👋 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/ Biden called Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to relax coronavirus restrictions “Neanderthal thinking” and that it was a “big mistake” for people to stop wearing masks. Other states, including Mississippi, have also begun to relax restrictions and end requirements to wear masks citing vaccination rates and lower numbers of Covid-19 cases. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, criticized the decision by governors of Texas and Mississippi to lift mask requirements and other restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus, saying “We have been very clear now is not the time to release all restrictions. The next month or two is really pivotal in terms of how this pandemic goes.” White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki added: “This entire country has paid the price for political leaders who ignored the science when it comes to the pandemic.” (USA Today / ABC News / New York Times / Bloomberg / Washington Post)
2/ Biden and Senate Democrats agreed to limit the number of people who are eligible for $1,400 stimulus checks. Under the new structure, payments would phase out at a faster rate than the House’s Covid-19 relief bill, which zeroed out at individuals earning $100,000 and $200,000 for couples. The Senate bill will cut off payments at $80,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples. About 12 million fewer adults and 5 million fewer kids would get the stimulus payments under the new compromise. In January, Biden promised to boost stimulus payments for Americans to $2,000, telling Georgia voters that they would get $2,000 payments if Democrats won both Senate runoff elections. (NBC News / Washington Post / CNBC / Bloomberg)
3/ The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI warned of a “possible plot” by a militia group to breach the U.S. Capitol and “remove Democratic lawmakers on or about” March 4. The bulletin, titled “National Capital Region Remains Attractive Target for Domestic Violent Extremists,” warned that “Domestic Violent Extremists” or “Militia Violent Extremists” were emboldened by the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and may “exploit public gatherings either formally organized or spontaneous to engage in violence.” The threat appears to be connected to a QAnon conspiracy theory that Trump will return to power on March 4, because that was the original presidential inauguration day until 1933, when it was moved to Jan. 20. (NBC News / Associated Press / CBS News / Bloomberg)
4/ Maj. Gen. William Walker testified that he had National Guard troops at the ready for more than three hours on Jan. 6, while he waited for Trump’s Defense Department to authorize their deployment. Walker also told senators that on Jan. 5, he received a letter with the “unusual” restriction that he was first required to seek approval from the Secretary of the Army and Defense before deploying any Quick Reaction Force service members. Walker added that military leaders — including Michael Flynn’s brother — advised that deploying troops would not be “good optics.” (NPR / CNN / CNBC)
poll/ 62% of Americans support the $1.9 trillion Covid stimulus package, while 34% oppose it. (Monmouth University)
The House Oversight Committee reissued a subpoena to Trump’s accounting firm for financial records related to the panel’s investigations into presidential conflicts of interest. The committee first issued the subpoena to Mazars USA in April 2019, but that expired with the new Congress. Separately, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance enforced a subpoena for Trump’s tax documents from Mazars last week. (NBC News)
The New York City Bar Association called for a “serious investigation” into Rudy Giuliani for promoting Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election. Multiple complaints have been sent to the Attorney Grievance Committee alleging Giuliani violated rules of conduct for attorneys. The committee’s staff attorney can recommend giving Giuliani a warning, suspending their license temporarily, or disbarring them altogether. (CNN)
The White House pulled Neera Tanden’s nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget following bipartisan opposition stemming from her past social media posts that criticized lawmakers in both parties. The White House said it would find her another role in the administration that didn’t require confirmation. (CNN / New York Times / CBS News)
The Senate confirmed Gina Raimondo as the next secretary of the U.S. Commerce Department. The Senate also confirmed Cecilia Rouse to chair the Council of Economic Advisers. Rouse will be the first Black person to serve as the President’s top economist. (NPR / CNN)
At least 10 rockets were fired on an air base in Iraq where U.S. forces are stationed. A U.S. contractor died of a heart attack during the rocket barrage. The attack came less than a week after the U.S. military struck Iran-aligned militia targets in Syria in response to rocket attacks on American forces in the region in recent weeks. The Defense Department and the White House did not identify the group responsible for the attack. (Associated Press / New York Times / CNN)
Bipartisan senators introduced legislation that would repeal repeal the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for the use of military force in the Middle East. Sens. Tim Kaine and Todd Young unveiled the measure hours after an Iraqi military base housing U.S. troops and civilian contractors was hit by rocket attacks. Biden also angered congressional Democrats when he launched airstrikes in Syria last week without first seeking congressional approval. (Politico)
Trump’s White House physician made “sexual and denigrating” comments about a female subordinate, violated policy for drinking alcohol during presidential trips, and took Ambien while working that prompted concerns about his ability to provide proper care, according to the Department of Defense inspector general. Rep. Ronny Jackson denied the allegations, saying Democrats were “using this report to repeat and rehash untrue attacks on my integrity.” The findings, however, stem from a years-long IG investigation into Jackson that included interviews with dozens of colleagues. Jackson was elected to represent a Texas congressional district in November. (CNN / NBC News / Washington Post)
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