with Breanne Deppisch

With Breanne Deppisch

THE BIG IDEA: Last night was the first time since Donald Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015 that every Republican in the Senate was eager to talk about something he had just said or done.

For some of the GOP lawmakers who assembled at the White House to watch the president nominate Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia, all of the exhausting questions they’ve endured about whether or not they agree with Trump on whatever the controversy of that day was seemed worth it.

A dozen days into his rocky start, Trump’s pick earned him goodwill from friend and foe alike in the conservative establishment.

Multiple academic studies of Gorsuch’s record on the 10th Circuit, using reliable political science measurements, suggest that he will rule to the right of John Roberts, Samuel Alito and even the late Scalia.

At just 49, Gorsuch would become the youngest Supreme Court justice since Clarence Thomas was confirmed in 1991. Just how young is he? He’d be the first ever member of the court to serve alongside a justice for whom he once clerked. Trump suggested during his speech that might be able to serve for 50 years.

Even Republicans who had been tipped off about the pick yesterday afternoon were privately worried that Trump would somehow spring a surprise on them. One senator only half-jokingly wondered whether the president might nominate his liberal sister, a judge on the Third Circuit.

As an indicator of just how reliably conservative he is, the National Rifle Association, the Family Research Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Koch political network and the head of the Federalist Society formally endorsed him within minutes of the announcement.

-- To a man, every GOP senator who has been publicly critical of Trump praised the pick:

Ted Cruz appeared on several TV shows from outside the White House to celebrate the news:

“I am pleased,” said John McCain. “Elections have consequences…”

“A guy who’s been a three-day drunk could figure out this guy is one of the most qualified people ever to be at the circuit level,” said Lindsey Graham. “If we blow up the Senate over a man like this, it really would be a shame.”

-- Besides Gorsuch himself, the biggest winner last night was Mitch McConnell. Engaging with the hypotheticals of counterfactual history is always fraught, but based on hundreds of conversations with voters across the country before and since the election, I believe it is possible that Trump would have lost had McConnell not kept Scalia’s seat open. The election was very narrowly decided, and many conservatives who live in the suburbs of Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Detroit found Trump odious but rationalized voting for him because of the court.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can now say more firmly that Barack Obama blew it by picking Merrick Garland last year. The former president naively tried to make Republicans an offer they couldn’t refuse by picking a milquetoast, pro-business, moderate, middle-aged white guy who he thought they’d accept, rather than risk Hillary Clinton choosing someone far more progressive. Clinton, to her detriment, was always cagey and evasive about whether or not she’d re-nominate Garland. That helped Republicans defang the issue.

While Obama was playing checkers, McConnell was playing chess. Liberal groups couldn’t get their followers ginned up for someone as bland as Garland. Conservative groups – which tend to be more strategic and better financed than their counterparts – mobilized more effectively. In stark contrast to the Republican convention, where SCOTUS was a buzzword, no Democrat mentioned Garland during the Democratic National Convention.

McConnell’s move was risky. It might have backfired had Obama chosen a minority candidate from a swing state like Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, helping reactivate the coalition that allowed the former president to win in 2008 and 2012. On the other hand, if McConnell had acceded, Democrats would today have a 5-4 working majority.

To be sure, the Kentuckian has put another nail in the coffin of the antiquated notion that the Senate is the world’s greatest deliberative body. But while McConnell’s move was deleterious for the long-term health of the institution in which he has served for three decades, politically it was a master stroke.

By McConnell standards, the majority leader was giddy last night. He even stayed up to appear on Fox News live at 11 p.m. And then he took a victory lap this morning by calling into conservative talk radio shows.


-- He settled on Gorsuch after only one in-person interview at Trump Tower, at which he was joined by just one other person -- White House Counsel Don McGahn. From Politico’s Shane Goldmacher, Eliana Johnson and Josh Gerstein: “Top White House brass, including Mike Pence, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon also had their own interviews with the final four contenders. Internally, (William) Pryor had been seen as an early frontrunner in part because of [Jeff Sessions] … for whom Pryor once served as deputy attorney general in Alabama years ago. But Pryor — who once called Roe v. Wade ‘the worst abomination of constitutional law’ — encountered some surprising resistance among evangelical leaders, a group that advisers said Trump was determined to please from the start.”

-- The rollout had all the hallmarks of a Trumpian production — except for this: The secret held. From Philip Rucker: “In recent weeks, Trump began to settle on his choice, but did not make a final decision until Monday, when he called Gorsuch to notify him that he was the pick. From there, Trump’s aides set into motion a cloak-and-dagger plan they had orchestrated to bring Gorsuch to Washington without him being detected. All day Tuesday, speculation was rampant. … (Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania) had been spotted at a gas station in Pennsylvania, and CNN reported that he along with Gorsuch were being brought to Washington to add suspense … Then there were the Twitter accounts. Two similar accounts were created identifying both Hardiman and Gorsuch as Trump’s Supreme Court nominees, with links to White House websites. It seemed as if the White House social media team had been behind the accounts — again, to create suspense — but White House officials said that was not the case.” Still, the fact that the White House managed to stay mum is a notable achievement for an administration already becoming known for its leaks.


-- Irony alert: Trump’s campaign was largely animated by a desire to repudiate the elites (and he successfully cast Clinton as their avatar), but Trump used his announcement speech to emphasize Gorsuch’s elite bona fides. His attended an elite prep school in the D.C. suburbs before going to Columbia, Harvard Law and then Oxford. He was a Truman scholar who clerked for David Sentelle, Anthony Kennedy and Byron White. He spent 10 years at a prestigious D.C. firm and worked in George W. Bush’s Justice Department.

-- Gorsuch’s late mother, Anne Burford, was the head of the Environmental Protection Agency for 22 months under Ronald Reagan before resigning under a cloud of scandal in 1983 following a nasty fight with Congress. From Yahoo News: “Together with her fellow Westerner, James Watt — Reagan’s pick for secretary of the interior — she personified the ‘Sagebrush Rebellion’ of the 1970s and 1980s, an attempt by ranchers, farmers, miners and oil interests to overturn federal land-use and environmental regulations. She did her part, cutting her agency’s budget by 22 percent, curtailing research and enforcement activities and scaling back regulations on air and water pollution. … She even attempted to relax limits, imposed in the 1970s, on lead additives to gasoline, regulations that are credited now with preventing the poisoning of large numbers of children. A New York Times editorial in 1983 said she had taken one of the most effective government agencies and left it ‘reeking of cynicism, mismanagement and decay.’ In her 1986 book, ‘Are You Tough Enough?’ Ms. Burford called the episode her ‘expensive mid-life education.’” (Read The Post’s 2004 obituary of her here.)

-- Trump had options with blue-collar backgrounds. The runner-up for the job, Hardiman, drove a cab to put himself through law school and went to Notre Dame on a scholarship. Pryor, who was pushed by Sessions, even attended a state school (the University of Louisiana at Monroe). Vox notes that, with Gorsuch, six of the nine justice will have gone to Harvard.

-- “He is a proponent of originalism--meaning that judges should attempt to interpret the words of the Constitution as they were understood at the time they were written--and a textualist who considers only the words of the law being reviewed, not legislators’ intent or the consequences of the decision,” Robert Barnes writes. “Gorsuch’s opinions favoring the owners of Hobby Lobby craft stores and nonprofit religious group called Little Sisters of the Poor took the same sort of broad reading of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as the Supreme Court’s conservative majority. In Gorsuch’s words, the law ‘doesn’t just apply to protect popular religious beliefs: it does perhaps its most important work in protecting unpopular religious beliefs, vindicating this nation’s long-held aspiration to serve as a refuge of religious tolerance.’”

-- “Gorsuch is a favorite of legal conservatives because he has sharply questioned a three-decade-old legal precedent that many on the right believe has given too much power to the regulatory state,” Politico’s Josh Gerstein notes. “The landmark 1984 Supreme Court ruling involving the Chevron oil company held that courts should defer to federal agencies’ reasonable interpretations of ambiguous federal laws. In a ruling last August in an immigration case, Gorsuch questioned the wisdom of that doctrine, arguing that the meaning of the law is for judges to decide, not federal bureaucrats. ‘Where in all this does a court interpret the law and say what it is?’ Gorsuch asked in an extended digression on the subject. ‘When does a court independently decide what the statute means and whether it has or has not vested a legal right in a person? Where Chevron applies that job seems to have gone extinct.’”


-- “Trump makes his pick, but it’s still Anthony Kennedy’s Supreme Court,” by Robert Barnes: “The question is how much longer he wants it. Kennedy, 80 and celebrating his 29th year on the court this month, will remain the pivotal member of the court no matter how the warfare between Republicans and Democrats plays out. On almost every big social issue, neither the court’s liberal, Democratic-appointed justices nor Kennedy’s fellow Republican-appointed conservative colleagues can prevail without him. That is why an undercurrent of Trump’s first choice for the court was whether it would soothe Kennedy, making him feel secure enough to retire and let this president choose the person who would succeed him. … Who better, then, to put Kennedy at ease than one of his former clerks? Kennedy trekked to Denver to swear in his protege Neil Gorsuch on the appeals court 10 years ago.

“Some say Kennedy would be reluctant to leave, too, if it meant a more conservative court that would reverse some of his landmark decisions, especially on gay rights. But others who know him suggest he is ready to go. ‘I would put it at 50-50 that he leaves at the end of the term,’ said another former clerk. Kennedy recently hired clerks for the term that begins in October, but that is seen more as insurance than intent. The gentlemanly Kennedy could not be more different from the combative Trump, and so some involved in filling the current Supreme Court opening kept the justice in mind during the process. … Pleasing Kennedy is wise but not dispositive, as lawyers at the court like to say.”

-- “Justice Kennedy has been silent about his plans, but it was widely noticed by his fellow justices and other court watchers last fall that he had not hired a full complement of clerks for the next term,” Peter Baker adds on the front page of the New York Times. “Some thought he was slowing down when he did not teach last summer in Salzburg, Austria, as he has for many years. Another sign was his decision to schedule his reunion of clerks, normally held every five years, one year early. But after Mr. Trump’s election, Justice Kennedy moved ahead with hiring clerks and authorized the court spokeswoman to issue a statement meant to dispute speculation that he might retire. The statement said that he had not gone to Salzburg because of conflicting family plans but would return there in 2017, and that the clerks had wanted to hold the reunion early to celebrate his 80th birthday.”


-- A study led by Mercer University law professor Jeremy Kidd concluded that Gorsuch is the second-most similar to Scalia of the 21 prospective justices on the lists Trump released during the campaign. ( Bloomberg)

-- SCOTUSblog, which is widely read by court insiders, calls the parallels between Gorsuch and Scalia “DOWNRIGHT EERIE”: “Like Scalia, Gorsuch also seems to have a set of judicial/ideological commitments apart from his personal policy preferences that drive his decision-making,” Eric Citron explains. “He is an ardent textualist (like Scalia); he believes criminal laws should be clear and interpreted in favor of defendants even if that hurts government prosecutions (like Scalia); he is skeptical of efforts to purge religious expression from public spaces (like Scalia); he is highly dubious of legislative history (like Scalia); and he is less than enamored of the dormant commerce clause (like Scalia). … The reasoning in Gorsuch’s 2008 concurrence in United States v. Hinckley, in which he argues that one possible reading of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act would probably violate the rarely invoked non-delegation principle, is exactly the same as that of Scalia’s 2012 dissent in Reynolds v. United States. The notable exception is one prominent concurrence last August, in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, in which Gorsuch criticized a doctrine of administrative law (called Chevron deference) that Scalia had long defended. Even here, however, there may be more in common than meets the eye.”

-- “Mr. Gorsuch also shares Mr. Scalia’s literary talents: he is an elegant writer with a penchant for playful erudition,” The Economist magazine notes. “In a speech in 2014, Mr Gorsuch framed his exploration of ‘law’s irony’ in terms of a Dickens novel, weaving in references to Cicero, Demosthenes, Kant, Goethe, Burke and Shakespeare. But he’s hardly stuffy. Mr Gorsuch also peppered the talk with contemporary culture, quoting David Foster Wallace and joking that the so-called ‘modern’ rules of civil courts date back to 1938: ‘Maybe the only thing that really sounds new or modern after 70 years,’ he said, ‘is Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. Some might say he looks like he’s done some experimenting too.’”

-- Many conservatives shared this picture of Gorsuch on a fly fishing trip with the late justice on their social media accounts:


-- Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said last night that Gorsuch will need to win over some Democratic senators to get the 60 votes needed to clear procedural hurdles. Contrary to some reports, Republicans do not yet have enough crossover votes to stop a filibuster…

-- Ted Cruz said last night that “all procedural options are on the table” – including the nuclear option – to get Gorsuch through.

-- McConnell told Bret Baier last night that he wants to "get him in place before April.” "There's nothing wrong with having a fight, but we intend to win the fight,” he said. If he managed to get through that soon, he could participate in the final cases of the court’s current term – which would tip 4-4 deadlocks to 5-4 conservative majorities. So Democrats have every incentive to prevent that from happening.

-- Former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who lost her re-election bid last fall, has been designated as Gorsuch’s “Sherpa” on Capitol Hill. She will escort him to his sit-downs with members, beginning this morning. Phil Rucker and Ashley Parker report: “Ayotte spoke out repeatedly against Trump during the presidential campaign, making her a somewhat unconventional choice – but the president wants to unify senators around his nominee, and hopes to show that Trump can overcome personal grudges.”


-- The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative nonprofit organization serving as an outside ally to McConnell’s leadership team, launched a $2 million ad campaign in four states that Trump won and where Democratic senators face reelection next year: North Dakota, Indiana, Missouri and Montana. Carrie Severino, chief counsel for the group, said she thinks those are some of the senators most likely to join Republicans. She said it is the first phase of a $10 million effort.

-- The Koch political network announced that it will devote “significant resources” to hitting red state Democrats in 10 target states, including direct mail, door knocks, phone calls and paid ads. Several of the groups in its constellation will be involved, including Americans for Prosperity, Generation Opportunity and the Libre Initiative. Concerned Veterans for America, which will take the lead on SCOTUS, is already running paid Facebook, Twitter and search ads this morning calling on people to call their senator in support of Gorsuch.

-- The Republican Senate committee is targeting the same Democrats by recycling comments they made in support of Garland last year:


-- Progressives feel that this is a “stolen” seat, and the base will not look kindly on any presidential candidate who voted for Gorsuch in three years. The Democratic primary will showcase a race to the left. Elizabeth Warren last night posted on Facebook: “Based on the long and well-established record of Judge Gorsuch, I will oppose his nomination.” Cory Booker, another likely 2020 candidate, was a little more measured and did not take a firm position, though he did say that he has “very serious concerns.

-- Other Democratic senators who are not running either came out as hard “no” votes or made clear that they’re heading that direction. Among them: Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Ed Markey of Massachusetts.

-- As an early indicator of how much pressure some Democrats will be under from the left, nearly 3,000 angry New Yorkers rallied outside Schumer’s Brooklyn apartment building last night to protest that he’s not doing more to stop Trump’s nominees. (New York Post)



-- Politico: “Gorsuch pick affirms Trump vow to pick 'pro-life' justice.

-- Boston Globe: “Gorsuch is a reliable conservative, except on law-and-order.

-- NPR: “Gorsuch was a very traditional pick … one any Republican president could have made.”

-- The Daily Camera (of Boulder, Colorado): “Students of Gorsuch law school cite fairness, dedication to truth; As adjunct at ultra-liberal University of Colorado, Gorsuch mentored all, encouraged students to win and lose graciously.”

-- CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin: “President Trump wanted a strong conservative voice, and he'll get one with Gorsuch. … There is a pervasive mythology that justices of the Supreme Court turn out to surprise the Presidents who appointed them. This myth dates to the Eisenhower administration, when the President was indeed surprised by how liberal Earl Warren and William Brennan turned out to be. But in recent decades, presidents have gotten what they wanted with their Supreme Court appointments. .. Kennedy (appointed by Ronald Reagan) and David Souter (George H.W. Bush) are only modestly different from what they appeared to be.”

-- Bloomberg View’s Noah Feldman (a constitutional law professor at Harvard who clerked for David Souter): “Over time Gorsuch has the capacity to be more a John Roberts than a Samuel Alito -- more committed to judicial restraint than to consistently toeing the conservative party line. He might even move in the direction of Anthony Kennedy, for whom he once clerked, and become (dare we say it?) more liberal with time. … Democrats should think hard before trying to depict Gorsuch as a radical conservative. He may not be one -- and a bruising confirmation fight could push him in the wrong direction.”

-- New York Times columnist Frank Bruni“While Gorsuch isn’t as divisive a choice as others Trump might have made, that may not matter. The relationship between Trump and Democrats is deteriorating so far so fast that every battle could wind up being an all-out war. Still, Democrats have an interesting decision here. By some reckonings, Gorsuch is the conventional, milquetoast option that Trump is exercising before he indulges a wilder streak and goes for someone more provocative if another vacancy opens up. Should they save their most withering fire for that? Or for Trump’s many outrages beyond the Supreme Court? If you can only stop him on a few fronts, which should they be?”

-- Business Insider: Gorsuch once criticized lawmakers for "grossly mistreating" judicial nominees. “He wrote an article in 2002 reflecting on Justice Byron White, a John F. Kennedy appointee who died in April that year after serving for 31 years on the Supreme Court bench. His article praised White and slammed lawmakers for delaying the confirmations of Merrick Garland and John Roberts, who were both appointed to the US Court of Appeals in Washington — Garland in 1995 and Roberts in 2001. ‘Both are widely considered to be among the finest lawyers of their generation,’ Gorsuch wrote, ‘Garland was left waiting for 18 months before being confirmed ... Roberts, nominated almost a year ago, still waits for a hearing,’ the 2002 article read.”


-- Several groups came out against Gorsuch overnight: The Alliance for Justice, the National Partnership for Women and Families and the Human Rights Campaign.

-- FiveThirtyEight: “A Scalia Clone."

-- Slate: “Though Gorsuch … has never ruled on an abortion rights case, his record shows him to be hostile to women’s health care and willing to give broad leeway to institutions that want to discriminate against them.”

-- Think Progress: “Gorsuch’s crusade against Planned Parenthood; Rules be damned!”

-- TMZ: “Trump’s Supreme Court Pick (has) ANTI-ABORTION LEANINGS.”

-- New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait: “Democrats have an extremely simple choice. They can make McConnell abolish the filibuster, or wait for the day when McConnell attacks them for doing it. It is McConnell, his extraordinary blockade tactic, who has functionally changed the rules of the game. He should be forced to do it in name.”

-- An editor at Dissent Magazine concurred:

-- So did Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum: “Lots of Democrats want to take a scorched-earth approach toward the confirmation of Gorsuch … I'm totally on board with this. The Republican blockade of Garland was flat-out theft, and no party with any self-respect can let that go without a fight.

-- Talking Points Memo: “He was perhaps the ‘safest’ choice for Trump. Trump has caused Republicans a lot of unease in the first week and a half of his presidency … His choice of a judge with sterling conservative credentials should help calm some of the troubled waters.”

-- Neal K. Katyal, a former acting solicitor general for President Obama, argues that liberals should back Gorsuch in a New York Times op-ed: “The new administration’s executive actions on immigration have led to chaos everywhere … [and] have raised justified concern about whether the new administration will follow the law. More than ever, public confidence in our system of government depends on the impartiality and independence of the courts. I, for one, wish it were a Democrat choosing the next justice. But since that is not to be, one basic criterion should be paramount: Is the nominee someone who will stand up for the rule of law and say no to a president or Congress that strays beyond the Constitution and laws? I have no doubt that if confirmed, Judge Gorsuch would help to restore confidence in the rule of law. His years on the bench reveal a commitment to judicial independence — a record that should give the American people confidence that he will not compromise principle to favor the president who appointed him.”


-- Breitbart (Trump’s Pravda): “Trump Keeps His Promise: Selects Constitutionalist…”

-- Life News: “Trump nominates pro-life friendly judge.

-- Christianity Today: Religious Freedom Defender Neil Gorsuch; Scholarly Denver judge who ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby would fill Scalia's seat as the court's only Protestant.”

-- FoxBusiness.com:Trump’s Pick a Champion of Small Government.”

-- Trump critic and Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol:

-- “Never Trump” conservative radio host Charlie Sykes (whose ex-wife was on Trump’s list of 21 possibilities):

-- The libertarian-leaning Reason Magazine calls Gorsuch “a highly respected legal conservative” who has “demonstrated admirable and reassuring judgment” in key cases: “Not only did he cast a principled vote against overreaching law enforcement, he cast a principled vote against the overreaching executive branch. It's not difficult to imagine Gorsuch imposing the same severe judicial scrutiny against the misdeeds of the Trump administration.”

-- National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru: “Gorsuch shares Scalia’s philosophy and intelligence, if not his acerbity, and in selecting him, Trump has made good on a crucial campaign promise.”

-- A contrary take –> Ilya Somin, a George Mason University law professor, writes in an op-ed for the New York Daily News that Gorsuch has “troubling views” on federalism and judicial review: “In a 2005 article, he suggested that judges should only strike down laws in ‘extraordinary’ circumstances. This implies that merely ‘ordinary’ or potentially contestable violations of the Constitution may be overlooked — an unfortunate attitude at a time when the overweening power of government in general and the presidency in particular threatens the Constitution on many fronts. … Gorsuch does not have an extensive record on freedom of speech and constitutional property rights, two other areas where Trump’s past history and ominous statements suggest serious threats to our constitutional liberties. … Gorsuch may well turn out to be a surprisingly worthy nominee from a president who has so far shown precious little respect for the Constitution. But in these dangerous times for our constitutional system, neither the Senate nor the American people should take anything for granted.”

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

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-- Senate Republicans took steps this morning to thwart Democrats plans to obstruct the confirmation of Trump’s Cabinet nominees for a second day. From Kelsey Snell, Ed O’Keefe and Sean Sullivan: “Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) suspended the rules to advance Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) as Secretary of Health and Human Services. All Republicans were at the Finance hearing on Wednesday morning but no Democrats were present to put their opposition on the record. The GOP move comes after Democrats walked out of hearings on Tuesday, denying Republicans the necessary votes to approve Trump’s nominees for a vote in the full Senate.”

-- The acting secretary of the Army ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to provide the final permit necessary to complete the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. The order comes just one week after Trump issued a presidential memo instructing the agency to “review and approve in an expedited manner, to the extent permitted by law and as warranted… for approvals to construct and operate” the pipeline. (Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson)

-- Former U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said he will not run for president of South Korea, issuing a surprise reversal after weeks of laying the groundwork for a bid. He blamed “fake news” for attempting to discredit him and dogging his approval ratings. (Anna Fifield)


  1. Romania adopted an emergency ordinance to decriminalize official misconduct -- delivering a harsh blow to those seeking to curb corruption there, and setting off a wave of intense protests. Thousands massed outside the capital, donning masks, signs and calling the ruling Social Democratic Party “the red plague." Others chanted, “You did it at night, like thieves" because the law passed in the middle of the night. (AP)
  2. More than 10 people were killed and dozens of others wounded in eastern Ukraine this week, as fighting flared between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian armed forces. The outburst of violence could provoke an early test of Trump’s ability to negotiate with Moscow. (Andrew Roth)
  3. Hackers reportedly breached dozens of email accounts at the Czech Foreign Ministry in a “sophisticated” cyberattack. The Foreign Minister said the breach appears “to be from a foreign state,” likening it to the one carried out against the Democrats ahead of last year's election. (Adam Taylor)
  4. A Cincinnati woman filed a lawsuit against multiple corrections officers and health officials at a local jail alleging that she was raped, assaulted, and refused epilepsy medication during an 11-day stay. On her final day in jail, she was found naked and catatonic. Her shoulder bones were shattered, officials said, and, in a fit of desperation, she had attempted to scrawl a prayer on the cell wall using her own blood. (Samantha Schmidt)
  5. Dating apps may not just be for humans anymore. A Dutch zoo seeking to expand breeding opportunities for its female primates says it has developed a “Tinder for orangutans” – or, a program that literally lets the animals choose from a tablet displaying pictures of potential mates. It’s still in “beta mode,”’ but we bet the orangutans will be using their opposable thumbs to swipe right in no time. (Amy B Wang)
  6. Johnny Depp’s former business managers filed a counter-suit against him, pushing back on the actor’s complaint they “grossly mismanaged” his earnings. Instead, the lawsuit says Depp’s own lavish lifestyle is to blame – he reportedly has a $2 million monthly budget, owns 14 homes, and has acquired a collection of fine art and Hollywood memorabilia so large that it requires 12 sprawling storage units to maintain. (USA Today)
  7. A terminally-ill 16-year-old who wanted to fire a Taser before she died has gotten her wish, thanks to compassionate (and brave) officers at an Ohio police department. They presented her with her very own uniform and dutifully lined up as she prepared to fire the heavy-duty weapon. “Taser, taser, taser!” chanted the crowd. Surrounded by more than 50 of her family and friends, she smiled, closed her eyes – and shot. (Travis M. Andrews)


-- “Resistance from within: Federal workers push back against Trump,” by Juliet Eilperin, Lisa Rein and Marc Fisher: “Federal workers are in regular consultation with recently departed Obama-era political appointees about what they can do to push back against the new president’s initiatives. Some federal employees have set up social media accounts to anonymously leak word of changes that Trump appointees are trying to make. At a church in Columbia Heights last weekend, dozens of federal workers attended a support group for civil servants seeking a forum to discuss their opposition to the Trump administration. And 180 federal employees have signed up for a workshop next weekend, where experts will offer advice on workers’ rights and how they can express civil disobedience…

“At the Justice Department, an employee in the division that administers grants to nonprofits fighting domestic violence and researching sex crimes said the office has been planning to slow its work and to file complaints with the inspector general’s office if asked to shift grants away from their mission. ‘You’re going to see the bureaucrats using time to their advantage,’ said the employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. Through leaks to news organizations and internal complaints, he said, ‘people here will resist and push back against orders they find unconscionable.’”

“When the White House last week ordered an end to all advertising and other outreach activities encouraging Americans to sign up for health plans through Affordable Care Act marketplaces, employees at the Health and Human Services Department protested, pointing out that the ban on ads and robo-calls would probably result in less coverage of the most desirable customers — young and healthy adults whose scant use of medical care can help lower prices for everyone else. The internal protest, combined with an outcry on social media and from the insurance industry, prompted the Trump administration to revise its directive in less than 24 hours…

“The union representing scientists and other EPA employees is exploring the formation of a fundraising arm to ‘defend federal scientists we anticipate will be disciplined for speaking out or for defending scientific facts,’ particularly about climate change, said Nicole Cantello, vice president of Local 704 of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents EPA workers in the Chicago area.”

-- A brand new Washington Post poll finds that large numbers of liberals are planning to ramp up their political involvement in the wake of Trump’s inauguration, especially Democratic women – suggesting that movements such as the “women’s march” could portend something much larger than a fleeting burst in activism. Scott Clement, Sandhya Somashekhar and Michael Alison Chandler report:  “The poll finds 40 percent of Democratic women say they will become more involved in political causes this year, compared with 25 percent of Americans more broadly and 27 percent of Democratic men. Nearly half of liberal Democrats also say they will become more politically active, as do 43 percent of Democrats under age 50. Interest in boosting activism is far lower — 21 percent — among independents and Republicans alike.”

-- Trump’s presidency has not even spanned a full two weeks – but already, it has established terms of battle that are likely to persist indefinitely. The Post's Dan Balz writes: “Normal rules of political jousting have gone out the window. For Democratic leaders, this is particularly important. Eight years ago, when [Obama] came to office, Republican resistance was a top-down strategy, hatched on the night of Obama’s inauguration and spread through the party by its elected and other leaders. The opposite has occurred with Trump’s presidency. It has welled up and presented itself to Democratic leaders as a declaration of war. The bottom-up nature of the anti-Trump movement is best symbolized by the huge outpouring for the Women’s March … and then again this past weekend with protests and demonstrations springing up at airports across the country. The spreading message to political leaders is that cooperation with Trump will come at a cost, and Democratic leaders aren’t the only ones hearing that message. Some recalibration of tactics and strategies might still take place. But that becomes more difficult by the day.”

-- Public pressure works: Trump will no longer be traveling to a Harley-Davidson factory in Milwaukee tomorrow, the White House said, after the company learned of large planned protests outside the factory and decided to cancel his appearance. CNN’s Jeremy Diamond reports: Trump had been slated to tour the plant and sign executive orders related to American manufacturing. But by Tuesday afternoon, the company began receiving call-in protests, and more than 1,200 people indicated they would show up to a live demonstration.


-- “Steve Bannon explained his worldview well before it became official U.S. policy,” by Frances Stead Sellers and David A. Fahrenthold: “In November 2015, Bannon was hosting a satellite radio show with guest Rep. Ryan Zinke, who opposed Obama’s plan to resettle some Syrian refugees in the U.S. 'We need to put a stop on refugees until we can vet,’ Zinke said. Bannon cut him off. ‘Why even let ’em in?’ he asked, [adding] that vetting refugees from Muslim-majority countries would cost money and time. ‘Should we just take a pause and a hiatus for a number of years on any influx from that area of the world?’

Frances and Dave listened to many hours of radio interviews that Bannon conducted while hosting a Breitbart radio talk show, as well as speeches and interviews he has given since 2014: "Bannon’s past statements serve as a road map for the controversial agenda that has roiled Washington and shaken the global order during Trump’s first two weeks in office. It is not yet clear how far Bannon will be able to go to enact his agenda … But his worldview calls for bigger changes than those already made. ... In interviews, he eschews the traditional 'it’s-all-about-the-boss' humility of typical presidential staffers, and has embraced comparisons to Darth Vader and Satan. 'That’s power,' he told the Hollywood Reporter in November."

Metaphor du jour: “Bannon compared himself to a powerful aide to England’s Henry VIII — an aide who helped engineer a world-shaking move of his era, the split of the Church of England from the Catholic Church. ‘I am Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors,’ Bannon told the Hollywood Reporter. … ‘The analogy — if it’s going to work — is that Bannon has his own agenda, which he will try to use Trump for, and will try to exploit the power that Trump has given him, without his master always noticing,’ said Diarmaid MacCulloch, a professor of history at England’s Oxford University. But Cromwell was later executed, after Henry VIII turned against him. For a man like that, MacCulloch said, power is always tenuous: ‘It’s very much dependent on the favor of the king.’”


-- The Trump administration is considering a plan to weed out would-be immigrants who are likely to require public assistance, as well as to deport — when possible — immigrants already living in the United States who depend on taxpayer help, according to a draft executive order obtained by Abigail Hauslohner and Janell Ross. “A second draft order under consideration calls for a substantial shake-up in the system through which the United States administers immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, with the aim of tightly controlling who enters the country and who can enter the workforce, and reducing the social services burden on U.S. taxpayers. If enacted, the executive orders would appear to significantly restrict all types of immigration and foreign travel to the United States, expanding bars on entry to the country that Trump ordered last week with his temporary ban on refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries…

“Immigration advocates reacted with outrage to the draft documents, warning that if enacted the executive orders could harm the U.S. citizen children of undocumented immigrants whose parents could be stripped of public assistance. ‘He’s loaded his anti-immigrant Uzi and is firing off another round,’ said Angela Maria Kelley, an immigration expert at the Center for American Progress. ‘It’s stunning the depth of disruption and chaos he seems hellbent on inflicting on our communities.’”


-- The Department of Homeland Security said it will allow 872 refugees to enter the U.S. this week, an announcement that comes just days after Trump’s sweeping immigration order provoked outrage and fear across the globe. Mark Berman reports: “[The refugees had been previously ready to travel] and would face ‘undue hardship’ if not able to do so, Kevin K. McAleenan, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said at a briefing Tuesday afternoon. They will be processed with waivers through the end of the week, he said. According to a Homeland Security web page about the immigration order, the 872 refugees are “considered to be in transit.” In the order signed by Trump last week, the temporary suspension of refugee entry to the country allows an exception for refugees “already in transit” and who would face “undue hardship” if denied admission.”

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly also echoed remarks from Trump during the briefing, saying that the executive order is not a “Muslim ban.” He also said that DHS would comply with judicial orders regarding the travel ban, despite cases where lawyers were prevented from talking to detainees, directly contradicting a court order. “We would not ignore a court order,” he said. Kelly said during the briefing that as far as officials knew, no Customs official “knowingly” violated a court order.

-- Ousted acting attorney general Sally Yates spent the weekend struggling to figure out how -- or if -- to defend Trump’s immigration ban. Sari Horwitz has the back story on how she made up her mind -- and the two events that helped crystallize her decision: The first was a television appearance in which Trump suggested Christians in the Middle East should be given “priority” to move to the U.S. And the second was a Fox News appearance in which Rudy Giuliani said Trump wanted a “Muslim ban”, and wanted to do it “legally.” Still, Yates was taken aback when Trump issued his order Friday: She had been working with lawyers from Trump’s “landing team” to help with the transition when the incoming attorney general begins. And they had all agreed to “press pause,” as one official put it, on taking any high-profile actions until Trump’s full team was in place. But it was not until Yates heard a media report on the ban that she was made aware of its existence …

“No one from the White House had consulted with Yates or any other senior leaders in the Justice Department. Yates had to decide whether her lawyers could defend Trump’s action in court. She did not even have a copy of the order, and her aides had to go online to find it.”


-- Some Christians in the Middle East have criticized Trump’s executive order this week, saying the president’s embrace of their religion may actually undermine their efforts to assert their place in the Arab world, and damage existing relations in the region. Many also expressed sadness about the suddenly-broad ban on their Muslim neighbors. “Who does he think he is, to discriminate between human beings?” said a Damascus-based Christian lawyer. It’s a striking addition to the global chorus of consternation over Trump’s order. (Kareem Fahim and Loveday Morris)

-- Meanwhile, France’s far-right party said this week that it is open to replicating Trump’s immigration ban if National Front candidate Marine Le Pen is elected president this spring. “Why not?” said the party’s vice president. “We are in a horrible world, so sometimes you have to take measures of authority, even if it shocks.” Though Le Pen herself has not spoken publicly about Trump’s ban, she has signaled her intent to pull France from the E.U., crack down on immigration, and reinforce the country’s borders. (Amy B Wang and Bastien Inzaurralde)

-- In Pakistan, a high-profile Islamist cleric was abruptly arrested on Monday. His arrest has prompted a wave of condemnation from supporters, who said the move is the government’s attempt to appease the Trump administration in the wake of his sweeping travel ban. Hundreds of people gathered outside the capital in protest, where they chanted and burned representations of the U.S. and Indian flags. (Pamela Constable)

-- A 75-year-old Iraqi woman whose family fled to Detroit more than 20 years ago has died after being held up in transit caused by the ban. Her son, who served with U.S. forces in the Iraq War, was the only one from his family permitted to leave the country. "I was just shocked,” he said, noting that his entire family has green cards. “I had to put my mom back on the wheelchair and take her back and call the ambulance and she was very very upset. She knew right there if we send her back to the hospital she's going to pass away …” She died shortly after. (Fox 2 Detroit)

-- Breaking through: Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s most popular star, spoke out against Trump’s ban. “My fam immigrated from Germany in [the] 1700s escaping religious persecution,” he tweeted to his two million followers. “America is created by immigrants.” (Cindy Boren)


-- Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said they are not yet committed to voting for Betsy DeVos as education secretary, potentially breaking with their GOP colleagues in the senate as they continue to express reservations about Trump’s controversial appointee. (Valerie Strauss)

-- A written questionnaire filled out by DeVos appears to have used several sentences and phrases from other sources without attribution, including one from a top Obama administration civil rights official. Mike DeBonis and Emma Brown report: "DeVos in particular has drawn intense scrutiny from Democrats, who have criticized her advocacy for school privatization initiatives, her financial ties to the education industry, and her seemingly tenuous grasp of civil rights laws."

-- Elaine Chao was confirmed as Transportation Secretary by a Senate vote of 93-6 on Tuesday, riding a wave of bipartisan support that has helped her coast through the confirmation process multiple times over the years. Still, a handful of Democrats cast a dissenting vote, including Sens. Jeff Merkley, Kirsten Gillibrand, Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Michael Laris)

-- Senate Democrats are raising questions about whether Treasury secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin deliberately misled lawmakers at his confirmation hearing. CNN’s Phil Mattingly reports: “The concerns center on the extent of foreign investment in a series of finance entities Mnuchin helped manage, including one based offshore in the Cayman Islands … It's an issue -- which Democratic aides and lawmakers say hasn't been addressed in subsequent follow-up questions in the weeks since -- that has raised concern about the extent of the influence those investors may hold, and the potential for conflicts of interest not unlike what has tailed Trump throughout his campaign. On its face, it echoes a prime point of contention for Democrats probing all of Trump's Cabinet picks, many of whom boast extensive private business and finance ties. But Mnuchin is slated to be the Trump Administration's top economic official, making those ties even more susceptible to potential conflicts.”

-- Liberty University president and Trump ally Jerry Falwell Jr. said he will lead two new higher education task forces created by the Trump administration. “I’ve been in conversations with [presidential adviser] Steve Bannon and others, and the president is forming some education task forces, that I’ve been asked to head,” Falwell said on Tuesday. He did not have a specific timeline for when the task force would be launched, but said he expected it to be “very soon.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch)


-- Trump met with executives from eight of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies at the White House yesterday, where he emphasized the need to bring more manufacturing back to the U.S., decrease regulations, and lower what he characterized as “astronomical” drug prices. Carolyn Y. Johnson reports: “Most of Tuesday’s meeting was held behind closed doors, but Trump spoke to the media beforehand while surrounded by executives from a half-dozen large drug companies. He struck a less combative tone and didn’t mention government intervention directly. 'We have no choice,' Trump said before huddling with the executives. 'For Medicare, for Medicaid, we have to get prices way down, so that's what we're going to be talking about. We're also going to be streamlining the process so that from your standpoint so that when you have a drug you can actually get it approved -- if it works -- instead of waiting for many, many years.'"

-- “In deadly Yemen raid, a lesson for Trump’s national security team,” by Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Missy Ryan: “The mission facing the Navy SEALs as they approached a remote desert compound was a formidable one: detain Yemeni tribal leaders collaborating with al-Qaeda and gather intelligence that could plug a critical gap in U.S. understanding of one of the world’s most dangerous militant groups. Instead, a massive firefight ensued, claiming the life of an American sailor and at least one Yemeni child, and serving as an early lesson for President Trump’s national security team about the perils of overseas ground operations. The operation, the first U.S.-led ground raid in Yemen since 2014, comes as the United States tries to rebuild a counterterrorism mission that has been severely curtailed since 2015. [And] the operation may also be a sign of things to come.”

-- Trump began 2017 with more than $7 million in his campaign coffers, thanks largely to small-dollar donors who have continued to pour in support after his presidential victory in November. Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy report: “Trump's campaign committee started the year debt-free and has continued to press supporters for donations, which officials say they plan to stockpile for his next campaign. As of Dec. 31, his campaign had $7.6 million in the bank — a figure that has undoubtedly grown [since his inauguration] … But Trump's campaign also had substantial expenses in the final month of 2016, filings show. The committee shelled out $9.6 million, including more than $733,000 in refunds of improper or excessive contributions.”

Trump and the Republican Party also directed more than $413,000 in December to Trump properties or family members: The Trump company that received the largest amount in December was the Trump Tower – which was paid more than $130,000 for rent. He also shelled out more than $37,000 to rent space at his New Jersey golf club, and $74,000 for “facility rental” at the Trump National Doral Miami.  Meanwhile, the RNC spent more than $111,000 in December on “venue rental and catering” at Trump’s new Washington hotel.


-- Republican lawmakers are rattled after a mysterious, unauthorized intruder infiltrated their Philadelphia retreat last week, rubbing elbows with some of the most important people in the U.S. government -- including the president. It’s unclear to what degree lawmakers were in physical danger, Mike DeBonis reports, but their circle of trust was undoubtedly breached. "The president of the Congressional Institute … told lawmakers in an email late Saturday that an ‘unauthorized person’ infiltrated the retreat Thursday for nearly 11 hours using ‘counterfeit credentials’ [and] was later ejected. [Meanwhile], a person secretly recorded closed sessions on national security and health care that were attended by scores of GOP lawmakers. They had gathered for a private discussion of some of the thorniest legislative issues of the moment, as well as a question-and-answer session with Pence. ... On Tuesday, House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said an 'active criminal investigation' was underway, and that police were 'close to determining' the identity of the interloper."


-- “Taunted by Trump, ‘Little Katy’ stood her ground. And became a star because of it,” by Paul Farhi: Katy Tur spent 16 months following Trump. “Along the way, she would unwittingly, and at times quite uncomfortably, become a kind of symbol, the living embodiment of Trump’s hostility toward the news media. His public lashings … seemed to become obsessive, as if he were acting out a frustrated crush. He derided her as “Little Katy,” recommended that she be fired, called her ‘incompetent,’ ‘dishonest,’ a ‘3rd rate reporter.’ His most frequent complaint: that she wasn’t reporting the size of his campaign crowds (‘Katy — you’re not reporting it, Katy,’ he bellowed at one point. ‘There’s something happening, Katy.’) A predictable comet’s tail of ugliness followed each slight. Prompted by Trump, supporters would occasionally boo her at rallies. They showered her with abuse on social media (and still do), including not infrequent death threats. The climate became so overheated at one of his events that Trump’s aides inquired about her well-being.”

As for Trump’s treatment, Tur has a few guesses about why he was so belligerent toward her: “I think he can smell weakness and if you show him weakness, he exploits it and he doesn’t respect you,” she said. “If I had rolled over, I think he would have never mentioned my name again.”

-- The White House is icing out CNN. Politico reports that the Trump administration is refusing to send its spokespeople or surrogates to appear on the major television network, which the president has repeatedly called “fake news.” The move effectively prohibits the network from access to any on-air administration voices. “We’re sending surrogates to places where we think it makes sense to promote our agenda,” said a White House official, acknowledging CNN is “not such a place.” Trump officials say the move is “not permanent,” but network officials were much more blunt: “They’re trying to cull CNN from the herd,” a reporter said.


This handle made its debut (the @POTUS account retweeted it):

Several observers couldn't help but think of Judge Garland:

And for those who need some levity:


At the White House: Trump participates in an African American History Month listening session, meets with SCOTUS groups and holds a legislative affairs strategy session.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate meets at noon to resume consideration of the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be secretary of State, with a vote expected around 2:30 p.m. As for the confirmation status of other nominees, here is the schedule as of Tuesday night:

  • Homeland Security &votes on Mick Mulvaney’s nomination for OMB director around 9:40 a.m.
  • Environment and Public Works votes on Scott Pruitt’s nomination for EPA administrator around 10:45 a.m.
  • Veterans’ Affairs holds a hearing for VA secretary nominee David Shulkin at 2:30 p.m.

The House meets at noon for legislative business, with first votes expected between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. and last votes between 4:15 to 5:15 p.m.


Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) suggested during a hearing that parts of D.C. should be sent back to Maryland: “I really would love to explore the idea of retroceding the residential areas into Maryland so that not only do you have a member of Congress, but you have two senators a state legislature, a governor. If you want full representation, I’m very sympathetic to that. I think there’s actually a way to do that.”



-- Another mild-ish day ahead before things cool way down for the rest of the week, per today’s Capital Weather Gang forecast: “Partly to mostly cloudy skies may keep us slightly cooler than yesterday, and we do have a chance of a stray shower or sprinkle. But after we start the morning in the 30s, a mild breeze from the west … should still get afternoon highs to the upper 40s to low 50s.”

-- The Wizards beat the Knicks 117-101.


"Try as he might, Jon Stewart just can’t stay off television," Emily Yahr writes. "On Tuesday, the former 'Daily Show' host once again joined his old friend Stephen Colbert on 'The Late Show.' This time, Stewart wanted to share his thoughts on the first 11 days of President Trump in the White House. Of course, he did so while wearing a very long tie and an animal skin cap. 'Is this your Donald Trump impression?' Colbert inquired. 'I thought this is how men dress now,' said Stewart. 'The president sets men’s fashion … super long tie, dead animal on head.' Stewart said he stopped by to deliver some news: He had special exclusive access to even more of Trump’s executive orders. Then part of Stewart’s animal hat fell in his face, and he and Colbert could barely hold it together. The audience also couldn’t stop laughing. 'People, this nation is in crisis,' Stewart admonished. 'This is serious!'"

Watch the full 10-minute exchange:

Jake Tapper criticized Sean Spicer for complaining that the press is describing Trump's refugee ban as a "ban," even though Spicer and Trump have repeatedly used the term:

Seth Meyers took a closer look at Trump's travel ban:

Conan O'Brien imagined Trump-themed Girl Scout cookies:

Natalie Portman discussed her upcoming role as Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

And her role as Jackie Kennedy:

Jimmy Fallon also went in character as Trump:

Budweiser's Super Bowl ad will highlights its co-founder's pursuit of the American dream, implicitly praising the importance of immigrants to the United States:

Finally, meet Ollie, a bobcat that went missing from the D.C. zoo: