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The Daily 202: Davos is in decline as elites fail to tackle the globe’s biggest problems

A Swiss police officer stands guard Monday on the roof of a hotel near the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

with Joanie Greve

With Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: “America is open for business,” President Trump declared last January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

He canceled his trip to this week’s conference, however, because the U.S. government is partially closed for business. Trump picked a fight over his border wall that doesn’t look as though it will end anytime soon. The global economy is slowing at least partly because of the trade war he launched, which he insisted would be “good” and “easy to win.” And the sugar high from the Trump tax cuts has mostly worn off.

But Trump is not the only world leader who has opted to stay home in 2019 because of a domestic political crisis that can be viewed through the prism of a backlash to globalization.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is skipping Davos so she can manage Brexit. “May on Monday spelled out a ‘Plan B’ for Brexit that appeared very much like a warmed-over version of her Plan A, which suffered a crushing defeat in Parliament last week,” Karla Adam and William Booth report from London. “May was forced to return to Westminster by a newly assertive Parliament that has been trying to exert more control over what withdrawal from the European Union looks like. … May refused to rule out a no-deal Brexit — the possibility that Britain could ‘crash out’ of the EU without a deal March 29, which the government warns could create economic hardship. … May said that the people already voted for Brexit and that the job of her government and Parliament is to deliver it. A second referendum, she warned, ‘could damage social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy.’”

French President Emmanuel Macron opted to stick around Paris to deal with the Yellow Jacket protests. “Citizens wearing the yellow vests French motorists are required to carry in their vehicles started weekly protests of a fuel tax increase in mid-November. Anger over the president’s policies that were seen as favoring the wealthy swelled the demonstrations into a broader anti-government movement,” the AP reports. “Macron launched a ‘national debate’ last week to solicit ideas from citizens and to help assuage the anger. Thousands of people nevertheless turned out in Paris and several other cities Saturday, the 10th consecutive weekend of demonstrations.” Still, Macron coaxed more than 150 corporate types to meet with him yesterday at the Palace of Versailles on their way to Davos. Big tech companies like Cisco, Microsoft and IBM – plus the candymaker Mars – announced a combined $682 million in planned investments.

British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke to Parliament on Jan. 21 about her next steps for a Brexit deal. (Video: Reuters)

More than 60 heads of state will still fly to the Swiss Alps for the five-day confab, along with more than 3,000 of the haves, the have-mores and the hangers-on. But the meeting in many ways underscores the extent to which globalization continues to be in retreat and global elites have failed to turn the tide of populism. “The combination of climate change, income inequality, technology and geopolitics pose an existential threat to humanity,” Klaus Schwab, the founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum, said in a statement released ahead of the conference.

-- The growing parallels to the 1930s are eerie, as powerful people repeat many of the same mistakes: falling prey to the rising tides of isolationism, nativism and protectionism.

-- The theme of this year’s conference is “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Sebastian Buckup, the director of programming at Davos, lamented in a lengthy essay last week that we live in “an era of fortresses and walls,” and he said the goal of the meeting is to draft “a blueprint to construct a geopolitical framework that can support this era’s needs.”

“If we only respond to an accelerating world by reinforcing walls, we risk ending up trapped in our fortresses,” Buckup said. “However, if we respond to an accelerating world by trying not to order it, we then surrender to chaos. … New powers, problems, and technological possibilities are pushing hard against structures that were built for other purposes and other times. We need a new architecture—but where to start?”

-- One central focus of this week’s gathering is climate change, but the world has backed away from collective action in the Trump era. Don’t forget that it was a fuel tax hike, intended to combat climate change, that precipitated the protests in Paris. And Trump has announced that the United States will no longer follow through with its commitments in the Paris climate accord.

-- Income inequality is another focus of the titans who fly to Davos on their private jets every year, but it keeps getting worse. Oxfam published a report on Sunday, to coincide with the start of Davos, that shows billionaires got 12 percent richer last year while the 3.8 billion people who make up the world’s poorest half saw their wealth decline by 11 percent. “This is not inevitable, this is unacceptable,” said Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima. “Oxfam said the number of billionaires has almost doubled since the financial crisis a decade ago yet tax rates on the wealthy and corporations have fallen to their lowest levels in decades,” per the AP. “Byanyima said ‘the people in Davos’ have the power to be ‘the solution to end extreme inequality.’” But they haven’t.

The International Monetary Fund cut its economic growth forecast and warned that the "risk of a sharper decline in global growth has certainly increased." (Video: Reuters)

-- Rising fears about the state of the world’s biggest economies are likely to preoccupy the Davos crowd as much as anything else. “China reported Monday that its economy expanded by 6.6 percent last year — a figure that would be good for many countries but represents the slowest growth for China in 28 years. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund downgraded its expectations for the global economy, highlighting sharp declines in Europe and warning that the risks of a major slowdown have increased,” Heather Long and Anna Fifield report on the front page of today’s newspaper. “Even U.S. consumers, who have remained resilient for months, have been shaken. Early this month, consumer confidence slumped to the lowest level of Trump’s presidency, according to the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey. … While few see a recession as imminent, the high-level officials and executives at Davos catalogue a growing number of risks, including … rising interest rates, high global debt levels, and more polarized politics around the world. …

Surveys released in recent days by global consultancies show more alarm bells in boardrooms around the world. Chief executives ranked a global recession as their No. 1 concern for 2019, according to a survey of nearly 800 top business leaders around the world released Thursday by the Conference Board. Global trade threats came in second. A survey of 1,300 chief executives released Monday by PwC found that 30 percent of business leaders believe that global growth will decline in the next 12 months, a record jump in pessimism to about six times the number who said that last year. The most pronounced decline in optimism was in North America, where it dropped from 63 percent a year ago to 37 percent now.”

-- Asian markets retreated overnight in the face of all this bad economic news.

-- “And there was equally concerning news for the global elite in the annual Edelman Trust Barometer, which showed the ‘trust gap’ between college-educated and wealthy people and a more frustrated mass population widened to a record extent,” the Financial Times reports. “Only one in five of the 33,000 people polled across 27 countries for the Edelman Trust Barometer said the current system was working for them, with more than 70 percent voicing a sense of injustice and a desire for change. After what the world’s largest public relations company had dubbed a ‘crash’ in trust in the US in the first year of the Trump presidency, college-educated Americans reported a 15-point rebound in confidence in a year in which Democrats took the House. … Yet while 60 percent of such ‘informed publics’ now say they trust the country’s institutions, just 47 percent of the general population voice such confidence. …

The survey shows widespread pessimism in more economically developed markets about the future, with majorities of the mass population in Japan, the US and every western Europe country saying they do not believe they and their families will be better off five years from now. A majority voiced fears of losing their job because of automation or insufficient skills.”

-- Bigger picture: “The mood is noticeably more somber,” Heather Long writes from Davos.A year ago, optimism was high as nearly every country was growing, and Trump received a warm welcome from business leaders after a big U.S. tax cut for corporations. … ‘If you want to be a superpower in the world — and the U.S. still is — you have to engage with people,’ said Hans-Paul Bürkner, chair of the Boston Consulting Group. He warned that ‘everybody will be a bit more careful’ until the shutdown and trade disputes are resolved.”

An array of crises are keeping several world leaders away from the annual World Economic Forum in Davos. (Video: Reuters)

-- “The number one question in the mind of leaders in Davos now is what on earth is Donald Trump up to?” said Tina Fordham, chief global political analyst at Citigroup. “We’ve very clearly moved in terms of investor sentiment from the Trump bump euphoria surrounding tax cuts and deregulation to fears of a Trump slump.”

That quote is from a fresh piece this morning by Bloomberg News’s David Wainer: “Faced with that reality, world leaders are increasingly falling into one of three camps in their approach to the president, according to Stephen Walt, a professor of international affairs at Harvard University: following Trump’s lead, resistance -- however futile -- and trying to make the most of his policy vagaries. Yet lacking any consensus against Trump, Walt sees many leaders as engaged in a waiting game to try and sit him out. ‘There is no longer this idea that he’d be reined in by the establishment and that you’d have a fairly normal administration,’ said Walt. ‘People are now fully aware that he’s extremely impulsive and erratic and will continue to challenge the status quo. That means something different depending where you are.’

“Leaders from all three camps will be present in Davos: those from traditional U.S. allies such as Canada and Germany who are resisting as far as possible in the hope they can wait Trump out; rivals from China and Russia who thought they could exploit the opportunities but have found him too erratic; and those in countries like Israel, Hungary and Brazil who have benefited from the environment around Trump’s rise,” Wainer writes for Bloomberg. “Among the forum’s headline attractions is German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who can be expected to build on her New Year’s address denouncing nationalism and populism that reinforced her status as a Trump adversary. Yet she and Macron were unable to prevent Trump from quitting the Iran nuclear deal or the Paris climate accord. Germany is in the firing line if he follows through on his threat to impose punitive tariffs on imported cars.”

-- An American delegation still planned to attend after Trump pulled out on Jan. 10, including the secretaries of state, treasury and commerce, but the White House announced they’d stay home last Thursday afternoon. The administration did so reluctantly in the hours after the president denied Speaker Nancy Pelosi access to a military aircraft for a long-planned CODEL to visit combat troops in Afghanistan. “Because of the Democrats intransigence on Border Security and the great importance of Safety for our Nation, I am respectfully cancelling my very important trip to Davos,” Trump tweeted two weeks ago.

-- “Of the Group of Seven countries, only Germany, Italy and Japan will send their top leaders. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping also won’t be in attendance,” Ishaan Tharoor reports from Davos in his WorldViews newsletter. “But that doesn’t mean there’s no chance of fireworks. A new crop of statesmen will get to make a splash, from right-wing Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his Italian populist counterpart, Giuseppe Conte, to Ethiopia’s reformist prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, and New Zealand’s pathbreaking female leader, Jacinda Ardern. The most anticipated appearance may be that of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is not even a full month into his presidency. Bolsonaro may well fly a Trumpist flag in Davos: He is a known climate change skeptic and rode to power on an ultranationalist campaign suffused with contempt for the liberal order.”

-- Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa also canceled his planned speech in Davos at the last minute to deal with an economic crisis and the political fallout of violence by security forces, who have reportedly killed at least a dozen protesters. More than 600 have been arrested by security forces in a crackdown on the opposition, per the AP.

-- Back in the United States, calling someone a “Davos Democrat” has become one of the harsher put-downs you hear from lefty types. It’s the equivalent of calling a conservative a RINO (Republican In Name Only). Democratic activists, based on polling and interviews, appear uninterested in nominating a billionaire or businessman to take on Trump, which is why Tom Steyer chose not to run and why Mike Bloomberg still could take a pass if he concludes there’s no real path to victory. It’s also why former Starbucks chief Howard Schultz is considering an independent bid for president. Meanwhile, freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is driving the debate on the left with her call for a 70 percent top marginal tax rate.

-- A onetime McKinsey consultant who has turned against the Davos set, Anand Giridharadas, recently wrote a book called “Winners Take All” that’s gotten a lot of attention on the left. In a new piece for Time magazine, he argues that the people who attend this conference are hypocrites who bear some responsibility for problems ailing the world today. “You enabled the nationalism that threatens our societies. You stiffed so many of us,” Giridharadas writes. “You fought for rules that let you steal the future from our children. You pushed for monopolies … and austerity and deregulation. People got angry, and some of them voted for hell. And who benefited? You again. Because instead of following their anger up to the summit where you gather, the enraged were goaded, sometimes by your fellow plutocrats, into punching downward and turning on the most vulnerable.”

-- The billionaire Boston investor Seth Klarman, in his highly anticipated annual letter to clients, sounds the alarm about rising debt, growing social tensions and the absence of American leadership. Klarman is not at Davos, but Andrew Ross Sorkin reports in today’s New York Times that his 22-page letter is “being passed around” at the gathering.

“It can’t be business as usual amid constant protests, riots, shutdowns and escalating social tensions,” Klarman writes. “As the post-World War II international order continued to erode, the markets ignored the longer-term implications of a more isolated America, a world increasingly adrift and global leadership up for grabs. … There is no way to know how much debt is too much, but America will inevitably reach an inflection point whereupon a suddenly more skeptical debt market will refuse to continue to lend to us at rates we can afford. By the time such a crisis hits, it will likely be too late to get our house in order.”

Klarman used to be the single largest GOP donor in New England, but he’s redirected his giving to Democrats because of his distaste for Trump. “This post-truth moment is quite dangerous,” he writes in the letter to his investors, which include the Harvard and Yale endowments. “Imagine an incident that threatens national security. Will Americans see eye to eye on the seriousness of the threat? If our leaders are truth-challenged, will Americans believe the official explanation of the threat and the wisdom of the proposed response? Should they?”

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  1. Many police departments are dropping their body-camera programs, citing their high cost amid budgetary concerns. Smaller jurisdictions have been more likely to cut the programs, even though The Post’s database of fatal shootings by police shows such incidents are more likely to occur in small communities. (Kimberly Kindy)
  2. A new study argues the rate of Greenland’s melting ice may have reached a “tipping point.” Researchers predicted the region “will become a major contributor to sea level rise” within two decades. (New York Times)
  3. Descendants of the Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson appeared in the Virginia Senate on MLK Day to oppose tributes to their ancestors. Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) invited the Rev. Robert W. Lee IV and Warren Christian to the Senate session days after he sat out a Republican senator’s ode to the original Robert Lee. (Laura Vozzella)
  4. Penn State is creating a new center to study Greek life. The interdisciplinary center will be named after Tim Piazza, a student who died in 2017 after a fraternity hazing event. (Susan Svrluga)

  5. Some private colleges are cutting their tuition costs to attract prospective students. Even though many students do not pay a university’s “sticker price” thanks to grants or scholarships, schools have started to worry about the optics of charging up to $70,000 a year. (Nick Anderson)
  6. California lawmakers are debating whether to save Pacific Gas and Electric, which filed an intention to declare bankruptcy last week. The California utility’s filing indicates it is preparing for a financial liability for the Camp Fire, which will probably exceed $10 billion. (Scott Wilson)
  7. A Dutch surgeon won a landmark “right to be forgotten” case. The doctor’s professional registration was temporarily suspended over her postoperative care of a patient, a decision that was changed to a conditional suspension after an appeal. But the surgeon’s name still appeared on an unofficial blacklist when her name was Googled. (Guardian)


-- If you read one story today --> “Trump voters now blame him for the government shutdown,” Matt Viser reports from Macomb County in Michigan: “Two years ago, Jeff Daudert was fed up with politics … and, frankly, he liked the idea of a disruptive president. But the 49-year-old retired Navy reservist has had some second thoughts. ‘What the [expletive] were we thinking?’ he asked the other night inside a Walmart here, in an area of blue-collar suburban Detroit that helped deliver the presidency to Trump. … ‘It’s silly. It’s destructive,’ Daudert said, adding that all he knows about 2020 is that he won’t be supporting Trump. ‘I was certainly for the anti-status quo. … I’ll be more status quo next time.’ …

 “Erica McQueen, a 38-year-old from St. Clair Shores, voted for Trump and also has liked a lot of what he’s done. ‘But it gets overshadowed by the stunts he pulls,’ she said. … ‘The wall is getting out of hand,’ she said. ‘It’s too much. It’s ridiculous. I’m sick of seeing it, I’m sick of hearing about it.’ Like other onetime Trump supporters, she’s now openly wondering if she can back him again. ‘Something miraculous has to happen,’ she said, ‘for me to vote for him again.’”

Jeremiah Wilburn, a 45-year-old engineer who voted for Trump after backing Barack Obama twice, was pleased for most of the past two years thanks to the strong economy. “I was doing fine with him up until this government shutdown,” he said. “It’s ridiculous. You’re not getting the wall built for $5 billion. And Mexico is not paying for it, we all know that, too. Meanwhile, it’s starting to turn people like me away.” He worries about the shutdown’s effect on the economy. He’s concerned about the impact on his brother, who works for the TSA in Florida. “You can’t expect people to come to work without getting paid,” Wilburn said. “If I were them, I certainly wouldn’t come to work.”

-- The government shutdown drew no closer to an end over the holiday weekend, with the House and Senate planning to pursue separate bills that are both expected to die before reaching Trump’s desk. Jeff Stein and Erica Werner report: “The Senate, led by [Mitch McConnell], will take up a proposal announced by Trump on Saturday to trade temporary protections for young undocumented immigrants and others for $5.7 billion the president is seeking for his border wall. The legislation, released late Monday, would reopen the government through Sept. 30 while funding a variety of other immigration security measures and spending $12.7 billion on hurricane and wildfire disaster relief. But Democrats have rejected the plan, so it appears unlikely to garner the 60 votes necessary to advance.

The House, led by [Nancy Pelosi], will pass a series of spending bills that would reopen portions of the government that have nothing to do with the wall. The legislation will include some security priorities supported by both parties, including a total of about $1 billion for immigration judges and ports of entry along the border. But the House legislation is dead on arrival in the Senate, where McConnell has made clear he will not advance any spending bills Trump won’t sign.

The bill being voted on in the Senate also contains significant changes to asylum procedures for Central American minors, a fact that came to light only when the legislation was released late Monday night and sparked an angry reaction from immigrant rights activists. The legislation would require these minors to apply for asylum in their home countries, not at the U.S. border, as now occurs, and they would be returned home if they sought to apply for asylum at the U.S. border. It would also put new caps on asylum claims from Central American minors.”

-- Republican senators continue to largely support Trump’s strategy, partly because of intense pressure from the base. Seung Min Kim and Sean Sullivan report: “Under pressure from conservatives to help Trump deliver on a signature campaign promise and unable to persuade him to avert the partial government shutdown, these lawmakers have all but surrendered to the president’s will. Their comments show how the cracks in the 53-member Republican majority that emerged at the outset of the shutdown have not spread beyond a handful of lawmakers. Asked about the pressure from constituents and some of the 800,000 affected federal workers to end the impasse, GOP senators insisted they are facing equal — if not more — insistence to stand behind Trump and his call for $5.7 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall, especially from conservative voters.”

-- Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) said he would consider Trump’s proposal, but even if Manchin supports the bill, McConnell would have to pick up another six Democratic votes. From Politico’s Marianne Levine: “‘He needs to see the final proposal before he decides,’ said Jonathan Kott, a spokesperson for Manchin, in an e-mail. Following Trump’s announcement Saturday, Manchin tweeted that he was ‘hopeful’ Trump’s proposal would allow Congress to ‘immediately reopen gov.’ ‘I look forward to working w/ my GOP & Dem colleagues to make this happen so that we can end this shameful shutdown,’ Manchin said on Twitter.”

As the partial government shutdown continues, more sectors of the economy are beginning to feel the effects. (Video: Joyce Koh/The Washington Post)


-- A record 10 percent of TSA employees did not show up for work yesterday, causing delays at airports across the country. Ashley Halsey III and Michael Laris report: “In addition to a 35-minute wait at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and a 45-minute wait at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (the city hosted a National Football League playoff game Sunday), the 40 busiest airports showed the strain of processing passengers with as many as 1 in 10 workers out. Fourteen airports had checkpoint waiting times of more than 20 minutes, with three of them pushing the maximum TSA acceptable wait time of 30 minutes. In Los Angeles (29 minutes), Tampa (28 minutes) and Chicago (27 minutes), the lines were extensive. … The absentee rate one year ago — Jan. 20, 2018 — was 3.1 percent, the TSA said.”

-- The length of the shutdown has stirred fear among Americans who rely on federal aid programs. The AP’s Juliet Linderman reports: “Millions of poor Americans who depend on food and rental assistance are becoming increasingly worried about the future. Most major aid programs haven’t dried up yet. But each day the stalemate in Washington drags on, the U.S. inches closer to what advocates call a looming emergency. Those dependent on the aid are watching closely under a cloud of stress and anxiety. … The impact of any lapse in these programs would be dramatic and unprecedented: The USDA says there has never before been a break in food stamp benefits since the program was made permanent in 1964.”

-- Some schools in the D.C. area are hiring furloughed government employees as substitute teachers to help them make ends meet. Morgan Smith reports: “Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia has already placed furloughed workers in the classroom as substitutes. … School systems in the District, Maryland and Virginia are hosting workshops and job fairs for furloughed employees, and some schools are planning more. Hundreds of federal workers in the region have attended the events with hopes of securing temporary jobs. On Friday, crowds of furloughed federal employees poured into the auditorium at the Montgomery County Public Schools building in Rockville to attend a school system hiring event for federal workers, who can apply for positions as teachers, substitute teachers, maintenance staff, bus drivers, clerical staff and security staff.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) declared her candidacy on Jan. 21 and became the fourth woman to enter the 2020 presidential race. (Video: Melissa Macaya/The Washington Post)

2020 WATCH:

-- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) entered the Democratic presidential primary, proposing a $3 trillion tax cut for the middle class and a Medicare-for-all system. Jeff Stein reports: “Aides said Harris’s platform will incorporate Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-all health-care proposal, while also pushing enormous tax relief intended to help low-income renters and boost incomes for working-class families. In that combination, Harris appears to be unique. Several other liberal presidential candidates favor Medicare-for-all and new government spending programs. … Harris, by contrast, is expected to run on both a single-payer health program projected to cost more than $30 trillion, as well as tax benefits that would significantly reduce federal revenue. … But some critics on the left, who have begun scrutinizing Harris’s record as a prosecutor in California, are likely to question whether cutting tax revenue will make it more difficult to enact the kinds of social programs that have become increasingly popular among the Democratic base.”

-- “The choreography of the announcement carried abundant symbolism,” the New York Times’s Astead W. Herndon notes. “Ms. Harris entered the race on the holiday of Martin Luther King’s Birthday, an overt nod to the historic nature of her candidacy. Her timing was also meant to evoke Shirley Chisholm, the New York congresswoman who became the first woman to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for president 47 years ago this week. In addition, Ms. Harris will hold her first campaign event on Friday in South Carolina, where black voters are the dominant force in the Democratic primary, rather than start off by visiting Iowa and New Hampshire, the two predominantly white states that hold their nomination contests first. She will hold a kickoff rally Sunday in Oakland, Calif., her hometown, and a town hall in Iowa later next week.”

-- Potential 2020 candidate Joe Biden, becoming the latest Democrat to apologize for past apostasies, expressed regret for quarterbacking the 1994 crime bill that worsened racial disparities in drug sentencing. The New York Times’s Herndon and Jonathan Martin report: “Mr. Biden said he regretted supporting the tough-on-crime drug legislation of the 1980s and 1990s, expressing remorse in particular over a bill that created different legal standards for powdered cocaine and street crack cocaine. ‘It was a big mistake that was made,’ Mr. Biden said of the measure, which has been criticized as disproportionately affecting black Americans. ‘We were told by the experts that ‘crack, you never go back,’ that the two were somehow fundamentally different. It’s not. But it’s trapped an entire generation.’ The former senator, who helped write the 1994 crime bill now cited as having led to an era of mass incarceration, went even further, allowing that he ‘may not have always gotten things right’ in regards to criminal justice.”

-- The 2020 Democrats collectively used MLK Day to make their pitches to black voters. Michael Scherer and Annie Linskey report: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called for a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to vote at an event in Boston, while another contender, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), called on ‘white women like me’ to bear the burden of fighting racial injustice at a New York event. … Two other potential candidates, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) sat side by side in the front, middle pew at Zion Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C., for the King holiday prayer service and then spoke at a later event. ...

Before the mostly black audience at the morning’s National Action Network event in Washington, ... [Michael] Bloomberg said he could not argue that ‘every decision I have made as mayor was perfect,’ though he did not specifically distance himself from the stop-and-frisk policing policy he supported over the objections of civil rights leaders such as Al Sharpton. Instead, he talked about his efforts to improve schools in New York, reduce pollution in black and Hispanic neighborhoods and his leading role in funding groups that advocate for gun regulation. ... 

“Trump and Vice President Pence briefly visited the King memorial in Washington for a wreath-laying near the statue of the slain civil rights leader. They made no formal remarks. 'Good morning, everybody. Great day. Beautiful day. Thank you for being here. Appreciate it,' the president said before departing.”

-- The GOP has reached a deal to create a new fundraising platform the party hopes will compete with ActBlue, which directed $700 million in small-dollar donations to Democrats during the midterms. Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports: “Following weeks of closed-door discussions, Republicans have agreed to create a new platform dubbed Patriot Pass, which will be used to cultivate and process online donations. The GOP — whose jungle-like ecosystem of vendors has long fought bitterly over contracts and dollars — has struggled in the past to create such a unified system. … After watching dozens of their candidates get massively out-raised [in 2018], Republicans are looking to Patriot Pass to close the gap. The new tool is expected to launch next month.”

-- Iowa Democrats are considering major changes to their 2020 caucus in preparation for record turnout. Politico’s Natasha Korecki reports: “The party is shopping for larger facilities to fit expected overflow crowds, investing in new technology to stave off check-in and head-counting snafus and pushing individual 2020 campaigns to create their own voter registration programs. And to abide by new rules set out by the national party, Iowa Democrats are even studying the possibility of what once would have been unthinkable: ‘Tele-caucusing,’ which would allow absentee voting by phone or possibly online for any Democrat who couldn’t make it on caucus day.”


-- A new tell-all book about the Trump White House depicts the president’s staffers as “absolutely out of control” while serving an erratic leader easily bored by policy. The book, “Team of Vipers,” was written by former West Wing communications aide Cliff Sims. Philip Rucker recounts one of Sims’s anecdotes about Trump berating former House speaker Paul Ryan: “Trump watched on television, increasingly angry as [Ryan] criticized his handling of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. He held the remote control ‘like a pistol’ and yelled for an assistant to get the Republican leader on the phone. ‘Paul, do you know why Democrats have been kicking your a-- for decades? Because they know a little word called ‘loyalty,’ ’ Trump told Ryan … ‘Why can’t you be loyal to your president, Paul?’ The tormenting continued. Trump recalled Ryan distancing himself from Trump in October 2016, in the days after the ‘Access Hollywood’ video in which he bragged of fondling women first surfaced in The Washington Post. ‘I remember being in Wisconsin and your own people were booing you,’ Trump told him, according to [Sims]. ‘You were out there dying like a dog, Paul. Like a dog! And what’d I do? I saved your a--.’ …

Sims depicts Trump as deeply suspicious of his own staff. He recalls a private huddle in which he and Keith Schiller, the president’s longtime bodyguard and confidant, helped Trump draw up an enemies list with a Sharpie on White House stationery. ‘We’re going to get rid of all the snakes, even the bottom-feeders,’ Trump told them. White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly told the staff that he viewed his job as serving the ‘country first, POTUS second,’ which Sims interpreted as potentially hostile to Trump’s agenda. Sims recounts that Kelly once confided to him in a moment of exasperation: ‘This is the worst [expletive] job I’ve ever had. People apparently think that I care when they write that I might be fired. If that ever happened, it would be the best day I’ve had since I walked into this place.’ …

At times, Trump evinced less rage than a lack of interest. Sims recounts one time when Ryan was in the Oval Office explaining the ins and outs of the Republican health-care bill to the president. As Ryan droned on for 15 minutes, Trump sipped on a glass of Diet Coke, peered out at the Rose Garden, stared aimlessly at the walls and, finally, walked out. Ryan kept talking as the president wandered down the hall to his private dining room, where he flicked on his giant flat-screen TV. Apparently, he had had enough of Ryan’s talk. It fell to Vice President Pence to retrieve Trump and convince him to return to the Oval Office so they could continue their strategy session. …

Perhaps the book’s most cinematic chapter of chaos is ‘The Mooch Is Loose,’ a reconstruction of Anthony Scaramucci’s 11 days as White House communications director. Sims was Scaramucci’s right-hand man and describes the flamboyant aide’s hunt for ‘leakers,’ which began with his own staff. Scaramucci assembled the 40-odd media aides and threatened to fire them all, Sims writes, as if he were a ‘fire-breathing dragon that had just returned from laying waste to the unsuspecting peasants in the village.’ Sims writes that Scaramucci ordered them to reply to anyone in the White House instructing them to leak information to a reporter, including then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, by saying: ‘I cannot do that. I only report to Anthony Scaramucci and he reports directly to the president of the United States.’ Even Trump was amused. ‘Can you believe this guy?’ the president told Sims. ‘He’s completely out of his mind — like, on drugs or something — totally out of his mind. We’ll figure it out, but the guy is crazy.’”

-- Sims, a Trump loyalist, is not overly critical of Trump, but he doesn't paint a completely flattering portrait of the commander in chief either. The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman reports: The book’s “descriptions of Mr. Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, defy the public perception of their marriage. Mr. Sims paints Mrs. Trump as protective of her husband as it related to his staff. … In another scene, Mr. Sims describes the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, explaining to Mr. Trump that little could be done about a journalist he did not care for when he asked why the person could not be ‘suspended.’”


-- Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani tried to back off from his comments that negotiations about a potential Trump Tower in Moscow stretched through November 2016. Seung Min Kim reports: “In a statement Monday, Giuliani said his comments were purely hypothetical and not based on any conversations with the president. His statement Sunday, made on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press,’ that Trump associates had continued negotiations about the real estate project deep into the 2016 campaign had again raised scrutiny into then-candidate Trump’s posture toward Moscow, including his call in July of that year for Russia to hack into Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails. … [Giuliani said,] ‘My comments did not represent the actual timing or circumstances of any such discussions.’ He added: ‘The point is that the proposal was in the earliest stage and did not advance beyond a free non-binding letter of intent.’”

-- Giuliani further muddied the waters by claiming to the New Yorker there was no evidence of the president directing longtime fixer Michael Cohen to lie on "tapes" to which the ex-mayor has listened. Rudy said the BuzzFeed story  containing that allegation was false "Because I have been through all the tapes, I have been through all the texts, I have been through all the e-mails, and I knew none existed." Then: "I shouldn’t have said tapes. They alleged there were texts and e-mails that corroborated that Cohen was saying the President told him to lie. There were no texts, there were no e-mails, and the President never told him to lie." Then: "No tapes. Well, I have listened to tapes, but none of them concern this."

-- “Several people close to Mr. Trump have grown exasperated with Mr. Giuliani’s public appearances,” the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman reports. “They also expressed concern that he is increasing prosecutors’ anger with the president and potentially creating a misimpression about the Trump Tower project in Moscow.”

-- Before Bob Mueller’s office issued a statement casting doubt on the BuzzFeed story, the president’s legal team contacted the special counsel requesting a response to the report. The Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Ballhaus reports: “The letter—in which the lawyers said they hoped Mr. Mueller would address the report expeditiously—marked the first time Mr. Trump’s legal team has contacted the special counsel to ask the office to address a media report, [one person familiar with the matter] said.”

-- Contrary to repeated public statements from the Trump administration and GOP loyalists on Capitol Hill, Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin, stands to benefit greatly from the U.S. lifting sanctions on his companies. The New York Times’s Kenneth P. Vogel reports: A “binding confidential document signed by both sides suggests that the agreement the administration negotiated with the companies controlled by [Deripaska] may have been less punitive than advertised. The deal contains provisions that free him from hundreds of millions of dollars in debt while leaving him and his allies with majority ownership of his most important company, the document shows. … The new information could lend ammunition to criticism that the Trump administration either knowingly let a Kremlin-allied oligarch off easy, or was outmaneuvered by a sophisticated legal and lobbying campaign funded by his companies.”

-- Russian pop star Emin Agalarov canceled his U.S. tour amid a dispute about an interview with Mueller’s team. CNN’s Kara Scannell reports: “Agalarov was set to launch a four-city US tour Saturday in New York. Looming over the impending engagement was the prospect of his being on US soil and subject to US law enforcement. Agalarov attorney Scott Balber said talks broke down at the end of last week and the decision to cancel the tour was made Monday. ‘It's the only choice we had,’ Balber said. ‘I've been endeavoring to engage with the special counsel's office as well as various congressional committees and despite our best effort we haven't been able to reach an agreement on the terms.’” The special counsel and congressional committees have expressed interest in talking to Agalarov about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, which he initiated.

-- An American banker with ties to Putin has attracted congressional investigators’ attention for seeking access to Trump’s presidential transition team. ABC News’s Matthew Mosk, Katherine Faulders and John Santucci report: “The banker, Robert Foresman, never got the role he was seeking with the fledgling Trump administration. … Foresman, who is now vice chairman of the Swiss bank UBS’s investment arm, lived for years in Moscow, where he led a $3 billion Russian investment fund and was touted by his new company as someone who maintains connections to [Putin’s] inner circle. … There has been renewed interest in Foresman in recent weeks, coming as prosecutors in New York have ratcheted up inquiries into the events that occurred during the Trump transition and in the lead up to the Trump inauguration.”

-- A lawyer for American Paul Whelan, who is being detained in Moscow on espionage charges, said his client was given a flash drive containing a “state secret.” “But how he got it, what he was supposed to do with it, and whether Whelan knew that he had secret information is unknown,” Vladimir Zherebenkov added. Whelan was detained in late December and will remain behind bars through at least the end of February after a Russian court refused to release him on bail. (Amie Ferris-Rotman)

-- Michael Cohen threatened to sue CNBC in 2014 over Trump’s low ranking in the news channel’s list of the country’s top business leaders. The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Palazzolo, Michael Siconolfi and Michael Rothfeld report: “Mr. Trump didn’t crack the top 100 in the CNBC rankings, which were decided by a panel of experts appointed by the business channel to curate the list. As part of the process, CNBC held an online poll meant to guide the expert panel as it pared a list of 200 contenders down to 25. Mr. Trump had canvassed for votes on Twitter while Mr. Cohen, then his special counsel at the Trump Organization, enlisted a small technology company to use computer code to cheat the polls by repeatedly voting for Mr. Trump.”

The Islamic State began a program in 2014 to make chemical weapons using both chlorine and a World War I-era toxin known as sulfur mustard. (Video: The Washington Post)


-- An Iraqi scientist who is imprisoned in Irbil described the aid he provided to the Islamic State in producing chemical weapons. Joby Warrick reports: Suleiman al-Afari, “who is 52 now and on death row, recounted his recruitment and life under the Islamic State in a rare interview inside the fortresslike headquarters of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Counterterrorism Department. An affable, neatly groomed man, Afari is among the few known participants in the Islamic State’s chemical weapons program to be captured alive. He described in matter-of-fact detail the terrorist group’s successful attempts to make sulfur mustard — a first-generation chemical weapon that inflicted tens of thousands of casualties during World War I — as part of an ambitious, little-understood effort to create novel weapons and delivery systems to defend the Islamic State’s territory and terrorize its opponents. His account was confirmed and augmented by U.S. and Kurdish officials who participated in missions to destroy the Islamic State’s weapons plants and to kill or capture its senior leaders.

“The stories shed new light on a chemical weapons project that was unique in the history of modern terrorist groups, with university laboratories and manufacturing facilities and a cadre of scientists and technicians. Weapons created by the Islamic State were used in scores of attacks on soldiers and civilians in Iraq and Syria, collectively inflicting hundreds of casualties, U.S. and Iraqi officials say.”

-- U.S. spies have been secretly meeting with their North Korean counterparts for a decade, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Michael R. Gordon and Warren P. Strobel. “The secret channel between the [CIA] and spies from America’s bitter adversary included two missions to Pyongyang in 2012 during the Obama administration by Michael Morell, then deputy CIA director, and at least one by his successor, Avril Haines, say current and former U.S. officials. The channel appears to have gone dormant late in the Obama administration. Mike Pompeo re-energized it while CIA director, sending an agency officer to meet with North Korean counterparts in Singapore in August 2017. By early 2018, a whirlwind of secret and public talks were underway, which brought together Messrs. Trump and Kim in a pomp-filled Singapore meeting in June. The intelligence channel played a role. The two sides are preparing for a second summit in late February.”

-- A think tank report identified another secret North Korean missile base days after the White House announced plans for a second summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un. Lena H. Sun reports: “The report, released Monday by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the base is one of approximately 20 undeclared missile operating bases, part of Pyongyang’s ongoing ballistic missile program. Researchers at the center’s Beyond Parallel project said the latest report provides more evidence that North Korea is not dismantling its weapons facilities. ‘While diplomacy is critical, and should be the primary way to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem, any future agreement must take account of all of the operational missile base facilities that are a threat to U.S. and South Korean security,’ the report said.”


Deripaska, the Russian oligarch accused of election interference who just got sanctions relief from the Trump administration, is staying away from Davos this year, per a Post correspondent in Moscow:

Kamala Harris's communications director tweeted a photo of the newly announced presidential candidate:

Harris's press secretary added this:

Harris's deputy press secretary emphasized her common points of background with her boss:

A PBS NewsHour reporter analyzed the specifics of Harris's announcement:

A CNN reporter remarked on the number of women already running for president:

The communications director of C-SPAN remembered another black woman who sought the Democratic nomination:

An NBC News reporter shared this photo of a Democratic senator and 2020 contender meeting with a former gubernatorial candidate:

Booker responded to a Twitter user who asked about his 2020 plans:

A New York Times reporter noted what a difference three years make:

An Atlantic writer observed that 2020 candidates composed MLK tweets reflecting their campaign priorities:

The president and the vice president visited the MLK memorial:

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who was stripped of his committee assignments after making offensive comments about white nationalism and white supremacy, quoted MLK:

A Vox editor replied:

A Bloomberg News reporter reminded his Twitter followers how MLK was not popular as he pushed for change:

A professor at the Army War College uncovered this 2001 memo from before 9/11:

And former attorney general Eric Holder's daughter wished him happy birthday:


-- New Yorker, “The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives,” by Robert A. Caro: “I am constantly being asked why it takes me so long to finish my books. Well, it’s the research that takes the time—the research and whatever it is in me that makes the research take so very much longer than I had planned. I’m currently working on the fifth and final book in ‘The Years of Lyndon Johnson,’ about the nineteen-sixties. I am also planning to write a full-scale memoir, describing in some detail my experiences in researching and writing my books about Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson—my experiences in learning about these two men and their methods of acquiring and using power—and also the efforts that were made to keep me from learning about these men and their methods.

“Which leads to a final question: Why am I publishing these random recollections toward a memoir while I’m still working on the last volume of the Johnson biography, when I haven’t finished it, while I’m still—at the age of eighty-three—several years from finishing it? Why don’t I just include this material in the longer, full-length memoir I’m hoping to write? The answer is, I’m afraid, quite obvious, and, if I forget it for a few days, I am frequently reminded of it, by journalists who, in writing about me and my hope of finishing, often express their doubts in a sarcastic phrase: ‘Do the math.’ Well, I can do that math. I am well aware that I may never get to write the memoir, although I have so many thoughts about writing, so many anecdotes about research, that I would like to preserve for anyone interested enough to read them. I decided that, just in case, I’d put some of them down on paper now.”

-- Chicago Tribune, “It started when he couldn’t grasp a pen. Diagnosed with ALS at 37, former Obama staffer hopes to use campaign skills to raise funds for a cure,” by Alison Bowen: Brian Wallach “and his wife, Sandra Abrevaya, are poised to launch a group they hope will fund research, and finally find a cure, for a disease many know by its acronym but not by the faces and experiences of those enduring it. On Tuesday the Kenilworth couple, both 38, will launch I Am ALS, an effort born out of months of researching not only what might help Wallach, but also trying to understand why such a devastating disease is less funded and less understood than others. They hope to put some of the skills they honed in the Obama White House — listening, organizing, fundraising — toward this new challenge.”


“Colorado lawmaker Lori Saine claims blacks, whites were lynched in ‘nearly equal numbers’ for being Republican following Reconstruction, from the Denver Post: “A Colorado representative from Weld County claimed blacks and white Republicans were lynched in ‘nearly equal’ numbers following Reconstruction and chastised the main sponsors of a resolution honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Day during a speech on the House floor Friday. ‘We have come a long way on that arc since the Reconstruction, since whites and blacks alike were in nearly equal numbers lynched for the crime of being Republican,’ Rep. Lori Saine, R-Firestone, said. She then went on to allege that a fellow lawmaker was told her skin color was the reason she couldn’t introduce a resolution honoring King.”



“Notre Dame to cover up Christopher Columbus murals,” from the AP: “The University of Notre Dame will cover murals in a campus building that depict Christopher Columbus in America, the school's president said, following criticism that the images depict Native Americans in stereotypical submissive poses before white European explorers. The 12 murals created in the 1880s by Luis Gregori were intended to encourage immigrants who had come to the U.S. during a period of anti-Catholic sentiment. But they conceal another side of Columbus: the exploitation and repression of Native Americans, said the Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame. It is a ‘darker side of this story, a side we must acknowledge,’ Jenkins said in a letter Sunday.”



Trump will receive his intelligence briefing and have lunch with Pence. He has no other events on his public schedule.


“The vice president attempted to compare the president to Martin Luther King Jr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a bridge builder, not a wall builder.” — Martin Luther King III, the son of the civil rights leader, on Pence quoting “I Have a Dream” to justify the border wall. (The Hill)



-- It will be another sunny but cold day in Washington. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “The early-morning chill has less of a bite thanks to calmer winds, but it’s still quite cold until sunshine brings temperatures into the low to middle 30s this afternoon. Winds are very light in the morning, becoming calm by afternoon.”

-- The Virginia Senate approved tax incentives for Amazon’s Arlington headquarters and rejected a $15 minimum wage. Robert McCartney and Laura Vozzella report: “The Amazon package, which passed 35 to 5, would provide cash grants to the online retail giant on condition that the company create tens of thousands of jobs with average pay of at least $150,000 a year. The bill still needs the House’s approval, but it is expected to pass there. … The minimum-wage measure, sponsored by four Democrats, died in a 19-to-21 vote, with every Democrat in favor and every Republican opposed. It would have raised the state’s minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour over five years.”

-- D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has not outlined a concrete agenda for her second term. From Peter Jamison: “Instead, Bowser has offered a broad array of goals — among them: increasing affordable housing, improving public education and reducing violent crime — accompanied by promises to eventually flesh out the details of how she will attain them. … The mayor has begun to plot a course toward her larger vision. She said she wants to increase the police force over the next four years to deploy more officers to foot patrols, addressing a spike in homicides in 2018 that shows no signs of abating three weeks into the new year.”


SNL portrayed Trump's shutdown negotiations as a game of “Deal or No Deal”:

Lady Gaga criticized the president and vice president for the shutdown:

Lady Gaga criticized President Trump and Vice President Pence in Las Vegas on Jan. 19, for the partial government shutdown. (Video: @gagaamour via Storyful)

Bill O’Reilly announced he will not vote for Harris:

And the coach of the Super Bowl-bound L.A. Rams has someone to help him stay out of the way: