👋 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 U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 500,000 with more than 28,000,000 confirmed cases. More Americans have died from Covid-19 than in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined – and public health officials have said the actual death toll is likely significantly higher. Dr. Anthony Fauci called the death toll a “stunning,” “terrible,” “really horrible,” and “historic” figure, adding that the U.S. had “done worse than most any other country” despite being a “highly developed, rich country.” On February 23, 2020, Trump suggested that the coronavirus is “going to go away,” because “we’ve had no deaths” and “we have it very much under control in this country.” The coronavirus has killed more than 2,462,000 people worldwide. (NBC News / New York Times / ABC News / Politico / Washington Post / CNN / The Guardian / Wall Street Journal)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~111,643,000; deaths: ~2,472,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~28,175,000; deaths: ~500,000; vaccinated: ~13.3% of total population
First doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines have reduced Covid-19 hospital admissions among the elderly in the U.K. by up to 85% and 94%, respectively. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)
2/ Biden altered the Paycheck Protection Program to direct more funding toward very small businesses and those owned by minorities or located in underserved communities. Starting March 9, businesses with more than 20 employees will be shut out of the PPP for two weeks. Biden criticized the PPP’s early rollout for privileging larger businesses with existing banking connections while smaller businesses struggled to obtain relief. The administration, however, has not said whether it will seek to extend the program after the current funding expires March 31. (NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)
3/ The Supreme Court rejected Trump’s last-ditch effort to keep his private financial records from the Manhattan district attorney. After a four-month delay, the court denied Trump’s motion in a one-sentence order with no recorded dissents, clearing the way for prosecutors in New York City to receive eight years of his tax returns and other financial records as part of an ongoing investigation into possible tax, insurance, and bank fraud. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance can now enforce a subpoena to Trump’s accountants, Mazars USA, to turn over records Trump has repeatedly refused to surrender. Mazars previously said it would comply with the final ruling of the courts. “The work continues,” Vance said in response to the Supreme Court order. (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg / NBC News / CNN / ABC News / The Guardian)
4/ The confirmation of Neera Tanden to lead the Office of Management and Budget is in doubt after two Republicans and a Democrat said they will vote against her nomination. Sens. Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, and Joe Manchin said Tanden’s “past actions” on social media behavior, including criticizing Bernie Sanders and Mitch McConnell, demonstrated the animosity that Biden “pledged to transcend” and that the OMB nominee did not have the “experience nor the temperament” to lead the office. The White House, meanwhile, signaled that it will continue to support Tanden, despite her path to confirmation growing increasingly narrow. (Politico / NBC News / Bloomberg / New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN)
- Republicans in the House and Senate are demanding that Biden withdraw the nomination of Xavier Becerra to head the Department of Health and Human Services, because of his support for abortion rights and “Medicare for All.” Despite the GOP’s opposition to Becerra, Democrats are confident they have the votes to get Becerra confirmed. (Politico / National Reviews)
5/ The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up Republican challenges to the presidential election results in Pennsylvania. Trump and the Pennsylvania Republican Party had urged the justices to review a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling, which had extended the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots until three days after the election. About 10,000 ballots arrived during the three-day window – short of the number needed to overturn Biden’s 80,555-vote victory in the state. The justices offered no public explanation for their decision, but Justice Clarence Thomas dissented. (Washington Post / Politico / CNN)
6/ Dominion Voting Systems sued MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell for more than $1.3 billion, alleging that the Trump ally spread a baseless conspiracy theory that its voting machines were rigged “because the lie sells pillows.” Trump’s lawyers, Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, have also each been sued by Dominion for $1.3 billion in damages. (Axios / ABC News / CNBC / NPR)
7/ The Justice Department and the FBI are investigating communications between the rioters who attacked the Capitol and Roger Stone. For weeks Justice Department officials have debated whether to open a full investigation into Stone, but if they find messages showing that Stone knew about or took part in plans to disrupt the certification of Biden’s electoral victory, officials would have a basis to open a full criminal investigation into Stone. Trump commuted Stone’s sentence in July and pardoned him in late December. The pardon, however, does not protect Stone from future prosecutions. (New York Times / Washington Post)
8/ Trump will speak at next week’s Conservative Political Action Conference – his first public appearance since leaving office. Trump reportedly intends to attack Biden’s immigration plan and tell attendees that he is Republicans’ “presumptive 2024 nominee” for president. (Axios / The Guardian / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
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