With Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: Two long years ago, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi tapped former Kentucky governor Steve Beshear to deliver their party’s response to President Trump’s first State of the Union address. He was a 72-year-old white male moderate from a small town at a moment when Democrats were fixated on how they got whupped so badly in rural areas. Bill Clinton carried the Bluegrass State in 1996, but Hillary Clinton garnered less than 33 percent of the vote two decades later. Seated at a table in an old-fashioned diner, Beshear opened with a gaffe. “I’m a proud Democrat, but first and foremost, I’m a proud Republican, and Democrat, and mostly, American,” he said.

Chuck and Nancy have picked another Southerner to deliver the 2019 response, but she’s different in almost every way. And that reflects the mood of the moment in Democratic politics. Stacey Abrams, 45, last year became the first black woman ever nominated by a major party for governor. The former minority leader in the Georgia state House is unapologetically liberal, even though she’s from a red state. While Beshear went to a state school, Abrams earned her law degree from Yale. Beshear has been married for 50 years and has two grown kids; Abrams, who is single, has never been married and has no children. He’s mild-mannered; she’s fiery.

“I plan to deliver a vision for prosperity and equality, where everyone in our nation has a voice and where each of those voices is heard,” Abrams said in a statement.

-- The shift from Steve to Stacey, with Joe Kennedy III in between, is a nod by party chieftains to what they perceive as growing grass-roots hunger for fresh faces of color who are young and female.

“We were sitting around thinking about this three weeks ago, and her name came up. Immediately, everyone in the room said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Schumer (D-N.Y.) told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “She’s an amazing person with an amazing story.”

Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Abrams “embodies the American Dream.” “Her electrifying message of courage, perseverance and hope reinvigorated our nation and our politics, and continues to inspire millions of Americans in every part of the country,” the speaker said.

-- Abrams has emerged as an avatar of the resistance movement. “Abrams has refused to cede defeat in the governor’s race since ending her campaign on Nov. 17 with a defiant speech blaming her loss on voting irregularities. She received 48.8 percent of the vote to Brian Kemp’s 50.2 percent,” Vanessa Williams noted in a feature story about her last week. “Instead, Abrams announced a new organization, Fair Fight Georgia, focused on battling voter suppression. The group filed a federal lawsuit against state elections officials, alleging that they ‘grossly mismanaged’ the 2018 election and violated Georgians’ constitutional and civil rights. State officials have until the end of the month to respond to the suit.”

-- 2018 was another Year of the Woman, and 2020 may be as well. Exit polls showed a historic gender gap, with women favoring Democrats by 19 points and men favoring Republicans by four points. The first three Democratic senators to launch presidential campaigns are female. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) toppled a white guy who was twice her age, and No. 4 in party leadership, in a Democratic primary last summer. Still only 29, AOC has emerged as the unofficial leader of a freshman class that includes 40 women.

“Picking a black woman to deliver this speech is a powerful statement about where the Democratic Party is and where the nation is,” Democratic strategist Karine Jean-Pierre told Eugene Scott. “The contrast with Trump could not be more stark.”

-- One reason Schumer picked Abrams is that he wants her to run for Senate next year against Republican incumbent David Perdue. The minority leader made the case to Abrams during a meeting last month in Washington. If she got in, Democratic odds of winning control of the upper chamber would increase. At the very least, Republicans would be forced to spends tens of millions more to hold the seat than they would otherwise.

Abrams says she will run for office again, but she’s not sure which one. She’s given herself until the end of March to decide about the Senate. If she doesn’t do it, she’d likely be on shortlists of vice-presidential picks in the summer of 2020. If a Democrat defeats Trump, she could be a prime candidate for a spot in anyone’s Cabinet in 2021. She could also challenge the governor in a 2022 rematch.

Last week, on MLK day, Abrams launched a statewide tour in Albany, Ga., to thank people who supported her in 2018. A poll released the Friday before last by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that 52 percent of registered Georgia voters view her favorably. Kemp’s approval rating is only 37 percent.

-- Trump claimed last fall that Abrams was “not qualified” to lead a state, even though she has more governing experience than he did when he became president. The president also warned at a pre-election rally in Macon that Georgia would “turn into Venezuela” if she won.

Responding to yesterday’s announcement, the Republican National Committee called Abrams a loser who is in a “never-ending pursuit of the public limelight.” RNC spokeswoman Ellie Hockenbury said in a statement: “While Chuck Schumer may feel her agenda would be a good fit for national Democrats, it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t even a good fit for her fellow Georgians who rejected her bid for governor just last year.”

-- Abrams won’t just be the first black woman to give the official State of the Union response, a tradition that began in 1966. She’ll also be the first person to do so who does not currently hold elected office. Vox editor Ezra Klein observes that some of the biggest Democratic stars coming out of 2018 lost their races, including Abrams, Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Gillum.

-- Speaking on the Senate floor yesterday, Schumer also said that he read “with interest” the Daily 202’s coverage from the Koch network’s “touchy-feely” donor meeting. “I hope it’s not sort of just a fig leaf because they’re getting such bad publicity and America is moving so far away from what they believe,” the Democratic leader said.

