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A week of Trump posts: Let Jan. 6 rioters go, treason for members of Congress

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: Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump after speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 4 in Oxon Hill, Md. Alex Brandon / AP

WASHINGTON — If it’s Friday ... Ron DeSantis makes a pair of stops in Iowa, hitting Davenport and Des Moines, per NBC’s Dasha Burns and Kailani Koenig. ... Trump, who travels to the Hawkeye State on Monday, sees his support among Iowa Republicans decline in new Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll. ... Trump also gets told he can testify before a Manhattan grand jury in hush-money probe … Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell remains in the hospital and is being treated for a concussion after tripping. ... And the U.S. economy adds 311,000 jobs in February, with unemployment rate now at 3.6%.

But first: In the past week alone, Donald Trump has called to bring criminal charges against members of the House Jan. 6 committee. 

“GREAT JOB BY TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT. The Unselect Committee of political Hacks & Thugs has been totally discredited. They knowingly refused to show the Videos that mattered. They should be tried for Fraud and Treason...”

He’s demanded that those jailed and convicted from their roles in Jan. 6 be freed.


And, yes, he’s continued the lie that he lost the 2020 election due to fraud.

“How does Rupert Murdoch say there was no election fraud when 2000 Mules shows, on government tape, that there were millions of “stuffed ballots,” & Elon Musk released the FBI/Twitter Files, where pollsters say that the silencing of information made a 17% difference in the Vote…”

These aren’t the rants of an Internet troll. Or just the musings of an ex-president.

They’re social media posts coming from the man who is the co-frontrunner in the early 2024 race for the GOP nomination, and who would have — at least — a puncher’s chance of winning the White House again if he’s the GOP presidential nominee.

(It’s also not only the social-media posts. On the policy-announcement front, Trump has said that any hospital that does gender-affirming care for minors won’t meet federal health and safety standards for Medicaid and Medicare, and he’s proposed creating a new credentialing body “to certify teachers who embrace patriotic values.”)

It’s become easy to look away from Trump’s statements and announcements, because he’s off Twitter and because they’re getting posted on his Truth Social network (which gets less attention from journalists and politicos).

But our advice is to take him seriously and literally — unlike what happened starting seven years ago.

Headline of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 3

That’s how many derailments Norfolk Southern trains have experienced since last month, with the latest on Thursday morning when about 30 cars derailed from a train in Alabama. That derailment came just a few hours before the company’s CEO Alan Shaw was scheduled to testify before a Senate committee after a derailment last month resulted in a toxic chemical spill in East Palestine, Ohio. 

“I begin today by expressing how deeply sorry I am,” Shaw said during his testimony in front of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where he was pressed on how the company is helping the Ohio community recover. He declined to commit to some specifics, repeating that he is “committed to do what’s right.”

Shaw said the company has pledged to spend more than $21 million in investments and reimbursements to the community, per NBC News’ Scott Wong, Liz Brown-Kaiser and Ryan Nobles 

“We’re gonna be there for as long as it takes to help East Palestine thrive and recover,” Shaw said. 

Other numbers to know:

$6.8 trillion: The size of President Joe Biden’s budget proposal, which he unveiled in Pennsylvania on Thursday, detailing his administration’s priorities even though Congress is not expected to approve his plan.  

6: The number of Senate Republicans who broke with their party to confirm Biden’s nominee for Internal Revenue Service commissioner, Daniel Werfel.

4 million: How many workers are no longer in the labor force because they are suffering from long Covid, per the Brookings Institution.   

$6 million: How much money the Supreme Court is requesting from Congress for additional security, per NBC News’ Lawrence Hurley.

21: The minimum age in Florida for buying a gun as part of a law passed after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. A federal court upheld the law Thursday

$25,000: The size of an illegal campaign contribution former GOP congressional candidate Lynda Bennett pleaded guilty to accepting. Trump endorsed Bennett when she ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2020. 

18: How many House and Senate campaigns started the year reporting at least $100,000 debt, per Roll Call.

9.5: That’s how many hours a Cincinnati jury deliberated over two days before finding former Ohio state House Speaker Larry Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges guilty of conspiracy in a $60 million bribery scheme. 

Eyes on 2024: Iowa Republicans still like Trump — just not like they used to

That’s the takeaway from the new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll out this morning — while the former president still holds significant sway among Iowa Republicans, his standing just isn’t what it used to be.  

Trump’s favorability rating among self-identified Republicans in Iowa is down from 91% favorable/7% in Sept. 2021 (+84) to 80% favorable/18% unfavorable now (+62).

And the share of Republicans who said they’d “definitely vote for him” if he was the party’s 2024 presidential nominee dropped from 69% in June of 2021 to 47% now. 

Among other presidential hopefuls, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis sports a 74% favorable rating among Republicans, with just 6% rating him unfavorably (+68) and 20% not sure. Former Vice President Mike Pence’s favorability rating among Republicans is 66%, with 26% viewing him unfavorably (+40). And former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s favorability rating is at 53% favorable, with 8% viewing her unfavorably (+45) and a whopping 40% not sure. 

It’s a good day to get new data from Iowa, because both Haley and DeSantis will be in the state. And with Trump set to swing through the state just a few days later, his team clearly has an eye on the developments there. 

A Trump adviser told NBC News’ Dasha Burns that Trump will also be unveiling some new endorsements and members of his eastern Iowa leadership while in the state. And the adviser sought to make a contrast between the former president and DeSantis on style and substance.

In other campaign news: 

In case it wasn’t clear: DeSantis hasn’t said publicly if he’s running for president, but he has said privately that he is planning to jump into the race, the Washington Post reports, citing “two people familiar with his comments.” And if he does, he’ll have some help from a new outside group that launched on Thursday, helmed by former Trump administration official Ken Cuccinelli. 

Educating the Young(kin): Virginia GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin, another potential presidential contender, participated in a CNN town hall Thursday night focused on education. NBC News’ Gary Grumbach rounded up some of the highlights.

Manager musings: The Hill digs into the “chatter” around who could serve as Biden’s re-election campaign manager, noting two leading contenders include Democratic National Committee executive director Sam Cornale and Jenn Ridder, who was the national state’s director for Biden’s first presidential run. 

More from Wednesday’s GOP dinner: Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott told NBC News’ Liz Brown-Kaiser and Julie Tsirkin that he was not invited to the Senate Leadership Fund dinner on Wednesday featuring Senate Republicans amid his squabble with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

Candidates on the cartels: Each of the declared GOP presidential candidates, including Trump, Haley and Vivek Ramswamy, told Real Clear Politics that Mexican drug cartels should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.

Schiff’s struggle: NBC News’ Alex Seitz-Wald writes that Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff’s high-profile fights against Trump “may not be enough to make the former Blue Dog budget hawk a ‘progressive champion,’ as he is billing himself in the California Senate race.”

Wandering down this road that we call the campaign trail: Actor Ben Savage of “Boy Meets World” fame discussed his run for Schiff’s House seat on Good Morning America, saying, “Of course issues like housing, homelessness, health care are very important and near and dear to my heart, but it’s really about changing the tone.”  

Yet another bad headline for Santos: A Brazilian man convicted of fraud in 2017 wrote in a new declaration that New York GOP Rep. George Santos was “the person in charge of the crime of credit card fraud when I was arrested.” 

Supreme Showdown

The Wisconsin Supreme Court race between liberal Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz and conservative former Justice Daniel Kelly is less than one month away. Here’s the latest news from the race:

A new group jumps in for Kelly: WMC Issues Mobilization Council placed over $3 million on the airwaves this week on ads in favor of Kelly, per the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. The ads allege that Protasiewicz is soft on crime and use her record as a judge to allege she “set violent criminals free.” WMC, a pro-business lobby group, is the second pro-Kelly, anti-Protasiewicz group to jump into the race since the primary. 

Heading to the debate stage: Kelly and Protasiewicz have agreed to a single debate, which will be held on March 21 and hosted by the State Bar of Wisconsin and WISC-TV. Kelly’s campaign accepted invitations to 10 forums and debates, but this is the only debate that both campaigns have confirmed their attendance to.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Dominion Voting Services, the company suing Fox and alleging the company’s TV hosts defamed Dominion while spreading lies about the 2020 election, points out in new court filings that Fox has yet to publicly admit to its audience that the 2020 election wasn’t stolen.

After two Americans were killed by a cartel in Mexico, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador pushed back against calls for U.S. military intervention from some U.S. lawmakers.