👋 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/ Trump was acquitted for the second time in 13 months. The Senate voted 57-43 Saturday in favor of convicting Trump – one month and a week after insurrectionists incited a riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6 – 10 votes short of the required two-thirds majority necessary for conviction. Republicans Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, and Patrick Toomey joined all 50 Democrats in voting to find Trump guilty of “incitement of insurrection” – the largest number of senators to vote to find a president of their own party guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. Trump is also the only U.S. president to have been impeached twice. (New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press / Politico / ABC News)
👑 Six hours of paralysis: Inside Trump’s failure to act after a mob stormed the Capitol. “He was hard to reach, and you know why? Because it was live TV,” said one close Trump adviser. “If it’s TiVo, he just hits pause and takes the calls. If it’s live TV, he watches it, and he was just watching it all unfold.” (Washington Post)
👑 One Legacy of Impeachment: The most complete account so far of Jan. 6. “Though Mr. Trump escaped conviction, the Senate impeachment trial has served at least one purpose: It stitched together the most comprehensive and chilling account to date of last month’s deadly assault on the Capitol, ensuring that the former president’s name will be inextricably associated with a violent attempt to subvert the peaceful transfer of power, the first in American history.” (New York Times)
2/ Before the vote to acquit, House impeachment managers unexpectedly called for witnesses after Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told her that Trump supported the mob in a phone call as the Jan. 6 attack was unfolding. Herrera Beutler said that McCarthy had relayed the details of his call with Trump to her, and that McCarthy asked Trump “to publicly and forcefully call off the riot.” Trump, instead, reportedly told McCarthy: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” House impeachment managers seized on her account, saying they wanted to subpoena her as a witness. The Senate then voted to call witnesses, which was reversed a few hours later after a deal to allow her statement read into the record. Trump’s attorney also threatened to seek depositions from 100 or more witnesses, which would have delayed Biden’s agenda by dragging out the trial. (Washington Post / New York Times / NPR / Bloomberg / ABC News / NBC News)
3/ Mitch McConnell denounced Trump minutes after voting to acquit, saying Trump was guilty of a “disgraceful dereliction of duty.” In his post-acquittal speech, McConnell said that Trump was “morally and practically responsible for provoking” the Jan. 6 insurrection, but said he is “constitutionally not eligible for conviction” because he is no longer in office. The Senate trial occurred after Trump left office because McConnell said he would not call back the Senate before lawmakers were set to return Jan. 19 unless every senator agreed to do so. The House impeached Trump on Jan. 13. McConnell also suggested that Trump could still face criminal liability, saying “The Constitution makes perfectly clear that Presidential criminal misconduct while in office can be prosecuted after the President has left office,” adding that Trump “didn’t get away with anything yet.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, called it “pathetic” for McConnell to have “kept the Senate shut down” and unable to receive the article of impeachment. Pelosi added that the 43 Republicans who voted to acquit Trump are “a cowardly group […] who apparently have no options, because they were afraid to defend their job, respect the institution in which they serve.” (New York Times / USA Today / NBC News / Washington Post)
4/ Trump celebrated the Senate voting to acquit him of inciting an insurrection minutes after the verdict was announced, calling the proceedings “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt” perpetuated against him by “one political party.” Trump suggested that the Democrats’ attempt to end his political career had failed, saying “our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun.” Lindsey Graham said Trump remains the party’s “most potent force” even after his second impeachment and that “the Trump movement is alive and well.” Trump, however, has reportedly voiced concern about being charged related to Jan. 6 riot. (NPR / Bloomberg / New York Times / Politico)
New York prosecutors are investigating more than $280 million in loans Trump took out for four Manhattan buildings. In court filings, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said he is pursuing an investigation into possible insurance and bank fraud by the Trump Organization and its officers. (Wall Street Journal)
The Fulton County district attorney plans to investigate the post-Election Day phone call between Sen. Lindsey Graham and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as part of a criminal investigation into whether Trump or his allies broke Georgia laws while trying to reverse his defeat in the state.(Washington Post)
5/ Lawmakers in both parties called for a bipartisan 9/11-style commission to investigate why government officials and law enforcement failed to stop the attack on the U.S. Capitol. In a letter to House Democrats, Nancy Pelosi said “our next step will be to establish an outside, independent 9/11-type Commission to ‘investigate and report on the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021 domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex.’” A commission is the primary remaining option for Congress to try to hold Trump accountable for his role in the assault. Separately, two Senate committees will investigate security failures during the riots, and Nancy Pelosi has also asked the House for a review of the Capitol’s security process. (The Guardian / New York Times / CNN / ABC News / Associated Press)
poll/ 58% of American believe Trump should have been convicted. 61% said Trump’s conduct warranted him being impeached and put on trial. (ABC News)
poll/ 75% of Republicans say they’d like to see Trump play a prominent role in the Republican Party. Overall, 60% of Americans do not want Trump to play a prominent role in the party. (Quinnipiac)
poll/ 62% of Americans say a third political party is needed – up from 57% in September. 33% of Americans say the two major parties are doing an adequate job representing the public. (Gallup)
For the first time since November, the daily average of new coronavirus infections in the U.S. fell below 100,000 – well below the average daily infection rate of 200,000 for December and nearly 250,000 in January. (NPR / NBC News)
The WHO authorized the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for emergency use. The vaccine will be distributed mainly to low- and middle-income countries as part of the global COVAX initiative. (Politico / Bloomberg)
At least 32 million of the 142 million rapid Covid-19 tests distributed by the U.S. government to states last year weren’t used as of early February. The unused tests cost taxpayers $160 million. (Wall Street Journal)
U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy plans to slow down mail delivery and make it more costly by raising postage rates and eliminating first-class mail. DeJoy, with the support of the agency’s bipartisan but Trump-appointed governing board, has discussed lumping all first-class mail into the same three- to five-day window as non-local mail. (Washington Post / NBC News)
Deputy White House press secretary TJ Ducklo resigned after he berated and threatened a female reporter who asked about his relationship with another reporter as part of a story about a potential conflict. (Washington Post / CNN)
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