“Color me skeptical,” he continued. “The Koch brothers may sit out the presidential contest, as they did in 2016, but their political arm, Americans for Prosperity, continues to support candidates who are divisive, who do not bring us together. Some of the ads you see, the very candidates they support, are dividing us. You can’t on the one hand say you want to bring us together and on the other use your political arm to tear us apart. … They support the kinds of judges who agree with them on all the corporate stuff, that don’t want regulation and who are against voting rights. How does that bring us together?”

Koch network spokesman James Davis replies: “People are tired of the politics of division. We are committed to uniting with anyone to do right, just like we did on criminal justice reform and Right to Try legislation. Let’s come together on a solution for immigration.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- The government is operating on a three-hour delay because of the wintry weather. Many of the D.C. region’s schools are also opening late or closing their doors today. Here is the full list.

-- The wind chill could dip below zero in Washington today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “The truly bitter blast isn’t here quite yet. But it’s still a cold winter day with morning temperatures rising into and through the 20s — watch out for icy spots — and afternoon highs in the upper 20s to mid-30s. … Partly sunny morning skies turn mostly cloudy late morning into the afternoon, when a few snow showers could put down a quick coating in spots. … The bitter cold and dry air pour in as evening temperatures drop like a rock through the 20s and teens. Most spots should see lows in the single digits, maybe all the way down to near zero in our coldest north and west suburbs, and perhaps holding up near 10 degrees downtown.”

-- Meanwhile, the Midwest is facing a historically cold polar vortex that has already been blamed for one death in Minnesota. Katie Mettler, Christopher Ingraham, Samantha Schmidt and Angela Fritz report: “It has caused statewide declarations of emergency, school closures, Postal Service interruptions and 1,000 airline flight cancellations across the country. Wind chill estimates plummeted to minus-50 in the Dakotas and northern Minnesota on Tuesday morning, and that same, painfully frigid air is forecast to spread southeast into Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago and Detroit. Winds will make it feel like temperatures of minus-30 to minus-40 as far south as Illinois and northern Indiana; it is forecast to feel as low as minus-65 across the northern Great Lakes region.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was assaulted in Chicago in an attack that police are investigating as a “possible racially charged assault and battery.” The Chicago Police Department said in a statement that Smollett, who is black and openly gay, was confronted by “two unknown offenders [who] approached him and gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him.” The attackers poured an “unknown chemical substance” on Smollett and at one point wrapped a noose around his neck. (Travis M. Andrews and Bethonie Butler)
  2. The Pittsburgh shooting suspect is facing additional hate-crime charges. In its updated indictment, the Justice Department detailed anti-Semitic comments Robert Bowers allegedly made in the run-up to the attack. (Devlin Barrett)
  3. The FBI said Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock was not driven by any “single or clear motivating factor.” Neither the bureau nor local police could determine a precise motive for the devastating attack that left 58 people dead. (Mark Berman)
  4. Eric Schneiderman used nearly $340,000 in campaign funds to pay his legal fees as the former New York attorney general confronted allegations of physical abuse. The practice is legal but largely frowned upon by campaign-finance interest groups, and one of Schneiderman’s accusers expressed outrage that he was not forced to pay the bills out of his own pocket. (AP)
  5. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) announced that she has been battling cancer for nearly a year and is now in remission. “This is a cancer I will live with for the rest of my life, but, because of my high-quality healthcare and insurance coverage, it is not a cancer I will die from,” Moore said of her small-cell lymphoma. (Felicia Sonmez)
  6. Tesla CEO Elon Musk flew more than 150,000 miles last year on a private jet, travel that was largely paid for by the struggling car company. Tesla has laid off thousands of employees in the past year as Musk’s corporate jet logged more than 250 flights. (Drew Harwell)
  7. A woman in New York died after she fell while trying to carry her daughter’s stroller down the steps at a subway station. The death of Malaysia Goodson has highlighted the accessibility issues of the transit system. Her 1-year-old daughter Rhylee survived the fall. (New York Times)

CARACAS ON THE BRINK:

-- Venezuelan authorities froze the bank accounts of self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó and sought to block him from leaving the country as President Nicolás Maduro tries to quash the most legitimate threat yet to his power. Andreina Aponte, Rachelle Krygier and Anthony Faiola report: “Maduro’s chief prosecutor made the request, which was later ratified by the loyalist Supreme Court as a preventative measure pending a full investigation. The move stopped short of a detention order — something the Trump administration has strongly warned against. … Speaking at the opposition-led National Assembly, which he heads, Guaidó responded to the move by dismissing it as ‘nothing new under the sun.’ He said it came from ‘a regime that doesn’t give answers to Venezuelans’ and whose ‘only answer is persecution and repression.’ Guaidó added: ‘The world is clear on what’s happening in Venezuela. … Let’s not desist because of threats and persecution.’

The United States, which backs Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, pushed back hard against the chief prosecutor’s effort. ‘We denounce the illegitimate former Venezuelan Attorney General’s threats against President Juan Guaido,’ White House national security adviser John Bolton wrote on Twitter. ‘Let me reiterate—there will be serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido.’”

-- Trump tweeted this morning: “Americans should not travel to Venezuela until further notice.” 

-- Maduro is attempting to clamp down on the opposition by unleashing increasingly aggressive police tactics against dissidents. Mariana Zuñiga and Anthony Faiola report: “As the opposition campaign to oust him dramatically escalated, the warren-like streets of the Puerta Caracas slum filled with pot-banging, anti-government demonstrators. A culture center run by Maduro loyalists was burned down. Hungry, beaten-down residents felt a rush of hope. Then night fell, along with the boot steps of government forces. Maduro called the arsonists 'fascist criminals,' and residents in the western Caracas enclave paid the price. Mask-wearing special forces, locals said, swarmed the neighborhood last week, kicking in doors, rounding up young people and imposing an effective curfew. … Over the past week, similar operations have extended to at least five other rebellious slums across the capital, leaving 35 people dead — including victims as young as 16 — and more than 850 arrested.”

-- Critics of the Trump White House say Bolton’s display of a note indicating the possible deployment of U.S. troops to Colombia is indicative of the administration’s careless handling of sensitive matters. From David Nakamura: “Revealing private notes, including [President George W.] Bush’s request for a ‘bathroom break’ at the United Nations in 2005, have bedeviled past presidents — but rarely with the frequency of the Trump White House. Obama’s White House photographer, Pete Souza, occasionally posted photos of marked-up presidential addresses, but those were carefully curated to cast the president as a thoughtful writer and editor. Bolton’s appearance in the briefing room — just days after photographers snapped senior aide Stephen Miller’s notes, including the underlined term ‘Radical Democrats,’ during a White House meeting — was something of a flashback to the earliest days of the administration.”

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Russia attempted to interfere last year in U.S.-North Korean nuclear negotiations by offering Pyongyang a nuclear power plant in exchange for destroying its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. John Hudson and Ellen Nakashima report: “The Russian offer, which intelligence officials became aware of in late 2018, marked a new attempt by Moscow to intervene in the high-stakes nuclear talks as it reasserts itself in a string of geopolitical flash points from the Middle East to South Asia to Latin America. It’s unclear how [Trump] will view Moscow’s proposal. For months, he has embraced an unorthodox approach to the negotiations, but his aides are likely to strenuously oppose any major Russian role in a final agreement.”

-- Trump spoke to Vladimir Putin for several minutes during November’s G-20 summit without a note-taker or translator from the U.S. side, according to the Financial Times’s James Politi, Demetri Sevastopulo and Henry Foy. “The discussions between the US and Russian presidents occurred at the 19th-century Colón theatre in the Argentine capital, as world leaders and their spouses or guests were streaming out of the building. Mr Trump was accompanied by Melania Trump, his wife, but no staff, while Mr Putin was flanked by his translator. The four of them sat at a table and were among the last to leave. … Mr Trump’s aides characterised the Putin encounter as one of several ‘informal’ conversations that Mr Trump had with his counterparts that evening.

The accounts of people familiar with the conversation said it appeared longer and more substantive than the White House has acknowledged. According to a Russian government official’s account, the two leaders spoke for about 15 minutes about a number of foreign policy issues, including the Azov Sea incident and the conflict in Syria. They also discussed when they could have a formal meeting, the official said. Mr Trump explained that a full meeting with Mr Putin was impossible at the time, and the Russian leader responded by saying he ‘was not in a hurry’ and remained ready to meet when it suited Mr Trump best, the Russian official said.”

-- Moscow is advancing a plan to stop punishing officials for “unavoidable” bribes. The Moscow Times reports: “Putin proposed the measure in an anti-corruption plan signed in June 2018 that called for legislation that would allow officials to escape prosecution for corruption under ‘exceptional circumstances.’ … The amendments drafted by the Justice Ministry seek to exempt officials from legal accountability when corruption is unavoidable. ‘In certain circumstances, complying with restrictions and bans ... to prevent or settle conflicts of interests … is impossible for objective reasons,’ the draft bill on the government's legal portal says.”

    -- Split-screen: Leaders of the intelligence community, all appointed by Trump, said Russia and China represent two of the most significant national security threats during Senate testimony in which they repeatedly offered assessments starkly at odds with the president’s public posturing. Shane Harris reports: “The two U.S. adversaries ‘are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s,’ Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said in his prepared remarks before the Senate Intelligence Committee. ... The countries have expanded cooperation in the energy sector over the past half decade; influenced international bodies that set rules and standards, particularly around communications technology; and will collaborate on the shared goal of ‘taking advantage of rising doubts in some places about the liberal democratic model,’ Coats warned. CIA Director Gina Haspel, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and other top officials joined Coats.” (They were there to discuss the new National Intelligence Strategy, which I wrote about last week.)

    -- Here are five of the main issues where the intelligence community leaders broke with Trump:

    1. Coats “said that North Korea was ‘unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities,’ which the country’s leaders consider ‘critical to the regime’s survival.’ That assessment threw cold water on the White House’s more optimistic view that the United States and North Korea will achieve a lasting peace and that the regime will ultimately give up its nuclear weapons.’”
    2. None of the officials said there is a security crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, where Trump has considered declaring a national emergency so that he can build a wall.”
    3. Officials also warned that the Islamic State was capable of attacking the United States and painted a picture of a still-formidable organization. Trump has declared the group defeated and has said he wants to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria as a result.”
    4. The officials assessed that the government of Iran was not trying to build a nuclear weapon, despite the Trump administration’s persistent claims that the country has been violating the terms of an international agreement forged during the Obama administration. Officials told lawmakers that Iran was in compliance with the agreement.”
    5. Officials also warned, as they did last year, about Russia’s intention to interfere with the U.S. political system. … Trump continues to equivocate on whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election on his behalf, contradicting the unanimous assessment of all the top intelligence officials currently serving.”

    -- “The disconnect between [Trump] and the Republican establishment on foreign policy has rarely been as stark,” the New York Times’s Peter Baker notes. “In recent days, the president’s own advisers and allies have been pushing back, challenging his view of the world and his prescription for its problems. The growing discontent among Republican national security hawks was most evident on Tuesday when [Mitch McConnell] effectively rebuked the president by introducing a measure denouncing ‘a precipitous withdrawal’ of American troops from Syria and Afghanistan.”

    THE INVESTIGATIONS:

    -- Roger Stone pleaded not guilty to the charges laid out by special counsel Bob Mueller. Spencer S. Hsu, Ann E. Marimow and Devlin Barrett report: “He faces charges of lying, obstruction and witness tampering. Asked Tuesday whether he would consider pardoning Stone, [Trump] told The Washington Post, ‘I have not given it any thought.’ … As Stone walked into the courthouse Tuesday morning, some onlookers chanted ‘lock him up!’ while others screamed their support for him and the president. After he went inside the courthouse, some of those people engaged in profanity-laced arguments about the case. … In the courtroom Tuesday, prosecutors said the Stone case would be tried jointly by Mueller’s office and the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and asked for no change to the terms of Stone’s release set by a Florida judge Friday. … The judge agreed with those conditions and scheduled the next court hearing for Feb. 1.”

    -- The Senate Judiciary Committee’s planned vote on William Barr’s nomination as attorney general was delayed amid Democratic concerns about how he would handle the Mueller probe. Karoun Demirjian reports: “The delay, which is customary for high-profile nominations, is not expected to impede Barr’s chances of being confirmed by the full Senate. But it is the latest reflection of the deep partisan tension surrounding Barr’s nomination, most of which centers on Democrats’ desire to protect Mueller’s probe from being unduly constrained. The committee was scheduled to vote on 46 nominations on Tuesday, including Barr’s, but decided to delay until Feb. 7.”

    -- House Democrats raised concerns about a potential conflict of interest in Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s decision to lift sanctions on the businesses of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. The New York Times’s Kenneth P. Vogel reports: “In a letter to Mr. Mnuchin, two senior Democratic lawmakers said the Treasury secretary’s connection to an entertainment business owned in part by [a billionaire Republican] donor, Len Blavatnik, a major investor in Mr. Deripaska’s giant aluminum company, Rusal, was a potential conflict of interest. … Tony Sayegh, the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for public affairs, said that Mr. Mnuchin had ‘no business relationship’ with Mr. Blavatnik and that any implication of a conflict of interest or ethical problem was ‘absurd.’”

    -- The Justice Department's inspector general wants to investigate Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta’s role in securing a cushy plea deal for alleged serial sex offender Jeffrey Epstein while Acosta was serving as a federal prosecutor in Florida. But he's currently barred from doing so. Bloomberg Law’s Chris Opfer and Jaclyn Diaz report: “‘Your letter raises important questions about the resolution of this case by department attorneys,’ DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in a Jan. 29 letter to lawmakers. ‘However, the OIG does not currently have jurisdiction over matters involving allegations of misconduct relating to DOJ attorneys’ handling of litigation or legal decisions.’ … Horowitz called on the Senate to take up a bill (H.R. 202) recently passed by the House. He said that legislation would give him the authority to investigate alleged prosecutorial misconduct.”

    -- The first meeting of the new House Oversight Committee, which will oversee investigations of the Trump administration, featured fireworks between Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Bloomberg News’s Billy House reports: “Meadows and other Republicans were telling Chairman Elijah Cummings of Maryland that members should get more than three days’ notice to attend questioning of witnesses by Democratic staff lawyers. Meadows said five days was better, particularly for lawmakers who live far from Washington. Ocasio-Cortez wasted no time in offering her first remarks on the committee. ‘I don’t believe we need five days’ if lawmakers are doing their jobs, she responded. Meadows wasn’t going to let that go. Formally directing his remarks to Cummings, he responded: ‘Mr. Chairman, I can tell you on all of this at this particular point, we’re all wanting to cooperate.’ But he said, ‘Sometimes our schedules, you know, we’re not just sitting around eating bonbons, waiting for the call of anybody.’ Ocasio-Cortez then asked Cummings whether Republicans gave members ample notice for such matters during the last congressional session, when they ran the committee. ‘No,’ said Cummings, of Maryland. ‘OK, thank you,’ said Ocasio-Cortez.”

    THE IMMIGRATION WARS:

    -- The Trump Organization plans to verify employees’ immigration status following a Post report that one of the president’s golf clubs hired undocumented immigrants for years. Jonathan O'Connell, Elise Viebeck and Tracy Jan report: “‘We are instituting E-Verify on all of our properties as soon as possible,’ Eric Trump, one of the president’s sons and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, said Tuesday, acknowledging that the company currently uses the program only at some locations. … The move is the first acknowledgment by the president’s private business that it has failed to fully check the work status of all its employees, despite Trump’s claims during the 2016 campaign that he used E-Verify across his properties. At the time, he called for the program to be mandatory for all employers. The decision by the Trump Organization is not likely to head off calls for an investigation by congressional Democrats, who on Tuesday began gathering signatures for a letter to FBI Director [Wray] seeking a probe into whether the president’s company broke the law by hiring undocumented workers.”

    -- The United States started instituting its new policy of forcing asylum seekers at the southern border to wait in Mexico as their cases are processed. Maya Averbuch and Kevin Sieff report: “Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen planned to visit the San Ysidro port of entry later in the day to ‘assess implementation’ of the new approach, according to a DHS statement. … The return of [a] Honduran asylum seeker Tuesday appeared to be ad hoc; he was rushed to a van by a Mexican immigration agent with no formal announcement of when ­others would follow. Rodulfo Figueroa, the national migration agency’s representative in Tijuana, said no others would be released Tuesday.”

    -- The Pentagon intends to send thousands more U.S. troops to the southern border. Dan Lamothe reports: “Acting defense secretary Patrick M. Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon that the evolving mission will focus heavily on watching the border for potential threats. It will mark the latest shift in how active-duty troops are used on the border, and nudge the number from about 2,300 active-duty service members closer to a high-water mark of about 5,900 that were involved in November. An additional 2,300 national guardsmen also are deployed to the border mission.”

    -- Following the shutdown, Democrats have taken a rare polling lead over Trump on border security. From Aaron Blake: “A new Quinnipiac University poll finds Americans trust Democrats more than Trump on border security, 50 percent to 41 percent. That is up from a 49-to-44 Democratic advantage two weeks ago. Both findings are rare since the issue has almost always favored the GOP. As recently as November, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found people favored Republicans to Democrats on the issue of border security by nearly the opposite margin, 49 to 39.”

    A SECOND SHUTDOWN?

    -- Republican lawmakers proposed a debt-ceiling increase as one component of a possible deal in their frantic efforts to avoid another government shutdown. Robert Costa and Erica Werner report: “The latest idea to tack on an increase in the nation’s borrowing limit to discussions over Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall divided Republicans and was immediately rejected by Democrats, a less-than-promising development on the eve of congressional negotiators’ first meeting. ‘I don’t want to sink the whole thing,’ Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said when asked about the flurry of proposals by her colleagues. Still, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump ally, and others worked to nudge a bipartisan group of lawmakers toward including a debt-limit hike, hoping to avoid another shutdown in mid-February when funding expires as well as a market-rattling showdown over the nation’s debt. …

    Most Republicans are now eager to avoid another shutdown, due to the political fallout they have endured in polls, which show a majority of Americans blaming Trump and the GOP for the standoff. [Mitch McConnell], who has been cautious, said Tuesday, ‘I’m for whatever works, which means avoiding a shutdown and avoiding the president feeling he should declare a national emergency.’ … The suggestions — which also included spending restrictions and protections for young undocumented immigrants as part of a broader pact — complicated the path ahead for the committee of 17 lawmakers charged with coming up with a spending deal to stave off another shutdown Feb. 15.”

    -- The lowest-paid government contractors are still feeling the impact of the first shutdown. Danielle Paquette reports: “Unlike the 800,000 career public servants who are slated to receive full back pay over the next week or so, the contractors who clean, guard, cook and shoulder other jobs at federal workplaces aren’t legally guaranteed a single penny. They’re also among the lowest-paid laborers in the government economy, generally earning between $450 and $650 weekly, union leaders say. … Héctor Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU, a labor union that represents 170,000 service workers on the East Coast, said reopening the government is a temporary fix for people on such shaky ground.”

    -- Officials at Mount Rainier National Park worked to cut through five weeks’ worth of snow that built up during the shutdown. Lornet Turnbull reports: “It’s likely to take at least two days to clear, leaving huge snowbanks around the perimeter. Road crews and other staff members at Mount Rainier National Park are scrambling to reopen this iconic volcanic mountain to the public, more than a month after the partial federal government shutdown cut off official access to some of its most popular wintertime activities. The park lost 10 percent of its working year, Superintendent Chip Jenkins laments. And while Paradise might begin welcoming visitors by next weekend, there is bigger concern about the long-term effect those lost days could have on the crucial summer season.”

    2020 WATCH:

    -- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that he would not seek the Democratic presidential nomination. The LA Times’s Michael Finnegan and Dakota Smith report: “After nearly two years of flirting with the idea that he could leap from City Hall to the world’s most powerful job, the mild-mannered mayor reached a decision in keeping with his reputation for avoiding political risk. He also passed up a chance to run for governor last year when the odds seemed stacked against him. At a City Hall news conference, Garcetti said he decided over the last couple of weeks to stay put as mayor because he ‘realized that this is what I am meant to do and this is where I want to be.’”

    -- One possible beneficiary of Garcetti’s decision: Sen. Kamala Harris, who may now become the only high-profile presidential candidate from California. From the San Francisco Chronicle’s Joe Garofoli: “Since California’s primary will be held on March 3, 2020 — far earlier in than in many past election cycles — it could have an outsized impact on whom the party’s nominee will be. ‘It’s always easy to be the favorite daughter when there’s no favorite son,’ said Thad Kousser, a professor of political science at UC San Diego and author of ‘The New Political Geography of California.’ ‘If I were Kamala, I’d be giddy,’ said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a retired professor of public policy communication at the University of Southern California. Among other things, ‘Harris and Garcetti were hitting a lot of the same Democratic donors,’ she said.”

    -- Harris’s acknowledgement that Medicare-for-all would also mean private insurance for none underscores the risks for 2020 Democrats who have chosen to embrace it. Annie Linskey reports on the fallout: “In a single flourish, Harris drew attention to the fact that the Medicare-for-all plans backed by 16 senators — including five potential candidates for the Democratic nomination — would in effect remove private health insurance from the estimated 251 million Americans who use it, broadly disrupting the industry and the way Americans experience the medical system. …

    Candidates can point to evidence that there’s popular support for the idea. Fifty-six percent of respondents backed a Medicare-for-all plan, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey. … But enthusiasm for the idea plummets when respondents are told the plan would largely eliminate private health insurance companies: Only 37 percent favor eliminating private insurance. And nearly 70 percent of those surveyed in a Gallup report released in December said they think their health coverage is either ‘good’ or ‘excellent.’”

    -- Harris’s team tried to clean up the senator's comments. CNN’s Gregory Krieg, Tami Luhby and Maeve Reston report: “A Harris adviser on Tuesday signaled that the candidate would also be open to the more moderate health reform plans, which would preserve the industry, being floated by other congressional Democrats ... Both the adviser and Harris national press secretary Ian Sams said her willingness to consider alternate routes to a single payer system should not cast doubt on her commitment to the policy.”

    -- “The unique harm we cause when we dissect a powerful woman’s love life,” by Monica Hesse: “The candidate in question [Harris], whose past relationship with former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown was confirmed for the national media when Brown published an op-ed: Yes, they’d dated. And, yes, he ‘may have influenced her career’ by appointing her to two commissions. … The two things were separate, according to Brown. 1) They dated. 2) He helped her career. The latter didn’t have anything to do with the former. Whether you believe that probably depends on whether you believe one can separate someone’s professional qualifications from their dinner companionship. … [I]t’s not that we don’t talk about the sexual predilections of male candidates. But we do talk about them in a different way. We talk about men abusing power. We talk about women not even deserving power. The distinction matters, because the conversation isn’t really about sex, it’s about legitimacy.”

    -- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s presidential campaign has already spiraled out of control, and the vanity project now threatens to cost the Hawaii Democrat her House seat. Politico’s Daniel Strauss and Alex Thompson report: “Two-and-a-half weeks after she told CNN she had decided to run for the White House—an announcement that even her own staff didn't know was coming, after weeks of debating the timing of the rollout—the 37-year-old congresswoman has struggled to contain the chaos. Campaign manager Rania Batrice and Gabbard’s consulting firm Revolution Messaging are set to depart after this weekend’s official kickoff in Hawaii … Meanwhile, the congresswoman is under fire back home after picking a fight with Sen. Mazie Hirono (D), and a prominent Democratic state lawmaker is already challenging Gabbard in next year’s congressional primary. That means she faces the possibility of losing the presidential race and her House seat as well.”

    -- Howard Schultz is facing intense blowback over his potential independent presidential campaign. But the former Starbucks CEO has spent months preparing the unconventional bid. Michael Scherer reports: “[Schultz deployed] more than six national polls and [laid] the groundwork for paid advertising that could debut in the next two months. The full reach of the project suggests that his stated goal of disrupting the U.S. political process is not likely to fade away anytime soon, despite enormous historical barriers to success and Democratic predictions that his entry in the race will help [Trump] get reelected. An early advertising effort, made possible by Schultz’s net worth of about $3.4 billion, would be designed to help Schultz show early promise in national polls during his book tour, which he has described as a time to test the appeal of his ideas.”

    -- Schultz further attracted Democratic ire by belittling the policy positions of Elizabeth Warren, Harris and Ocasio-Cortez. John Wagner reports: “During an interview Tuesday on NPR’s ‘Morning Edition,’ Schultz, a billionaire, said that Warren’s plan for a special 2 percent annual tax on Americans whose net worth exceeds $50 million is ‘ridiculous.’ … The exchange came just a few hours after Schultz called Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) ‘a bit misinformed’ and pushed back on her idea of a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent. … Schultz also knocked the views of a policy adviser to Ocasio-Cortez as ‘un-American.’” Schultz also referred to Harris’s comments on “Medicare-for-all” as “not American.”

    -- Former senator Jeff Flake ruled out a possible primary challenge against Trump in 2020. “I have always said that I do hope that there is a Republican who challenges the president in the primary,” Flake told “CBS This Morning.” “I still hope that somebody does, but that somebody won’t be me. I will not be a candidate.” (John Wagner)

    WEST WING INTRIGUE:

    -- Trump lashed out against former White House aide Cliff Sims and may have inadvertently helped sell more copies of Sims’s new book. CNN’s Brian Stelter reports: “‘A low level staffer that I hardly knew named Cliff Sims wrote yet another boring book based on made up stories and fiction,’ Trump said in his tweet. … At the time of the Tuesday morning tweet, ‘Team of Vipers’ was No. 12 on Amazon's best selling books list. The rankings are updated every hour. ‘Vipers’ has been moving up the list ever since, and as of Tuesday afternoon, it stands at No. 6. Of course, it's impossible to know how much of the sales momentum is due to Trump, and how much is due to other factors like Sims' TV appearances. … But Trump's post triggered a brand new news cycle about Sims' depictions of a distracted president and a distrustful inner circle of aides.”

    -- Sims pushed back against claims he was fired from his role. The New York Times’s Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman report: “Anticipating pushback from the White House, he told George Stephanopoulos, the host [of ‘Good Morning America’], that he had brought his resignation letter along to prove it. White House aides have been telling reporters for weeks that Mr. Sims was fired, but did not want to comment about him on the record. A former official noted that Mr. Sims was ‘instructed to leave due to a major security breach’ — a reference to what Mr. Sims said was the time he recorded [Trump] in the White House on his government phone and then emailed those files to himself, but insisted that was not the reason he left.”

    -- In an interview with the New Yorker, Sims said he was still “proud” of working for the Trump administration and seemed largely unfazed by Trump’s most controversial positions. Of birtherism, Sims said, “I think that’s, like, a great example of a time where he does not step up to the plate and take on these race issues in an appropriate way, a helpful way for the country.” When asked whether he would have left the administration during the implementation of migrant family separations, Sims replied, “I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe.” He added when discussing the Charlottesville fallout, “I really don’t think there is a racist bone in [Trump’s] body.” (New Yorker)

    -- Chris Christie, who is on his own book tour, described Jared Kushner as the most influential person in the White House. “He's not the only person who [Trump] listens to, but I don't think anyone has more influence than Jared has,” the former New Jersey governor told NPR.

    SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

    Trump laid out his foreign policy vision and contradicted intelligence community officials’ comments before a Senate panel on North Korea:

    He also demanded that any deal proposed by the bipartisan committee working to avoid another shutdown must include a border wall:

    A government agency corrected Trump's false tweet about climate change:

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) struck back against Howard Schultz's criticism of her policy proposals:

    A Time editor listed what Schultz has deemed un-American as he publicly explores a presidential bid:

    From an Atlantic editor:

    A historian referenced a Reagan quote:

    From The Post's satirical columnist:

    A freshman House Democrat from California came out early in support of Kamala Harris's presidential campaign:

    A Post reporter reflected on Texas's shifting political landscape:

    Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) shared Billie Holiday's famous song about lynchings in response to the attack on Jussie Smollett:

    A veteran NBC News anchor was stunned by the testimony of intelligence community leaders on Capitol Hill:

    A House Democrat parodied John Bolton's note about sending troops to Colombia:

    Another Democratic congressman used his own notepad to send a message to Trump:

    Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee backed up their claims about immigration:

    An NBC News reporter posed this question after Trump accused a former aide of both lying and violating his NDA in his tell-all book:

    A photojournalist captured this exchange between two lawmakers, a veteran and a freshman:

    A Republican senator honored a political cartoonist from his home state:

    A Star Tribune reporter found this hilarious photo caption:

    And an Illinois police department arrested Elsa from “Frozen” for creating the polar vortex hovering over the Midwest:

    ATTENTION: Due to the EXTREME COLD weather, all criminal activity and acts of stupidity and foolishness has been...

    Posted by McLean Police Department on  Tuesday, January 29, 2019

    GOOD READS:

    -- “Gone in a Generation,” by Zoeann Murphy and Chris Mooney: “The continental United States is 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was a century ago. Seas at the coasts are nine inches higher. The damage is mounting from these fundamental changes, and Americans are living it. These are their stories.”

    -- “I was ambassador to Afghanistan. This deal is a surrender,” by Ryan Crocker: “This current process bears an unfortunate resemblance to the Paris peace talks during the Vietnam War. Then, as now, it was clear that by going to the table we were surrendering; we were just negotiating the terms of our surrender. The Taliban will offer any number of commitments, knowing that when we are gone and the Taliban is back, we will have no means of enforcing any of them.”

    -- Greenville News, “Taken: How police departments make millions by seizing property,” by Anna Lee and Nathaniel Cary and Mike Ellis: “The TAKEN team scoured more than 3,200 forfeiture cases and spoke to dozens of targeted citizens plus more than 50 experts and officials. Additionally, the team contacted every law enforcement agency in the state. This yielded a clear picture of what is happening: Police are systematically seizing cash and property — many times from people who aren’t guilty of a crime — netting millions of dollars each year. South Carolina law enforcement profits from this policing tactic: the bulk of the money ends up in its possession. … These seizures leave thousands of citizens without their cash and belongings or reliable means to get them back. They target black men most, our investigation found — with crushing consequences when life savings or a small business payroll is taken.”

    HOT ON THE LEFT:

    “Texas quietly informs counties that some of the 95,000 voters flagged for citizenship review don’t belong on the list,” from Alexa Ura: “After flagging tens of thousands of registered voters for citizenship reviews, the Texas secretary of state’s office is now telling counties that some of those voters don’t belong on the lists it sent out. Officials in five large counties — Harris, Travis, Fort Bend, Collin and Williamson — told the Texas Tribune they had received calls Tuesday from the secretary of state’s office indicating that some of the voters whose citizenship status the state said counties should consider checking should not actually be on those lists. The secretary of state’s office incorrectly included some voters who had submitted their voting registration applications at Texas Department of Public Safety offices, according to county officials. Now, the secretary of state is instructing counties to remove them from the list of flagged voters.”

     

    HOT ON THE RIGHT:

    “Dems to strike 'so help you God' from oath taken in front of key House committee, draft shows,” from Fox News: “A key committee in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is moving to eliminate the God reference from the oath administered to witnesses testifying before the panel, as part of a new rules package expected to be approved this week, according to a draft obtained exclusively by Fox News. The draft shows that the House Committee on Natural Resources would ask witnesses to recite only, ‘Do you solemnly swear or affirm, under penalty of law, that the testimony that you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?’ The rules proposal places the words ‘so help you God’ in red brackets, indicating they are slated to be cut. … The draft rules also remove the phrase ‘his or her’ throughout the document, changing those two pronouns to ‘their.’”

     

    DAYBOOK:

    Trump will receive his intelligence briefing. He has no other events on his public schedule today.

    QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

    “To my knowledge, I am not under investigation by the office of the U.S. attorney.” — Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, addressing reports that he was secretly recorded by the FBI during an investigation into alleged extortion by a veteran alderman. (Chicago Tribune)

     

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

    -- The Wizards lost to the Cavaliers 116-113. (Candace Buckner)

    -- Federal prosecutors argued that Daron Wint, convicted of killing the Savopoulos family and their housekeeper, should receive a life sentence without parole. Keith L. Alexander reports: “Wint, 37, who was convicted this fall on 20 counts including first-degree murder, kidnapping and arson, is scheduled to be sentenced Friday in D.C. Superior Court.”

    ­-- The Federal Transit Administration warned Metro that it could suffer financially if it restores late-night service. From Robert McCartney: “In a letter sent this month, the FTA said it may have to postpone certifying a new Metro safety oversight agency if late-night service is extended. That would further delay the lifting of FTA sanctions that have held up millions in federal transportation funds to the District, Maryland and Virginia. The FTA’s warning adds to pressure on Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans to drop their insistence on extending service hours, especially on weekends. The District says restoring late-night service is vital to support the city’s restaurants, clubs and other nightlife.”

    -- An investigation found that a private Maryland school fostered a “toxic culture” that allowed for the alleged sexual abuse of young girls in the 1970s. Justin Wm. Moyer reports: “The Key School in Annapolis launched the investigation after a former student said she was abused by two Key teachers starting when she was 13 and similar accounts were shared on social media. Seven former students interviewed by The Washington Post in an article last year said they were abused while enrolled at the school. The investigation, which the Key School launched in February 2018, concluded that faculty members, administrators and board members who were aware of the abuse chose not to intervene and failed to protect students. The report does not allege any recent incidents at the school.”

    VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

    Chris Christie told Stephen Colbert he would have made a better president than Trump:

    Christie, who is promoting his book that heavily criticizes Jared Kushner, also recalled prosecuting Kushner's father:

    Roger Stone was heckled with a Beatles song:

    Kamala Harris acknowledged to The Fact Checker that she made an error when discussing her record on investigating police shootings during her CNN town hall:

    And a record was set for the highest wave ever surfed: