with Breanne Deppisch


With Breanne Deppisch

THE BIG IDEA: Back in 2015, when the idea of Donald Trump in the Oval Office seemed far-fetched, Jeff Sessions wanted to know whether Sally Yates was willing to stand up to the president.

“You have to watch out, because people will be asking you to do things you just need to say no about,” the Alabama senator told her during her confirmation hearing to become deputy attorney general. “Do you think the attorney general has the responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that's improper? A lot of people have defended the [Loretta] Lynch nomination, for example, by saying: 'Well, he appoints somebody who's going to execute his views. What's wrong with that?' But if the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no?”

“Senator, I believe that the attorney general or the deputy attorney general has the obligation to follow the law and the Constitution, and to give their independent legal advice to the president,” Yates said.

Sessions, who will soon be attorney general, circled back to the issue: “Like any CEO, with a law firm — sometimes the lawyers have to tell the CEO: 'Mr. CEO, you can't do that. Don't do that. We'll get us sued. It's going to be in violation of the law. You'll regret it, please.' No matter how headstrong they might be. Do you feel like that's the duty of the attorney general's office?”

Yates assured him: “I do believe that that's the duty of the attorney general's office, to fairly and impartially evaluate the law and to provide the president and the administration with impartial legal advice.”

Just as it turns out Trump literally meant what he said on the campaign trail and planned to follow through, last night Yates was true to her word. The acting attorney general ordered Justice Department lawyers not to defend his immigration order temporarily banning entry into the United States for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from around the world. She was promptly fired.

-- Trump’s order was reviewed by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel before it was issued. But Yates said in a memo explaining her decision that the OLC failed to take into account intent, which is relevant in a court of law. Over the weekend, Rudy Giuliani (who is lunching with the president today) went on Fox News to say that Trump told him he wanted to have a “Muslim ban” and requested that the former New York mayor work with experts to show him “the right way to do it legally.” (Any kind of religious test would be plainly unconstitutional.) 

-- Trump’s move last night, while legally defensible, raises fresh questions about the president’s commitment to the rule of law. It follows several episodes during the campaign that were far outside American norms.

Recall when he said that a federal district judge, Gonzalo Curiel, could not properly adjudicate a fraud lawsuit against Trump University because his parents were born in Mexico. (Paul Ryan called this the textbook definition of a racist statement.)

At a debate in October, Trump said he would “instruct the attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look” into Hillary Clinton if he got elected. “It's awfully good someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country,” Clinton said. To which Trump replied, “Because you'd be in jail.”

It is against the law to waterboard terrorism suspects, yet Trump suggested several times last week that he might still order it.

-- The decision to fire Yates also raises profound questions about Trump’s view of the judiciary as an independent branch of government. Firing Yates gives Democrats more fodder to rigorously scrutinize whomever Trump announces tonight at 8 p.m. as his pick for the Supreme Court. What kind of conversations has the president had with this person? Did he ask him to make any commitments about anything? Would Trump stop himself, or would anyone on his staff stop him, from calling this justice directly to complain about something he doesn’t like or to press him on a case that’s before the high court?

Trump was asked during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” last spring what kind of person he’d pick to replace Antonin Scalia. His answer? Someone who “would look very seriously at (Hillary’s) email disaster.” “Well, I’d probably appoint people that would look very seriously at her email disaster because it’s a criminal activity, and I would appoint people that would look very seriously at that to start off with,” Trump said. “You talk about a case. Now that’s a real case. If she’s able to get away with that, you can get away with anything.”

Judges in our system have nothing to do with investigating or prosecuting crimes, of course, but it’s not clear Trump understood that when he made the comment.

-- Trump said last month that he would not name his Supreme Court pick until after Sessions was confirmed as attorney general. Sessions has cleared the Judiciary Committee yet, let alone the full Senate, but Trump is going forward with the announcement. Last week, Trump said he would make the announcement on Thursday. Then he moved it up to Tuesday. Sean Spicer was asked why during his briefing yesterday. “Because he wanted to,” the press secretary said.

That’s a refreshingly honest answer in some ways, but it also encapsulates Trump’s approach to the presidency thus far.

Trump has hung a portrait of Andrew Jackson next to his desk in the Oval Office, the latest data point to show how he sees himself as the natural heir to the Jacksonian tradition. In 1832, when the Supreme Court struck down a Georgia law that allowed for the seizure of Cherokee lands, both the state and Jackson just ignored it. It’s possibly apocryphal, but the seventh president is  purported to have said: “John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it.”

-- Last night’s donnybrook makes it very hard for any Senate Democrat, with the possible exception of Joe Manchin, to confirm Sessions when he comes up for a vote on the floor. The blowback from the base and leadership would be intense.

-- Sessions has been the intellectual godfather of all Trump’s hard-line actions thus far. Robert Costa and Philip Rucker have a fantastic story about his influence: “The author of many of Trump’s executive orders is senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, a Sessions confidant who was mentored by him and who spent the weekend overseeing the government’s implementation of the refugee ban. The tactician turning Trump’s agenda into law is deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn, Sessions’s longtime chief of staff in the Senate. The mastermind behind Trump’s incendiary brand of populism is chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who, as chairman of the Breitbart website, promoted Sessions for years. Then there is Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who considers Sessions a savant and forged a bond with the senator while orchestrating Trump’s trip last summer to Mexico City and during the darkest days of the campaign.

Bannon emailed The Post that Sessions was “the clearinghouse for policy and philosophy” in Trump’s administration, saying he and the senator are at the center of Trump’s “pro-America movement” and the global nationalist phenomenon: “What we are witnessing now is the birth of a new political order, and the more frantic a handful of media elites become, the more powerful that new political order becomes itself.”

-- Keep in mind: Because he knows he has the votes to get confirmed, Sessions has repeatedly declined to recuse himself from potential Justice Department investigations into Trump, his family and his aides – on anything from conflicts of interest to potential Russia connections. The incoming AG’s close personal and professional ties would raise questions about his willingness to challenge the president.

Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning newsletter.
With contributions from Elise Viebeck (@eliseviebeck).

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  1. The Boy Scouts of America announced that the organization will allow transgender children who identify as boys to enroll in its boys-only programs. The move ends a policy relying on the gender listed on a child’s birth certificate, and comes little more than a year after the group moved to allow openly gay leaders to work for the organization. (Katie Zezima)
  2. Authorities charged a 27-year-old man with murder and attempted murder following the deadly attack on a Quebec City mosque on Sunday that left six people dead and fourteen others injured. (Alan Freeman, Lindsey Bever and Derek Hawkins)
  3. A 25-pound bobcat named Ollie has escaped from the National Zoo. She likely escaped through a small hole in her enclosure and may have fled into Rock Creek Park. The zoo asks the public for help in locating the animal but strongly warns that no one should attempt to capture her. (Michael E. Ruane)  
  4. Months after a 21-year-old woman disappeared in Kansas City, with her abandoned vehicle found nearby in flames, family members are desperately combing nearby streambeds and forests in an attempt to solve the possible homicide. So far, the tragedy has remained unsolved – but they’ve stumbled upon several OTHER bodies in the process. In just two weeks, they’ve closed one missing person’s case and turned another into a murder investigation. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  5. More than 40 years after Righteous Brothers ex-wife Karen Klaas was brutally slain in California, police have finally solved her murder. It is relief the peaceful oceanside town has sought for decades – closing out the department’s longest-running – and highest-profile – cold case. (Amy B Wang)
  6. Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression boasts oppressively dry heat, near-boiling pools of acidic water, and a patchy sulfur- and chlorine-formed landscape that resembles a plate of oozing scrambled eggs. In other words, it’s no tourist hub – but it has piqued the attention of scientists, who believe the region could help glean insight into the possibility of life on Mars. (New York Times)


-- Sally Yates was only days from wrapping up from her 27-year career at the Justice Department before she was abruptly ousted, Sari Horwitz writes in a profile: Officials said she struggled with how to respond to Trump’s directive over this weekend before concluding that she could not ask her federal attorneys to defend the order. "She did what she believes was the right thing to do and then she gets fired for it," one official said. "This is not how she would have preferred to end her ... career. But she did what she had to do."

  • “Those who know Yates well said that her action was consistent with the independence and commitment to the rule of law they say she has exhibited throughout her career[:] ‘For nearly three decades, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates has served Presidents of both parties, defending the Constitution and holding terrorists and other criminals accountable,' said former labor secretary Tom Perez."

-- In her place, Trump has named Dana Boente, who was the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. He told The Post that he will agree to enforce the immigration order, and he was sworn in about 9 p.m. on Monday. Rachel Weiner reports: “Boente, a 33-year veteran of the Justice Department, most recently oversaw the prosecution of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell — a case ultimately overturned by the Supreme Court. Lawyers who have known Boente … said he has a reputation for being tough but even handed. While he has not been vocal about his political views, they said, he would not have agreed to be thrust into the role of defending President Trump’s controversial executive order banning some migrants unless he believed it was legally sound.”

  • “In an interview, Boente noted his office already had been supporting the president’s order in a challenge brought in Virginia federal court[:] ‘I was enforcing it this afternoon,’ Boente said. 'Our career department employees were defending the action in court, and I expect that’s what they’ll do tomorrow, appropriately and properly.'"

-- REACTION FROM THE HILL: House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) declined to criticize Yates, saying her decision on the executive order was likely similar “to an evaluation we all made." "And that was it did not appear to be specific in nature," the Texas Republican said. "So it may be a matter of clarity it may be a matter of illegality to him, it may be a matter of several things. It did not look as complete and succinct as what I think I would've wanted."

-- HOW THE WHITE HOUSE IS MESSAGING: Stephen Miller went on Fox News to attack Yates: “It can’t be stated strongly enough how reckless, irresponsible and improper the behavior was of the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, in refusing to defend the president’s order,” he said, accusing her of “refusing to defend the lawful power of the president.” He added that he had “no doubt” about the legality of the order.

-- Trump himself tweeted twice this morning:


-- TICK TOCK on how Trump’s immigration order took the GOP from order to disorder, via Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Robert Costa: “Inside the West Wing, tensions flared as differences in management style emerged between two factions: one led by [Bannon and Miller], who wrote the immigration order, and the other composed of [Reince Priebus] and his deputies, who are accustomed to operating with a more traditional chain of command. Miller, 31, was the public face of the order and the populist wing of the White House over the weekend, directing department and agency chiefs as well as explaining and defending the move …

“As it became evident that the rollout of the executive order bordered between clumsy and dysfunctional, people in Trump’s orbit divided over who was at fault, with some blaming Miller. Others said it was Priebus who should have taken charge … ‘The problem they’ve got is this is an off-Broadway performance of a show that is now the number one hit on Broadway,’ said Trump ally Newt Gingrich.

“In many ways, Trump’s leading advisers are simply operating within the power parameters the president established. Some officials — Bannon and Miller chief among them — are actively shaping policy and guiding the president’s decisions. Others — such as Priebus, the deputy chiefs of staff and [Spicer] — function in a more reactive capacity, left trying to find order in chaos and explain away slapdash actions. The competing power dynamic appears to have made Priebus, in particular, suspicious of his colleagues’ motives, especially as Bannon asserts his influence."

-- At least three top national security officials — Jim Mattis at Defense, John Kelly at DHS and Rex Tillerson at State — have told associates they were not aware of details of the directive until around the time Trump signed it. From the Associated Press’s Julie Pace and Eric Tucker: “Leading intelligence officials were also left largely in the dark. … Mattis, who stood next to Trump during Friday’s signing ceremony, is said to be particularly incensed. A senior U.S. official said Mattis, along with Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford, was aware of the general concept of Trump’s order but not the details. Tillerson has told the president’s political advisers that he was baffled over not being consulted on the substance of the order.”

-- Kelly has clashed with the Trump administration over staffing and other decisions in recent days, leaving the agency without a second-in-command as it tried to institute a new travel ban during a chaotic weekend at U.S. airports. The Wall Street Journal’s Damian Paletta and Aruna Viswanatha report: “When [Trump] selected Mr. Kelly, the pick won broad support from Republicans and Democrats in part because they believed the retired Marine general would be willing to speak up and challenge Mr. Trump. That tension didn’t take long to materialize. Mr. Kelly hasn’t been able to name the deputy he wants at the agency, people familiar with the matter said, and he fought off attempts by the White House to put Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state known as a hard-liner on immigration, into the position. Mr. Kelly was also frustrated at not knowing the details of the travel ban earlier, so he could prepare his agency to respond, according to people familiar with the matter.”

-- Dozens of State Department diplomats have signed on to a “dissent channel” document expressing opposition to the ban and expressing the view that it “will not achieve its aim of making our country safer.” The dissent channel is a mechanism by which State Department employees can express policy disagreements without fear of retribution, Abby Phillip explains. But Sean Spicer delivered a stern message to dissenters, suggesting that the “career bureaucrats” who disagreed with the order should not continue to serve in the government: “Either get with the program or they can go,” he said. Asked to clarify whether he was suggesting that public servants who disagree with the president should leave their posts, Spicer doubled down. “If somebody has a problem with that agenda, then that does call into question whether ... they should continue in that post or not,” Spicer said.


-- Democrats have all but abandoned their pledge to find common ground with Trump following his newly-implemented travel ban, while Republicans accused him of leaving them in the dark before signing the controversial order. Ed O'Keefe, Sean Sullivan and Kelsey Snell report: “Seizing on growing public outcry … Democrats on Capitol Hill launched what they said would be a protracted fight on several fronts. It will include public protests against the ban, delaying Cabinet confirmations and an attempt to reject Trump’s pick to serve on the [Supreme Court]. The plans represent a sharp pivot in Democratic strategy after weeks of vowing to work with Trump. ;We should be using our time on the floor to talk about the dangerous consequences to U.S. national security,' said Sen. Christopher Murphy. 'We can take a pause in confirmation votes to try to get this executive order right. You know this is going to get Americans killed if we don’t take our time to understand what this order is and what its consequences are.'"

The ban also significantly deepened fissures in Trump’s already-fragile relationship with Congressional Republicans: GOP leaders complained they were not consulted before Trump issued his order – and at least a dozen key Republicans said the order “took them by surprise.” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said he was not briefed beforehand: “I know that they said they talked with some staffers on the Hill — not in our office,” Corker said. Asked whether he was consulted in the drafting of the order, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, said simply: “I wasn’t.”

-- It turns out several senior staffers on the House Judiciary Committee secretly helped draft the order without informing their own party leadership. Politico’s Rachael Bade, Jake Sherman, and Josh Dawsey report: “Like other congressional committees, some staff of the House Judiciary Committee were permitted to offer their policy expertise to the Trump transition team about immigration law,” a House Judiciary Committee aide said. “However, the Trump Administration is responsible for the final policy decisions contained in the executive order and its subsequent roll out and implementation.” It’s rare for White House officials to circumvent congressional leadership to deal directly with committee aides – and in another bizarre twist, they also had to sign nondisclosure agreements. Their work reportedly began after the election and before Trump was sworn in.

-- Barack Obama weighed in publicly for the first time since leaving office, criticizing Trump’s immigration ban and praising the surge of demonstrations and political activism that has broken out across the country in response. “The President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion," Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said in a statement. He also rejected comparison of Trump’s ban to his 2011 policy, which temporarily slowed the processing of Iraqi refugees. (The Post’s Fact Checker gave Trump three Pinocchios for this claim.)

“[His] decision to speak out — after pledging to do so in rare instances — underscores the predicament he and many of his top advisers find themselves in just days after leaving the White House,” Juliet Eilperin explains. “While the president repeatedly emphasized the need to ensure a smooth transition and not interfere with the workings of the new administration, the adoption of a policy antithetical to the values he espoused while in office caused him to break his silence.”


-- The leader of the conservative Southern Baptist Convention, Russell Moore, penned an open letter to Trump saying that his church is “deeply concerned” about the ban and called on the president to affirm his administration's "commitment to religious freedom and the inalienable human dignity of persecuted people." “Achieving the right balance between compassion toward refugees — one of the most vulnerable groups of people among us — and protection of Americans is crucial if the United States is to remain a model for freedom around the world,” he wrote. “It is one thing to debate whether the vetting process is adequate. It is quite another to seek to potentially turn our backs on Syrian refugees permanently.”

-- “Many Republican members of Congress have made a Faustian bargain with [Trump],” writes New York Times columnist David Brooks. “They don’t particularly admire him as a man, they don’t trust him as an administrator, they don’t agree with him on major issues, but they respect the grip he has on their voters, they hope he’ll sign their legislation and they certainly don’t want to be seen siding with the inflamed progressives or the hyperventilating media. Their position was at least comprehensible: How many times in a lifetime does your party control all levers of power? When that happens you’re willing to tolerate a little Trumpian circus behavior in order to get things done. But if the last 10 days have made anything clear, it’s this: The Republican Fausts are in an untenable position. The deal they’ve struck with the devil comes at too high a price. It really will cost them their soul.”

-- “Every U.S. president since World War II has disagreed with the stunted and self-defeating view of the country now held by Trump,” says Post columnist and former Bush adviser Michael Gerson, who calls the travel ban a “picture of American shame.” “Over the past century — in some ways from the beginning — the United States has been a cheerfully abnormal nation. American identity (in this view) is not based mainly on blood or soil, but rather on the patriotic acceptance of a unifying creed. And the United States has often accepted refugees, reflecting its deepest values and building reserves of trust and respect. This is the difference a creed can make: When Ronald Reagan spoke on foreign policy, tyrants sat uneasy on their thrones and dissidents and refugees took heart. When Donald Trump speaks on foreign policy, tyrants rest easier and dissidents and refugees lose hope. Trump came to power promising that masterful leadership would replace the ‘stupid’ kind. This action was malicious, counterproductive and inept — the half-baked work of amateurs who know little about security, little about immigration law and nothing about compassion.”

-- The Atlantic, “How to Build an Autocracy,” by David Frum: “If this were happening in Honduras, we’d know what to call it. It’s happening here instead, and so we are baffled. Everything imagined above—and everything described below—is possible only if many people other than Donald Trump agree to permit it. It can all be stopped, if individual citizens and public officials make the right choices. The story told here, like that told by Charles Dickens’s Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, is a story not of things that will be, but of things that may be. Other paths remain open. It is up to Americans to decide which one the country will follow.”

-- Thousands of leading academics – including 40 Nobel laureates – signed a petition denouncing Trump’s executive order as discriminatory and “fatally disruptive” to immigrants, communities, and families affected by the ban. “It is inhumane, ineffective, and un-American,” the petition reads.


-- The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that 20,000 people in precarious conditions would be banned from traveling to the U.S. under Trump's directive. From the New York Times’ Somini Sengupta, Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush: In a statement, the agency said it was “alarmed at the impact” of the executive order. Those who are referred for resettlement, it said, “are the most vulnerable — such as people needing urgent medical assistance, survivors of torture, and women and girls at risk. The new homes provided by resettlement countries are lifesaving for people who have no other options.”

-- Some refugees awaiting medical care had expedited application processing – and now, aid officials say the prolonged wait could be their death sentence. Our Africa bureau chief Kevin Sieff tells their stories: “One is a 9-year-old Somali child in Ethiopia with a congenital heart disease that cannot be treated in a refugee camp. Another is a 1-year-old Sudanese boy with cancer. A third is a Somali boy with a severe intestinal disorder living in a camp that doesn’t even have the colostomy bags he needs. After [Trump’s] executive order … their resettlement in America was put on hold. Now, the organization responsible for processing refugees in sub-Saharan Africa, Church World Service, says that order could be their death sentence.”

Many on the list had begun to leave the refugee camps before the ban went into effect -- such as a severely ill 38-year-old widow and mother of seven. Like many, she had given away her tent and humanitarian supplies before departing. Now, if forced to return to the refugee camp, they will be treated as new arrivals – waiting all over again to receive a card entitling them to rations or shelter. Because many of the refugees’ U.S. clearances will expire during the 120-day suspension, it could take them months or even years to get to re-complete the process a second time.

-- The ramifications of Trump’s travel ban are even having a spillover effect on European dual nationals, where thousands of citizens of U.S.-allied nations could also be barred from traveling to America. The news prompted a fresh wave of outrage and confusion that threatened to open an early rift across the Atlantic. Anthony Faiola reports: “Following instructions from the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. embassies in Berlin and Paris warned Monday that German and French citizens who are also dual nationals of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — the seven mostly Muslim nations targeted by the ban — would fall under the travel ban, joining people who hold passports only from those countries. The Trump administration, however, may be favoring the dual nationals of some Western nations — a turn of events that could further complicate the White House’s already floundering relations with Europe[:] After talks with the White House, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, for instance, reassured his nation Monday that dual British nationals of the flagged Muslim nations have received an ‘exemption’ from the travel ban."

-- This story is breaking through. The headline on the front page of the Commercial Appeal in Memphis is: “How Trump’s ban puts St. Jude patient’s family in limbo.


-- The travel ban is intensifying anti-American backlash in Iraq, threatening Washington’s relationship with its main partner in battling the Islamic State. The Iraqi parliament voted for a reciprocal ban on visas for Americans. Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim report: "The Iraqi lawmakers’ decision is subject to government ratification, but it underscores the growing resentment over a U.S. executive order that imposed visa restrictions on Iraqis and citizens of six other Muslim-majority nations. In a terse statement, Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari described the ban as unreasonable, given that Iraq is sacrificing the “blood of its sons” in the front-line fight against ISIS, and urged the U.S. to consider. About 5,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq to train and assist Iraqi forces, which are close to forcing ISIS militants from their stronghold in Mosul. Given the two countries’ close military cooperation on the Mosul offensive, Trump’s decision to impose visa restrictions has drawn particular ire in Iraq. [And] exacerbating that anger, many Iraqis hold the United States responsible for their lack of security because of its 2003 invasion."

-- One sad example: A four-star Iraqi general who commands elite American-trained counter terrorist forces in the battle against ISIS has been kept from entering the U.S., where his family has been relocated for their safety. He’d had plans to visit them next week, CBS News reports, until he was told not to bother. “I have been fighting terrorism for 13 years and winning,” he said. “Now my kids are now asking if I’m a terrorist.”

-- A petition calling on Britain to cancel Trump’s state visit has more 1 million signatures, pushing the issue onto the Parliament’s agenda amid furor in London over Trump’s ban. The petition is currently the second-most signed initiative on Parliament’s website. (Karla Adam)

-- Bigger picture, America’s traditional allies are on the lookout for new friends. The New York Times’ Peter S. Goodman reports: “They have heard the mantra ‘America First’ from the new president, divining a Trump doctrine: global cooperation last. Europeans have taken note of Mr. Trump’s denigration of the [E.U.] and his apparent esteem for [Putin]. In Asia and Latin America, leaders have absorbed the deepening possibility that Mr. Trump will deliver on threats to impose punitive tariffs on Mexican and Chinese imports, provoking a trade war that will damage economic growth and eliminate jobs around the world. Some allies are shifting focus to other potential partners for new sources of trade and investment, relationships that could influence political, diplomatic and military ties. [Now] many are looking to China, which has adroitly capitalized on a leadership vacuum in world affairs …” “We’ve always said that America is our best friend,” said Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem. “If that’s no longer the case, if that’s what we need to understand from [Trump], then of course Europe will look for new friends.”


-- Contrary to testimony he gave under oath, Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price reportedly received a privileged, discounted offer to buy a biomedical stock. The Wall Street Journal’s James V. Grimaldi reports: “The Georgia Republican … testified in his Senate confirmation hearings on Jan. 18 and 24 that the discounted shares he bought in Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd., an Australian medical biotechnology company, ‘were available to every single individual that was an investor at the time.’ In fact, the cabinet nominee was one of fewer than 20 U.S. investors who were invited last year to buy discounted shares of the company—an opportunity that, for Mr. Price, arose from an invitation from a company director and fellow congressmen."


-- President Trump will announce his Supreme Court nominee in prime-time. Trump said he is choosing from a list of 21 possibilities – though sources say he has made a final decision among three top contenders:

  • Neil Gorsuch is thought to be the most natural fit for the role. He’s a Scalia acolyte and proponent of originalism. He also has an Ivy League education under his belt and has clerked on the Supreme Court for Justice Byron White.
  • Thomas Hardiman is less well-known, but he sits with Trump’s sister on the U.S. Court of Appeals. He also boasts the most unorthodox credentials, as the first person in his family to go to college and financed his law degree by driving a taxi.
  • William Pryor is a protégé of Sessions and is thought to be the most polarizing possibility. His past comments on gay rights and stalwart support of the death penalty have made him the nominee that liberal groups say they would most fiercely oppose. Conventional wisdom in legal circles is that it won't be Pryor, but who knows?

-- Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) promised to filibuster any Trump SCOTUS nominee. Politico’s Burgess Everett reports: He said in a Monday morning interview that he will filibuster any pick that is not Merrick Garland, adding that the “vast majority” of his caucus will oppose Trump’s nomination. “This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat,” Merkley said. “We will use every lever in our power to stop this … I will definitely object to a simple majority.” On Sunday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also reminded her Twitter followers that Supreme Court nominees can still be blocked by the Senate minority, unlike all other executive and judicial nominees. And Chuck Schumer has said he will fight "tooth and nail" any nominee who isn't "mainstream."


-- The White House announced that it will keep some key protections that the Obama administration extended to LBGT workers. Juliet Eilperin and Sandhya Somashekhar reported yesterday that a draft of a potential executive order was circulating in Washington over the weekend that would overturn the former president's directive barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the federal workforce and by federal contractors.

-- Trump said Lockheed Martin has slashed $600 million from the cost of the F-35 fighter jet program, capping weeks of private meetings with CEO Marillyn Hewson and public criticisms of the program’s cost. Aaron Gregg reports: Trump said that the cost-savings would apply to the company’s next 90 planes, but offered scant details on how the program or contract would change as a result. “What’s happening with Lockheed, number one we’re cutting the price of their planes by a lot but they’re also expanding and that’s going to be a good thing. Ultimately they’re going to be better off,” Trump told reporters. The F-35 costs about $100 million per plane, though Lockheed has said it already expects the cost of the aircraft to drop to $85 million as it increases production. It was unclear from Trump’s statements how much, if any, of the cost-savings are new, or whether the savings were already in place before he intervened.

-- Sean Spicer fired back at critics who he said were “nitpicking” Trump’s recent statement on the Holocaust by highlighting the fact that he made no mention of Jews or anti-Semitism – a move that the administration insists was intentional. Abby Phillip reports: “It is pathetic that people are picking on his statement,” Spicer told reporters during a White House briefing. “I mean, the idea that you're nitpicking a statement that sought to remember this tragic event that occurred, and the people who died in it, is just ridiculous." Trump’s Friday remarks on the Holocaust have prompted a wide array of criticism from a number of Jewish groups, including the Trump-allied Republican Jewish Coalition.

-- Former Obama chief strategist David Axelrod criticizes Steve Bannon’s appointment to the National Security Council in a CNN op-ed – saying that, contrary to what Trump officials have claimed, he and fellow adviser Robert Gibbs were not privy to the most sensitive NSC meetings. “As a senior adviser to President Obama in 2009, I had the opportunity to witness the fateful deliberations of his [NSC] Principals committee over the strategy … in the war with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he wrote. “I was not a member of the committee. I did not speak or participate. I sat on the sidelines as a silent observer with Gibbs because we would be called upon to publicly discuss the president's decision on that critical matter and the process by which he arrived at it. Our access also came with limits. We were barred from some of the most sensitive meetings on the Afghanistan-Pakistan policy review so as not to inhibit discussions. Beyond that, Gibbs and I did not attend regular meetings … Our expertise was in politics and communications, not national security and foreign policy and our attendance, much less participation, in these meetings would have been inappropriate.”

-- A team of former Trump campaign strategists have launched a nonprofit to bolster his White House agenda. The new organization, America First Policies, appears to be loosely modeled off the one started by Obama allies after his White House victory, Matea Gold reports. Trump allies are hoping that the group will serve as a powerful outside flanking operation, particularly in defending his soon-to-be-announced Supreme Court nominee. 

-- Ohio Gov. John Kasich is publishing a new book this spring. Called “Two Paths: America Divided or United,” it’s expected to outline his vision for an America based on tolerance and inclusion – themes he campaigned on during last year’s presidential race -- and will likely draw sharp contrasts with the state of the country under Trump. (Philip Rucker)

 -- Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) is feeling the heat as congressional Republicans move to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Richmond Times-Dispatch's Patrick Wilson reports: “Since Obamacare and these issues have come up, the women are in my grill no matter where I go,” Brat told an audience Saturday at a meeting of conservative groups. “They come up — ‘When is your next town hall?’ And believe me, it’s not to give positive input.” He then suggested they were being “paid to go around and raise havoc” – quickly prompting surprise and criticism from his constituents. “Nobody is being paid or put up to this by an outside organization,” said one woman who called in support of Obamacare, which insures her family. “Everybody is putting in their time and effort because they’re dissatisfied with the representation. They feel dismissed, and that their concerns aren’t valid because they’re not being responded to.”


-- “Where’s Melania? A quiet start for a reluctant first lady," by Krissah Thompson: “She has given little indication of how much she intends to embrace the life of a public figure. She is said to be building her staff. But she has made no public appearances since a prayer service the morning after the inauguration, given no media interviews as first lady and has not indicated with any specificity what she has planned for her new role. … [And] several key positions on her staff have not yet been filled, including chief of staff, communications director and press secretary. That last job is so essential that a volunteer has stepped in to field calls. Melania Trump’s quiet first week may signal that she is reluctantly grappling with how to embrace the increased scrutiny. Or she could simply be taking her time to determine how she will make an impact.”Still, others said the First Lady’s reserve could heighten interest when she does surface: “Sometimes less is more, and she represents that side of the equation,” said Jane Hampton Cook. “Her husband is more, more, more.”

-- Vanity Fair, “Can Jared and Ivanka outrun Donald Trump’s scandals?” by Emily Jane Fox: “Throughout the campaign, Jared Kushner wore a number of hats. A 36-year-old political novice … [Kushner has been credited with] his ability to manage the more severe messages being pushed out by the likes of Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller. But according to a source familiar with the situation, Kushner’s influence on his boss may be flagging. Last week, Kushner spent 24 hours trying to broker a meeting between Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. The source said that Kushner was even considering flying to Mexico [to convince Peña Nieto] … But less than 12 hours later, it all fell apart. ‘Kushner was [expletive] furious,’ the source told me. “I’d never once heard him say he was angry throughout the entire campaign. But he was furious.’ Kushner also appears to have already endured the physical toll of the job. He has become pale, the source noted. His body language and his demeanor toward Trump had changed, and he had lost a noticeable amount of weight from his already slight frame in just a week. Unlike the campaign, Kushner and Trump’s futures are no longer entirely in their own control. Both have hitched themselves to her father’s wagon and, just 10 days in, are starting to see signs that it might not work out well for their own ambitions. Trump, after all, is about Trump.

-- Shane Bouvet, the 24-year-old FedEx courier who worked as Trump’s volunteer social media coordinator in Illinois, and who borrowed shoes and a tux to attend his presidential inauguration, said he has received a $10,000 check from Trump in the mail. Justin Jouvenal reports: The generous gift came after Trump said read a profile about the Bouvet in The Post and requested to meet him while he was in Washington. “Shane — You are a great guy — thanks for all of your help,” a note from Trump on presidential stationary read. Bouvet said he is planning to use the money to pay for chemotherapy for his father, who is suffering from bladder cancer.


-- CLICKER --> What life is like living with a ‘love doll’ in Japan,” by Kenneth Dickerman: “In 2007, Ryan Gosling played a character who has trouble making friends or even socializing with people in a movie called ‘Lars and the Real Girl.’ Eventually, Lars learns to get past his insecurities and begins a relationship with a real woman ... Although this was fiction, it is not as far-fetched as it might seem. In fact, at least one man in Japan is playing out a somewhat similar story …” Despite being married and having two children of his own, 61-year-old Senji Nakajima says he believes his life-size doll has her own personality and think of her as his girlfriend. “She never betrays… I’m tired of modern rational humans,” he said. “They are heartless…for me, she is more than a doll…She needs much help, but still is my perfect partner who shares precious moments with me and enriches my life.’” Now, a photographer has tagged along with the two to document the relationship between a man and his silicone girlfriend. (See the photos here.)


How the Yates firing is playing in the Big Apple:

Some Democrats suggested the "Resistance" is hitting another phase:

Democrats dominated social media with images of their protests against the travel ban outside the Supreme Court:

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) explained why she's a "no" on Betsy DeVos:

Democrats also tried to shame Trump, pointing to history and their family stories:

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) spoke out against Stephen Bannon's joining the National Security Council:

Sean Spicer got heavily mocked online for saying that refugees were merely inconvenienced:

There was more pushback on the travel ban from the right:

Et tu, O'Reilly?

But some Republicans noted that Trump was simply living up to his campaign pledges:

Conservatives bashed Starbucks for saying it would hire refugees:

Journalists noted that Obama isn't going to spend his time painting like George W. Bush:

Here's a photo of the first U.S. service member killed in a combat death during Trump's presidency:

In non-Trump news, here's a cool photo from NASA:

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Newly released images showcase the incredible closeness with which our Cassini spacecraft, now in its "Ring-Grazing" orbits phase, is observing Saturn's dazzling rings of icy debris. The views are some of the closest-ever images of the outer parts of the main rings, giving scientists an eagerly awaited opportunity to observe features with names like "straw" and "propellers." Although Cassini saw these features earlier in the mission, the spacecraft's current, special orbits are now providing opportunities to see them in greater detail. The new images resolve details as small as 0.3 miles (550 meters), which is on the scale of Earth's tallest buildings. This image shows a region in Saturn's outer B ring. Cassini viewed this area at a level of detail twice as high as it had ever been observed before. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute @NASAJPL #nasa #planets #space #nasabeyond #astronomy #cassini #saturn #rings #space

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-- Washingtonian, “Larry Hogan Is Having a Grand Old Time as Maryland’s Governor,” by Luke Mullins: “So after the biopsy—and with Percocet and Vicodin in his system—the governor stood before a podium in the statehouse to deliver news of his diagnosis [and] announce his imminent chemo regimen. … At the end of the sometimes emotional press conference, when a reporter asked if anything might prompt him to relinquish authority … Hogan broke the tension. ‘I mean, if I died,’ he said as the crowd fell into laughter, ‘I would say he probably is gonna take over.’ With that, Hogan won the room—he managed to turn a personal trauma and a delicate matter of governance into a clip for his highlight reel. ‘I think it was because I was heavily sedated,’ he later told me. ‘I was like [on] truth serum.’  Hogan’s first term has been defined by folksy moments just like this one, helping explain how a little-known Republican became the beloved governor of a profoundly blue state -- and created a catastrophe for Democrats.”


“More Than 1,000 Progressives Signed Up To Run For Office Over The Weekend,” from HuffPost: “More than 1,000 progressives signed up to run for office this weekend following President Donald Trump’s executive action targeting immigrants and refugees. And that’s just through one organization. Run for Something, a new grass-roots group that helps young Democrats run for local and state office, announced Monday that it nearly doubled its total number of recruits … in the last three days. A number of progressive grass-roots groups have cropped up since Trump’s win in November, and they, too, have seen huge interest. Amanda Litman, co-founder of Run for Something, said Trump is doing a great job of driving furious Democrats into public service. ‘Anyone leading a protest or organizing friends to get to a local airport should think about running for office,’ Litman said. “Trump’s presidency is already inspiring an incredible wave of energy and re-engagement in civic life …’”



“Report: Media gives 57 times more coverage to Trump immigration order than Obama ending Cuban refugee program,” from the Washington Examiner: “The three networks gave approximately 57 times the coverage to President Trump's executive order temporarily banning immigration … than it did in the same time period for former President Obama's order permanently ending a program for Cuban refugees. By noon on Jan. 30 … after the Trump White House announced the executive order, the networks had devoted 64 minutes and eight seconds of coverage to the new immigration policy … This stands in sharp contrast to how ABC, CBS and NBC News conducted themselves on Jan. 13, the morning after the Obama administration announced an immediate end to the ‘wet foot/dry foot’ program by which Cuban refugees who made it to U.S. soil were allowed to stay here legally.”



At the White House: Trump holds a meeting with pharmaceutical executives, has lunch with Rudy Giuliani and holds a listening session with cyber security experts before signing another executive order. In the evening, Trump announces his nominee to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

On Capitol Hill: Here's a look at the Senate's schedule as of Monday night:

  • Judiciary meets to consider Jeff Sessions’s nomination for attorney general around 9:30 a.m.
  • Energy and Natural Resources votes on Rick Perry’s nomination for secretary of Energy around 9:30 a.m.
  • Energy and Natural Resources votes on Rep. Ryan Zinke’s (R-Mont.) nomination for secretary of Interior around 9:30 a.m.
  • Health, Education, Labor and Pensions votes on Betsy DeVos’s nomination for secretary of Education around 10 a.m.
  • Finance votes on Tom Price’s nomination for Health and Human Services secretary around 10 a.m.
  • Finance votes on Steven Mnuchin’s nomination for Treasury secretary around 10 a.m.
  • The full Senate votes on Elaine Chao’s nomination for Transportation secretary around 12:20 p.m.

The House meets at noon for legislative business and has 19 suspension votes on the schedule.


-- Another morning of snow showers are rolling through, per today’s Capital Weather Gang forecast: “Snow may be falling as you head out on the roads, so be careful, especially in the far northern and northwestern suburbs. Temperatures will be colder there, with a higher chance of accumulating snow up north. No significant accumulation is expected, but untreated roads may turn icy. The chance of snow fades by middle morning, and temperatures climb into the upper 40s north and west to the low 50s over the city and parts south and east by afternoon.”

-- D.C. lawmakers are planning to introduce legislation restricting how property owners can use short-term home-sharing sites such as Airbnb and VRBO. Among the proposed rules are restrictions limiting residents to rent out just one unit at a time, and only in their permanent homes.


Watch congressional Democrats sing "This Land is Your Land" on the steps of the Supreme Court:

One of our critics reads three quotes from "1984" that feel eerily relevant in 2017:

Trump released this video of him talking about his SCOTUS nominee:

SAG Award winners slammed Trump's immigration ban:

Rep. Adam Smith posted this throwback on Twitter for Trump's benefit:

Bill Burr and Conan O'Brien remembered "I'm Just a Bill" and discussed Hillary Clinton:

Miss France was crowned as the new Miss Universe: