The race to vaccinate Americans is on at the Delaware International Speedway, which is set to become the first FEMA vaccination site in the region this week as the U.S. surpasses 500,00 deaths from COVID-19. MSNBC’s Gary Grumbach reports.
- The Independent
John Brennan says ‘there are so few Republicans in Congress who value truth, honesty, and integrity’
- LA Times
Op-Ed: It's official. Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for Jamal Khashoggi's murder. Hold him accountable
President Biden's failure to punish the Saudi crown prince defies justice and weakens the rule of law everywhere.
- National Review
Senator Ron Johnson (R., Wisc.) reportedly plans to force Senate clerks to read out the entire $1.9 trillion COVID-relief bill on the Senate floor, potentially delaying the vote by as much as 10 hours. Johnson told News/ Talk 1130, a local radio station in Wisconsin, that he plans to “make them read their 600-700 page bill” to ensure “Every member of the Senate has time to read” the bill and “highlight that this is not relief and that it’s a Democratic boondoggle.” The delay will come in addition to the 20 hours of debate time already scheduled for the legislation. Unanimous consent from all 100 senators is needed to waive a read-out on the Senate floor — most bills bypass a reading by unanimous consent in order to save time. Senate Republican Whip John Thune (R., S.D.) said he is “told it’s going to be more like 10” hours. “It’s going to occur at the beginning so it would be before the clocks starts so it doesn’t go against the 20 hours, it’s on top of the 20,” he said. Johnson said it is not his intention to “make it hurt,” but instead he hopes to highlight “how gross this is and how unnecessary this is.” Republicans have criticized the bill as being too large and wasteful and have been frustrated by Democrats’ use of budget reconciliation to pass the bill without bipartisan support. “Their bill costs about $2 trillion. That’s roughly the same size as the entire CARES Act that saved our health system and economy through months of shutdowns,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said on the Senate floor. “Even liberal experts admit this is far out of proportion to what’s needed now, with vaccines going into arms and the economy already primed to roar back,” he said. “Amazingly, Democrats managed to allocate less than 9 percent of their massive bill to the entire healthcare response, and less than 1 percent to the vaccinations that will finish this fight.”
- NY Daily News
NEW YORK — Jets GM Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh haven’t quite tipped their hand for their plans at quarterback yet, but those plans are becoming increasingly clear. Sam Darnold is on the block. Trading for Deshaun Watson is unlikely. Perhaps the clearest statement came from Douglas when he was asked a leading question about trading the Jets’ boatload of picks for a player. ...
- The Telegraph
Nicola Sturgeon chokes back tears as she rejects 'absurd' claims she was out to destroy Alex Salmond
Nicola Sturgeon today choked back tears and insisted "I would never have wanted to 'get' Alex Salmond" as she rejected as "absurd" his claims of a plot among senior SNP figures to destroy him. The First Minister told a Holyrood inquiry the "simple" truth was that several women made complaints about Mr Salmond's behaviour and "I refused to follow the usual pattern of allowing a powerful man to use his status and connections to get what he wants." In an appearance spanning more than eight hours, against the backdrop of calls for her resignation, Ms Sturgeon insisted she had seen "nothing that comes within a million miles" of backing Mr Salmond's conspiracy claims. Although she reiterated it was "beyond question" that Mr Salmond had been cleared of all criminal charges, she said his behaviour was still "deeply inappropriate" and "there was not a single word of regret" from him during his six hours of testimony last week. Ms Sturgeon appeared on the verge of tears, with her voice breaking, as she was invited to apologise to the Scottish people for arguing for years they could trust Mr Salmond to take them to independence. Murdo Fraser, a Tory MSP, pressed her when she had decided he "was no longer the Charles Stewart Parnell of Scotland, and was in fact a liar and a fantasist?’"
- The Week
During the campaign for the two Georgia Senate races, Joe Biden repeatedly promised to pass $2,000 stimulus checks if the Democrats won. After they did, the administration argued that $2,000 really meant $1,400 in addition to the $600 that had already gone out in the December rescue package. Whether that is true or not, now Biden is inarguably breaking his promise. Under pressure from moderate Senate Democrats, he has reportedly agreed to cut down the formula under which the checks will be sent out. In the previous packages, the amount started phasing out at $75,000 in income for individuals and $150,000 for joint filers, and vanished entirely at $100,000 and $200,000 respectively (as of 2019). Now the phase-out will start start in the same place but end at $80,000 for singles and $160,000 for couples. The $1,400 promise clearly implied at least that the checks would go out according to the previous formula used under Trump. But now singles making between $80,000-100,000 and couples making between $160,000-200,000 will get nothing. The Washington Post's Jeff Stein reports that roughly 17 million people who previously got checks now will not. The supposed justification here is that moderates want the aid to be more "targeted." In fact this formula is horribly inaccurate, because the income data the IRS uses is from the year before the pandemic (unless people have already filed their taxes — and by the way, if your income decreased in 2020, you should do that immediately). This formula is therefore doubly wrong — there are no doubt millions of people who have lost jobs and should qualify but won't, and a smaller number that have gotten raises and shouldn't qualify but will. And this change will only save a pitiful $12 billion. The survival checks are one of the most popular government programs in American history. Polls have them at something like 4-1 approval. "Moderation," for Senate Democrats, apparently means breaking their party's promises in the service of unpopular, pointless actions that make their president seem less generous than Donald Trump. More stories from theweek.com7 scathingly funny cartoons about Trump's CPAC appearanceProgressives argue Biden's compromise on stimulus checks is 'completely deranged'The lost art of being reasonable
- The Telegraph
The Duchess of Sussex wore earrings given to her by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia three weeks after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, against advice from palace aides, The Telegraph understands. The Duchess, 39, had been given the Butani earrings as an official wedding present from the Saudi Royal Family. When she wore them to a formal dinner in Fiji in October 2018, during a royal tour, the media were told that they were “borrowed” but unusually, declined to offer further information or guidance. The dinner took place three weeks after Mr Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Duchess’s lawyers insisted that at the time of the dinner, she was unaware of speculation that the crown prince was involved in the murder of the journalist. However, a royal source claimed that palace staff had advised the Duchess not to wear the jewellery. “Members of Royal Household staff sometimes advise people on their options,” one said. “But what they choose to do with that advice is a very different matter.” The earrings were accepted as a wedding gift by the prince, known as MBS, in March 2018, when he had lunch with the Queen during a three-day visit to London. They were among a series of wedding gifts that were then transferred to Kensington Palace in June, the month after the wedding, which was when the Sussexes first knew of their existence. A source close to the Duchess said members of her staff were aware that the earrings had been chosen as part of the Duchess’s tour wardrobe. Saudi Arabia admitted on October 20, three days before the dinner in Fiji, that its officials were responsible for Khashoggi’s death. Staff in London were concerned when they saw the Duchess’s earrings in the media and alerted Kensington Palace, according to The Times. But it was claimed they decided not to take it up with the Sussexes while they were on tour “for fear for what their reaction would be." The following month, the Duchess wore them again to the Prince of Wales's 70th birthday party at Buckingham Palace and at that point, an aide is said to have confronted the Duke about the issue. He reportedly looked "shocked" when approached about the concerns. Lawyers for the Sussexes’ denied he was questioned about their provenance, which they said was well known.
- Business Insider
The Trumps are trying to sell a Florida home for $49 million after buying it from the former president's sister for $18 million in 2018
Eric Trump tweeted a listing for a home that the family is trying to sell through a limited liability company for more than twice its 2018 value.
Trevor Lawrence is widely expected to be selected first overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars. After that, things get interesting.
- Business Insider
Court docs reveal Saudi wealth fund courted by Hollywood and Wall Street owned planes used in Jamal Khashoggi's killing
A Saudi investment fund courted by Hollywood and Silicon Valley owns two planes used to fly Jamal Khashoggi's killers to and from Istanbul.
- Business Insider
Dr. Fauci has a stunningly simple way to explain how Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine differs from Pfizer's and Moderna's shots
All three of the COVID-19 shots authorized for use in the US train the body to recognize the coronavirus, but J&J's uses a cold virus instead of mRNA.
- The Telegraph
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s autumn 2018 tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga was “stressful” for staff, with at least one aide visibly upset after a discussion with the Duchess. One engagement in particular has long been shrouded in mystery, with no credible explanation given as to why the Duchess was abruptly whisked from a market in Fiji’s capital Suva, cutting short the visit. At the time, even palace aides appeared confused about what had happened, with a succession of contradictory briefings. The engagement was organised to allow Meghan to learn more about a UN Women's project called Markets for Change, which promotes women's empowerment in marketplaces throughout the Pacific. Sources have now claimed that the Duchess was upset when she saw branding for UN Women, an organisation she had worked with before. Meghan had allegedly said she would only go to the market if there was no branding for the organisation, a source told the Times, although the reason behind it is unknown.
- Business Insider
The data is in: COVID-19 vaccines are proving crucial in curbing the pandemic by slashing infections, hospitalizations, and deaths
The first real-world data shows coronavirus vaccines can help us forge a path out of the pandemic.
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram
On March 10, Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask mandate will be lifted and businesses can operate at 100% capacity.
- The Daily Beast
Seth Wenig/GettyAt his first press conference since three women accused him of unwanted sexual advances, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized while insisting he didn’t know his alleged actions—grabbing a woman’s face, bringing up an aide’s sexual assault, giving an aide a kiss on the cheek—made people uncomfortable.“I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable. And if I did, I apologize for it. But let’s let the attorney general’s office decide the facts,” he said Wednesday, adding that he has no plans to resign.Cuomo discussed the most recent allegation, from former Biden campaign worker Anna Ruch, who said that the governor had grabbed her face and asked to kiss her shortly after they met at a 2019 wedding. She provided a picture and texts to corroborate her story.My Cuomo ‘Crush’ Turned Out to Be Stockholm SyndromeHe said the face-grabbing and kissing-on-the-cheek was a greeting habit he picked up from his father, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who served from 1983 to 1994.“You can find hundreds of pictures of me making this gesture,” Gov. Cuomo says. “It was my father’s way of greeting people. You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable.”“But it doesn’t matter,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter my intent. What matters is whether anybody was offended by it. I could intend no offense but if they were offended by it it was wrong."Beyond that, however, the governor was short on specifics. When asked by a reporter whom specifically he was apologizing to, Cuomo did not provide a name.“I am apologizing to the young woman who worked here who said I made her feel uncomfortable in the workplace,” Cuomo said. “I’m embarrassed that someone felt that way in my administration.”Two aides, Lindsay Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, both came forward in February describing repeated propositions from the governor. Boylan wrote in a Medium post that she resigned after Cuomo gave her an unwanted kiss on the lips; Bennett told The New York Times that Cuomo repeatedly brought up a past sexual assault of hers.Following news of Bennett and Ruch’s allegations, some Democratic lawmakers have called on Cuomo to resign, including one member of Congress, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY). Cuomo, however, said Wednesday he didn’t plan on resigning, with no mention of whether or not he would run for a fourth term in 2022, as he has previously said he would do. In a statement following Wednesday’s news conference, Bennett’s lawyer Debra Katz—who also represented Dr. Christine Blasey Ford after she alleged she was sexually assaulted by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh—wrote that Cuomo lied.“My client... reported his sexually harassing behavior immediately to his Chief of Staff and Chief Counsel. We are confident that they made him aware of her complaint,” Katz wrote. “We fully expect that the Attorney General’s investigation will demonstrate that Cuomo administration officials failed to act on Ms. Bennett’s serious allegations.”She pointed to reporting from Politico on Wednesday, detailing how two Cuomo aides—senior adviser Gareth Rhodes and deputy press secretary Will Burns—had resigned in the wake of the scandal. “As reports are emerging of other staff resigning from the Governor’s office in the wake of his scandals, the people charged with helping him execute the duties of his office are once again bearing the consequences of his actions,” Katz wrote. “If they know anything or have experienced this themselves, we call on them to come forward and report this misconduct.”Boylan also expressed her frustration with Cuomo on Twitter, shortly after the conference. “How can New Yorkers trust you @NYGovCuomo to lead our state if you ‘don’t know’ when you’ve been inappropriate with your own staff?” she wrote. Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- The Daily Beast
Susan Walsh-Pool/GettyThis week, the campaign committee for Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), received ten notices from the Federal Election Commission flagging discrepancies on its books totaling nearly $3 million and dating back over two years. The campaign claims that the errors slipped through the cracks amid a record fundraising surge and that it actually has more money on the books now, but experts say that the dollar amount—errors totaling some $2.87 million—may trigger an FEC investigation.The errors also appear connected to newly developed, largely hidden payment systems in the murky world of Republican digital advertising, where vendors not only receive direct spending but take cuts from fundraising as well.The notices, sent in batches between Feb. 28 and March 2, come in reply to more than a dozen amended reports correcting errors that the campaign caught in a sweeping review of filings, going as far back as 2018. One of the filings discloses errors in spending and fundraising totaling $1,470,286.48.The commission gave the campaign until early April to reply, and the letters say that a failure to “adequately respond” could draw an audit or enforcement action.Campaign spokesperson Kevin Eichinger provided The Daily Beast with a statement spinning the corrections as a positive sign and laying the blame on the campaign’s longtime treasurer, Ohio-based tax and business law specialist James Kordik, who was replaced when Jordan hired Republican operative Thomas Datwyler as campaign treasurer last July.“The campaign has filed an amendment with the FEC to correct its campaign finance reports going back to 2018. There was never any money missing from the account,” Eichinger said. “In fact, the campaign’s cash balance is actually higher than previously listed on the campaign finance reports. The error occurred when the former campaign treasurer inadvertently double-reported certain fundraising expenses. When the error was discovered, the campaign hired an outside expert to conduct a comprehensive audit and file the appropriate amendments.”Kordik did not immediately respond to a request for comment.The campaign did indeed ramp up its fundraising in 2020. In the 2016 cycle, before Donald Trump was elected, the Jordan campaign received a little over $733,000 and spent about $423,000, according to FEC records. Jordan’s congressional district has long been considered solidly Republican, a seat he has won by at least 60 percent for several cycles. But his profile rose in the Trump years as Jordan regularly appeared in conservative media to burnish his brand as a fierce critic of the Democratic agenda, a strategy that opened the fundraising floodgates.His numbers increased for the 2018 cycle, pulling in $1.24 million and paying out about $1.8 million. But in 2020, they soared: he raked in $18.6 million and spent $13.2 million, and now sits on a $6 million stash. Jordan shelled out more than $12.4 million to finance his own operation, transferring only $180,000 to other committees, mostly to the Ohio GOP.Campaign finance experts say that the errors are significant enough that, if the rising conservative star can’t offer a sound explanation, the FEC will likely refer the matter to its enforcement arm. Such a move would not be publicly disclosed.“Jordan's campaign appears to have had systemic reporting problems over multiple years, and these amendments represent substantial shifts in the campaign's disclosed fundraising and spending,” Brendan Fischer, director of reform at the Campaign Legal Center, told the Daily Beast. “I suspect that the FEC will closely review discrepancies of such a significant amount.”Brett Kappel, campaign finance attorney at Harmon Curran, said that the reports appear “so substantially incorrect” that the FEC may order an audit.“The legal standard to trigger an FEC audit is high: whether filings meet the threshold for ‘substantial compliance’ with the law,” Kappel explained. “Jordan’s FEC reports were so substantially incorrect over such a long period of time that they may meet the standard.”Jenna Grande, press secretary for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a D.C.-based nonprofit watchdog, said, “This is a very large amount of money in discrepancies. While there is still much to learn about this situation, Rep. Jordan’s campaign needs to provide a full accounting of what happened and why."The campaign’s current explanation is incomplete and somewhat contradictory. For instance, it mentions spending errors but doesn’t explain significant errors in the campaign’s fundraising, which the FEC says was off by a total of $1,280,852.36—nearly half of it in the campaign’s July 2020 quarterly report, Kordik’s final filing. Some amendments show increases in receipts, and some show decreases.Jim Jordan Refuses to Admit Biden Won, Gets Blasted by House ColleagueThe statement also doesn’t appear to account for the appearance of a $20,000 transfer to the Ohio Republican Party made in October 2018, according to one of the amended reports.The confusion may be tied to backdoor vendor payments in GOP digital fundraising setups. On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that shady consulting firms have been taking payments out of fundraising. It amounts to a sort of royalty arrangement: The more money that candidates raise, or the more viral they go, the bigger the cut for the media vendor who made that happen.Those fees were hidden via payments to WinRed, according to the report, which features consulting firm Olympic Media, a vendor that would get a portion of fundraising proceeds collected via the WinRed platform. Some campaigns only reported the WinRed fees but didn’t separately itemize Olympic’s “royalties” on that fundraising.The report specifically mentions Jordan, who, according to WinRed, “misreported expenses paid to vendors." Indeed, one of Jordan’s amended reports details more than $200,000 in payments to Olympic Media that the original report had not itemized. The campaign’s statement to The Daily Beast points out that Kordik had double-counted “certain fundraising expenses.”According to that statement, Jordan’s massive digital marketing push overwhelmed the 65-year-old Kordik, who appears to have filed a number of erroneous reports in his final two years with Jordan. Those errors appear to overlap directly with the hiring of two firms—WinRed, and Campaign Solutions, a Republican-aligned consulting firm based out of Arlington, Va., also specializing in digital strategy and fundraising. Founded in 2003, the firm pulled in nearly $37 million from Republicans last year, with Jordan accounting for about a third of that amount—that’s about two-thirds of his own fundraising totals.Campaign Solutions also accounts for a number of spending discrepancies.For instance, Jordan tapped Campaign Solutions in the 2018 cycle, paying a total of about $279,000 over about six months, according to OpenSecrets. The FEC flagged around $253,000 combined in two of Jordan’s amended reports from that year: one of them, coverings the weeks after the 2018 election, introduces an extra $109,000 in disbursements to the firm; the other, which