the documents are protected by attorney-client privilege. On Friday, Justice Engoron ordered the Trump Organization to release even more documents to James’s office, rejecting the lawyers’ claim that the documents were privileged. (New York Times / CNN)
- The Scottish Parliament will vote on an Unexplained Wealth Order into Trump’s finances. (The Scotsman)
7/ House Democrats introduced a resolution to force Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her two committee assignments for her inflammatory and false statements, including promoting conspiracy theories that the nation’s deadliest mass shootings were staged and that the 2018 California wildfires were started by “Jewish space lasers.” Greene also endorsed violence against Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats before she was elected. Last week, Greene was assigned seats on the House Education and Labor Committee and the House Budget Committee. (Politico / NBC News)
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