Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 5, 2021

Coronavirus vaccinations hit 2 million a day, Capitol Police ask Pentagon to extend National Guard deployment, and more

1

U.S. coronavirus vaccination pace hits 2 million per day

The pace of coronavirus vaccinations has hit an average of two million a day in the United States for the first time, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data released Thursday. In early February, the daily average was 1.3 million. President Biden, shortly after taking office in January, set a national goal to administer more than 1.5 million doses per day. The two-million-dose milestone was the latest sign that the Biden administration's effort to step up the pace of vaccinations was paying off. Biden took office promising that 100 million doses would be administered by his first 100 days in office, which is April 30. As of Thursday, 54 million people had received at least one vaccine dose. Saturday's approval of Johnson & Johnson's single-shot vaccine for emergency use gave the nation a third vaccine to distribute.

2

Capitol Police request extension of National Guard deployment

Capitol Police have asked the Pentagon to extend the deployment of the roughly 5,200 National Guard members around Capitol Hill, according to Thursday media reports. The National Guard troops have been at the Capitol since it was attacked by a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters on Jan. 6. The request to extend the deployment, which is scheduled to end March 12, came as intelligence reports indicated that right-wing militia members were plotting further violence linked to a QAnon conspiracy theory that Trump would be inaugurated for a second term on Thursday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) deflected questions about security, but said Congress has "to have what we need, when we need it, and in the numbers that we need it. But that's a security decision."

3

Senate votes to open debate on Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill

The Senate voted 51-50 on Thursday to open debate on President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote in the evenly divided chamber. Democrats are hoping to pass the bill before next week so the House can sign off on differences with the version it already passed and send it to Biden for his signature before extra unemployment benefits expire. Republicans object to the cost, and argue that such a big package is unnecessary because infection and death rates are falling and the economy is showing signs of recovery. The bill proposes $1,400 stimulus checks to most Americans, as well as money for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, aid for schools and local governments, and other relief. "We are not going to be timid in the face of a great challenge," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

4

FBI: Trump appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot

The FBI on Thursday arrested Federico Klein, a former State Department aide who worked on former President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, on charges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. It was the first known case against a Trump appointee in connection with the attack, Politico reported. An FBI spokeswoman told Politico that Klein, 42, was taken into custody in Virginia, but did not release information on the charges against him. Federal Election Commission records show Klein worked as a tech analyst for the 2016 Trump campaign, and after the election he was hired at the State Department, according to Politico. A federal directory from last summer listed Klein as a special assistant in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, making him a "Schedule C" political appointee, Politico reported.

5

Biden administration plans 'Ellis Island-style' migrant processing centers

The Biden administration plans to convert South Texas immigrant family-detention centers into "Ellis Island-style" express processing hubs to screen migrant parents and children and release them into the United States within 72 hours, The Washington Post reported Thursday, citing Department of Homeland Security draft plans. The effort comes as the Biden administration struggles to keep up with a rush of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border that has left facilities short of beds and personnel. Russell Hott, a senior official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told staff about the rapid-processing plan in a Thursday email, saying that the numbers of unaccompanied minors and families arriving this year would be the most in more than 20 years. Republicans and some Democrats fear the new policy could make the surge worse.

6

Dr. Seuss book sales soar after 'cancel culture' controversy

Sales of decades-old children's books by Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, skyrocketed this week after the late writer and artist's estate announced that it would stop selling six books it concluded were "hurtful and wrong" due to racial and ethnic stereotypes. On Thursday morning, nine of Amazon's top 10 print best sellers were Dr. Seuss books. His first children's book, And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was among the books on the list. The estate's decision angered prominent conservatives who called it an example of "cancel culture." But others said it was constructive to review the literary icon according to today's standards. "There are parts of his legacy one should honor," said Philip Nel, a Kansas State University children's literature scholar, "and parts of his legacy that one should not."

7

Poll: Cuomo approval plunges but most don't want him to resign

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) approval has plunged as he faces calls to resign after three women accused him of sexual harassment, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday. Cuomo's rating dropped by almost 30 points from his nearly peak approval at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in New York last year, with the latest poll showing a split 45-46 percent approval rating. Still, 55 percent of voters said Cuomo should not resign, while only 40 percent said he should step down. Just 21 percent of Democrats say Cuomo should step down; 74 percent say he should stay. However, 59 percent of all voters said he should not run for re-election in 2022. "From popular to precarious, Governor Andrew Cuomo's political standing is on shaky ground," said Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Mary Snow.

8

YouTube CEO: Trump can have his account back once violence risk falls

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said Thursday that the company would lift its suspension of former President Donald Trump's account once "elevated risk of violence" associated with it has faded. The company barred Trump from posting videos in January after determining that he had violated its "policies for inciting violence" in the wake of the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters. Unlike Twitter, which also suspended Trump, YouTube never said that the ban would be permanent. "We will lift the suspension ... when we determine the risk of violence has decreased," Wojcicki said. Wojcicki didn't offer a specific timeline but said that, after Capitol Police warned of a potential plot to breach the Capitol building on Thursday, it's "pretty clear" the "elevated violence risk still remains."

9

Report: Cuomo aides rewrote report to mask number of nursing home deaths

Top aides to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) rewrote a report written by state health officials last July, removing data on the number of nursing home residents who died in the coronavirus pandemic, The New York Times reported on Thursday. At the time, the death toll was more than 9,000 — a number that had not been made public. Earlier this year, after New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report saying the state seriously undercounted the number of nursing home COVID-19 deaths, Cuomo released the complete data. He claimed the number was kept under wraps over fears the Trump administration may have used it to launch a politically motivated investigation into how New York handled the pandemic in nursing homes.

10

Pope Francis starts 4-day visit to Iraq

Pope Francis left Rome on Friday to start his first trip to Iraq, where he plans to deliver a message of hope to the war-weary country's dwindling Christian community. Iraq is deploying thousands of extra security personnel to protect the 84-year-old pope during the four-day trip, which is considered his riskiest foreign journey ever. It also is the first time a pontiff has visited the country. Francis will visit four Iraqi cities in the north and south, traveling by plane, helicopter, and possibly armored car. He will meet clergy at a Baghdad church where Islamist gunmen killed dozens of worshippers in 2010. He also will meet Iraq's top Shiite Muslim cleric, 90-year-old Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in the southern city of Najaf, and travel north to Mosul.

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