accounts for the last five weeks of the year, says that the campaign had actually paid Campaign Solutions $130,000 less in that period than originally reported. That amended year-end report also adds the $20,000 transfer to the Ohio Republican Party.At the time, Datwyler worked at Campaign Solutions as an accountant. He appears to have left sometime in early 2020, before he took up with Jordan, but while he was employed at the fundraising firm he also acted as treasurer for dozens of political committees. His current portfolio comprises 165 committees, nine formed this year, including groups backing high-profile conservatives Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Rep. Mike Lee of Utah. In 2020, Datwyler’s firm, 9Seven Consulting, pulled in more than $1 million for FEC compliance services.Notably, Datwyler joined the campaign last July and was there to receive an FEC notice flagging a number of inconsistencies in Kordik’s final filing. The letter told the campaign that it risked an audit if the FEC did not get a reply by September 8, but fillings indicate that Datwyler never responded. The amended version of that report ended up being by far the most egregious of the bunch, with raising and spending errors of more than $1.47 million.It’s possible that the prospect of that review was too much to undertake at the time, but that would not explain why the campaign appears to have failed even to reply. Datwyler was singled out in a report about so-called “pop-up PACs,” fundraising groups created in the weeks before an election, allowing them to avoid disclosing their donors to the public until the election is over.Caleb Burns, a campaign finance specialist at Wiley Rein, explained that the mistakes can stack up over time. “FEC reports carry-forward financial information to subsequent reports,” he said. “An error detected in an old report can require a fuller accounting and amendments to numerous additional reports.”The FEC regained its quorum—and its ability to take enforcement action—in December. “The FEC commissioners themselves must, ultimately, approve any enforcement action,” Brown said. “The lack of a quorum of commissioners until the end of last year meant that FEC enforcement had stalled. That is no longer the case, though the commissioners have a significant backlog of enforcement matters to address.”An FEC spokesperson declined to comment for this article, citing its policy of not publicly addressing specific matters “for the potential that they may come before the agency in an enforcement capacity.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- Business Insider
Biden cuts 16 million people off from stimulus checks after striking deal with moderate Senate Democrats, study says
Biden approved phasing out direct payments entirely for individuals making above $80,000 a year and married couples earning more than $160,000.
- CBS News
The Senate majority leader said that the Senate will take up President Biden's $1.9 trillion relief bill as early as Wednesday night.
In some of his most extensive remarks since Jan. 6, former Vice President Mike Pence wrote an op-ed Wednesday condemning House Democrats' sweeping election and anti-corruption proposal as an "unconstitutional power grab" by "leftists."Why it matters: Pence has largely stayed quiet since the Capitol insurrection, during which rioters were heard chanting "hang Mike Pence" after former President Trump promoted the claim that the vice president could block the certification of the Electoral College.Get market news worthy of your time with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free.The big picture: Writing in The Daily Signal, Pence repeated dubious claims that the 2020 election was "marked by significant voting irregularities."Be smart: While some irregularities occur in every election, state and federal officials have vouched for the election's security and integrity.Lawsuits challenging election results have been rejected by courts across the country, including the Supreme Court.What they're saying: "Polling shows that large numbers of Democrats did not trust the outcome of the 2016 election and that large numbers of Republicans still do not trust the outcome of the 2020 election," Pence wrote.Pence called the Democrats' reform bill, which the House will pass on Wednesday, "an unconstitutional, reckless, and anti-democratic bill that ... could permanently damage our republic." "Leftists not only want you powerless at the ballot box," wrote the former vice president, "they want to silence and censor anyone who would dare to criticize their unconstitutional power grab."Details: The Democrats' "For the People Act" first introduced in 2019, has provisions to restore voting rights for felons, expand early and absentee voting, set national standards for early voting and voter registration, allow voters to register online or on Election Day and prevent voter purges.Pence argued that the bill would undercut efforts to reform elections at the state and local levels. He wrote that the bill "mandates the most questionable and abuse-prone election rules nationwide, while banning commonsense measures to detect, deter, and prosecute election fraud."The bottom line: Pence called the events of Jan. 6 "tragic" and said they "deprived the American people of a substantive discussion in Congress about election integrity in America." He did not once mention the name "Trump."Go deeper: Democrats' sweeping reform bill Like this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.
Rivkah Reyes said that while Jack Black and their castmates were all still in touch, the role as Katie led to self-harm and addiction for Reyes.