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Republicans circle the wagons around Trump one more time

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.
Outgoing President Donald Trump addresses guests at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Jan. 20, 2021.Alex Edelman / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — A year ago, Republicans argued that Donald Trump shouldn’t be impeached and removed from office because the country was too close to an election.

“Let the voters decide” was the common GOP refrain back then.

Well, after voters did decide — and after Trump tried to overturn the results — most GOP senators on Tuesday voted that Trump shouldn’t be impeached and convicted because he is no longer in office (though some say they still haven’t made up their mind whether they’ll vote to convict).

No matter that the alleged offense (inciting an insurrection) took place while he was president.

No matter that it was the GOP who decided not to hold a Senate trial while Trump was still in office.

And no matter that there’s clear precedent (the case of Secretary of War William Belknap) for impeaching and trying someone who just left office.

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It all underscores how most Republicans — though not all — refuse to hold Trump accountable for his actions, whether it’s asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, or begging Georgia’s secretary of state to overturn the election results or telling his supporters to march to the Capitol to protest the Electoral College count.

And every time Republicans refuse to hold Trump accountable — after “Access Hollywood,” or Ukraine, or the Jan. 6 attack — he puts his party in a tougher spot with his next action.

Yet as the GOP circles its wagons around Trump this latest time, it also comes when the former president has never been weaker.

There’s no powerful office to punish critics and reward supporters. There’s no Twitter account. And there’s no GOP Senate majority (due in large part because of Trump’s actions after Nov. 3).

Democrats’ fragile Senate majority

But speaking of that Senate majority, we got a reminder Tuesday night of just how fragile the new Democratic majority is, with the 50-50 tie in the chamber.

“Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who will preside over former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, returned home after he was taken to the hospital Tuesday evening, a spokesman said,” per NBC News.

All of the discussion about the Dem/Biden agenda; whether to use reconciliation or eliminate the filibuster; and the ability to confirm judges to the court hinges on Senate Democrats keeping every single one of their votes.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

25,550,673: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 178,944 more than yesterday morning.)

426,586: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 4,297 more than yesterday morning.)

108,957: That’s the number of people currently hospitalized from Covid-19 in the United States.

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

At least 19.9 million: The number of Americans who have received one or both vaccine shots so far.

1,003,807: The average number of individual shots per day since January 20

45: The number of Republican senators who voted yesterday to dismiss Trump’s impeachment trial as unconstitutional.

At least 17: The number of Republican senators required to convict Trump

80: The age of Sen. Patrick Leahy, Democratic senator and president pro tempore of the Senate, who was briefly hospitalized yesterday after feeling unwell.

Biden’s bold prediction on vaccines

President Biden made a bold prediction on Tuesday – that by the end of the summer and toward the beginning of the fall, the United States will have enough supply of the Covid-19 vaccines to vaccinate 300 million Americans.

Here’s how he said that will come to be:

By summer, Biden said the U.S. will be able to purchase 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 100 million doses of the Moderna vaccine. “We expect these additional 200 million doses to be delivered this summer. And some of it will come as early — begin to come in early summer, but by the mid-summer, that this vaccine will be there And the order — and that increases the total vaccine order in the United States by 50 percent -- from 400 million ordered to 600 million. This is enough vaccine to fully vaccinate 300 Americans by the end of the summer, beginning of the fall,” Biden said.

And on the Cabinet front, Biden’s Secretary of State Tony Blinken easily cleared Senate confirmation with a 78-22 vote.

Biden’s pick for the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, was confirmed out of committee on a 7-4 vote.

Biden Cabinet Watch

State: Tony Blinken (confirmed)

Treasury: Janet Yellen (confirmed)

Defense: Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin (confirmed)

Attorney General: Merrick Garland

Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas

HHS: Xavier Becerra

Agriculture: Tom Vilsack

Transportation: Pete Buttigieg

Energy: Jennifer Granholm

Interior: Deb Haaland

Education: Miguel Cardona

Commerce: Gina Raimondo

Labor: Marty Walsh

HUD: Marcia Fudge

Veterans Affairs: Denis McDonough

UN Ambassador: Linda Thomas-Greenfield

Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines (confirmed)

EPA: Michael Regan

SBA: Isabel Guzman

OMB Director: Neera Tanden

U.S. Trade Representative: Katherine Tai

Biden’s day: At 1:30 p.m. ET, President Biden delivers remarks and signs executive actions on the issue of climate change. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki briefs reporters at 12:15 p.m. ET, along with National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy. And the Biden administration holds a briefing on the fight against COVID.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The Biden DOJ has officially rescinded the “zero tolerance” policy.

The Biden administration will also re-open Obamacare insurance markets for Covid-19 relief.

The New York Times looks at the climate clash Biden faces ahead.

CNN reports on new comments made by Marjorie Taylor Greene (before her time in Congress) when she appeared to support the executions of some Democratic members.

Should stimulus funds be targeted only toward those with lower incomes?

Democrats are pushing a $15 minimum wage bill despite facing hurdles in the Senate.

Biden had his first call with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

CDC is laying out its recommendations for reopening schools.

Senate Republicans are bracing for more retirements.

What’s next for CPAC?