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Senate Judiciary Committee passes bill to protect Mueller

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The legislation represents a compromise between Grassley and a bipartisan foursome who had long advocated the measure: Lindsay Graham, R-S.C.; Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; Christopher Coons, D-Del.; and Cory Booker, D-N.J.

The final version allows a special counsel fired by the attorney general or other senior Justice Department official to challenge the action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It also would protect any and all documents relevant to the special counsel’s investigation during that legal challenge.

“It’s not about Mr. Mueller, it’s not about Trump, it’s about the rule of law,” Graham said at the hearing. “It’s about a system for today, tomorrow, and forever, that makes sure that nobody — even the President — is above scrutiny.”

The bipartisan action came after Democrats had feared Grassley was working on an alternative measure that would have watered down the sponsors’ goals. The Iowan agreed to drop a provision he favored that would have required a special counsel to notify lawmakers each time changes were made to the scope of an inquiry, which Democrats feared opened the door to congressional micromanagement.

The final compromise would require the special counsel to submit a report to Congress at the conclusion of the investigation detailing his or her findings and explaining any prosecutorial decisions.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake joined fellow Republicans Grassley, Graham and Tillis in the final 14-7 vote.

The committee also defeated an amendment from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, which reflected concerns among many Republicans that the legislation is unconstitutional. Though a 1988 Supreme Court decision upheld a now-expired law protecting special counsels from political interference, Lee cited the dissenting opinion from the late Justice Antonin Scalia as a signal of how a future court might rule on the new legislation.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said prosecution was a “core executive function” that the legislation would infringe upon.

“Firing Mueller would cause a firestorm and bring the administration’s agenda to a halt. It could even result in impeachment,” he said during the hearing. “I think we’re right to convey a strong message to the president that he should not fire Robert Mueller. … But in seeking to protect Mueller and to impress upon the president the crucial importance of allowing the investigation to run its course, it’s important that we not overstep our constitutional authority.”

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said a better approach would be to have the full Senate vote on a non-binding resolution calling on Trump not to fire Mueller. He said despite the committee’s action the full Senate would not take up the bill, the House was unlikely to pass it, and that Trump would never sign it.

Booker said he was confident that the measure was constitutional, but that ultimately lawmakers needed to act.

“Our job is to do the best we can in this moment in crafting legislation, and if this has to have a Supreme Court challenge, so be it,” he said.

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Brexit Britain remains top choice for finance firms – 'Why would anyone move to Paris?'

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THE CITY of London will continue to thrive in Brexit Britain with it remaining a top choice for firms, an independent economist has said.

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Biden will instruct FEMA to establish ‘thousands’ of Covid vaccination centers

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Trump’s leaving the White House, but the party is still his

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WASHINGTON — If you’re Liz Cheney, Mitch McConnell or Mitt Romney, here is your challenge as impeachment moves to a Senate trial: The GOP is still Trump’s party.

At least for now.

According to brand-new numbers from our NBC News poll, only 8 percent of Republican voters support Trump’s impeachment and removal from office.

That’s compared with 50 percent of all voters who say this, including 89 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of independents.

What also stands out: These percentages — overall and by party — are virtually identical to the impeachment/removal numbers for Trump during the Ukraine scandal.

It’s largely the story of the Trump Era: The numbers and partisan divide rarely change, even after an assault at the Capitol.

And just check out the opening paragraphs from this New York Times story.

“In Cleveland County, Okla., the chairman of the local Republican Party openly wondered ‘why violence is unacceptable,’ just hours before a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol last week. ‘What the crap do you think the American revolution was?’ he posted on Facebook. ‘A game of friggin pattycake?’”

“Two days later, the Republican chairman of Nye County in Nevada posted a conspiracy-theory-filled letter on the local committee website, accusing Vice President Mike Pence of treason and calling the rioting a ‘staged event meant to blame Trump supporters.’”

“And this week in Virginia, Amanda Chase, a two-term Republican state senator running for governor, maintained that President Trump might still be sworn into a second term on Jan. 20 and that Republicans who blocked that ‘alternative plan’ would be punished by the president’s supporters.”

If you’re a Republican opposed to Trump — or simply to how he conducted himself before last week’s attack — you’re in the minority of your party.

Back to the virus

Since Jan. 6 — the day of last week’s attack at the Capitol — this country has seen more than 2 million new coronavirus cases and more than 28,000 deaths from the virus.

Think about that again: In a little more than a week, 2 million new cases (!!!) and 28,000-plus deaths.

It’s that context — and presidential void — to view President-elect Joe Biden’s primetime address where he rolled out his $1.9 coronavirus relief package (more on that below).

The outgoing president has been MIA when it comes the coronavirus. So the incoming president has decided to take on the issue head-on before his inauguration.

And today, Biden delivers remarks on administering COVID vaccines to the U.S. population.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

23,421,473: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 237,251 more than yesterday morning.)

389,652: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 3,954 more than yesterday morning.)

128,947: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus

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

965,000: The latest initial weekly unemployment claims in the U.S.

5: The number of days until Inauguration Day.

Here’s what’s in Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan

President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday called for a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on Thursday, per NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor.

The “American Rescue Plan” includes investments in a national vaccination program, additional direct payments and an increased federal minimum wage of $15 per hour.

“We are in a race against time. We need these resources to vaccinate the vast majority of Americans and to put safety measures in place that will help us put Covid behind us, so that we can reopen our schools, businesses, and once again be able to get there with our friends and family,” one senior transition official said on a briefing call with reporters.

Here’s some of what the plan asks for:

  • Containing Covid-19 and reopening schools by mounting a national vaccination program – Total: $416B. (That amount includes $20 billion for a national vaccination program and $170 billion to for schools).
  • Helping working families struggling from suffering economy – Total: $1 trillion. (That amount includes $1,400 per person direct payments and $400/week unemployment insurance programs for hard hit Americans).
  • Assisting small businesses, including minority business owners. (That includes $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local and territorial governments to pay frontline workers, as well as $15 billion in grants to help hardest-hit small businesses).

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ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Don’t miss this piece from Benjy Sarlin on how members of Congress are fearful even of some of their own colleagues.

And here’s the Washington Post on how some Capitol Police were battered at the hands of protestors.

GOP Sen. James Lankford has apologized to Black Tulsans for questioning the 2020 election results.

Here’s how Facebook and Twitter decided to make their moves on Trump’s accounts last week.

Biden has selected his deputy CIA director.

And he has picked his new director of vaccine efforts.

Rudy Giuliani may be on the outs with most of Trump World, but he still wants in.

The New York Times talked to GOP state and local leaders all over the country. Many described their devotion to Trump with an almost religious fervor.



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