With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.
THE BIG IDEA: President Trump crossed his arms and looked annoyed as Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington State, spoke out against arming teachers.
“I have listened to the biology teachers, and they don't want to do that,” Inslee said during an event at the White House on Monday. “I've listened to the first-grade teachers that don't want to be pistol-packing first-grade teachers. I've listened to law enforcement, who have said they don't want to have to train teachers as law enforcement agents.”
As the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association and a likely 2020 presidential candidate, Inslee was most certainly grandstanding. But he has the credibility to do so: He lost his House seat in 1994 because he voted for an assault weapons ban despite knowing that it was toxically unpopular in his rural district.
“I just suggest we need a little less tweeting here and a little more listening,” Inslee told Trump, “and let's just take that off the table and move forward.”
What followed in the State Dining Room was a fascinating back-and-forth between Trump and other governors of both parties over what has become the president’s hobbyhorse since the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Fla., two weeks ago. The session quickly became a seminar on federalism — and a reminder that states really remain the laboratories of democracy.
As soon as Inslee finished making his point, the president asked the Republican governor of Texas to talk about how arming teachers has worked in his state. “Sure,” replied Greg Abbott. “We now have well over a hundred school districts in the state of Texas where teachers or other people who work in the school do carry a weapon … It could be a coach, it could be an administrator, it could be anybody who works in that school. But it's a well-thought-out program with a lot of training in advance.”
“Well, I think that's great,” Trump responded. “And so, essentially, what you're saying is that when a sick individual comes into that school, they can expect major trouble. Right? Major trouble?!”
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) chimed in to say that some poorer schools in his state arm rank-and-file employees because they cannot afford to keep law enforcement officers to be on site. “I have the belief that no teacher should be compelled, and most of them want to teach and focus on that,” he said. “I think what the governors want to say is that there can't be, necessarily, a national security plan, but the states can develop this.”
Then Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) noted that his 11-year-old son bagged his first buck last year, but he added that a nephew was also 11 when he got shot and killed while on a playground. “I want to make sure, if somebody is armed in a school, that they have that training,” he said.
-- Showing a little sensitivity to the bad optics of filling schools with guns, Trump replied that his plan is narrower in scope than the media coverage suggests. He repeatedly emphasized that only “very adept” people will be allowed to carry weapons. “It could be 10 percent [of all teachers], it could be 5 percent, could be 20 percent,” the president said. “They start with training and then they have additional training every year, and I think they should get a bonus. … I want highly trained people that have a natural talent, like hitting a baseball, or hitting a golf ball, or putting. How come some people always make the four-footer, and some people, under pressure, can't even take their club back? Right? Some people can't take their club back.”
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) jumped in to help the president from digging a deeper hole. He noted that a 16-year-old killed two students at a high school in his state in 1997. “A vice principal, who was an Army Reserve officer, went to his vehicle, retrieved his 1911 .45, and stopped that shooter before he could kill other children in Pearl, Mississippi,” Bryant said. “When I heard you speak of your idea, that was the concept I believed in. Find that Army Reserve vice principal, give him the training he necessarily needs, arm him, and stop this madness.”
The president appreciated all the back up. “Thank you, Phil,” he said.
-- Several Republican governors who were in the room didn’t want to say it to Trump’s face, but they think arming teachers is a bad idea and don’t want to pursue it.
“I disagree with him,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who plans to run for Senate, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I want our teachers to teach, and I want our law enforcement to be able to protect the students. I want each group to focus on what they’re good at.”
But over the governor’s objections, conservative state legislators are heeding the president’s call and introducing legislation to make it happen. In Tallahassee, Republicans are forging ahead with a plan to allow local sheriffs and police departments to deputize teachers as armed “school marshals” if they complete 132 hours of training and pass background checks. “It’s just a question of working out the details,” said state Sen. Bill Galvano (R), the next president of the Florida Senate.
In Alabama, a state representative quickly got about three dozen co-sponsors for a proposal to let teachers carry concealed pistols in schools. Gov. Kay Ivey (R), a former teacher, expressed her displeasure. “In my personal opinion, teachers have got their hands full being teachers and instructors and I just think there's some other way to provide protection,” she said.
-- Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) offered a conciliatory message after some of his colleagues expressed opposition. “Each state is going to have to find their own way, based on their own culture, based on their own politics, based on their own unique demographics,” he told the president. “And we'll learn from each other.”
-- As the hour-long discussion wore on, Trump seemed more and more inclined to leave all the specifics and complexities of arming teachers to others. He said the federal government “will help monetarily,” possibly with grants to cover $1,000-a-year bonuses for teachers who pack heat, but that the governors and local districts can tackle everything else. “Just go and do it yourself,” the president said at the end of the meeting. “We will be there to help you no matter what your solution is. But this is largely a state issue.”
-- All politics is local. Here’s a look of how this issue is playing across the states:
- The State (South Carolina): “SC politician giving guns to teachers in message to ‘deranged psychotic degenerates.’”
- Greenville News (South Carolina): GOP “Governor candidate Catherine Templeton calls for arming teachers while opening campaign.”
- News & Observer (North Carolina): “NC education chief says more cops — and not armed teachers — will make schools safer.”
- Duluth News Tribune (Minnesota): “Northland educators oppose arming teachers with guns.”
- KELO-TV (South Dakota): “Parents React To Tri-Valley School Sentinel Policy.”
- KOAT-TV (New Mexico): “Arming teachers: Some schools say it 'can be done right.’”
- LA Times (California): “One big problem with the idea of arming teachers: Insurance companies won't play along, and for good reason.”
- Daily News (New York): “Retired NYPD cop who is now a teacher rips Trump's 'ludicrous' proposal to arm educators.”
- NHPR (New Hampshire): “Local SWAT Commander: Arming Teachers is a Bad Idea.”
- Lawrence Journal-World (Kansas): “Lawrence educators blast proposals for arming teachers as ludicrous and a distraction from the real issues.”
- ArkansasMatters.com (Arkansas): “As Colleges Prepare for Guns, Clarksville Offers a Few Lessons.”
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Texas): “Teachers packing heat: It's one thing to carry a gun. It's another to pull the trigger.”
- Dallas Morning News (Texas): “Arming teachers and building police stations: a desperate Texas is trying everything to keep our kids safe.”
- Midland Reporter-Telegram (Texas): “Argyle teachers volunteer to be armed.”
- Cross Timbers Gazette (Texas): “Local school district police chief believes arming teachers works.”
- Daily Iowan (Iowa): “Trump’s support of giving guns to teachers is problematic and not plausible.”
- Springfield News-Leader (Missouri): “Trump wants some teachers to carry guns. This school district is already doing it.”
-- Are we taking our eye off the ball? “The deliberately outrageous idea of arming classroom teachers is nothing more than a distraction, a ploy by the gun lobby to buy time for passions to cool,” columnist Eugene Robinson argues in today’s paper. “The National Rifle Association and its vassals in the Republican Party would like you to exhaust your outrage on a possibility that is, from the start, impossible. … ‘Up to States’ means abdicating the federal government’s responsibility and urging state legislatures to waste time and effort debating whether to mandate that instruments of death be introduced to classrooms.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- U.N. officials claim North Korea has been providing the Syrian government with supplies to make chemical weapons. The New York Times’s Michael Schwirtz reports: “The supplies include acid-resistant tiles, valves and thermometers, according to a report by United Nations investigators. North Korean missile technicians have also been spotted working at known chemical weapons and missile facilities inside Syria, according to the report[.] … The report highlights the potential danger posed by any such trade between Syria and North Korea, which could allow Syria to maintain its chemical weapons while also providing North Korea with cash for its nuclear and missile programs.”
-- The first lady cut ties with an adviser after the New York Times reported the adviser was paid $26 million by Trump’s inaugural committee. The Times’s Kenneth P. Vogel and Maggie Haberman report: “Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who has been friends with Mrs. Trump for years, had been working on a contract basis as an unpaid senior adviser to the office of the first lady. Stephanie Grisham, Mrs. Trump’s spokeswoman, said the office had ‘severed the gratuitous services contract with Ms. Wolkoff,’ who Ms. Grisham said had been employed as ‘a special government employee’ to work on specific projects. … Ms. Grisham said that the first lady ‘had no involvement’ with the inaugural committee and that she ‘had no knowledge of how funds were spent.’”
GET SMART FAST:
- The first transgender recruit has signed a contract to join the U.S. military. The Pentagon confirmed the individual has “met all standards” for service but has not yet begun basic training. (CNN)
- A federal appeals court ruled civil rights law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The decision dealt a blow to Trump’s Justice Department, which filed a brief arguing such discrimination was not covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Matt Zapotosky)
- The Supreme Court heard arguments on whether government employees should be required to pay a fee to unions. Eight of the justices considered a similar case two years ago, which ended in a 4-4 deadlock following the death of Antonin Scalia. The court’s newest member, Neil Gorsuch, who could break a similar tie this time around, was silent during yesterday’s arguments. (Robert Barnes)
- The Education Department launched an investigation into Michigan State over its handling of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. The probe will examine whether the university violated Title IX law, which prohibits discrimination based on gender at federally funded schools. (Susan Svrluga)
- The Missouri House officially launched an impeachment probe into disgraced Gov. Eric Greitens (R). The House speaker has convened a special committee to investigate Greitens, who was indicted on a felony invasion of privacy after allegedly threatening to circulate a photo of a former lover. The committee is expected to begin its work this week. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
- More than 150 human rights organizations co-signed a letter to the State Department criticizing changes to the annual report on global human rights. “Threats to women’s human rights cannot be stricken from the report without sending a broader message to abusive governments that the United States will not hold them to account for such violations,” the letter reads. (Politico)
- An extraordinary thaw caused the North Pole to swell above freezing this weekend. Temperatures climbed as high as 35 degrees. These “warm intrusions” in the Arctic have become more frequent, more intense and longer-lasting since 1980. (Jason Samenow)
- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell plans to order Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to pay millions of dollars for trying to derail Goodell’s contract negotiations. Goodell was reportedly encouraged to bring the penalties by several other team owners, some of which Jones threatened to sue amid the contract disputes. (New York Times)
A new study found no correlation between autism and the number of ultrasounds performed during pregnancy. The conclusions should ease fears among future parents as rates of autism have continued to increase in recent decades. (Laura Sanders)
- Passengers are increasingly relying on ride-hailing services such as Uber to take them to the emergency room when they’re sick or injured. But by forgoing ambulances, passengers are putting drivers in uncomfortable positions — and potentially subjecting them to legal liability. (BuzzFeed News)
- An Eisenhower Foundation report to be released today points to continued racial inequality in this country. Fifty years after the Kerner Commission released its findings on pervasive poverty, the Eisenhower Foundation panel concluded income inequality and segregation in schools and neighborhoods have crept upward. (Vanessa Williams)
MORE FLORIDA FALLOUT:
-- Trump stopped short of endorsing any specific gun legislation during the meeting with governors. “While Senate leaders explored the possibility of passing a modest improvement to the national background-check system for firearm buyers, House action was uncertain, and Trump again turned attention away from guns and toward the various security breakdowns that preceded the [Parkland shooting]," Mike DeBonis and Anne Gearan report. “Trump trumpeted his close ties to the leaders of the National Rifle Association [he said he had lunch with leaders of the group over the weekend], and he predicted that the [NRA] would ‘do something’ to respond to the escalating concern nationwide about guns. ... Trump suggested he would act to regulate bump stocks even if Congress does not.”
-- Trump is planning to meet Wednesday with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to discuss combating gun violence. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said there’s support for “the concept” of raising the minimum age for the purchase of assault-style weapons but “how it would be implemented and what it might look like" are still under discussion. She added that Trump backs looking at strengthening background checks but has not yet decided on the shape of specific legislation. (Associated Press)
-- Not going to happen: 156 House Democrats signed on to a bill that would ban assault weapons. From Dave Weigel: “The legislation, introduced by Reps. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), gained support over the weekend as most Democrats were at home in their districts. There’s no evidence that the Republican-controlled House would bring the bill to a vote, but the list of sponsors offers hints about whether the party’s politics are moving.”
-- The most memorable moment of the day: Trump claimed that he would have rushed into the Florida high school to protect students from the shooter during the massacre, even if he didn’t have a weapon. “I really believe I'd run in, even if I didn't have a weapon,” Trump said, calling the armed Broward sheriff's deputy who stayed outside a coward. “You never know until you’re tested.”
-- The president's declaration that he would have run, unarmed, into the school to protect students prompted Eli Rosenberg to look at how Trump has fared before in the face of danger: He avoided service in Vietnam. He got spooked at a rally when a man jumped a barrier. He bristled during a photo op with a bald eagle. A notorious germaphobe, Trump has spoken about his fear of shaking people’s hands for years and has said that he is terrified of blood. “I’m not good for medical,” he told Howard Stern during a 2008 interview. “In other words, if you cut your finger and there’s blood pouring out, I’m gone.”
Trump recounted a story about recoiling when a man fell off the stage during a benefit at his Mar-a-Lago club. “I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s disgusting,’ and I turned away,” Trump told Stern. “I didn’t want to touch him … he’s bleeding all over the place, I felt terrible. … I was saying, ‘Get that blood cleaned up! It’s disgusting!’” The next day, he admitted, he forgot to call to check on whether the man was okay.
-- Former Broward County sheriff’s deputy Scot Peterson, who failed to go inside the school during the shooting, says he believes he “acted appropriately” because he thought the gunfire was coming from outside. Mark Berman reports: “Peterson’s lawyer, Joseph A. DiRuzzo III, pushed back at ‘unfounded criticism of his actions … and uncalled for attacks upon his character’ in a lengthy statement Monday. Peterson said in the statement that when he got to the school building … he ‘heard gunshots but believed that those gunshots were originating from outside of any of the buildings on the school campus.’ … The lawyer did not say when the officer realized the gunfire was coming from inside the building.” The lawyer added, “The allegations that Mr. Peterson was a coward and that his performance … failed to meet the standards of police officers are patently untrue.”
-- Peterson’s account further increased the pressure on Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who is facing calls for his resignation. From Michael Scherer, Aaron C. Davis and Mark Berman: “[Israel] has become an unlikely political lightning rod two weeks after [the shooting], with his department coming under intense scrutiny for its handling of the attack. … Some believe political considerations could be a factor in the criticism of Israel, [a Democrat] who is publicly elected to serve as sheriff in Broward County, which has nearly 2 million residents and is Florida’s second-most-populous county.”
DREAMERS' HOPES RAISED:
-- The Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration’s request to immediately review lower court rulings on DACA, which kept the program in place. Robert Barnes reports: “The court orders effectively block the Trump administration from ending the program on March 5, as planned. No appellate court has reviewed those decisions, and it would have been exceedingly rare for the Supreme Court to take up a case without that interim step. ... The litigation now will take its usual course, and the issue probably won’t return to the Supreme Court before the next term.”
-- The court’s decision puts the onus back on Congress to reach a legislative agreement on DACA. David Nakamura and Barnes write: “Even as immigrant-rights advocates hailed the news, they emphasized that DACA recipients remain in limbo and fretted that lawmakers would be lulled into a false complacency after failing to strike a legislative deal this month. … ‘It would be foolish to take, sort of, false confidence or hope that somehow the courts are going to save us from having to make a decision,’ said John Cornyn [R-Texas] ... But both sides in the debate acknowledged there appears to be no clear path for a legislative solution and predicted that the lack of a hard deadline over DACA would reduce pressure on lawmakers, ensuring that dreamers will remain a tense political issue heading into November’s midterm elections.”
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST WATCH:
-- The standoff at the Trump hotel in Panama City has ratcheted up, triggering a federal investigation. Joshua Partlow and David A. Fahrenthold report: “Offices have been barricaded. Several yelling matches have broken out. The power was briefly turned off, in a dispute over the building’s electronic equipment. At one point, [owner Orestes] Fintiklis — denied a chance to fire the hotel staff or even check into a room — played a tune on the hotel’s lobby piano as an apparent show of defiance. On Monday, Panama’s federal prosecutors said they had opened an investigation into the Trump Organization, after Fintiklis complained that he had been unlawfully blocked from his own property. With that, this bizarre standoff turned a theoretical concern about the Trump administration — that, someday, the president’s private business might be investigated by a foreign government — into a reality.”
-- The Trump Organization said it donated its foreign profits from last year to the U.S. Treasury, but declined to offer specifics. David and Jonathan O'Connell report: “[Trump’s] company made the donation on Feb. 22, according to George A. Sorial, the Trump Organization’s chief compliance counsel. …. The Washington Post asked for more details: How much was donated? Which Trump properties were included in this accounting? Which foreign entities had paid money to Trump’s businesses? ‘We have nothing further to share at this time,’ [Trump Organization spokeswoman Amanda Miller] wrote in an email.”
-- An Israel-focused charity held its inaugural gala this weekend at Mar-a-Lago, becoming the latest organization with Trump-like political leanings to give its business to the president’s Florida property. Lori Rozsa reports: “Although Trump may not have been there, he was the reason [organizer Steven] Alembik held this party at Mar-a-Lago. Alembik had originally booked the Boca Raton Resort & Club for the Sunday gala. But then the rioting in Charlottesville happened, when Trump said there were ‘very fine people’ at the August protest that included violent white supremacists. In the weeks after that, 19 of the charities that had planned galas or luncheons at Mar-a-Lago in the winter abruptly canceled their events. … [Alembik told gala attendees,] ‘So I picked up the phone, I call Mar-a-Lago, they think I’m calling to cancel some other gala or some event, and I said no. I’d like to come here and show our support for the president of the United States.’”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Hope Hicks is slated to testify before the House Intelligence Committee today as part of its ongoing Russia investigation. The closed-door interview was originally scheduled for January, but was postponed as the White House counsel and committee members discussed the scope of the communications director's testimony. CBS News’s Olivia Victoria Gazis reports: “[One] of the most charged issues likely to be addressed is Hicks' knowledge of the White House's initial statement, drafted aboard Air Force One, in response to press reports of a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting ... Committee members will presumably want to probe what role the president himself had in the process[.] Hicks' own role in responding to reports of the meeting may also be scrutinized. According to a report in the New York Times, a former spokesman for [Trump's legal team] planned to tell Mueller's team that Hicks said on a conference call that emails written by [Donald Trump Jr.] about the Trump Tower meeting, ‘will never get out.’”
-- Six Republican committee leaders are avoiding digging into the Trump family’s finances as part of their ongoing Russia probes, saying they see “little reason to pursue those lines of inquiry.” CNN’s Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb report: “Republicans have resisted calls to issue subpoenas for bank records, seeking Trump's tax returns or sending letters to witnesses to determine whether there were any Trump financial links to Russian actors — calling the push nothing more than a Democratic fishing expedition. While the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee has acknowledged that his panel lacks the resources of [Mueller] to dig deeply into financial matters, several Democrats on committees with financial experts on their staff have sought such records. In the House Intelligence Committee, for instance, Democrats have asked for subpoenas to Deutsche Bank, the institution that has been a major lender to the Trump Organization as well as Jared Kushner ... The partisan dispute ... underscores how Republicans on the Hill have, for the most part, stayed away from vigorous oversight of the Trump administration.”
-- Mueller’s team may have additional leverage against Paul Manafort, stemming from a loan Trump's former campaign manager received during an L.A. bankruptcy fight. Reuters’s Nathan Layne reports: “[Over] the past several months Mueller has begun focusing on Jeffrey Yohai, Manafort’s former son-in-law and his partner in four California property deals that failed and were placed in bankruptcy, as a potentially valuable witness in his probe.” “It’s all about increasing pressure on Manafort to cooperate,” said Frank Figliuzzi, who served at the FBI under Mueller until 2012.
-- A new USA Today-Suffolk University poll finds that Americans have more trust in Mueller’s investigation than in Trump’s denials of collusion: Seventy-five percent said they take seriously the charges filed by the special counsel. And while 58 percent of voters said they have “a lot or some trust” in the special counsel's probe, 57 percent said they have “little or no trust” in the president's denials. More than four in 10 voters believe Russian interference affected the outcome of the 2016 election, while nearly seven in 10 said they believe Moscow made a “serious” effort to interfere in the race.
-- A Danish bank accused of money laundering has shut down its Russian accounts, believing that cash was funneled through British companies by people connected to Putin’s family and the FSB spy agency. The Guardian’s Luke Harding reports: “[Danske] closed 20 Russian customer accounts in 2013 following a whistleblower report ... The latest revelations concern a different group of firms, most registered in London.”
-- Trump took to Twitter this morning to insist there was no collusion in the Russia probe, citing Judge Napolitano and Jonathan Turley (both from Fox News appearances) — and then Ken Starr:
“We’ve seen NO EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION....I have seen nothing, the firing of James Comey and all of the aftermath, that suggests that the President has obstructed justice because he’s exercising his power as the President of the U.S. I just don’t see it.” Judge Ken Starr— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 27, 2018
This came next:
WITCH HUNT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 27, 2018
WEST WING INTRIGUE:
-- Roxanne Roberts looks at the uncomfortable social relationship between members of the Trump administration and Washington's elite, describing an atmosphere in which the aides look down on the “swamp” inhabitants and the permanent establishment keeps its distance for fear of being “tainted for life:” “This establishment is trying to reject Trump and his family like white blood cells chasing off an infection,” says conservative anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, who has lived in Washington for 33 years. And Trump loyalists, he says, see little value in rubbing shoulders with people who didn’t want anything to do with them before the election ... The private dilemma, circa 2018, is this: Do you invite Trump and his team to your party? Do they want to come? Do you want them to come? Or do you sit out the next few years? …
“The closest to the classic Washington model — a high-profile administration couple welcomed with open arms and happy to dive in — is Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and his wife, Hilary Geary Ross. … The Rosses are very rich, fun and like being a part of the surrounding cultural and social life. They accept most invitations and host sit-down dinners at their Washington mansion, which is filled with priceless paintings from their Magritte collection. The transition to the nation’s capital was easy for the Rosses: They are older, with a traditional approach to social engagement — dinners, charities and the like.” Flashback: Ross told me at a Post Live event in September that he was surprised by how Washington was such “a wonderful place to live.” Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, however, were “poised to be the toast of the town,” but quickly soured on it after the “vicious, unfair” attacks leveled against the president's team in the Russia probe.
-- “How Long Can John Kelly Hang On?,” by Matt Flegenheimer in the New York Times Magazine: “Even among Trump critics, Kelly once inspired uncommon sympathy. While other high-level officials … had invited doubts about how long they could possibly tolerate working in the administration, Kelly’s responsibilities seemed uniquely masochistic: He was the chief disciplinarian in a famously undisciplined White House. ‘You never run into somebody like Trump in the military,’ [Leon] Panetta told me. ‘They’d usually get kicked out.’ The job itself was premised on a paradox: If Trump weren’t Trump, Kelly’s position would be bearable. And if Trump weren’t Trump, you would not need a John Kelly ...
“Once held up as the administration’s most credible cross-aisle emissary, Kelly has instead become the figure ... most closely associated with White House intransigence. 'He’s not a martyr, and he’s not a hostage,' Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary at Homeland Security under Obama who has worked with Kelly and who initially cheered his addition to the administration, told me. 'John Kelly is not saving us.'”
-- Kelly met with veterans' advocates to assure them of Trump’s confidence in VA Secretary David Shulkin. Emily Wax-Thibodeaux reports: “The meeting was arranged by Kelly following revelations that Shulkin … had become a target of conservatives hoping to install a new secretary who would be more supportive of their plan to expand health-care options beyond the VA system ... Leading advocacy groups, including the American Legion, the VFW and the Disabled Veterans of America, fear the goal is to dismantle VA, and they view Shulkin as an ally in that standoff.”
-- Reports that Trump may tap his personal pilot, John Dunkin, to lead the Federal Aviation Administration have drawn skepticism from those in the aviation industry, who note that former FAA chiefs have had a lot of experience. Politico’s Brianna Gurciullo and Tanya Snyder report: “In contrast, [Dunkin's] experience since 1989 … has been working ‘on and off’ for Trump as his personal pilot. Dunkin is the Trump Organization's director of aviation operations for a fleet that includes a Boeing 757, a Cessna Citation X business jet and three Sikorsky helicopters. ‘The only person that thinks it’s a good idea, from what I gather, is the president,’ said one lobbyist with aviation clients … Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), who would take the lead in vetting any FAA nominations, said Monday evening that Dunkin may have a difficult road to confirmation if the White House chooses him.” "I'd prefer that they send somebody up that we can confirm easily. I've conveyed that to them," Thune said. "I'm sure that the Democrats would probably want to make it challenging" for Dunkin.
-- A senior HUD official claimed she was demoted for refusing to fund an expensive redecoration of Secretary Ben Carson’s office. The Guardian’s Jon Swaine and Ben Jacobs report: “Helen Foster said she was told “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair” after informing her bosses this was the legal price limit for improvements to the HUD secretary’s suite at the department’s Washington headquarters. Foster, 47, claimed that she also faced retaliation for exposing a $10m budget shortfall, and for protesting when she was barred from handling a pair of sensitive freedom of information act (FOIA) requests relating to Trump apparently because she was perceived to be a Democrat. … Foster is seeking a public apology, compensatory damages and reinstatement as HUD’s chief administrative officer.”
THE ROAD TO NOVEMBER:
-- Mississippi Republican Chris McDaniel is expected to today announce a Senate bid — although it’s not clear which GOP seat he’s eyeing. Sean Sullivan and Robert Costa report: “McDaniel announced that he would hold a rally on Wednesday[.] … The possibility of a challenge against Sen. Roger Wicker, or perhaps a bid for Sen. Thad Cochran’s seat, put party officials on edge. Hours ahead of his comments ... speculation was rampant among Republicans about what he would say ... Whatever McDaniel decides will probably have a direct impact on the Republican Party well beyond the state’s borders. His hostilities toward party leaders have made him a threat to the establishment. His far-right views have spurred fear among some GOP leaders that he is a liability in the general election.”
-- The tax bill Democrats had hoped would be a Republican liability is turning into an asset. Erica Werner reports from Kokomo, Ind.: “The new law is rising in popularity as businesses in Indiana and elsewhere trumpet bonuses and bigger paychecks. And while [Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), facing a tough reelection,] and fellow Democrats struggle to craft a consistent attack on the law, Republicans — boosted by outside spending from groups backed by the billionaire Koch brothers and others — are united in touting the tax cuts and slamming moderate Democrats who voted against them. ... The three Republicans vying to replace Donnelly hit that point repeatedly as they met on a debate stage last week. … [The law’s growing popularity leaves] Democrats the unenviable task of trying to convince voters that a law increasing their paychecks now will be bad for the country later.”
-- A possible line of attack for the Democrats: “Trump’s Tax Cuts in Hand, Companies Spend More on Themselves Than on Wages,” by the New York Times’s Matt Phillips: “[C]ompanies are using much of the money [from the tax law] for something with a more narrow benefit: buying their own shares. Those so-called buybacks are good for shareholders, including the senior executives who tend to be big owners of their companies’ stock. A company purchasing its own shares is a time-tested way to bolster its stock price. But the purchases can come at the expense of investments in things like hiring, research and development and building new plants — the sort of investments that directly help the overall economy. The buybacks are also most likely to worsen economic inequality because the benefits of stocks purchases flow disproportionately to the richest Americans.”
-- Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) isn't spending a lot of time bashing the president in a state Trump won. HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel writes: “Baldwin said she has no problem criticizing Trump. But she isn’t making him a focus of her campaign, and she’s not bringing him up every chance she gets. Indeed, during her three-stop swing through western Wisconsin last week, she mentioned Trump only once or twice by name, although she referenced ‘the president’ a few other times. For one of the most liberal members of the Senate, Baldwin hardly talked fiery resistance rhetoric all day long.”
-- A group led by former Attorney General Eric Holder is suing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) in an attempt to force special elections in the state. Walker had previously said two state Senate seats, left open by Republicans who joined his administration, would be filled in November’s regularly scheduled elections. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jason Stein: “Fresh off a victory in a Senate special election last month, Wisconsin Democrats have demanded that Walker call these two additional special elections and give their party an opportunity to notch more wins. With Democrats seeing an opportunity — and Republicans seeing a threat — the controversy over the special election has taken on a strong political cast. Holder's group, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, jumped into the fight Monday, bringing the lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court on behalf of Wisconsin Democrats who live in the two districts.”
-- A new Democratic group hopes to bring national security issues to the fore of the midterms. Anne Gearan reports: “A group of mostly young veterans of the Barack Obama administration and the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign is launching a national security political strike force aimed at countering Trump and Republicans. … Called ‘National Security Action,’ the group is more expressly political than many Democratic-leaning think tanks and policy shops, but it will not endorse candidates or make political donations, [its founders] said. The idea is to give Democratic candidates, lawmakers and policy organizations opposing Trump a foreign policy tool kit — everything from talking points to legal and policy expertise to campaign surrogates[.]”
-- Republicans fear a candidate embroiled a sexting scandal could cost them a reliably red seat in Arizona. From Politico’s Elena Schneider: “The seat vacated by former GOP Rep. Trent Franks — who resigned last December over his own sex scandal — should be an easy hold for Republicans. But a bombshell report of nude photos and text messages exchanged between the candidate, former state Sen. Steve Montenegro, and a legislative staffer — published just a week before the election — has left GOP operatives worried that ‘it could be Alabama all over again,’ said Shiree Verdone, who ran Arizona Sen. John McCain's 2010 Senate race.”
-- Unsuccessful Alabama Senate candidate and alleged pedophile Roy Moore is back — and he’s endorsing a candidate who called feminists “she-devils” in the Missouri Senate race. Michael Scherer reports: “[Moore] has put his weight behind Courtland Sykes, a Navy veteran who … said he would not want daughters who were ‘career-obsessed banshees.’ ‘Courtland is a man of impeccable character, courage, and Christian faith,’ Moore said in an emailed statement Monday. ‘We need men like Courtland Sykes in the Senate of the United States, a leader who will not only say what is right, but also a leader who will do what is right!’ Sykes is challenging Attorney General Josh Hawley in the Republican primary for the seat held by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D).”
-- Levi Sanders, son of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), officially announced his candidacy for New Hampshire’s 1st District. WMUR’s John DiStaso reports: “Sanders is proposing a ‘Medicare for all health care system,’ tuition-free college, a higher minimum wage, equal pay for women and ‘sensible gun legislation.’ He also cited a need to address the opioid epidemic, which, he said, ‘is at a crisis level in New Hampshire.’ … Sanders, 48, enters the race in the unique — although not unprecedented — position of residing out of the district he hopes to serve in Washington. He is a resident of Claremont, which is in the 2nd District[.] … The open 1st District seat has already spawned one of the most competitive congressional races in the country, and Sanders’ entrance into the contest will only intensify the competition.”
-- Stacey Dash, the “Clueless” actress-turned conservative commentator, has officially launched a congressional bid in California’s 44th District. The seat is currently held by Democratic Rep. Nanette Barragán, who worked on President Obama’s reelection campaign, and has been held by a Democratic representative since 2012. (Time)
TRUMP’S FOREIGN POLICY:
-- The State Department’s point-man on North Korea, Joseph Yun, will retire Friday after three decades of service. Anna Fifield reports: “His departure reflects the widespread frustration within the State Department at diplomats’ relative lack of power in the Trump administration … It will leave another gaping hole in the United States’ staffing on Korean issues. … Yun was the main person in the State Department dealing with the North Korea problem, and he traveled to Seoul and Tokyo frequently to coordinate with the U.S. allies. Yun, a strong advocate of engagement with North Korea, has been arguing in favor of dialogue with Pyongyang during the last year of increased tensions.”
-- European leaders are scrambling to create a successor to the Iran nuclear deal if Trump follows through on threats to tear apart the original. The New York Times’s Mark Landler, David E. Sanger, and Gardiner Harris report: “Talking points that [Rex Tillerson] recently circulated to American diplomats in Europe warned that ‘in the absence of a clear commitment from your side to address these issues, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.’ The instructions … stipulate that the Europeans agree to three key fixes: a commitment to renegotiate limits on missile testing by Iran; an assurance that inspectors have unfettered access to Iranian military bases; and an extension of the deal’s expiration dates to prevent Iran from resuming the production of nuclear fuel long after the current restrictions expire in 2030. ... European diplomats said there was scope for an agreement on missiles and inspections, but not yet on the length of the deal.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The GOP lieutenant governor of Georgia threatened Delta Airlines, his state's largest private employer, for cutting ties with the NRA:
I will kill any tax legislation that benefits @Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with @NRA. Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.— Casey Cagle (@CaseyCagle) February 26, 2018
A HuffPost reporter observed the hypocrisy:
The extremely conservative position of [checks notes] withholding corporate welfare unless a private business hands out discounts to a group of people the Lieutenant Governor likes. https://t.co/lCtA85JZjT— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) February 26, 2018
New York's Democratic lieutenant governor said Delta is welcome in her state:
.@Delta, as one of your most frequent flyers, know that the NY LG admires your principled stance. Let’s continue our great relationship. NY is open for business & ❤'s Delta – move HQ to where you’re appreciated? https://t.co/AZ8xeC0geo— Kathy Hochul (@LtGovHochulNY) February 26, 2018
FedEx faced increased pressure over its ties to the NRA, per a columnist for the Intercept:
WOW!!! More people need to follow her lead.— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) February 26, 2018
My friend Jeni, of @jenisicecreams just said that they will move 100,000 annual mail orders from @FedEx to @UPS if FedEx doesn't drop their support of the NRA.
This took guts. pic.twitter.com/MunUHy57KO
FedEx responded to the pressure campaign with a statement:
Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D), who is challenging Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, touted his lack of NRA connections:
Beto O’Rourke— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) February 25, 2018
Last NRA rating: F
Total NRA contributions: $0https://t.co/PGtWuzzZ2t
Cruz swung back:
Elections are about choices. Today’s liberal Democrats are proud to support gun confiscation. Instead, I choose to defend Texans’ right to keep and bear arms. #NRA #2ndAmendment #BillOfRights https://t.co/2uwU4LRdep— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) February 26, 2018
Author Michael Eric Dyson compared Trump's remarks about the sheriff's deputy in Parkland to Obama's remarks about the Cambridge police officer who arrested a black Harvard professor in 2009:
So @BarackObama said a cop “acted stupidly,” and law enforcement got enraged, charged him with betraying them, his polls numbers tanked, he’s called a racist, but @realDonaldTrump calls a cop a “coward” and “disgusting,” and not a hint of criticism from law enforcement.— Michael Eric Dyson (@MichaelEDyson) February 26, 2018
A former spokesman for Obama's Justice Department commented on Trump's quote that he wants “people who have a natural talent" to carry guns in schools:
It is quite an achievement that the more he talks about this issue, the dumber he sounds. https://t.co/I3Dq8PWvqR— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) February 26, 2018
Lots of Twitterati questioned whether Trump would have run unarmed into the Florida school:
The guy who won't take a raindrop for his own kid is going to take a bullet for someone else's kid? pic.twitter.com/JFyeRj0KT8— JackiSchechner (@JackiSchechner) February 26, 2018
From the head of BuzzFeed News's breaking news team:
"I really believe I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon.” —Trump pic.twitter.com/NWZ2ZPOx9h— Tom Namako (@TomNamako) February 26, 2018
From a New York Times television critic:
I know you can never truly know until you're tested, but I believe if an asteroid were hurtling into the Earth I would throw my body in front of it and punch it back into space— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) February 26, 2018
A Senate Democrat reemphasized the need for legislative fixes:
I wish the security guy had tried to shoot Cruz, but let's be honest - when you're relying on a security guard to face down potential death and start firing into a crowded space hoping to hit the bad guy before getting shot dead himself, public policy has failed.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) February 26, 2018
A search engine took its own steps to prevent gun violence, per a writer for Red State:
Yo, Google is stopping any shopping results for AR-15s. pic.twitter.com/gQ8J2jQVuZ— Brandon Morse (@TheBrandonMorse) February 26, 2018
An NBA star expressed his commitment to speaking out about gun violence:
This is Joaquin Oliver. He was one of the 17 young lives that were lost tragically at Douglas HighSchool in Parkland. Joaquin was one of many that i heard was excited about my return to Miami and yesterday was buried in my jersey. This is why we will not just SHUT up and dribble! pic.twitter.com/X0tfTTao33— DWade (@DwyaneWade) February 26, 2018
Hillary Clinton warned about more Russian interference for the midterms:
We should all care about how social media platforms play a part in our democratic process. Because unless it’s addressed it will happen again. The midterms are in 8 months. We owe it to our democracy to get this right, and fast. https://t.co/aM3pRrZW4J— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 27, 2018
Ivanka Trump ducked a question about her father's alleged sexual misconduct:
“Do you believe your father’s [sexual misconduct] accusers?” -@PeterAlexander— TODAY (@TODAYshow) February 26, 2018
“I think it’s a pretty inappropriate question to ask a daughter if she believes the accusers of her father when he’s affirmatively stated there’s no truth to it.” -@IvankaTrump pic.twitter.com/23AVPgcOdE
A Post reporter questioned the logic of her answer:
The White House went out of its way to make clear that Ivanka Trump traveled to South Korea as a senior adviser to the president, not a First Daughter. But as soon as she’s hit with a difficult question, suddenly she’s a daughter. https://t.co/yxn44dbDDK— Jenna Johnson (@wpjenna) February 26, 2018
A House Democrat added this:
Let's reword the questions to Ivanka:— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 26, 2018
-Cohen paid $130k to silence Stormy Daniels. Was there coordination with Trump campaign?
-National Enquirer paid $150k to silence Karen McDougal. Was there coordination with Trump campaign?
Can you forward to @IvankaTrump? She blocked me. https://t.co/OUg2iFvNBM
The AP issued this epic correction:
This is quite a correction pic.twitter.com/TnFZmbCIQV— Jon Steingart (@jonsteingart) February 26, 2018
A White House adviser was caught dozing off, per a Bloomberg News reporter:
And Obama's former White House photographer took a direct shot at Trump:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- New York Times, “Arizona Republicans Inject Schools of Conservative Thought Into State Universities,” by Stephanie Saul: “In [one classroom], five students listened attentively last month to an analysis of Aristophanes’ play ‘The Clouds.’ Nine students in another course took in a detailed lecture about the Peloponnesian War, while yet another class pondered the concept of happiness as defined by Aristotle. Small classes, deep engagement with professors, and a focus on the Classics — they could be scenes from an elite and expensive liberal arts college. Instead, these classes are taking place at one of America’s largest public universities, Arizona State, courtesy of a pet project generously funded by the state’s conservative leaders. Around the country, Republican legislatures have been taking a greater interest in the affairs of their state universities to counteract what they see as excessive liberalism on campus, from quarrels over conservative speakers … to the very substance of what students are taught. Their creation reflects a cultural struggle within academia, one that some conservatives believe requires government intervention to counter a liberal professoriate.”
-- The New Yorker, “Masha Gessen on Putin’s Russia and Trump’s America,” by Dorothy Wickenden: “[Gessen’s] work as a journalist and as a gay-rights activist in both [Russia and the U.S.] has made her uniquely positioned to write about Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Donald Trump’s America, and how they intersect at this very fraught moment. ‘It’s like I was gifted with this special pair of eyeglasses,’ [she says]. … When asked about the effects of Trumpism on American society, Gessen thinks that, though we’re having lots of conversations about politics, we’ve lost the capacity for political conversation: ‘A political conversation is a conversation in which people with different views come to agreements about how they’re going to inhabit this society together,’ she says. ‘We don’t see that happening in Congress, we don’t see that happening in the streets, we don’t see that happening at kitchen tables.’”
-- Vanity Fair, “‘The Newsroom Feels Embarrassed’: Backfires and Explosions at the New York Times as a Possible Future Chief Re-Invents the Paper’s Opinion Pages,” by Joe Pompeo: “[James] Bennet has been somewhat of an activist Opinion editor, and a surprisingly large amount of his activity has produced outrage, even from inside the building. The hiring of former Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens — a never-Trumper and Pulitzer-winning writer, but also a climate-science skeptic — would bring down a savage backlash from the left. Fellow new recruit Bari Weiss, a neocon with a background in Israel activism, has been a flash point, too. … [S]ome Times journalists [have gone] from skeptical consternation regarding Opinion’s latest iteration, to outright concern that some of Bennet’s decisions [are] damaging the paper’s credibility.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Armed Extremist Militia Group Urges Members To Stand Guard Outside Of Schools,” from HuffPost: “In the wake of the deadly [Parkland, Fla., shooting], a far-right armed militia group called the Oath Keepers is urging its members to station themselves outside of schools to provide protection … The Oath Keepers [are] ‘one of the largest radical antigovernment groups in the U.S. today,’ according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Oath Keepers website says the group’s goal is to defend the Constitution at all costs, and that members pledge not to ‘obey orders to disarm the American people.’ In Indiana, at least one member of the group, Mark Cowan, stationed himself outside of a Fort Wayne high school last week. He wielded a handgun and AR-15 while keeping watch near the premises[.] On Monday evening, the Oath Keepers will be holding a webinar on this type of vigilante protection[.]"
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Another free speech ball stabbed in California,” from the Washington Examiner: “One of the most popular activism tactics on college campuses is the use of a ‘free speech ball.’ This tactic consists of rolling around a giant inflatable beach ball while encouraging students to write on it as a free speech exercise. … However, as free speech balls have grown in popularity, more and more leftists are stabbing the inflatable balls to shut down campus speech. The most recent free speech ball attack took place last week as Young Americans for Liberty students were recruiting new members for the [UCLA] chapter. Ben Sachrison, YAL Chapter President at UCLA, [said] that ‘students were coming up to us and... telling us that we should be ashamed of ourselves because... our speech was killing people.’ Students filed a report with the UCLA Police Department, but no arrests have been made.”
Trump has a morning meeting with Republican senators on renewable energy. He will then receive the Boy Scouts of America’s “Report to the Nation.” He will also meet with Republican House members to discuss trade and make an announcement about the White House’s initiative on HBCUs.
Future plans: Josh Dawsey and Nick Miroff report Trump has scheduled a trip to California next month to see border wall prototypes and attend an RNC fundraiser.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, speaking on “Fox & Friends” about how she would have responded to the Parkland massacre, said, “Let me put it this way, when you have a school full of students, and your duty is to protect those students, even if I didn’t have a firearm I would have gone into that scene. That’s what you do.” (News Service of Florida Blog)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Washingtonians will see a sunny day with temperatures stretching into the 60s. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “After a crisp morning in the 30s, sunshine warms temperatures quickly, with peak afternoon readings in the more comfortable upper 50s to low 60s.”
-- The Capitals lost to the Blue Jackets 5-1. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)
-- Virginia legislators are considering expanding I-66 tolls to drivers going against rush-hour traffic. Luz Lazo reports: “The toll system between the Capital Beltway and the District line is in effect only during rush hour and in the peak direction lanes: eastbound in the morning and westbound in the afternoon. Some lawmakers say tolling only those commuters traveling in the peak-direction lanes isn’t fair, so they want tolling on both sides of the road.”
-- The District Department of Transportation is considering ditching D.C. Streetcar’s existing fleet. The program has been plagued with problems since it launched two years ago. (Faiz Siddiqui)
-- The Golden State Warriors, in lieu of a visit to the Trump White House, will visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture today. Trump withdrew his invitation from the NBA champions for the customary White House visit in September after Stephen Curry suggested the team might boycott. (Tim Bontemps)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Jimmy Fallon announced he would march with Parkland students in Washington:
Late-night hosts also expressed doubt about Trump's claim that he would have entered the school as the shooter terrorized students:
The first lady addressed the shooting at a luncheon for governors' spouses:
A former spokesman for Hillary Clinton tweeted this “All in the Family” clip, made newly relevant because of recent gun debates:
WORTH WATCHING— Jesse Ferguson (@JesseFFerguson) February 26, 2018
Archie Bunker says that the way to stop terrorists from hijacking planes is to arm all the passengers.
Give them all pistols as they board.
Sound familiar? pic.twitter.com/WwVoWOiBf3
And a Cincinnati man who attempted to drive through floodwaters met some difficulties: