President Joe Biden held first solo press conference at the White House in almost 10 months.
“I did not anticipate that there’d be such a stalwart effort to make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden didn’t get anything done. Think about this: What are Republicans for? What are they for? Name me one thing they’re for.” — President Biden, quoted by the Washington Post.
Punchbowl News: “Aides are describing it as a ‘reset’ moment. The president would like to pull back the camera, in a sense, and refocus on the world at large, what he sees as his administration’s successes and the larger narrative of the Biden era.”
“The White House feels as if they’ve undersold his accomplishments – as do many rank-and-file Democrats, quite frankly.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) plans to have the chamber vote to end the Republicans’ filibuster of the voting rights package at around 6:30 ET tonight. It’ll obviously fail, so the Democratic leader has a “talking filibuster” plan to change the filibuster rules — which’ll also fail unless Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) change their minds about keeping the filibuster as is.
“Speaker Nancy Pelosi has spoken on the phone with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) several times in recent days about his opposition to altering the filibuster to pass voting rights bills, several sources told us. Pelosi, of course, is a staunch proponent of passing the package of voting rights bills currently under consideration in the Senate. The two are friendly; Pelosi often speaks about their shared Italian heritage,” Punchbowl News reports.
“Pelosi is pretty judicious about not weighing in on legislation in front of the Senate – and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer extends that courtesy when it comes to the House – so this is significant outreach.”
“It’s one thing to hold a position in the backroom. It’s another thing to hold a position on the floor of the Senate when the whole world is watching.” — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), quoted by the Wall Street Journal.
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), who is up for re-election this year and was previously undecided on the filibuster, issued this statement: “If campaign finance and voting rights reforms are blocked again this week, I will support the proposed changes to pass them with a majority vote.”
“New York Attorney General Letitia James alleged on Tuesday that former president Donald Trump’s business inflated the value of his properties and misstated his personal worth in representations to lenders, insurance brokers and other players in his real estate empire,” the Washington Post reports.
“In a nearly 160-page filing, James cited multiple examples of Trump allegedly lending his signature to financial statements that estimated the worth of properties in the Trump Organization portfolio and the value of his own fortune — estimates that James’s team has long suggested were misleading and potentially key to taking legal action against the Manhattan-based company.”
There is “significant evidence” that the Trump Organization falsely valued its assets to lenders and the IRS “for economic benefit,” according to the attorney general. James also argued that Trump’s testimony is necessary to her investigation, along with that of his adult children, Donald Trump, Jr. and Ivanka Trump.
Buried in a New York Times story: “Ms. James already questioned another of Mr. Trump’s sons, Eric Trump, in October 2020. He invoked his Fifth Amendment right against incriminating himself in response to more than 500 questions, the new court filing said.”
A reminder of what Donald Trump once said: “The mob takes the Fifth. If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”
“Only Justice Clarence Thomas noted a dissent.”
Washington Post: “The order turned aside Trump’s request to block the records release while the case continues through the courts. It means there is no legal obstacle to release of the materials from the National Archives.”
“The threat to Boris Johnson’s leadership has ramped up today as more Conservative MPs said they have submitted letters of no confidence in the PM,” Sky News reports.
Reuters: “To trigger a leadership challenge, 54 of the 360 Conservative MPs in parliament must write letters of no confidence to the chairman of the party’s 1922 Committee.”
Times of London: “The irony will not be lost on Boris Johnson that the greatest threat to his leadership now comes from the MPs who owe him their political careers. That threat should not be underestimated.”
“U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson could be ousted from power within the week, after a longtime ally compared him to Neville Chamberlain in a stunning rebuke in the House of Commons on Wednesday,” Axios reports. Said former minister David Davis: “I expect my leaders to shoulder the responsibility for the actions they take. Yesterday he did the opposite of that.”
Davis concluded with a quote from Leo Amery to Neville Chamberlain: “You have sat there too long for all the good you have done. In the name of God, go.”
Meanwhile, the BBC notes Tory MP Christian Wakeford left the Conservatives and walked across the floor to join Labour in another dramatic moment.
David Leonhardt: “Omicron appears to be in retreat, even if the official national data doesn’t yet reflect that reality. Omicron also appears to be mild in a vast majority of cases, especially for the vaccinated. This combination means that the U.S. may be only a few weeks away from the most encouraging Covid situation since early last summer, before the Delta variant emerged.”
“As the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc, an expert panel at the World Economic Forum delivered a mix of good news and bad news on Monday: More variants will emerge, but vaccine production is accelerating and research is progressing toward a combined shot that may be able to attack these different variants,” Stat reports.
Washington Post: “After a period when Biden’s vaccination focus appeared to be paying off, many of those problems have roared back as the delta variant, and then omicron, tore across the country. Once again, doctors and nurses are pleading for relief, as hospitalizations set new daily records and more facilities move to ration care. Many Americans say they’re confused by government pronouncements and losing faith in the agencies handling the response. Essential workers in packing plants, food service and emergency response say they still feel endangered by a virus that Biden had vowed to control.”
“The Biden administration will begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free to Americans starting next week, now that federal officials are emphasizing their better protection against the omicron variant of COVID-19 over cloth face coverings,” the AP reports.
“The House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol has subpoenaed and obtained records of phone numbers associated with one of former President Donald Trump’s children, Eric Trump, as well as Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is engaged to Donald Trump Jr.,” CNN reports.
“It appears to be the first time the select committee has issued a subpoena that targeted a member of the Trump family, in what marks a significant escalation of the investigation into Trump’s role in the January 6 insurrection.”
“In an effort to keep a newly-arrested member of the Oath Keepers militia group charged in last week’s seditious conspiracy indictment behind bars — the Justice Department in a new court filing Wednesday revealed even more details behind the group’s alleged plotting in advance of the Jan. 6 insurrection,” ABC News reports.
“Edward Vallejo is not alleged to have joined the Oath Keepers at the Capitol on Jan. 6 — he instead is accused of waiting with a so-called ‘Quick Reaction Force’ of heavily armed individuals at a hotel in Virginia just outside the city, waiting to be activated once the militia’s members in D.C. called for help.”
“Around three dozen former Trump administration officials, disillusioned with their former boss and concerned about his impact on the GOP and the nation, held a conference call last Monday to discuss efforts to fend off his efforts to, in their view, erode the democratic process,” CNN reports.
“The only items the group seemed to agree upon in its first meeting, however, were that they’re not sure what their way forward should be, and that they are way behind the efforts of former President Donald Trump and his allies to set the stage for 2022, 2024, and beyond.”
Most interesting is that former White House chief of staff John Kelly was on the call.
The 13 members of the GOP Doctors Caucus sent a letter to White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci demanding he apologize for calling Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) a “moron,” Fox News reports.
After being called a “moron” by Dr. Anthony Fauci in a Senate hearing, Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) is now selling “Moron” t-shirts for his supporters to wear.
The White House is seeking to “reset” talks on its $1.75 trillion spending bill, aiming to salvage climate change measures but pare down or cut items like the child tax credit and paid family leave to appeal to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) as soon as this week, Reuters reports.
Manchin abruptly halted talks on the spending package before Christmas, citing his concerns over inflation, deficit spending and what he called an attempt to “reshape our society.”
“It does not surprise me that despite progress on Covid, despite progress on the economy, voters are not going to give us a passing grade yet. But President Biden was elected to a four-year term, not a one-year term.” — White House chief of staff Ron Klein, quoted by Politico.
“The White House is planning to re-engage with Sen. Joe Manchin on President Biden’s signature education, healthcare and climate package, hoping to take a more muted approach to negotiations as some frustrated Democratic lawmakers push for passing pieces of the agenda individually instead,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Said White House chief of staff Ron Klain: “One lesson we learned in the first year is, I think, the less we talk about our negotiations with specific senators and congressmen, the better we are so I’m going to say our talks with Sen. Manchin will proceed directly and privately.”
“The White House is working to sell frustrated House Democrats on a simple pre-midterms pitch: Stop focusing on what hasn’t gotten done yet and start touting the two big bills the party has passed so far,” Politico reports.
“Democrats have already passed a pandemic aid package and infrastructure law totaling $2.4 trillion. Many lawmakers, however, remain determined to log another legislative achievement they can champion, worried that voters will be disappointed and disenchanted — following lofty campaign promises — if they don’t get more done.”
Max Boot: “Biden was never going to be another FDR or LBJ, not with only 50 votes in the Senate. He was lucky to pass more than $3 trillion in spending last year, with $1.2 trillion of that coming in a bipartisan infrastructure bill. Why isn’t that good enough for his supporters?”
“But nor is he destined to become another Jimmy Carter — a one-term president who is widely, perhaps unfairly, perceived as a failure.”
“A large part of Biden’s problem is that presidents get blamed for a lot of things they have little control over — in his case, Covid-19 and inflation.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) “has been courting popular conservative media and online figures, an effort that comes as former President Donald Trump appears to be turning on DeSantis,” Politico reports. “Some of those whom the governor’s staff are wooing are heavily involved in amplifying the anti-vax movement and downplaying the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.”
The head of Florida’s Orange County Department of Health has been placed on administrative leave for an email he sent this month encouraging members of his staff to get vaccinated against Covid-19, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
President Joe Biden said that he expects Russian President Vladimir Putin to order an invasion of Ukraine, and warned that “a disaster” awaits Russia if that happened, CNBC reports.
Said Biden: “My guess is he will move in, he has to do something.”
He added: “It is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine. Our allies and partners are ready to impose a severe cost on Russia and the Russian economy And I think he’ll regret having done it.”
“At least three European allies are waiting for the U.S. State Department to approve their requests to send U.S.-made weapons to Ukraine, as fears grow of a multi-front invasion by Russian forces and the Biden administration prepares to ship a new batch of weapons to Kyiv,” Politico reports.
“I don’t regret it for a second.” — Alexei Navalny, quoted by Deutsche Welle, of his decision to return to Russia a year ago, only to be arrested.
A life-size cutout of former President Trump reportedly greeted Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) when he entered his office on his first day of work — one of several pranks left by former Gov. Ralph Northam (D), the Washington Post reports. Northam also left a blue fleece hanging up in the closet with the embroidered message: “Top State for Business.”
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) “named Angela Sailor, a policy expert at the Heritage Foundation who has criticized school lessons on systemic racism in the U.S., as the state’s new director of diversity, equity and inclusion,” the Richmond Times Dispatch reports.
Youngkin also issued an executive order to refocus the office to promote “free speech and civil discourse” at colleges and universities, and ensuring that the state’s history curriculum is “honest, objective, and complete.”
The Bulwark: “Properly crafted, an Electoral Count Act of 2022 wouldn’t just deliver us from evil, it would also lead us not into temptation.”
“The Electoral Count Act of 1867 is a ticking bomb. Now that its vulnerabilities have been exposed, it is only a matter of time before someone uses it to overturn an American presidential election and with it, American democracy. Even an unsuccessful attempt would be disastrous.”
“Major international airlines canceled flights heading to the U.S. or changed the planes they’re using Wednesday, the latest complication in a dispute over concerns that new 5G mobile phone service could interfere with aircraft technology,” the AP reports.
“Carriers took widely different approaches to the brewing crisis affecting international travel, from Middle Eastern airline Emirates drastically reducing its U.S.-bound flights to Air France saying it would fly as normal.”
“Newly declassified surveillance footage provides additional details about the final minutes and aftermath of a botched drone strike in Kabul in August, when the American military mistakenly killed 10 innocent people — including seven children — in a tragic blunder that punctuated the end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan,” the New York Times reports.
“The disclosure of the videos is the first time any footage from the strike has been seen publicly. They encompass about 25 minutes of silent video from two drones — a military official said both were MQ-9 Reapers — showing the minutes before, during and after the strike.”
“The Taliban’s prime minister called on Muslim nations to be the first to officially recognize the government that seized power in Afghanistan in August,” AFP reports.
“No country has yet recognized the Taliban government, with nations watching to see how the hardline Islamists -– notorious for human rights abuses during their first stint in power between 1996 and 2001 -– will rule this time around.”
“Taliban fighters confronted female protesters and doused them with pepper spray as they marched through Kabul demanding rights to work and education,” the Times of London reports. “Dozens of women took to the streets yesterday with banners and posters against forced wearing of the hijab, harassment by the Taliban and the requirement of needing a male relative chaperone, or mahram, to be able to go out in public.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in a statement Wednesday that she did not ask Justice Neil Gorsuch to wear a mask, but she also did not give her reasons for participating in oral arguments remotely from her chambers, instead of on the bench, the Washington Post reports.
In a joint statement released by the court, the two said news accounts of the dispute “surprised us” and described them as “false.”
Ahead of a crucial presidential election, former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is attempting a political comeback with a bid to rally cross-party support “around his barely disguised self-candidacy for the presidency,” the Financial Times reports.
Far-right French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour has been fined €10,000 by a Paris court for hate speech, the BBC reports. The case was launched over a TV appearance, where he described unaccompanied migrant children as “thieves”, “rapists” and “murderers.”
“Israel police uses NSO’s Pegasus spyware to remotely hack phones of Israeli citizens, control them and extract information from them,” Calcalist reports.
“Among those who had their phones broken into by police are mayors, leaders of political protests against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former governmental employees, and a person close to a senior politician.”