1/ New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois will ease mask requirements as the Omicron wave recedes, joining New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Oregon in lifting mandates. New York and Illinois will drop their mask-or-vaccine mandates for indoor businesses, while Massachusetts will end its statewide school mandate. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said it was time to “let counties, cities and businesses to make their own decisions on what they want to do with respect to ‘mask or the vaccination’ requirement,” citing “a new phase in this pandemic.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki, meanwhile, said Americans living in states that have lifted their mask mandates should still follow CDC guidance “because the data is changing. The science is changing.” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky added that despite encouraging trends in coronavirus case rates in several states, the country as a whole is “not there yet.” Instead, Walensky said, “We continue to recommend masking in areas of high and substantial transmission. That’s much of the country right now, in public indoor settings.” The seven-day average of coronavirus cases in the U.S. has decreased by about 44% from the previous week, while hospitalizations have dropped by about 25%, and deaths, which lag behind those indicators, have increased by about 3%. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal / NBC News)
2/ The National Archives asked the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s handling of White House records. The referral came after it was revealed that Trump took 15 boxes of documents to Mar-a-Lago instead of handing them over to the agency, and that Trump had turned over other White House records that had been torn up. Archives officials contacted the Justice Department after suspecting that Trump had possibly violated laws concerning the handling of government documents, including classified ones. The Presidential Records Act requires that presidential records be immediately transferred to the agency when a president leaves office. Meanwhile, former Trump White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman claimed that Trump would sometimes eat torn-up documents, saying that “After Michael Cohen left the office and I walked into the Oval, Donald, in my view, was chewing what he had just torn up.” (Washington Post / Axios / The Independent)
3/ Rudy Giuliani and other Trump legal advisors asked a Michigan prosecutor to hand over the county’s voting machines to the Trump team. James Rossiter, the prosecuting attorney for Antrim County in northern Michigan, said Giuliani and his colleagues made the request during a call after the county initially misreported its election results in favor of Biden. Officials later said that Trump had beaten Biden by more than 3,000 votes in Antrim, which was confirmed by a hand recount of the paper ballots. The call came around Nov. 20, 2020, when Trump’s legal team was searching for evidence to support his false claims that the election had been stolen. (Washington Post / CNBC)
4/ The House Jan. 6 committee subpoenaed Peter Navarro, Trump’s former trade adviser. The committee said it wanted to speak to Navarro because of reports that Navarro may have worked with Stephen Bannon and others to help develop a plan to delay the certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Navarro has previously publicly said that Trump and “more than 100” members of Congress were “on board with the strategy.” (CNN)
5/ The House approved legislation to keep the government funded through mid-March. The Senate plans to approve the plan by a Feb. 18 deadline, temporarily averting a shutdown as lawmakers seek a longer-term agreement on spending for the remainder of the year. (New York Times / CNBC)
6/ The House passed legislation overhauling the Postal Service’s finances and operations. The bill, which passed with bipartisan support, would relieve the mail agency of tens of billions of dollars in liabilities that leaders said prevented it from modernizing and providing efficient service. The bill now heads to the Senate, where it’s also expected to pass bipartisan support. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico)
7/ The White House approved a plan for U.S. troops in Poland to help Americans flee Ukraine if Russia invades. If U.S. troops are needed to support an evacuation, the 82nd Airborne Division would set up checkpoints for medical screening, shelters, and processing areas where Americans fleeing Ukraine could go. U.S. forces are not currently authorized to enter Ukraine if a war breaks out. The effort comes as the Biden administration tried avoid the kind of chaotic withdrawal conducted in Afghanistan last year. (Wall Street Journal / NBC News / CNN)
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