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Maxine Waters and conservative media give another example of political dysfunction

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: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Testifies Before The House Financial Services Committee
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., at committee hearing last week.Zach Gibson / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., made a controversial comment over the weekend about the Chauvin trial. (“We gotta stay on the street, we’ve got to get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational, we’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business,” Waters said in reference to what happens if Derek Chauvin is acquitted in the murder trial in George Floyd’s death.)

Conservative media then amplified her remarks.

And then the comments got introduced at the Chauvin trial, with the judge saying they could be grounds to appeal a guilty verdict.

Folks, what are we doing here?

Why is a California politician threatening confrontation if a trial doesn’t result in the outcome she wants? (Waters later clarified that her call was for non-violent protest, saying “I talk about confronting the justice system, confronting the policing that’s going on, I’m talking about speaking up. I’m talking about legislation.”)

Why are conservative media amplifying Waters’ remarks and GOP politicians calling for her censure before such a sensitive verdict? Is it to score political points? To get a mistrial? To get Chauvin acquitted?

And why have they decided that this kind of rhetoric is worthy of condemnation after balking at stripping Marjorie Taylor Greene’s committee assignments and explaining away Trump’s rhetoric that helped encourage the attack on the Capitol?

If you want another example of just how dysfunctional our political system has become — when it comes to rhetoric and the media ecosystem — we’ve got it as the nation awaits the verdict in a closely watched trial.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

One-fifth: The share of older Americans who have not yet received a Covid vaccine shot.

31,960,625: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 150,116 more than yesterday morning.)

571,737: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 507 more than yesterday morning.)

211,581,309: Number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

23.3 percent: The share of Americans who are fully vaccinated.

11: The number of days left for Biden to reach his 100-day vaccination goal.

Tweet of the day

Talking policy with Benjy: Miner threat

Democrats got a boost in their climate ambitions on Monday when United Mine Workers of America released a framework for a transition to renewable energy, potentially bringing a powerful labor ally on board, NBC’s Julie Tsirkin reports.

NBC News' Benjy Sarlin notes that the asks in the UMWA document include money for research into carbon capture technology for coal plants, job training programs for affected workers, and funding to replace wages, health care, and pensions lost to the decline of coal. It also calls for prioritizing coal workers in new clean energy investments.

Underscoring their political influence, UMWA president Cecil Roberts rolled out the proposal at a National Press Club event with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., a key swing vote who also chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“Ensuring our coal miners aren’t left behind as America transitions to a cleaner energy future is one of my top priorities,” Manchin said.

For Democrats, the most important thing is that the UMWA demands are mostly a matter of money, which isn’t in short supply (Manchin keeps mentioning he’d be fine with a $4 trillion infrastructure bill). There are exceptions, like a call to allow coal plants to pollute while awaiting future carbon capture technology, that could be a harder sell. But in general, they don’t threaten the core of Biden’s climate plan.

“Many of the demands in this document can and will be engaged by Biden's American Jobs Plan,” Matto Mildenberger, an assistant professor at UC-Santa Barbara who researches climate policy, told Sarlin.

Gina McCarthy, the White House’s national climate adviser, appeared at a World Resources Institute event on Monday, where she also emphasized plans to put miners to work sealing emissions leaks in abandoned mines and promised more proposals soon for affected communities.

“We have obligations in this country to recognize that in areas that folks have been basically mining for coal...that was what actually transformed the middle class,” McCarthy said. “It was built on the backs of unions and it worked.”

And the number of the week is… 2 to 1

Don’t miss the pod from this week, when we looked at a surprising result in a new poll looking at opposition to legislation targeting transgender youth in sports.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The New York state attorney general has been authorized to look into whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo misused state resources for the book he wrote about the pandemic.

A medical examiner says that Officer Brian Sicknick died of natural causes after the Capitol riot.

Amid diplomatic tensions rising between the U.S. and Russia, the U.S. ambassador to Russia is flying back home.

Biden and his team are closing in on a new “American Families” plan.

The Biden administration will no longer use the term “illegal alien.”

The White House has a new voting rights adviser to help with the push for a federal voting law.

Some liberals are warning Biden not to take too long in negotiations with Republicans over infrastructure.

The number of Russian troops deployed in occupied Crimea has steadily increased.

Dan Balz weighs in on Walter Mondale’s legacy.

CORRECTION (April 17, 2021, 11:00 a.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misidentified the author of another NBC News article on the mine workers union. The author was Julie Tsirkin, not Benjy Sarlin. (Sarlin supplied the additional analysis for this First Read article.)