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'Verbally violent' Trump supporters have been swarming Palm Beach — and locals are worried

Former President Donald Trump has taken up residence in Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, and it's become something of a Mecca for his supporters.

Palm Beach County Democratic Party Secretary Sophia Nelson tells TMZ that she's worried about the effect that Trump will have on local politics.

"Nelson says she and others have already seen changes in town, especially near Trump properties, where upwards of 100 supporters have been gathering daily to show their love since Trump's arrival last week," reports TMZ. "She calls them 'verbally violent.'"

Nelson also worries that Trump-loving radicals will feel emboldened to challenge local elected Republicans in primary fights, which will make governing much more difficult than it has traditionally been.

Just one week after his departure from the White House, there are already signs that residents of Palm Beach County are tired of his presence. Residents at the condominium complex formerly known as Trump Plaza, for instance, openly celebrated after the condo board unanimously voted to change its name.

Former White House chief of staff waves off Capitol riot with ridiculous argument

The former White House Chief of Staff for the Trump administration is now speaking out to dismiss the severity of the U.S. Capitol riots.

On Wednesday, Jan. 26, Mark Meadows made an appearance on "Fox & Friends" where he offered a partisan perspective on the Biden administration's first full week in the White House, scrutinizing President Joe Biden's executive orders that canceled out many of former President Donald Trump's most controversial actions.

Mark Meadows: Biden putting 'America last' with executive orders www.youtube.com

Fox News host Brian Kilmeade also asked Meadows for his take on Trump's "Save America" rally, which occurred shortly before an angry mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to hinder the Electoral College certification. Since the rally influenced the U.S. Capitol riot and subsequently led to Trump's second impeachment and the impending Senate trial, Kilmeade asked, "In retrospect, was that rally on January 6th … a good idea?"

Meadows began, "When we start looking at the rally, Brian, we are focused more on that than we are really we need to be focused on today. When we start to look at America, it needs to be about what is important to people on Main Street."

Referencing the Senate vote on Tuesday, Jan. 26, former Chief of Staff suggested that the impeachment trial is "unconstitutional" as he insisted government officials should focus on "what is important to the American people."

"There was a vote yesterday in the Senate that suggested that 45 senators said that it was unconstitutional," Meadows noted. "Let's get on and be focused on what is important to the American people."

Shortly after the segment aired, Meadows was met with backlash on social media from users who argue that the circumstances surrounding the impeachment trial have long-term importance in regard to what should be prioritized for the future of the American people.

Trump's attempted coup has contributed greatly to the fragility of America's democracy, and it could be further jeopardized in the long term if lawmakers simply ignore Trump's actions simply because he is no longer in office. Despite Meadows' arguments, many Twitter users argue that accountability is important to the American people.

Oklahoma attorney general fighting to return $2 million stockpile of Trump-touted hydroxychloroquine

The Oklahoma Attorney General's Office is now seeking to return its $2 million stockpile of hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug former President Donald Trump touted as an effective form of treatment for COVID-19.

According to The Frontier, back in April, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) ordered the purchase of 1.2 million hydroxychloroquine pills—equivalent to approximately 100,000 doses—from the California-based, private pharmaceutical wholesale company, FFF Enterprises. On Monday, Jan. 25, Alex Gerszewski, a spokesman for Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter (R), confirmed the office is in negotiations with Oklahoma State Department of Health "to try to figure out a solution," the publication reports.

At the time, the purchase was criticized due to the limited amount of information regarding the effectiveness of the drug as a COVID-19 treatment. However, the state argued that because the drug could be used to treat a multitude of conditions, "that money will not have gone to waste in any respect."

Now, it appears the state is looking to renege on that stance.

With very little evidence to determine whether or not the drug was effective to treat COVID-19, Trump described it as a drug that had "a real chance to be one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine," according to Forbes.

The former president also took to Twitter on multiple occasions in an effort to strong-arm the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into fast-tracking the drug for emergency use despite public health experts warning against doing so. Multiple studies also deemed the drug ineffective for treating COVID-19.

At the time, Dr. Anthony Fauci also pushed back against Trump's claims. During an appearance on "Good Morning America," Fauci told ABC News' Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, "The overwhelming, prevailing clinical trials that have looked at the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine have indicated that it is not effective in coronavirus disease."

Arizona GOP lawmakers who traveled to DC before Capitol riot refuse to release cell phone records

Two Arizona Republican lawmakers who traveled to Washington, D.C. ahead of former President Donald Trump's "Save America" rally and subsequent riot at the U.S. Capitol are now refusing to release their phone records.

Under the state's public records law, the Arizona Republic requested for the state's House of Representatives to provide any correspondence between Rep. Mark Finchem, (R-Oro Valley), and then-Rep. Anthony Kern, (R-Glendale). However, the private attorney for Finchem and Kern both pushed back against the demand arguing that any phone records on their "personal devices" cannot be categorized as public records, according to Arizona Central.

The attorney's letter also acknowledged the FBI investigation into the U.S. Capitol siege as it argued that even if the two lawmakers did opt to release their records under the public records law, "the threat of criminal prosecution gives rise to certain Constitutional rights that may overcome the duty to disclose otherwise public documents under Arizona's public records law."

Arizona courts have, in the past, ruled otherwise. Although the devices are categorized as "personal," the courts "have ruled that records on a public official's private device can be considered a public record if those records relate to public business and the phone was used for a public purpose," Arizona Central reports.

In fact, House staff issued a warning to lawmakers urging them to be cautious when conducting official business on personal devices as it would lead to records on their personal devices possibly being made public. They were also informed that they would have to disclose the information if requested to.

Constitutional law expert Dan Barr argued that the device type is an irrelevant factor. Despite the Republican lawmakers' arguments, Barr noted that the nature of the communication and capacity are the key points attorneys can argue.

Barr noted, "Look at the nature of the communication. Are you acting in an official capacity?"

So, what was their purpose for traveling to Washington, D.C.? Finchem and Kern expressed support for a "joint resolution" to invalidate Arizona's general election results. Their trip to D.C. appears to have been related to their previous efforts to overturn the election.

In fact, Fincham claims he had a letter to deliver to former Vice President Mike Pence and reportedly had plans to speak at one of the rallies leading up to the Capitol riots.

He also shared a social media post that read, "What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud."

While Fincham claims to have left the area before violence erupted, a photo of Kern appears to show him standing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol the day it was stormed by the angry mob. Kern also argues that by Jan. 6, he had already "completed his active service as a public official at the time of the riots." The lawmaker had run for office again but lost his bid for re-election.

'You stole a Supreme Court seat': Critics slam McConnell threat to sabotage Senate if Dems target filibuster

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threatened Tuesday to grind the workings of the notoriously sluggish upper chamber to a complete halt if the Democratic majority attempts to scrap the legislative filibuster, a warning that was met with immediate derision given the Kentucky Republican's elimination of the 60-vote rule for Supreme Court nominees less than four years ago.

In a speech on the Senate floor just hours after he dropped his demand that Democrats commit to leaving the legislative filibuster intact as part of a must-pass organizing resolution, McConnell cautioned that "destroying the filibuster would drain comity and consent from this body to a degree that would be unparalleled in living memory."

"Taking that plunge would not be some progressive dream. It would be a nightmare. I guarantee it," added McConnell, who said Republicans could obstruct Senate business by denying a quorum, the number of senators required to be present for the chamber to operate.

As Daily Kos political director David Nir pointed out, "if Republican senators refuse to show up for a quorum call, Democrats can direct the Senate's sergeant at arms to arrest them and compel their attendance."

"That's how radical a threat withholding quorum is—you can be arrested for doing so," Nir noted.

The minority leader echoed the message of his floor speech in a tweet Tuesday evening, declaring that nuking the filibuster "would drain the consent and comity out of the institution" and leave the Senate unable to function.

Democratic lawmakers and commentators responded by pointing to McConnell's refusal to allow a vote on former President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee and subsequent elimination of the judicial filibuster to confirm right-wing Justice Neil Gorsuch in April of 2017—and clear the way for later confirmation of two additional Trump high court nominees.

"You lost all credibility when you stole a Supreme Court seat," tweeted Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). "The filibuster is a Jim Crow relic. It represents everything wrong with Washington. Abolish it."

"By the way," the Minnesota Democrat added, "Senate Democrats represent 41.5 million more Americans than Mitch and his caucus. Blocking needed relief for Americans has nothing to do with 'consent and comity' and everything to do with destroying democracy."

Ari Berman of Mother Jones said it is "truly maddening to hear Mitch McConnell warn of 'nightmare' if Dems abolish filibuster when he already killed it to put three Trump justices on the Supreme Court and confirmed Amy Coney Barrett eight days before an election."


McConnell's threat to gum up the works of the Senate even more than he already has came as the chamber's new Democratic majority began taking steps to advance President Joe Biden's proposed coronavirus relief package through the special budget reconciliation process, a move made necessary by vocal Republican opposition to the new aid measure.

The Washington Post reported late Tuesday that "Democratic leaders in both chambers are tentatively planning to introduce a budget resolution on Monday that could come to a vote later in the week."

"The resolution would instruct committees to write legislation codifying Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan," the Post reported. "Under special rules governing the budget resolution, the resolution could pass the Senate with a simple majority vote, and the subsequent Covid-19 relief bill could also pass with a simple majority—even without eliminating the filibuster."

While a coronavirus relief package could clear the Senate with the filibuster intact, former Senate staffer Adam Jentleson said in an interview with The.Ink Tuesday that Democrats "will never be able to use reconciliation to pass things like civil rights, democracy reforms, statehood, gun control, or many climate change solutions" due to rules restricting the kind of legislation that can be passed through the expedited budget process—meaning the urgency of abolishing the archaic 60-vote rule remains.

"Pulling our punches now will mean that we fail to reform our democracy and get climate change under control, for starters," Jentleson said. "Then, when McConnell is back in power, he will chuckle and nuke the filibuster himself the first time it serves his interests."

In a series of tweets Tuesday, Jentleson argued that the minority leader's threat to defend the filibuster by plunging the Senate into chaos "is the worst he can come up with and it's vastly preferable to letting McConnell block Biden's agenda."

"Unintentionally," Jentleson added, "McConnell is revealing how his power relies heavily on the filibuster."

Tucker Carlson completely loses it over the idea that the FBI should target white nationalist terrorists

Fox News' Tucker Carlson unleashed a furious screed on Tuesday night in response to California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff's argument that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security focus their efforts on white nationalist terrorism.

"Listen to America's new grand inquisitor," Carlson said on air, introducing a clip of Schiff speaking.

In the clip, Schiff, who is Jewish, explained to CNN that the concern is not new.

"We have been urging for some time that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security raise the priority to domestic terrorism, to white nationalism, as it threatens the country," he said. "And we're going to continue sounding the alarm, and make sure that they're devoting the time, the resources, the attention. Just as we did after 9/11 to the threat of international terrorism, we need to give the same priority and urgency to domestic terrorism."

They weren't surprising remarks, coming just weeks after the U.S. Capitol was stormed by a violent and deadly mob, filled with racists and white supremacists, trying to overthrow the constitutional order. As the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, it's Schiff's job to oversee the conduct of the agencies in question.

But for Carlson, the remarks were completely outrageous. To convey that message to his audience, he had to completely distort what Schiff said. The way Carlson chose to misinterpret the remarks was quite telling.

"Got that?" Carlson said after playing the Schiff clip. "Vote the wrong way, and you are a jihadi. You thought you were an American citizen with rights and just a different view. But no, you're a jihadi. And we're going to treat you like we treated those radicals after 9/11. Like we treated bin Laden. Get in line, pal. This is a war on terror. Keep in mind, as you listen to people talk like this — and Adam Schiff is far from the only one — they're talking about American citizens here. They're talking about you. But nobody seems to notice or care."

It was a remarkable reaction. In the clip — the clip Carlson specifically chose because he thought it best illustrated his point — Schiff was explicitly talking about white nationalist domestic terrorists. This is indisputably a crime, not First Amendment-protected activity, and it's a threat that the Trump-appointed FBI Director Christopher Wray recently warned about as an increasing peril.

"Within the domestic terrorism bucket, the category as a whole, racially motivated violent extremism is, I think, the biggest bucket within that larger group. And within the racially motivated violent extremist bucket, people subscribing to some kind of white supremacist-type ideology is certainly the biggest chunk of that," Wray said last September. "Lately we've been having about 1,000 domestic terrorism cases each year. It is higher this year."

The attack on the Capitol only highlighted this danger. It's fair to worry that the new administration might overreact to this threat and that civil liberties might be at risk, as they were after 9/11. Those are concerns worth taking seriously.

But that's not what Carlson said. Instead, he told his audience that Schiff is arguing that people should be treated like terrorists if they "vote the wrong way." In fact, he even said that "you" will be treated like Osama bin Laden — that is, hunted down and killed — because of who "you" vote for. That's not within the same ballpark of what Schiff or anyone else has said. This a QAnon-level conspiracy theory that Carlson is spouting on primetime cable news.

Carlson also showed his own prejudice and bigotry, directly implying that "jihadis" couldn't be American citizens with all the rights that entitles them to. That's false, of course — some terrorists who commit jihadist-inspired acts of terrorism are Americans. Even foreign jihadi terrorists have many rights that ought to be recognized. But it's been people like Carlson and his allies who have consistently argued against the rights of terrorists when they happen to be Muslim. Despite his posturing now against the war on terror, he previously supported it. In fact, Carlson one called Iraqis "semiliterate primitive monkeys" who should "just shut the fuck up and obey."

So it shouldn't be much of a surprise that while overreacting to the idea that white nationalist terrorism should be targeted by law enforcement, Carlson also made clear that he thinks terrorists who are Muslim should not have any rights. He's being perfectly clear about who he stands with and who he stands against.

New trove of explosive and disturbing comments from QAnon Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene are exposed

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has repeatedly shown support for the execution of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, along with FBI agents, and several prominent Democrats including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Maxine Waters, according to a lengthy examination of her Facebook account by CNN's K-File.

"In one post, from January 2019, Greene liked a comment that said 'a bullet to the head would be quicker' to remove House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In other posts, Greene liked comments about executing FBI agents who, in her eyes, were part of the 'deep state' working against Trump," CNN's Em Steck and Andrew Kaczynski report.

Greene is a freshman member of Congress who has shown support for the dangerous and debunked far right conspiracy theory known as QAnon. The New York Times calls Greene "an avowed QAnon supporter," and describes the cult as "a sprawling set of internet conspiracy theories that allege, falsely, that the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who are plotting against Mr. Trump while operating a global child sex-trafficking ring."

QAnon cultists "also believe that, in addition to molesting children, members of this group kill and eat their [child] victims in order to extract a life-extending chemical from their blood."

Greene has also "suggested Pelosi could be executed for treason," CNN notes.

"She's a traitor to our country, she's guilty of treason," Greene said in a Facebook video. "She took an oath to protect American citizens and uphold our laws. And she gives aid and comfort to our enemies who illegally invade our land. That's what treason is. And by our law representatives and senators can be kicked out and no longer serve in our government. And it's, uh, it's a crime punishable by death is what treason is. Nancy Pelosi is guilty of treason."

CNN adds that Greene did not push back against a Facebook commenter who asked, "Now do we get to hang them ?? Meaning H & O ???" They were referring to President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Stage is being set," Greene responded. "Players are being put in place. We must be patient. This must be done perfectly or liberal judges would let them off."

In a separate video Greene said Speaker Pelosi will "suffer death or she'll be in prison" for "treason," and suggested Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) was "just as guilty of treason as Nancy Pelosi."

The word "treason" is used in the CNN report ten times.

Greene posted a strange response to CNN's report via Twitter,

Read the full report here.

There's a glaring problem with Republicans' bid to stop Trump's trial in its tracks

Despite widespread demands that the U.S. Senate hold former President Donald Trump accountable for helping to incite a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol just before leaving office, all but five Republican senators on Tuesday voted to invalidate the trial as unconstitutional—a move that ultimately failed but portends poorly for those hoping for conviction.

Just 10 House Republicans joined with Democrats earlier this month to impeach Trump—the only president to be impeached twice—for his role in sparking the January 6 attack on Congress. House impeachment managers delivered the article to the Senate on Monday.

While senators were sworn in on Tuesday for Trump's second impeachment trial, arguments aren't set to start until February 9.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday claimed that the trial is unconstitutional and forced a procedural vote on the matter. Paul's move "might seem like a silly procedural gambit, but it's important," reported Politico, because it forces GOP senators to go on record about whether they think the trial should be allowed to proceed.

Only Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Neb.), and Pat Toomey (Pa.) joined with Democrats to oppose Paul's effort, which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) supported. The 55-45 vote signals that the necessary two-thirds of senators do not support a conviction.

The Senate vote was swiftly condemned, including by House Democrats who supported Trump's impeachment:

As MSNBC's Chris Hayes noted: "McConnell delayed the trial and then voted in favor of a point or order to dismiss it because it was...starting too late."

Despite the timing of the House impeachment vote, McConnell, while he was still Senate majority leader in the immediate wake of the attack, refused to start a trial before President Joe Biden's inauguration.

Ahead of the Tuesday vote, Paul told reporters: "I think there will be enough support on it to show there's no chance they can impeach the president... If 34 people support my resolution that this is an unconstitutional proceeding, it shows they don't have the votes and we're basically wasting our time."

Paul tried to claim that the trial is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) responded by pointing to Article II, Section II of the U.S. Constitution, which allows for the "removal of office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office honor."

"If the framers intended impeachment to merely be a vehicle to remove sitting officials from their office they would not have included that additional provision, disqualification from future office," he said.

"The language is crystal clear without any ambiguity," Schumer said. "The history and precedent is clear. The Senate has the power to try former officials, and the reasons for that are basic common sense."

Common Dreams reported earlier Tuesday that polls continue to show that the American public supports convicting Trump and barring him from ever holding office again. A survey conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from January 21 to January 24 found 56% of Americans approve of the House impeaching Trump.

That polling results also showed that 52% of the U.S. public wants the Senate to convict Trump on the impeachment charge. Additionally, when those surveyed were told that a conviction must precede a ban on Trump holding office in the future, support for the Senate convicting the ex-president jumped from 52% to 55%.

As the advocacy group Stand Up America put it in a tweet Tuesday: "Convicting Donald Trump for inciting a white supremacist insurrection against the government of the United States should be a given."

The FBI remains focused on the progressive left -- but they're not the real threat

As Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths of office last week, it was revealed that FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich will be retiring soon. Paul Abbate, the FBI No. 3, will be promoted from associate deputy director to Bowdich's post.

At least for the moment, Joe Biden has left Christopher Wray as FBI chief — partly in deference to the bureau's supposed independence, and also because on the face of it Wray doesn't look like a Trump guy. Both before and after the election, Donald Trump was said many times to be on the verge of firing Wray. But that was only because the FBI director did not yield to the outgoing president's most extreme, extravagant and baseless requests — such as indicting Barack Obama and Biden over absolutely nothing — and doesn't mean Wray should stay on.

Bowdich's early retirement and departure is likely linked to the Capitol events and the perception of FBI inaction toward far-right terrorism, an issue I have raised in more general terms in a previous Salon article. A lapse as grievous as we saw on Jan. 6 is hardly due to incompetence at that level. We are most likely talking about bias.

This is why, as a top priority, Vice President Harris should put her lawyer hat on once again and lead, together with Congress, a reform of the FBI legal standards on terrorism, as they are applied to the progressive left and the far right.

The Capitol attack was not an unpredictable, once-in-a-lifetime "black swan" event. It was part of a pattern. It's not like a meteor hit Washington out of nowhere. These right-wing groups are well known, and closely followed by the FBI.

Ahead of the elections, FBI agents themselves competently and timely foiled the plot by far-right militias to kidnap and assassinate Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The FBI agents that did that did not need a publicly organized event that was all over the media and Twitter to tell them what might happen. This indicates that FBI agents and analysts in the field get it right — when the top leadership doesn't put the brakes on them, that is. The people who entered the Capitol had similar plans for any number of politicians and lawmakers. There is evidence appearing now through the courts that the Trump mob indeed intended to capture and assassinate members of Congress, as detailed in a recent court filing by federal prosecutors. The FBI knows these groups and their intentions.

In a press conference several days after the events, FBI officials informed the public that they needed to differentiate between "keyboard bravado" and actual intentions. Keyboard bravado is the new "locker-room talk." The FBI gave terrorism practices and terrorism preparations par excellence the benefit of the doubt, but have a pronounced tendency to crack down on practices which are far away from terrorism when it comes to the progressive left.

The FBI has traditionally been known for its repression of left or progressive activis,, as an Intercept article explores and as a new documentary film about the FBI's treatment of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. shows.

In the spring of last year, when I was a candidate for the office of UN special rapporteur on freedom of speech, Bowdich was quoted, in a memo leaked to the New York Times, reacting to the nationwide wave of Black Lives Matters protests. Bowdich maintained that the protesters should be arrested under an outdated racketeering law from the 1940s. The leaked memo showed that Bowdich considered the social justice movement "a national crisis" comparable to 9/11. The hundreds of thousands of people mourning and marching across the country, unified by the simple concept that no life should be taken lightly, were seen by the FBI's deputy director as similar to terrorists or members of organized crime operations.

To say that protesters who clash with the police are like terrorists is like saying that a car crash at the traffic light is a suicide bombing. Recently I wondered why Bowdich won't speak about 9/11 now, when we face the threat of actual far-right terrorism, including plans to blow up buildings and assassinate lawmakers.

The FBI remains obsessed with dissident or radical voices on the left, while largely ignoring the violent extremists and the real terrorism threat on the far right, as recently revealed by an Intercept investigation that found "glaring disparities between law enforcement's depiction of groups on the right and the left."

When it came to analysis of left-wing groups, "law enforcement intelligence was often vague, mixed up in online conspiracy theories or untethered to evidence of suspected criminal activity". When it comes to the right, on the other hand, the documents showed "law enforcement agencies across the country sharing detailed and specific information on the mobilization of armed groups looking to use the unrest as cover to attack law enforcement and protesters and set off a civil war."

Harris, together with Congress, should lead a review and reform of the legal standards the FBI uses in opening terrorism investigations on progressives, Black activists, pro-bono lawyers, intellectuals and left-wing journalists, and review the standards for evidence of what constitutes suspicious criminal behavior, the thresholds for warrants, and other legal procedures. How easy is it to open terrorism investigations on progressives or leftists who have no prior criminal record and no suspicious criminal-group memberships?

It is past time to get to the bottom of this. As recent events should make clear, the progressive left is not the national security enemy.

How Chuck Schumer sent McConnell a 'calculated reminder' — and proved he has the upper hand

Some liberals said after the 2016 election that Nancy Pelosi was the worst person to lead the resistance to Donald Trump's authoritarian reign. Turns out, they were wrong. Pelosi was exactly the leader America needed. She handed his ass to him every time they negotiated. She led two historic impeachments against him. She held her caucus together through thick and thin. The doubters were once loud. Now, they're quiet.

The same thing can't yet be said of Chuck Schumer. I suspect liberals doubt the new Senate majority leader more than they ever did the House speaker. Monday, for instance, saw an intense debate over how to organize the Senate that rose to a feverish pitch until it broke all of a sudden. The outcome suggests Schumer is on the same trajectory as Pelosi once was. The doubters are loud, but they may soon be quieted.

The outcome of last night's stand-off suggests Schumer is on the same trajectory as Nancy Pelosi once was.

With twin victories in Georgia, the Democrats control the Senate. Control depends, however, on the Senate president breaking ties. Kamala Harris, as the vice president, has other duties. (She can't be running from the White House to the Senate to settle every dispute.) So Schumer and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, have to establish rules and procedures to determine who does what, etc. Until last night, the Senate was at a stand-still. The leaders could not agree. Meanwhile, the old rules still applied. Despite everything, the Senate Republicans remained functionally in charge.

That pissed off a lot of liberals. Some said Stacey Abrams had not moved heaven and earth to turn Georgia blue and flip the United States Senate just so Schumer could act squishy. But he wasn't. His first priority, naturally, is getting his caucus members set up with their respective committees. That couldn't happen until McConnell agreed to proceed. McConnell refused until Schumer guaranteed the Democrats would not kill the filibuster, the rule giving the minority veto power. Schumer said no dice. Killing it is totally on the table. That's where things stood until McConnell caved last night.

Why did he cave? It's hard to say for sure. It might be because two conservative Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, said they opposed killing the filibuster. (McConnell cited their remarks Monday in claiming a "win.") But it might be as Amee Vanderpool argued today—that McConnell caved as a result of Schumer sending a message of some kind during an interview with Rachel Maddow. "We have ways to deal with him," Schumer said. Even before the interview finished airing last night, McConnell folded. "It is apparent," Vanderpool said, "that the final blow was executed by Majority Leader Schumer in his calculated reminder, that appeared to be directly aimed at and done for the benefit of Mitch McConnell."

You could say McConnell didn't cave. He won. He got two Democrats to kneecap their own caucus, clearing the way for McConnell to sabotage Joe Biden's agenda just like he did Barack Obama's. This appears to be true, but appearances can be deceiving. First, assurances mean little. Schumer runs the floor, not Manchin and Sinema. Two, assurances can be reversed. Three, they probably will be when the GOP inevitably abuses the filibuster. While McConnell might appear to have won, in truth, he played the only hand he had. His only hope for success is two Democrats standing against a Democratic president's popular agenda in order to protect an obscure Senate rule. Are Manchin and Sinema going to oppose $2,000 in covid relief to defend the filibuster?

Vanderpool speculated what Schumer's "calculated reminder" might be. "He could have inside information about McConnell's plan to have Democrats convict Trump in the Senate for him, so that he continues to keep his hands clean. Or, Democrats might be planning to pass legislation curtailing campaign finance that would limit the GOP and McConnell substantially. Maybe there is some incriminating evidence against McConnell, that we still don't know about, that could greatly implicate him in something big, from which he can't easily escape." (Read her newsletter here.)

Whatever it was, it was wily, it worked, and it's a reminder of another kind. Schumer labored under Pelosi's shadow for four years. He labored under McConnell's. Either he seemed weak one way or he seemed weak another. That wasn't fair. (Schumer deserved more credit than he got.) But that was his cross to bear. As the new majority leader, he must find ways to instill trust in liberals—and he is. Last night, he told Maddow the Democrats would no longer trust the Republicans to act in good faith! (He said his party will not repeat the mistakes they made during the Obama years.) And last night, the man most responsible for that bad faith surrendered. It's time to trust Chuck.

The case for wearing two masks

At President Joe Biden's inauguration last week, many viewers were keen to notice Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I-Vt.) mittens. But there was another inauguration fashion accessory sported by many that caught eyes: politicians donning not one, but two masks. The practice was quickly dubbed "double-masking." Indeed, former South Bend mayor and Transportation Secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg wore two facemasks, a white one beneath a cloth black one. His spouse, Chasten, sported a double-masked look as well.

Anecdotally, I have noticed more people opting to wear two masks instead of one in the Bay Area, which raises the question: Is two better than one?

On Monday, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and White House advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci weighed in on double-masking, stating, "it just makes common sense."

"If you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective," Fauci said. "That's the reason why you see people either double masking or doing a version of an N95."

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has yet to officially recommend double-masking — and scientists who have been studying the coronavirus and its mitigation strategies tell Salon it's unnecessary for them to do so, for now, for a number of reasons. One being, that while it may be "common sense," the issue is nuanced. That's partly because the effectiveness of double-masking largely depends on the material of the masks, and how that material compares to the material of one really effective mask.

"More layers is probably better, that does make sense . . . if a droplet gets through one layer maybe you'll be stopped by the next layer — that to me is logical," said Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases and associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California, Davis. "But of course it would also depend on the material, and then the coverage of the mask."

For example, one N95 mask is better than two cloth masks.

Dr. John Volckens, a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Colorado State University, said that the take home message is certainly "any mask is helpful," but agreed that "double masking" is better than one because of the quality of masks that most of the public is wearing. Studies show the best protection against the coronavirus is an N95 mask. However, they are in short supply and prioritized for healthcare workers. Not only are N95 masks hard to come by, but they need to be professionally fitted to one's face to ensure a tight seal. When this happens, the mask can block 95 percent of very small particles— hence, the name. Even a "suboptimal" fit though can block more than 90 percent of small particles, according to research published before the pandemic. This is why healthcare workers wear N95 masks, which are often accompanied by face shields. But the public isn't wearing N95 masks—they're either wearing cloth masks, or disposable surgical ones.

"A lot of masks that I see out in the wild don't fit very well on people's faces, there are gaps in them, and this is especially true of those blue surgical masks," Volckens said. "Those aren't meant to seal against the face, and if they don't seal against your face, then they leak."

Volckens said after wearing an N95, a person has a ring around their face like they've been snorkeling. That's because the mask has created a seal around that person's face, protecting them from 95 percent of aerosols. Yet that doesn't happen when a person wears either a surgical mask or a cloth mask—there are gaps and leaks on the sides.

"Double masking is a way to combat that lack of protection," Volkens said, "because you have a good mask as the bottom layer like one of those blue surgical masks. The filters in those masks are protective, but they're not allowed to do their job if they're leaking on the side," he continued. "So the second mask you put on holds that filter closer to your face, and provides for a better seal."

The second mask, Volckens said, should be anything that helps press the first one around your face more tightly. He added that the second layer of protection could even be a "mask fitter" or "mask sealer" that holds the mask more tightly around a person's face.

While cloth masks aren't as effective as N95 masks in protecting the person wearing them and other people, they do provide a layer of protection that can have a profound public health impact on a community. For example, a study published in Health Affairs compared the COVID-19 growth rate before and after mask mandates in 15 states and the District of Columbia. Researchers found that mask mandates led to a reduction in daily COVID-19 cases; after five days, the growth rate declined by 0.9 percent. At three weeks, the daily growth rate slowed by 2 percentage points.

"A bad mask is better than no mask at all," Volkens emphasized.

Epidemiologist George Rutherford, MD, at the University of California, San Francisco, agreed that the more layers you have, the better. Rutherford emphasized that the public wears masks for three reasons.

"The first one is because 60 percent of people who transmit are asymptomatic when they're at their most infectious, the second is we also want to protect ourselves," Rutherford said. "And then the third is if people do manage to get infected, despite wearing masks, you probably get infected with smaller inoculums, fewer viral particles, and as a result they get less sick."

Rutherford said that wearing two masks is especially a good idea when you're on public transportation, or in any situation where can't control the people around you. But don't expect double masking to be a singular means to get us out of this pandemic— so as long as many people continue to refuse to wear masks.

"I'd rather spend my time getting people to wear masks who aren't wearing masks," he said. "Rather than getting people to wear double masks."