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The Daily 202: Why Trump flippantly accusing Democrats of ‘treason’ is not a laughing matter

President Trump on Feb. 5 said Democrats’ refusal to cheer during his State of the Union address amounted to ‘un-American’ behavior. (Video: The Washington Post)
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with Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.

THE BIG IDEA: A president loosely accusing the opposition party of treason represents a greater danger to the long-term health of the American system than a 4.6 percent drop in the Dow Jones industrial average.

President Trump said Monday that it was “un-American” and “treasonous” when some congressional Democrats did not applaud during last week's State of the Union address as he touted the low rates of black and Hispanic unemployment.

“Even on positive news like that, really positive news like that, they were like death and un-American,” Trump said at a manufacturing plant outside Cincinnati. “Somebody said ‘treasonous.’ I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Shall we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

Slipping into the third person, Trump insisted that Democrats “would rather see Trump do badly, ok, than our country do well.”

“It’s very selfish,” he said. “And it got to a point where I didn’t even want to look too much during the speech over to that side. Because, honestly, it was bad energy. … They don't care about the security of our country. They don't care about MS-13 killers pouring into our country.”

-- Treason, which is punishable by death, is the only crime that is explicitly defined in the Constitution: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

-- This episode is the latest illustration of Trump’s lack of self-discipline. None of the coverage of his speech focuses on him touting tax cuts, which was the stated goal of the jaunt to Ohio. Aides told reporters on Air Force One that this was not going to be a political speech, yet Trump quickly went off script to predict Republican gains in 2018 and rip into Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi.

In the very State of the Union address that Trump is so perturbed about, the president declared that he was “extending an open hand to work with members of both parties.” “I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve,” he said.

Not only do Trump’s remarks in Ohio underscore the hollowness of such bipartisan bromides, they further poison the well. Why would Democrats cooperate or compromise with someone who questions their loyalty to the country?

-- While the president was certainly being flip, this wasn’t just idle talk. It appears to be part of a coordinated effort to raise questions about the motives of the opposition. The Republican National Committee pushed out a web advertisement earlier Monday attacking Democrats for not standing during the State of the Union.

-- Bigger picture, the president has a pattern of diluting the potency of language. Trump cheapens the value of significant words by overusing and misusing them.

He encouraged violence against protesters as a candidate. He welcomed chants of “lock her up” about Clinton, whom he routinely described as “crooked.” He attacked the intelligence community: “Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

After the election, he coopted the term “fake news” — which once described a real phenomenon of made-up stories online. Now, by Politico’s count, leaders or state media in at least 15 countries have adopted the president’s denunciation to quell dissent and question human rights violations.

Once in the Oval Office, he tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media … is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” He’s called libel laws a “sham,” mused about delicensing NBC and his lawyers sought to block the publication of the book “Fire and Fury.” He routinely describes himself as the target of a “witch hunt.”

-- To be sure, it’s not that Trump and his team do not think words matter. In December, the administration prohibited officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s top public health agency, from using a list of seven words or phrases in official documents being prepared for the budget. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

-- After the president accused Democrats of treachery, most elected Republicans stayed tight-lipped last night. The only GOP senator who appears to have spoken out at this point is Jeff Flake of Arizona, who is retiring:

Many Republicans chalk all these quotes up to nothing more than Trump being Trump. They say he was joking. They believe he should be held to a lower standard because he’s not “politically correct” and still new to this.

-- But imagine how much the right would have (appropriately) freaked out if Barack Obama accused Joe Wilson of committing “treason” after the South Carolina congressman yelled “you lie” during his 2009 address to a joint session of Congress. 

-- Obama used the word “treason” only twice during his eight years in office. Not coincidentally, he was discussing the rise of Trump both times. As the Republican primaries raged on in March 2016 and the establishment tried to block Trump from securing the nomination, Obama said during a fundraiser in Austin that their party wouldn’t be in that position if elected Republicans had not looked the other way for years while Trump falsely accused him of being from Kenya.

“As long as it was directed at me, they were fine with it. … Now, suddenly, we're shocked that there's gambling going on in this establishment,” Obama said. “What's happening in this primary is just a distillation of what's been happening inside their party for more than a decade. The reason that many of their voters are responding is because this is what's been fed through the messages they've been sending for a long time: that you just make flat assertions that don't comport with the facts; … that compromise is a betrayal; that the other side isn't simply wrong … but the other side is destroying the country or treasonous.

“So they can't be surprised when somebody suddenly looks and says, ‘You know what, I can do that even better! I can make stuff up better than that! I can be more outrageous than that! I can insult people even better than that! I can be even more uncivil,’” Obama continued. “If you don't care about the facts or the evidence or civility in making your arguments, you will end up with candidates who will say just about anything and do just about anything.”

The next day in Dallas, Obama lamented Trump’s proposed Muslim ban and his harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric. “We can have political debates without thinking that the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice,” the then-president said. “We can support candidates without treating their opponents as unpatriotic or treasonous or somehow deliberately trying to weaken America.”

-- George W. Bush never uttered the word “treason” in public during either term, including in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

-- This isn’t the first time Trump has used the T-word as president. Just last month, he accused FBI agent Peter Strzok of treason for sending negative text messages about him during the 2016 election to a lawyer at the FBI who he was having an affair with. “By the way, that’s a treasonous act,” the president told the Wall Street Journal. “What he tweeted to his lover is a treasonous act.”

-- Because of the power of the bully pulpit, this rhetoric is rubbing off on other people who should know better. Presidents set the country’s tone. It’s not just children who listen and mimic them — but also congressmen.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) said last Friday, for example, that the memo written by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes showed “clear and convincing evidence of treason” by top law enforcement officials. “The full-throated adoption of this illegal misconduct and abuse of FISA by James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Sally Yates and Rod Rosenstein is not just criminal but constitutes treason,” Gosar said in a statement that called upon Attorney General Jeff Sessions to seek “criminal prosecution against these traitors to our nation.”

-- Trump accusing Democrats of treason prompted many left-leaning observers to accuse him of the same thing, which pours additional fuel on the fire and contributes to the tribalism that is tearing America apart. “Not clapping for you isn’t treason, but don’t worry, Mr. President, you could find out the exact definition of treason pretty soon,” Stephen Colbert joked during his opening monologue on CBS last night.

President Trump on Feb. 5 praised the GOP tax overhaul and warned Republican voters against “complacency” in the midterm elections. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

-- “Trump surely does not imagine putting Democrats on trial for treason. Indeed, if you watch the video, you can see him treat the outrageous accusation in an offhand, why-not-go-there manner,” writes columnist Ruth Marcus. “But even if Trump is not ready to round up his political opponents, it is appalling — it is unthinkable — that a president would use this kind of language to describe dissent. The president does not understand the first thing about the country he was elected to lead, or about the Constitution that he swore to uphold.”

-- National Review’s Dan McLaughlin says calling Democrats traitors is “the subversive, somewhat cleansing but ultimately corrosive part of Trump’s brand of political performance art”: “He’s talking to people who by and large think that politicians never mean anything they say, and he’s out there telling them, you’re right. We can say anything we want and none of it matters. It’s all a racket. Hey, how ’bout you and I call each other traitors and then punch the clock at the end of the day and get a drink together? Maybe our political class really has earned being treated this way, but every time Trump does it, he makes it harder to rebuild the broken norms he inherited and has treated with such contempt.”

-- “One of the things that has made the Donald Trump political experience so peculiar is that he combines the instincts of an authoritarian with the mannerisms of an insult comic,” writes New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait. “Neither of these traits is a familiar element of electoral politics in the United States (certainly not at the presidential level). And as strange as they are individually, they are even more bizarre in combination. … It is totally beyond the pale for a president to describe the opposing party as having committed treason for failing to applaud his speech. It is the logic and rhetoric of authoritarianism in its purest form. But if Trump does it in the middle of a Don Rickles — style riff, does that make it better? Worse? Just weirder?”  

-- But here’s the rub: This really is no laughing matter. Accusing opponents of treason is rare among leaders across the developed world. It’s more typically done by dictators in the Third World. Consider this Reuters dispatch from Nairobi that just posted:

“A Kenyan opposition politician was charged on Tuesday with treason for his involvement in a symbolic presidential ‘swearing in’ of opposition leader Raila Odinga that was a challenge to President Uhuru Kenyatta. The charge sheet presented by police … said Miguna Miguna was being charged with ‘being present and consenting to the administration of an oath to commit a capital offence, namely treason.’ … Miguna had refused to plead to the charges he faced, saying his case had to be heard before a judge … Miguna was arrested on Friday in a dawn raid on his home. … Odinga’s symbolic inauguration last Tuesday in the heart of the capital of East Africa’s wealthiest economy was intended as a direct challenge to Kenyatta. Odinga insists he, not Kenyatta, was the true winner of a disputed presidential election last August. … Three privately owned television stations were shut down last week as they began to cover Odinga’s ‘swearing in.’”

-- Social media last night was consumed by Trump’s talk of treason:

The dictionaries weighed in:

Intellectually serious thought leaders are disturbed:

The NBC commentator:

Stanford professor and former U.S. ambassador to Russia:

Foreign policy guru:

Editor at large of the conservative Weekly Standard:

A former speechwriter to George W. Bush:

University of Texas law professor:

An MSNBC host who previously served as a Republican congressman:

A London School of Economics fellow:

Democratic lawmakers took umbrage:

Illinois senator:

The top House Democrat:

Oregon senator:

Hawaii senator:

Virginia senator:

Virginia congressman:

Texas congresswoman:

California congressman:

A Minnesota congressman:

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Vice President Pence said he wouldn't rule out a meeting with the North Korean delegation at the Winter Olympic Games. (Video: Reuters)

-- Mike Pence left the door open to meeting with North Korean officials during his trip to the Winter Olympics. The vice president echoed comments made earlier in the day by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when he said, “With regard to any interaction with the North Korean delegation, I have not requested a meeting. But we’ll see what happens.” Pence added, “But my message, whatever the setting, whoever is present, will be the same. And that is that North Korea must once and for all abandon its nuclear weapons program and ballistic missile ambitions, and it must accede to the wishes not only of nations across the region and the United States, but nations across the world, to really abandon those ambitions and enter the family of nations.” (Ashley Parker)

-- Ivanka Trump is slated to lead the presidential delegation to PyeongChang for the Games closing ceremony. CNN reports that she plans to attend several events during her time in South Korea.

-- Police confirmed that the driver accused of killing Colts player Edwin Jackson and his Uber driver was in the country illegally. Manuel Orrego-Savala was previously deported twice and had a prior conviction in California for driving under the influence. (Indianapolis Star)

The president just reacted:


  1. Trump is expected to sign a national security memo establishing a “National Vetting Center” aimed at streamlining the process of vetting immigrants and improving the flow of information between government agencies. The memo is expected to be signed today and will give the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies six months to establish the center. (CNN)
  2. Former USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar — accused of sexually molesting 265 women and girls — was sentenced to up to 125 additional years in prison after a Michigan judge said she did not believe he was remorseful. “Clearly you are in denial, you don't get it, and I do not believe there is a likelihood you could be reformed,” Judge Janice Cunningham told Nassar. Barring any outstanding appeals, Monday’s proceeding marks the end of the current criminal case against Nassar. (NBC News)
  3. Newsweek fired its editor in chief and executive editor. Reporters were notified that editor in chief Bob Li and executive editor Ken Li were let go after a raid last month by the Manhattan district attorney at the magazine's office, allegedly to investigate the publication's finances (reporter Celeste Katz, who wrote about the raid, was also ousted). (CNN)
  4. The Berlin Wall has officially been down for as long as it was up. Marc Fisher recounts his experience as The Post’s Berlin bureau chief when the wall fell. 
  5. For the first time ever, scientists have discovered a population of planets beyond the Milky Way that range in size from Earth’s moon to Jupiter. If confirmed, the groundbreaking discovery could extend the boundaries of what we know about the universe. (Alex Horton)
  6. The New Hampshire woman who won last month’s $560 million Powerball lottery may not get to take home her winnings, after refusing to make her name public in accordance with a legal requirement for collecting the prize. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)    
  7. Actor John Mahoney died at 77. He was best known for playing Martin Crane on “Frasier.” (Chicago Tribune)
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) on Feb. 5 said the House Intelligence Committee voted to release Democrats’ response to a GOP memo alleging surveillance abuses. (Video: The Washington Post)


-- Trump’s lawyers are advising him against sitting down for an interview with Robert Mueller. The New York Times’s Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman report: “His lawyers are concerned that the president, who has a history of making false statements and contradicting himself, could be charged with lying to investigators. Their stance puts them at odds with Mr. Trump, who has said publicly and privately that he is eager to speak with Mr. Mueller[.] … Refusing to sit for an interview opens the possibility that Mr. Mueller will subpoena the president to testify before a grand jury[.] … The lawyers and aides [advising Trump against an interview] believe the special counsel might be unwilling to subpoena the president and set off a showdown with the White House that Mr. Mueller could lose in court.

“Rejecting an interview with Mr. Mueller also carries political consequences. It would be certain to prompt accusations that the president is hiding something, and a court fight could prolong the special counsel inquiry, casting a shadow over Republicans as November’s midterm elections approach or beyond into the president’s re-election campaign.”

-- The House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously to release a Democratic memo designed to rebut charges in the Republican one that the FBI abused its surveillance powers in applying for a FISA warrant to eavesdrop on ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. President Trump now has five days to decide whether to release the Democratic information. Karoun Demirjian and Devlin Barrett report: “The panel’s senior Democrat, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), announced the vote results, saying GOP attacks on the [DOJ] and the FBI show desperation on the part of the president’s defenders. ‘We think this will help inform the public of the many distortions and inaccuracies’ in the GOP [memo], Schiff told reporters … adding that he was concerned the Trump administration could still try to stymie the Democrats’ response. ‘We want to make sure that the White House does not redact our memo for political purposes,’ Schiff said. ‘There is a rising sense of panic clearly within the White House and as well on the Hill.’”

Schiff blasted Intel Chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) for his handling of Russia-related issues. “He said Nunes had blocked efforts to obtain testimony from key witnesses, and refused to answer repeated questions about whether he had coordinated with the White House in preparing the GOP memo,” our colleagues report. “Schiff said he gave copies of the Democrats’ memo to the FBI and Justice Department days ago, and that he expected it would go to the White House on Monday night for review.”

-- The New York Times asked the FISA court to unseal secret documents related to Page's surveillance. The Times’s Charlie Savage and Adam Goldman report: “The motion is unusual. No such wiretapping application materials apparently have become public since Congress first enacted [FISA] in 1978. Normally, even the existence of such material is a closely guarded secret. … But [Trump] lowered the shield of secrecy surrounding such materials on Friday by declassifying the Republican memo about Mr. Page, after finding that the public interest in disclosing its contents outweighed any need to protect the information. Because Mr. Trump did so, the Times argues, there is no longer a justification ‘for the Page warrant orders and application materials to be withheld in their entirety,’ and ‘disclosure would serve the public interest.’ The Times sent the motion and related documents to the Justice Department on Monday to commence the action.”

  • “‘Given the overwhelming public interest in assessing the accuracy of the Nunes memorandum and knowing the actual basis for the Page surveillance orders,’ the Times’s motion says, the court should direct the publication of its orders and the application materials ‘with only such limited redactions as may be essential to preserve information that remains properly classified notwithstanding the declassification and dissemination of the Nunes memorandum.’”

-- Earlier Monday, Republicans acknowledged the FBI had disclosed the political origins of the dossier in seeking to obtain a FISA warrant for Page. Politico’s Kyle Cheney reports: “Democrats pounced on public comments over the past day by [Nunes] and intelligence committee member Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), arguing that the GOP memo's failure to mention a key footnote in the FBI application shows how the party has cherry-picked classified facts to protect [Trump].”

-- A new Reuters-Ipsos poll found nearly 3 in 4 Republicans (or 73 percent) believe the FBI and DOJ are working to “delegitimize” Trump’s presidency through politically motived investigations. Meanwhile, 75 percent of Democrats believe the opposite: that Trump’s White House and congressional Republicans are working to delegitimize the FBI and the DOJ in the ongoing Russia investigation. 

President Trump said on Jan. 24 that he is “looking forward” to being questioned by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. (Video: David Nakamura/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

-- FBI agents felt “shock” and “profound sadness” after Trump fired James Comey. Messages and interviews with current and former agents directly contradict the notion the FBI was in chaos and agents had “lost confidence” in Comey, as the Trump administration claimed. Lawfare reports: “[The documents] contain not a word that supports the notion that the FBI was in turmoil. They contain not a word that reflects gratitude to the president for removing a nut job. There is literally not a single sentence in any of these communications that reflects criticism of Comey’s leadership of the FBI. Not one special agent in charge describes Comey’s removal as some kind of opportunity for new leadership. And if any FBI official really got on the phone with [the White House] to express gratitude or thanks ‘for the president’s decision,’ nobody reported that to his or her staff.”

-- Steve Bannon is not expected to appear before the House Intelligence Committee today, despite a subpoena compelling him to do so. CNN’s Kara Scannell and Manu Raju report: “Escalating a tense standoff with the panel, Bannon isn't planning on showing up because the White House and committee haven't reached an agreement over the scope of the questioning, the source said. Rep. Mike Conaway [R-Tex.] . . . told reporters Monday evening he expected Bannon to comply with the subpoena demands of the committee and was unaware of any deal to limit the answers he would provide to the panel.”

-- Wired’s Garrett Graff notes the Mueller probe extends into at least five known separate investigations. Those investigations cover “Preexisting Business Deals and Money Laundering,” “Russian Information Operations,” “Active Cyber Intrusions,” “Russian Campaign Contacts” and “Obstruction of Justice.”

The Post’s Heather Long explains what’s going on with the Dow Jones industrial average, which experienced its worst drop in about two years. (Video: Jhaan Elker, Heather Long/The Washington Post)


-- The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 1,175 points yesterday, a precipitous drop that rocked global markets even as the index eventually gained back some ground before finishing at 24,342, or 4.6 percent down. Thomas Heath and Heather Long report: “In the biggest global sell-off since 2016, financial markets from Asia to Europe to the United States were rocked primarily by concerns about inflation. The Dow was off a heart-stopping 1,600 points during afternoon trading, the largest intraday point decline in the blue-chip index’s history. … Although the declines were eye-catching, market observers have been anticipating a correction after a year of big gains in the Dow[.] ‘This was crowd psychology at its best,’ said Daniel Wiener, chief executive of Adviser Investments. ‘Investors had the weekend to worry about what happened Friday, and they sold on Monday. This is normal, every day stock market volatility. [Still], the downdraft raised fresh anxieties among Americans … [and] threatened to deprive [Trump] and the GOP of a favorite talking point at the nascent stages of the 2018 midterm campaign.”

-- “[Trump] and congressional Republicans have spent much of the past year trying to connect a giddy stock market rally with their economic agenda, but stocks’ precipitous plunge in the past five days has delivered a sobering reality: What goes up can come back down — quickly and with little warning,” Damian Paletta and Erica Werner report. With Monday’s steep fall, Trump has presided over the biggest stock market drop in U.S. history, when measured by points in the Dow Jones industrial average . . . It is also unclear if the past week will amount to a small correction or the beginning of a painful slide that many investors said was overdue.

“[Republicans’ repeated swooning about the stock market’s performance in the past year has also] opened them to criticism that they should take some responsibility for the past week’s poor performance. Many analysts had warned that the stock market was overheated and due for a correction. But White House officials continued to boast about its performance, particularly as Trump’s approval ratings lagged . . . The stock market was one measuring stick that they sought to connect closely with his time in office, believing that Americans would eventually come around if they felt the economy was getting better.” “The reason our stock market is so successful is because of me,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One in November. 

-- Global markets have already fallen sharply this morning. Emily Rauhala and William Booth report: “The hard tumble began Tuesday in Asia. Japan’s Nikkei stock index closed down nearly 4.7 percent, recovering from a precipitous 7 percent plunge earlier in the day. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index closed down 5.1 percent, while Australia, Korea and China also lost ground. Minutes after the European markets opened, there were sharp declines across most sectors in a morning sell-off.”

The process of redrawing district lines to give an advantage to one party over another is called "gerrymandering." Here's how it works. (Video: Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)


-- The Supreme Court denied a request from Pennsylvania Republicans seeking to delay redrawing congressional lines, a decision that could have major implications in the midterm elections. Robert Barnes reports: “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last month ruled that the state’s Republican legislative leaders had violated the state Constitution by unfairly favoring the GOP. Although there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state, Republicans hold 13 of 18 congressional seats. The GOP leaders asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, but Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. turned down their request for a stay without even referring the case to his colleagues. He gave no reason for the decision, but generally the Supreme Court stays out of the way when a state’s highest court is interpreting its own state constitution. The practical impact is that it might aid Democrats in their attempt to flip the House from Republican control . . . The victory for opponents of partisan gerrymandering might also indicate a new way to combat the issue, by challenging redistricting in state courts under state constitutions.”

-- Michele Bachmann won't run for the Senate seat in Minnesota vacated by Al Franken. Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports: “In a broadcast published by Right Wing Watch, Bachmann told Minnesota radio host Jan Markell on Saturday that she’s decided against running for office, saying she prayed about the race and ‘wasn’t hearing any call from God to do this.’ Sen. Tina Smith, who was appointed to Franken’s seat, is running for the same seat in the November election, along with Republican state Sen. Karin Housley and a Democratic contender, Minneapolis attorney Nick Leonard.”

-- Joe Biden plans to speak at the annual House Democratic policy retreat tomorrow in Cambridge, Md. (Ed O'Keefe)

-- Republican groups have outspent their Democratic counterparts 17-to-1 in 2018’s first congressional race, a special election in Pennsylvania. David Weigel and Michael Scherer report: “Four conservative groups have purchased $4.7 million in television and radio ads to help state Rep. Rick Saccone, their candidate for the Pittsburgh-area seat held until last year by disgraced former GOP Rep. Tim Murphy, according to Feb. 2 numbers provided by strategists involved in the race. Democratic groups have spent less than $300,000 on behalf of Conor Lamb, who has waged a single-digit race in a district that voted for President Trump by 19 points in 2016.”

-- Retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) convinced Mitt Romney to seek his seat, the Boston Globe’s Matt Viser reports. “One day last March, [Romney] and [Hatch] sat together in a hotel suite on the top floor of the JW Marriott hotel in downtown Washington, a few blocks from the White House. After eating lunch, Hatch revealed why he had called to meet with Romney[.] … The seven-term Republican senator had been mulling retirement, and he had an idea: It was time for Romney’s political comeback. … Until Hatch approached him, Romney had little designs on running for the US Senate[.] … Earlier in the year, he had turned his attention toward helping some of his sons get started in politics. … It was not until August that Romney began a more deliberative process with some of his longtime advisers.”

-- Charlie Cook argues in National Journal that “the plight of Republicans actually appears to be even more difficult than it seemed last fall.” “This is particularly true with individual-race polling, but other indices such as candidate recruitment and campaign fundraising are sending ‘Danger, Will Robinson!’ messages. This is particularly true in the House, where there are quite a few GOP incumbents in competitive and potentially competitive races who are not raising the kind of money they will need if there is much of a Democratic wave at all. … The serious Republican strategists that I have talked with in recent days are extremely worried about this election[.]”

-- In The Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes urge voters to boycott the Republican Party, arguing Trump's GOP represents an “institutional danger” to democracy: “In a nutshell, [the GOP] has proved unable or unwilling (mostly unwilling) to block assaults by Trump and his base on the rule of law,” Rauch and Wittes write. “Anti-Trump Republicans can muster only rearguard actions, which we doubt can hold the line against a multiyear, multifront assault from Trump and his allies … It is tempting to assume that this assault will fail. But we should not count on the past year to provide the template for the next three. Under the pressure of persistent attacks, many of them seemingly minor, democratic institutions can erode gradually until they suddenly fail. That the structures hold up for a while does not mean they will hold up indefinitely — and if they do, they may not hold up well. Even now, erosion is visible. … How much damage can Trump do in the next three years? We don’t know, but we see no grounds to be complacent.”

-- During an appearance at Georgetown University, Hillary Clinton said she intends “to keep fighting to pursue this agenda and remain on the front lines of democracy.” (Emily Heil)


-- One of the president’s ambassador picks promoted fringe conspiracy theories against Trump’s political opponents during the 2016 election. From CNN’s Nathan McDermott and Andrew Kaczynski: “Trump in January nominated Leandro Rizzuto Jr., a senior executive at Conair, to be the next ambassador to Barbados, as well as to serve concurrently as ambassador to Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. … During the height of the Republican presidential primary, Rizzuto spread smears about Trump's opponents, including [Sen. Ted] Cruz, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a CNN KFile review of Rizzuto's Twitter account shows. … Among the unfounded claims Rizzuto promoted were allegations that Cruz was unfaithful to his wife and that Heidi Cruz was a leading member in an effort to combine the governments of the US, Canada and Mexico.”

-- Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has kept a low profile in his role. Ben Terris writes: “Early in his tenure, Carson made headlines for suggesting one public housing complex might be too comfortable, and for getting stuck in an elevator while touring another. Then he went so quiet you’d be forgiven for thinking he never made it out. … Carson’s low profile had been a relief for HUD employees. The alternative, as showcased by a few other cabinet secretaries, seemed to be overexposure by way of dubious usage of private jets, undisclosed conflicts of interest and posing in front of sheaths of paper currency. Yet certain rumblings began early on when employees and journalists noticed he was frequently bringing his wife and son, Ben Jr., to the office.”

-- Another interview of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt disparaging Trump during the election has emerged. CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reports: “‘I think he's an empty vessel when it comes to things like the Constitution and rule of law,’ Pruitt said on the ‘Exploring Energy’ radio show on February 11. ‘I'm very concerned that perhaps if he's in the White House, that there may be a very blunt instrument as the voice of the Constitution.’ ‘This President, the one we have there now, has at least tried to nuance his unlawfulness,’ Pruitt continued, discussing then-President Barack Obama. ‘He at least sits back and says, “How do we break the law and so where it's really tough to show that we have?” I'm not sure that Donald Trump would.’”

-- A CNN employee found sensitive DHS anti-terrorism documents left on the seat back pocket of a commercial plane. CNN’s Scott Glover and Drew Griffin report: “The [documents] critiquing the response to a simulated anthrax attack on Super Bowl Sunday were marked ‘For Official Use Only’ and ‘important for national security.’ The reports were accompanied by the travel itinerary and boarding pass of the government scientist in charge of BioWatch, the DHS program that conducted the anthrax drills in preparation for Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.”

-- Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has become significantly more supportive of America’s nuclear arsenal since assuming his post. Paul Sonne writes: “The nuclear weapons policy his team rolled out at the Pentagon last week offered full-throated support for the military’s current and planned nuclear capabilities, including the new cruise missile and the ICBM fleet he once questioned. … Mattis’s evolution in thinking offers insight into the decision-making process of a defense secretary known for his intellectual rigor.”

-- White House staffers have been reminded to not use encrypted messaging apps, which are the subject of a lawsuit over federal records laws. Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker report: “The warnings were issued during mandatory ethics training sessions held for White House personnel in the past several weeks. During the hour-long briefings, deputy counsel Stefan C. Passantino told staffers to use only White House email for work communications and not any unofficial platforms such as smartphone apps, texts and private emails, according to several people in attendance.

“Using such messaging services for official government business could violate the Presidential Records Act, which requires that nearly all official White House correspondence be preserved. Some participants at the ethics sessions in the Old Executive Office Building said Passantino suggested that there had been inappropriate use of smartphone apps such as WhatsApp.”


-- House Republicans are considering a long-term boost to Pentagon funding in a stopgap spending bill that would provide money for the rest of the government only through March 23. If they can't agree on a spending measure by Thursday, the government is slated to shut down — again. Erica Werner and Mike DeBonis report: “[Paul] Ryan (R-Wis.) pitched the plan to his GOP colleagues in a closed-door meeting Monday. The bill, set for a vote on Tuesday, would increase Pentagon funding by about $30 billion, to $584 billion, breaking existing spending caps as well as making funding available through September. The rest of the government would continue to be funded at 2017 levels through March 23. … While House GOP leaders are confident the bill will pass their chamber with Republican votes, it is likely to be dead on arrival in the Senate.”

-- A bipartisan immigration proposal was dismissed by Trump as a “total waste of time” because it doesn’t address his border wall. Ed O'Keefe reports: “The proposal by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) would grant permanent legal status to [‘dreamers’] and bolster security along the U.S.-Mexico border. … McCain and Coons introduced their measure believing that the only potential deal in the Senate is a narrow one focused on legalizing dreamers and authorizing [DHS] to draw up a comprehensive southern border plan.”

-- Judge Gonzalo Curiel — who handled the Trump University case and was derided by Trump during the election — is slated to hear a case that could determine whether Trump can waive environmental laws to construct the wall. McClatchy DC’s Stuart Leavenworth reports: “‘This is a very significant case,’ said Andrew Gordon, [an Arizona lawyer and Obama-era DHS employee]. If Curiel rules against the administration, it could slow Trump’s plans to quickly fortify the unfenced portions of the U.S.-Mexico border, he said, even if a higher court ultimately overturned the ruling. Gordon, however, said the groups suing the administration bear a significant burden in demonstrating that DHS has overreached with its recent waiving of environmental laws.”

-- Foreign Policy obtained a draft DHS report suggesting a continuous vetting of Sunni Muslim immigrants. George Joseph reports: “The draft report … looks at 25 terrorist attacks in the United States between October 2001 and December 2017, concluding there would be ‘great value for the United States Government in dedicating resources to continuously evaluate persons of interest’ and suggesting that immigrants to the United States be tracked on a ‘long-term basis.’ … In the report, [Customs and Border Patrol] identifies a broad swath of Sunni Muslim residents as being potentially ‘vulnerable to terrorist narratives,’ based on a set of risk indicators, such as being young, male, and having national origins in “the Middle East, South Asia or Africa.”


-- Hollywood manager Vincent Cirrincione shut down his agency after accusations of having sexually harassed black actresses over nearly 20 years. Tracy Jan reports: “Cirrincione, 70, read a statement to The Washington Post saying that he made the decision to close after 40 years in business to protect the careers of the two dozen actors and actresses he represented. ‘It is with incredibly great sadness at this time that I believe it’s in the best interest of all my actors and actresses that I represent to close my management company,’ Cirrincione said. … Cirrincione’s decision to shutter Vincent Cirrincione Associates comes amid 12 new allegations of sexual misconduct against the Hollywood manager.”

-- The Las Vegas Review-Journal acknowledged it halted publication of a 1998 story detailing allegations of sexual harassment by casino mogul Steve Wynn — but the paper did not reveal why the story was quashed to begin with. The Review-Journal’s Arthur Kane and Ramona Giwargis report: “The [decision] came after Wynn’s attorneys met with the reporter and the newspaper paid for lie-detector tests for two women who [came forward with the claims against Wynn]. In a [1998] lawsuit, a Mirage cocktail server alleged supervisors did not protect women from gamblers who harassed them. She said waitresses were sent to sexually ‘accommodate’ high rollers at the resort’s luxury villas . . . Another server, upon bragging about her first grandchild in the early 1990s, reportedly was pressured into having sex with Wynn, who said he wanted to experience sex with a grandmother, according to a court filing.”

-- “Although the Review-Journal doesn’t mention it in its article about itself, its self-revelation follows a significant change in the paper’s ownership over the past two years,” Paul Farhi notes. “After decades of control by a private media company, the Review-Journal was sold twice in 2015, eventually ending up in the hands of Sheldon Adelson, who, like Wynn, is a billionaire casino magnate and a major Republican donor. Adelson and Wynn are also longtime business rivals in Las Vegas — giving the Review-Journal’s new story a possible payback subplot.”

-- Wynn set up a separate company to help conceal a $7.5-million payment to a woman who accused him of forcing her to have sex. The Wall Street Journal’s Kate O’Keeffe reports: “The limited-liability company, called Entity Y, was created in 2005, Nevada records show, after a manicurist at Mr. Wynn’s flagship Wynn Las Vegas casino-resort made the accusation, according to people familiar with the matter. Entity Y was created solely as a vehicle to handle the settlement funds, a Wynn Resorts lawyer confirmed to a judge in a hearing in October, according to a court transcript.”

-- “She Was Assaulted by the Head of the National Archives. Then the Bush White House Helped Cover It Up,” by the Daily Beast’s Anthony Clark: “‘Let’s go to my office,’ he suggested. [Archivist of the United States Allen] Weinstein let her in and, without [Maryellen] Trautman seeing, locked the door behind them. They were alone. During the next few minutes, Allen Weinstein would sexually assault Maryellen Trautman. Federal investigators would later substantiate that Weinstein, the chief official overseeing the federal government’s most important documents, had created a ‘hostile working environment by having verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature for multiple female employees.’ … Weinstein ultimately faced no charges, nor was any public notice made of his misconduct. Instead, a little more than a year after the holiday party, the George W. Bush White House permitted him to quietly resign. He then moved on to a major university, where he would sexually assault again.”

-- Rachel Crooks, one of the women who accused Trump of sexual misconduct, is now running for the Ohio State House. (Kyle Swenson)

-- In a recently unearthed 2003 Howard Stern interview, Quentin Tarantino defended Roman Polanski against charges of having raped a 13-year-old, saying the girl “wanted to have it and dated the guy.” “He didn’t rape a 13-year-old. It was statutory rape...he had sex with a minor. That’s not rape,” Tarantino said. “To me, when you use the word rape, you’re talking about violent, throwing them down—it’s like one of the most violent crimes in the world. You can’t throw the word rape around. It’s like throwing the word ‘racist’ around. It doesn’t apply to everything people use it for.” (Jezebel)


Obama's former press secretary had this to say about the Dow drop:

A New York Times reporter responded to Carney's tweet:

From a former adviser to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush:

A CNBC reporter provided this comparison:

But a Politico reporter noted this:

From a HuffPost editor:

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) responded to Trump's Twitter insult:

A play on Schiff's name became a hashtag as the House Intelligence Committee voted to release the Democratic memo:

Former governor Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) slammed a bipartisan immigration proposal:

A Republican congressman highlighted the latest development in the case of Colts player Edwin Jackson:

The former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau lashed out against reports of the bureau abandoning its probe into Equifax:

An update on Hillary Clinton from a Post reporter:

Meanwhile, Clinton called for paid family leave:

Author Jonathan Alter offered his preferred description of Trump:


-- Politico Magazine, “Kennedy Could Be the Democrats’ Best Hope (But May Not Want to Be),” by Edward-Isaac Dovere: “‘I am not perturbed at all about the prospect of a big, messy primary for Democrats [in 2020],’ [Rep. Joe] Kennedy said. That includes Biden, who would be 78 at the time of the next presidential inauguration—'I’m not going to vote for or against somebody because they’re old or young,’ Kennedy said. And it includes Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator who taught Kennedy at Harvard Law: ‘I think she would be a great president.’ What about Kennedy himself? … ‘I don’t see that happening. I just don’t,’ he said. ‘I realize that some folks might not believe me in this—I didn’t run for Congress on the hopes that one day you’re going to run for something else.’”

-- New York Magazine, “The Misadventures of Steven Mnuchin and Louise Linton, Mascots of Trump-Era ‘Glamour,’” by Olivia Nuzzi: “To this point, Mnuchin, a Hollywood producer, has been just one part of an ensemble of colorful characters starring in the Trump reality show (at least four have starred in actual reality shows). But judged against his colleagues in this administration of outsiders and should-you-really-be-heres … Mnuchin’s facility for gaffes and optical blunders has proved exceptional. In this, he has had extraordinary help from his wife, Louise Linton[.]”

-- New York Times, “An ‘Iceberg’ of Unseen Crimes: Many Cyber Offenses Go Unreported,” by Al Baker: “[T]he tools used to fight crime and measure crime trends in the United States are outdated. Even as certain kinds of crimes are declining, others are increasing — yet because so many occur online and have no geographic borders, local police departments face new challenges not only fighting them, but also keeping track of them. Politicians often promote crime declines without acknowledging the rise of new cybercrimes.”


“White House Official Called Trump ‘a Deplorable,” from New York Magazine: “Before joining the Trump administration, the White House principal deputy press secretary, Raj Shah, called President Donald Trump ‘a deplorable’ and referred to the release of the Access Hollywood tape as ‘some justice,’ according to private messages independently obtained and verified by New York. Shah, who worked at the Republican National Committee during the 2016 election, also asked an RNC colleague to dig up an old video clip of Trump that shortly afterward showed up in a Jeb Bush commercial. … The communications obtained by New York provide a window into the complex drama of the Trump White House, where the operatives who serve at the pleasure of the outsider president have in the past expressed contempt for him — and sometimes still do.”



“Super Bowl Least-Watched Championship Since 2009,” from the Wall Street Journal: “There were 17 Super Bowl records set in Sunday night’s thriller between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots, but the size of the audience wasn’t one of them. The Eagles’ 41-33 nail-biter win over the Patriots in Super Bowl LII averaged 103.4 million viewers on NBC, according to Nielsen, making it the least-watched football championship since 2009. This year’s ratings marked a 7.1% drop from last year’s 111.3 million people who saw the Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime on Fox. The record Super Bowl audience was set at 114.4 million when the Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks in 2015 on NBC. The decline in viewership for the Super Bowl is in line with declines the National Football League experienced during the regular season.”



Trump will host a roundtable on MS-13 and later sign the “National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) establishing the National Vetting Center.” 

Pence has arrived in Tokyo for his Asia trip.


Carter Page expressed shock at the surveillance abuses alleged in the Nunes memo. “There was a lot of details that kept dripping out and it sounded really bad,” the former Trump campaign adviser told Fox News host Laura Ingraham. “When I actually saw it, it was even worse than I could've possibly imagined.” (Politico)



-- It will be mostly cloudy in Washington today with temperatures in the 40s. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “The calm before the (next) storm. After a chilly morning with some clouds, we get some midday sunshine before clouding up again later in the afternoon. Warmer highs range through the 40s.”

-- The Wizards beat the Pacers 111-102. (Candace Buckner)

-- The District’s government-transparency watchdog was removed from office, causing concern among local lawmakers. Peter Jamison and Fenit Nirappil report: “D.C. Office of Open Government Director Traci L. Hughes learned last week that the panel that oversees her office had voted unanimously not to reappoint her. … Hughes said Monday that she had faced pressure to pull punches in her role of policing District agencies’ compliance with the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act. ‘I resisted the pressure, and I do think that that’s probably part of the reason that I’m in the position that I’m in today,’ she said[.]”

-- An Arizona man pleaded guilty in Alexandria federal court to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud after he scammed elderly magazine subscribers out of more than a half-million dollars. (Rachel Weiner)


Stephen Colbert mocked Trump for taking credit for the stock market:

Jimmy Kimmel interviewed “Trumpsatawney Kellyanne”:

The school secretary Paul Ryan referenced in a tweet about the tax bill suggested he didn't see all of her comments about the legislation:

The Turkish president met with the pope at the Vatican:

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Pope Francis met Feb. 5 in the Vatican. They discussed President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (Video: Reuters)

And Moscow had a rare snow day after parts of Russia received up to 22 inches of snow:

Some parts of Russia's capital received up to 22 inches of snow during the first weekend in February, according to the Associated Press. (Video: The Washington Post)