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The Teckin pack of 2 smart plugs with energy monitor are discounted to € 19.99

Teckin smart plugs are once again on offer, one of the products that cannot be missing in any connected house



The Teckin pack of 2 smart plugs with energy monitor are discounted to € 19.99

In this article, ComputerHoy could receive a commission for your purchases. More information .

are once again on offer, one of the products that cannot be missing in any connected house and that also allows you to have tight control of your electricity consumption thanks to its energy monitoring.

Now you can get the pack of 2 Teckin WiFi plugs for only € 19.99 instead of the € 29.99 it usually costs. Being so cheap they do not have free shipping, but they do if you are Amazon Prime users.

These plugs are perfect for being able to remotely control any electronic device that needs to be plugged in, such as small appliances or products such as lamps, humidifiers, heaters … If it wasn’t connected, now it can be.

Teckin’s plugs can be controlled remotely with your app , but it also has integration with assistants like Alexa or the Google assistant . With a single voice command you can turn on or off any product or set a schedule.

The energy control will let you know how much your electronic devices spend . A perfect way to know exactly how much energy that appliance you use every day uses or if it really doesn’t consume anything when it’s turned off.

These Teckin plugs are perfect for knowing the consumption of your devices and controlling them remotely. Its perfect combination is to add a speaker like the Echo Dot which is now reduced to € 34.99 .

Take advantage of the 10 euros discount with these Teckin WiFi plugs and take them for only € 19.99 .

You can get it from Amazon with free and fast shipping if you are an Amazon Prime member. You can try it for free for 30 days without commitment since it has no permanence.

University students have the advantages of Prime Student. Includes the same features as normal Prime but with a 3-month free trial and an annual subscription of only € 18.

In this article, ComputerHoy receives a commission from its affiliated partners for each purchase you make through the product links that we have included, something that in no case represents an additional cost for you. However, our recommendations are always independent and objective. You can check our affiliate policy here .

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So what’s next? The failure to find a workaround on wages prompted renewed calls from progressives to end the filibuster, but that’s a nonstarter so long as Senators Joe Manchin, D-W. Va. and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. are still opposed, and the two also favor a lower minimum wage than the $15 figure approved by the House



In his nearly 90-minute speech at CPAC on Sunday, Donald Trump lashed out at President Biden on immigration, at the Republicans who voted for his impeachment, at mask-wearing policies, and even at transgender athletes playing women’s sports.

On top of it all, he claimed — falsely — that he won the 2020 presidential election. (In fact, he lost the popular vote by 7 million, and the electoral vote by a 306-232 margin.)

But strikingly, Trump made only passing reference to the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package that House Democrats passed early Saturday and that the Senate is now set to consider.

Trump speaks at CPAC, hints he may run in 2024
MARCH 1, 202102:21
“The Democrats now say we have to pass their $1.9 trillion boondoggle to open schools, but a very small part of it has to do with that,” he said. “You know where it’s going — it’s going to bailout badly-run Democrat cities, so much of it.”

That’s it. In almost 90 minutes of remarks, Trump devoted just two sentences of criticism to Biden’s first legislative priority as president.

And it says a lot about the state of GOP opposition to the Covid relief bill, which remains popular in polls: While House Republicans uniformly voted against it on Saturday, it hasn’t been an animating issue for Republicans.

Whether for Trump at CPAC yesterday.

Or for other CPAC speakers over the weekend.

Or for even rank-and-file GOP lawmakers in Washington.

It’s getting worse for Cuomo
“Faced with multiple allegations of sexual harassment, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday apologized for comments that ‘have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation’ and, following pressure from fellow Democrats, agreed to refer the matter to the state attorney general’s office,” per NBC News.

“‘At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny,’ he said, adding, ‘I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business.’”

This year is shaping up to be a miserable year for New York Democrats, and we can imagine how Andrew Cuomo and his multiple controversies are going to dominate 2021’s New York City mayoral race.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today
28,706,169: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 192,884 more than Friday morning.)

515,544: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 4,784 more than Friday morning.)

47,352: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus in the United States.

354.6 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

75,236,003: Number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

24,779,920: People fully vaccinated in the U.S.

59: The number of days left for Biden to reach his 100-day vaccination goal.

68 percent: The share of CPAC straw-poll voters who said they wanted Trump to run again in 2024.



Tweet of the day

Talking policy with Benjy
Back to the drawing board on minimum wage: Democrats are on the verge of passing a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill with surprisingly little internal drama, but a minimum wage increase is off the table thanks to a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian and moderate opposition. Now their backup plan is also gone.

At 1:51 p.m. on Jan. 6, a right-wing radio host named Michael D. Brown wrote on Twitter that rioters had breached the United States Capitol — and immediately speculated about who was really to blame. “Antifa or BLM or other insurgents could be doing it disguised as Trump supporters,” Mr. Brown wrote, using shorthand for Black Lives Matter. “Come on, man, have you never heard of psyops?”

Only 13,000 people follow Mr. Brown on Twitter, but his tweet caught the attention of another conservative pundit: Todd Herman, who was guest-hosting Rush Limbaugh’s national radio program. Minutes later, he repeated Mr. Brown’s baseless claim to Mr. Limbaugh’s throngs of listeners: “It’s probably not Trump supporters who would do that. Antifa, BLM, that’s what they do. Right?”

