With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.

THE BIG IDEA: Democrats are so eager to shield young foreign-born “dreamers” from deportation that they’re now offering to make compromises that would have been hard to imagine a year ago. Republicans, who feel like they have them over the barrel, are demanding more.

Showing his pragmatic side, for instance, Bernie Sanders says he’s willing to pony up big for border security if that’s what it takes. “I would go much further than I think is right,” the Vermont senator said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “Unwillingly. Unhappily. I think it’s a stupid thing to do. But we have to protect the dreamers. … I’m willing to make some painful concessions.”

Sanders said a wall is still a “totally absurd idea” and that there are better ways to secure the border with Mexico, but he also emphasized that there will be “a horrible moral stain” on the country if President Trump goes through with his order to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program next month.

-- Anti-immigration hard-liners are staking out a firm position because most of them are not actually concerned about the plight of the dreamers. They have never thought these young people, whose undocumented parents brought them to the United States as children, should be here anyway. They agitated for Trump to end the program.

This means they’ll be fine if no bill passes, and they know that gives them way more leverage to demand wholesale changes to the entire legal immigration system. “The president's framework bill is not an opening bid for negotiations. It's a best and final offer,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who has emerged as the leader of this group in the Senate. He made this comment yesterday on “Fox and Friends,” knowing the president watches. Sure enough, Trump echoed the same talking point on Twitter, calling this the “last chance” for action.

-- Mitch McConnell wants to use this week’s immigration debate to force show votes that can be used to embarrass vulnerable Democratic senators from red states. For example, the majority leader introduced a measure yesterday that would penalize so-called sanctuary cities for not cooperating with federal immigration laws. This issue tests well in polls and focus groups in most of the 10 states Trump carried in 2016 where a Democrat is now up for reelection. GOP insiders on the Hill say that McConnell is mainly focused on doing whatever it takes to protect his majority now that 2018 has arrived, and he has a narrower majority after the loss in Alabama.

-- Democrats stuck together to block the Senate from taking up the poison pill on sanctuary cities, but the fact that the debate has so quickly devolved into a fight over process offered another data point — if for some reason you needed one — of how dysfunctional the Senate has become. 

-- “Most Republicans on Tuesday appeared to be rallying behind a proposal by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and six other GOP senators that fulfills Trump’s calls to legalize 1.8 million dreamers, immediately authorizes spending at least $25 billion to bolster defenses along the U.S.-Mexico border, makes changes to family-based legal immigration programs and ends a diversity lottery system used by immigrants from smaller countries,” Ed O’Keefe reports. Senate Minority Leader Chuck “Schumer said the Grassley plan unfairly targets family-based immigration and that making such broad changes as part of a plan to legalize just a few million people ‘makes no sense.’

In a bid to soften Trump’s proposals and win over Democrats, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) unveiled a watered-down version of the GOP proposal — but had not won support from members of either party by late Tuesday. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a longtime proponent of comprehensive immigration changes, said the Grassley proposal should be the focus of the Senate’s debate. … Schumer and other Democrats, meanwhile, voiced support for a plan by Sens. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would grant legal status to dreamers in the country since 2013 but would not immediately authorize money to build out southern border walls and fencing.”

-- Democrats would like to pass a narrow bill that only protects DACA recipients, but they know that’s not possible with Republicans in control of Congress and the presidency. To get the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster, they’re conceding on at least some of Trump’s demands related to security. Sanders said there are between 55 to 57 votes for a compromise that would save the dreamers and fund border protections. “We are scrambling now for three to five more votes,” he said.

-- The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. to continue debate, as negotiations behind the scenes continue. Somewhat counterintuitively, conservative hard-liners believe that Latinos will be less likely to turn out this November if nothing passes in Congress because activists will blame Democrats for not delivering.

-- Despite concerted efforts by Trump and McConnell to drive a wedge through the Democratic caucus, there remains a remarkable degree of unity. This highlights how much the terms of the immigration debate have shifted over the past decade. Every Democrat in Congress now wants to protect DACA recipients. It wasn’t always this way. The House passed a Dream Act in 2010 that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship if they entered the United States as children, graduated from high school or got an equivalent degree, and had been in the United States for at least five years. Five moderate Democrats in the Senate voted no. If each of them had supported it, the bill would have become law, and DACA would have been unnecessary. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is the only one of those five Democrats still left. (The others retired or lost.) Now Tester speaks out against the president’s decision to end DACA. (I explored this dynamic in-depth last September.) 

Sanders marveled during our interview at how much the polling has shifted in recent years toward protecting dreamers, with some public surveys showing that as many as 90 percent of Americans don’t think they should be deported. The share who think they should also have a pathway to become U.S. citizens has also risen. “If we talked a year or two ago, I’m not sure I would have thought that would be possible,” he said.

Hillary Clinton relentlessly attacked Bernie during the debates in 2016 for voting to kill comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. Sanders — working closely with some of the leading unions — expressed concern back then that the bill would drive down wages for native-born workers by flooding the labor market with cheap foreign workers. This position caused him problems with Hispanics during his presidential bid.

Sanders rejects the idea that his views have changed since 2007, and he still defends his 11-year-old vote. He noted that the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) opposed that bill, as did the Southern Poverty Law Center, because it included a guest worker program that was “akin to slavery.” He said he remains just as concerned about guest worker programs as he was back then, but that he’s always favored a comprehensive solution that includes legal protections for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants who live here. “You can say you support immigration reform, but obviously the devil is in the details on what that means,” the senator explained. “I stood with progressive organizations who said you don’t want to bring indentured servitude.”

Sanders criticized a guest worker program in his home state that allows resorts to hire ski instructors from Europe instead of native Vermonters. “Now do you not think we can find young people in Vermont who know how to ski and snowboard? But if you go to some of the resorts, that’s what you would find,” he said. “When I was a kid, we worked at summer jobs to help pay for college. … So I think we want to take a hard look at guest worker programs. Some of them remain very unfair.”

-- After coming surprisingly close to toppling Clinton and winning the Democratic nomination two years ago, Sanders is at or near the top of the pack in every poll of potential 2020 primary matchups. He’s going to Des Moines next Friday for a rally with congressional candidate Pete D’Alessandro, his first visit to Iowa this year. Sanders will also go to Wisconsin for Randy Bryce, who is running against Speaker Paul Ryan, and Illinois, where he’ll boost Chuy Garcia’s bid for retiring Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s open seat. A few weeks after that, he plans a tour of the Southwest. “I’m going to do everything I can to help people in 2018,” Sanders said.

-- Republicans have gone the other direction. Before Trump came on the scene, the party was divided but GOP elites agreed that, for the long-term survival of the party, they needed to embrace more inclusive policies. Losses in 2012 prompted many Senate Republicans to endorse a comprehensive bill the next year (Sanders voted for it too), but the legislation was doomed in the House after Majority Leader Eric Cantor went down in a Virginia primary partly because of his perceived softness on the issue.

Elected Republicans used to insist adamantly that they were not anti-immigration but anti-illegal immigration. That’s changed. At the behest of Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Republicans are rallying around the idea of dramatic reductions in legal immigration. Two years ago, this was an extreme idea that most GOP senators would have quickly distanced themselves from. Now it’s considered mainstream and the centerpiece of the bill that McConnell has rallied his members behind.

To put it in perspective: By cutting the rate of legal immigration, Trump's proposal — codified in Grassley’s bill — would delay the date that white Americans become a minority of the population by as many as five additional years, according to expert analysis.

“What’s very sad, but not unusual given the moment we’re living in, is that Republicans are more concerned about their right-wing, extremist, xenophobic base,” said Sanders. “You would think that, with 85 to 90 percent of people supporting protections for the dreamers, that it would not take a profile in courage to pass legislation to protect them.”

-- A dual-track fight over DACA is playing out in the courts. A federal judge in New York issued a preliminary injunction last night that keeps the program alive beyond Trump’s March 5 deadline so that legal challenges can play out. “A federal judge in California has issued a similar injunction, and the Supreme Court is expected this week to consider whether it will take up the fight over DACA,” Matt Zapotosky reports.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis recognized that Trump “indisputably” has the authority to end the program put in place by Barack Obama, but he also called the administration’s arguments that DACA was unconstitutional and illegal under federal law flimsy. “Because that conclusion was erroneous, the decision to end the DACA program cannot stand,” he wrote.

-- Happy Valentine’s Day. Don’t forget to get a gift.

-- What I’m especially excited about this morning is baseball. Pitchers and catchers are reporting for spring training!

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen claims he personally paid adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who allegedly had an affair with Trump, $130,000 out of his own pocket. “Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly,” the longtime Trump consigliere told the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman in a statement. “The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.” Cohen declined to answer several follow-up questions, including whether Trump was aware that Cohen made the payment, why he made the payment or whether he had made similar payments to other people over the years: “Mr. Cohen said that he had given a similar statement to the Federal Election Commission in response to a complaint filed by the government watchdog group Common Cause[.]”

-- “Democrats continued a streak of special election wins with a victory along the Gulf Coast of Florida on Tuesday, the 36th red-to-blue switch in a state legislative race since the 2016 election. Democrat Margaret Good triumphed by seven points in the Sarasota-based 72nd District, defeating Republican candidate James Buchanan in an area that backed [Trump] … by more than four points,” David Weigel reports. “Good’s victory represented a nearly 12-point swing from Trump’s winning margin … Buchanan, whose father, Vern Buchanan, has represented the area in Congress since 2007, was acutely aware of what had happened in other states. … The prosperous, growing Sarasota area looks like the parts of the country where Democrats have gained ground.

The victorious Democrat said Trump’s abysmal response to the Rob Porter case moved votes her direction in the home stretch. “It was part of the culture of misogyny that this White House is perpetrating,” she said. “I won’t stand for it, and I don’t think the people of Sarasota will, either.”

Laura Morris, a doctor and former Republican who volunteered for Good’s campaign, said the president’s defense of his disgraced ex-staff secretary got her riled up. “He is on the side of wife beaters, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he cheated on his current wife,” Morris told Weigel.

-- Democratic strategist Steve Schale, who directed Barack Obama’s Florida efforts, emails three takeaways:

  1. “Going into the election, Democratic women and women in general were driving turnout. Despite making up 19 percent of registered voters, Democratic women made up 26 percent of early voters. More pointedly, while turnout was 21 percent before today, Democratic women turned out at 30 percent in early vote. And it wasn't just super voters. Good was turning out women who had little or no primary voting history.
  2. “This wasn't like Alabama or Virginia, where younger people of color drove turnout. This seat through early vote was 94 percent white and 90 percent over 50 — and based on the GOP edge [in election-day turnout], probably will finish even whiter and older. This is an electorate who voted for [Mitt] Romney, voted for Trump, and [Tuesday], voted for a Democrat.
  3. “When all is said and done, the GOP will probably have over 2,000 more voters vote than the Democrats [who cast ballots]. But these Republicans are midwestern Republicans -- the lesser-of-two-evils Trump voters. And clearly they are having angst …”

-- Snowboarder Shaun White won his third Olympic gold medal. The victory in men's halfpipe is a comeback for White, who stumbled at the 2014 Sochi Games. Adam Kilgore reports: “He hit consecutive 1440s and back-to-back 1260s, one of those with a flair called the Tomahawk. When he crossed the line, White raised both arms in the air. He watched and waited. White tried to stare at the judge’s trailer. Silence replaced mayhem. The score flashed: 97.75. … Shaun White, a goofy hell-raiser when America first fell for him, had been reduced to tears.” White’s win also marks the 100th Winter Olympics gold medal for the United States.

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Israeli police recommended Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted in two corruption cases. The move ramps up pressure on the prime minister to resign, even as there is no indication Bibi is interested in doing so. Israel’s attorney general will now decide whether to move forward with the case. (Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash)
  2. Refugee resettlement agencies plan to close 20 U.S. offices on the advice of the State Department. The shift comes as the Trump administration caps refugee admissions at 45,000 compared to 110,000 under the Obama administration. (Reuters)

  3. The man convicted of setting off explosives in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood in 2016 was sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors said the bomber, Ahmad Khan Rahimi, tried to radicalize other inmates he met behind bars after the bombing, which injured dozens and ended in a violent shootout. (Mark Berman)
  4. The chief counsel for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Seattle was charged with stealing immigrants’ identities. Raphael A. Sanchez has been accused of attempting to defraud credit card companies including American Express, Bank of America and Capitol One. (AP)
  5. A reporter with the liberal media outlet Shareblue was found guilty of disorderly conduct. Mike Stark clashed with police last fall while attempting to cover then-Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie at a local parade. The judge ruled Stark “actively sought” the confrontation, which was partially captured on video, and “went from being a reporter to an actor.” (Justin Jouvenal)
  6. The Park Police chief backed out of a meeting to discuss equipping all uniformed federal police officers with body and in-car cameras. The meeting was called by D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) following the fatal Park Police shooting of Bijan Ghaisar in November. (Tom Jackman)
  7. A former Philadelphia district attorney currently in jail for corruption was ironically revealed to have ordered the creation of a secret list of police officers suspected of being corrupt. The list was part of an effort to move the officers from testifying in court but was roundly criticized by defense lawyers, who argue their clients have a right to know whether their arresting officers are considered untrustworthy. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  8. The booming success of cryptocurrency could trigger an electricity shortage in Iceland, where scores of foreign companies have flocked to open new “cryptocurrency mining” centers. The mining centers already exceed Icelanders’ private electricity consumption, and officials are growing increasingly concerned the tiny island won’t be able to sustain the growth. (Rick Noack)
  9. A North Carolina auto mechanic could face years in prison after he posed as a military general on a secret, presidentially authorized assignment in hopes of wooing a woman. To help sell the boldfaced lie, he also chartered a helicopter, in candy-apple red, to fly them around Raleigh. (Alex Horton)
  10. Applebee’s temporarily closed one of its Missouri restaurants after employees there were accused of racial profiling. Officials for the fast-food chain fired three employees involved in the incident. (Marwa Eltagouri)

  11. A bichon frise named Flynn won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Flynn beat out more than 2,800 other competitors to win top honors at America’s most elite dog show. (Karin Brulliard)

WEST WING INTRIGUE:

-- FBI Director Christopher Wray directly contradicted the White House timeline related to Rob Porter’s security clearance investigation. Wray told lawmakers on Capitol Hill the bureau delivered a partial background report to the White House in March and completed its investigation in July. Ellen Nakashima and Shane Harris report: “White House officials … said that the investigation was never completed and that they did not know the extent of the allegations against Porter. [Shortly after the bureau delivered its final report in July], [Wray] said, the FBI received a request for a follow-up, which the bureau completed and provided in November. The FBI closed the file in January and then earlier this month, Wray said, the bureau received additional information and ‘we passed that on as well.’" “I am quite confident that in this instance, the FBI followed established” protocols, Wray said.

-- Wray’s account directly rebuts the original White House timeline of events surrounding who knew what and when regarding Porter, whose two ex-wives charge he was emotionally and physically abusive. Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Monday the security clearance process was still ongoing at the time of Porter's departure. After Wray’s testimony, however, Sanders attempted to square the conflicting stories and argued that the presidential personnel office had “still been reviewing” Porter’s case. The FBI sends its security clearance investigations to the White House, where the personnel office then decides whether to issue a security clearance.

-- Inside the West Wing, a growing number of aides blame John Kelly for the ongoing controversy: “Trump in recent days has begun musing about possible replacements, [and] Kelly does not enjoy the confidence of an increasing number of his subordinates, some of whom said they believe the retired four-star Marine Corps general has misled them,” Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey report.Kelly’s attempts at explaining his role … have included telling senior staff last Friday to communicate a version of events many believed to be false as well as telling at least one confidant that he has ‘a good bull---- detector’ and had long detected troubling characteristics in Porter. But Kelly initially defended Porter … And in recent weeks, Kelly was even considering giving Porter an expanded role in policy development[.] The fallout has left Kelly with diminished internal support and spawned intensified threats from those who hope to use the controversy to force him from his job.” Kelly is “a big fat liar,” said one White House official. “To put it in terms the general would understand, his handling of the Porter scandal amounts to dereliction of duty.”

  • QUOTE DU JOUR: “During Wray’s testimony, another White House aide texted a Washington Post reporter, describing the moment as ‘a killer.’ When asked if Kelly could have been more transparent or truthful, that official wrote, ‘In this White House, it’s simply not in our DNA. Truthful and transparent is great, but we don’t even have a coherent strategy to obfuscate.’”

-- HMMM: The White House imposed a ban last fall on new employees with interim security clearances. Politico’s Andrew Restuccia and Emily Stephenson report: “The Nov. 7 internal email to senior leaders at the Office of Management and Budget said the White House personnel security office had advised that it would no longer grant interim security clearances. … Staffers who had already been granted interim security clearances — like [Porter] — could continue to hold them while their background investigations were finished, the email said. The email does not shed light on the reason for the mandate[.]”

-- Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said any White House staffers who still lack permanent security clearance should be “limited” in their access to sensitive information. That list of staffers is reported to be in the dozens and includes Trump’s own son-in-law, Jared Kushner. “I might just say that I think sometimes it is necessary to have some type of preliminary clearance in order to fill a slot,” he said. “But I have publicly stated if that is the case, the access has to be limited in terms of the kind of information they can be in a position to receive or not receive.” (Aaron Blake)

-- Sanders is also taking heat for her defense of the White House reaction to the Porter mess. “You might think that as one of the most visible women in the Trump administration, Sanders would bring some credibility — maybe even sympathy — to bear on subjects related to respect for women. In fact, it seems to bring out the worst in her,” writes columnist Margaret Sullivan. “Time after time Monday, Sanders stuck to her pallid script, repeating without elaboration the words she said the president had told her to say, expressing his supposed support for domestic violence victims, although just days before he seemed much more sympathetic to those accused of abuse, specifically [Porter].”

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (AND WOMEN):

-- Elle published a profile of Louise Linton, who is married to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and best known for tagging luxury designers and attacking commenters on Instagram. The whole profile from Elle’s Carrie Battan is worth reading, but here are a few of the buzziest bits:

  • On why she responded to her Instagram critic: “I was feeling like a regular person. And regular people, when someone says something mean to you on social media, regular people are allowed to respond,” Linton said. “I felt like the kid on the playground that has been so bullied, and finally you punch back.”
  • On the iconic black leather gloves and black skirt she wore to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to take pictures with newly minted money: “I look at amazing fashion icons like Jackie O and I’m like, Why can’t I wear gloves?” She added, “I really hope someday I can wear that outfit again. Because I really liked it.”
  • “She loves SoulCycle, for one. ‘That’s temple for me,’ she says, dressed in a SoulCycle beanie and leggings. ‘This is my uniform. I wear SoulCycle stuff every single day of my life.’”
  • “She enjoys taking cute selfies with Mnuchin using the Snapchat filters that make people look like puppies and piglets. Against her husband’s wishes, she shows them to me.”
  • “Like any average person, Linton uses Amazon religiously and orders delivery meals on Postmates, on evenings when she’s not making her husband a big ratatouille with leftover groceries.”
  • A quote from Shona Hampel, Linton’s best friend of two decades: “Louise was blessed and fortunate enough to be raised in a Scottish castle, and to not understand the reality of some human beings with a different background.”

-- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt blamed security concerns for his costly, taxpayer-funded travel expenses, saying that decisions “made by others” determined whether he fly either first class or by military jet. The New Hampshire Union Leader’s Michael Cousineau reports: “'We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment,’ said Pruitt … ‘We’ve reached the point where there’s not much civility in the marketplace and it’s created, you know, it’s created some issues and the (security) detail, the level of protection is determined by the level of threat.’ ‘I’m not involved in any of those decisions,’ [Pruitt said]. ‘Those are all made by the (security) detail, the security assessment in addition to the chief of staff.’”

  • Pruitt also acknowledged he had just flown first class from Washington to reach New Hampshire. (Brady Dennis)

-- Jared Kushner’s debt under three separate lines of credit appears to have increased in the months after he joined the White House, according to a newly revised financial disclosure form filed by Ivanka Trump. Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports: “Recent revisions … bumped up each of those debts to a range of $5 million to $25 million. Versions of the couple’s disclosures made public in July valued those debts at $1 million to $5 million apiece. The loans were extended by three banks: Bank of America, New York Community Bank and Signature Bank. … The Bank of America and New York Community Bank credit lines are held jointly by Kushner and his father, Charles, according to the disclosure forms. The Signature Bank loan is owed by Jared Kushner and his mother, Seryl. … It’s unclear whether the uptick in the three lines of credit owed by Jared Kushner is tied to the Kushner Companies’ reported financial challenges.”

-- Former “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant Piers Morgan wrote a Daily Mail piece accusing his fellow competitor Omarosa Manigault of spewing homophobic insults during the show’s 2008 taping: “Omarosa sidled up to me at the New York Mercantile Exchange and said, quite seriously: 'Piers, do you want a showmance?' 'A what?' I replied. 'A showmance. You know, a romance on the show - we get it on together. Happens all the time on Apprentice. Everyone has sex together. Then we can make lots of money out of it.’ I stared at her grasping, ferociously ambitious little eyes, and laughed: 'You must be joking, you deluded woman.' She didn't take it well. 'What are you? Gay?' From that moment, she turned on me like a viper. … At the time, I was separated from my ex wife, and mother of three of my four children – a fact Omarosa seized on with glee. ‘The mother of your children hates you Piers,’ she giggled on camera one morning, ‘and your children f**king hate you, they’re embarrassed by you. Is there another man raising your children?’ (None of these things was true) … Eventually, Omarosa took her bigotry to the boardroom, telling Donald Trump accusingly: ‘I think Piers is in the closet.’”

-- A senior director for the National Security Council has launched a podcast in his spare time. Politico’s Nahal Toosi reports: “The host is retired Rear Adm. Garry Hall, who serves as the NSC’s senior director for international organizations and alliances. The ‘Admiral’s Almanac,’ a podcast available on a personal website, appears to be a side project for a man whose day job is, in theory at least, punishingly busy. ... It’s not clear whether Hall has the White House’s permission to offer his personal thoughts online, or whether he might be breaking any rules. But his foray into audio entertainment has startled former NSC officials who note that senior NSC directors generally avoid the limelight and are — or should be — pressed for time.” “It is in serious ‘What the f---?' territory,” said one former senior Obama NSC official.

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- The nation’s top intelligence chiefs each declared that Russia is continuing its efforts to target the U.S. political system and undermine the 2018 midterms, and will continue to use propaganda and social media as a means of deepening divisions and sowing discord. Ellen Nakashima and Shane Harris report: “’'There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts’ to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign ‘as a success,’ and it ‘views the 2018 midterm elections’ as another opportunity to conduct an attack, said [Dan] Coats, the leader of the U.S. government’s 17 intelligence agencies. His assessment was echoed by all five other intelligence agency heads … including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who two weeks ago stated publicly he had ‘every expectation’ that Russia will try to influence the coming elections.”

“The disconnect between Trump and his senior-most intelligence advisers has raised concerns that the U.S. government will not be able to mount an effective plan to beat back Russian influence operations … And [Coats] said there is ‘no single agency in charge’ of blocking Russian meddling, an admission that drew the ire of Democrats.” “Make no mistake: This threat did not begin in 2016, and it certainly didn’t end with the election,” said the committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner (Va.). “What we are seeing is a continuous assault by Russia to target and undermine our democratic institutions, and they are going to keep coming at us.”

Leaders warned against Pyongyang: “The intelligence chiefs also said that North Korea’s presence at the Olympics … had not changed [their assessment] that the regime is trying to build nuclear weapons to threaten its neighbors and the United States. ... Pompeo said his agency has completed an analysis of how North Korea would respond to a U.S. military strike, as well as what it would take to bring the regime to the negotiating table. He offered to describe that analysis only in a closed, classified session.”

-- A group of Russian mercenaries was reportedly killed by a U.S. airstrike in Syria last week in what appears to be the first publicly known case of the U.S. military firing on and killing Russians fighting on behalf of the Syrian government. The Kremlin has sought to downplay news of the incident, however, stressing that no members of Russia’s armed forces were killed in the attack. (Anton Troianovski and Andrew Roth)

-- BuzzFeed is suing the DNC over issues involving the Russia dossier. The move is part of an effort to compel evidence the online publisher believes could help bolster its defense in a libel lawsuit filed by a Russian businessman. Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo reports: “[Aleksej Gubarev] says he was libeled in the dossier when it tied him to the Russians’ alleged hacking of the D.N.C.’s e-mail servers. In a nutshell: BuzzFeed believes the D.N.C. has information that could show a link between Gubarev and the e-mail hacking, which would undercut his libel claim. ‘We’re asking a federal court to force the D.N.C. to follow the law and allow BuzzFeed to fully defend its First Amendment rights,’ a BuzzFeed spokesperson wrote in an e-mail. BuzzFeed’s motion asserts that the D.N.C., citing privacy concerns, has been unwilling to comply with a subpoena for that information. … [But] in legal papers, the D.N.C. has argued that disclosing the digital signatures, supposedly left by the Russia-directed hacking organizations known as Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear, would inevitably expose details of the D.N.C.’s information systems, possibly making them more vulnerable to another hack.”

THE ROAD TO NOVEMBER:

-- Sen. Bob Corker has been on better terms recently with Trump, which could affect the Tennessee Republican’s decision on whether to reconsider retirement. Robert Costa, Sean Sullivan and Josh Dawsey report: “Corker has had several conversations with the president in which the possibility of a 2018 campaign has been broached, according to five Republicans who were not authorized to comment on the discussions. Corker also has been cultivating his bonds with the Trump family and top White House staffers, they added — and Monday he met with Ivanka Trump ... for coffee. There was more activity Tuesday as Corker met with Vice President Pence at the Capitol — although aides insisted the meeting was unrelated to politics — and Republican colleagues said he was leaning toward launching a campaign.

“[S]ome Republicans close to the president say Trump is happy to have Corker court him and could eventually be persuaded to support his reelection, should the senator choose to run for a third term. But numerous Republicans close to Trump were less rosy. They said Trump may hear out Corker but warned that he would never formally throw his support behind him — even if Republicans worry that the Tennessee seat is in jeopardy — because he does not forgive Corker for calling him a child. More likely, they said, was that Trump would welcome Corker’s embrace but formally stay out of the Republican primary race. Or, he could decide to endorse Blackburn instead.”

-- The campaign of Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the current front-runner in the GOP primary to replace Corker, accused those trying to recruit Corker of sexism. “Anyone who thinks Marsha Blackburn can’t win a general election is just a plain sexist pig,” said Blackburn spokeswoman Andrea Bozek. “She’s the best fundraiser in the country and is beating Phil Bredesen in several polls. We aren’t worried about these ego-driven, tired old men. Marsha has spent her whole life fighting people who told her she wasn’t good enough, and she will do it again.”

-- Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) may jump into the race to unseat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) after initially declining to run. Sean Sullivan and Josh Dawsey report: “In recent days, the North Dakota congressman has shown signs that he is preparing to launch a campaign, according to Republicans familiar with his plans ... One senior GOP official said Cramer has been telling people this week that he is running. But these Republicans were split over whether Cramer would ultimately take the plunge.”

-- Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) rejected the redrawn congressional map submitted by the Republican state legislature. Christopher Ingraham reports: “[I]ndependent analyses found that the new map was just as biased in favor of the GOP as the old map. ‘Like the 2011 map, the map submitted to my office by Republican leaders is still a gerrymander,’ Wolf said in a statement. ‘Their map clearly seeks to benefit one political party.’ In addition to the outside analyses, the governor's office presented the conclusions of Tufts University mathematician Moon Duchin. Duchin used an algorithm to generate ‘millions of alternative districting plans’ according to the state's traditional redistricting criteria. The new map's ‘bias in favor of Republicans is extremely unlikely to have come about by chance,’ Duchin wrote, putting the odds of such a map at roughly 0.1 percent.”

-- Former Trump campaign adviser Bert Mizusawa has filed to run to challenge Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), becoming the fifth person to join the crowded field of GOP candidates. Jenna Portnoy reports: “Republicans running so far include Corey Stewart, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors chair and Trump acolyte who almost won the nomination for governor; outspoken evangelical preacher E.W. Jackson; a two-term state lawmaker, Nicholas J. ‘Nick’ Freitas; and businessman and political newcomer Ivan Raiklin. ... [Mizusawa]  already has about $100,000 in commitments from donors and is planning a campaign kickoff later this week[.]"

-- The Dallas Morning News editorial board has declined to endorse incumbent Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush (Jeb's son) ahead of next month's GOP primary: “We recommend former state Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson over [Bush] and two first-time challengers in the Republican primary, giving Patterson the chance to return to the job he held for 12 years. When Patterson, 71, stepped aside to run for lieutenant governor four years ago, voters chose from among a weak field of candidates to put Bush in office. Since then, the General Land Office has been at the center of several troubling controversies.

THE #METOO MOVEMENT:

-- Three congressional probes are underway to determine how physician Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse was able to continue for so long. Will Hobson reports: “This week, the first responses from the institutions through which Nassar accessed victims — Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee — were made public. They offer the most complete picture to date of how these organizations probably will defend themselves, in lawsuits and ongoing congressional inquiries, against claims they ignored or enabled Nassar’s abuse. The three letters, which Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) of the Senate Commerce Committee released late Monday, portray Nassar as a particularly insidious child molester.”

-- Michigan State’s faculty issued a vote of no confidence in the board of trustees over its handling of the Nassar case. Simon D. Schuster and Susan Svrluga report: “At an emergency meeting, the Faculty Senate voted overwhelmingly — 61 to 4 — that it lacked confidence in the trustees, with results greeted by loud applause. … The faculty cannot force board members out. But with a vote of no confidence, the impact is immediate and deep, said Sean McKinniss, who is co-writing a book on academic governance [.]”

-- Bill Clinton is getting sidelined from Democratic campaigns over concerns about past sexual misconduct allegations against the former president. From Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere: “Privately, many Democratic politicians and strategists are harsher and firmer: Don’t come to their states, and don’t say anything about their campaigns. They are still worried about saying it out loud, but they don’t want him now, or maybe ever. They know Republicans would react by calling them — with good reason — hypocrites. And in this political environment, Clinton campaigning anywhere would amount to him campaigning everywhere, forcing Democrats around the country to answer what they think of colleagues appearing with him, and whether they would do so themselves.”

-- The abuse allegations against former White House aide Porter have prompted some Mormon women to come forward with their own stories. From BuzzFeed News’s Jim Dalrymple II: “[F]or Jodi, a California woman who asked to be identified only by her first name, one of the story's details immediately jumped out: Porter and his two ex-wives were Mormons, and when the women reported the abuse to clergy, they were reportedly encouraged to stay in the relationship. ‘The stories of these women made my heart hurt because that’s my story,’ Jodi said. … BuzzFeed News spoke with more than 20 current and former female members of the LDS church from seven states for this story, all of whom said that they had experienced domestic abuse and then gone to their clergy for help. … In response to their requests for guidance, the women said, they were told by their bishops to stay in abusive relationships, that their eternal salvation could be jeopardized by leaving violent partners, and that they were to blame for their marital problems.”

-- Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has caught flak for his handling of a sexual harassment complaint filed against his longtime aide. From the Chicago Tribune’s Rick Pearson, Ray Long and Bill Lukitsch: “Leading Democratic and Republican governor candidates called for a thorough investigation of the complaint made by former campaign worker Alaina Hampton against Kevin Quinn, a longtime loyal Madigan operative. Some went as far as to suggest Madigan resign as speaker and Illinois Democratic Party chairman. But Madigan, at a cautious Capitol news conference that saw him defer to his attorney on most questions, made clear in brief remarks that he is not giving up either his leadership roles in the House or the state party."

-- The CEO and president of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Javier Palomarez, has stepped down following allegations that he sexually harassed his former chief of staff, and improperly inflated his own salary by “hundreds of thousands of dollars.” NPR’s Merrit Kennedy reports: “The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said [Palomarez] and its board of directors ‘have mutually agreed to undergo a leadership transition for the organization effective immediately[.]” Palomarez has said he “categorically denies” the allegations.

-- A New York judge is expected to rule any day on whether Summer Zervos’s defamation lawsuit against Trump should move forward. Zervos, a former “Apprentice” contestant, accused Trump of sexually assaulting her when she came to him for career advice in December 2007. (Frances Stead Sellers)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

A key admission from the Trump intelligence apparatus, per an NBC reporter:

Reaction from a top adviser to Obama and Bill Clinton:

From a House Democrat:

A Republican senator expressed alarm at the intelligence chiefs' warnings:

A New York Times reporter had this to say about the state of Trump’s White House:

The Mooch called on John Kelly, who fired him, to resign:

A National Journal editor questioned Rob Porter's excuse for how his ex-wife ended up with a black eye:

From a former spokesman for Obama's Justice Department:

A former senior adviser to Obama commented on Scott Pruitt's pricey air travel:

A Post reporter provided this relevant flashback after Louise Linton's Elle profile was published:

A House Democrat slammed Trump's budget blueprint:

A Senate Democrat also criticized the White House's infrastructure proposal:

A Bloomberg News columnist had this to say about the moment we're in:

Stephen Colbert has started his own memo campaign:

An NBC anchor gave an update from PyeongChang:

The agriculture secretary visited California:

The women of the Senate celebrated Galentine's Day:

The first pilot to break the sound barrier celebrated a big birthday:

And the creator of Hamilton shared a photo of his newborn son:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- New York Times Magazine, “‘I’m Just More Afraid of Climate Change Than I Am of Prison,’” by Michelle Nijhuis: “The Valve Turners are, for the most part, quiet people. They wear sensible shoes, and several attend church regularly. Most are parents, and one is a grandparent. All are white, all are college-educated and none are truly poor. While all are deeply concerned about climate change, none are immediately threatened by its worst effects: no one’s home has flooded, and no one’s health has been seriously damaged by heat waves or failed harvests or northward-creeping tropical diseases. All say that it is this relative safety — and the relative advantages of age, race, education and wealth — that makes them feel they have a particular responsibility, as climate activists, to push the boundaries of civil disobedience.”

-- Politico Magazine, “Duckworth: ‘I can’t technically take maternity leave,’” by Anna Palmer and Reena Flores: “The Illinois Democrat and Iraq War veteran, who is expecting her second child this spring, will be the first sitting senator to give birth in office. She plans to take 12 weeks of paid leave – but she’s working with her party’s leadership and her staff to figure out how she can still take important votes while she’s out. ‘It’s going to change some Senate rules,’ [Tammy] Duckworth said.”

-- CNN, “Gun lobbyist helped write ATF official's proposal to deregulate,” by Jose Pagliery: “Behind the scenes, a gun industry lobbyist provided comments that were directly incorporated into an internal memo at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives … — a white paper that suggested the agency peel back a number of gun regulations.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“A deputy mayor compared undocumented immigrants to raccoons. His resignation was met with applause,” from Kristine Phillips: “[The post] portrays Trump as an exterminator and undocumented immigrants as raccoons, pesky and rabid pests he has sworn to banish from your home. Many consider the post, by an unknown author, offensive and dehumanizing. And this past weekend, a New Jersey city official shared it on his Facebook page, hoping to make people understand the support for the president. ‘Read below, it says it all,’ Rick Blood wrote. The deputy mayor of Mendham Township was soon facing an avalanche of complaints and a backlash strong enough to drive him out of his position. A crowd of angry residents and advocates denounced Blood on Monday during a tense, hours-long town meeting that ended with an announcement of his resignation, news that the audience met with applause.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Trump donates $100,000 of his salary to a new federal grant program for infrastructure projects,” from David A. Fahrenthold: “President Trump donated his $100,000 presidential salary for the fourth quarter of 2017 to the Department of Transportation, to help fund a new grant program for repairing or building infrastructure, federal officials said Tuesday. Trump, who has claimed a wealth of $10 billion, promised before taking office he would donate his $400,000 annual salary. So far, he has donated it in quarterly chunks, all to various federal agencies. In this case, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said Tuesday's gift would go to a new grant program called Infrastructure for Building America. The program is intended to give high priority to state and local governments that have raised their own funds before asking for federal help.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump has a morning infrastructure meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers followed by a “working session regarding the Opportunity Zones provided by tax reform.” He will later sign two bills.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich was asked why it was important for the NBA to recognize Black History Month: “I think it's pretty obvious. Our league is made up of a lot of black guys. To honor that and understand it is pretty simplistic. … More importantly, we live in a racist country that hasn't figured it out yet. It's always important to bring attention to it, even if it angers some people. The point is, you have to keep it in front of everybody's nose and let them know it still hasn't been taken care of and we still have a lot of work to do.” (San Antonio Express-News)

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- Washingtonians’ Valentine’s Day will be partly cloudy with temperatures in the mid-50s. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Our rather rapid warming trend begins today, as temperatures rise from the 30s this morning to afternoon highs in the mid-50s. It’s a light breeze, but a mild one from the south, under partly cloudy skies. We might see a shower moving in from the west toward evening.”

-- The Capitals lost to the Jets 4-3 in overtime. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)

-- The Nationals’ spring training begins today in West Palm Beach, Fla. Jorge Castillo writes: “[The players] will find a completely overhauled coaching staff but familiar teammates. After dismissing Dusty Baker and hiring Dave Martinez as manager, the Nationals didn’t make any earth-shattering moves this offseason. They didn’t need to. As currently constructed, the team is projected by most prognosticators — computer and human — to claim a third consecutive National League East crown and earn another shot at breaking through in October before facing a winter of uncertainty.”

-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed a bill allowing women who become pregnant through sexual assault to terminate the parental rights of their attackers. It comes after nine failed attempts to pass similar legislation. (Ovetta Wiggins)

-- Metro maintenance projects this summer and fall will affect service on almost every line and shut down two Red Line stations for 45 days. Martine Powers reports: “For a 45-day stretch starting July 21 and lasting through Labor Day, Metro will shutter Rhode Island Ave. and Brookland stations on the Red Line. Buses will provide shuttle service from Fort Totten to NoMa, as there will be no train travel between those stations. … In the midst of the Red Line project, there also will be disruptions in the downtown core, with 16 days of ‘significantly reduced service’ on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines between McPherson Square and Smithsonian stations.”

-- The toll on Interstate 66 for a solo driver hit $46.50 yesterday. (Dana Hedgpeth)

-- “Having three airports in Washington is great. Until you go to the wrong one,” by Steve Hendrix: “Having a super-abundance of airports is considered a big-city perk in Washington, as in New York, London and other major hubs. But with greater choice comes a greater chance that you will find yourself at, say, National Airport while your flight is boarding at one of the other two, Washington Dulles International or Baltimore-Washington International Marshall. It happens to all kinds of customers, according to the airport helpers, travel agents and taxi drivers who bear daily witness to these travel apocalypses — from hardcore business travelers with so many departures they lose track, to neophyte fliers for whom ‘the airport’ is just the airport.”

-- Four Maryland locations are among the 10 most ethnically diverse places in the country, according to a new study. Gaithersburg, Germantown, Silver Spring and Rockville all made the list. (Dana Hedgpeth)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Jimmy Kimmel created a line of Valentine's Day cards from the White House:

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney defended Trump's budget blueprint:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), a 2020 hopeful, explained her decision to no longer accept corporate PAC money:

The teacher who was caught on video describing the military as “the lowest of our low” attempted to explain himself at a city council meeting:

And Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) introduced his puppy at a news conference: