With James Hohmann

THE BIG IDEA: The deafening chorus demanding Ralph Northam’s resignation suggests that Americans could be on the precipice of a #MeToo moment for racial politics.

Virginia’s Democratic governor met Sunday night with his senior staff to weigh his options — including resignation — and gauge support from within his own administration.

Many of Northam’s longtime friends and erstwhile allies, including African American leaders and four of his Democratic predecessors as governor, dismissed his pleas for patience and called on him to step aside over a racist photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page.

The speed and intensity with which they did so reflects some of the ways that the political culture, nationally and in the South specifically, is changing.

-- Northam is the latest in a string of politicians whose careers have been jeopardized recently by accusations of racism. Republican Michael Ertel resigned late last month as Florida’s secretary of state after photos emerged of him in blackface, appearing to mock Hurricane Katrina victims. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who won bipartisan plaudits for appointing him, accepted Ertel’s resignation two hours after the local Tallahassee newspaper presented the 2005 pictures to his office. “I don't want to get mired into kind of side controversies, and so I felt it was best to just accept the resignation and move on,” DeSantis said. “It's unfortunate. I think he's done a lot of good work.”

Amid the Northam fallout, Ertel wrote a statement Sunday on his personal Facebook page apologizing for the offensive Halloween costume. “I’m a better man than I was 14 years ago,” he wrote. “Yet, over the past week, I have been rightfully apologizing for something I did Halloween night, 2005.”

-- Ertel’s resignation came less than two weeks after House Republican leaders moved to strip Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) of his committee assignments over his comments about white nationalism and white supremacy. “That is not the party of Lincoln,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). “It is definitely not American. All people are created equal in America, and we want to take a very strong stance about that.”

King’s comments were far from his first offense. In 2006, King described the murders of Americans at the hands of undocumented immigrants as “a slow-motion Holocaust.” The same year, he proposed building a concrete border wall with an electrified wire across the top to disincentivize trying to cross into the United States. “We do that with livestock all the time,” King said. And in 2013, he explained his opposition to providing legal status to “dreamers” by saying, “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

In response to the drug mule comments, then-Speaker John Boehner said King’s remarks did not “reflect the values of the American people or the Republican Party.” But he never punished King in any meaningful way. As recently as last year, when King retweeted a Nazi sympathizer, Republican leadership was largely silent. “We’ve gotten to the point with Congressman King that many people almost expect this sort of behavior out of him,” Iowa GOP strategist Nick Ryan, a frequent King critic, said at the time. “So when he does something that’s inappropriate or outlandish, many people in leadership have chosen to turn their heads the other way, because they don’t know how else to deal with him.”

In short, King’s behavior didn’t change. But the reaction to it did. Much like the #MeToo movement, past actions are being viewed through a new lens. The public outcry, combined with his narrow reelection last year, altered the political calculus of those who had defended him.

-- Previously unknown actions are also rising to the surface. Stephen J. Farnsworth, a political scientist at the University of Mary Washington, said the Northam controversy may trigger more revelations of racial misconduct, the same way that the #MeToo movement emboldened women to come forward after years of silence. “Other politicians who have similar controversies in their past have to be prepared for them to be disclosed,” Farnsworth said. “And there may be additional pressure on Virginia government to deal with legacies of the Confederacy and Jim Crow in terms of statues and renaming of public parks.”

-- Mo Elleithee, a Democratic strategist with experience in Virginia politics, expressed hope that the Northam controversy and others like it will clear the way for more public reflection on racial misconduct. “There are a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle racial insensitivities that people don’t notice or ignore or laugh off,” Elleithee said. “There is some reason to be hopeful that all of these unfortunate incidents are hopefully beginning to make way for some positive takeaways.”

Elleithee, now the executive director of Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service, added that Northam’s fumbling response to the allegations could prove to be a teaching moment for those who may later face the same kind of accusations. “If others find themselves in similar situations, I think the pressure will continue to grow, but it’s an opportunity for them to show their own possible redemption,” he said. “I hope that this is an awakening moment for a lot of people who … now can see that that’s not actually funny and [how] those who were oppressed by the Klan react when they see people in positions of power who were so cavalier about it once.”

-- There is a possibility that these are isolated incidents. After all, DeSantis may have fired his secretary of state for a blackface photo, but he himself was elected governor after saying on Fox News that Floridians would “monkey this up” by voting for his black opponent, Andrew Gillum. The comment was widely criticized as racial dog-whistling and prompted a formal rebuke from Fox News.

While she was campaigning for Mississippi’s Senate seat, Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith attracted national attention after she was recorded on video joking, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” She called the remark an “exaggerated expression of regard” and awkwardly apologized to anyone who was “offended.” It was also discovered that Hyde-Smith attended high school at a segregation academy and appeared in a yearbook photo that showed a mascot holding a Confederate flag and wearing a costume imitating the uniform of a Confederate general. Hyde-Smith went on to defeat Democrat Mike Espy, who would have become the state’s first African American senator since Reconstruction, by eight points.

-- Just as Donald Trump’s 2016 victory helped ignite the #MeToo movement on sexual misconduct, his presidency has also helped to unleash an awakening on race. Experts will debate forever how much of a factor it was, but it strains credulity that the election of Trump — who spent years falsely insisting Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States — had nothing at all to do with a white backlash to the first black president. Trump, of course, has generated several race-related controversies since taking office. Most notoriously, he faced intense blowback for suggesting that “both sides” were to blame for the August 2017 violence in Charlottesville, where neo-Nazi sympathizers clashed with anti-racist demonstrators.

-- The Northam news broke hours after Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced his candidacy to become the country’s second black president — at the start of Black History Month. “But the near-simultaneous reminders of the country’s ugly past on race and the prospects for a more inclusive future were not just a matter of happenstance: it reflected the duality of American politics in the Trump era,” Jonathan Martin observes on the front page of today’s New York Times. “If President Trump’s election amounted to an angry rejoinder to America’s first black president, as many on the left believe, Mr. Trump has created a backlash of his own, energizing women and people of color who represent an unmistakable rebuke to his demagogy on race and ethnicity and his misogynistic attacks. … What Mr. Trump may have done, though, is open the eyes of moderate and more liberal whites about the country’s lingering racial and gender inequities and — whether out of guilt, anger, embarrassment or some combination — prompted them to take out their discontent on Republicans.”

-- But Trump may be the exception that proves the rule — as he has been with the #MeToo movement. After all, Trump managed to win election even after several women accused him of sexual misconduct and the “Access Hollywood” tape emerged. Yet a year after the allegations against Harvey Weinstein were first reported, the New York Times estimated that similar accusations had forced at least 200 prominent men to leave their positions. Nearly half of those men’s replacements were women.

If Northam leaves office, he will be replaced by Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who is black. When he was sworn in as lieutenant governor last year, Fairfax kept in his pocket the document that freed his great-great-great-grandfather from slavery.

-- A sea change on the left:By the end of the day Saturday, nearly the entire 2020 Democratic field had called on Northam to resign,” Felicia Sonmez notes. “Some, including [Booker], emphasized the long history of racial discrimination in America, noting that the images ‘arouse centuries of anger, anguish and racist violence.’ Others — including former HUD secretary and San Antonio mayor Julián Castro, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) — stressed the importance of calling out racism regardless of political party. …

The vocal and lightning-quick responses come as the Democrats are fielding the most diverse presidential field ever. Their voters, too, are less likely to be white than Republicans' are, a trend that already led to a Democratic House caucus with more women and people of color being voted in last year. And with 87 percent of Democrats believing that President Trump is doing a poor or not so good job handling race relations, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, the issue is certain to be inescapable in the 2020 presidential race. The Post-ABC News poll, released before the Northam controversy erupted, shows that 18 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning respondents rank reducing racial and gender discrimination as the most important priority in the United States. That puts it third, behind improving the health-care system (31 percent) and reducing economic inequality (21 percent). It ranked even higher with nonwhite Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters, with 23 percent putting it No. 1.”

“No one can afford to be on the wrong side of this issue,” said Democratic strategist Symone Sanders, a senior adviser at Priorities USA. “In 2019, folks cannot afford to waver when it comes to condemning xenophobia, racism, sexism, on down the line.”

Former governor Terry McAuliffe (D), under whom Northam served as lieutenant governor, said he was “heartbroken” when he saw the photo and added that it’s irrelevant if Northam’s insistence that he’s not in the picture turns out to be correct. “It doesn’t matter whether he was in the photo or not in the photo at this point,” McAuliffe said on CNN. “We have to close that chapter.”

-- “What we have learned over the last 24 hours along with all the incidents of the last two years brings front and center the need for this nation to deal with the question of race once and for all,” said NAACP President Derrick Johnson. “Because we have Trump in the White House, who has created a political landscape of intolerance and racial hatred, this has exposed a wound that has been festering for a while now,” Johnson told the Associated Press on Saturday. “If we cannot recognize African-Americans are full citizens entitled to humane treatment by our public policy makers, how can we expect public policy to meet the needs and interests of those communities being portrayed as less than human?”

MORE NORTHAM FALLOUT:

-- People familiar with last night’s staff meeting say the governor has not reached a decision about what to do, Greg Schneider, Laura Vozzella and Jenna Portnoy report from Richmond: “It was unclear who was present, but the group included senior staffers of color. ... Although he pledged on Saturday to stand his ground, he also said he would reconsider if he thought he could no longer be effective. ... The meeting was emotional, according to a Democratic official. Northam scheduled a larger meeting for Monday morning for administration staff. …

“Before the meeting, Northam spent much of the day in seclusion at his family home on the Eastern Shore as confidants delivered conflicting advice about whether he should resign or continue fighting to clear his name … At least one senior staffer and one Cabinet member have reached out to private firms about job possibilities, according to a person who was approached by the two. One of those urging Northam to stay and defend his honor is first lady Pam Northam. …

Fairfax, who had begun making preparations to take over as governor on Saturday when it seemed as though Northam might resign, spent Sunday with his family in Northern Virginia and returned to Richmond in the evening.”

-- Democratic leaders fear the Northam controversy will continue to drag down the party’s message on race-related issues until he resigns. Sean Sullivan and Chelsea Janes report: “The presidential hopefuls are openly campaigning against Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and hard-line border policies as well as on issues such as stopping police violence against African Americans, all of which have opened wide partisan and cultural divides during Trump’s tenure. … [Democrats] argued that their swift and widespread calls for Northam to step down stand in contrast with the way Republicans have handled recent racial controversies in their own ranks. … But a Democratic member of Congress … said the Northam revelation may potentially undercut the contrast Democrats are seeking in their messaging if he remains in office.”

-- Many African American Virginians who supported Northam in 2017 said they felt betrayed after seeing the photo. Laura Meckler reports: “In conversations at churches, salons and coffee shops, African Americans disagreed about whether Northam must resign, but all voiced a sense of betrayal. In public office, Northam worked to expand Medicaid, the health program that serves the poor, and he helped to restore voting rights for felons, a policy that helps many black men. Many in the black community saw him as an ally, and as one of the good guys.”

-- The editor in chief of the website Big League Politics said he uncovered the story thanks to a tip from a “concerned citizen” who was outraged about comments Northam made last week about late-term abortion. Paul Farhi reports: Patrick Howley “declined to give any further information about his source, citing a confidentiality agreement. But he said it took him just a few hours to confirm that the photo was authentic. The source of the tip appears to have been a medical school classmate or classmates of Northam who acted as a direct result of the abortion controversy that erupted earlier in the week, according to two people at Big League Politics."

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- The Patriots defeated the Rams 13-3 to win their sixth Super Bowl title, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers for the franchise record. Mark Maske reports: “The New England Patriots were short on all-around brilliance on this night. The customary near-perfection of quarterback Tom Brady was missing. But the Patriots dug in and put their true grit and uncommon resourcefulness on display instead. They demonstrated their unmatched ability to do whatever is needed and to be just good enough to prevail. All of that translated into yet another Lombardi Trophy on Sunday, as they outlasted the Los Angeles Rams ... in a far-from-elegant Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. … The Patriots secured their sixth Super Bowl triumph in their ninth appearance in the big game with Brady as their quarterback and Bill Belichick as their coach. They are playing against themselves and against history at this point, having long ago cemented their place as the most prosperous and lasting dynasty of the modern NFL.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and his associates are accused of raping girls as young as 13. The drug lord, standing trial for drug-trafficking charges in New York, allegedly referred to the youngest victims as his “vitamins” because he said they gave him “life.” An attorney for Guzmán denied the allegations, calling them “extremely salacious.” (Kristine Phillips)

  2. Protesters have gathered for several days outside the Brooklyn jail that partially lost power as temperatures in the city dropped to single digits. Inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center complained that they had no heat, hot meals, hot water or light in their cells for almost a week. (Amy B Wang)

  3. Some conservative and libertarian groups are criticizing the FDA’s crackdown on e-cigarettes. A coalition of the groups sent a letter to Trump accusing the agency of waging an “aggressive regulatory assault.” (Laurie McGinley)

  4. A Baton Rouge police officer who requested a transfer to the motorcycle unit after being shot in the line of duty was killed while escorting a funeral procession. Cpl. Shane Totty was struck by a pickup truck during the procession and died of his injuries shortly after the collision. (Alex Horton)

  5. The communities near the site of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster have become virtual ghost towns. The Japanese government lifted its evacuation order for the town of Namie in 2017, but very few people have returned to the previously close-knit community. (Simon Denyer)

  6. Hawaiian Airlines passengers were outraged after their direct flight from Los Angeles to Maui took off twice and flew for hours before returning to LAX each time. When the plane tried to depart for a third time, the flight was canceled. The airline said it returned both times because of unrelated systems issues. (Kristine Phillips)

  7. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is writing a new book about the Arlington National Cemetery's Old Guard and his time in the unit. Cotton led the unit, which oversees the funerals of fallen soldiers at the cemetery, in 2007 and 2008 between his tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. (Politico)

WEST WING INTRIGUE:

-- Working hard or hardly working? A leaked set of Trump’s private schedules from the past three months show that about 60 percent of his workdays are spent on unstructured "Executive Time," which includes watching cable TV and calling friends. Axios’s Alexi McCammond and Jonathan Swan report: “Trump, an early riser, usually spends the first 5 hours of the day in Executive Time. Each day's schedule places Trump in 'Location: Oval Office' from 8 to 11 a.m. But Trump, who often wakes before 6 a.m., is never in the Oval during those hours, according to six sources with direct knowledge. Instead, he spends his mornings in the residence, watching TV, reading the papers, and responding to what he sees and reads by phoning aides, members of Congress, friends, administration officials and informal advisers. Trump's first meeting of the day — usually around 11 or 11:30 a.m. — is often an intelligence briefing or a 30-minute meeting with the chief of staff.” Here are all of the schedules.

-- Tomorrow night's State of the Union comes at a tumultuous point in the Trump presidency, with another potential government shutdown looming and Nancy Pelosi now sitting behind him. Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Toluse Olorunnipa report: “Trump is as unchecked and isolated as ever. Inside the White House, aides describe a chaotic, freewheeling atmosphere reminiscent of the early weeks of Trump’s presidency. Power has consolidated around presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, a senior adviser who is functioning as a de facto White House chief of staff. With counterweights like ousted chief of staff John F. Kelly gone, some advisers say the West Wing has the feel of the 26th floor of Trump Tower, where an unrestrained Trump had absolute control over his family business and was free to follow his impulses. …

“Although the fight for a border wall has been a chief focus of Trump’s for the past two months, the president’s advisers said his address would not be an immigration-centric jeremiad, but rather would set a governing agenda for the year ahead. For instance, Trump plans to talk about infrastructure development and prescription-drug pricing, two issues with broad bipartisan appeal, according to a senior White House official. The president also is expected to talk about foreign affairs and highlight his administration’s recent moves in Venezuela to force President Nicolás Maduro from power, as well as Trump’s ongoing trade negotiations with China and his planned summit this month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Meanwhile, conservative leaders are urging Trump to weave in heavy language on abortion after [Northam] sparked national outcry last week for comments interpreted as defending infanticide.”

-- Stacey Abrams is writing the Democratic response to the State of the Union herself, aides said. Vanessa Williams reports: “She weaves together stories of her life and anecdotes of people she has met on the campaign trail to help explain her policy positions and to connect with audiences. Traveling around Georgia, she focused on expanding eligibility for Medicaid, providing more money for public schools, creating jobs and helping small-business owners, especially in smaller cities and rural areas. Those themes are likely to be included in her 10-minute response Tuesday.”

-- Republican congressional leadership has expressed concern about the high number of vacancies in Trump’s administration. Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim report: “To deal with the number of vacancies in the upper ranks of departments, agencies have been relying on novel and legally questionable personnel moves that could leave the administration’s policies open to court challenges. … ‘It’s a lot, it’s way too many,’ Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said of the acting positions in Cabinet agencies. … One particular vacancy senators have fixated on is at the Pentagon, where former defense secretary Jim Mattis resigned in December after clashing with Trump over his decision to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria. Patrick Shanahan has been serving in an acting capacity since Jan. 1.”

-- Shanahan appears to be trying to prove his ability to take on a permanent role as defense secretary. The Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold and Michael C. Bender report: “Mr. Trump in private conversations has voiced satisfaction with the arrangement, saying interim leaders are more beholden to the Oval Office, according to a person familiar with the conversation. … Although Mr. Shanahan appears to be the front-runner for the permanent post, Vice President Mike Pence has been tasked with identifying other candidates. Under consideration are financier David McCormick; Navy Secretary Richard Spencer; Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson; Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats; and former Sen. Jim Talent (R., Mo.), according to people familiar with the deliberations.”

-- Senior intelligence officials who brief Trump say he shows a “willful ignorance” about the information he is presented. Time’s John Walcott reports: “The officials, who include analysts who prepare Trump’s briefs and the briefers themselves, describe futile attempts to keep his attention by using visual aids, confining some briefing points to two or three sentences, and repeating his name and title as frequently as possible. What is most troubling, say these officials and others in government and on Capitol Hill who have been briefed on the episodes, are Trump’s angry reactions when he is given information that contradicts positions he has taken or beliefs he holds. Two intelligence officers even reported that they have been warned to avoid giving the President intelligence assessments that contradict stances he has taken in public.”

-- Rewarding loyalists: Trump tapped Ronny Jackson to be his chief medical adviser and for promotion to two-star admiral despite an ongoing Pentagon investigation into the allegations that last year derailed Jackson’s nomination as VA secretary. Dan Lamothe and Josh Dawsey report: “A spokesman for the Defense Department Inspector General’s Office, Bruce Anderson, said his office’s investigation into Jackson is still ongoing. … It isn’t clear whether the Armed Services Committee will act on Jackson’s new promotion nomination while the investigation is still ongoing.”

-- Chris Christie said he advised Trump against tweeting about the Russia investigation. “He knows full well I think it’s a bad idea,” Christie said. “I told him back in February of 2017 there is no way to make this investigation shorter, but there are lots of ways to make it longer.…. Every time he said something new or different, the prosecutors have to chase it down. It makes the investigation go on longer.” (Wall Street Journal)

THE IMMIGRATION WARS:

-- A Trump-appointed prosecutor in North Carolina decided to focus on prosecuting noncitizens who voted in 2016 and missed legitimate election fraud that has left a congressional seat unfilled for the past month. Amy Gardner, Beth Reinhard and Alice Crites report: During a series of arrests last year, “20 immigrants — two still in pajamas — were rounded up over several days, many of them handcuffed and shackled, and charged with voting illegally in the 2016 presidential election. The sweep across eastern North Carolina was one of the most aggressive voting-fraud crackdowns by [U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon Jr.] — and also a deliberate choice that demonstrates where the administration’s priorities stand. At the time of the arrests, an organized ballot-tampering effort that state officials had repeatedly warned about was allegedly gearing up in the same part of North Carolina. The operation burst into public view after Election Day in November when the state elections board, citing irregularities in the mail-in vote, refused to certify the results of the 9th Congressional District race.”

-- A CBS News poll found that more than 6 in 10 voters oppose Trump declaring a national emergency to get funding for his border wall. CBS News’s Anthony Salvanto, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Kabir Khanna report: “If government funding runs out on Feb. 15 and there's still an impasse over wall funding, Americans don't want either side to force another shutdown. Seventy-three percent of Americans want Mr. Trump to continue negotiating while keeping the government open, rather than demand wall funding if that forces a shutdown. A similar number (75 percent) say congressional Democrats should also continue negotiating, rather than deny funding in a move that might force a shutdown.”

-- But Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), a Republican member of the bipartisan committee created to seek a funding agreement, said Trump “would be forced” to declare an emergency if the group can’t reach a deal. “I think what the president is saying is if we don’t compromise — and he’s put compromise on the table, real compromise, things the Democrats want — but if we can't get compromise out of Speaker Pelosi and get to a good solution, then he would be forced to go the national emergency route,” Hoeven said on “Fox News Sunday.” But he maintained that an immigration deal passed by both chambers of Congress was still “the best solution.” (Politico)

-- The rapper 21 Savage was taken into ICE custody on allegations of overstaying his U.S. visa. Travis M. Andrews reports: “Though he is often touted as a local Atlanta rapper, ICE officials say he is actually ‘a United Kingdom national’ and has overstayed his visa. ‘[Sha Yaa Bin] Abraham-Joseph initially entered the U.S. legally in July 2005, but subsequently failed to depart under the terms of his nonimmigrant visa and he became unlawfully present in the U.S. when his visa expired in July 2006,’ ICE spokesman Bryan Cox told The Washington Post in a statement. … The rapper has been placed in ‘removal proceedings before the federal immigration courts,’ Cox said. ‘ICE will now await the outcome of his case before a federal immigration judge to determine future actions.’”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- The United States has pursued an aggressive campaign to pressure European firms to stop doing business with Iran. Griff Witte and Erin Cunningham report: “Since [Trump] announced in May that he was pulling the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal, European governments have sought to keep the agreement on track by keeping their companies engaged in Iranian trade. Europe last week unveiled its most dramatic step to date, with the creation of a trading system that could be used to allow firms to skirt U.S. restrictions. But the European effort remains mild compared with the zeal with which the United States has been pressing the continent’s firms to get out, say industry associations, government officials, analysts and representatives of companies that have been targeted.”

-- Ji Seong-ho, the North Korean defector turned human rights activist who appeared at last year’s State of the Union, worries the plight of the North Korean people has fallen off the radar as Trump and Kim Jong Un plan a second nuclear summit. David Nakamura and Min Joo Kim report: “Since Ji’s starring role in last year’s State of the Union, Trump has said almost nothing about the plight of the North Korean people, more than 100,000 of whom are estimated to be held in hard-labor prison camps. Instead, the president has abruptly shifted from a ‘fire and fury’ condemnation of the North to an unprecedented strategy of engagement with Kim … Ji and several other North Korean defectors who visited the Oval Office a year ago remain uncertain whether their partnership with Trump will lead to the human rights improvements that they have sought.”

-- The inventor of what he describes as a nearly indestructible smartphone screen teamed up with the FBI after he began to suspect the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei tried to steal his technology. Bloomberg Businessweek’s Erik Schatzker reports: “Like all inventors, [Adam] Khan was paranoid about knockoffs. Even so, he was caught by surprise when Huawei, a potential customer, began to behave suspiciously after receiving the meticulously packed sample. Khan was more surprised when the [FBI] drafted him and Akhan’s chief operations officer, Carl Shurboff, as participants in its investigation of Huawei. The FBI asked them to travel to Las Vegas and conduct a meeting with Huawei representatives at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show. Shurboff was outfitted with surveillance devices and recorded the conversation while a Bloomberg Businessweek reporter watched from a safe distance.”

-- A former mayor of San Salvador won El Salvador’s presidential race. Anna-Catherine Brigida reports: Nayib Bukele, 37, who campaigned as a change from the country’s traditional politics, dominated by former guerrillas and a party associated with past military-backed governments, had 53.7 percent of the vote with 89 percent of the ballots counted. One of voters’ most significant concerns is violence blamed on gangs, which have enormous power in this Central American nation. Although homicide rates have been decreasing from a peak in 2015, El Salvador remains one of the most violent countries in the world, with more than 3,300 killings last year in a nation of about 6.5 million residents. The violence is a key factor driving migration to the United States. The presidential candidates pledged to find ways to reduce the violence, offering crime-prevention programs instead of an iron-fisted approach. But they provided few details.”

-- Saudi Arabia’s economy is struggling to keep pace as shifting government policy has resulted in the mass exodus of foreign workers. Saudi Arabia encouraged foreign workers to emigrate during the oil boom of the 1970’s, but Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is trying to prioritize Saudi citizens in his plans to remake the country’s economy. (Kareem Fahim)

-- Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, has been tweeting at the Palestinian officials who have refused to meet with him since the president recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Ruth Eglash reports: “During the past few weeks, Greenblatt has been tweeting his thoughts, requests and criticisms to those Palestinian leaders who are active on the popular social media platform. This weekend, he seemed to confirm his new brand of tweet-diplomacy, writing: ‘And who says the U.S. and the P.A. aren’t talking? The only difference now is that we are speaking about these matters in public via twitter so the public can understand everyone’s positions. Transparency is better for all.’”

-- Trump reiterated his pledge to get U.S. troops out of Syria and Afghanistan during an interview with CBS News that aired before the Super Bowl. “When I took over Syria it was infested with ISIS. It was all over the place,” Trump told “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan. “And now you have very little ISIS and you have the caliphate almost knocked out. ... We will be announcing in the not too distant future 100 percent of the caliphate, which is the area, the land, the area, 100 [percent]. We're at 99 percent right now, we'll be at 100.” The comments contradicted testimony from Trump’s intelligence chiefs last week. (Politico)

-- But Trump added he wanted to keep troops in Iraq to “watch Iran.” “We’re going to keep watching and we’re going to keep seeing and if there’s trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we’re going to know it before they do,” he told CBS News. (New York Times)

2020 WATCH:

-- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) co-wrote an op-ed for today's New York Times with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to advocate for limiting stock buybacks. They write: “Over the past several decades, corporate boardrooms have become obsessed with maximizing only shareholder earnings to the detriment of workers and the long-term strength of their companies, helping to create the worst level of income inequality in decades. One way in which this pervasive corporate ethos manifests itself is the explosion of stock buybacks. … This practice of corporate self-indulgence is not new, but it’s grown enormously. Fueled by the Trump tax cut, in 2018, United States corporations repurchased more than $1 trillion of their own stock, a staggering figure and the highest amount ever authorized in a single year.”

-- The Washington Post’s Editorial Board endorses Sanders’s proposal to increase the estate tax. The board writes: “Rich heirs would still be rich after paying a Sanders tax. But their unearned head start over their less fortunate cohort would be shorter, and the government would have more resources to help promote opportunity for everyone else.”

-- Primaries in Western states are taking on an outsize role in the Democratic nomination race for 2020. The Boston Globe’s Jess Bidgood reports: “The delegate-rich state of California has vaulted itself near the front of the primary calendar, which means candidates seeking to break away from the pack will be looking to build early support on the left coast. The action has already begun in Nevada, the third state to vote, which also hosted a parade of potential candidates during the midterms. … The West has a younger, more diverse population than the traditional early states of Iowa and New Hampshire, and they are expected to tilt the Democratic debate toward issues such as immigration and climate policy. … The reworked primary calendar could also dissuade candidates from dropping anchor in Iowa or New Hampshire for long stretches, potentially raising Nevada’s stock among the quartet of early voting states that includes South Carolina.”

Harry Reid, who still plays a prominent role in Nevada Democratic politics, stopped just short of endorsing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in the race. “She’s a good person. I think the world of her,” Reid said. “My Nevada politics keep me from publicly endorsing her, which I will not do. But anything I can do to help Elizabeth Warren short of the endorsement, I will do.”

-- Mayor Pete Buttigieg, of South Bend, Ind., who is widely considered a long shot for the Democratic nomination, defended his candidacy in an ABC News interview. “I get the audacity of somebody like me talking about running for this office, but frankly it’s a leap for anybody,” Buttigieg told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos. “And yet all of the people who had that job have been mortals who just bring their experience to the table. My experience is that of guiding a city through transformation, and I think a mayor at any level has the kind of executive frontline government experience and, by the way, problem solving experience that we need more in Washington right now.” (ABC News)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

The president's daughter marked Black History Month as Virginia's governor sought to survive:

The RNC chairwoman demanded Northam's resignation:

The swift condemnation prompted accusations of hypocrisy. From the former director of the Office of Government Ethics:

A CNN anchor shared this from a spokesman after the McConnell photo widely recirculated on social media:

A CNN reporter noted this off turnaround from Virginia's state GOP:

From Obama's former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services:

The director of U-Va.'s Center for Politics shared this interesting fact:

Kamala Harris turned her attention to another race-related issue:

A CNN reporter highlighted this date:

One political commentator raised a question about Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) as he stumped around Iowa:

Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan marked the loss of an agent:

Trump’s director of Oval Office operations slammed the leaking of his private schedules:

Cory Booker recalled his football days:

New Orleans, still feeling burned by the Saints missing the Super Bowl over a controversial missed call, ignored the event entirely:

And a former senior adviser to Obama compared the Super Bowl halftime show to the 2020 race:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- New York Times, “How a ‘Monster’ Texas Oil Field Made the U.S. a Star in the World Market,” by Clifford Krauss: “In a global collapse of oil prices five years ago, scores of American oil companies went bankrupt. But one field withstood the onslaught, and even thrived: the Permian Basin, straddling Texas and New Mexico. A combination of technical innovation, aggressive investing and copious layers of oil-rich shale have transformed the Permian, once considered a worn-out patch, into the world’s second-most-productive oil field. And this transformation has apparently inoculated Texas against its traditional economic enemy, the boom-and-bust cycle pegged to oil prices.”

-- Wall Street Journal, Over 60, and Crushed by Student Loan Debt,” by AnnaMaria Andriotis: “One generation of Americans owed $86 billion in student loan debt at last count. Its members are all 60 years old or more. Many of these seniors took out loans to help pay for their children’s college tuition and are still paying them off. Others took out student loans for themselves in the wake of the last recession, as they went back to school to boost their own employment prospects. On average, student loan borrowers in their 60s owed $33,800 in 2017, up 44% from 2010, according to data compiled for The Wall Street Journal by credit-reporting firm TransUnion. Total student loan debt rose 161% for people aged 60 and older from 2010 to 2017—the biggest increase for any age group, according to the latest data available from TransUnion.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Fox News’ Dana Perino Made ‘Queso’ And The Internet Doesn’t Want It,” from HuffPost: “Fox News contributor Dana Perino made a classic Super Bowl snack Sunday night, but the internet isn’t sure what it was. ‘I made queso,’ she tweeted just after the kickoff, along with a photo of a slightly congealed crock pot of orange-brown glop. Upon closer look, the substance appeared to be separating, lifting from the edge of the dish. The alleged queso immediately sparked a flurry of reactions on Twitter, prompting comparisons to the infamous Fyre Festival sandwich, the sarcophagus opening of 2018, sewage and just a piece of half-melted cheese lying in a bowl by itself.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Colin Kaepernick's attorney slams Maroon 5 for Super Bowl performance 'cop-out,’” from Fox News: “Colin Kaepernick’s lawyer lashed out at Super Bowl Halftime performers Maroon 5, specifically singling out frontman Adam Levine for his ire. On Thursday, Levine, 39, told Entertainment Tonight that he understood the ramifications of performing at halftime in light of the NFL protests against police brutality … ‘No one thought about it more than I did,’ Levine said … ‘I'm not a speaker. I'm not a public speaker. I do speak, but it's through the music.’ … That explanation wasn't enough for Kaepernick's attorney Mark Geragos. ‘If you're going to cross this idealogical or intellectual picket line, then own it, and Adam Levine certainly isn't owning it,’” Geragos said.

 

DAYBOOK:

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

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

Trump dodged a question about whether he wants special counsel Bob Mueller’s report to be released: “Totally up to the attorney general,” Trump said in his CBS News interview. “That’s up to the attorney general. I don’t know. It depends. I have no idea what it’s going to say.” (Josh Dawsey)

 

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

-- Temperatures will reach into the 50s today and touch 60 tomorrow. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Areas of fog are likely this morning, but by late morning sun should be breaking out in most areas. Temperatures rapidly respond by reaching 50 or so by midday — with some low to mid-50s during the afternoon. Winds are light.”

-- D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser attracted criticism from Ward 7 residents after she proposed redirecting funds for the Fort Dupont Ice Arena to partly pay for repairing schools’ heating and air conditioning systems. Perry Stein and DeNeen L. Brown report: “The money would fix the heating and air-conditioning systems at 10 schools and renovate the roofs and outdoor spaces at a handful of other campuses and recreation centers. … The move has provoked the ire of the community and an official rebuke from Ward 7 council member Vincent C. Gray (D), who introduced legislation opposing the mayor’s request, a move that will force a council vote. … Bowser, who defeated Gray in the 2014 election, defended her decision during a Friday news conference, saying the schools are in dire need of immediate repairs.”

-- Prosecutors in an ongoing trial in D.C. Superior Court say 16-year-old Breyona McMillian, who was shot to death outside her apartment building in 2016, was an unintended victim of a feud between two men. Keith L. Alexander and Peter Hermann report: “One of them, 32-year-old Saeve Evans, is charged with second-degree murder in her killing. The other man, who was supposed to be a prosecution witness, was gunned down last month. A D.C. police spokesman said investigators have not yet determined a motive in the Jan. 26 shooting that left Sean Shuler, 26, and two others dead.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

The Post aired an ad narrated by Tom Hanks during last night's Super Bowl:

Bud Light allowed its Super Bowl spot to double as a promo for the new “Game of Thrones” season:

Roger Stone was greeted at Trump's D.C. hotel with praise:

The Fact Checker awarded Trump Four Pinocchios for his tweets about undocumented immigrants in Texas:

And one 2020 candidate paused campaigning for a sledding break: