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The Daily 202: The 11 GOP senators who broke with Trump over relaxing sanctions against a Putin-linked oligarch

Russian President Vladimir Putin walks with metals magnate Oleg Deripaska to attend a business advisory council meeting at APEC in Vietnam in November 2017. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo/AP)

with Joanie Greve

With Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: Eleven Senate Republicans defected from President Trump on Wednesday, but the resolution to overturn the administration’s move to lift sanctions against Russian companies controlled by an ally of Vladimir Putin still fell three votes short because it needed 60 senators to pass.

The coalition of GOP lawmakers who withstood pressure from the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to fall in line was eclectic and somewhat surprising. It included outspoken hawks like Tom Cotton (Ark.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.), but not others like Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Ted Cruz (Tex.). Two freshmen who were just sworn in, Josh Hawley (Mo.) and Martha McSally (Ariz.), broke with party bosses, yet not Mitt Romney (Utah). Two of the usual suspects, Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Susan Collins (Maine), were among those who split with their conference, but they were joined by normally pro-Trump stalwarts such as Steve Daines (Mont.), Jerry Moran (Kan.) and John Boozman (Ark.). Six of the 11 are up for reelection next year, including Cory Gardner (Colo).

Under legislation that passed almost unanimously in 2017, and that Trump reluctantly signed to avoid a veto override, Congress gets 30 days to block the administration from easing sanctions on Russian targets. The Treasury Department notified Congress last month that it intends to lift sanctions against the holding company that includes the aluminum giant Rusal because Putin pal Oleg Deripaska has agreed to reduce his ownership stake from about 70 percent to 45 percent. The announcement on Dec. 19 said this divestment will protect the companies “from the controlling influence of a Kremlin insider.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin insisted during a visit to the Capitol on Tuesday that this is not a favor to Putin. He also stressed that the billionaire oligarch will continue to face significant sanctions personally. After speaking to Republican senators over lunch, he also said the deal was negotiated by nonpolitical civil servants who have worked in the government for more than two decades.

“Under the Treasury plan to reduce Deripaska’s ownership, Russia’s state-owned VTB Bank or another Treasury-approved entity will take ownership of a block of Deripaska’s shares … that had been pledged against a loan,” explains business reporter Jeanne Whalen. “The Obama administration added VTB Bank to a sanctions list in 2014, as punishment for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Trump administration issued sanctions against VTB’s chairman, Andrey Kostin, last year, as part of the actions against Deripaska and others.”

Rubio thinks the idea that Deripaska will no longer control his own company is a joke. “Deripaska loses shares but not influence or effective control of Rusal,” Rubio said. “Between his 35 percent of voting shares and those held by others close to him, including 7 percent by Putin’s bank, his control over the company remains.”

Cotton agrees. “The proposed deal doesn’t fully account for the way that power and influence work within Vladimir Putin’s corrupt inner circle,” he said. “I don’t believe Deripaska will be denied operational control of these companies and I therefore believe they should remain subject to sanctions.”

Moran focused on the bigger picture. “I will not support the lifting of sanctions until President Putin and Russia changes its hostile behavior,” the Kansan said. “There is no indication that Russian policy has changed, so now is not the time to lift sanctions.”

Daines made a similar point. “This resolution helps keep pressure on the Kremlin for their aggressive actions towards Eastern Europe, the Middle East and around the world,” said the Montanan.

Gardner, who has carved out a niche on foreign policy, said he will continue “to support maximum economic sanctions until Russia fundamentally changes its behavior.” “Putin is a thug and we must keep up the pressure against the Kremlin and its enablers, including the oligarchs that finance Putin’s outlaw regime,” he said.  

Collins, a member of the Intelligence Committee, also stressed that Deripaska would maintain too much control, especially “given his ties to Putin.”

-- The 57-to-42 vote also reflected the role reversals of the parties vis-a-vis national security in the Trump era. As the Republican standard-bearer in 2012, Romney described Russia as “our No. 1 geopolitical foe.” Democrats mocked him relentlessly for this, but the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election proved his warnings prescient. On Wednesday, though, Romney voted to support the administration’s deal.

“Senator Romney believes the U.S. should maintain strong sanctions on Russia for its bad behavior, including its interference in our elections,” his spokeswoman Liz Johnson said in an email. “His vote was in line with longstanding U.S. policy and will help preserve our leverage to gain concessions from other bad actors. The Senator expects the Administration to reimpose sanctions if these companies don’t comply.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) moved up the time of her first press availability as a presidential candidate to 9 a.m. yesterday so that she’d be able to fly back to Washington from Troy, N.Y., in time to join all her Democratic colleagues in voting to override Trump. The sense on Tuesday night was that the outcome might come down to one vote, and it would have been a PR disaster for Gillibrand’s rollout if the measure had gone down because she was out on the hustings. That would have been especially true if the other 2020 contenders in the Senate had all been there.

Interestingly, though, Bernie Sanders was the only senator who missed the vote. His office said it was because he was meeting with women who sent him a letter about alleged sexism and sexual harassment during his 2016 campaign.

-- Hawley was perhaps the most startling name on the list of “yes” votes. He toppled Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill in Missouri this fall by campaigning as someone who couldn’t think of any issues where he disagreed with Trump. “Deripaska is a bad guy who still appears to be working in conjunction with Putin,” Hawley said last night. “Until we know for certain that Deripaska no longer has control over these entities, we need to maintain the pressure.”

-- McSally, the other freshman who defected, was less surprising. She lost in the November general election, but she was appointed to fill the seat previously held by John McCain. He was as strong on Russia as anyone in the Senate, and it might have been a bad look to break so sharply with his legacy. She also needs to stand for election to a full term again next year in Arizona. Furthermore, McSally, as a retired Air Force colonel, holds the distinction of being the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat. So she understands what Ronald Reagan meant when he talked about “peace through strength.” As she put it last year, America needs to deal with Putin “from a position of strength.”

-- For his part, McConnell warned that overturning the “highly-technical” deal “would overrule career civil servants at the Treasury Department and fire from the hip on one of the top foreign policy concerns of the United States.” Speaking on the Senate floor, the majority leader criticized Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for saying the Senate shouldn’t take up any business until the government reopens but making an exception to challenge Trump on Russia. The leader, who is up for reelection next year in Kentucky, where Trump is more popular than him, suggested that Democrats mainly opposed the deal because Trump made it. “This is the key to understanding this unusual moment in the Congress,” he said. “This is the central principle. Democrats have made a marketing decision to obstruct President Trump at all costs.”

-- Schumer replied that he had no choice because the law gives Congress only 30 days to override the deal. The New York Democrat called it disgraceful that 42 Republican senators voted to ease the pressure on someone who Trump’s own Treasury Department said last year has ties to organized crime, has been investigated for money laundering and has even been accused of threatening the lives of business rivals. Deripaska and his spokespeople have vigorously denied all those allegations but did not respond to Jeanne’s requests for comment. “Forty-two Republican senators chose today to stand with Vladimir Putin rather than the American people,” Schumer said, adding that the vote “sends an unfortunate signal to Putin that he can continue to mess” with the U.S. “I’m extremely disappointed that many of my Republican colleagues are too afraid of breaking with Trump to stand up to a thug.”

-- Deripaska has also been ensnared in special counsel Bob Mueller’s investigation. He helped fund consulting work that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort did for the pro-Putin Ukrainian political party, invested in a Manafort investment fund and lent Manafort millions of dollars, according to court records.

-- One prominent former Trump critic who backed up the president used some whataboutism to defend his vote for sanctions relief. Cruz, even though he just got reelected to a six-year term, released a 400-word statement last night that attacked Barack Obama for being too soft on Russia. He argued that the agreement weakens Deripaska in a “meaningful” way and emphasized that it was endorsed by the European Union. “For eight years, President Obama – with the active support of Senate Democrats – demonstrated weakness and appeasement towards Russia, which only encouraged Russian aggression,” Cruz wrote. “The Obama administration refused to hold Putin accountable.”

-- Others made economic arguments. The implementation of the sanctions has led to a rise in aluminum prices, which hurt U.S. manufacturers and annoyed some European allies. An aide to Sen. Rob Portman said the Ohio Republican voted to support the deal with Deripaska because these sanctions have “inadvertently had a significant adverse impact on the global aluminum market and employers in Ohio.” The aide added in an email: “The goal of sanctions is to change behavior—and in this specific case the sanctions have done so. … Treasury can ensure these behavioral changes remain in place while also helping employers that use aluminum.”

-- Former Republican senator David Vitter, who is now a registered foreign agent and a lobbyist for Mercury Public Affairs, quarterbacked the influence campaign in the Capitol on behalf of the aluminum conglomerate. That makes it notable, then, that the man who replaced Vitter when he gave up his seat to wage an unsuccessful bid for governor in Louisiana, Sen. John Kennedy (R), was one of the 11 Republican holdouts. Kennedy said he still has “grave concerns” about Deripaska and told CNN that “you don't have to own the majority of the stock to have influence over the people of the company."

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The Trump International Hotel inside the federally owned Old Post Office building in downtown D.C. has been mired in controversy even before opening its doors. (Video: Claritza Jimenez, Osman Malik, Jonathan O'Connell/The Washington Post)


  1. The General Services Administration’s inspector general concluded the agency “improperly ignored” constitutional concerns in deciding Trump’s company could keep its lease on a government-owned building after he was elected president. The IG says the GSA failed to consider whether the lease for the site that now houses Trump's D.C. hotel, which Trump signed in 2013, would violate the Constitution’s emoluments clause after his 2016 victory. Read the report. (Jonathan O'Connell and David A. Fahrenthold)

  2. Michigan State’s interim president is resigning amid outcry over his comments last week that some of the victims of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse are “enjoying” the spotlight. John Engler, the former GOP governor of Michigan, became the university’s second president in a year to resign over fallout from the scandal. (Susan Svrluga)

  3. A Georgia man was charged with plotting an attack on the White House following an FBI sting operation. Hasher Jallal Taheb told an undercover agent he “wanted to do as much damage as possible” and hoped to become a martyr. Because of the shutdown, the FBI agents who prevented this potential act of terrorism have not been paid. (Devlin Barrett)

  4. American businessman Jason Spindler survived 9/11 only to die in the Nairobi terrorist attack this week. Spindler’s college roommate said that on Sept. 11, he ran into the rubble of the World Trade Center to help pull people out. (Siobhán O'Grady)

  5. The Los Angeles teachers strike is highlighting Democratic divisions on education issues. Although the Democratic Party has traditionally supported teachers unions and more funding for public education, a faction has moved in recent years to back market-based improvements to school systems. (Valerie Strauss)

  6. The Supreme Court heard arguments about Tennessee’s tough residency requirements for operating a liquor store. A couple who moved to Memphis to own a liquor store and the retail giant Total Wine are both challenging the state’s two-year residence requirement, and the hearing on their case was held on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 18th Amendment, which started Prohibition. (Robert Barnes)

  7. Jack Bogle, the founder of Vanguard and inventor of the index fund, died at 89. Reflecting Bogle’s substantial impact on the finance industry, index funds now account for 43 percent of all stock funds, and Vanguard holds $4.9 trillion in assets. (Thomas Heath)

  8. Steve Carell will star in a new Netflix series inspired by Trump’s proposal of a Space Force. The series is described as a workplace comedy about those tasked with creating a new branch of the U.S. military. (Hollywood Reporter)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged President Trump on Jan. 16 to postpone the Jan. 29 State of the Union address until the government reopens. (Video: Reuters)


-- Nancy Pelosi’s decision to ask Trump to postpone his State of the Union address set off a day of political posturing on Capitol Hill, bringing the shutdown no closer to an end. Erica Werner, Robert Costa and John Wagner report: “The address, scheduled for Jan. 29, would give Trump a prime-time televised platform to make his case for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border … Pelosi did not rescind her invitation for Trump to deliver the address, but in a letter to the president she suggested they work together to find a different date for it after the government has reopened, because of the security costs involved from federal agencies that are going without funding. …

White House officials were working to quell dissent on another front, urging Republican senators to hold off on signing a bipartisan letter that would call for an end to the government shutdown. ... At the same time, a group of centrist-leaning House Democrats met with Trump at the White House and urged him to end the shutdown, a day after some of their colleagues had spurned a similar invitation from Trump. And not long after that, some freshman House Democrats embarked on an improvised and somewhat chaotic hunt for [the Senate majority leader], leaving letters calling for an end to the shutdown at McConnell’s office in the Capitol, in the Senate Republican cloakroom and in the Russell Senate Office Building — holding impromptu news conferences along the way.”

-- The SOTU tactic was Pelosi's latest effort to “leverage her decades of congressional experience to needle, belittle and undercut Trump with swipes at his competence and even his masculinity.” Paul Kane, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey have a behind-the-scenes look: “Just past 8:30 a.m., the leadership’s communications arm sent an email to lawmakers urging them to bring furloughed federal workers or other 'message-related' guests to the nationally televised event. Unknown to most of her caucus, however, [Pelosi] had decided on a more confrontational approach. Addressing a closed-door meeting of House Democrats, the speaker read a letter she had just sent to Trump asking him to either postpone the speech until the federal government reopens or deliver the text in writing, citing security concerns. Surprised Democratic lawmakers cheered their leader’s rationale: If the government stays shut down, Pelosi would deprive Trump of the spotlight he craves. To a president especially sensitive to acts of disrespect — and one with a hearty appetite for pomp and circumstance — the so-called unvitation was not merely a ­power play. It was a calculated personal slight.”

-- Trump has privately expressed frustration about the stalemate as his White House adjusts to yet another leadership transition. The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni report: “‘We are getting crushed!’ Mr. Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, after watching some recent coverage of the shutdown, according to one person familiar with the conversation. ‘Why can’t we get a deal?’ … Mr. Trump has told [anxious advisers] he believes over time the country will not remember the shutdown, but it will remember that he staged a fight over his insistence that the southern border be protected. He wants Democrats to come back to the table agreeing with his position on a wall, and he does not understand why they have not. … But despite his public bravado, and the tweets about ‘Radical Democrats,’ Mr. Trump has had recurring moments of frustration as he takes in negative news coverage of the shutdown, pointing his finger at aides for not delivering the deal he wants. …

Under Mr. Mulvaney, some of the rules of the [John] Kelly era have been undone. Access to the Oval Office, for one thing, is easier. ... Unlike his predecessors, according to White House officials, Mr. Mulvaney is not interested in challenging what has revealed itself to be the one constant in the Trump White House: the special status reserved for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the president’s family members and senior advisers, in the West Wing.”

-- Some nervous White House advisers and Republican lawmakers are pinning their last hopes of a compromise on Trump’s director of legislative affairs, Shahira Knight. The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott reports: “Knight is viewed as one of the only people who, three weeks into the closures, has maintained the respect of the president and congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle—something that Trump’s top shutdown lieutenants, such as Vice President Mike Pence, [Mulvaney], and [Kushner], have struggled to match. Knight, they say, may be the White House’s only hope for ending the shutdown with a deal and not a national emergency. But as opportunities for compromise dwindle by the day, the thinking that good old-fashioned negotiating can solve the shutdown may be just short of wishful.”

-- The No. 2 at the Department of Housing and Urban Development has resigned over disagreements with Trump about disaster funding for Puerto Rico. Tracy Jan, Arelis R. Hernández, Josh Dawsey and Damian Paletta report: “Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude, second-in-command at the agency helmed by Ben Carson and widely regarded as HUD’s most capable political leader, is said to have grown frustrated by what a former HUD employee described as a 'Sisyphean undertaking.' Patenaude cited personal reasons when she submitted her resignation on Dec. 17. … Her impending departure, planned before the shutdown began Dec. 22, hurt the agency’s ability to anticipate and plan for the closure, according to career and political staffers. …

“Last fall, Patenaude expressed concern over the Trump administration’s intervention in disaster-recovery money that Congress had appropriated for Puerto Rico and states hit by hurricanes. … Trump told then-White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and then-Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney that he did not want a single dollar going to Puerto Rico, because he thought the island was misusing the money and taking advantage of the government … Instead, he wanted more of the money to go to Texas and Florida … Patenaude told White House budget officials during an early December meeting in the Situation Room that the money had been appropriated by Congress and must be sent … She assured them that HUD had proper oversight of the funds.”

Furloughed federal workers gathered outside of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) office, urging him to re-open the government. (Video: Joyce Koh, Rhonda Colvin/The Washington Post)

-- A new poll found Trump’s approval slipping among his base as a clear majority of voters express a desire for a compromise to end the shutdown. NPR’s Domenico Montanaro reports: “A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds Trump's approval rating down and his disapproval rating up from a month ago. He currently stands at 39 percent approve, 53 disapprove — a 7-point net change from December when his rating was 42 percent approve, 49 percent disapprove. … As this shutdown continues, 59 percent said they mostly blame President Trump or congressional Republicans for it. And more than 6-in-10 are in the mood for compromise — 63 percent said they want their elected officials to compromise with people they disagree with rather than stick to their positions, including a majority of Republicans. Just 31 percent overall said they want their elected officials to stick to their positions no matter what.”

-- Several Washington-area businesses are offering aid to furloughed federal workers. Justin Wm. Moyer reports: “Day 26 was easier to take when fortified by a roasted ham and cheese sandwich with fried egg and roasted garlic aioli — one item available at a relief kitchen chef José Andrés opened Wednesday blocks from the White House. … There are deals on prescription drugs — including marijuana at dispensaries — and short-term loans. There are discounted haircuts and résumé-writing services. And even though it’s January, there were cheap ice cream cones.”

-- Major companies are also providing assistance to government employees and highlighting shuttered services due to the shutdown. Hamza Shaban reports: “Several outdoor-apparel brands, including REI, Columbia Sportswear and the North Face, have used their social media accounts in recent days to support national parks, where services have been disrupted by the shutdown. … Food industry megabrand Kraft said it would open a store in Washington on Wednesday to offer free food to federal workers.”


-- Rudy Giuliani clashed with his own former statements when he told CNN last night he couldn't say whether members of Trump's campaign colluded with Russia in 2016, even though Trump himself never had. CNN’s Caroline Kelly reports: “‘I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or people in the campaign,’ Giuliani said. He added, ‘I said the President of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the President of the United States committed the only crime you can commit here, conspiring with the Russians to hack the DNC.’ It's another remarkable statement from Giuliani, given that the President and his supporters have repeatedly denied any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. … Trump himself has tweeted at least 13 times directly saying there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.”

-- Michael Cohen offered to pay an IT firm $50,000 to rig online polls in Trump’s favor during the 2016 election, the Wall Street Journal’s Michael Rothfeld, Rob Barry and Joe Palazzolo report. “In his Trump Organization office, Mr. Cohen surprised the man [who owned the firm], John Gauger, by giving him a blue Walmart bag containing between $12,000 and $13,000 in cash and, randomly, a boxing glove that Mr. Cohen said had been worn by a Brazilian mixed-martial arts fighter, Mr. Gauger said. Mr. Cohen disputed that he handed over a bag of cash. … Mr. Gauger owns RedFinch Solutions LLC and is chief information officer at Liberty University in Virginia, where Jerry Falwell Jr., an evangelical leader and fervent Trump supporter, is president. Mr. Gauger said he never got the rest of what he claimed he was owed. But Mr. Cohen in early 2017 still asked for—and received—a $50,000 reimbursement from Mr. Trump and his company for the work … The reimbursement—made on the sole basis of a handwritten note from Mr. Cohen and paid largely out of Mr. Trump’s personal account—demonstrates the level of trust the lawyer once had within the Trump Organization, whose officials arranged the repayment. …

“Mr. Gauger … said that though Mr. Cohen promised him lucrative work for the presidential campaign, his activities related to Mr. Trump consisted of trying unsuccessfully to manipulate two online polls in Mr. Trump’s favor. During the presidential race, Mr. Cohen also asked Mr. Gauger to create a Twitter account called @WomenForCohen. The account, created in May 2016 and run by a female friend of Mr. Gauger, described Mr. Cohen as a ‘sex symbol,’ praised his looks and character, and promoted his appearances and statements boosting Mr. Trump’s candidacy.” Election-law experts said Cohen’s failure to report the expenditure to RedFinch could violate campaign-finance regulations.

-- Paul Manafort’s former deputy Rick Gates is providing details to Mueller on whether Middle Eastern entities interfered with the 2016 election to aid Trump’s campaign. The Daily Beast’s Erin Banco reports: “Gates has answered questions specifically about Psy Group, an Israeli firm that ex-employees say drew up social media manipulation plans to help the Trump campaign, according to sources familiar with the questions. Mueller’s team also asked Gates about interactions with Psy Group’s owner, Joel Zamel, and Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, who worked as an emissary for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the sources said.”

-- Despite the focus on Mueller’s eventual report during attorney general nominee William Barr’s confirmation hearing, there is no guarantee such a report will ever be released. From the New York Times’s Michael S. Schmidt and Charlie Savage: “The law does not require the Justice Department to release a report, and Mr. Mueller has been silent on the issue. … [Current] regulation instructs Mr. Mueller to give the attorney general ‘a confidential report’ when he has finished his investigation explaining his decisions about whom to prosecute and whom not to charge. The attorney general, in turn, must send a report to Congress explaining why the work has concluded. The attorney general is also free to decide that issuing that report would be in the public interest, as long as it is released lawfully.”

-- Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she would not support Barr’s nomination unless he committed to releasing Mueller’s report, Matt Zapotosky, Karoun Demirjian and Devlin Barrett report: “On the second day of Barr’s confirmation hearing, [Feinstein] praised the nominee’s answers to questions about [Mueller], saying he ‘clearly understands the need for independence and the importance of protecting the department, as well as Mr. Mueller, from interference.’ But she quickly added that Barr’s description of what he would do with Mueller’s final report was ‘confusing’ and that she could not vote for him unless he committed to releasing it.”

-- Michael Cohen is having second thoughts about his public congressional testimony out of fear of threats to his family. ABC News’s Eliana Larramendia and James Hill report: “As the president continues to engage in what Cohen sees as reckless and unsubstantiated claims he believes are intended to intimidate him, Cohen has expressed to friends his concern that Trump’s heated rhetoric on television and Twitter could incite an unstable person to target him or his family. Cohen has become so worried that he is now questioning whether a public hearing is in his best interest, sources said, and people close to him have advised him to reconsider.”

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a Jan. 16 suicide blast targeted at coalition forces in the U.S.-patrolled city of Manbij in Syria. (Video: ANHA News via Storyful)


-- The suicide explosion claimed by the Islamic Staten in Syria, which killed four Americans, has cast doubt on Trump’s comments claiming the terrorist group has already been defeated and his planned withdrawal from the country. Karen DeYoung reports: “Manbij, wrested from the militants by U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters and American air power in 2016, is a nexus of the interests and conflicts of the many players in Syria. As various interests squabbled in recent months over political and military control of the town, 25 miles south of the Turkish border, the Islamic State was the one actor that appeared to have been eliminated from the contest. Instead, the bombing showed that it is likely to remain a force to be reckoned with in Syria for the foreseeable future.”

-- Oddly, Vice President Pence reiterated Trump’s comment about the Islamic State being “defeated” just hours after the attack that killed Americans. Carol Morello reports: “In remarks filled with praise for the leadership of [Trump], Pence told the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference at the State Department that some of the most heinous enemies of the United States are in retreat. ‘Thanks to the leadership of this commander in chief and the courage and sacrifice of our armed forces, we are now actually able to begin to hand off the fight against ISIS in Syria to our coalition partners,’ he said, … prompting applause from the 184 diplomats in the audience. ‘And we are bringing our troops home. The caliphate has crumbled, and ISIS has been defeated.’”

-- The Pentagon is preparing to roll out a plan to expand vetting of military recruits with foreign ties. Dan Lamothe reports: “The new policy, still in development, will be distributed to the military services by no later than Feb. 15, according to two Defense Department officials … The new vetting is likely to screen thousands of recruits per year who have what the Pentagon considers 'foreign nexus' risks, including some Americans who marry a foreign spouse or who have family members with dual citizenship, the memos said. Anyone identified for the screening would not be allowed to attend recruit training until they are cleared, a process that could take days for some but drag on much longer for others.”

-- The Pentagon intends to expand American missile defenses on a scale not seen since the Cold War. Paul Sonne reports: “Trump plans to roll out [the initiative] personally on Thursday alongside military leaders at the Pentagon. Known as the missile defense review, the document that Trump will unveil marks the first official update to American missile defense doctrine in nine years. … The Trump administration’s [plan] is to call for urgent new investments in missile-defense technologies across the board, many of which the Pentagon pursued during the Cold War but abandoned after the collapse of the Soviet Union.” But the administration still needs to secure the money for the proposal.

-- Trump may announce a second summit with Kim Jong Un as soon as tomorrow. Anne Gearan and John Hudson: “Kim’s lead negotiator, former spymaster Kim Yong Chol, is expected to carry a letter from the North Korean dictator to Trump when he travels to Washington this week. He is expected to meet the president on Friday, in what would be a repeat of an unusual diplomatic move ahead of the first summit between the two leaders in June. The administration has not announced the envoy’s visit, which comes amid wrangling within the administration over terms for a second Trump-Kim meeting and the promised eradication of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. … If announced soon, the summit would probably take place in March or April, with Danang, Vietnam, seeming to be the most likely venue.”

-- The Chinese technology giant Huawei is being investigated by U.S. federal prosecutors for allegedly stealing trade secrets. The Wall Street Journal’s Dan Strumpf, Nicole Hong and Aruna Viswanatha report: “The investigation grew in part out of civil lawsuits against Huawei, including one in which a Seattle jury found Huawei liable for misappropriating robotic technology from T-Mobile’s Bellevue, Wash., lab, the people familiar with the matter said. The probe is at an advanced stage and could lead to an indictment soon, they said.”

2020 WATCH:

-- Trump’s adversaries, including Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, seem to be taking a different tack  when it comes to the president’s insults: ignoring him. Matt Viser reports: Trump’s “political cachet has been driven by an unerring ability to goad other people into fights that benefit him. The metric he cares about is owning the television ratings and national attention, more than polling or anything else. So what happens when, instead, he is met with something of a shrug? The new silent treatment limits Trump’s ability to dictate national coverage, and frame the day’s debate. And it’s providing an early template for how Democratic presidential candidates may attempt to deal with him in 2020, essentially forcing him out of a conversation they want to have with voters.”

-- The new NPR-Marist poll shows nearly 6 in 10 voters say they will definitely vote against Trump in 2020. NPR’s Domenico Montanaro reports: “Just 30 percent of registered voters said they will definitely vote for Trump in 2020, while 57 percent said they will definitely vote against him. Just 76 percent of Trump supporters, 69 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of white evangelicals say they will definitely vote for him. Many, if not most, of them will likely vote for the president, but their softness in supporting him for re-election is a sign of vulnerability. For context, in 2010, when asked about then-President Barack Obama, just 36 percent said they would definitely vote for him, while 48 percent said they would not. Obama went on to win with 51 percent of the vote.”

-- Foreshadowing the likely double standards women will continue to face in the 2020 race, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) was asked about her likability as she launched her presidential campaign in Upstate New York. Jenna Johnson reports: “A reporter declared that ‘a lot of people see you as pretty likable, a nice person, given the person who we have in the White House’ and asked whether that was a ‘selling point.’ He compared her to another Democratic senator considering a run for president whom he also deemed likable — Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — and asked whether voters want ‘someone like that now.’ ‘I believe that what people want in our state and around the country is someone who will fight for them and someone who not only understands what their problems actually are but will then do what it takes to solve that problem,’ Gillibrand said, balling her hands into fists as she spoke.”

-- Potential presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke kicked off a road trip with a melancholy Medium post about how he's been in a “funk” since losing to Ted Cruz. The Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek reports: O'Rourke “indicated he was traveling along U.S. Route 54 from his hometown of El Paso, through New Mexico, across the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, and into Kansas. While the post made no reference to the presidential race, it made clear life after Congress has been weighing on him. ‘Have been stuck lately. In and out of a funk,’ O'Rourke wrote, noting his last day as a congressman was Jan. 2 and he has not been without a job in over two decades. ‘Maybe if I get moving, on the road, meet people, learn about what’s going on where they live, have some adventure, go where I don’t know and I’m not known, it’ll clear my head, reset, I’ll think new thoughts, break out of the loops I’ve been stuck in.’”

-- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) met with a group of former staffers who voiced concerns about alleged sexual harassment during his 2016 campaign. Politico’s Holly Otterbein and Alex Thompson reports: “The facilitators said that Wednesday was only the first step in a process to create practical ways for improving the campaign’s culture. They said they planned to conduct more fact-finding with other people from the 2016 campaign, and hoped not only to create a blueprint for Sanders but also to produce something that can be shared publicly for all campaigns.”

-- Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) plans to speak in New Hampshire next month, reigniting speculation about his 2020 intentions. The Boston Globe’s James Pindell reports: “Moulton, 40, will address the Bedford (N.H.) Democratic Committee on Feb. 2, at a time a host of Democrats are exploring bids for president. … Although Moulton has traveled to both Iowa and New Hampshire in the past two years, he has not been as closely watched as others eyeing the White House. Media organizations rarely name him to their list of prospective candidates. Moulton is not expected to make any major announcements about a White House campaign during his trip.”

-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who has been mentioned as a possible 2020 primary challenger to Trump, used his second inaugural address to criticize the divisiveness of D.C. politics. Ovetta Wiggins and Arelis R. Hernández report: “‘Those of us blessed by your trust should give you a government that doesn’t act as if it is something apart from you but one that is of the people, by the people, and for the people,’ Hogan, 62, told a crowd of well-wishers on the State House lawn. … He drew a standing ovation when recalling the courage of his father, the late Lawrence Hogan Sr., who served in Congress and on the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate and was the first Republican to publicly call for President Richard M. Nixon’s impeachment.”

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) in a Jan. 10 interview asked how the terms “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” became offensive. (Video: Patrick Martin/The Washington Post)


-- House Democratic leaders referred a measure to censure Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) over his racially offensive comments to the House Ethics Committee, a move that could indefinitely delay a vote. Mike DeBonis reports: “Democratic leaders had feared that a censure of King could open Democrats to Republican retaliation. Speaking earlier on Wednesday, House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) … noted that King made his statements to the news media, not during House proceedings. ‘I don’t know that it’s a good thing for us to talk about censure for things that are done outside of the business of the House of Representatives,’ said Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American congressional leader. ‘We should be very, very careful about doing anything that constrains, or seems to constrain, speech.’”

-- Two Republican congressmen met with the alt-right troll and Holocaust denier Chuck Johnson. The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer reports: “Johnson, a former Breitbart reporter, has denied the magnitude of the Holocaust, expressing doubt that gas chambers were real and questioning whether six million Jews were really killed … In statements, [Reps. Andy Harris (R-Md.) and Phil Roe (R-Tenn.)] confirmed that they had met with Johnson to discuss genetic testing and DNA, but claimed they weren’t aware of Johnson’s history of making racist statements.”

-- A new lawsuit claims Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) retaliated against a staffer who accused a former employee of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation of rape. BuzzFeed News’s Zoe Tillman reports: “The woman, identified in court papers by the pseudonym Jane Doe, alleges she was raped in October 2015, when she was a 19-year-old intern for the CBCF, by the foundation’s intern coordinator at the time, Damien Jones. The woman said she reported the alleged rape to police and told several people, including Rep. Terri Sewell, her former boss and a distant relative of her mother’s, but did not pursue legal action at the time. Several years later, when Jane Doe was working for Jackson Lee, the woman decided she did want to pursue legal action, and told Jackson Lee’s chief of staff Glenn Rushing in early March 2018. The woman alleges that she asked to speak with Jackson Lee about it, but a meeting never happened, and several weeks later she was fired.”


The homeland security secretary dismissed Pelosi's security concerns about Trump's State of the Union:

Another DHS official, speaking to a CNN reporter, added this:

Trump's team was preparing to use the State of the Union to blame Democrats for the shutdown, per a CNN reporter:

From a book critic for The Post:

Columnist Connie Schultz, who is married to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), compared Pelosi's tactics to those of a parent disciplining a child:

A former speechwriter for George W. Bush imagined what will happen next with the shutdown:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) defended Trump's foreign policy after four Americans died in a suicide bombing in Syria:

An MSNBC producer posed this question about Giuliani's latest comments on the Trump campaign's potential collusion with Russia:

A National Journal reporter marked Mitt Romney's moment as "Mr. President":

House Democrats drew attention to their bill to raise the federal minimum wage:

A freshman Democratic congresswoman celebrated joining the House Financial Services Committee:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), another Wall Street critic, will also be on the panel:

The satirical website the Onion parodied Fox News's coverage of AOC:

A freshman Republican senator has been personally returning some of his constituents' phone calls:

A Post reporter explained why Beto's unusual level of transparency about his life could hurt him in a 2020 primary battle:

George Conway, who is married to senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, slammed Trump after Burger King mocked the president's misspelling of "hamburgers":

The manager of Trump's 2020 reelection campaign fired back:

And three Democratic senators debated whether to retweet Cardi B:


-- The new cover story of the Atlantic makes an argument for impeaching Trump. The magazine’s Yoni Appelbaum writes: “The Framers were concerned that a president could abuse his authority in ways that would undermine the democratic process and that could not wait to be addressed. So they created a mechanism for considering whether a president is subverting the rule of law or pursuing his own self-interest at the expense of the general welfare—in short, whether his continued tenure in office poses a threat to the republic. This mechanism is impeachment. Trump’s actions during his first two years in office clearly meet, and exceed, the criteria to trigger this fail-safe.”

-- New York Times, “Goldman’s Tactic in Huge Malaysian Fraud Case: Smear an Ex-Partner,” from Matthew Goldstein, Emily Flitter and Kate Kelly: “They sound like the ingredients of a pulpy thriller: Bigamy. Secret religious conversions. A doctorate from a mail-order diploma mill. Affairs with powerful women. The sordid list — a mixture of facts, accusations and insinuations, packaged in a glossy slide show — represents the crux of a well-orchestrated campaign by Goldman Sachs to discredit one of its former partners and to minimize the Wall Street bank’s role in the looting of a big Malaysian investment fund.”

-- FiveThirtyEight, “Most Personality Quizzes Are Junk Science. Take One That Isn’t,” from Maggie Koerth-Baker and Julia Wolfe: “What’s your personality, and what can it tell you about your true self? Those questions have launched a thousand online personality quizzes. But you can do better than those specious — yet irresistible — quizzes. You can take a personality quiz backed by science. Meet the Big Five, the way most psychologists measure and test personality. … The quiz gives you a score on five different traits: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, negative emotionality and openness to experience.”


“On the Senate floor with a gun on her hip, Republican says packing heat can deter violence,” from Laura Vozzella: “Even in Virginia, where gun culture runs deep and some state lawmakers wear concealed weapons as routinely as dress socks, this scene raised eyebrows: state Sen. Amanda Chase standing on the floor of the ornate chamber with a .38 special openly strapped to her hip. ‘I’ve had people get in my face. I’ve had people come up and try to touch me inappropriately,’ said Chase, a Republican freshman seeking reelection this year in a suburban-rural district south of Richmond. ‘And it’ — the gun — ‘is a deterrent.’ Rules about guns are notoriously loose in Mr. Jefferson’s Capitol … But most of the time, [lawmakers] keep their weapons concealed. That was true for Chase too, until this week.”



“Rep. Ed Case said he’s ‘an Asian trapped in a white body.’ His apology didn’t help,” from Amy B Wang: “Shortly after being sworn into office two weeks ago, Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) told his new staff: ‘I feel the aloha.’ He may be feeling less of that aloha this week, after some remarks he made drew controversy at an event for Asian American and Pacific Islander voters in Washington on Tuesday night. At a reception intended to be a ‘celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander members of the 116th Congress,’ Case reportedly told the crowd that he was ‘an Asian trapped in a white body,’ according to National Journal fellow Nicholas Wu. … In [an] email, Case spokesman Nestor Garcia clarified that the congressman was commenting ‘on what his Japanese-American wife sometimes says about him.’”



Trump will unveil his administration's missile defense review at the Pentagon.


“More Americans die from drug overdose every year than died in the entire course of the Vietnam War, and the vast majority of those drugs are being brought in because we have a wide-open border. I care more about that than I care about the Yosemite gift shop being open.” — Conservative provocateur Ann Coulter, who played a central role in persuading Trump to shut down the government. (Fact-check: The DEA says most illicit drugs enter the United States through legal ports of entry.) (Michael Brice-Saddler)



-- Light snow will appear later in the day, foreshadowing this weekend’s likely storm. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Expect sunshine to be short lived today as clouds increase and thicken as the day progresses. A few flakes of snow may develop in our western areas by late afternoon, but little impact is anticipated before sunset. Highs only reach the mid-30s or so. Winds are nearly calm.”

-- Fake editions of The Post featuring a false story on Trump’s resignation were handed out around D.C. Emily Heil and Paul Farhi report: “The print papers — dated May 1, 2019, and looking strikingly similar to actual copies of The Post — were filled with anti-Trump stories, which also appeared on a website that mimicked the official Post site. … Late Wednesday morning, a group that describes itself as a ‘trickster activist collective’ called the Yes Men said it produced the bogus newspapers and website — which went offline Wednesday afternoon.”

-- Baltimore and D.C. topped Orkin’s ranking of the Top 50 Bed Bug Cities. Dana Hedgpeth reports: “For Baltimore, it’s the city’s third straight year in the top slot, while the District was in second place last year, as well. Some cities crawled to new spots on the list: New York moved up two slots to No. 6, and Atlanta and Philadelphia entered the top 10, bumping Dallas and San Francisco.”


Late-night hosts were skeptical that Trump would take Pelosi's suggestion of submitting his State of the Union in writing:

French President Emmanuel Macron laid out the options facing Britain after its Parliament voted down Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez delivered her first House floor speech:

And Elizabeth Warren brought her golden retriever out on the campaign trail: