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The Daily 202: More memos are coming. Here are six questions about ‘Phase Two’ of the Nunes investigation.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, heads for the State of the Union last week. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
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with Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.

THE BIG IDEA: The memo published Friday may have been the most overhyped dud since Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s empty vault in 1986. But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, whose Republican staffers prepared the partisan document, promises that it was just the beginning.

He boasted on Friday that he now plans to train his fire on other targets. “We are in the middle of what I call 'Phase Two' of our investigation, which involves other departments, specifically the State Department and some of the involvement that they had in this,” the California congressman told Fox News.

“Republicans close to Nunes say there could be as many as five additional memos or reports of ‘wrongdoing,’” Axios reported Sunday night. “A Republican source briefed on Nunes’s investigation” told the site that one of the Democrats he plans to go after next is longtime Bill and Hillary Clinton associate Sid Blumenthal, who has been fending off inquiries from congressional investigators for more than two decades.

Nunes — who stands accused of carrying water for President Trump — told the Weekly Standard on Friday that he doesn’t plan to use the same declassification process to put out future memos, which requires the formal approval of his members. This suggests that the material won’t be particularly sensitive but merely the aggregation of already available information.

The potency of the future releases depends on the answers to the following six questions:

President Trump approved the release of a controversial and classified congressional memo on Feb. 2. Here are some of its main claims. (Video: The Washington Post)

1. How many more Republican lawmakers distance themselves from Nunes?

The main takeaway from the Sunday shows was the degree to which prominent Republicans, including four members of the House Intelligence Committee, dismissed the idea that the memo exonerated Trump or undermined special counsel Robert Mueller’s work.

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.), a former CIA officer who sits on the Intelligence committee and represents a district that Hillary Clinton won handily, was asked on ABC’s “This Week” whether he thinks the memo “totally vindicates” Trump, as the president tweeted Saturday.

“I don’t,” Hurd said. “I don't agree with some of my colleagues . . . always using the words 'explosive’ to describe the document. … I want to stress: Bob Mueller should be allowed to turn over every rock, pursue every lead so that we can have trust in knowing what actually the Russians did or did not do. … I don’t believe this is an attack on Bob Mueller. I don’t believe this is an attack on the men and women in the FBI. I’ve served shoulder-to-shoulder with them, and they are hard-working folks that keep us safe.”

“I actually don’t think it has any impact on the Russia probe,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who helped draft the memo, on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” He added that Trump should not fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) said the two are “very separate” issues and Mueller should be allowed to finish his work. “This memo, frankly, has nothing at all to do with the special counsel,” he told “Fox News Sunday.”

Asked if he agrees that Trump’s been “vindicated,” Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) said on CNN: “I think this is a separate issue. In my opinion, what we're dealing with is a situation within our FISA court and how we process within our government agencies, and I don't think it really has anything to do with that.”

Nunes was noticeably absent from the Sunday show circuit.

Some of the Republican Party’s most respected elder statesmen see what Nunes is doing as an embarrassment. “The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests — no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement Friday after the release of the memo.

He’d need to spend a little political capital, but Speaker Paul Ryan could muzzle Nunes if he wants to. “The memo was a disaster not only for the Trump-Nunes strategy but also for the country,” conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin argues on Right Turn. “The only questions that remain are how long [Ryan] is going to let this humiliating spectacle go on and how much damage he will permit to be done to the oversight process so Nunes can flail about trying to protect Trump and ruin public servants’ reputations.” 

Lawmakers from both parties weighed in on the Feb. 2 release of a disputed GOP memo alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

2. Will Republicans allow the release of the Democratic rebuttal?

Many who have seen the intelligence say that the GOP memo cherry picked intelligence to paint a misleading and incomplete picture. The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), is still pushing to release a 10-page rebuttal to the memo. This was rejected on a party-line vote last week, but Schiff will offer a motion to force another vote on declassifying their response during a committee meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday. If it passes, then it would go to the Justice Department and Trump would have days to block it.

Nunes has claimed that he is willing to release the Democratic memo after it’s scrubbed of classified information. A White House official told CBS on Sunday that their position is: “If [it’s] voted out, we'll consider it.”

“I believe it is a matter of fundamental fairness that the American people be allowed to see both sides of the argument and make their own judgments,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in an open letter to the president on Sunday. “A refusal to release the Schiff memo … will confirm the American people's worst fears that the release of Chairman Nunes' memo was only intended to undermine Special Counsel Bob Mueller's investigation.”

The GOP memo claims that the Justice Department did not disclose key facts about former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele in the secret application to carry out surveillance on former Trump adviser Carter Page. Steele wrote the infamous dossier alleging ties between Trump and Russian officials. His research was initially funded by anti-Trump Republicans and later paid for by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Republicans say the application would never have been approved without the information from the dossier and if a judge had known of its partisan origins.

Government officials are adamant that this central allegation in the memo is baseless. “The court that approved surveillance … was aware that some of the information underpinning the warrant request was paid for by a political entity, although the application did not specifically name the [DNC or Clinton],” two U.S. officials familiar with the matter told Ellen Nakashima on Friday. The Justice Department made “ample disclosure of relevant, material facts” to the court that revealed “the research was being paid for by a political entity,” said one official. “No thinking person who read any of these applications would come to any other conclusion but that” the work was being undertaken “at the behest of people with a partisan aim and that it was being done in opposition to Trump.”

 “Only very select parts of what Christopher Steele reported related to Carter Page were included within the application, and some of those things were already subject to corroboration,” Schiff said.

Republicans also claim that then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testified before the committee during a private hearing in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISA court without the information in the dossier. But the memo does not directly quote McCabe saying this. It paraphrases him. And Democrats on the committee say that McCabe’s comment have been taken out of context.

So there are also calls for the release of the hearing transcript, or at least that section. “There really doesn’t seem to be any reason to paraphrase what McCabe said but not be able to quote him,” writes The Fix’s Aaron Blake. “If the quote comes out and it turns out the paraphrase was misleading, the entire memo will be undermined. If the paraphrase is accurate, it bolsters the GOP’s argument.” 

3. Will Republicans continue rallying to the defense of Carter Page?

It’s baffling that the former Trump adviser has become a cause celebre on the right. Beyond the dossier, the feds seem to have had a litany of legitimate reasons to surveil him.

“Far from demonstrating that the FBI was out to get Trump, the memo suggests that the Trump campaign could have had an active Russian spy working as a foreign policy adviser,” writes former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa, now a senior lecturer at Yale.

“I used to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants, so I’m familiar with the procedures Nunes implies the FBI abused in this case,” she explains. “To initiate surveillance on [Page] … the government would have had to demonstrate that Page was ‘knowingly engaging in clandestine intelligence gathering activities for or on behalf of’ Russia. It takes months and even years to obtain enough relevant evidence for a FISA application, which can include details from physical surveillance, phone and financial records, items recovered from the target’s trash and intelligence obtained from other sources. So the FISA application would probably have outlined the bureau’s efforts going all the way back to 2013, when Page was approached by the FBI, which warned him, based on recordings of Russian intelligence officers, that he was being targeted for recruitment as a Russian spy.

“Nunes’s memo also discloses that the government obtained three renewals of the FISA warrant, which occurred every 90 days after the initial authorization. In order for a judge to allow the surveillance to continue, the government has to demonstrate that the intercepted communications are, in fact, providing foreign intelligence,” she continues. “Even worse for Nunes, he managed to showcase concrete proof that the FBI was looking into Trump’s Russian connections before they heard from [Christopher] Steele. The memo confirms that Australian intelligence was aware of possible ties between George Papadopoulos, another Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, and Russian intelligence, and that the Australians were alarmed enough to alert the FBI, which opened an investigation in July 2016.”

Moreover, the surveillance on Page was not authorized until October 2016 — a month after he left the Trump campaign.

Time reported this weekend that Page bragged in a 2013 letter to a publisher that he was an adviser to the Kremlin. Page, who denies wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime, told the magazine that he was offering the Russians “really plain-vanilla stuff.” 

Former CIA director John Brennan and lawmakers from both parties on Feb. 4 commented on the release of a GOP memo alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

4. How forcefully will the national security community push back on future memos?

Former CIA director John Brennan declared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Nunes has “abused the chairmanship.” “It’s just appalling and clearly underscores how partisan Mr. Nunes has been,” said Brennan, who led the agency during the investigation into Russian interference.

He said the FBI was “very forthcoming” to the FISA court about what it knew and added it knew much more than what was in the dossier. He said the FBI had its own sources of information, and that the intelligence community was gathering material “on multiple fronts.”

Trump and House Republicans chose to release the document despite the FBI publicly expressing “grave concerns” and intense private lobbying that this would set a bad precedent.

“Bureau officials say the accusations in the document produced by House Republicans are inaccurate and — more damaging in the long term — corrode the agency’s ability to remain independent and do its job,” Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky reported on the front page of Sunday’s newspaper. “One law enforcement official summed it up bluntly: ‘There’s a lot of anger. The irony is it’s a conservative-leaning organization, and it’s being trashed by conservatives. At first it was just perplexing. Now there’s anger, because it’s not going away.’”

Ousted director James Comey reacted this way on Friday:

Former FBI special agent Josh Campbell, who worked for Comey, said he has turned in his badge so that he can speak out against the GOP attacks on the bureau. “FBI agents are dogged people who do not care about the direction of political winds,” Campbell wrote in an op-ed for the Times. “But to succeed in their work, they need public backing. Scorched-earth attacks from politicians with partisan goals now threaten that support, raising corrosive doubts about the integrity of the FBI that could last for generations.” 

Post deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus says what's really interesting about the Nunes memo is how it'll be used. (Video: Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

5. Will the attorney general continue to look the other way as the president attacks the Justice Department?

John Ashcroft stood up to George W. Bush when DOJ lawyers concluded that a warrantless surveillance program was unconstitutional.

Sessions has shown that he approaches the job more in the mold of Alberto Gonzales, Ashcroft’s successor, who proved far more pliant to White House pressure (and eventually resigned in disgrace over his role in the firings of U.S. attorneys for political reasons.)

“Sessions has been largely quiet and even yielding as the president leads the most public and prolonged political attack on the department in history, a silence that breaks with a long tradition of attorneys general protecting the institution from such interference,” Katie Benner writes in today’s New York Times. “Current and former prosecutors say Mr. Sessions’s tepid response reflects efforts to appease Mr. Trump, even at the expense of morale among the department’s employees, and has raised fears that prosecutors cannot depend on protection from political interference.”

“I have great confidence in the men and women of this department. … But no department is perfect,” Sessions said in a short statement after the memo was released Friday.

Last month in Virginia, Sessions said during a speech that the “vast majority” of Justice Department employees are patriotic and hard-working. But he welcomed congressional scrutiny. 

Here are three notable quotes from DOJ alums in today’s Times:

“What is unusual is the F.B.I. and the Justice Department being attacked, the president leading the charge and the attorney general missing in action,” said Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard law professor who headed the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under Bush. “Why isn’t he sticking up for the department?”

“Attorneys general swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, not the president,” said Matthew Axelrod, a partner at Linklaters and a former Justice Department official who began as a federal prosecutor under Bush. “Institutions like the DOJ rely on their leaders to be a voice that defends them. It’s critically important to this institution that its leadership have its back.”

“Prosecutors and agents are extremely vulnerable if they’re not properly supported by leadership, especially when it comes to investigations and attacks launched on the political side,” said Daniel Petalas, a former prosecutor in the department’s public integrity section and the United States attorney’s office in Washington.

Fox News hosts and contributors played a pivotal role promoting the Republican campaign to release the confidential Nunes memo. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

6. Will Trump try to move against Rosenstein or Mueller?

Touting the memo on Fox News Saturday night, Donald Trump Jr. said: “There is a little bit of sweet revenge in it for me and certainly probably the family in a sense that if they wouldn’t have done this, this stuff would be going on.”

Asked in the Oval Office on Friday if he’s going to fire Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation because Sessions recused himself, the elder Trump told reporters: “You figure that one out.”

In addition to Republicans saying Mueller should be allowed to finish his work, a chorus of Democrats said on the Sunday shows that firing either man would lead to “a constitutional crisis.”

But none of that may be enough to deter Trump if he thinks the special counsel is an existential threat to his presidency and he can get away with it.

E.J. Dionne argues in a column for today’s paper that “Nunes is paving Trump’s road to autocracy”:

“In her classic 1951 book, ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism,’ the philosopher Hannah Arendt offered two observations that help us understand the assumptions and purposes behind the memo,” he writes. “The totalitarian method of the 1920s and 1930s, she noted, was to ‘dissolve every statement of fact into a declaration of purpose.’ She also said this: ‘Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow.’

“Bear Arendt’s warnings in mind in pondering the Nunes screed whose sole purpose is to discredit an investigation that appears to be getting closer and closer to Trump,” E.J. concludes. “The cynicism of a significant part of the public, particularly Trump’s supporters, leads them to believe that everybody in every institution lies. The Nunes talking points toss out distorted and disconnected facts, not to advance the truth but to cloud it in confusion.”

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The Philadelphia Eagles upset the New England Patriots for their first Super Bowl title with a 41-33 victory on Feb. 4. (Video: Reuters)

-- The Eagles defeated the Patriots 41-33, bringing home their first Super Bowl title. Mark Maske reports: “A backup quarterback playing like a Hall of Famer and a fearless coach digging deep into his bag of gadget-play tricks put a major, Super Bowl-size dent into the greatest dynasty in NFL history Sunday evening. Tom Brady was at his legendary best for the New England Patriots. But it was the Philadelphia Eagles who emerged as the champions of a wildly entertaining Super Bowl LII, riding the passing of fill-in quarterback Nick Foles and the daring of Coach Doug Pederson to a pulsating 41-33 triumph at U.S. Bank Stadium.”

-- “[H]eadlining a hyper-hyped Super Bowl halftime show, Justin Timberlake sounds needier than ever before,” writes Chris Richards. “By the time he lurches into ‘Cry Me a River,’ it’s clear Timberlake is not going to truly inhabit his music, at least not tonight, or maybe ever again. Surely, great pop music expresses things that can’t be expressed any other way, but for the past decade, Timberlake seems to have preferred expressing himself through voice-acting in Hollywood cartoons and doing half-funny skits with Jimmy Fallon. Suddenly, out on the gridiron, Timberlake’s falsetto sounds like little more than a tool[.]”

-- Maura Judkis and Sonia Rao selected the five best Super Bowl ads … and the five worst

-- The Eagles' victory created joyous chaos on the streets of Philadelphia:

The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots to win Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4. (Video: The Washington Post)

-- Wintry weather will cause delays at some of the region’s schools. Check the full list here

-- Washingtonians will see sunny weather and cold temperatures today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Watch out for a few slick spots early this morning from any refreezing of wet surfaces, especially in our colder areas. The big story today is the cold and wind. Highs range from only 30 to 35, and it feels like the 20s factoring in the wind[.]”

An Amtrak train collided with a freight train near Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 4, killing 2 and injuring more than 100 in Amtrak's second fatal crash in a week. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)


  1. An Amtrak collision in South Carolina that killed two people looks to have been caused by a mispositioned railway switch. The switch sent the Miami-bound train crashing into an empty freight train, injuring another 116 people aboard. (Lori Aratani and Faiz Siddiqui)

  2. A chemistry professor in Kansas was arrested by ICE outside his home as he went to take his daughter to school. The arrest of “beloved Lawrence family man, scientist and community leader” Syed Ahmed Jamal has shaken the community and serves as an example of the Trump administration targeting noncitizens with no arrest record (it appears that Jamal was in the country on a temporary work permit at the time of his arrest). (Amy B Wang)

  3. Oil fires set by ISIS as it retreated in Iraq may have permanently altered the landscape and the lives of some residents. The fires have led to chronic breathing problems in children and the elderly, as well as patches of land where crops can no longer be grown. (Tamer El-Ghobashy and Joby Warrick)

  4. Trump responded to a 7-year-old girl who wrote him a letter asking to “please keep kids safe from guns.” Ava Olsen lost her best friend Jacob Hall in a school shooting. “It is very brave of you to share your story with me,” Trump wrote in his letter. “Mrs. Trump and I are so sorry to hear of the loss of your friend, Jacob.” (John Woodrow Cox)

  5. The U.S. Olympic Committee wants to work on being less white. The USOC is sending its most diverse team ever to South Korea for the Winter Games, but Team USA still does not accurately reflect the demographics of the United States. (Rick Maese)

  6. Indianapolis Colts player Edwin Jackson was struck and killed by a suspected drunk driver. An Uber driver was also killed. (Indianapolis Star)

  7. Two Massachusetts women were charged with assault for performing voodoo rituals that left a 5-year-old-girl permanently disfigured. The women bound the girl’s feet together and blew flames over her face. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)

  8. A systematic review of studies on coffee’s health benefits show the caffeinated beverage has a “probable” association with a decreased risk for certain cancers. Whether coffee affects health has been debated in countless studies. (Kendall Powell)


-- A bipartisan pair of senators will introduce an immigration bill calling for bolstered border security and protections for “dreamers,” aiming to avert another government shutdown on Friday. Ed O'Keefe reports: “Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) plan to formally introduce a bill that would grant permanent legal status to immigrant ‘dreamers’ and start bolstering security along the U.S.-Mexico border. But the measure would not call for spending the $30 billion President Trump is seeking to fortify the border with new wall and fence construction. And the McCain-Coons plan would grant legal status to dreamers who have been in the country since 2013 — a larger pool of immigrants than the 1.8 million Trump supports legalizing.”

Whether the McCain-Coons bill could emerge from the Senate as the chamber’s immigration plan is unclear — but it is a nearly identical copy of legislation that was introduced in the House and has wide support.”

-- Congress could also pass a year-long extension of DACA protections in exchange for less border security money. Politico’s Seung Min Kim reports: “Some senators are already deriding a year-long patch as ‘misguided,’ a ‘Plan Z’ and a proposal that would keep immigrants ‘in fear.’ But lawmakers have only until March 5 to save [DACA.] … And in a Congress that has routinely struggled to keep the lights on, at least some lawmakers say a temporary fix for Dreamers might be all but inevitable.”

-- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is pulling back from a probe into Equifax after the credit reporting agency exposed the personal data of hundreds of millions of consumers, raising questions about how Director Mick Mulvaney will monitor the influential industry. (Reuters’s Patrick Rucker)

-- The White House withdrew its controversial nominee to lead the Council on Environmental Quality. Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report: “The administration released a statement Sunday in which [Kathleen] Hartnett White asked that her name be pulled from further consideration, effective immediately. … Hartnett White, who once headed the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and now serves as a fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, has stirred controversy because of her statements on climate change. Testifying in the fall before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, she said that while humans probably contribute to current warming, ‘the extent to which, I think, is very uncertain.’”

-- Trump’s pick to become director general of the U.N. International Organization for Migration disparaged Islam in social media posts and dubbed Christians the top priority. Aaron C. Davis and Jack Gillum report: “In tweets, social media posts and radio appearances reviewed by The Washington Post, Ken Isaacs, a vice president of the Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, made disparaging remarks about Muslims and denied climate change . . . In a series of tweets criticizing Obama’s position on Syrian refugee relief in the fall of 2015, [Isaacs] wrote: ‘Refugees are 2 grps. Some may go back and some can’t return. Christians can never return. They must be 1st priority.’ Later that day, Isaacs wrote in another tweet: ‘If Islam is a religion of peace, let’s see 2 million Muslims in National Mall marching against jihad & stand for America! I haven’t seen it!’”

-- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is working with Ivanka Trump on a paid family leave bill that may lure conservative support. Politico’s Seung Min Kim reports: “Rubio is trying to marshal Republicans behind a plan that would neither impose a mandate on employers nor raise taxes to pay for it — two hurdles that have long halted the GOP from embracing paid family leave. … Rubio has barely started crafting a paid leave bill, much less a broader legislative strategy. But he envisions an idea that has recently gained traction in conservative circles: allowing people to draw Social Security benefits when they want to take time off for a new baby or other family-related matters, and then delay their checks when they hit retirement age.”


-- Democrats in California have a simple strategy for winning office in November: Go Left. Scott Wilson reports from Sacramento: “Here in the self-labeled ‘state of resistance,’ the political debate is being pushed further left without any sign of a Republican renaissance to serve as a check on spending and social policy ambitions. Even some Republicans are concerned about the departure of Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who proved to be fiscally cautious after inheriting a state seven years ago in deep recession. … In an off-presidential election year, California will serve as a campaign lab for many national issues, including taxes, immigration, health care, climate change, rural-urban income disparities and sexual harassment. The campaigns will test for national Democrats the most useful positions on issues important to the party’s base and will provide a preview for national Republicans of the popularity of those stands.”

-- Meanwhile, in neighboring Arizona, loyalty to Trump has become the ultimate GOP test. David Weigel reports: “The battle to replace Trent Franks, who resigned last year after urging a female staff member to become a surrogate mother for his child, has turned less on any traditional conservative issue than on who would best defend the president and enact his agenda. … At a recent party meeting in Phoenix, candidates down the ballot introduced themselves as Trump allies, and activists gathered petition signatures … to put the party on record in favor of releasing [the Nunes memo.] … Trump’s policies are untouchable, even if — as on [DACA] — they change from week to week.”

-- Republican candidates in marquee races are struggling to fundraise as much as their Democratic opponents. The National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar writes: “In several high-profile races, GOP candidates’ lackluster fundraising in the final three months of 2017 raises questions about their political viability. At the same time, Democratic officeholders and first-time candidates alike are benefiting from the surge in partisan activism, with numerous senators surpassing the $2 million mark in quarterly fundraising and over three-dozen Democratic challengers outraising Republican members of Congress. Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, the most vulnerable Republican senator, raised just $821,000 in the last three months of 2017 . . . His Democratic challenger, Rep. Jacky Rosen, raised nearly double his haul, with over $1.5 raised in the fourth quarter.”

-- A handful of states will likely hold their elections this year based on congressional maps declared unconstitutional by federal courts. Robert Barnes reports: “Federal courts in Texas, North Carolina and Wisconsin found that either politics or intentional discrimination played an unacceptable role in drawing electoral lines and ordered new districts in place for the 2018 elections. But the Supreme Court stopped them all. … [T]he justices have routinely told states found to be offenders that they do not have to immediately redraw the maps, which almost surely means they won’t be in place for the 2018 elections.”


-- The “maximum pressure” campaign against North Korea is having the undesired effect of strangling the country’s nascent markets. Anna Fifield reports: “This will make it harder for money to flow within the private economy, and as markets contract, it will also make it harder for isolated North Koreans to get information from the outside world, said [one regular visitor to Pyongyang.] … The sanctions have not — or at least, not yet — had the desired effect of inflicting so much pain on Kim [Jong Un] that he would be prepared to talk about his nuclear weapons program. In fact, they have made him only more defiant and given him a convenient excuse for the country’s economic woes.”

-- A group of Senate Democrats is expected to send a letter to Trump questioning his “legal authority” for preemptive 'bloody nose' strike on Korea. David Nakamura reports: “[The Democrats] emphasized that it is an ‘enormous gamble’ to believe that such an action, even if it were modest in scope, would not provoke an escalation from dictator Kim … Congressional aides said the letter was prompted by the circumstances surrounding the sudden derailment of the White House’s original choice for ambassador to South Korea, a post that has remained vacant since Trump took office.”

-- The father of Otto Warmbier, the U-Va. student who died last year after being held in North Korea, will accompany Mike Pence on his Olympics trip. The vice president leaves today for a five-day trip culminating in a visit to the Winter Games in South Korea. (Ashley Parker and Anna Fifield)

-- Tensions with Russia have set off “a new kind of nuclear arms race,” report the New York Times’s David E. Sanger and William J. Broad. “This one is based less on numbers of weapons and more on novel tactics and technologies, meant to outwit and outmaneuver the other side. The Pentagon envisions a new age in which nuclear weapons are back in a big way — its strategy bristles with plans for new low-yield nuclear weapons that advocates say are needed to match Russian advances and critics warn will be too tempting for a president to use. The result is that the nuclear-arms limits that go into effect on Monday now look more like the final stop after three decades of reductions than a way station to further cuts.”


Trump went after Democrats on health care:

He also lambasted the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee:

A former secretary of state mocked the Nunes memo:

Paul Ryan caught flak for bragging about a school secretary getting an extra $1.50 per week from the tax bill:

A House Democrat added this:

A parody account flipped Ryan's tweet on its head:

A former White House adviser blocked a former U.S. attorney on Twitter:

Joe and Jill Biden attended the Super Bowl:

As did a CNN anchor and rabid Eagles fan:

Philadelphia's hometown paper celebrated the win:

So did Pennsylvania's senators:

Even New York was joyous:

The Eagles quarterback's daughter stole the show:

A New York Times reporter gave Bostonians this helpful warning:

An NBC managing editor pointed this out about the president's viewing of the game:

The White House press secretary tweeted a photo of her viewing party:

A Senate Democrat offered fashion advice to Justin Timberlake:

A Wall Street Journal columnist and former Reagan speechwriter critiqued Timberlake's performance:

A Post columnist commented on the Superbowl ads:

And a former member of Congress called out one ad:


-- Politico, “Massive Pentagon agency lost track of hundreds of millions of dollars,” by Bryan Bender: “Ernst & Young found that the Defense Logistics Agency failed to properly document more than $800 million in construction projects, just one of a series of examples where it lacks a paper trail for millions of dollars in property and equipment. Across the board, its financial management is so weak that its leaders and oversight bodies have no reliable way to track the huge sums it's responsible for, the firm warned in its initial audit of the massive Pentagon purchasing agent.”

-- Detroit Free Press, “In a strange land: Deported from Michigan, Jorge Garcia feels lost in Mexico,” by Niraj Warikoo: “Two weeks earlier, Garcia was deported from Michigan to Mexico after living in the U.S. for 30 years, forced to leave behind his family, friends, and a solid job in landscaping.  Now, the married father of two finds himself alone in an unfamiliar country, with an uncertain future. … He misses his Michigan block, his dog, his steady, content life in an American suburb. Most of all, he misses his wife, Cindy, and two children, Jorge Jr., 12, and Soleil, 15. ‘I used to tell them, good night, every night,’ Garcia says. ‘And now, if I can get a signal, I’ll call them, but it’s not the same. I’m not actually there.’”

-- New Orleans Times-Picayune, “The search for Jackie Wallace,” by Ted Jackson: “His bed was overlaid with cardboard and tucked into a cleft of piers and brush. He was covered in a sheet of thick, clear plastic. His head rested on a wadded yellow jacket, also wrapped in plastic. Alongside the bed lay two discarded automotive floor mats, a five-gallon bucket for bathing, a pair of neatly arranged sneakers, a clean set of clothes, a jug of water and a carefully folded copy of The Times-Picayune. He slept in the fetal position in only his briefs and undershirt. I climbed the pier with my camera and made a few frames of the scene, then climbed down and woke him. … We talked for a minute or two, about my editor’s idea and journalism in general. After a brief pause, he said, ‘You ought to do a story about me.’ … ‘And why would I want to do that?’ I said. ‘Because,’ he said, ‘I’ve played in three Super Bowls.’”


“Holocaust denier running for Congress has no opponents in Republican primary,” from Amy B Wang: “Like most candidates running for Congress, Arthur Jones has a campaign website. It outlines the Republican candidate’s education background, his stance on issues and how to donate to his campaign to represent the Illinois’s 3rd Congressional District. It also lays out Jones’s unapologetically racist and anti-Semitic views. In a section called ‘Holocaust?’ Jones describes the atrocities as a ‘racket’ and ‘the biggest, blackest, lie in history.’ Under another tab titled ‘Flags of Conflict,’ he lists the Confederate flag first and describes it as ‘a symbol of White pride and White resistance’ and ‘the flag of a White counter revolution.’ … Despite his views, Jones is all but certain to become the GOP nominee for one of Illinois’s most prominent congressional districts[.]”



“He bought a gun to protect his family. Then he saw someone beating up a cop,” from Cleve R. Wootson Jr.: “Authorities say a good Samaritan with a handgun thwarted a savage attack on a police officer in Utah. Derek Meyer told Salt Lake City Fox affiliate KSTU-TV that he was driving on Main Street in Springville, about 50 miles from Salt Lake City, when he spotted police lights — and a man walloping a police officer. … ‘I carry a gun to protect me and those around me, but primarily I carry a gun to protect my family first and foremost,’ Meyer told KSTU. Police said Meyer had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. ‘Outside of that, if I were to use my gun to protect anyone, it would be law enforcement or military personnel.’ He did a U-turn and got out of his car with his gun. He aimed at the man assaulting the officer and ordered him to stop.”



Trump has a morning meeting with Pence. He will then travel with his wife to Ohio — where the first lady will participate in a briefing on opioids at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the president will deliver a speech on the tax bill to the Sheffer Corp., a manufacturer of hydraulic cylinders. 


“My wife hates it when I say this, but I was a pretty good prosecutor, I think. But I've been a pretty lousy politician,” retiring Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said. “So I've done it for seven years. I'm really grateful for the opportunity to do it, but it's time for me to — whatever time I've got left — I want to spend it in the justice system because that's where my heart is.” (The Hill)



-- The Capitals lost to the Golden Knights 4-3. (Jesse Dougherty)

-- A young candidate in a Montgomery County Council race is challenging an incumbent who was first elected to office 10 years before he was born. Rachel Siegel reports: “That incumbent, Sidney Katz (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) says his long experience in politics and government is invaluable — especially in Maryland’s largest jurisdiction, which will elect a new county executive and fill four open county council seats this fall. But [Ben] Shnider is pushing back against that claim, piling up campaign cash and endorsements and aggressively knocking on voters’ doors to make the case that new, more progressive blood is needed[.]”

-- A local leader in the Mormon Church died of carbon monoxide poisoning in his home. (Martin Weil)


SNL parodied “Fox and Friends”:

Melania Trump was offered advice by other first ladies on SNL:

Gubernatorial candidate and Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) encouraged people to stand for the national anthem during the Super Bowl:

This classic halftime performance was reshared:

A C-SPAN caller accused former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka of being a traitor:

A caller to C-SPAN's Washington Journal on Feb. 4 challenged former White House aide Sebastian Gorka's views and expressed concerns over President Trump. (Video: C-SPAN)

And snowboarding prodigy Chloe Kim will make her Olympic debut this month:

Snowboarder Chloe Kim was expected to score big in the 2014 Winter Olympics, if only she had made the minimum age requirement. Now, at age 17, she made her Olympic debut in Pyeongchang. (Video: Ashleigh Joplin, Alice Li/The Washington Post)

(Read Rick Maese’s full piece on Kim here.)