January 6, 2020

President Trump's decision last week to order the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the Quds Force commander and second most powerful official in Iran, and his threats over the weekend to bomb Iranian cultural sites if Tehran retaliates, are hard to square with his stated and implied policy goals: To use punishing sanctions to force Iran to renegotiate a 2015 nuclear deal, or leverage that economic pain to foment revolt against Iran's anti-American leaders.

On the nuclear front, "Trump's gambit has effectively backfired," David Sanger and William Broad report at The New York Times. "Trump thought the nuclear deal was flawed because restrictions on Iran would end after 15 years," but "instead of buckling to American pressure, Iran declared on Sunday" that those limits are "over after less than five." And America's European allies, who tried mightily to salvage the pact, blame Trump's unilateral withdrawal for today's military brinksmanship and gave Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a "chilly reception" when he called for their support after Soleimani's killing, The Washington Post reports.

Tehran's theocratic leadership also "basked in a surge of nationalist sentiment and anger at home," writes Ishaan Tharoor at The Washington Post. "Less than two months ago, security forces are said to have killed hundreds of Iranian protesters to quell an uprising spurred by the regime’s dysfunctional management of the country’s crippled economy." Now, hundreds of thousands — or even millions — of Iranian are turning out to mourn Soleimani. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wept as he prayed over Soleimani's remains in front of a huge crowd. Soleimani's daughter and his successor both vowed vengeance on America.

"Even the hardliners, the religious hardliners here in this country, could not have thought that so many people would turn up today," CNN's Frederik Pleitgen reported from Tehran on Monday's New Day.

"At a time when his unprecedented sanctions had stirred unrest inside Iran," writes Mohammad Ali Shabani, a researcher at Soas University in London, "the strike on Soleimani, whose status approached that of national icon, will harden popular sentiment against the U.S. while simultaneously shoring up the regime." Peter Weber

2:07 a.m.

At 14, Benjamin Kagan isn't old enough to get the coronavirus vaccine — but he can help those who are eligible secure appointments.

Due to a limited number of appointments, getting signed up has been hard for most people, and it's even more daunting for those who don't have access to a computer or have a slower internet connection. After making appointments for his grandparents, Kagan, a Chicago resident, was inspired last month to start Chicago Vaccine Angels, a group where volunteers secure appointments for people in need of assistance.

It hasn't been easy, the tech-savvy high schooler said. Kagan has to be on his computer at midnight, ready to get in a virtual line, and "it's incredibly complicated to navigate even for myself," he told CBS Chicago, adding, "If you're not on the ball and getting them as soon as they are released, they're gone." It's worth it, though — since launching Chicago Vaccine Angels, Kagan has helped more than 119 people, mostly seniors, get appointments. Catherine Garcia

1:35 a.m.

After interviewing 79 witnesses and reviewing numerous documents, the Department of Defense inspector general has issued a review of the time Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) spent as physician to the president, finding that Jackson made inappropriate comments about a female subordinate and drank alcohol while on trips with the president, violating policy.

CNN obtained a copy of the report on Tuesday, a day before its expected release. Jackson, who served as the top White House doctor during the Obama and Trump administrations, was elected in November to represent Texas' 13th Congressional District, and is on the House Armed Services subcommittee. The investigation into his conduct began in 2018, and the report says that the probe was "limited in scope and unproductive" because former President Donald Trump's White House counsel demanded on being present during all interviews with White House Medical Unit employees.

The report states 56 of the witnesses who worked with Jackson said they "personally experienced, saw, or heard about him yelling, screaming, cursing, or belittling subordinates." He was described as a "dictator," "control freak," and "crappy manager," and only 13 witnesses had anything positive to say about him, CNN reports.

While on trips with the president, the White House physician is not allowed to drink for 24 hours before the president's arrival until two hours after the president leaves. Witnesses said they observed Jackson drinking during two overseas trips with former President Barack Obama — in Manila in 2014 and in Bariloche, Argentina, in 2016. In Manila, witnesses said Jackson was intoxicated and made lewd comments about a female subordinate, with one person stating they also spotted him "pounding" on the door to her room while saying "I need you" and "I need you to come to my room."

In a statement, Jackson told CNN the report was politically motivated, and accused Democrats of using it "to repeat and rehash untrue attacks on my integrity." He also denied "any allegation that I consumed alcohol while on duty." Catherine Garcia

12:25 a.m.

More than 300 years after it was mailed, a letter sent from one cousin to another in the Netherlands has finally been opened — virtually.

Jana Dambrogio, a conservator with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries, told NPR that before the gummed envelope was invented in the 1830s, people would secure their letters via "letterlocking," using intricate folds, creases, slits, and holes to transform the piece of paper into a package. While some archivists have used scissors to cut locked letters, Dambrogio worried about what is lost "when we open the unopened."

With a team of researchers, Dambrogio was able to take a locked letter and read it, without disturbing anything. The letter, written in 1697, was found in The Hague in an old postmaster's trunk. Inks at that time contained high amounts of metal, so the team used an X-ray scanner that can create 3D images of teeth to make a 3D image of the letter. The writing showed up "as a very bright region on the scan," like a bone would appear on an X-ray, Amanda Ghassaei of Adobe Research told NPR.

Because it was folded so many times, the letter had several layers close together, making the words look jumbled. The team had to "find a way to manipulate that data and actually virtually unfold it so that we could get it into a flat state," Ghassaei said. Success came after the researchers used a brute-force algorithm, and they discovered that the letter was sent to request an official death certificate for a relative.

The folding pattern included an arrow shape, and is "quite beautiful," Dambrogio told NPR. She finds it "thrilling" that the note can be read "without tampering with the letter packet, leaving it to study as an unopened object." Catherine Garcia

March 2, 2021

The Senate confirmed Cecilia Rouse on Tuesday to become chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Rouse, a labor economist and former dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, is the first Black person to serve in the role. She was confirmed with a vote of 95-4.

Rouse served on the council during the first Obama administration, in the wake of the Great Recession. During her confirmation hearing, Rouse said economists often "focus on average outcomes instead of examining a range of outcomes. One of my priorities as chair will be to try to understand how policies will impact all in our country, as we strive to ensure the economy works for everyone."

There are too many people who have "slipped through our frayed safety net into hardship and hopelessness," Rouse added. "And structural inequities that have always existed within our economy have not just been exposed, but exacerbated, their impact more devastating than ever before." Catherine Garcia

March 2, 2021

For her next act, Kayleigh McEnany is heading to Fox News to serve as a contributor — a hire that was met with groans inside the network's newsroom, several employees told The Daily Beast.

McEnany was former President Donald Trump's final press secretary, known for being wrong on everything from COVID-19 ("We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here," she stated in February 2020) to the presidential election (she asserted that Trump had a "one in quadrillion chance" of losing to President Biden). The Daily Beast's Justin Baragona and Diana Falzone — a former FoxNews.com reporter who settled a disability and gender discrimination lawsuit with the network — spoke with multiple Fox News staffers who said bringing McEnany on board was "upsetting" because several employees have been let go.

"It's truly disgusting that they fired hard-working journalists who did care about facts and news reporting only to turn around and hire a mini-Goebbels," one person told The Daily Beast. Fox News is "quickly becoming a very scary place and quite dangerous for our democracy," they added. "It's not even conservative news anymore. They've plunged into an alternate reality where extremist propaganda is the only course on the menu."

The Fox News audience "loves Kayleigh," another staffer told The Daily Beast, and the network's decision to hire her isn't shocking because "they have shown they don't give a damn about facts and real news." McEnany has "name recognition, notoriety, and an obvious willingness to say anything her employer desires," a third Fox News employee said. "The viewers are morons."

Fox News is trying to woo back viewers who didn't like that on election night, the network correctly projected that Biden would win Arizona. Many called for boycotts of Fox News, and switched over to conservative Newsmax. Fox News ratings dipped, with the network finishing in third place for the first time in two decades, The Daily Beast reports. To correct this, two new conservative opinion shows have been added to the lineup.

"They are grasping at straws on how to keep the viewership they built and fueled over the last four plus years with Trump at the forefront," one staffer said. "It has become about keeping viewers and they will do anything to do that, including blatantly lying and selling their souls and integrity to the devil." Fox News did not respond to The Daily Beast's request for comment. Catherine Garcia

March 2, 2021

The White House announced on Tuesday evening it withdrew the nomination of Neera Tanden as director of the Office of Management and Budget.

In a statement, President Biden said he accepted Tanden's request to have her name withdrawn, adding that he has "the utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience, and her counsel, and I look forward to having her serve in a role in my administration. She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work."

The White House also released a letter from Tanden, who wrote that she appreciated Biden's support, but it "now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities."

Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, faced criticism from Republican senators who accused her of having made "thousands of negative public statements" about people like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). After Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced last month that he would not be backing Tanden, she needed the support of at least one Republican in order to win confirmation. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she was considering whether to vote for Tanden, and on Tuesday told reporters she was still undecided. Catherine Garcia

March 2, 2021

The Senate on Tuesday voted 84-15 to confirm Gina Raimondo as secretary of commerce.

In this role, Raimondo will work to promote American business and industries and ensure fair trade. The Commerce Department is also home to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Raimondo could play a big role in crafting the Biden administration's response to climate change.

Raimondo was the first woman to serve as the governor of Rhode Island, and after the confirmation vote, sent her letter of resignation to Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee (D), who will be sworn in on Tuesday evening as the state's 76th governor. Being governor was "the honor of my lifetime," Raimondo said, and it was "the people of Rhode Island that inspired me and kept me going." Catherine Garcia

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