With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.
THE BIG IDEA:
Making a long-term play, the billionaire industrialist Charles Koch and his like-minded friends on the right are increasingly focused on melding the minds of the next generation by making massive, targeted investments in both K-12 and higher education.
Changing the education system as we know it was a central focus of a three-day donor seminar that wrapped up late last night at a resort here in the desert outside Palm Springs.
“We’ve made more progress in the last five years than I had in the last 50,” Koch told donors during a cocktail reception. “The capabilities we have now can take us to a whole new level. … We want to increase the effectiveness of the network … by an order of magnitude. If we do that, we can change the trajectory of the country.”
Leaders of the network dreamed of disrupting the status quo, customizing learning and breaking the teacher unions. One initial priority is expanding educational saving accounts and developing technologies that would let parents pick and choose private classes or tutors for their kids the same way people shop on Amazon. They envision making it easy for families to join together to start their own “micro-schools” as a new alternative to the public system.
The Charles Koch Institute distributed roughly $100 million to 350 colleges and universities last year, up sevenfold over the past five years. What’s newer is the emphasis on elementary and secondary education. The network declined to offer exact figures but said it will double investment in K-12 this year, with much more planned down the road.
There are about 700 people who each contribute a minimum of $100,000 per year to the constellation of organizations that comprise the Koch network. For years, many of these megadonors have urged Koch to wade into the battles over what they call school choice. Charles resisted, believing that his network had no special comparative advantage to move the needle in this area.
Then he commissioned Meredith Olson, a vice president at Koch Industries, to interview members of his network about what they are doing in their home states to explore whether there is a way to scale their education efforts nationally. She developed a three-prong strategy: “reform, supplement, innovate.”
“The lowest hanging fruit for policy change in the United States today is K-12,” said Stacy Hock, a major Koch donor who has co-founded a group called Texans for Educational Opportunity. “I think this is the area that is most glaringly obvious.”
-- In 2018, Koch donors see Arizona as ground zero in their push. Doug Ducey, the former chief executive of Cold Stone Creamery, became a member of the Koch network in 2011. Since 2015, he’s attended the seminars as governor of Arizona. Last year, he signed legislation to dramatically expand the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program so that students can use taxpayer dollars that would be spent on them in public schools to cover private-school tuition or other educational expenses.
Teacher unions, worried that this will undermine the public system, collected enough signatures to put the law on hold and create a ballot proposition to let voters decide in November whether to expand vouchers.
Addressing the seminar yesterday, Ducey touted the measure as further reaching than anything that’s been tried in other states. He warned that, under Arizona law, if advocates lose at the ballot box, they will not be able to legislate on the topic in the future. “This is a very real fight in my state,” Ducey said. “I didn’t run for governor to play small ball. I think this is an important idea.”
The Koch network is likely to spend heavily to support the voucher law, setting up a battle royal with the labor movement.
Ducey introduced Steve Perry, the headmaster of Capital Prep Charter Schools, who has been traveling Arizona to speak in support of the law. “The teacher unions are unencumbered by the truth,” he told the Koch donors. “It is a distant relative that is never invited to dinner.”
Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, highlighted field operations that the network has built in 36 states to advance its agenda, including on education. “We have more grass-roots members in Wisconsin than the Wisconsin teachers’ union has members,” he said. “That’s how you change a state!”
Many of the richest people in America listened intently as Koch donors and officials outlined their theory of the case. The Washington Post was invited inside the strategy session on the condition that the donors in attendance not be named without their permission. At the end of what was essentially a sales pitch, members of the Seminar Network, as it is officially known, were asked to check a box on a piece of paper in front of them if they were interested in contributing to the education efforts.
“We all need to be fully committed to a society in which everyone has an opportunity to make a better life for themselves,” Charles Koch said. “To succeed, each of us has to be all-in. What I mean by that is that we have to make these kinds of efforts a central part of our lives. You don’t need to be as obsessed as I am … although that wouldn’t hurt … but you can’t just make it a sideline.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The Trump administration has decided against implementing new Russia sanctions mandated by Congress, arguing the threat itself “is acting as a deterrent.” Congress passed the sanctions last year with broad bipartisan support. Carol Morello reports: “The decision was made public after nightfall on deadline day for implementing sanctions against those who do business with Russian defense and intelligence firms, as required under a 2017 law. Since the law took effect six months ago, said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, ‘We estimate that foreign governments have abandoned planned or announced purchases of several billion dollars in Russian defense acquisitions.’” The decision prompted immediate criticism from some lawmakers:
- “I'm fed up waiting for this administration to protect our country and our elections,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “They've now shown us they won't act, so it's time for Congress to do more.”
- “The weird part of this is, while the relationship is bad between Moscow and Washington, it’s worse between the White House and Congress,” said Adam Smith, a former Treasury Department adviser on sanctions. “Congress took action arguably against the White House desires. It’s not clear how meaningful the list is, given the executive branch manages foreign policy.”
-- U.S. defense officials reported a Russian jet came within five feet of a Navy surveillance plane flying over the Black Sea. CNN’s Ryan Browne and Zachary Cohen report: “The Russian jet's action forced the US Navy aircraft to end its mission prematurely, one of the officials said. The [State] Department issued a statement late Monday accusing the Russians of ‘flagrantly violating existing agreements and international law.’”
