January 7, 2020

Most Republicans have taken the line that President Trump was right to order the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani because he was "an evil bastard," but that's the way "grade-school children" think, and in foreign policy, you have to be a little more sophisticated and farsighted, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Monday. Paul, in fact, was extremely skeptical of Trump's entire Iran policy.

The Trump administration's "stated purpose" for killing Soleimani, head of Iran's elite Quds Force, "was that they were going to prevent attacks on Americans," Paul said. "But I think if you ask the question now, is it more or less likely that there will be attacks on Americans, I think it's much more likely, the replacement for Soleimani is basically a clone," and "so while Soleimani may have been plotting attacks — and probably was — it's now a certainty that there will be attacks in revenge for his killing."

Another "unintended consequence" of the strike is that it silenced moderate and diplomacy-focused Iranians, Paul said. "The Iranians will not be able to approach us on diplomacy until there's revenge, until there's adequate revenge to satiate the people, who want some kind of revenge. And this is sad. I mean, the death of Soleimani I think is the death of diplomacy with Iran." Blitzer asked Paul if Trump "made a major mistake," and Paul said he thinks Trump "got bad advice," specifically from former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

"The administration, mostly at John Bolton's behest, tore up the Iran agreement, placed a significant, severe embargo on Iran, and then killed one of their major generals — nobody in their right mind would actually think that that would lead to negotiations," Paul said. "So when Secretary of State [Mike] Pompeo's out there saying, 'Well, maximum pressure, our goal is to get them back to the negotiating table,' no naive child would believe that, you would have to be brain-dead to believe that. ... Nothing justifies their military action, but it is predictable given what path we've chosen." Peter Weber

9:50 p.m.

Richard Barnett, the Arkansas man who posed for pictures in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, complained on Thursday that it is "not fair" he is still in jail while "everybody else who did things much worse are already home."

Barnett was arrested in January on federal charges of entering and remaining on restricted grounds, violent entry, and theft of public property, and has entered a plea of not guilty. On Thursday, he attended a virtual hearing before U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper, who announced Barnett would remain in jail until his next court date in May. That's when Barnett erupted, yelling this was "not fair" and adding, "I've been here for a month, they're going to set it for another month, and everybody else is getting out."

Barnett's attorney, Joseph D. McBride, told NBC News his client's "frustration stems from the fact that he is incarcerated pre-trial, despite lacking any criminal history, being gainfully employed, respected in his community, and in a stable relationship for over 20 years. Normally, facts like these are more than enough for an individual to fight their case from the outside." McBride also said because of the pandemic, he is restricted in how he can meet with Barnett, and wasn't able to clearly explain the court proceedings.

On the day of the riot, Barnett was photographed with his feet on Pelosi's desk and holding up an envelope with her name on it. During an interview with New York Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg, Barnett said he wrote Pelosi "a nasty note" and took one of her envelopes, but didn't steal it because he left behind a quarter on her desk. Catherine Garcia

8:10 p.m.

The United States has picked up the vaccination pace, and for the first time on Wednesday, the average number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered per day surpassed 2 million, The New York Times reports.

The average a month ago was roughly 1.3 million per day. After his inauguration, President Biden said his goal was for the U.S. to administer at least 1.5 million doses every day, in order to surpass 100 million vaccines by his 100th day in office.

There are three COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized for emergency use in the U.S., and as of Thursday, 54 million Americans have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. On Tuesday, Biden said every adult in the United States who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by the end of May. Catherine Garcia

6:55 p.m.

While Texas and Mississippi are lifting their mask mandates, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced on Thursday she is extending her state's mask order for another month.

On Wednesday, President Biden slammed Ivey's fellow Republican governors, Texas' Greg Abbott and Mississippi's Tate Reeves, for ending mask requirements and fully reopening businesses, saying they were showing "Neanderthal thinking." He called on leaders to listen to public health experts, and Ivey said that's what she's doing, extending the mask order that was set to expire on Friday.

"We need to get past Easter and hopefully allow more Alabamians to get their first shot before we take a step some other states have taken to remove the mask order altogether and lift other restrictions," Ivey said. "Folks, we are not there yet, but goodness knows we're getting closer."

The mask order will now expire on April 9, and Ivey said after that, people will have to be responsible for wearing them without a mandate. Face coverings, Ivey said, are "one of our greatest tools" in preventing the spread of coronavirus, and when the order is lifted she will "continue to wear my mask when I'm around others and strongly urge my fellow citizens to use common sense and do the same."

Public health experts have warned of the dangers associated with reopening states too soon, before more people are vaccinated and as highly-transmissible variants spread, saying it could erase gains made against the virus. Alabama is home to 4.9 million people, with just 13 percent of the population having received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Don Williamson, head of the Alabama Hospital Association, told The Associated Press that if 1.75 million doses are delivered by early April, that would be "a terrific place to be." Catherine Garcia

5:26 p.m.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is under close scrutiny following multiple sexual harassment allegations and revelations of withheld COVID-19 data, but most voters haven't fully turned against him.

In a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday, voters gave Cuomo a split 45-46 percent approval rating, down almost 30 points since his nearly-peak approval at the height of the pandemic in New York last year. Even though his overall approval has plummeted, voters don't necessarily think he should resign.

Cuomo has faced some calls to step down after three women accused him of sexual harassment, including two former aides. The governor apologized on Wednesday, but said he "never touched anyone inappropriately" and said he would not resign. Quinnipiac found that 40 percent of New York voters believe he should resign, while 55 percent say he should not. Perhaps surprisingly, just 21 percent of Democrats say Cuomo should step down, and 74 percent say he should stay.

Even so, while voters aren't united in saying Cuomo should leave office immediately, there's more consensus that he shouldn't run again. A full 59 percent said he should not run for re-election in 2022, and 36 percent said he should. Democrats were more split on the question, with 50 percent saying he should run again, and 44 percent disagreeing.

There's more bad news for Cuomo on the coronavirus front, seeing as 56 percent of those polled approve of his handling of the pandemic, down from 81 percent who approved last May. That could be related to Cuomo's office reportedly acknowledging they withheld data on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes across the state, undercounting by as much as 50 percent. While 75 percent say his handling of the issue was wrong, 51 percent say he did something "unethical, but not illegal."

Quinnipiac surveyed 935 registered voters in New York from March 2-3. The margin of error is 3.2 percentage points. See more results here. Summer Meza

4:22 p.m.

Former President Donald Trump may have been permanently booted from Twitter, but YouTube will let him have his account back — just not yet quite yet.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said at an event Thursday that the former president, who was suspended from YouTube in January, will be allowed to use his account again once there's no longer an "elevated risk of violence" in the United States.

"We will lift the suspension of the Donald Trump channel when we determine the risk of violence has decreased," Wojcicki said, Politico reports.

YouTube suspended Trump's account in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, saying he violated the platform's "policies for inciting violence." The suspension was initially said to be for at least a week, but it was later extended.

The video platform never said Trump's suspension would be permanent, though, contrasting with Twitter, which booted Trump from the platform forever due to his actions surrounding the riot. Trump was also suspended from Facebook, a decision that's being reviewed by the platform's independent oversight board and could potentially be overturned.

Wojcicki didn't offer a specific timeline for when Trump's account could come back online but she said that, after Capitol Police warned of a potential plot to breach the Capitol building on Thursday, it's "pretty clear" that the "elevated violence risk still remains." Brendan Morrow

3:28 p.m.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) takes President Biden's insults as a compliment, actually.

On Wednesday, Biden criticized lawmakers in Texas and Mississippi who opted to fully reopen all state businesses and end mask mandates even as the pandemic rages on, calling the move a "mistake" and deeming it a result of "Neanderthal thinking." The last thing the country needs as the vaccine rollout ramps up, Biden added, is "Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything's fine, take off your mask, forget it. It still matters."

Though Biden didn't mention Tennessee or Blackburn specifically, Fox Business host Stuart Varney asked her to react to his comments on Thursday. She said the comments should be viewed as complimentary, somehow.

"Stuart, we were called 'Neanderthals' when I led the fight against the imposition of a state income tax in Tennessee,” Blackburn said. "Do you know what I did? I started the Neanderthal Caucus!"

"Neanderthals are hunter-gatherers, they're protectors of their family," she continued. "They are resilient. They are resourceful. They tend to their own. So, I think Joe Biden needs to rethink what he is saying."

As The Daily Beast and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) noted, the comments were oddly in the present tense, though Neanderthals are extinct, and Blackburn, ironically, has said she does not believe in evolution. Watch the clip below. Summer Meza

3:13 p.m.

Former President Donald Trump has released a new post-presidency statement, and Democrats might just be glad he did.

The former president, who remains permanently banned from Twitter, released a statement Thursday once again raging against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), blasting him as the "most unpopular politician in the country" while blaming him for Republicans' Senate losses in Georgia — losses for which Trump himself has been blamed by other Republicans.

One of the reasons Republicans lost the two Georgia Senate runoffs in January, Trump argues, was "Mitch McConnell's refusal to go above $600 per person on the stimulus check payments when the two Democrat opponents were touting $2,000 per person in ad after ad."

The statement offered "quite the pre-stimulus political gift to Democrats," wrote National Journal's Josh Kraushaar, while The Washington Post's Dave Weigel noted that Trump "remarkably" used this opportunity to "validate Biden's messaging on the $1,400 checks instead of whacking him and Democrats for curtailing them."

Indeed, Trump writes that "the $2,000 will be approved anyway by the Democrats," while offering no comment on the fact that the new checks are actually for $1,400, nor on Biden's recent compromise that narrows the eligibility. Politico's Gabby Orr observed that Trump "could have put out a statement saying the income phase-outs in the Biden stimulus bill are going to mean he gave checks to more Americans," but "instead he's still targeting his own party with stuff like this."

This was just Trump's latest statement in this vein after he released another one last month describing McConnell as an "unsmiling political hack." He also mentioned McConnell in a recent Conservative Political Action Conference speech, in which he took credit for McConnell's recent re-election. McConnell told Fox News he "didn't watch" the speech and that "we're dealing with the present and the future, not looking back to the past." Brendan Morrow

See More Speed Reads