What happened over the next 12 hours illustrated the speed and the scale of a right-wing disinformation machine primed to seize on a lie that served its political interests and quickly spread it as truth to a receptive audience. The weekslong fiction about a stolen election that President Donald J. Trump pushed to his millions of supporters had set the stage for a new and equally false iteration: that left-wing agitators were responsible for the attack on the Capitol.

In fact, the rioters breaking into the citadel of American democracy that day were acolytes of Mr. Trump, intent on stopping Congress from certifying his electoral defeat. Subsequent arrests and investigations have found no evidence that people who identify with antifa, a loose collective of antifascist activists, were involved in the insurrection.


Continue reading the main story

But even as Americans watched live images of rioters wearing MAGA hats and carrying Trump flags breach the Capitol — egged on only minutes earlier by a president who falsely denounced a rigged election and exhorted his followers to fight for justice — history was being rewritten in real time.

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Within hours, a narrative built on rumors and partisan conjecture had reached the Twitter megaphones of pro-Trump politicians. By day’s end, Laura Ingraham and Sarah Palin had shared it with millions of Fox News viewers, and Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida had stood on the ransacked House floor and claimed that many rioters “were members of the violent terrorist group antifa.”

Nearly two months after the attack, the claim that antifa was involved has been repeatedly debunked by federal authorities, but it has hardened into gospel among hard-line Trump supporters, by voters and sanctified by elected officials in the party. More than half of Trump voters in a Suffolk University/USA Today poll said that the riot was “mostly an antifa-inspired attack.” At Senate hearings last week focused on the security breakdown at the Capitol, Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, repeated the falsehood that “fake Trump protesters” fomented the violence.

For those who hoped Mr. Trump’s don’t-believe-your-eyes tactics might fade after his defeat, the mainstreaming of the antifa conspiracy is a sign that truth remains a fungible concept among his most ardent followers. Buoyed by a powerful right-wing media network that had just spent eight weeks advancing Mr. Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud, pro-Trump Republicans have succeeded in warping their voters’ realities, exhibiting sheer gall as they seek to minimize a violent riot perpetrated by their own supporters.

If anyone was responsible for desecrating the Capitol, Mr. Johnson said in a radio interview as the violence was unfolding that day, “I would really question whether that’s a true Trump supporter or a true conservative.”

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In a telephone interview last week, Mr. Johnson delivered a handful of unsubstantiated or false statements that dovetail with much of the right-wing disinformation about the riot circulating online and on conservative radio and television programs. The senator said that while most of the people arrested at the Capitol were right-wing Trump supporters, he had not reached any conclusions about the political affiliations of those responsible for planning it.

He said he had “seen videos of other people claiming to be antifa” preparing in their hotel rooms.

“I don’t know if any of that’s been verified,” Mr. Johnson added.

ImageRioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6 wore red hats and carried flags bearing President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6 wore red hats and carried flags bearing President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
A lie that outraced the truth
A review of media activity in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot reveals just how quickly the right-wing media machine, first online and then on radio and cable TV, advanced the fiction about antifa’s supposed involvement.

The conspiracy gained new momentum after The Washington Times, a right-wing newspaper, published an online article shortly before 2:30 p.m. claiming that a facial recognition firm had identified antifa activists in the crowd at the Capitol. The newspaper corrected the article less than 24 hours later, after its claims were proved false — but not before the story made an enormous impact. The article eventually amassed 360,000 likes and shares on Facebook, according to CrowdTangle, a tool owned by Facebook and used for analyzing social media.

From 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., the antifa falsehood was mentioned about 8,700 times across cable television, social media and online news outlets, according to Zignal Labs, a media insights company. “Remember, Antifa openly planned to dress as Trump supporters and cause chaos today,” said one tweet that collected 41,100 likes and shares.

Snopes, the online fact-checking outlet, had already debunked the false antifa narrative — but its story attracted only 306 likes and shares on Twitter at the time, an indication of how difficult it is for fact-checking efforts to gain traction over the original falsehood.


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Mr. Gaetz, the pro-Trump congressman, was a super spreader of the Washington Times article: His Facebook post about it collected 27,000 interactions. And Ms. Ingraham cited the article on Twitter and on her prime-time Fox News show. (By contrast, a BuzzFeed News article that refuted the Washington Times story collected only 18,000 interactions on Facebook.)

Rumors require a receptive audience to take hold, and Mr. Trump’s supporters had long been primed to accept a baseless claim that antifa — relentlessly portrayed by the president as a dangerous terror group — had instigated the violence, rather than their fellow MAGA fans.

On her Fox News program on Jan. 6, Laura Ingraham shared an inaccurate report claiming that antifa was involved in the Capitol riot.
On her Fox News program on Jan. 6, Laura Ingraham shared an inaccurate report claiming that antifa was involved in the Capitol riot.Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times
In May, Mr. Trump announced that the United States would declare antifa a domestic terrorist group, despite lacking clear authority to do so. Falsehoods about busloads and planeloads of antifa activists traveling the nation to sow violence became a common trope on right-wing internet sites, even prompting some Americans to ask local law enforcement for help.

At the first presidential debate in September, seen by 73 million people, Mr. Trump said “somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.” (In the same answer, Mr. Trump declined to condemn the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group that has endorsed violence.)

This drumbeat meant that the notion of left-wing activists disrupting the Electoral College to embarrass Mr. Trump might not have seemed far-fetched to the president’s supporters — even those in Congress.

Hours after the attack, Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, a Republican who had served as a warm-up speaker for Mr. Trump at the pre-riot rally, promoted the false antifa claims on national television.


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“We did have some warning that there might be antifa elements masquerading as Trump supporters in advance of the attack on the Capitol,” Mr. Brooks told the Fox Business host Lou Dobbs. He amplified his baseless claim the next morning in a Twitter thread that was retweeted nearly 19,000 times. “Evidence, much public, surfacing that many Capitol assaulters were fascist ANTIFAs, not Trump supporters,” Mr. Brooks wrote, providing no evidence. “Time will reveal truth. Don’t rush to judgment.”

In an interview last week, Mr. Brooks admitted that he had not verified his information before airing it publicly. But he insisted that several members of Congress — whom he would not identify — had warned him about an antifa presence in Washington, prompting him to sleep in his congressional office for two nights preceding Jan. 6.

Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama served as a warm-up speaker for Mr. Trump at a rally that preceded the attack on Jan. 6.
Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama served as a warm-up speaker for Mr. Trump at a rally that preceded the attack on Jan. 6.Credit…Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press
Mr. Brooks now says that the role of antifa and Black Lives Matter “appears to be relatively minimal compared to the roles of more militant elements of other groups.” He said in the interview that he had “very frequently cautioned that the information that we’re getting is incomplete, preliminary” — a caveat that went unmentioned in his incendiary tweets at the time.

From Riot to Impeachment
The riot inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, followed a rally at which President Trump made an inflammatory speech to his supporters, questioning the results of the election. Here’s a look at what happened and the ongoing fallout:

As this video shows, poor planning and a restive crowd encouraged by President Trump set the stage for the riot.
A two hour period was crucial to turning the rally into the riot.
Several Trump administration officials, including cabinet members Betsy DeVos and Elaine Chao, announced that they were stepping down as a result of the riot.
Federal prosecutors have charged more than 70 people, including some who appeared in viral photos and videos of the riot. Officials expect to eventually charge hundreds of others.
The House voted to impeach the president on charges of “inciting an insurrection” that led to the rampage by his supporters.

An activist’s arrest, and more disinformation
There is no question that the violent and sudden nature of the Capitol riot created a fire hose of partial and sometimes conflicting information from an array of sources, generating confusion for the lawmakers, journalists and Americans watching from home as they struggled to make sense of what transpired.

Several major news outlets, for example, including The New York Times, initially reported that a Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, died after being struck with a fire extinguisher by a rioter. Those reports were based on early information from law enforcement officials. Weeks later, The Times updated its reporting on Officer Sicknick’s death, after investigators began to suspect he had been sprayed in the face by some kind of irritant, rather than struck by an object. On Friday, the F.B.I. said it had pinpointed an assailant who attacked Officer Sicknick with bear spray, but investigators had yet to identify the attacker by name.

Unlike those reports, the antifa narrative had a clear ideological component. The political leanings of the rioters are not in question. Court filings in many of the criminal cases stemming from the attack quote pro-Trump rioters explicitly denying that antifa was involved and instead emphasizing their own participation, portraying it as an act of patriotism. To date, there is no evidence in case filings that any individual associated with antifa has been charged.


Continue reading the main story

Ms. Ingraham, who told Fox News viewers about “antifa sympathizers” at the riot, later shared on Twitter that the Washington Times article she cited had been debunked; she did not issue an on-air correction. Mr. Herman, the Limbaugh guest host who speculated about antifa, wrote in an email on Saturday that “it was clear a large group of Trump supporters entered the Capitol and assaulted people.” But he continued to assert, falsely, that antifa activists had plotted to impersonate Trump supporters.

Of the 290 people who have been charged in the attack, at least 27 are known to have ties to far-right extremist groups like the Oath Keepers or the Proud Boys. Others have links to neo-Confederate and white supremacist entities, or are clear supporters of the conspiracy movement QAnon. The vast majority expressed a fervent belief that Mr. Trump was the election’s rightful winner.

On Jan. 8, the F.B.I. said there was no evidence that supporters of antifa, who have been known to aggressively counterprotest white supremacist demonstrations, had participated in the Capitol mob. And on Jan. 13, Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House minority leader, spoke at Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial and declared, “Some say the riots were caused by antifa. There’s absolutely no evidence of that, and conservatives should be the first to say so.”

But the next day, the arrest of a protester named John Sullivan prompted yet another surge in right-wing media about antifa and the riot.

Mr. Sullivan called himself an “activist” from Utah and CNN introduced him, inaccurately, as a “left-wing activist” when he appeared on the network on Jan. 6. (He had sold footage to CNN and other news outlets that showed the shooting of Ashli Babbitt, a rioter who died inside the Capitol.) The conspiracy site Gateway Pundit and Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, seized on Mr. Sullivan’s arrest to again blame antifa in posts that collected tens of thousands of likes and shares on Facebook and Twitter.

In reality, Mr. Sullivan was an attention seeker whose politics were fungible and seemingly shifted based on which protest he was attending at the time, according to activists from Seattle, Salt Lake City and Portland, Ore., who had issued warnings about him months before the Capitol riot.


Continue reading the main story

On Jan. 8, the founder of Black Lives Matter Utah said that Mr. Sullivan “never has been and never will be” a member of the group. (“John is not affiliated with any organization,” Steven Kiersh, a lawyer for Mr. Sullivan, said on Friday.)

Pro-Trump Republicans have succeeded in warping their voters’ realities, deploying disinformation and exhibiting sheer gall to try to minimize a violent riot perpetrated by their own supporters.
Pro-Trump Republicans have succeeded in warping their voters’ realities, deploying disinformation and exhibiting sheer gall to try to minimize a violent riot perpetrated by their own supporters.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
But the facts about Mr. Sullivan did not spread as far as the falsehoods.

YouTube videos featuring Mr. Sullivan prompted the Oregon Republican Party to adopt a resolution on Jan. 19 asserting that there was “growing evidence” the Jan. 6 violence was a “false flag” operation intended “to discredit President Trump, his supporters, and all conservative Republicans.”

The resolution was written by Solomon Yue, a longtime Republican National Committee member, who said in an interview that he based it on videos of Mr. Sullivan offering tips on how to disguise oneself at a protest. Mr. Yue said he also used his own knowledge of “Battle of the Bulge,” a 1965 Henry Fonda film in which German soldiers disguise themselves as American troops.

Thanks to the YouTube clips and the movie analogy, the Oregon state party “understood what I meant by ‘false flag,’” Mr. Yue said, referring to a scheme to deceive enemies by adopting a fake identity. Mr. Yue said he hoped others would consider alternate explanations for the Jan. 6 attack. “If I can pull those videos from the internet and raise the issue, I think other Americans can do the same,” he said.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty on Monday by a court in Paris on charges of trying to bribe a judge and influence peddling dating from his time in office. He received a three-year jail sentence with two of the years suspended.

In a trial that wrapped up in December, prosecutors accused Sarkozy and his lawyer of attempting to bribe a judge in exchange for confidential information on an inquiry looking into earlier allegations that during his 2007 presidential campaign, Sarkozy took illegal payments from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. The Bettencourt case was later dropped.

Sarkozy, 66, is allowed to ask to serve home confinement, France24 reported. The court sentenced Sarkozy to three years, but suspended two of those years – meaning he faces a year in jail.

Sarkozy is also separately facing multiple other legal challenges.

Former French President Sarkozy To Face Trial For Alleged Graft
Former French President Sarkozy To Face Trial For Alleged Graft
The judge, Gilbert Azibert, who was at the time a top appeals court magistrate, was allegedly offered a cushy job in Monaco in exchange for the information. Prosecutors said Sarkozy made the job offer through his attorney, Thierry Herzog, who was a co-defendant in the trial, as was Azibert. Herzog and Azibert were also found guilty by the court.

The guilty verdict against Sarkozy makes him the second ex-French president in recent years to be convicted of corruption. His predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was convicted in 2011.

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Taken together, the charges could have resulted in a maximum sentence of 10 years and a one million euros ($1.2 million) fine, according to France24.

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of at least four years, half of which would he would be required to serve.

“The events would not have occurred if a former president, as well as a lawyer, had kept in mind the magnitude, the responsibility, and the duties of his office,” prosecutor Jean-Luc Blachon told the court in December, according to France24.

Sarkozy also testified in December, denying any wrongdoing.

“Never. Never abused my influence, alleged or real,” he told the court. “What right do they have to drag me through the mud like this for six years? Is there no rule of law?”

The state’s case rested mainly on wiretaps of conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, as they discussed the bribe. Sarkozy’s defense attorney called the recorded conversations just “chats between friends.”

The defense also said the fact that the judge never got the job in question was evidence against actual corruption. However, the court rejected that argument, declining to draw any distinction between a successful corruption attempt and a failed one.

Sarkozy is also expected to stand trial over allegations that he exceeded a campaign spending limit of 22.5 million euros ($24 million) during his 2012 bid for reelection and then sought to cover it up.

He could also face legal trouble stemming from an investigation into allegations that he received millions of dollars for his 2007 campaign from Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was deposed and killed in 2011.

French prosecutors in January started an influence-peddling investigation against the former president after reports that in 2019, he signed a 3 million euro ($3.6 million) consulting contract with a Russian insurance company.

Many pro-Trump Americans have already reached their own conclusions about the violence on Jan. 6.

Jason Franzen, 46, a Trump voter who works in carpentry in Thorp, Wis., said he was convinced that the former president’s enemies planned and carried out the attack.

“I don’t want to point fingers, but my gut tells me that there were some higher-up Democrats who were instigating the whole thing,” said Mr. Franzen, who said he gets his news from Facebook and the right-wing cable network One America News. “My gut has been right a lot of times, so I’m just going to go with my gut.”

Senate Democrats, led by Ron Wyden, D-Ore. and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., initially unveiled a “Plan B” to encourage higher wages through the tax code by penalizing large corporations who paid less than $15 an hour and providing a $10,000 deduction for small businesses who raised wages.


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But on Sunday, that plan collapsed. A source familiar with talks said it was too much to negotiate before March 14, when emergency unemployment benefits lapse if no bill is signed. While the details were never finalized, outside experts had also questioned whether big companies would find ways to reorganize in order to avoid the tax.

So what’s next? The failure to find a workaround on wages prompted renewed calls from progressives to end the filibuster, but that’s a nonstarter so long as Senators Joe Manchin, D-W. Va. and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. are still opposed, and the two also favor a lower minimum wage than the $15 figure approved by the House.

Some Republicans are floating alternatives, but they seem unlikely to produce a bipartisan deal. A group led by Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah and Tom Cotton, R-Ark. want to pair a $10 minimum wage (nonstarter with Democrats) that’s indexed to inflation with new requirements for businesses to screen for undocumented workers (part of the big bipartisan immigration bill in 2013, nonstarter with Democrats here). Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. proposed requiring large corporations to pay workers $15 an hour along with a bill to subsidize wages for workers who make less than $16.50 with tax credits. But his staff estimates a $200 billion price tag and it’s unclear if it has any traction within the GOP.

If Wyden and Sanders can’t find a workable tax proposal for the next reconciliation bill, Democrats could potentially try to tie a wage increase to a larger vehicle elsewhere. This is how the 2007 minimum wage hike became law, which was attached to a bipartisan Iraq War spending bill. Would Republicans let, say, a $12 minimum wage in a must-pass spending bill slide in order to get past a political issue that favors Democrats?

Senate takes action on two more Biden Cabinet picks
The Senate is readying to act on at least two of President Biden’s Cabinet nominees today.

According to the Senate’s calendar, Education Secretary nominee Miguel Cardona may have his confirmation vote later this afternoon, and he’s likely to be confirmed by the end of the day. The Senate advanced Cardona’s nomination to the Senate floor last week.

Cardona’s first priority as Education secretary will likely be getting schools across the country reopened. Biden promised during a townhall in February that most schools grades K-8 would be back to having students learn in-person, five days a week by the end of his first 100 days.

“I think we’ll be close to that at the end of the first 100 days. We’ve had a significant percentage of them being able to be opened. My guess is they’re going to probably be pushing to open all summer, to continue like it’s a different semester and try to catch up,” Biden said.

Also on the Senate’s calendar today is to move Commerce Secretary nominee Gina Raimondo’s nomination forward with a cloture vote so her confirmation vote will also likely be this week.

MTP Compressed
Catching up on Meet the Press? We’ve got you covered with MTP Compressed. Dr. Anthony Fauci joined the show to discuss the newly authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine and states easing coronavirus restrictions as cases and deaths trend downward. Plus, we had exclusive interviews with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about America’s place in the world under new leadership, and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) on Biden’s Covid relief package and the fight over the minimum wage.

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ruling by detonating the Byrd rule on a simple majority vote. This would not constitute a Senate “rules change.” But a “precedent” change. The Senate conducts much of its business via “precedent” and not by the 44 Standing Rules of the Senate. Such a tactic would be akin to the “nuclear option” used in 2013 and 2017 to curb filibusters on executive br



A brawl is brewing between liberal and moderate Democrats. One can find evidence of this fight in the battle to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour as part of the latest coronavirus relief bill. The left failed in that effort. And despite having control of the House, Senate and White House, exclusion of the wage hike reflected the political realities of what progressives can do with a 50/50 Senate and a House with 221 Democrats and 211 Republicans.

This doesn’t bode well for progressive initiatives like gun restrictions, climate change legislation and immigration reform. A failure to translate those campaign promises into legislative achievements could drive progressives up the wall by the end of this Congress.–161659020/–161659675/–161659958/–161660310/–161659020/–161659675/–161659958/–161660310/–161659020/–161659675/–161659958/–161660310/

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meets with reporters before the House votes to pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meets with reporters before the House votes to pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (AP)

To wit: Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough serves as a procedural umpire. She ruled recently that the Democrats’ gambit to include a $15-an-hour minimum wage increase in the COVID relief bill violated special budget reconciliation rules.

Lawmakers can stuff almost anything they want in a garden variety piece of legislation. But not in a measure treated under the unique budget reconciliation process.

Democrats elected to use the special budgetary framework for the COVID measure to avoid a filibuster. Otherwise, they need 60 votes to rebuff a filibuster. With only 50 Democrats in the Senate and only a handful of “gettable” Republicans for this measure, attaining 60 votes was never going to happen. So, Democrats teed up the budget reconciliation option.

Deploying the once-a-fiscal-year reconciliation process terminates the filibuster for this bill – and this bill only.

But there was a tradeoff.

Those budget rules restrict provisions from the bill that address policy or contribute to the deficit over an extended period. MacDonough ruled that the minimum wage proposal didn’t qualify for reconciliation.


In many respects, this is not a surprise. Just days ago, President Biden doubted that the minimum wage increase would survive MacDonough’s vetting for this COVID bill.

Liberal Democrats went ballistic.

“I certainly do think that there should be either an override (of MacDonough’s ruling) or a replacement,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. “There are no more excuses.”

“I think the parliamentarian was wrong on this call,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

When asked if they should sack MacDonough, Ocasio-Cortez replied “all options should be on the table.”

Progressive Caucus Co-chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., argued that Senate Democrats should go over the head of MacDonough.

“This is an advisory opinion. We made a promise to raise the minimum wage. We now have to deliver on that promise to 27 million Americans who are not going to be convinced when we go back in two years and say ‘Sorry, the unelected parliamentarian told us we couldn’t raise the minimum wage,’” said Jayapal. “So we’re going to have to make a choice here.”

Jayapal said Senate budget reconciliation rules “were put in there, really, to preserve the power of White segregationists and the power of the minority.”

Jayapal may be right about some of the reasons regarding “segregationists” and the Senate filibuster. But not when it comes to budget reconciliation.

The reason is that the Budget Act of 1974 governs the budget reconciliation process in the Senate. That’s 1974, not 1874.

Omar and Jayapal are right. There is a way to potentially contest MacDonough’s ruling.

MacDonough was enforcing the “Byrd Rule” when she nixed the minimum wage proposal. It’s named after late Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.

A senator could challenge MacDonough’s ruling – but the Senate would have to find itself in a very specific procedural posture – essentially a parliamentary cul-de-sac – where nothing else could be debated. Thus, senators could set up a vote to overturn MacDonough’s ruling by detonating the Byrd rule on a simple majority vote.

This would not constitute a Senate “rules change.” But a “precedent” change. The Senate conducts much of its business via “precedent” and not by the 44 Standing Rules of the Senate. Such a tactic would be akin to the “nuclear option” used in 2013 and 2017 to curb filibusters on executive branch and Supreme Court nominees.

Overriding the parliamentarian boils down to the math.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is one Democrat who opposes including the minimum wage increase in the COVID bill. Incidentally, Manchin is now in the seat held for decades by Byrd. Manchin has indicated he would also oppose nuking the Byrd Rule.


So if Democrats only have 50 votes to start with and Manchin opposes overriding the parliamentarian…

The other option is for a senator to move to “waive the Budget Act” as it pertains to the minimum wage provision. This option permits the Senate to ignore the Budget Act – and potentially include the minimum wage increase. But, the Senate can only waive the Budget Act if 60 (!) senators vote to do so.

That dog won’t hunt.

In other words, if you are struggling to get 51 votes, you’ll never wrangle 60.

Replacing the parliamentarian?

Yes. It’s happened before. In 2001, Senate Republicans relieved then Parliamentarian Bob Dove of his position after some rulings they didn’t like. But there is a tiny universe of persons on the planet qualified to perform the parliamentarian’s duties.

Democrats criticized former President Trump’s nomination of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the high court last fall. They asserted the former president only tapped Barrett because she would make rulings favorable to the Trump administration. Do Democrats really want to install a parliamentarian who will only rule in their direction? Or, would they rather have someone objectively calling balls and strikes?

Democrats included the $15 minimum wage increase in their $1.9 trillion COVID bill passed early Saturday morning. But Democrats must decide whether or not to support the next round of the bill after the Senate strips the minimum wage provision from the measure.

Ocasio-Cortez said moderate Democrats should be “lucky that progressives aren’t asking for $24 (an hour) right now.”

But that’s the problem. Procedural gymnastics with MacDonough revealed just how little power progressives truly have in Washington. This was always going to be the tension inside the party with Democrats controlling the White House, House and Senate.


Liberals hoped to raise the minimum wage. Approve climate change legislation. Impose gun control. Adopt immigration reform. Grant Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico statehood. Those may be great campaign promises. But parliamentary realities will get in the way of actually enacting such plans into law.

It’s about the math. It’s about the math. It’s about the math.

One wonders if Democrats overpromised to their base? Or, if liberals will grow disillusioned? It’s a danger for Democrats.

I asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., if she thought there would be problems passing the bill when it came back from the Senate.

“No,” replied the speaker.

That’s the verdict on the coronavirus bill. But bigger problems could lurk for the party if they don’t enact major initiatives they promised their left flank.

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Among them are former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a member of Trump’s defense team at his first impeachment trial, who he appointed to the board of trustees for the Kennedy



The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice voted on Sunday to recommend the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for persons 18 years of age and older in the United States under the Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization.

The interim recommendation passed with 12 in favor, one recusal and no opposition.

The recommendation was signed later Sunday by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, allowing doses to be administered.

The FDA announced the emergency authorization on Saturday.

“The authorization of this vaccine expands the availability of vaccines, the best medical prevention method for COVID-19, to help us in the fight against this pandemic, which has claimed over half a million lives in the United States,” Janet Woodcock, acting FDA commissioner, said in a statement.

MORE: FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson vaccine, giving US 3rd option to fight COVID-19 virus
The green light by federal regulators was expected to trigger the shipment of 3.9 million doses as early as Monday, with some 800,000 of that expected to go directly to pharmacies.

Those numbers would grow weekly. And with shipments from other vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna, the expanded supply would eventually put the country on track to have enough vaccine on hand to immunize some 130 million adults by the end of March.

PHOTO: This July 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine in Belgium.
Johnson & Johnson via AP
Johnson & Johnson via AP
This July 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine in Belgium.
Like its competitors Pfizer and Moderna, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was considered highly effective at preventing serious illness. J&J found its vaccine was 85% effective at preventing severe illness and 100% effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths 28 days after individuals were vaccinated.

“We believe that people should take the vaccine that they are able to access,” Woodcock said on a conference call following authorization on Saturday. “We feel all these vaccines meet our standards for effectiveness. They were not studied in head-to-head trials and so it’s really very difficult to compare right now due to different differences in the development program.”

The other good news is that J&J was tested in countries known to have potentially more dangerous variants, including Brazil and South Africa. The data found the vaccine worked against all variants at preventing severe disease.

As president, Donald Trump railed against the “deep state” working within the federal government to undermine his presidency.

But before he left office, he quietly embedded dozens of his own political appointees in career government positions and appointed other loyalists to influential boards and groups — one of the final, but possibly most enduring, ways he attempted to remake Washington in his own image.

Now, President Joe Biden’s administration is trying to root out some of those government employees, seeking to rid the broader federal bureaucracy of Trump loyalists who could hinder his agenda.

There was nothing new about Trump’s attempts to convert political appointees to civil service employees, a process called “burrowing” by some government watchers; outgoing presidents have done it for years. (Civil service workers have protections that political appointees do not, and are harder for new administrations to fire.)

But good-government advocates, government watchdogs and experts on the federal bureaucracy, including one member of Congress, said that Trump’s “burrowers” were both more plentiful, and more dangerous, than usual.

Further, these experts pointed to moves by Trump, in the final days of his presidency, to place allies in unusual positions like little-known advisory boards with close ties to decision-makers at key agencies, and low-level unpaid jobs on prestigious boards. Those allies retain access to lawmakers, decision-making processes and information that could ultimately make its way back to the former president.

“Under the guise of stopping a ‘deep state’ coup that never existed, Trump appears to have tried to create a deep state of his own,” said David Rohde, the author of the 2020 book “In Deep: The FBI, the CIA, and the Truth about America’s ‘Deep State’” and the executive editor of Rohde called that effort, if it had proceeded unfettered, “an existential threat to democracy.”

Seeking to cut off any potential such damage, the Biden administration has in recent weeks terminated or placed on leave several government employees placed into their jobs by Trump in the waning days of his presidency, including the top lawyer at the National Security Agency and several members on Pentagon advisory boards.

In a statement to NBC News, a Biden White House official said the administration “is conducting a thorough review of several councils, commissions, and advisory boards,” adding that “as part of that review, we may remove individuals whose continued membership on the board would not serve the public interest.”

But experts warned that countless others are likely peppered throughout the federal government and that it would be difficult for Biden to identify and remove all of them.

“Not to be hyperbolic, but the damage some of these people could do is enormous,” said Liz Hempowicz, the director of public policy at the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight.

Finding Trump loyalists
Trump political appointees petitioned the Office of Personnel Management 49 times for conversion to civil service jobs from January 2020 through September 2020, a congressional aide with knowledge of the matter told NBC News. According to the aide, 15 were approved, 14 were denied, declined or withdrawn, and another 20 were still pending.

The OPM tracks such conversion requests on a quarterly basis and subsequently provides the information to members of Congress. The number of requested conversions for the last quarter of 2020 — the final months of Trump’s presidency — won’t be released to Congress until March.

Some agencies aren’t required to report conversions, and some agencies never announced their new hires, making it difficult for the Biden administration to truly know the extent of the reach of Trump loyalists.


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The overall number of requests from the Trump administration in 2020 identified so far, however, outpaces Trump’s predecessor in the White House. During President Barack Obama’s final year in the White House, including the first 20 days of January 2017, his administration had a total of 39 conversion requests, the aide said.

A spokesperson for Trump did not respond to requests for comment.

The Trump administration conversion that caused the most concern, the congressional aide and numerous experts said, was Michael Ellis, a Trump loyalist who, one day before Biden took office last month, was sworn in as the top lawyer for the National Security Agency.

On Jan. 20, Biden’s first day in office, his administration placed Ellis on administrative leave while his transfer to the agency from his previous role at the Trump White House was reviewed by an inspector general for the Department of Defense.

Ellis, a former staffer for Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who went on to work in the Trump White House, was involved in the placement ofa reconstructed transcript of Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy into a classified computer system, The Associated Press reported. That July 2019 call — on which Trump asked his counterpart to investigate Biden and his son Hunter — became the basis of Trump’s first impeachment trial. A National Security Council spokesman speaking on Ellis’ behalf at the time declined to comment to the AP.

Two years earlier, The New York Times reported that Ellis, then a lawyer working on national security issues at the White House Counsel’s Office, was involved in giving Nunes, then the House Intelligence Committee chair, access to intelligence reports that seemed to show Trump and his associates were incidentally included in surveillance efforts during the Obama administration.

Ellis, who later worked as a White House senior director of intelligence, a political job, was tapped to be the general counsel of the NSA, a civil service position that would extend beyond Trump’s time in office, in the weeks after he lost the election.

Experts on burrowing told NBC News that based on Ellis’ reported past actions, they were concerned that as NSA general counsel, he would have the opportunity to continue to evaluate intelligence in a way that would have benefited Trump or his allies.

“If there is a track record of mishandling classified information, that should disqualify him from this role,” said Nick Schwellenbach, a senior investigator at the Project on Government Oversight. “It definitely looked like an attempt to embed a political operative inside one of the most powerful spy agencies.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who as the chair of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations had pushed the Trump administration to be more transparent with the number of conversions it requested, added that Ellis is just one prominent example of why civil service jobs must not go to partisans.

“Many of former President Trump’s ardent political appointees were openly and unapologetically committed to tearing down those institutions. To allow them to continue in the federal government will hurt all Americans,” Connolly told NBC News.

Ellis did not respond to phone calls and messages from NBC News.

A former Trump administration official told NBC News that Ellis’ hiring process at the NSA began in 2019 and that Ellis went through the “standard process” an appointee would go through to get a career job. The former official also rejected any suggestion that Ellis was not qualified for the job.

“He is eminently qualified,” the former official said.

Because Ellis had already been sworn in when Biden took office, he benefits from robust civil service job protections and cannot be easily terminated. Trump signed an executive order days before the 2020 election that allowed federal agencies to work around rules mandating a merit-based application process by political appointees applying for career civil service jobs, a move experts said was designed to allow Trump to remake the civil service as he saw fit. Biden, however, signed an executive order during his first week in office undoing Trump’s order. As a result, Ellis may remain on administrative leave or be transferred to another job, experts said.


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Another name that experts frequently mentioned in interviews was Brandon Middleton, a Trump loyalist who is now a top Energy Department lawyer. Middleton had earlier worked in the environmental and natural resources division under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He later took a job as a political appointee in Trump’s Interior Department before applying for and receiving a permanent civil service job as chief counsel in an Energy Department office dealing with toxic waste cleanup.

“He has a demonstrable track record of taking a pro-corporation view of environmental law. He doesn’t look like someone who will call balls and strikes in a straight way,” said Schwellenbach. Middleton did not respond to phone calls and messages from NBC News.

Other approved requests through the first nine months of 2020 for conversion of former political appointees to career civil service jobs included Prerak Shah, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Trump Justice Department who had served as Sen. Ted Cruz’s chief of staff, to an assistant U.S. attorney job for the Northern District of Texas. Shah was named acting U.S. attorney for that district last month.Tracy Short was granted a petition to be the chief immigration judge at the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, a civil service job, after he’d worked as a senior adviser at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a political job.

Shah did not respond to phone calls and messages from NBC News. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas declined to comment. A spokesperson for the EOIR said Short’s “selection, and subsequent career appointment” at the EOIR “followed a public solicitation for applications, a merit-based application review and interview process, and an established process with the Office of Personnel Management for sitting political appointees who are selected for career positions.”

Still other people whose names prompted concern have been cleared out.

Daniel Sitterly, who became deputy assistant secretary for the VA’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection in December, a career job, raised flags at the Project on Government Oversight.

“We were concerned he was placed there to protect VA leadership from accountability,” Hempowicz, the group’s public policy director, said.

While it was unclear whether Sitterly took part in a formal conversion application process, he went from a political job to a civil career job in December. He had previously been the agency’s assistant secretary for human resources and administration, which is a political job, although prior to that, he held other career-track jobs.

In a January email that was provided to NBC News, the VA’s accountability office announced his retirement effective Jan. 31.

Sitterly did not respond to messages. A spokesperson for the VA declined to comment.

Low-level jobs full of loyalists, too
In interviews, experts also expressed concern over the dozens of loyalists appointed in late 2020 by Trump to several lower-level boards who will now — in many cases with no relevant experience — have the ability to provide meaningful input on schools, museums, nonprofits and even the public release of certain classified materials.

Among them are former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a member of Trump’s defense team at his first impeachment trial, who he appointed to the board of trustees for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Hope Hicks, a top aide to Trump for much of his presidency, who he appointed to the William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Trump also appointed to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council Richard Grenell, a fierce loyalist who served as Trump’s acting director of national intelligence for several months in 2020, and Andrew Giuliani, the son of Trump ally Rudy Giuliani and a former White House aide.

He tapped Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a former White House National Security Council staffer who briefly served as acting undersecretary of defense for intelligence, the chair of the Public Interest Declassification Board, an obscure position charged with advocating for public access to classified information.

The terms of these appointments are typically yearslong and removal can be challenging, experts said. The posts, all unpaid, “tend to be patronage jobs in nature, a reward,” Schwellenbach said.

“But it’s still an opportunity to hobnob with important people, get you in the door for important events, grease the wheels for deals you may have on the side, meet people, keep your ear to the ground, which I believe creates added concern … when you consider that this all is through the lens of Trump’s allies,” he added.

In a statement to NBC News, Grenell pointed to multiple actions he had taken as Trump’s ambassador to Germany, including having pressured the German government to ban Hezbollah, pushing U.S. officials to return Nazi prison guard Jakiw Palij to Germany, and having “confronted the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe,” as evidence of his qualifications for his appointment to the Holocaust Memorial Council.

Giuliani did not respond to emails.

Bondi also did not respond to phone calls and messages. A Kennedy Center spokesperson said the organization has had, for decades, and across numerous presidential administrations, “a bipartisan board that works collaboratively and positively to advance the mission of the Kennedy Center.”

In a statement, Mark Zaid, an attorney for Cohen-Watnick, said his client “was a perfect choice to lead the bipartisan PIDB, and government watchdog organizations will be pleasantly surprised by what they will see during this tenure.”

“Ezra completely understands his lawful obligations to protect classified information and he will be led by career, experienced PIDB staff,” Zaid said. “I certainly have no concerns he would take any steps to cross an inappropriate line. Any concerns involving Ezra and Trump are completely misplaced.”

Hicks did not respond to phone calls and messages.

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Pentagon advisory boards were another area where the Biden administration took action on Trump appointees.

NBC News reported this month that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had dismissed every member of the Pentagon’s advisory boards, a move officials said was driven by concern over last-minute appointments made by the Trump administration.

Among those dismissed were Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign manager, and David Bossie, a former deputy campaign manager. The board advisory positions that went to them, and all others relieved by Austin, were unpaid and not formal Pentagon employees. But experts said that the jobs are still highly sought-after because they provide access to top leaders at the department and can come with security clearances and access to sensitive information, like defense contracts.

Those jobs are of significantly less concern than partisans in critical career jobs, experts said. But no matter the level of the position, they said, there’s little room for diehard political ideology within a broad federal bureaucracy that is charged with solving a slew of historical challenges.

“Our government has a phenomenally large and complex and diverse set of problems to address. A pandemic, an economic crisis, cyberattacks,” said Max Stier, CEO of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service.

“We have a system where a president gets to name any number of people to any number of jobs. But in so many cases, and certainly in the last administration, they’re not chosen for their ability. They are not the best and brightest.”

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