With Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: Joshua Trump, a sixth-grader from Delaware, has been bullied because he shares a last name with the president. “They curse at him, they call him an idiot, they call him stupid,” his mother, Megan Trump Berto, told a local TV station last year.
Yakelin Garcia Contreras, from Guatemala, was the same age as Joshua, 11, when she was separated from her mother last year after they arrived at the southern border to seek asylum. “We fled our homes seeking protection from violence and a better life for my daughter,” said Albertina Contreras Telator, her mother, who got her back after two months apart. “The treatment we were met with was horrifying.”
Yakelin will be the guest of Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who helped draw public attention to the Trump administration’s family separation policy last June at a time when the White House was denying the very existence of such a policy. Merkley is now seriously considering a run for president. “We need to bear witness to the suffering that this cruel policy inflicted and resolve to make sure that nothing like this ever happens in the United States of America again,” the senator said, explaining why he’s bringing a preteen to watch a man who doesn’t want her in this country deliver a speech in her nonnative tongue. (Today also happens to be her 12th birthday.)
Merkley is part of a bumper crop of Democratic lawmakers who have their eyes set on the White House this year. They may be in the minority, but they’re using Trump’s State of the Union to draw attention to causes close to their hearts and to appeal to constituencies important to their campaigns. Ambitious members now approach the big speech as if they’re asking someone to prom or maybe, because of the growing ranks of women in the legislative branch, the Sadie Hawkins dance.
In 1913, Woodrow Wilson started the tradition of presidents delivering the constitutionally required update on the state of the country in person, rather than via letter. Ronald Reagan humanized it in 1982, starting what’s become a ritual of presidents giving shout-outs to their guests when he praised Congressional Budget Office staffer Lenny Skutnik for jumping into the Potomac to save a woman after a plane crash. In recent years, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have become much more deliberate about whom they give their tickets to. These invites often get positive coverage from hometown outlets that don’t cover politics as much as they used to. Like so much else, this trend has supercharged in the Trump era. The guests have become symbols. Some might use a less charitable term: props.
-- Here’s who other 2020 contenders invited — and what it says about their campaigns:
-- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who has been making a play for the LGBT donor community and has carved out a niche on the Armed Services committee, is bringing a transgender Navy officer. Lt. Commander Blake Dremann, who has had 11 overseas deployments, is president of SPARTA, an organization that advocates for transgender troops. Gillibrand will introduce a bill this week to protect transgender members who are already in the armed forces. The Supreme Court agreed two weeks ago to let the Trump administration’s broad restrictions on transgender troops go into effect while the legal battle plays out in lower courts. “Transgender service members like Lt. Commander Dremann make extraordinary sacrifices every day to defend our freedom and our most sacred values, and President Trump’s decision to ban them from military service is cruel and undermines our military readiness,” Gillibrand said in a statement.
-- Health care will be a top-tier issue once again in next year’s election, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has focused on lowering drug prices. She’s bringing Nicole Smith-Holt, whose son Alec had Type 1 diabetes and died at age 26 after losing health insurance coverage through her plan. She believes he was rationing insulin because of its high cost. The Washington Post Magazine published a profile last month of the mom from Richfield, Minn. “Nicole’s story is absolutely heartbreaking—no mother should have to watch her son decide between food and medication,” Klobuchar said.
-- Most of the Democratic candidates are trying to woo organized labor with their invitations. Trump’s third address from the House chamber, after all, was postponed because of the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history, which affected 800,000 mostly unionized federal workers.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is bringing Sajid Shahriar, a Boston-based employee of the Department of Housing and Urban Development who was furloughed during the shutdown. Shahriar is executive vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3258 and sits on the board of Massachusetts AFL-CIO. “Sajid has devoted his career to fighting for fair housing, equal pay, the dignity of all work, and strong collective bargaining rights for workers across this country,” Warren’s office said in a news release. “It's time to send a message to President Trump and Senate Republicans: federal and contract workers are the backbone of our economy and their livelihoods should never be used as pawns in Republican political games,” Warren said in a statement.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) found an air traffic controller who got furloughed during the shutdown after losing her home in a wildfire. Trisha Pesiri-Dybvik is also active in the AFL-CIO — one of the most sought-after endorsements in a Democratic primary — and has three young kids. Her husband, Jed, is a Navy veteran who was forced to work without pay throughout the 35-day shutdown because his job as a controller was deemed essential. (Her position was not.)
Harris said she chose Pesiri-Dybvik because she’s the living embodiment of “strength and resilience.” Adding insult to injury, the threat of flooding and mudslides — which have gotten worse in California because of climate change — forced the family to flee the property they rented in Camarillo after their home in Ventura burned down. “Since the tragic loss of their home, Trisha, Jed, and their three children have worked diligently to bounce back and reestablish a sense of normalcy in their lives, even amidst an unnecessary government shutdown that caused both of them to miss their paychecks for over a month,” Harris said in a statement. “Washington needs to hear her story.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is bringing Rita Lewis for the second year in a row. Rita’s husband Butch, who passed away in 2015, was a Vietnam veteran, truck driver and a member of the Teamsters who became an activist to preserve underfunded pension plans. She’s continued his work. “Brown continues working to highlight the pension crisis that threatens more than 60,000 Ohioans and 1.3 million workers and retirees nationwide,” his office said in a news release.
