“The White House is preparing to pivot on the pandemic — but with a different approach than the July 4 celebration last summer that some have subsequently criticized as premature,” The Hill reports. Said one Democratic strategist: “No one wants a repeat of last July.”
“New evidence is now emerging that gives the White House and plenty of others hope that the nation is veering out of the pandemic.”
More than 900,000 Americans have now died since the start of the pandemic. The death toll is the highest confirmed count of coronavirus casualties of any nation in the world.
“The world is living through a unique moment: In the past five or six weeks, the Omicron coronavirus variant has likely gotten more people sick than any similar period since the 1917-18 flu pandemic, according to global health experts,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“While Omicron infections have peaked in many places, February is likely to see similar case loads as the variant continues to spread before it flames out, causing worker shortages from hospitals to factories and spurring debate about Covid-19 restrictions, particularly since Omicron appears to be causing less serious illness.”
“Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) will soon end the public health disaster proclamation that Iowa has operated under since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic nearly two years ago,” the Des Moines Register reports. “In the early days of the pandemic, she relied on the proclamation to close businesses, limit large gatherings and encourage other pandemic responses like limiting nonessential surgeries and — briefly — requiring masks to be worn in certain indoor settings.”
“I just don’t think that government, frankly, has that much runway left, in terms of telling people what to do.” — Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas (D), quoted by the New York Times, on people returning to prepandemic routines.
Delta Air Lines has asked the Justice Department to help set up a national “no-fly” list of unruly passengers that would bar them from boarding any commercial air carrier, amid a surge in “air rage” incidents during the pandemic, the Washington Post reports.
Washington Post: “The ongoing battle over the future of the Republican Party erupted into open view Friday as former vice president Mike Pence said it would have been ‘un-American’ for him to overturn the election at Donald Trump’s insistence and the party’s grass-roots members overwhelmingly voted to censure two Republicans for investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.”
“Trump loomed over the day’s action, though he was absent as the party’s top activists and donors huddled in Utah and a prominent conservative legal group hosted Pence and some of the party’s top figures in Florida.”
Former President Donald Trump gave an uncharacteristically muted response to former Vice President Mike Pence’s remarks that he did not have the authority to overturn the 2020 election results, The Hill reports.
Said Trump: “Just saw Mike Pence’s statement on the fact that he had no right to do anything with respect to the Electoral Vote Count, other than being an automatic conveyor belt for the Old Crow Mitch McConnell to get Biden elected President as quickly as possible.”
He added: “Well, the Vice President’s position is not an automatic conveyor if obvious signs of voter fraud or irregularities exist.”
Associated Press: “The RNC, which controls the party’s rules and infrastructure, is under no obligation to support Trump again. In fact, the GOP’s bylaws specifically require neutrality should more than one candidate seek the party’s presidential nomination.”
“But as Republican officials from across the country gathered in Utah this week for the RNC’s winter meeting, party leaders devoted considerable energy to disciplining Trump’s rivals and embracing his grievances. As the earliest stages of the next presidential contest take shape, their actions made clear that choosing to serve Trump and his political interests remains a focus for the party.”
When asked about the RNC’s resolution to censure Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), House minority leader Kevin McCarthy said nothing at all.
“The Justice Department has sought phone and email records of a defense attorney who represented Stephen Bannon, the former adviser to President Donald Trump, in his dealings with a House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riots and his subsequent indictment for contempt of Congress,” the Washington Post reports.
“Bannon’s team decried the collection of Robert Costello’s records, saying it may have violated attorney-client privilege, a bedrock principle of U.S. legal practice that says a lawyer must keep confidential what they are told by their clients.”
“The House select committee scrutinizing the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol is borrowing techniques from federal prosecutions, employing aggressive tactics typically used against mobsters and terrorists as it seeks to break through stonewalling from former President Donald Trump and his allies and develop evidence that could prompt a criminal case,” the New York Times reports.
“In what its members see as the best opportunity to hold Mr. Trump and his team accountable, the committee — which has no authority to pursue criminal charges — is using what powers it has in expansive ways in hopes of pressuring Attorney General Merrick Garland to use the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute them.”
“A former law clerk for a potential Supreme Court nominee embarked on a Wikipedia editing spree over the past week, bolstering the page of his former boss while altering the pages of her competitors in an apparent attempt to invite liberal skepticism,“ Political reports.
“After Politico began inquiring about the changes on Friday, a group of former law clerks for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson identified the anonymous editor as Matteo Godi, another former Jackson clerk. Godi did not respond to multiple emailed requests or a phone call.”
Eric Lander, the president’s top science adviser and a member of his Cabinet, sent a Friday night email to his roughly 150-person staff apologizing for speaking to colleagues in a “disrespectful and demeaning way,” Politico reports.
Rep. Jim Clyburn (R-SC) said President Joe Biden’s nominee to the Supreme Court will need Republican support to receive Senate confirmation, McClatchy reports.
Said Clyburn: “I know how to count. I’m the whip. It has to be bipartisan. So I’m reaching out to the two Republicans from South Carolina. I’ve asked them for their support, but I’m talking to other Republicans, as well.”
Washington Post: “Although glimpses of Trump’s penchant for ripping were reported earlier in his presidency — including by Politico in 2018 — the House select committee’s investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection has shined a new spotlight on the practice. The Washington Post reported that some of the White House records the National Archives and Records Administration turned over the committee appeared to have been torn apart and then taped back together.”
“Interviews with 11 former Trump staffers, associates, and others familiar with the habit reveal that Trump’s shredding of paper was far more widespread and indiscriminate than previously known and — despite multiple admonishments — extended throughout his presidency, resulting in special practices to deal with the torn fragments.”
Joe Rogan has responded to a resurfaced clip of him using the N-word almost two dozen times while hosting his wildly popular podcast, the New York Post reports. He called the clip “the most regretful and shameful thing I’ve ever had to talk about publicly.” He added: “It looks fucking horrible. Even to me.”
“Spotify pulled down at least 70 episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience from its archives on Friday,” Gizmodo reports. “However, the disappeared episodes don’t have much to do with the platform’s ongoing controversy over covid-19 misinformation.”
“Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agreed to rebuff Western intrusion into their countries’ internal affairs and boost efforts to defend their nations’ security interests, strengthening cooperation between Moscow and Beijing as both face pressure from the U.S. and Europe,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Marine Le Pen, the nationalist candidate for the French presidency, received an €11 million campaign loan from a Hungarian bank that is assumed to have had support from Viktor Orban, the country’s authoritarian leader,” the Times of London reports.
Scotland Yard has a photograph of British prime minister Boris Johnson holding a can of a beer at his lockdown birthday party in June 2020, the Daily Mirror reports. Jonathan Pie reports in a hilarious new video what many of us suspected all along: Boris Johnson is a liar. This will almost certainly be the funniest thing you see today.
Four top aides to embattled British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced their resignations on Thursday, as the British government continued to be rocked by a scandal dubbed “Partygate,” the Washington Post reports.
Wall Street Journal: “Police in Ottawa, Ontario, are weighing military help or a court order to bring an end to a weeklong protest against vaccine mandates that has forced businesses to close, frayed residents’ nerves and strangled swaths of the city’s core.”
“The protests, led by truckers and their supporters, have clogged Ottawa traffic and disrupted residents’ daily lives. Police said this week their intelligence indicates that more truckers and citizens, perhaps in the tens of thousands, are headed toward Ottawa this weekend. City politicians say the protest, which began Jan. 28, has morphed into an occupation.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is quoted by the Associated Press: “It’s not a protest anymore. It’s become an occupation. It’s time for this to come to an end.”
Donald Trump released a statement backing the protest-turned-occupation now entering its second week in Canada’s capital.
“President Biden flexed America’s military power in hopes of deterring a Russian invasion of Ukraine with his announcement this week that 3,000 U.S. troops were heading to Eastern Europe,” the New York Times reports.
“But Mr. Biden is not readying for war with Russia. The troops will be shoring up NATO countries, not defending Ukraine itself — which is not a member of the alliance — as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia builds up military forces near the borders of its neighbor.”
“And lest there be any misunderstanding, Mr. Biden has repeatedly made clear that he has no intention of sending U.S. troops to Ukraine.”
Wired: “For the past two weeks, observers of North Korea’s strange and tightly restricted corner of the internet began to notice that the country seemed to be dealing with some serious connectivity problems. On several different days, practically all of its websites—the notoriously isolated nation only has a few dozen—intermittently dropped offline en masse… At least one of the central routers that allow access to the country’s networks appeared at one point to be paralyzed, crippling the Hermit Kingdom’s digital connections to the outside world.”
“Some North Korea watchers pointed out that the country had just carried out a series of missile tests, implying that a foreign government’s hackers might have launched a cyberattack against the rogue state to tell it to stop saber-rattling.”
“But responsibility for North Korea’s ongoing internet outages doesn’t lie with US Cyber Command or any other state-sponsored hacking agency. In fact, it was the work of one American man in a T-shirt, pajama pants, and slippers, sitting in his living room night after night, watching Alien movies and eating spicy corn snacks—and periodically walking over to his home office to check on the progress of the programs he was running to disrupt the internet of an entire country.”
Punchbowl News: “With President Joe Biden and Democrats unable to move their agenda due to Senate GOP opposition, the American public’s frustration with the continuing Covid pandemic and soaring inflation felt across the country, and House Republicans seemingly on the march toward the majority, why would McCarthy want the spotlight on internecine fighting over Trump? The way the GOP leadership sees this, Kinzinger will be gone from Congress after the election and Cheney will lose in November.”
“McCarthy has a tightrope to walk here. If he’s seen as protecting Cheney and Kinzinger, the California Republican risks damaging his relationship with the hard right – a relationship that was once rocky but is now largely under control. However, If he gives in to their demands, McCarthy puts the spotlight directly on his conference at a time when his best move is to keep a low profile.”
“Board members of four major oil companies declined to appear at a House oversight panel hearing scheduled for Feb. 8 to answer questions about their companies’ climate change plans,” Reuters reports.
A video shows Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) confronted by a grocery store customer for declining to wear a mask inside.
Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin have introduced several bills aimed at barring health care providers from withholding unproven treatments for Covid-19 such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
Newly-obtained emails suggest that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been in regular contact with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Rolling Stone reports.
A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would back efforts by congressional staffers to unionize after she appeared to sidestep a question about the topic earlier Thursday, NBC News reports.
Politico: “Pay so low that aides survive on food stamps. Office cultures that drive committed employees to seek mental health support. Staffers of color feeling cut off from pursuing senior roles.”
“A deluge of anonymous Instagram posts is pulling back the curtain on the ugly secrets of how the Hill treats its most vulnerable workers. An anonymously run account, known as Dear White Staffers, has exploded in popularity and is dragging longstanding problems with staff diversity, paltry pay and punishing hours into the light.”
Playbook: “It’s a reminder of the lack of a strong, centralized human resources department on Capitol Hill. Rather, each office operates as its own mini-fiefdom, setting pay and employment standards. That’s not always been to the benefit of staff, who have few places to turn when they have problems.”
“Michael Avenatti, an attorney who rose to national prominence representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels as she took on Donald Trump, was convicted on Friday of charges related to taking $300,000 from Daniels by siphoning payments of her book-deal advance,” the Washington Post reports.
“Avenatti was found guilty on counts of of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He faces up to 22 years in prison at sentencing.”