Manchin, Trump Taxes, John Geddert: Your Thursday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. President Biden has a Joe Manchin problem.

Mr. Biden’s plan to have Neera Tanden be his budget director appears to be hanging by a thread. Mr. Manchin, a conservative West Virginia Democratic senator, effectively holds tie-breaking power in the Senate, and he does not support Ms. Tanden. Mr. Biden’s team is trying for a yes vote from a lone Republican, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

But Mr. Manchin, along with 14 Republicans, voted to confirm Mr. Biden’s choice for energy secretary, the former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm. She’ll be central to his efforts to move the U.S. away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner energy sources, and she’ll also oversee the country’s arsenal of nuclear weapons.

2. The Manhattan D.A. has Donald J. Trump’s tax records.

After an 18-month court battle, the office of Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, has possession of the records. They include eight years of personal tax returns, as well as business records that underlie the information in those returns, which may contain details and context not evident in the returns.

The prosecutors are investigating possible bank and tax fraud. One focus is whether the Trump Organization manipulated the values of some signature properties to obtain loans or tax benefits, people with knowledge of the matter have said.

If Mr. Vance were to indict Mr. Trump, the result would be stunning: the potential criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference begins in Orlando, Fla., on Friday. Mr. Trump is scheduled to speak on Sunday.

3. Markets had their worst single-day drop in weeks.

Major tech stocks fell, and bond yields continued to rise. There may be concerns about inflation, or that the rebounding economy will prompt the Federal Reserve to cut back on its measures to bolster the financial system.

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Investors were shifting from tech to companies like banks and industrial companies that could benefit from growth.

Stocks that brought the markets lower included Tesla, down 8 percent, and Airbnb, which posted declining revenue and a $3.9 billion loss in its first earnings report as a publicly traded company. GameStop surged for a second day; no one knew exactly why.

4. New York City is struggling with the coronavirus.

Officials are trying to understand more about the dangers posed by a new variant that now accounts for about one in four viral sequences from the city that appear in a database shared by scientists.

The variant, called B.1.526, first appeared in samples collected in the city in November, and two teams of researchers reported this week that it carries a worrisome mutation that may weaken the effectiveness of vaccines.

The city’s positivity rate has dropped, but not as dramatically as the national rate has, and community transmission remains high, with about 3,200 probable and confirmed new cases reported daily.

“Everything seems so tenuous and fragile in many ways,” said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, an epidemiologist at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

5. South America has a vaccination line-cutting problem.

Four ministers in Peru, Argentina and Ecuador have resigned this month or are being investigated on suspicion of receiving or providing preferential access to scarce coronavirus shots, raising the risk of unrest in streets or at the polls.

“They all knew that patients have been dying,” Robert Campos, 67, a doctor in Peru’s capital, Lima, said of the country’s politicians. “And they vaccinated all their little friends.”

Above, Peru’s former president, Martín Vizcarra, secretly got a shot while in office, before his country had approved or purchased any vaccines.

With just 5 percent of the world’s population, South America accounts for nearly a fifth of all known pandemic deaths worldwide. The virus has collapsed national health care systems there and has pushed millions into poverty.

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6. A former U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach committed suicide after being charged with human trafficking.

John Geddert faced 20 counts of human trafficking — including 14 counts of forced labor resulting in injury and six counts of trafficking a minor — as well as charges of racketeering, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, second-degree criminal sexual assault and lying to a police officer. The complaint also accuses him of criminal sexual conduct involving a person between the ages of 13 and 16 in January 2011.

Mr. Geddert owned the Twistars gymnastics club in Dimondale, a suburb of Lansing, Mich., where athletes said they had been sexually assaulted by Dr. Larry Nassar.

The Michigan attorney general did not give an exact number of how many people the case involved, saying “less than 50, and they are all minors.”

7. “Is this America?”

Harry Dunn, a 13-year veteran of the Capitol Police, said the bigotry and trauma he experienced on Jan. 6 were enough to intimidate anyone. He spoke to The Times about what he had seen when rioters stormed the Capitol.

“A lot of us Black officers fought a different battle than everybody else fought,” Officer Dunn said. “I said to my buddy, ‘I got called [slur] a couple dozen times today.’ I’m looking at him. He’s got blood on him. I’ve got bloody knuckles. We’re hurting. That’s when I said, ‘Is this America?’ and I started crying.’”

8. A strange crime in Hollywood.

A man walking Lady Gaga’s three dogs was shot and critically injured on Wednesday night, and two of the dogs were stolen.

“It looks like a semiautomatic handgun was used,” said a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department.

The injured man cradled the third dog as emergency medical workers treated him. The gunman was seen leaving in a white vehicle.

Lady Gaga is offering a $500,000 reward for information about the missing dogs, French bulldogs named Koji and Asia.

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9. Podcasts are super hot.

The number of shows has more than tripled since 2018, and now A-list writers, directors and performers are flooding the market with pitches.

“It’s a new frontier, and we love it,” said Lamorne Morris (“Woke” and “New Girl”), a creator, executive producer and star of “Unwanted,” a new podcast described as a buddy action comedy told with a wink.

During the pandemic, even the most loyal visual aficionados, like our television critic, have turned to podcasts for something new. If you’re just getting started, here are 36 recommendations.

10. And finally, the history of Black History Month.

In 1897, Mary Church Terrell proposed that Washington “colored schools” honor the life of Frederick Douglass on Feb. 14, the day he celebrated as his birthday. The historian Carter G. Woodson announced the first Negro History Week in February 1926. In 1970, students and educators at Kent State University expanded it to a month and renamed it.

And it’s hard to overstate how much the month can teach us.

“There’s no question that history is and continues to be a battleground,” said Martha Jones, a history professor. “The origin stories that we tell matter a great deal for where we set the bar and how we set the bar going forward.”

Have a reorienting evening.

Your Evening Briefing is posted at 6 p.m. Eastern.

Want to catch up on past briefings? You can browse them here.

What did you like? What do you want to see here? Let us know at [email protected].

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