Here’s what we’re talking about:
One thing to look out for today: President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak at 2 p.m. ET about the implementation of his rescue plan.
1. GEOCITIES SLICKER: Former President Donald Trump has returned to the late 1990s. Trump’s team found a new way for him to communicate directly with his supporters via a one-way website that allows supporters to post his content on their Twitter and Facebook feeds. This is not the highly touted social-network site Trump is said to have in the works. But its creation comes just before a landmark decision is expected on his online future.
All eyes on Facebook: The social network’s independent review board is set to announce later this morning whether to allow Trump back on the platform after he was barred following the deadly January 6 riot at the US Capitol. His fate will be decided by a mix of 20 internet-freedom advocates and former politicians from around the world who make up the so-called Facebook supreme court.
- There are major political implications at stake: Trump and his digital team used Facebook to help build what became the GOP’s best fundraising list. His campaign pumped millions of dollars into the platform to raise money and to tout his policies during the 2020 campaign. The social network is also key to maintaining the valuable list.
Someone will be unhappy: Republicans and Democrats have drilled into large companies like Facebook. Conservatives have pressed top executives about what they perceive as a bias against them. Liberals have taken social networks to task for not doing more to stop hate speech. Trump’s case intersects with both views, almost guaranteeing an angry response from one side.
2. The White House has a new goal as vaccinations continue to dip: President Joe Biden wants 70% of eligible Americans to be at least partially vaccinated by July 4. The White House said the next phase of its campaign would focus on making shots “more accessible than ever before,” including through smaller community vaccination sites. The federal government also plans to spend $130 million to improve vaccine education in underserved communities. Biden also wants to get shots into the arms of adolescents “as soon as possible,” pending authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
3. The Department of Justice must turn over a secret memo Barr used to clear Trump: A federal judge ruled that the DOJ must release an internal memo that then-Attorney General Bill Barr cited as a defense for clearing Trump of obstruction of justice related to the Russia investigation. Judge Amy Berman Jackson said it contradicted Barr’s claim that he had the power to clear Trump after the special counsel Robert Mueller didn’t formally recommend charges against him. Mueller has said he was largely guided by the DOJ policy of not indicting presidents. Jackson said the memo raised questions about Barr’s testimony to Congress and some of the DOJ’s past claims in court.
4. Top House Republican is ready to ax Rep. Liz Cheney: “I’ve had it with … I’ve had it with her. You know, I’ve lost confidence,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was caught on a hot mic saying of Cheney, Axios reports. Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, has refused to back down from her criticism of Trump for refusing to accept he lost the election. This isn’t the first time she’s been under fire.
- Who could be next?: Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, who skyrocketed to MAGA stardom during Trump’s first impeachment, is reportedly the favorite to replace Cheney, per Politico. Cheney is currently the only woman in House leadership.
Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah came to Cheney’s defense:
5. Tobacco giant Reynolds American just spent $16 million on politics: The maker of Newport, Camel, and Pall Mall cigarettes went on a spending binge in 2020, a show of force that previews what may be a difficult battle as the Biden administration seeks to ban menthol cigarettes. Check out our deep dive into the nation’s second-largest tobacco company’s contributions.
6. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s future is in question: Israel’s longest-serving prime minister failed to form a government before his mandate expired, leading to the possibility that his rivals might push him out of power, Axios reports. The question now is whether the centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, the leader of a right-wing party, can reach a deal. Here’s what happens next.
7. This conservative legal power couple is in the middle of Rudy Giuliani’s latest legal mess: Victoria Toensing and her husband and law partner, Joseph diGenova, have been friends with Giuliani for decades. FBI agents showed up at Toensing’s Washington-area home to take one of her cellphones the same morning they raided Giuliani. She and diGenova have represented Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch connected to the Russian mob who is under DOJ indictment.
8. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen spooked markets over interest-rate comments: Yellen, a former
chair, said “interest rates will have to rise somewhat to make sure that our economy doesn’t overheat.” Her statement, which she later clarified, was more hawkish than the Fed’s messaging. Yellen’s words preceded a brief dip in trading, increasing unease over inflation.
9. Derek Chauvin’s lawyer is pushing for a new trial: The lawyer Eric Nelson has begun the appeals process by arguing that Chauvin was deprived of a fair trial because of enormous publicity and that prosecutors engaged in misconduct by disparaging the defense. Many of his arguments have previously been rejected by Judge Peter Cahill. Nelson also wants a hearing to question whether the jury felt pressured to reach their verdict.
10. No, honey, Biden did not shrink a former president: It is said that the camera can add 10 pounds, but a shot of the Bidens with former President Jimmy Carter and the former first lady Rosalynn Carter made it appear as if it could shrink people as well. The viral image of the two powerful couples came from the Bidens’ visit to the Carters’ home in Plains, Georgia, last week. The distortion can be explained by a tricky camera lens and some other factors.
One last thing.
Today’s trivia question: On this day in 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space. Less than 10 years later, he became the only person to have done [this] on the moon. What was it? Email your guess and a suggested question to me at [email protected].