-- Bernie Sanders will again deliver his own live-streamed response, in addition to the official Democratic speech by former Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams and the Spanish-language response from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The Vermont senator’s spokesman didn’t respond to an email asking who will get his tickets. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) will announce his guest later today, a spokeswoman said.
-- Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who is not as serious about running for president as his colleagues but continues to keep the door open, is bringing his daughter with him, an aide emailed this morning.
-- Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), who has been traveling to the early states as he mulls a long-shot bid for the Democratic nomination, is highlighting his support for gun control by bringing a survivor of last February’s shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. The student, Cameron Kasky, has advocated for tough new gun laws since the massacre that killed 17 people last Valentine’s Day. The 18-year-old co-founded an advocacy group called Never Again MSD and helped organize the March for Our Lives protests. “The shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., happened while I was in congressional orientation in December 2012, and I figured Congress would have to act,” Swalwell said in a statement. “As Republicans stymied all efforts since then, I started to grow frustrated but the … voices of the Parkland generation have inspired me to renew our efforts.”
WHAT TO EXPECT TONIGHT:
-- News: Trump is expected to announce a campaign to halt transmission of HIV in the United States by 2030, a goal some experts say is within reach. Lenny Bernstein, Lena Sun and Amy Goldstein report: “The U.S. Health and Human Services Department is expected to roll out the plan within days of Trump’s address ... Greg Millett, director of public policy for the American Foundation for AIDS Research, said the initial plan may focus on wiping out HIV transmission in 46 U.S. counties responsible for about half of all new HIV cases in the United States, based on information he has seen.”
-- The president continues to threaten that he will declare a national emergency to redirect Pentagon funding for the project, although aides said he is not expected to formally make that declaration during his speech. David Nakamura reports: “White House officials insisted that Trump will not use the speech as a cudgel to pummel Democrats over the wall and play solely to his conservative base. The president certainly intends to make a robust defense of his immigration agenda, they said, but also will spend time discussing areas where he hopes to forge consensus, including around infrastructure projects and cutting the cost of prescription drugs. Aides said the president will obliquely address the government shutdown … by charting a path forward on the budget fight and his demands for a border wall.”
- “This president is going to call for an end to the politics of resistance, retribution and call for more comity,” said White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway. “He’s calling for cooperation … and also compromise. And he’s going to point out a couple of examples in which this has happened on his watch.”
- “Together we can break decades of political stalemate,” Trump plans to say in the speech. “We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make.”
“Trump, aides said, will discuss the administration’s trade war with China, which Trump has suggested could be the focus of a potential summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping later this month in Asia,” per David. “Trump also is tentatively scheduled to hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this month, possibly in Vietnam. During his national address last year, Trump highlighted the Kim regime’s brutality to build public pressure on Pyongyang, but this year, he is expected to hail progress in their nuclear weapons negotiations, even though experts have said North Korea has taken few tangible steps toward disarmament.” (David also wrote an excellent story for today’s newspaper about the North Korean defector who was hailed by Trump during last year’s speech but now worries that the president is ignoring Kim’s human rights abuses.)
-- Trump’s other guests, via Eli Rosenberg: “Grace Eline, a child who was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was 9; Judah Samet, a survivor of the Holocaust who lived through the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh; Ashley Evans, a recovering opioid addict; Elvin Hernandez, a special agent at the Department of Homeland Security who focuses on human trafficking; and Debra Bissell, Heather Armstrong and Madison Armstrong, family members of a Nevada couple who authorities say were killed by an undocumented immigrant.” (Read the White House’s news release with their bios.)
-- Trump has been practicing the delivery of this speech more than usual because he wants to nail the dismount. “After spending part of the weekend at Mar-a-Lago … working on the speech, Mr. Trump spent two hours going over it with Stephen Miller, his chief policy adviser, in the Oval Office,” Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman report in the New York Times. “He also spent time on Monday practicing in the Map Room with a handful of senior administration officials. He was expected to do another teleprompter-and-lectern practice session there on Tuesday, with his aides giving him notes. …
- “This year, there has also been concern among the president’s allies that Mr. Miller, who in previous years has bristled at losing control of the speech-writing process, has been trying to reassert himself as the final voice on a speech that will most likely lean heavily on immigration.
- “For all of the president’s fabled norm-busting, there are aspects of the conventional presidency that appeal to him. … The cinematic aspect of the annual tradition is one piece of the presidency that Mr. Trump embraces rather than disrupts, according to more than a half-dozen current and former aides.”
-- More WaPo team coverage:
- Fact Checker Glenn Kessler revisits the proposals Trump outlined a year ago: “What flopped and what succeeded.”
- Adam Taylor: “What Trump said about foreign policy … (and what actually happened).”
- Dan Balz and Griff Witte: “Europeans fear Trump may threaten not just the transatlantic bond, but the state of their union.”
- Paul Kane: “If a Democrat is sitting next to a Republican on Tuesday, it’s almost certainly because Democrats won so many seats in the 2018 midterms that they cannot all fit on their side of the aisle.”
- Elise Viebeck: An activist who confronted Jeff Flake in an elevator during the debate over Brett Kavanaugh will attend as the guest of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
- For locals: Luz Lazo has a rundown of road closures around the Capitol.
-- How it’s playing elsewhere:
- Associated Press: “Pelosi over his shoulder: Trump faces empowered Dems at SOTU.”
- ABC News: “Trump's promise to 'heal' sounds familiar, but unconvincing.”
- CNN: “State of the Union promises epic political drama.”
- Wall Street Journal: “Trump to Call for Bipartisanship as He Threatens to Declare Emergency.”
- The New Yorker: “The Shrunken State of Donald Trump’s Presidency.”
- HuffPost: Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) became the fourth Democratic member of Congress to announce he’ll skip Trump’s speech, joining Steve Cohen, John Lewis and Hank Johnson.
-- Tune in: I’ll be in the Capitol tonight for the speech and will offer pregame analysis from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern as part of The Washington Post’s live broadcast. Libby Casey will anchor, and Seung Min Kim and Rhonda Colvin will join us on set in Statuary Hall. We’ll stream on The Post’s home page, plus YouTube and Twitch.
GET SMART FAST:
- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made her first public appearance since her cancer surgery. She attended a production of “Notorious RBG in Song,” a celebration of her life set to music, at Washington’s National Museum of Women in the Arts. (Robert Barnes)
The Pentagon is launching an initiative to prevent civilian deaths in military operations. The Defense Department reported last week that 1,190 civilians have been killed by U.S. strikes in Iraq and Syria since 2014. But the monitoring group Airwars estimates the number is actually more than six times as high. (Missy Ryan)
The watchdog group Freedom House downgraded the United States on its freedom index. The group’s president accused Trump of undermining U.S. democratic values. “No president in living memory has shown less respect for its tenets, norms and principles,” Michael Abramowitz wrote in an essay accompanying the report. (Carol Morello)
More than a quarter of Americans living in poverty are disconnected from the federal safety net, according to a new analysis. The research indicates that 13 million people at the poverty line receive no federal assistance and that Hispanics and Asians are least likely to receive such benefits. (Tracy Jan)
Several New England Patriots have already said they have no interest in visiting the White House after their Super Bowl victory. At least one player expressed interest in meeting with Barack Obama, as the NBA champion Golden State Warriors did. “That would be dope,” Patriots safety Duron Harmon said, adding: “Hey, Obama, come holler at me. We love you over here, man.” (Des Bieler)
McClatchy, which owns 30 media brands, announced it would offer voluntary early retirement to 450 employees. The notice could affect the Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg, who is the only reporter covering Guantanamo Bay on a full-time basis. (Erik Wemple)
Officials in the Midwest fear a rapid temperature fluctuation from last week’s polar vortex could cause burst pipes, potholes and floods. In Chicago, the low temperature at O’Hare International Airport increased by 62 degrees between Wednesday and Sunday. (Matthew Cappucci)
Australian officials warned recent severe flooding could cause crocodiles and snakes to appear in unexpected places. Residents have already posted photos of crocodiles on their driveways and on top of toppled trees. (Amy B Wang)
The chairman of Harvard University's astronomy department has argued that an interstellar object flying past the orbit of Jupiter probably came from another civilization. But Avi Loeb’s theory of an extraterrestrial spacecraft has been largely rejected by his colleagues, who have called it a “shocking example of sensationalist, ill-motivated science.” (Avi Selk)
FOLLOW THE MONEY:
-- Federal prosecutors in New York served a sweeping subpoena yesterday to Trump’s inaugural committee, seeking all information related to donors, vendors, contractors, bank accounts of the inaugural committee and any information related to foreign contributors to the committee. Rosalind S. Helderman and Michael Kranish reviewed a copy: “Only U.S. citizens and legal residents can legally donate to a committee established to finance presidential inaugural festivities. … The subpoena — issued by the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York — indicates that prosecutors are investigating crimes related to conspiracy to defraud the United States, mail fraud, false statements, wire fraud and money laundering. ... Much of the committee’s fundraising and operation was headed by Rick Gates, a former senior Trump campaign official who served as a deputy chairman of the inaugural committee and is cooperating with prosecutors as part of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation. ...
“The subpoena also specifically seeks all communications with one donor, Los Angeles venture capitalist Imaad Zuberi, as well as the firm with which he is affiliated, Avenue Ventures. The company donated $900,000 to the inaugural committee, records show. Steve Rabinowitz, a spokesman for Zuberi, said in a telephone interview that Zuberi knew nothing about the subpoena until contacted by a reporter. … Asked whether there was any foreign connection to Zuberi’s donation, Rabinowitz said: ‘There is no connection of any other individual or entity, and for sure not a foreign one. He gave his own money.’
“After Trump’s election, Zuberi, a longtime Democratic donor, swiftly emerged as a major contributor to the new president and Republicans. On his Facebook page, Zuberi indicated that he visited Trump Tower in New York in December 2016 as the president-elect prepared to take office, writing that he was with incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn. That was the same day that a delegation from Qatar, including the county’s foreign minister, visited Trump Tower and met with Flynn and campaign chief executive Stephen K. Bannon. Rabinowitz said Zuberi met with the Qataris that day, walked with them to Trump Tower and rode up the elevator with them, but did not participate in their meetings with Trump officials. Zuberi indicated on his Facebook page that he met with the Qatari foreign minister at the Plaza Hotel in New York the following day. Days later, he visited Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, his Facebook posts show.”
-- A lobbyist who attended the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 received mysterious payments totaling half a million dollars, BuzzFeed News reports: “Documents ... show that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Soviet military officer turned Washington lobbyist, deposited large, round-number amounts of cash in the months preceding and following the meeting, where a Russian lawyer offered senior Trump campaign officials dirt on Hillary Clinton. The lobbyist also received a large payment that bank investigators deemed suspicious from Denis Katsyv, whose company Prevezon Holdings was accused by the US Justice Department of laundering the proceeds of a $230 million Russian tax fraud.” Mueller’s team pulled bank information on the meeting’s attendees, but it’s not clear whether the payments themselves are under investigation.
-- The Justice Department and congressional Democrats are barreling toward a battle over publicly releasing any final report from Mueller. Devlin Barrett reports: “When Mueller gives his findings to the Justice Department, it will probably be Democrats demanding a full airing of his reasoning and findings. … Democrats making such demands can point to a very recent and relevant example: In the past year, Republican lawmakers have gained access to a great deal of investigative material about both the 2016 investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and the ongoing Russia inquiry. ... Several current and former law enforcement officials who have worked with Mueller in the past say they expect him to describe in detail what he found about the individuals he charged with crimes but be far more circumspect and limited in discussing those people who are not accused of any crimes.”
-- Paul Manafort’s first sentencing hearing has been set for March 13. CNN’s Katelyn Polantz reports: “Manafort will be sentenced on the two charges he pleaded guilty to -- conspiracy and witness tampering -- as part of his admission that he had orchestrated a vast lobbying and money laundering criminal scheme. … At a later date that isn't yet set, Manafort will be sentenced by a separate federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia for eight financial crimes for which he was convicted at trial last summer.”
DEMOCRATIC DRAMA IN RICHMOND:
-- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) continued to weigh resigning over a racist yearbook photo as his potential successor, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), denied a sexual assault allegation. Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella report: “Northam gathered Cabinet members and staffers Monday to apologize ... and told them he was still weighing options, according to several people who attended. The governor urged staffers not to quit and promised to decide his fate soon, but how soon was left unsaid, according to three people … It could take days, according to one person familiar with his thinking. Northam is trying to assemble evidence to prove that he was not in that racist photo and is exploring whether he has enough support in the government to continue to be effective, according to several people who have spoken with the governor. …
“Elected officials from both parties stood by their calls that Northam must go, but the way forward became cloudier Monday with the incendiary charges against Fairfax. The lieutenant governor vehemently denied the claim that he sexually assaulted a woman ... ‘She was very much into a consensual encounter,’ Fairfax said about the 2004 incident. ‘Everything was 100 percent consensual. And now, years later, we have a totally fabricated story out of the blue to attack me once I was in politics.’ Fairfax, 39, called it an attempt to damage him. ‘Does anybody think it’s any coincidence that on the eve of my potentially being elevated, this uncorroborated smear comes up?’ he said.”
-- The Fairfax allegation appeared on the conservative website Big League Politics, the same site that uncovered the Northam photo. But the woman involved first approached The Post about her story after Fairfax was elected. Theresa Vargas reports: “The woman and Fairfax first met in Boston at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. During a conversation, the two realized they had a mutual friend. It was that commonality, she recalled, that put her at ease enough that on the afternoon Fairfax asked her to walk with him to his hotel room to pick up some papers, she thought nothing of joining him. Fairfax and the woman told different versions of what happened in the hotel room with no one else present. The Post could not find anyone who could corroborate either version. The Post did not find ‘significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegations,’ as the Fairfax statement incorrectly said. …
“The woman described a sexual encounter that began with consensual kissing and ended with a forced act that left her crying and shaken. She said Fairfax guided her to the bed, where they continued kissing, and then at one point she realized she could not move her neck. She said Fairfax used his strength to force her to perform oral sex. The Post, in phone calls to people who knew Fairfax from college, law school and through political circles, found no similar complaints of sexual misconduct against him. Without that, or the ability to corroborate the woman’s account — in part because she had not told anyone what happened — The Post did not run a story. She said she never told anyone about what happened at the time or in the years that followed until shortly before she approached The Post.”
-- Fairfax suggested that Northam’s office might be behind publicizing the allegation, a claim the governor’s aides denied and that escalated tensions among Virginia Democrats. The New York Times’s Jonathan Martin and Alan Blinder report: “Speaking to reporters outside the Capitol on Monday evening, Mr. Fairfax adjusted his stance slightly, saying he had ‘no indication’ that Mr. Northam himself was behind the publication of the sexual assault allegations but still decrying the ‘sneaky’ tactics that he said were being employed against him. Then Mr. Fairfax shifted targets and hinted that Mayor Levar Stoney of Richmond, a would-be rival to the lieutenant governor for the 2021 Democratic nomination for governor, may have played a role — praising the acumen of a reporter who inquired whether Mr. Stoney might have been responsible.”
-- The current provost of Northam’s medical school alma mater banned the publication of the yearbook after he objected to three students wearing Confederate uniforms in a 2013 edition. Jim Morrison reports: Eastern Virginia Medical School President Richard V. Homan said the yearbook “had been largely run by students, with little oversight from the school’s staff — although some graduates of EVMS from the 1980s have told The Washington Post the yearbooks were submitted for staff review. Homan said it did not occur to him at the time to review yearbooks from previous years, including the 1984 edition … At [an emergency] meeting, Homan told board members the school has hired former Virginia attorney general Richard Cullen, a partner at McGuireWoods, to lead an investigation into how racist photos came to be published in EVMS yearbooks.”
-- If that name sounds familiar, it's because Vice President Pence retained Cullen back in 2017 to deal with Mueller's inquiries.
-- Northam is telling aides that, if he resigns, he would be remembered as a “racist for life,” and he thinks the only way he can clear his name is to stay in office and convince people that he is not in that photo and that the photo does not represent who he is, CNN reports.
TRUMP ELEVATES LOYALISTS:
-- Trump announced that he will nominate veteran energy lobbyist David Bernhardt to serve as interior secretary. Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey and Darryl Fears report: “If confirmed, Bernhardt, a 49-year-old Colorado native known for his unrelenting work habits, would be well positioned to roll back even more of the Obama-era conservation policies he has worked to unravel since rejoining Interior a year and a half ago. He has helmed the department as acting secretary since Jan. 2, when Ryan Zinke resigned amid multiple ethics probes. … A former partner at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, he walked into the No. 2 job at Interior with so many potential conflicts of interest he has to carry a small card listing them all. He initially had to recuse himself from ‘particular matters’ directly affecting 26 former clients to conform with the Trump administration’s ethics pledge. ... Bernhardt’s industry-friendly policies, coupled with his extensive work as a lobbyist, have earned him the enmity of environmental groups and many Democrats."
Face time with POTUS helped get him the job: “As recently as a week ago, Trump was considering tapping former congresswoman Cynthia M. Lummis (R-Wyo.), a conservative who retired from the House in 2017. But the shutdown, coupled with Zinke’s departure, also gave Bernhardt an opportunity to spend more time with the president as Trump weighed the vacancy. During a Cabinet meeting last month, Bernhardt sat next to the president, and he also accompanied Trump and Vice President Pence on a recent trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial near the Mall. … Bernhardt made it clear he was prepared to leave the administration if the president tapped someone else for the top job, according to two individuals familiar with the matter.”
-- Trump has decided to nominate an outspoken critic of the World Bank to lead the World Bank. Robert Costa reports: David Malpass, 62, “Treasury’s undersecretary for international affairs, would need to be approved by the World Bank’s 12-member board before becoming its president. The United States traditionally chooses the bank’s leadership. Malpass, a Trump loyalist and veteran of the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, has had sharp words for several policies at the World Bank, including its loans to China. He has also long expressed skepticism of global institutions. … A person close to Malpass said he would seek to be ‘constructive’ as World Bank president, but declined to detail much of his possible agenda, beyond saying his priorities would be raising incomes in developing nations and defending U.S. interests.”
-- Growing buzz on the right that Trump might try to replace RBG with his own anti-regulation czar Neomi Rao, 45, raises the stakes for her confirmation hearing today to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Politico’s Andrew Restuccia, Gabby Orr and Anita Kumar report: “The White House is already reaching out to conservative groups to prepare for Ginsburg’s possible death or departure from the court. People close to the White House said Rao is among several contenders to replace her. … But whether Rao is ultimately picked will likely depend on the timing of a potential opening. Because Rao has no prior experience as a judge, conservative activists think she’d need to spend at least a year on the D.C. Circuit before she’d be seen as a top contender for the Supreme Court. …
“White House aides and outside conservatives close to the president have been quietly helping Rao prepare for her confirmation hearing for weeks,” per Politico. “Conservatives are discouraging talk of Rao as a future justice, recognizing that it will only draw more scrutiny of her record, which has recently been criticized over controversial positions like her defense of dwarf-tossing and past skepticism of date rape claims. [Rao] founded the Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason University’s law school — a hothouse of ideas about limiting the federal government’s authority and size.”
-- Fed Chairman Jerome Powell dined with Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin a week after he announced the central bank would hold off on raising interest rates. The Wall Street Journal’s Nick Timiraos reports: “Mr. Trump hadn’t met with Mr. Powell since he tapped him to lead the Fed in November 2017. … Mr. Powell’s No. 2, Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida, also attended the dinner. The Fed said both men joined Messrs. Trump and Mnuchin at the invitation of the president to discuss the economy. … The Fed said of the dinner that Mr. Powell’s ‘comments in this setting were consistent with his remarks at his press conference of last week.’”
-- Commerce Department officials rescinded an offer to a prominent D.C. lawyer to serve as the ZTE compliance coordinator after they discovered he had signed a “Never Trump” letter. The National Law Journal’s C. Ryan Barber reports: “The U.S. Commerce Department had picked Peter Lichtenbaum, a Washington-based partner at the law firm Covington & Burling. … All that was left was the public announcement. … Instead, on the day Lichtenbaum expected his new role to be publicized, at least two Commerce officials compiled an extensive collection of news articles that identified the veteran trade and sanctions lawyer as one of the Republican signatories on a ‘Never Trump’ letter in 2016 ... The following week, the Commerce Department announced that Roscoe Howard, a Barnes & Thornburg partner who’d previously served as U.S. attorney in Washington, would serve as the ZTE compliance monitor.”
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- The Trump Organization has now fired at least 18 undocumented workers from five of its golf courses following reports about the company’s employment practices. Joshua Partlow and David A. Fahrenthold report: “Eric Trump, the president’s son, confirmed the firings to The Washington Post on Monday. … The Washington Post could not independently verify Eric Trump’s figures. There have also been firings at the Trump course in Bedminster, N.J., which his son did not address. … The wave of dismissals raises questions about how widely the president’s company has relied on undocumented workers, even as he has denounced illegal immigration in fiery terms and demanded the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.”
-- If Trump decides to move forward with an emergency declaration, he would be able to tap into $20 billion from military construction projects approved by Congress but not yet underway. Erica Werner and Karoun Demirjian report: “Hundreds of projects could be at risk of losing their funding to Trump’s wall — including a $60 million aircraft maintenance hangar at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina, a $105 million command and control facility at Fort Shafter in Hawaii, and a $32 million vehicle maintenance shop at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. Lawmakers have begun raising alarms about their home-state projects getting targeted. … This type of domestic blowback, which could surface in numerous states, including some critical to Trump’s 2020 reelection prospects, has led to expectations among congressional aides in both parties that Trump could go after overseas construction projects first.”
-- Republican senators who oppose Trump’s proposal to declare a national emergency on the southern border to get wall funding could be forced to publicly rebuke him if House Democrats pass a resolution of disapproval. Politico’s Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine report: “Interviews with a dozen GOP senators on Monday revealed broad efforts to wave Trump from doing an end run around Congress, part of an effort to avoid a politically perilous floor vote that could place them at odds with the president. If the House were to pass a formal resolution of disapproval, the Senate would be forced to take it up with a majority threshold required for passage under procedural rules. That would mean just four GOP defections along with all Democrats would be enough to rebuke the president. Trump could still win that vote, as no GOP senators would commit to voting against the president ... But just a handful of Republicans right now are publicly committing to standing with Trump, suggesting the president could face a brutal intraparty fight should he move forward.”
-- The Republican opposition is the latest indication that Trump’s approach of governing through fear is wearing thin after two years in office. The New York Times’s Michael Tackett and Maggie Haberman report: “Few outside the Republican Party are afraid of him, and they may be less intimidated after the disastrous government shutdown. But Mr. Trump has shown little inclination to modulate his style, and that carries risks. He could well face a challenge for the Republican nomination in 2020, and congressional Republicans from swing states could begin to distance themselves from him. One of the clearest signals came last week when Republicans, backing an amendment offered by [Mitch McConnell], opposed the president’s call for withdrawal of United States military forces from Syria and Afghanistan as part of a Middle East policy bill.”
-- To defuse a subpoena threat, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen agreed to testify before a House panel next month on border-security issues. John Wagner reports: “In a blistering letter to Nielsen last week, [House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.)] said it was ‘outrageous’ that she was pointing to the shutdown as an ‘excuse’ not to voluntarily appear before the committee. ‘If she says she’s not coming, we’ll subpoena her to the committee,’ Thompson said in an interview with The Post at the time. … In a statement Monday, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the committee, praised Thompson for deciding to work with Nielsen to arrange voluntarily testimony for March 6.”
-- Construction equipment arrived at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Tex., to start building the border wall. The San Antonio Express-News’s Silvia Foster-Frau reports: “Congress approved funding for this section of the wall in last year’s federal budget, before the impasse between Democrats and [Trump] held up another round of wall funding and led to the recent 35-day partial government shutdown. As equipment for the construction was off-loaded Monday morning, a group of about 35 tribal members, including the Floresville-based Carrizo Comecrudo, marched in protest on the Rio Grande levee where the wall will be built.”
MORE ON 2020:
-- Democratic presidential candidates are competing for the best political talent in South Carolina to help them get an edge in the state’s crucial primary. CNN’s Caroline Kenny and Jasmine Wright report: “In a presidential year when black voters are likely to have outsize influence in selecting the Democratic nominee, all of the campaigns are focused on building the strongest operations possible in a state where black voters comprised 61% of the Democratic electorate in the 2016 primary election. … In recent weeks, advisers for Kamala Harris, Joe Biden and Cory Booker, as well as other White House aspirants, have engaged in a fierce battle for operatives in the first-in-the-South primary state. They have courted potential hires with job offers and big titles—or in Biden's case, a promise that the wait would be worth it—as they seek to build their broader network of influencers in the state.”
-- It’s still unclear whether Booker’s long-standing friendship with the state’s Republican Sen. Tim Scott will become a liability or an asset in the race. Emma Dumain reports for the State: “Booker is expected to tout his record of working across the aisle as he campaigns in the pivotal early primary state of South Carolina. One of Booker’s strongest bipartisan relationships is with Scott. … The danger in naming Scott as a friend and sometimes ally could be that Booker gets attacked for being too conciliatory towards Republicans. As Democrats fight for the future of their party, many argue they must move farther to the left, leaving little room for cooperation in the middle.”
-- Beto O’Rourke’s prospects of winning the Democratic nomination if he enters the race have dimmed in the eyes of many strategists. McClatchy’s Katie Glueck reports: “In a contest for his party’s nomination, O’Rourke would confront not [Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.)]—a hero to conservatives, an archvillain to Democrats—but a growing list of credentialed Democratic candidates. Many of O’Rourke’s potential rivals have more experience (Joe Biden), stronger connections to the Democratic Party’s diverse base (Kamala Harris, Cory Booker), and tighter bonds with the party’s increasingly vocal liberal wing (Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders) than he does. And many have been organizing in the early states for weeks if not months.”
-- A new Monmouth University poll indicates Democratic voters are prioritizing candidates’ perceived ability to beat Trump over their policy positions. The university reports: “Just under 4-in-10 registered voters (38%) say that Trump should be re-elected in 2020. A majority of 57% say it is time for someone new in the Oval Office. … In considering who should be their party’s standard bearer, a majority of 56% [of Democrats] prefer someone who would be a strong candidate against Trump even if they disagree with that candidate on most issues. Just 33% say they would prefer a nominee who they are aligned with on the issues even if that person would have a hard time beating Trump.”
-- Democratic candidates are offering competing visions on how to unite the country. Michael Scherer reports: “The different approaches have less to do with policy than political strategy, as the Democratic candidates remain relatively united on the broad direction of their policy focus — the need for more progressive tax policy, expanded health-care coverage and continued advancements in the fight against discrimination based on race, gender or sexual orientation. … Instead, the Democratic contenders are offering contrasting story lines for knitting the country back together at a time when racial, ethnic, gender and geographic differences increasingly determine political allegiance.”
-- House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) appeared at a New Hampshire event but definitively ruled out running for president. “I, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, am not old enough to run for president,” the 58-year-old Schiff joked at a “Politics & Eggs” event when asked about running. He then added: “Okay, I’m a little older than that. I’m not running.” (John Wagner)
-- A former Democratic speaker of the Colorado House joined a growing field of candidates hoping to take on Sen. Cory Gardner (R) next year. Colorado Politics’s Ernest Luning reports: “In appearances at Democratic county reorganization meetings Saturday, [Andrew] Romanoff stopped short of officially announcing his candidacy. But he previewed his campaign by outlining policy disagreements with Gardner and invited supporters to sign up for ‘news from this next venture’ using their cell phones or by contacting volunteers bearing clipboards.”
-- Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) has already started preparing in earnest for his election next year after O’Rourke nearly pulled off an upset against Cruz. Politico’s James Arkin reports: “Cornyn has already stockpiled more campaign cash than any other senator: $5.8 million. He’s filling high-level campaign jobs. And crucially, Cornyn secured early endorsements from Cruz and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, two of the most prominent conservatives in the state, in a show of force to prevent a primary challenge. It’s all part of Cornyn’s resolve not to become the first statewide Republican casualty in rapidly changing Texas.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The manager for Northam's 2017 opponent blamed the Republican Governors Association for not finding the Northam yearbook photo, per an NBC News reporter:
NEW: Why didn't Ralph Northam's yearbook emerge as part of Ed Gillespie's oppo research? His former campaign manager Chris Leavitt tells me: "The RGA handled opposition research for our campaign. Obviously we are surprised that this information was not included in their report."— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) February 4, 2019
A Times reporter made this remarkable observation:
The least controversial, most dignified and scandal-free Virginia governor this decade has been Terry McAuliffe— Alex Burns (@alexburnsNYT) February 4, 2019
A CNN analyst considered how a moderate Democrat might fit into the 2020 field:
I am pretty sure there is room for a more moderate candidate than is currently officially declared in the Dem field. But tbh, that may not be Biden or Bloomberg or Beto... It may be Sherrod Brown who is no moderate, but is more towards center of party than many running now.— (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) February 4, 2019
Elizabeth Warren prodded a former Republican lawmaker about her post-Congress plans:
Will @BarbaraComstock register as a lobbyist, or bob & weave around the rules? My #EndCorruptionNow bill would make it illegal for her to take a lobbying job as a former Congresswoman – & would fix the Swiss cheese definition of lobbying. https://t.co/VHZP9wyqrh— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 4, 2019
A familiar face appeared at a Brooklyn Nets game:
Bill and Brooks, basketball buds 😄🏀 pic.twitter.com/I9eF4I8WEB— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) February 5, 2019
The former prime minister of Sweden remembered this piece of communication with another world leader:
Time flies. It’s a quarter of a century today since the first email between two heads of governments. Me and Bill Clinton. Now literally a museum piece. pic.twitter.com/yx5zEPpvtG— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) February 4, 2019
A freshman Republican lawmaker posed this question after the Super Bowl:
Should someone propose a 70% tax on the Patriots so that NFL competition is more fair and equal? Asking for a friend.— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) February 4, 2019
And a freshman Democratic congresswoman replied:
The average NFL salary is $2.1 million, so most players would never experience a 70% rate.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 4, 2019
The owners who refuse to hire Kaepernick would, though. https://t.co/AnST2lCiU9
And Danica Roem, the first openly transgender person to be elected to the Virginia General Assembly, shared this picture from a fan:
So a trans middle schooler told his grandma he was too nervous to send this to me and asked her to do it instead.— Danica Roem (@pwcdanica) February 5, 2019
That’s so sweet.
“I was just thinking about what an inspiration she is to the trans community and just how nice she was to me so I decided to attempt to draw her.” pic.twitter.com/8QWmvXxfOy
A GOOD READ FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- AP, “Historians irked by musical ‘Hamilton’ escalate their duel,” by Mark Kennedy: “Ever since the historical musical ‘Hamilton’ began its march to near-universal infatuation, one group has noticeably withheld its applause — historians. Many academics argue the portrait of Alexander Hamilton, the star of our $10 bills, is a counterfeit. Now they’re escalating their fight. Ishmael Reed, who has been nominated twice for a National Book Award, has chosen to fight fire with fire — collecting his critique of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acclaimed show into a play. Reed’s ‘The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda’ is an uncompromising take-down of ‘Hamilton,’ reminding viewers of the Founding Father’s complicity in slavery and his war on Native Americans.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“President Trump’s election set off a birth control boom,” from the Boston Globe: “Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers have documented a trend in women’s health that had previously been reported mostly anecdotally: [Trump’s] election set off a birth control boom. In the immediate aftermath of the Nov. 8, 2016, upset election, women rushed to secure long-acting, reversible contraception — the kind that could feasibly last through the duration of a Trump presidency. Compared to the same monthlong period in the previous year, demand for IUDs and other implants spiked 21.6 percent, according to the study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine online Monday.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Christian university cancels Ben Shapiro speech for campus 'unity,’” from Fox News: “The largest Christian university is under fire for canceling a speech from Jewish conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. The school cited ‘biblical truths’ and a fear that he would divide the school's ‘unique and united community.’ Grand Canyon University officials told students from the Young America's Foundation (YAF) chapter at GCU of their decision Thursday. The decision immediately drew a firestorm of criticism. ‘By caving to an unseen mob and ignoring the popularity of Shapiro among its student body, Grand Canyon University just played itself and deserves whatever negative response this brings,’ YAF spokesman Spencer Brown said in a statement.”
Trump will deliver his State of the Union address at the Capitol at 9 p.m. EST.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) implored his Republican colleagues to support Trump if he declares an emergency at the southern border to get wall funding: “To every Republican, if you don’t stand behind this president, we’re not going to stand behind you, when it comes to the wall,” Graham said in a speech in his home state. “This is the defining moment of his presidency. It’s not just about a wall, it’s about him being treated different than every other president.” (Bloomberg News)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It will be unseasonably warm in Washington today, with highs in the 60s. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Morning cloudiness and maybe an isolated early-morning shower shift toward partly to mostly sunny skies by midday and afternoon as temperatures surge into the low to mid-60s for another very comfortable day. Light and variable winds shift to come from the northwest later today.”
-- The Wizards lost to the Hawks 137-129. (Roman Stubbs)
-- The D.C. Council is considering a bill to better protect those seeking divorces from abusive partners. Samantha Schmidt reports: “The bill, which [D.C. Council member Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1)] reintroduced this year after a hearing was not scheduled in the fall, would also allow for an injured spouse to be granted a divorce within three months of the finding of an incident of domestic violence. … D.C. law currently allows judges to consider domestic violence as one of many factors when they are dividing up property in a divorce. But Nadeau’s bill would make clear that domestic violence should be a determining factor and that ‘the offending spouse should not be entitled to profit from his misdeeds,’ Brody said.”
-- Education officials are debating whether the District’s charter schools should be subject to the same rules governing public schools. Perry Stein reports: “The more than 100 charter schools in the District are regulated by the D.C. Public Charter School Board, which is considering whether to compel charter campuses to post more data and information on their websites — a move it says is intended to make school information more accessible. Under the rules, charter schools, which are run by their own boards, would have to publicize when those boards meet and detail how they plan to spend money that is given to schools — traditional and charter — to provide additional services to the city’s most vulnerable children.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Late-night hosts were skeptical about Northam's explanations for the racist photo in his yearbook:
Heavy flooding caused a bridge to collapse in Bosnia:
And the Pope visited the presidential palace in Abu Dhabi during his historic visit to the UAE: