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MSNBC

It's Day 55 of the Trump presidency, and we still take the bait. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow tweeted before her show last night: "BREAKING: We've got Trump tax returns," implying a cache. It turned out to be two pages, and the White House preempted her by releasing the info first:

  • The White House statement: "You know you are desperate for ratings when you ... push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago. ... [In 2005,] Trump paid $38 million ... on an income of more than $150 million," an effective rate of 25 percent (more than Romney).
  • Maddow to Lawrence O'Donnell: "I don't think there's any reason to ... expect that this will be the only Trump tax document that ever comes to light. ... [T]he more we learn about this, the closer we're going get to the truth about whether or not his foreign entanglements explain more about what just happened in our election."
  • The story raced onto the front pages of The Times, The Post and USA Today. The Boston Globe's lead story: "Trump releases 2005 tax returns." Um, no.
  • A quick column by CNBC executive editor Jay Yarow pointed out that the fracas amounted to "a nice victory" for Trump: "[T]his story has created the appearance that Trump does in fact make a lot of money, and he pays millions in taxes."
  • N.Y. Times' Michael Grynbaum: "On Twitter, journalists complained that Ms. Maddow had overhyped."

What was the mental opportunity cost?

  • A more consequential MSNBC headline — "GOP SKEPTICISM OF HEALTH PLAN GROWS AFTER CBO REPORT" — got shorter shrift. The two-column lead of today's WashPost is "Trump allies call Ryan's bill 'a trap,'" by Bob Costa and Phil Rucker: "A simmering rebellion of conservative populists loyal to President Trump is further endangering the GOP health-care push." (Wall Street Journal lead story: "GOP Plan Hits Snag With Own Senators.")
  • Over on CNN, we learn that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said FBI Director Comey promised on March 2 to tell him TODAY whether the FBI is investigating ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
  • The Fed is expected to raise interest rates today (statement at 2 p.m.; Yellen presser 2:30 p.m.).
  • "Trump's revised travel ban will be scrutinized in federal courtrooms across the country — the day before it is supposed to go into effect."
  • And driving the non-Fed day ... "Polls open in Dutch election that is barometer of populism" — AP/The Hague: "Polling booths opened ... in Dutch parliamentary elections that are being closely watched as a [sign] of the strength of far-right populism ahead of national votes in France and Germany later this year."

We only have so many hours and brain cells. They're a terrible thing to waste.

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Go deeper

Justice Department drops insider trading inquiry against Sen. Richard Burr

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) walking through the Senate Subway in the U.S. Capitol in December 2020. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Department of Justice told Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Tuesday that it will not move forward with insider trading charges against him.

Why it matters: The decision, first reported by the New York Times, effectively ends the DOJ's investigation into the senator's stock sell-off that occurred after multiple lawmakers were briefed about the coronavirus' potential economic toll. Burr subsequently stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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The big picture: Positive fourth-quarter results show Netflix's resiliency, despite increased competition and pandemic-related production headwinds.

Janet Yellen plays down debt, tax hike concerns in confirmation hearing

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Janet Yellen, Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, pushed back against two key concerns from Republican senators at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday: the country's debt and the incoming administration's plans to eventually raise taxes.

Driving the news: Yellen — who's expected to win confirmation — said spending big now will prevent the U.S. from having to dig out of a deeper hole later. She also said the Biden administration's priority right now is coronavirus relief, not raising taxes.