-- Former U.S. attorney and Trump ally Chris Christie said he doesn't think the president should sit down with Robert Mueller:
Former NJ @GovChristie says he doesn’t think Pres. Trump should sit down with Special Counsel Mueller: "I don't believe so. Listen, I don't think there's been any...credible allegations against the President of the United States." pic.twitter.com/S5FgMw1cqp— ABC News (@ABC) January 30, 2018
-- “Democratic National Committee CEO Jess O’Connell is leaving the job after less than a year, the latest shake-up for an organization that has won [a] string of elections while struggling with internal divisions and grumbling, cash-starved state parties,” David Weigel reports. “O’Connell’s tenure at the DNC was seen, and promoted by the party, as a turnaround. … In November, the DNC parted with its chief fundraiser, the first dramatic response to the party’s 2-1 lag behind its Republican counterpart. But O’Connell remained front and center in the party’s messaging.”
-- Wintry weather this morning is causing delays for some of the Washington, D.C., region schools. Check out the full list here.
-- But snow showers shouldn’t really complicate the morning commute. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Rain (from the District south and east) and snow showers (to the north and west) sweep across the area early this morning. Temperatures are mostly above freezing except up toward northern Maryland and the showers should exit before the peak of the morning rush, so problems should be minimal. Otherwise, look for mostly cloudy skies through midday into early afternoon and windy conditions[.] … Highs in the mid- to upper 30s feel like the 20s most of the time thanks to the wind.”
GET SMART FAST:
- The U.S. military said it's reviewing security guidelines for all wireless and technological devices after it was revealed that popular fitness trackers were publishing GPS data online, potentially revealing sensitive base locations in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Liz Sly)
- The Dutch taxation authority and several of its largest banks were targeted in a cyberattack — signaling what appeared to be a coordinated strike on the Netherlands’ financial infrastructure. The timing of the hits is notable, coming comes just days after reports that Dutch intelligence services spied on the Russian hacking group “Cozy Bear.” (Politico)
- A string of deadly attacks in Afghanistan’s capital have killed more than 130 people in the past nine days. The nearly unprecedented terrorism blitz is exposing glaring weaknesses in that country's defense capabilities and laying bare the challenges facing U.S. forces as they begin to ramp up their military presence there. (Pamela Constable)
Last year, Melania Trump took 21 flights over a three-month period, totaling more than $675,000 from Jan. 20 to April 2017. The first lady took numerous trips between New York City, Florida and Washington as the Trumps’ son Barron finished out his school year in Manhattan. In contrast, Michelle Obama’s solo travel averaged $350,000 per year. (The Wall Street Journal)
The Republican Governors Association severed ties with casino mogul Steve Wynn. The RGA announced it would return $100,000 it received this election cycle from Wynn, who has been accused of sexual misconduct. (Amber Phillips)
France’s budget minister has been accused of rape. A former call girl named Sophie Spatz has accused Gérald Darmanin of forcing her to have sex with him in 2009 in exchange for legal aid. (James McAuley)
The CEO of the U.S. Humane Society is under internal investigation for sexual harassment. Three complaints were filed against Wayne Pacelle, and another three settlements alleging retaliation for reporting his behavior have been identified. (Danielle Paquette)
- The Cleveland Indians will discontinue displaying their Chief Wahoo insignia at the end of this year’s baseball season — stripping the logo from their uniforms for the first time since 1947. The decision comes amid growing pressure from the MLB commissioner, as well as a spate of protests and lawsuits from Native American groups. (Cleveland.com)
- A hospital patient in Mumbai died this weekend after being sucked into an MRI machine. The 32-year-old entered the MRI room holding an oxygen canister, but unbeknown to hospital staff, the machine was already on — causing him to be immediately sucked in and trapped by the powerful magnetic force. (Vidhi Doshi)
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- The fight between Republicans and the intelligence community over the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election began an ugly new chapter yesterday as the House Intelligence Committee — on a party-line vote — chose late afternoon to release a classified memo Republicans allege contains proof of surveillance abuses by the FBI and Justice Department. The memo was crafted by GOP staffers to House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and the FBI and DOJ say its release, without their review, could compromise national security.
The highly unusual move drew cries of outrage from Democrats, who argue that releasing the memo could endanger intelligence sources and open a misleading window onto Robert Mueller's probe into allegations that Russia meddled in the election. Republicans believe the memo will substantiate the idea the FBI's investigation into Russian influence is tainted with political bias and President Trump has long called for the memo's release. Trump now has five days to review it before deciding whether to make the memo public.
Karoun Demirjian and Devlin Barrett report: “The committee also voted … against releasing a rebuttal memo from Democrats, who denounced both moves upon leaving the closed-door hearing. Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote to Congress last week, warning them that releasing the memo without giving the Justice Department and the FBI an opportunity to review it ‘would be extraordinarily reckless[.]’” FBI Director Christopher Wray has seen the memo since then — but it’s unclear whether the DOJ remains opposed to its release.
-- Intel's ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), said Wray raised concerns about the memo after viewing it, and asked the committee to allow him to brief members before its release. They declined, he said. Schiff also revealed that Republicans on the panel had opened a formal inquiry into the FBI and Justice Department, although Republicans contend they are simply performing "overs“ght." “We had votes today to politicize the intelligence process,’’ Schiff told reporters.
-- HOW THE BREAKDOWN HAPPENED: “Early this month, [Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein] trekked to Capitol Hill in a last-ditch effort to avoid giving Republican lawmakers access to intelligence they considered so sensitive that it could not leave their control,” Matt Zapotosky, Karoun Demirjian, Robert Costa and Ellen Nakashima report.
“[Nunes] had been agitating for information [for months] … Now, he was threatening to hold Justice officials in contempt. The two law enforcement leaders hoped [Paul Ryan] might be more sympathetic to their concerns. Ryan, however, was unmoved. Nunes’s committee, he argued, routinely deals in sensitive, raw intelligence, and this case was no different … The episode would prove a revealing skirmish between the Hill and the Justice Department … [And] current and former law enforcement officials say the feuding [threatens] to expose sensitive sources and methods that could be exploited by foreign adversaries, and curtail intelligence-sharing with some of our closest allies, including Britain.”
-- Trump “erupted in anger” last week on his flight to the World Economic Forum in Davos after learning a DOJ official sent Congress a letter warning against the memo’s release. Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs reports: “For Trump, the letter was yet another example of the Justice Department undermining him and stymieing Republican efforts to expose what the president sees as the politically motivated agenda . . . Trump’s outburst capped a week where Trump and senior White House officials personally reproached [Jeff Sessions, and asked John Kelly] to speak to others . . . Kelly held separate meetings or phone calls with senior Justice Department officials last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to convey Trump’s displeasure and lecture them on the White House’s expectations[.] . . . Kelly has taken to ending such conversations with a disclaimer that the White House isn’t expecting officials to do anything illegal or unethical.”
-- WHAT WILL TRUMP DO? Trump has not seen the document, but he has a "‘bare-bones understanding,’ based primarily on press [coverage],” our colleagues report. “He has told advisers he supports the release of the memo and he believes it could help show the public how biased the FBI and the special counsel investigation have been …” On Monday, Kellyanne Conway said Trump “would err on the side of transparency.” “That is his predilection: to release it,” said one senior White House adviser. “But he won’t decide it until he sees it.”
-- NEXT UP: Steve Bannon is slated to testify tomorrow before the House Intelligence Committee — making a second appearance before the panel after the former senior White House adviser refused to answer lawmakers’ questions about his time in the White House or on Trump’s transition team earlier this month. (The Hill)
-- Meanwhile, hours before the Intel panel's skirmish, Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s deputy director, abruptly stepped down. McCabe has long been the subject of Trump's ire and has told friends he felt “pressure” to resign from FBI chief Christopher Wray, reported the New York Times.
Although McCabe was expected to leave sometime soon, his sudden departure raised new eyebrows about President Trump — who has made no secret of his distaste for the deputy director. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president “wasn’t part of this decision-making process.”
The decision came as the DOJ's inspector general is investigating the role of McCabe and his top aides in the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server and the exchange of anti-Trump, pro-Clinton texts by McCabe's former top aide and an FBI agent. Trump has long bashed McCabe because his wife's unsuccessful Virginia state Senate campaign received money from Clinton ally and then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D).
The New York Times’s Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo with more: “In a recent conversation, [Wray] raised concerns about a forthcoming inspector general report examining the actions of Mr. McCabe and other senior F.B.I. officials during the 2016 presidential campaign, when the bureau was investigating both Hillary Clinton’s email use and the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia. In that discussion … Mr. Wray suggested moving Mr. McCabe into another job, which would have been a demotion. Instead, the former official said, Mr. McCabe chose to leave.”
-- Trump’s gripes with McCabe included his wife’s political career and James Comey’s trip on an FBI plane after he was fired. NBC News’s Carol E. Lee reports: “The day after he fired [Comey] as director of the FBI, a furious [Trump] called [McCabe], demanding to know why Comey had been allowed to fly on an FBI plane from Los Angeles back to Washington after he was dismissed, according to multiple people familiar with the phone call. McCabe told the president he hadn’t been asked to authorize Comey’s flight, but if anyone had asked, he would have approved it[.] … The president was silent for a moment and then turned on McCabe, suggesting he ask his wife how it feels to be a loser — an apparent reference to a failed campaign for state office in Virginia that McCabe’s wife made in 2015. McCabe replied, ‘OK, sir.’ Trump then hung up the phone.”
-- “In a message to FBI staff, Wray said the FBI had followed procedures, not politics, leading up to McCabe’s departure. ‘My conviction to adhering to process is similarly matched by my conviction to holding people accountable,’ Wray wrote in the message, adding that it would be inappropriate to comment on the particulars of the inspector general’s probe.” “I remain staunchly ‘by the book,’” Wray wrote, adding that he “will not be swayed” by political pressure. (Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky)
-- “If it turns out that McCabe was pressed to accelerate his planned early retirement by a month or so by [Jeff] Sessions or on behalf of Trump, this would strengthen the argument for a pattern of obstruction of justice,” constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe told The Post’s Jennifer Rubin. Former Obama DOJ spokesman Matthew Miller also weighed in: “It’s entirely possible that this was entirely McCabe’s decision, but given the president’s calls for his ouster and his constant meddling with the FBI and DOJ, we need to hear answers immediately,” he told Rubin. “Those answers need to come from Chris Wray, they need to come in person, and preferably they would come under oath to Congress.”
-- Comey weighed in last night:
Special Agent Andrew McCabe stood tall over the last 8 months, when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on. He served with distinction for two decades. I wish Andy well. I also wish continued strength for the rest of the FBI. America needs you.— James Comey (@Comey) January 30, 2018
-- Meet the likely new deputy FBI director: “[McCabe] is expected to be replaced by David Bowdich, a senior official who headed the FBI’s response to the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif.,” Marwa Eltagouri reports. “Bowdich joined the FBI in 1995 as a special agent and served as a SWAT team member and sniper at the agency’s San Diego field office. There, he investigated violent crimes and gangs, according to an FBI news release. … In 2014, he was named the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office — overseeing seven Southern California counties with a population of nearly 19 million people[.]”
HOW IT’S PLAYING:
-- “The last week has seen one of the most audacious efforts yet by Republicans seeking to discredit the FBI, the Justice Department, [Robert Mueller], and others who have been investigating [Trump],” the Boston Globe’s Matt Viser writes. “And while Mueller has largely worked quietly, interviewing witnesses, filing several charges, and building a case with an unclear endgame, many Republicans seem intent on trying to shoot the messenger before the message, whatever it ends up being, gets out.”
-- “We are two tweets away from an extraordinary constitutional crisis,” Watergate and FBI historian Tim Weiner told Post columnist Greg Sargent. “We are in a very dangerous point now in American political life.” (Weiner’s remarks came before the news of McCabe’s resignation or the House intel vote.)
-- All eyes are on Rod Rosenstein: According to a spate of recent reports, Trump has revived his complaints about his deputy attorney general. On Friday, CNN said Trump had asked to “get rid of” Rosenstein before aides convinced him otherwise. The Times reported that Nunes’s memo specifically targets Rosenstein for his decision to extend surveillance of Trump campaign associate Carter Page. And, our colleagues wrote Sunday, Trump has said the memo “could provide him with grounds for either firing or forcing Rosenstein to leave.” Key: Rosenstein is the official who appointed and oversees Mueller's probe.
-- “The defense of democratic institutions, norms, values and culture does not always involve standing up for people who have acted heroically,” LawFare's Benjamin Wittes writes. “I have not held back from criticizing [Rosenstein] over the past few months. And yet: The defense of Rosenstein represents an imperative for everyone who is concerned about the Trump administration’s predations against the independence of law enforcement. There will come a time to litigate the question of Rosenstein’s handling of the many bizarre questions he confronted in his role as deputy attorney general. Today is not that day. Today is a day to understand that apolitical law enforcement is stronger with him than without him, and that it would suffer a genuine blow if the president and the House Intelligence Committee chairman can lie the deputy attorney general out of government.”
-- Firing Rosenstein’s wouldn't bring the Russia probe to an end, but former federal prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg told The Fix’s Aaron Blake it would carry a “huge upside” for Trump: “’Rosenstein is in charge of the Mueller probe. He picked Mueller and has testified under oath that he won't fire him absent clear misconduct,’ Zeidenberg said. ‘So if Rosenstein goes, Trump would pick a new deputy attorney general who would no doubt be much more compliant to Trump.’ [And] this person could also hypothetically make more Trump-friendly decisions in other ways[:] ‘He could install someone who would limit Mueller in subtle ways that are defensible,’ former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti said. ‘Under the special counsel regulations, the attorney general (or acting attorney general, in this case) can ask Mueller for explanations of his actions and overrule them.’”
MORE ON THE KREMLIN’S PLAYBOOK:
-- The Kremlin said a U.S. report detailing a list of possible new sanctions against Russia is an attempt to influence the country’s presidential elections in March. Reuters reports: “It is not clear whether the U.S. reports will definitely trigger new sanctions, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call that Russia regarded them as an unfriendly attempt to sway the March presidential election. ‘We do think this is a direct and obvious attempt timed to coincide with the elections in order to influence them,’ said Peskov. ‘We do not agree with this and are convinced that there will be no influence.’”
-- In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, former CIA Moscow bureau chief Daniel Hoffman says the dossier compiled by ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steel fits the “Kremlin playbook.” “No one has been able to corroborate its charges, but Democrats continue to see the dossier as a road map for impeaching [Trump]. Republicans, on the other hand, point out that it was created as opposition research, leading them to see it as an elaborate partisan ploy. There is a third possibility, namely that the dossier was part of a Russian espionage disinformation plot targeting both parties and America’s political process. This is what seems most likely to me, having spent much of my [30-year career] observing Soviet and then Russian intelligence operations.”
-- Bloomberg, “When Russian Officials ‘Nightmare’ Your Business, You Can Lose Everything — Even Your Life,” by Leonid Ragozin: “In fact, there are far fewer cases of political persecution in Russia than of lawless prosecutions that bring down businessmen and professionals who have never challenged [Putin’s government]. There is even a cottage industry in girding company owners and their employees for a legal assault, the sort of hostile-environment training that executives and journalists working in dangerous places are given. … In an interview, [former journalist Olga Romanova] described Russian law enforcement — police, prosecutors and the judiciary — as a single, predatory institution that lives off looting private capital.” “Their forage supplies have shrunk,” she said, “so they take to eating each other.”
THE STATE OF THE UNION IS TODAY:
-- Against this highly polarized backdrop, Trump will lay out his 2018 legislative agenda in a speech to Congress tonight. But expectations should be low for anything to actually get done given the mess over the spending bill. There is no agreement in sight before the next deadline of Feb. 8 for the government to shutdown.
Erica Werner and Damian Paletta report: “Defense hawks were pushing for high military spending, but budget hawks were rebelling at the enormous figures, with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) calling them ‘grotesque.’ Leading Democrats were insisting on no bigger budget deal without an immigration pact. And House conservatives were beginning to grumble they couldn’t support a deal that boosts the deficit, especially during a midterm election year. … While lawmakers could still find a way to break the impasse before the Feb. 8 shutdown deadline, odds were rising that Congress will once again punt and pass yet another short-term spending bill, which would be the sixth since Trump took office.”
Why it matters: “Congress’s inability to handle its most basic constitutional task — managing the federal pursue — not only dims prospects for many of Trump’s ambitions but also threatens to deepen a spending stalemate that has had far-reaching ramifications through government and the economy. The paralysis creates instability for the military and domestic agencies that provide critical services and feeds the public’s growing suspicion toward the institutions of government in general.”
-- White House aides say Trump’s speech will strike a tone of bipartisanship. Ashley Parker and Michael Scherer report: “They say he will deliver a unifying speech of American values and patriotism, one that touches on everything from the just-passed Republican tax plan and the new immigration proposal to trade, infrastructure and national security. The question is whether the swirl of conflict and diversion that has monopolized so much of his first year in office will distract from the message he is trying to deliver.”
-- But some of Trump's ardent supporters worry about the speech being too bipartisan. The Times’s Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis report: “[Trump’s] most fervent supporters are anxious that he will squander the most high-profile moment of his presidency with a soft speech that bends more to the predilections of the political establishment in Washington and less to the populist army that sent him there to drain the swamp. … State of the Union speeches are always a tug of war among White House factions. And White House officials have strongly signaled that this will not be the kind of immigration stemwinder that [Stephen Miller, who is writing the speech,] is famous for.”
-- Trump is also expected to spend time bragging about the accomplishments of his first year. In an apt preview, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) writes in an op-ed for the Louisville Courier-Journal: “When President Trump delivers his State of the Union address, he will have outstanding news to share. After a decade of sluggish growth and stagnant paychecks, our country is back on the right track. … In a once-in-a-generation effort, the Republican-led Congress passed comprehensive tax reform legislation last year helping middle-class families, small businesses and workers keep more of their hard-earned money.”
-- Trump aims to fundraise off the annual speech by offering supporters a chance to see their names flashed across a screen during a broadcast of the event on his campaign website. John Wagner reports: “In a fundraising solicitation on Monday, Trump offered those willing to pay at least $35 the opportunity to see their name displayed during a live streaming of the address on his campaign website. ‘This is a movement,’ the solicitation says. ‘It’s not about just one of us. It’s about ALL of us. Which is why your name deserves to be displayed during Tuesday night’s speech.’”
-- Melania Trump plans to attend tonight’s address. The first lady has been largely AWOL from official events since reports emerged of a 2016 payoff to Stormy Daniels, the adult-film star who allegedly had an affair with the president while Melania was pregnant with their son in 2006. (New York Times)
-- The House Sergeant-at-Arms was forced to reprint tickets to the speech after a typo labeled the event, “Address to Congress on the State of the Uniom.” (Eli Rosenberg)
-- At least five Democrats will offer a response to Trump’s State of the Union. David Weigel reports: “Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) will give [Democrats’] official response to the president’s Tuesday night speech, delivering it from his home state and skipping the pomp in Congress. Virginia Del. Elizabeth Guzman, a member of the Democrats’ 2017 landslide class in the state legislature, will give a Spanish-language response — also official. There’ll be a response from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), too, differing from the official speeches in that the senator, for the second year, will give a retort to the speech itself. And there will be at least two more progressive responses. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) will respond to Trump at the top of a BET news special, and former Maryland congresswoman Donna F. Edwards, who’s running for Prince George’s County executive, will deliver an address on behalf of the Working Families Party.”
-- Some Democrats plan to express opposition to Trump by inviting noteworthy guests, wearing black or even boycotting the event entirely. Emily Heil reports: “Among those saying ‘nahhh’ to witnessing President Trump’s performance in person are Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a number of members of the Congressional Black Caucus[.] … And for those who do show, some will be eschewing the typical cable-TV-friendly bright colors they often sport and instead wear black to call attention to sexual harassment and assault[.] … [M]any Dems are inviting immigrants and ‘dreamers,’ … victims of sexual assault or people affected by the devastating storms that hit Puerto Rico. A [couple] of the more notable guests are San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz — a frequent target of President Trump’s Twitter barbs — who will accompany Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) is bringing Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian-born immigrant who discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy in National Football League players[.]”
-- Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) will bring Christine Levinson, the wife of FBI agent Bob Levinson, who went missing in Iran over a decade ago. (Elise Viebeck)
-- Chuck Schumer wrote a Post op-ed encouraging Trump to address infrastructure in his speech: “On this issue, Democrats agree with the president: America’s physical infrastructure is the backbone of our economy, and we have fallen behind. … But the big question is: How do we do it? The president promised a trillion-dollar investment in our infrastructure on the campaign trail. But since he took the oath of office, Congress hasn’t heard much about his plan, and what we have heard isn’t promising. … So Democrats will watch the State of the Union hoping that President Trump will change course — by emphasizing the need for a major, direct federal investment in infrastructure.”
-- Democrats remain united in their opposition to Trump, but questions surrounding whether to pursue impeaching the president continue to divide the party. David Weigel and Sean Sullivan report: “At home, tending to worried liberal constituents or competitive primaries, many Democrats are facing voters who want to end Trump’s presidency, and ask what it would take to impeach him. Some have embraced the effort, while others have sidestepped it, wary of turning the November elections into a referendum on impeachment — that Republicans intend to portray Democrats as unhinged by the president, and out of ideas on jobs or health care.”
THE REST OF TRUMP’S AGENDA:
-- The Trump administration lifted its ban on refugees from 11 “high-risk” nations but moved to implement tougher vetting procedures for applicants. Nick Miroff reports: “Would-be refugees fleeing some of the world’s most searing conflicts will face more extensive background checks from U.S. screeners, according to senior administration officials, and the government will move to implement what it characterized as a more rigorous model for identifying possible threats."
-- The Senate blocked a House-approved bill calling for a federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks. Ed O'Keefe reports: “[The vote] is likely to be the first of several election-year attempts to highlight the split between Democrats and Republicans. The Pain-Capable Unborn Children Protection Act failed to earn the 60 votes needed to clear a procedural hurdle, marking a defeat for opponents of such procedures but fulfilling a pledge by [Mitch McConnell] to hold a vote on the legislation. … [O]nly three Democrats — Sens. Robert P. Casey Jr. (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Joe Manchin III (W. Va.) — voted with 48 Republicans to advance the measure. … Two Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — joined 44 Democrats and independents in voting against the bill.”
-- An administration proposal to nationalize a 5G network sparked intense backlash. Brian Fung reports: “Both Democrats and Republicans decried the idea of the government stepping so forcefully into an area that has largely been in the hands of private actors. ‘Any federal effort to construct a nationalized 5G network would be a costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future,’ said Ajit Pai, the Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission[.]"
-- A new study by the libertarian Cato Institute estimated that the White House immigration proposal would slash rates of legal immigration by 44 percent this year. David Nakamura reports: “[Trump’s proposal would also] result in 22 million fewer immigrants over the next five decades when compared to current law[.] … The analysis from David Bier and Stuart Anderson found that nearly half a million immigrants who are expected to be awarded green cards in fiscal 2018 would not be eligible under the framework President Trump's aides released late last week[.]”
-- Jeff Sessions announced the formation of a team meant to combat online sales of opioid drugs. The new Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) will double the FBI’s effort in disrupting such sales. (Sari Horwitz)
THE ROAD TO NOVEMBER (AND 2020):
-- Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, became the latest House Republican to announce his retirement. David Weigel reports: “Frelinghuysen, first elected in 1994, represents suburbs and exurbs of New York City that had long voted solidly Republican … Democrats, however, see Frelinghuysen’s 11th congressional District as increasingly winnable in 2018. In 2016, President Trump won just 48.8 percent of the vote in the district.”
-- Three women graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy are running for Congress in the hopes of becoming the first Annapolis alumna to serve in the House. The Times’s Michael Tackett reports: “[Elaine] Luria and [Amy] McGrath were plebes together [at the Naval Academy] when [Mikie] Sherrill was a senior. … [T]he three Naval Academy graduates, all Democrats themselves, are offering something that breaks through — the kind of military credentials and academy service that have propelled men to office since the founding of the country. And they are running in swing districts where military service is likely to resonate and where Democrats must win to wrest control of the House from Republicans.” Sherrill is running in New Jersey’s 11th congressional District, which is currently represented by Frelinghuysen.
-- In his latest piece, Dan Balz points to a study by FiveThirtyEight to demonstrate how gerrymandered congressional maps may not be solely to blame for polarization: “[T]here’s a larger message in all the data. As people judge the current state of politics, there is more at fault than partisan gerrymandering, as distasteful as it might be. As [the Cook Political Report’s David] Wasserman puts it: ‘Gerrymandering is a really easy practice to condemn and a really complex problem to solve. And just as there are not permanent majorities in American politics, there may never be such a thing as a perfect map.’”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- U.S. officials believe North Korea has scaled back its military exercises due to pressure from mounting international sanctions. The Wall Street Journal’s Michael R. Gordon and Jonathan Cheng report: “The North Korean maneuvers, which typically run from December through March, were slow in getting started and are less extensive than usual, according to American officials familiar with intelligence reports and experts outside the government. One possibility is that restrictions on shipments of oil and refined petroleum products to North Korea imposed by the United Nations have led the country, which has one of the world’s largest standing armies, to conserve fuel by cutting back on ground and air training exercises.”
-- The administration used a White House visit by the U.N. Security Council ambassadors to press officials on Iran. The New York Times’s Michael Schwirtz reports: “[Administration officials took] ambassadors from the [council] on a field trip to inspect what American officials called remnants of Iranian missiles and other weaponry illegally supplied to Yemen rebels. The ambassadors were also White House lunch guests of President Trump, who pressed them to counter ‘Iran’s destabilization activities in the Middle East.’ The missile fragments, along with other military equipment, were first unveiled last month by Nikki R. Haley[.] … She presented them as proof that Iran had violated United Nations sanctions on supplies of weaponry to Houthi rebels in Yemen[.]”
-- A small number of Iranian women are beginning to protest the country’s strict cultural norms by removing their headscarves in public. “The protests, still small in number, are nevertheless significant as a rare public sign that dissatisfaction with certain Islamic laws governing personal conduct may have reached a boiling point,” reports the Times’s Thomas Erdbrink.
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
A former Justice Department spokesman criticized the vote to release the memo:
They couldn’t be more transparent about what this is: a direct assault on the Mueller investigation to protect the president. https://t.co/V6ph2B3zIv— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) January 29, 2018
From a former GOP congressman:
So if you're our FBI tonight, the Republicans plan to investigate you.— David Jolly (@DavidJollyFL) January 30, 2018
If you're Russia, you get a pass.
From a former speechwriter for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.):
Dear GOP: You really want to stake your credibility on the Russia investigation based on actions by Carter Page and Devin Nunes? For real?— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) January 29, 2018
From the former director of the Office of Government Ethics:
Today was a big day for some people who put party over country.— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) January 30, 2018
It was one of the darker days of the past 40 years for democracy.
A Post reporter shared this quote:
Former CIA Gen Counsel Jeffrey Smith reacts to sharing of investigative sources/methods: "I am heartsick, as should anyone be who cares about democracy and our nation’s security." https://t.co/0q67KHZtCO— Carol Leonnig (@CarolLeonnig) January 30, 2018
From a former acting CIA director:
FISA warrants typically are big thick documents, 50-60 pages. If the Nunes memo about one is just 4 pages, you can bet it’s a carefully picked bowl of cherries. Made all the more dishonest by holding back the minority rebuttal memo. A real debate needs both. Someone fears that.— john mclaughlin (@jmclaughlinSAIS) January 30, 2018
And George W. Bush's former political consultant:
This is not hyperbole: what is happening within our country today is much more dangerous to our Constitutional Republic than North Korea is.— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) January 30, 2018
Obama's former chief campaign strategist reflected on Andrew McCabe's departure from the FBI:
The irony is that the purging was done in the name of fighting the politicization of the FBI. What it really reflects is a @POTUS who believes that these agencies should be loyal to him, first, before the country, constitution or rule of law.— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) January 29, 2018
An MSNBC anchor tweeted a quote from a House Democrat:
From a Daily Beast reporter:
McCabe's real exit interview is going to be with Mueller.— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) January 29, 2018
A CNN anchor wrote a thread exploring McCabe's possible reasons for leaving:
McCabe's wife ran for Virginia state legislature as a Democrat in 2015. Dem Gov McAuliffe's PAC Common Good VA, was her top donor ($467,500) and state Dem party her 2nd highest donor ($207,788). She lost.https://t.co/VR59JyCie2— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 29, 2018
Tapper's thread prompted snark from the president's son:
I have no idea why he's exiting the building today, specifically. I wrote a thread of tweets explaining some context of why he's so controversial. Certainly the commander in chief criticizing him publicly is pertinent.— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 29, 2018
A former CIA officer and special assistant to Obama slammed the administration's decision against implementing Russia sanctions:
A banner day for the WH's Russia policy: Failed to enact Congressionally-mandated sanctions AND declined to condemn the arrest of the leading oppositionist.— Ned Price (@nedprice) January 29, 2018
Perhaps one day we'll learn what could possibly be behind such a policy. https://t.co/PpnwQv4kIn
From Jeb Bush's former communications director:
I’d love to hear a non scandalous theory on why the Trump Admin wouldn’t enforce Russia sanctions that passed Congress practically unanimously.— Tim Miller (@Timodc) January 30, 2018
From a writer for The Atlantic:
From everything I’ve heard over the last month, people were working hard on the “Kremlin Report” across the executive branch at the working level. This means that they were overruled at the very top. https://t.co/1vEDOXfPOy— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) January 29, 2018
The former U.S. attorney fired by Trump issued a simple demand:
Protect Mueller— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) January 30, 2018
A House Democrat mocked the State of the Union typo:
A presidential historian offered this relevant flashback:
Nixon on Watergate in State of the Union, 44 years ago tomorrow night: "I believe the time has come to bring that investigation and the other investigations of this matter to an end. One year of Watergate is enough!" pic.twitter.com/F6ndl2kA3n— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) January 29, 2018
And a veteran NBC anchor ridiculed the whole ritual:
state of the union speech. a kabuki exercise. reps of potus party hop up and down, like electronic programmed moles— Tom Brokaw (@tombrokaw) January 29, 2018
oppo goes dark
be nice if a potus just said, “hey, gimme a break. doing the best i can. let’s grab a beer and watch some hoops.”
Meanwhile, Glenn Thrush will return to the New York Times today:
Announcement from New York Times: Glenn Thrush will be back in the Washington bureau on Tuesday. His new beat will be the social safety net in Trump era, with accent on HUD and HHS.— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) January 29, 2018
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- The Daily Beast, “Julian Assange Thought He Was Messaging Sean Hannity When He Offered ‘News’ on Democrat Investigating Trump-Russia,” by Ben Collins: “At about 4 a.m. on Saturday morning, a couple hours after she started pretending to be Sean Hannity, Dell Gilliam says she got a direct message back from the head of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. That’s when she said she ‘kind of panicked.’ ‘I felt bad. He really thought he was talking to Sean Hannity,’ said Gilliam. … Gilliam, a technical writer from Texas, was bored with the flu when she created @SeanHannity__ early Saturday morning. … When Gilliam made the account, she did not expect to be setting up a meeting over ‘other channels’ for Assange to send ‘some news about Warner,’ an apparent reference to Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee[.]”
-- The New York Times, “In ‘Brave,’ Rose McGowan Exposes Hollywood Exploitation,” by Michelle Goldberg: “One of the greatest tricks that the patriarchy plays on women is to deliberately destabilize them, then use their instability as a reason to disbelieve them. Much of ‘Brave’ reads like the diary of a woman driven half-mad by abusive men who assume no one will listen to her. In this case, the truth was finally — and, for McGowan, triumphantly — exposed, but reading ‘Brave,’ I kept thinking about how many more women must be written off as crazy and crushed under the weight of secrets no one wants to hear.”
-- The New Yorker, “What Does It Mean to Die?” by Rachel Aviv: “When Jahi McMath was declared brain-dead by the hospital, her family disagreed. Her case challenges the very nature of existence.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“‘Fox & Friends’ host says the media’s Trump coverage is ‘anti-American,’” from Callum Borchers: “’Fox & Friends’ suggested without evidence Monday the New York Times sat for six months on last week's report that President Trump tried to fire [Robert Mueller in June 2017]. According to Trump's favorite morning show, the media routinely times major stories to inflict maximum damage on the president. This conspiracy theory holds that the Mueller scoop was meant to detract from Trump's participation in the World Economic Forum in Davos. … ‘It's just so anti-American,’ said ‘Fox & Friends’ host Ainsley Earhardt. ‘I mean, it's just — where's the unity?’ In a statement, the [Times] said: ‘We published the story as soon as our reporters were able to confirm the facts. 'Fox & Friends' should try it sometime.’"
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Chris Christie joins ABC News as a contributor,” from NJ.com: “Christie has been hired as an occasional contributor to ABC News, according to sources familiar with the discussions. The hiring is scheduled to be announced Tuesday on ‘Good Morning America’ during the 7 a.m. hour, according to the sources, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss it publicly. Christie will return in the evening to comment on President Donald Trump's the State of the Union speech. The former governor is a longtime Trump friend and fellow Republican. Christie was chosen because he is close to the president and the players inside the White House, a source said. ABC News is gearing up coverage for the midterm elections in Washington, and value his perspective on Trump voters.”
Trump will deliver the State of the Union at 9:10 p.m. EST.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) shared his expectations for delivering the Democrats’ official response to Trump’s State of the Union: “I’m just hoping I can make it on and off the stage without tripping, dehydrating or ruining my career.” (Ben Terris)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- The Republican speaker of Virginia’s House of Delegates signaled openness to a Medicaid expansion — in exchange for a work requirement. Laura Vozzella reports: “[Speaker M. Kirkland Cox made the offer] in a letter addressed to Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who made expansion the cornerstone of his 2017 campaign and greeted the missive as good news. But the letter reads like an ultimatum. It warns the new governor that expansion could hinge on the fate of two bills to impose work requirements on existing Medicaid recipients. … Northam has said that he does not favor work requirements, although he has said he could get behind a ‘work search’ program.”
-- A new program opening at Mount Vernon allows visitors to test their ability to meet four challenges faced by George Washington. “Be Washington” opens next month. (Ann Cameron Siegal)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Late-night hosts previewed Trump's State of the Union:
Sarah Huckabee Sanders falsely claimed “no one cares” about the Russia investigation:
Per Eugene Scott: “[A recent Washington Post-ABC poll] found that nearly half — 49 percent — of Americans believe Trump tried to interfere with the Russia investigation in a way that amounts to obstruction of justice. And about a quarter — 26 percent — of Americans believe there is ‘solid evidence’ supporting their belief. Half of Americans believe the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, according to the poll. That's not quite ‘no one.’”
Trump's new tariffs are causing concern for some Americans employed by foreign-owned factories:
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who criticized a political skit during the Grammys, has previously used music to support her politics:
And Washington state's Olympic National Park experienced snow drifts taller than a two-story house: