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Biden remains silent on latest downed flying objects

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: US shoots down suspected Chinese spy balloon
Sailors prepare material recovered in the Atlantic Ocean from a high-altitude balloon for transport Friday. Ryan Seelbach / U.S. Navy via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Tuesday ... A Gunman kills three at Michigan State campus, wounds five others before taking own life. ... The U.S. recovers key electronic sensors from downed Chinese balloon. ... President Biden, in DC, speaks to the National Association of Counties. ... Portions of Fulton County grand jury report into Donald Trump’s alleged vote-count interference become public on Thursday, NBC’s Blayne Alexander reports. ... And ahead of her expected official announcement tomorrow, Nikki Haley says she’s running for president in new video. 

But first: Four times in the last two weeks — and three times over this past weekend — the United States military has shot down flying objects over U.S./North American airspace.

It’s the first time this has happened since World War II.

And the president of the United States has yet to tell the American public what is going on.

Or at least give his best explanation.

Yes, National Security Administration spokesman John Kirby addressed reporters on Monday. So did Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

But not President Biden on the last three downed objects — after the U.S. military shot down that Chinese spy balloon.

And here’s what no one has been able to explain: If these objects are being taken down because they’re threats to civilian aircraft, as Kirby said yesterday, then why hadn’t these objects been noticed by anyone before we changed our radar monitors after that Chinese balloon?

In other words, are they really a threat to civilian aircraft — if they haven’t been problems before?

It’s not every day that the U.S. military has downed objects in our airspace, but it happened three times late last week.

Shouldn’t the public be hearing directly from the president?

Quote of the day: Haley calls for a new generation of leadership in new video

“It’s time for a new generation of leadership — to rediscover fiscal responsibility, secure our border and strengthen our country, our pride and our purpose.”

Former United Nations Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in a video released Tuesday announcing that she is seeking the GOP nomination for president.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 3

That’s how many people were killed late Monday night in a shooting at Michigan State University, in addition to five others who were wounded and are in critical condition. The suspect, a 43 year-old man who police said had no ties to the university, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound off campus, per police. The shooting took place at the student union and at an academic building.

The shooting at Michigan State University, where students sheltered in place for hours as police searched for the gunman, also came on the eve of the five-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. 

Other numbers to know:

178: The number of hours one girl spent under rubble in Turkey before she was rescued, one week after the region experienced a 7.8-magnitude earthquake.

57%: The share of teen girls who say they felt “persistently sad or hopeless,” according to a new CDC survey. 

11: The number of states considering farm “right to repair” laws, which would allow farmers to repair their own equipment without having to pay manufacturers and lose valuable time. 

100 million: How many sports betting transactions took place over Super Bowl weekend, CNBC reports.

20 million: The number of people from California to Arkansas who are under winter weather alerts ahead of two weather systems expected to cross the U.S. this week. 

3,500: The number of small fish that have died in Ohio following a trail derailment on Feb. 3 that unleashed toxic chemicals into the air and water, as residents worry that it’s still not safe to be in the area.

9: The number of Israeli settlements in the West Bank that Israel is retroactively working to legalize, per a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying America is “deeply troubled by Israel’s decision.” 

26: How many bills across 14 states have been introduced in state legislatures targeting drag shows, per the Washington Post. 

Eyes on 2024: Two ways Trump’s first term complicates bid for another

Monday’s headlines showed two distinct ways that former President Donald Trump’s first term in office is complicating his bid for another one. 

The first is obvious — just about every week brings a new headline related to his attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election. This time, a Georgia judge ruled that pieces of the Fulton County grand jury report into Trump’s conduct and others can be released to the public, and will be done so Thursday. 

The other is less obvious, but it could resonate with some Republicans. Since he has already served one term, Trump can only run for one more four-year term as president. It’s a reality that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has already raised as he flirts with his own bid. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former acting chief of staff, said it could give Trump skeptics some additional justification to move away from him and to another candidate who could serve eight years if elected twice. 

Read more from NBC News’ Allan Smith, Jonathan Allen and Natasha Korecki on that dynamic here. 

In other campaign news:

She’s running: Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley launched a video on Tuesday announcing that she is running for president, one day ahead of her official campaign launch in her home state. But South Carolina Republicans could be divided between Haley and GOP Sen. Tim Scott if he also decides to run, per NBC News’ Allan Smith.

Leadership vacuums: Roughly one-third of voters in both parties (34% of Republicans and 37% of Democrats) did not have an answer on who should lead their parties, per a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey.

Pence pushback: Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is eyeing his own run for the White House, will try to resist a subpoena from Special Counsel Jack Smith regarding Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election, per Politico.

DeSantis v. The College Board: In the latest salvo of Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ feud with The College Board, the governor questioned whether another group could replace the education non-profit and do its job “as good or maybe a lot better,” adding: “This College Board, like, nobody elected them to anything,” per the Miami Herald. Also on Monday, The College Board said it erred in not “immediately denouncing the Florida Department of Education’s slander” over its African American Studies course, adding its inaction “betrayed Black scholars everywhere.” 

Fed up: The Culinary Union, a political force in Nevada, is calling on the chair of the state Democratic Party to resign “unless members who were purged from the Central Committee are reinstated immediately,” per a release flagged on Twitter by the Nevada Indepenent’s Jon Ralston. The party’s actions have prompted similar calls, but chair Judith Whitmer has dismissed them by saying the committee members were removed because they failed to follow the party’s rules on attending meetings. 

Noem signs anti-trans bill: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has signed a bill that bans gender-affirming care for transgender minors, per The Associated Press

Black Democratic candidates point the finger at the party: Some Black Democrats, and their campaign staff, criticize the Democratic Party for not adequately supporting Black candidates, per Politico

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The White House on Monday announced it would create an interagency team to address unidentified aerial objects, as lawmakers are growing frustrated about the administration’s lack of transparency.

The Biden administration is finalizing a rule that would ban non-compete agreements, or contracts that don’t allow workers to leave their jobs to work at a competitor. 

President Biden fired Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton on Monday amid allegations that Blanton abused his power and misused taxpayer money. 

Republicans investigating the coronavirus pandemic’s origins have sent letters to prominent administration officials including former Chief Medical Advisor to the President Dr. Anthony Fauci.