With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: President Trump will struggle to get reelected if the 2020 campaign is purely a referendum on his own performance, but elections typically become choices between two flawed candidates and their visions.

Republicans are banking on this, and Trump is doing everything possible – more than a year before we learn the identity of the presumptive Democratic nominee – to paint an apocalyptic picture of what would happen if he loses. “They’re coming for your money, and they’re coming for your freedom,” the president said in El Paso on Monday night.

-- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) won’t be on the ballot next year anywhere but the Bronx and Queens, but you wouldn’t know that from listening to GOP messaging. Republicans have gleefully elevated her into the avatar of the opposition, and her botched rollout of the Green New Deal resolution has given them fodder for over-the-top attacks that foreshadow how the next 21 months will likely play out.

For more than a decade, Nancy Pelosi has been a fixture of GOP attack ads. But the Republican campaign committees have de-emphasized the speaker lately in favor of the 29-year-old freshman who has held public office for just six weeks. She is one of 235 Democrats in the House, but it’s a safe bet that GOP candidates up and down the ballot will try to link their opponents to the rookie lawmaker next year.

-- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the first procedural step last night to bring Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution up for a show vote after the Presidents’ Day recess. His goal is to embarrass Democratic presidential candidates who endorsed the concept before Ocasio-Cortez’s staff retracted a related fact sheet. “We’re going to vote in the Senate and see how many Democrats want to end air travel and cow farts,” the Kentucky Republican said.

-- Expect to hear the s-word a lot more often: Trump’s promise to be a bulwark against a drift toward socialism was well received by the Republican side of the chamber during the State of the Union, and he stepped it up in El Paso. Like Bernie Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez has previously embraced the “democratic socialist” label.

“The Democrat Party has never been more outside the mainstream,” Trump said at his rally. “They're becoming the party of socialism, late-term abortion, open borders and crime.”

This echoes, but isn’t quite as catchy, as the mantra during the 1972 campaign that George McGovern, Richard Nixon’s Democratic opponent, was the candidate of “acid, amnesty and abortion.”

-- A Fox News poll released last night shows that a 59 percent majority of Americans view socialism unfavorably, with only 25 percent seeing it positively. But 43 percent of Democrats view socialism favorably, with 39 percent seeing it unfavorably.

The Fox poll, which is reputable, shows Ocasio-Cortez is viewed favorably by 26 percent and unfavorably by 39 percent of registered voters. Among Democrats, 25 percent view her in a strongly favorable light and 26 percent view her in a somewhat favorable light, while 14 percent see her unfavorably. Among Republicans, 68 percent view her unfavorably – 59 percent say they strongly dislike her.

Ironically, McConnell’s numbers are strikingly similar. He’s viewed favorably by 25 percent and unfavorably by 45 percent. Among Democrats, 66 percent view him unfavorably – and 50 percent say they strongly dislike him. Among Republicans, only 12 percent view him very favorably and 31 percent are somewhat favorable.

-- Portraying Democrats as out-of-touch extremists is central to Trump’s reelection strategy. His path to victory depends on ginning up base voters by scaring them of what might happen if he loses and convincing some number of people who defected to the Democrats during the midterms that he’s the lesser of two evils. This week the president has teed up a contrast aimed at accomplishing these dual aims, using Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution to build a straw man.

“I really don't like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane flights, of, 'Let's hop a train to California,' of 'You're not allowed to own cows anymore,’” Trump said in El Paso on Monday night. “They want to take away your car, reduce the value of your home and put millions of Americans out of work.”

-- While the national conversation about climate change has shifted in recent years, Republicans have found recent electoral success by attacking Democrats for the cost of ambitious efforts to address emissions. Several House Democrats lost their seats in 2010 because they voted for cap-and-trade, which is one reason Pelosi was hesitant from the get-go to say that Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal resolution would get a vote. She remembers the eight years between when she lost her gavel and got it back again. More recently, a new climate tax in France triggered the yellow vest protests that have roiled Paris.

Republicans see an opening. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) falsely claimed that the Green New Deal would “confiscate every privately owned vehicle in America within a decade and ban air travel.” But he framed it more broadly as Democrats being antagonistic toward regular folks. “They believe that Americans driving around in trucks on farms or commuting from the suburbs, where they can have a decent home, into the city to work are a fundamental threat to the world,” Cotton told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday.

-- Our Fact Checker team gives Three Pinocchios to House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) for suggesting that Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution would create “vacation commissars” who would decide which people get permission to fly on airplanes.

“In reality, the Green New Deal resolution has no teeth and wouldn’t become law if it passed,” Sal Rizzo explains. “So these claims are based on a retracted FAQ about a nonbinding resolution. In these documents, proponents of the Green New Deal mused about ending air travel and stopping cows from passing gas. Problematic as those lines were, none made it into the resolution. Moreover, the FAQ was discarded days before Cheney brought it up at a House hearing to raise the specter of some government bureaucrat deciding whether you can board a flight. There’s nothing like this at all in the plan, not in the resolution and not in the retracted FAQs. … We were tempted to make it Four Pinocchios, given Cheney’s line about ‘vacation commissars,’ but the ineptitude of the Ocasio-Cortez staff certainly gave Republicans a lot of material for these attacks.”

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-- A federal judge ruled that Paul Manafort violated his plea agreement with special counsel Bob Mueller, a decision that could add years to the prison sentence of Trump's ex-campaign manager. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “Manafort’s lies, the judge found, included ‘his interactions and communications with [Konstantin] Kilimnik,’ a longtime aide whom the FBI assessed to have ties to Russian intelligence. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District said Manafort also lied to the special counsel, the FBI and the grand jury about a payment from a company to a law firm — which he previously characterized as a loan repayment — and made false statements that were material to another Justice Department investigation whose focus has not been described in public filings in Manafort’s case. Manafort’s actions mean Mueller’s office ‘is no longer bound’ by the plea agreement including prosecutors’ promise to support a possible sentencing reduction for Manafort accepting responsibility for his crimes. Jackson said she would factor in his deception at sentencing March 13 and will make public her reasoning about her findings as early as Friday in another filing.” (Read the judge's order here.)


  1. Military families have reported slumlike conditions in privately managed housing at U.S. bases. Complaints have included black mold, vermin infestations, faulty wiring and lead paint. (Alex Horton)

  2. Trump personally paid about $50,000 to install a room-size golf simulator game in the White House residence. It replaced an older, less sophisticated simulator installed by Barack Obama. (David A. Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey)

  3. An investigation into the confrontation between Covington Catholic High School students and Native American activists at the Lincoln Memorial found no evidence of “racist or offensive statements by students.” Investigators, who were retained by the high school and the Diocese of Covington, reviewed 50 hours of video and spoke to witnesses to draw their conclusions about the viral incident, which initially attracted widespread condemnation. (Frances Stead Sellers and Kevin Williams)

  4. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) will try to show he's serious about tackling systemic racism during a budget meeting today. He will urge lawmakers to return money to programs for at-risk students and to prevent evictions of low-income residents. Next week, Northam plans to speak about race at Virginia Union University, the oldest historically black college in the state. (Gregory S. Schneider)

  5. An estimated 485,000 American workers went on strike last year. Many were public school teachers. It's the highest number since 1986. (Vox)
  6. The failure of the first U.S. uterine transplant has been blamed on a bladder infection from the donated uterus that was not disclosed to the organ's recipient. The Miami organ group that provided the uterus claims it quickly informed the Cleveland Clinic about the infection after discovering it, but hospital officials say they weren't told until weeks after the uterus had to be removed. (Lenny Bernstein)

  7. A small Michigan town is reeling from the suicides of three teenagers within eight months. The deaths coincide with a national rise in rates of teen suicide, which now claims 4,500 lives a year. (Reis Thebault)

  8. Some Hollywood artists are bashing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for not televising the awarding of four prizes, including for best cinematography and film editing. The awards will be given during commercial breaks. (Allyson Chiu)

  9. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) was deployed to the border with his Air National Guard unit. The congressman is a lieutenant colonel in the guard and is one of the 3,750 troops Trump has ordered to be stationed at the border. (Politico)


-- The House Judiciary Committee last night advanced the most significant gun-control legislation in years, which would require background checks for all gun sales and most gun transfers made in the United States. But the Senate isn't likely to pass it. Katie Zezima reports: “The bill also has the support of at least five Republicans, a rare feat given the issue often has cleaved along party lines. The committee also voted 23 to 15 to advance a bill that would close a loophole in the current background-check law that allows a gun purchase if a check is not completed in three days. … Wednesday’s debate comes as Democrats embark on their most aggressive push to enact gun-control laws after years of congressional inaction. The House is slated to vote on several bills in the first 100 days of the legislative session and had its first hearing on a gun-control bill since 2007 ... Members in the House and Senate introduced a separate bill on Wednesday that would ban high-capacity gun magazines that are capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. [Sen. Bob] Menendez said the bill has 31 co-sponsors in the Senate, all Democrats, underscoring the difficulty it could have passing.”

-- Today is the anniversary of the mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school that killed 17 students and staff. “Numerous states have passed legislation strengthening gun laws, including Florida, which has long been a laboratory for the NRA, and Vermont, which had some of the nation’s most lax gun regulations,” Katie notes. “In the past year, eight states have passed laws that enable law enforcement and family members to petition a court to take guns away from people who are a risk to themselves or others, known as red flag laws.”

-- The Parkland school is experimenting with artificial-intelligence surveillance software that can flag students if they seem suspicious. Drew Harwell reports: The Broward County Public Schools system in South Florida, “one of the largest in the country, said last month it would install a camera-software combination called Avigilon that would allow security officials to track students based on their appearance. … The advanced monitoring technologies ensure that the daily lives of American schoolchildren are subjected to close scrutiny from systems that will automatically flag certain students as suspicious, potentially spurring a response from security or police forces, based on the work of algorithms that are hidden from public view. … If the Avigilon contract wins final approval from county leaders in the coming weeks, the school district will spend more than $600,000 in federal and local funds activating the AI-powered system around the high school campuses ‘with the highest security incidents.’

Many aspects of the program, however, remain a mystery, and it’s unclear how exactly the surveillance system’s data and performance will be regulated, measured or tested for potential flaws.”

-- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) wants to investigate school safety measures in the Broward school district. From the Miami Herald’s Martin Vassolo and Elizabeth Koh: DeSantis “asked the Florida Supreme Court to impanel a statewide grand jury tasked with examining and reviewing school safety measures in Broward County and across the state, ‘as well as the responses of public entities to laws designed to protect schools such as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.’ … The grand jury would look for violations of the law … such as whether refusal or failure to follow a school-safety law put students at risk, if school officials diverted funds from ‘multi-million dollar bonds specifically solicited for school safety initiatives’ or if officials underreported crimes to the Florida Department of Education. … DeSantis also sent a letter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement directing the agency to create a threat analysis strategy to help identify and prevent future threats of mass violence, including social media monitoring.”

-- The Miami Herald partnered with student reporters from Marjory Stoneman Douglas to memorialize the 17 victims of the shooting. Students wrote portraits of their classmates and teachers as part of a larger project that recorded the gun deaths of 1,200 children nationwide since Feb. 14, 2018. (Miami Herald)

-- A year after the shooting, nine members of the community reflected on how their lives have changed. The New York Times’s Patricia Mazzei and Eve Edelheit: “They did not want to relive that day. They did not want to argue about politics. They did not want to talk about the gunman’s pending trial for capital murder. This is what they wanted to do: mourn. In all the activity of the past year, the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, the tour across the country registering voters, the investigations, the hearings, finishing senior year, getting into college — some said they hadn’t had time to take the measure of what they had lost. As Jammal Lemy, 21, a Stoneman Douglas alumnus-turned-activist explained it, ‘We just had so much going on.’”


-- A former Air Force intelligence specialist was charged with conspiring to provide classified U.S. defense information to Iran. Matt Zapotosky reports: “The way prosecutors tell it, 39-year-old Monica Elfriede Witt — a counterintelligence specialist who was once involved in secret U.S. missions abroad — grew so disillusioned with the United States that she left and betrayed her country. A 27-page indictment detailing the allegations was unsealed Wednesday. Even before she formally defected in 2013, prosecutors alleged, she appeared in videos and made statements critical of the U.S. government that she knew would be broadcast by Iranian media outlets, and she ignored an FBI warning that Iranian intelligence might try to recruit her. Though she was given housing and other services, her primary motive seemed to have been 'ideological,' said Jay Tabb, the FBI’s executive assistant director for national security.”

-- The Trump administration has ramped up a program meant to sabotage the launches of Iranian missiles and rockets. The New York Times’s David E. Sanger and William J. Broad report: “Officials said it was impossible to measure precisely the success of the classified program, which has never been publicly acknowledged. But in the past month alone, two Iranian attempts to launch satellites have failed within minutes. … [Current and former government officials] described a far-reaching effort, created under President George W. Bush, to slip faulty parts and materials into Iran’s aerospace supply chains. The program was active early in the Obama administration, but had eased by 2017, when [Mike] Pompeo took over as the director of the C.I.A. and injected it with new resources.”

-- Hundreds abandoned the last Islamic State stronghold in Syria as the U.S. prepares to capture the only village left in the militants’ hands. Louisa Loveluck reports: “Some of the Islamic State’s most die-hard fighters are pinned down in Baghouz, a remote hamlet nestled on a bend of the Euphrates River close to the Iraqi border. … No longer spanning an area the size of Britain, their territory [now covers] no more than a square mile. … After three days of fighting, the combat quieted … as the U.S.-supported Syrian Democratic Forces gave the village’s remaining inhabitants a chance to flee or give themselves up. … The elimination of the cali­phate will raise new questions about how the Islamic State might regroup across … stretches of Syria and Iraq.”

-- The House passed a measure ending U.S. military involvement in Yemen, a repudiation of Trump’s cooperation with the Saudi kingdom and its crown prince. Karoun Demirjian reports: The measure “marks the end of a months-long campaign from the legislation’s sponsors, whom House Republican leaders blocked last year from bringing the measure to the floor — even as a bipartisan majority of the Senate voted to approve it. … Trump is already threatening to veto the measure — and Congress does not have the votes to overcome it. … Before the House passed the resolution, lawmakers attached an amendment to it stating that the measure would not restrict the collection and sharing of intelligence as the president deems appropriate.”

-- Canada's Justin Trudeau is facing a controversy that may threaten his reelection plans. Trudeau has found himself entangled in an alleged move to drop corruption charges from a Quebec company accused of bribing Libya's former Gaddafi regime. (Politico)


-- Lawmakers expect to pass the border deal today to keep the government open, and everyone is hoping Trump signs it. Erica Werner, John Wagner and Mike DeBonis report: “The mood in the Capitol was less of enthusiasm than relief as negotiators finalized legislation that would end, for now, political brinkmanship over Trump’s demands for money for a southern border wall. … Lawmakers were aiming to finalize the legislation late Wednesday, and votes were expected in the House and the Senate on Thursday. … Lawmakers grappled with a series of last-minute disputes Wednesday as they sought to finalize the deal, including an ultimately unsuccessful push by Democrats to include back pay for thousands of federal contractors who were caught up in the last shutdown, and ... have not been able to recoup their lost wages.”

-- Federal employees are expected to receive a 1.9 percent pay raise as part of the deal. Eric Yoder reports: “That would override the salary rate freeze that [Trump] imposed on federal employees in late December because Congress had not acted. And it would still be below the 2.6 percent hike the House approved two weeks ago.”

-- No one seems to want to take credit for this bill, which both parties have described as the best possible option to avoid a shutdown. Paul Kane reports: “Usually, a massive spending bill on Capitol Hill with outlays of more than $300 billion for purposes including the State Department’s diplomats abroad, the Coast Guard’s drug-fighting agents and TSA agents at airports would have enough to make almost everyone happy. But the bill that seems likely to pass Congress by Friday — ending, for now, a several-month standoff over border security — appears to be a rare orphan heading toward Trump’s desk. … It is a victory for [Nancy] Pelosi and Democrats, if the measure of victory is whether they stood firm against the wall. … But the more they looked at the legislation, some Democrats realized that Trump could claim victories in the overall funding level for border security.”

-- Some TSA workers are threatening not to show up to work if Congress cannot avert another shutdown. Lori Aratani, Ashley Halsey III and Michael Laris report: “Some of the tens of thousands of Transportation Security Administration officers who worked airport checkpoints without pay for more than a month have not received all the back pay they’re owed, and they say if the latest deal to fund the government falls apart, many of them won’t show up for work.”


-- FEMA Administrator Brock Long is resigning several months after reports emerged of his tense relationship with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and an internal investigation into his use of government vehicles. William Wan, Lisa Rein, Nick Miroff and Joel Achenbach report: “Long clashed with his direct superior, [Nielsen], in September, when Nielsen appeared intent on forcing Long out of his job even as Hurricane Florence dumped historic amounts of rain on the Carolinas. The relationship deteriorated when an internal investigation became public. The Homeland Security inspector general looked into Long’s use of government vehicles to travel between Washington and his home in North Carolina. In the middle of the storm, Long told colleagues at FEMA he was on the verge of quitting. But he was popular in the agency and stayed on — until Wednesday, when he surprised his colleagues with his decision to leave.”

-- Trump confidant Tom Barrack apologized for defending Saudi Arabia after the murder of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Felicia Sonmez and Josh Dawsey report: “‘Whatever happened in Saudi Arabia, the atrocities in America are equal or worse to the atrocities in Saudi Arabia,’ Barrack told the crowd at the Milken Institute’s MENA Summit [in Abu Dhabi], according to audio provided by Gulf News reporter Ed Clowes. … In a statement Wednesday, Barrack called the murder of Khashoggi ‘atrocious’ and ‘inexcusable’ and apologized for ‘not making this clear in my comments earlier this week.’ But he appeared to suggest responsibility for the killing should not rest on Saudi leadership. ‘I feel strongly that the bad acts of a few should not be interpreted as the failure of an entire sovereign kingdom,’ Barrack said.”

-- Trump’s former interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, will become the first former member of his Cabinet to join a lobbying firm. Politico’s Theodoric Meyer reports: “Zinke, who resigned as interior secretary last year amid scandal, is teaming up with Corey Lewandowski, [Trump’s] former campaign manager, to work as senior advisers at Washington lobbying firm Turnberry Solutions. Jason Osborne, a partner at Turnberry, said Lewandowski won’t do any work that would require him to register as a lobbyist, but said that Zinke was likely to do so.”


-- Reactions to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) criticism of Israel may foreshadow future Democratic divides over the U.S. approach to Israel. Greg Jaffe reports: “At a time of growing frustration among some Democrats with Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and its leader’s embrace of Trump, the near-universal condemnation of Omar’s remarks as touching on anti-Semitic themes may make it harder in the immediate future for presidential contenders to take a tough stand against Israel. … Most of the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders are largely avoiding the subject. Four of the five senators running for president voted against a measure proposed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that would allow state and local governments to refuse to do business with companies that support the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions movement … The subject of Israel could become an issue again for Democrats in March, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit Washington for AIPAC’s annual conference and a meeting with Trump.”

-- As she seeks to move past her comments, Omar rejected Trump’s call to resign, tweeting that the president has “trafficked in hate” against minority groups his entire life. Meanwhile, the House unanimously passed a measure condemning anti-Semitism. Rachael Bade, John Wagner and Mike DeBonis report: “Omar, who has publicly apologized, has been huddling with Jewish members of Congress to express her regret … Prioritizing Jewish members of the freshman class, Omar is lining up several face-to-face meetings with lawmakers whom she alienated … Omar’s apology tour comes amid an escalating fight between Republicans and Democrats over punishment for lawmakers and threats of retaliation …  

The GOP got the House on record condemning anti-Semitism in a rare procedural win for the minority party as Democrats joined Republicans in backing the provision. … House Democrats who had signed a letter criticizing Omar’s tweets said they were largely satisfied with her public apology and private outreach, even as Trump and [Vice President] Pence pushed for additional consequences. … ‘It is in nobody’s interest that she or anybody else in our caucus become a pariah, and so we’ve got to avoid that at all costs,' said [a] Jewish House Democrat who spoke with Omar this week.”

-- Amid criticism of Omar’s tweets, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) defended a (now-deleted) tweet accusing Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer and George Soros of trying to “buy” the midterm elections. Felicia Sonmez reports: McCarthy argued “that the message had ‘nothing to do’ with religion. … ‘All I was pointing out was money that Republicans and Democrats were spending to defeat one another. … This had to do about party and a campaign.’ … Soros and Bloomberg are Jewish, and Steyer’s late father was Jewish. … The tweet came during a week when prominent Democrats across the country — including Steyer and Soros — were being targeted by pipe bombs. It also came days before a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.”

-- A Republican congressman blamed his staff after a Confederate book on display in his office was open to highlight a racist passage. Reis Thebault reports: “Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) has removed from his office a biography of Robert E. Lee, which was previously displayed there under a glass case and opened to a page highlighting the Confederate general’s racist ideology. … Ferguson, who occupies one of his party’s top posts in the House … said he didn’t know the book was there until members of the American Federation of Government Employees, who were visiting congressional offices on Monday, asked about it.”


-- Acting attorney general Matt Whitaker was asked to reappear before the House Judiciary Committee to clarify some “inconsistent” testimony made last week. Ellen Nakashima reports: “Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) … said he wants Whitaker to clarify ‘unsatisfactory, incomplete’ answers in two areas involving [Mueller’s] investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters. … ‘You repeatedly refused to offer clear responses regarding your communications with the White House, and you were inconsistent in your application of the department’s policy related to the discussion of ongoing investigations,’ Nadler said in a letter to Whitaker. … Whitaker testified that he had not spoken to any White House official about his views of the Mueller inquiry as a private citizen. … Nadler suggested if Whitaker did not appear voluntarily, he would follow up with a subpoena for a formal deposition.”

-- The Trump administration is downsizing two task forces meant to combat foreign election interference. The Daily Beast’s Erin Banco and Betsy Woodruff report: “The task forces, part of the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), were assembled in response to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. One focuses in part on securing election infrastructure and the other focuses on foreign influence efforts, including social media disinformation campaigns. One of the task forces is now half the size it was a few months ago, according to two DHS officials familiar with the task forces, and there’s no indication that DHS senior political leadership will staff it up or sustain it. Instead, there are concerns it will completely wither away. The other task force also shrunk significantly shortly after the midterms, according to that official, and before its members produced a thorough assessment of what happened during the 2018 elections.”

-- The Justice Department is investigating the leak of Michael Cohen’s confidential bank records last year. CNN’s Kara Scannell and Erica Orden report: “Prosecutors with the US attorney's office in the Northern District of California are leading the criminal investigation, [one person familiar with the matter] said, and criminal charges in the case could be announced soon. The bank transactions of Cohen became public last May when lawyer Michael Avenatti posted a memo online outlining numerous payments to Cohen from a company linked to a Russian oligarch, pharmaceutical giant Novartis, [AT&T] and others. … Avenatti has refused to disclose the source of the information, but he repeatedly suggested the transactions were described in a suspicious activity report, or SAR. … Banks file SARs with the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to identify transactions that raise red flags about potential criminal activity. It is illegal for banks or federal employees to reveal the identity of a SAR or its contents.”

-- Cohen’s attorney said he would testify at three congressional committee hearings before going to prison next month. CNBC’s Dan Mangan reports: “Those panels include the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where Cohen's testimony will be public. Cohen had previously indefinitely postponed his appearance before that committee due to fears for his family's safety. Davis [said] that the date of that upcoming appearance will be released by the House panel. … Cohen's testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Intelligence Committee will be closed.”

-- Roger Stone asked a federal judge to make Mueller’s prosecutors prove they did not leak news of his indictment to CNN. Politico’s Matthew Choi and Darren Samuelsohn report: “Stone has repeatedly criticized the dramatic arrest at his home in January, which was caught on film by a CNN camera crew staking out his South Florida house. Stone claims CNN was tipped off about the arrest to film the raid, violating court orders. The network has said it merely was monitoring the house after piecing together clues from its reporting.”

-- William Barr’s daughter and son-in-law are, by choice, leaving the Justice Department as the attorney general nominee awaits his Senate confirmation vote. Barr’s oldest daughter, Mary Daly, is moving to the Treasury Department's financial crimes unit, while Tyler McGaughey, the husband of Barr's youngest daughter, is going to the White House counsel's office, a move a former director of the Office of Government Ethics said is “concerning.” (CNN)


-- Vanessa Tyson, one of Justin Fairfax’s accusers, is planning to meet with a Massachusetts district attorney who offered an opportunity to file a criminal complaint against the lieutenant governor. Fenit Nirappil, Jenna Portnoy and Laura Vozzella report: “Debra Katz, the attorney who represents [Tyson], said she is working to schedule a meeting between Tyson and staff for Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins … Katz, who said she spoke to Rollins on Wednesday afternoon, did not say whether Tyson would file a criminal complaint. … A spokeswoman for Fairfax said that he would cooperate if the Suffolk County district attorney opened a probe but that he would also fight back. [The spokeswoman said,] ‘In that event, the Lt. Gov. will explore all options with regard to filing his own criminal complaint in response to the filing of a false criminal complaint against him.’ Tyson’s lawyer called that ‘a clear effort to obstruct justice.’”

-- A racial divide is emerging among Virginia women over whether Fairfax should be forced to resign over allegations of sexual assault. The New York Times’s Jonathan Martin and Michael Wines report: White women “tend to unhesitatingly line up with the accusers while [African-Americans] want to hear a fuller airing of the charges against Mr. Fairfax, who is black, before choosing sides. These divisions between two vital constituencies for the Democratic Party are agonizing to party officials. … The matter is so delicate for Virginia Democrats that the House caucus sent an email message Monday to members warning them that a New York Times reporter was outside the chamber wanting to talk to female lawmakers. A picture of the reporter and a series of talking points about how to handle questions about Mr. Fairfax were included in the message, which was forwarded by a Democrat who requested anonymity to share an internal document.”

-- Virginia’s two Catholic dioceses released the names of 58 priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children. Two former FBI agents contracted by the diocese were given access to clergy files and information dating to its founding in 1974. (Michelle Boorstein and Sarah Pulliam Bailey)

-- The Department of Health and Human Services will review the Indian Health Service after an investigation revealed the agency botched the removal of a pedophile doctor. Stanley Patrick Weber, a pediatrician, worked for the federal agency for decades even after officials concluded that he had molested children in 1995. He was convicted of sexually assaulting Native American boys in 2018. (Wall Street Journal)

-- Ryan Adams Dangled Success. Women Say They Paid a Price,” by the New York Times's Joe Coscarelli and Melena Ryzik: “For nearly two decades, Ryan Adams, one of the most prolific singer-songwriters of his generation, has been heralded as a mercurial creative genius and a respected industry tastemaker. … Some now say that Adams’s rock-star patronage masked a darker reality. In interviews, seven women and more than a dozen associates described a pattern of manipulative behavior in which Adams dangled career opportunities while simultaneously pursuing female artists for sex. In some cases, they said, he would turn domineering and vengeful, jerking away his offers of support when spurned, and subjecting women to emotional and verbal abuse, and harassment in texts and on social media. … From a teenager living in a small town to his ex-wife, the singer and actress Mandy Moore, these artists said Adams exploited and then stifled their ambitions. ‘Music was a point of control for him,’ Moore said.

When Adams began corresponding online with a fan, Ava, in 2013, she was a 14-year-old bass player already forging a career. But their correspondence about music turned into graphic texting. Eventually, Ava said, they conducted video calls on Skype, where Adams exposed himself during phone sex. The Times has reviewed extensive communication between the two, including 3,217 text messages they exchanged over a nine-month period when Ava was 15 and 16.”

2020 WATCH:

-- Iowa polling indicates Beto O’Rourke may be running out of time to declare a presidential campaign, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Joe Biden enjoy enough name recognition in the state to wait. The Des Moines Register’s Kevin Hardy and Brianne Pfannenstiel report: “While those three remain on the sidelines, a slew of other candidates have kept busy hiring Iowa staffers and holding rallies … Enthusiasm building around the Democrats already running risks leaving behind candidates who are still flirting with potential runs. … About a third of likely Democratic caucusgoers said they didn’t know enough about [O’Rourke] to form a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him, according to a December Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll. Just 4 percent of likely caucusgoers said Biden and Sanders were unknown to them.”

-- Beto met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to discuss a 2020 run against Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.). Many Democrats consider O’Rourke and Julián Castro, a former Obama Cabinet secretary, the party’s best prospects to challenge Cornyn. A source close to Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) — Julián’s twin brother — said the congressman would support O’Rourke if he decides to run for the Senate. If O’Rourke chooses not to, the source said Joaquin Castro will consider doing it himself. (Politico)

-- Biden’s self-imposed deadlines for his campaign decision have long passed — and it seems as though the vice president is still on the fence about running. From Matt Viser and Michael Scherer: “Perhaps more than any other politician in American history, Biden has had a near-quadrennial regimen of mulling whether he can, should or will run for president. Over nearly four decades — from the time he was a young senator until now, as a septuagenarian former vice president — he has engaged in a process of prolonged angst about whether to run. Or not to run. ... 

“Staff members who have committed to work for him if he runs have stopped guessing on a decision date. On a few occasions, some members of his inner circle were convinced he was ready to pull the trigger, only to find it did not happen. Year-end family discussions about a potential run did not end the process, which people around Biden describe as intensely personal for the former vice president. 'This isn’t just treading water, but I don’t know how close we are to the shore,' said a person familiar with the planning process who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.”

-- Howard Dean will lead a new voter data operation that Democratic leaders hope will help put them on more even footing against their Republican counterparts. The AP’s Bill Barrow reports: “State party leaders on Wednesday approved the arrangement hammered out by DNC officials, state party leaders and Democratic consultants. The vote ends more than 18 months of internal party wrangling that has dogged [DNC Chairman Tom] Perez amid fights over money and control. … The arrangement would allow the national party, state parties and independent political action groups on the left to share voter data in real time during campaigns. … Currently, political action groups on the left must gather, update and use data independently from the party.”

-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) chose Roger Lau, who ran her Senate reelection campaign last year, to be her presidential campaign manager. From CNN’s MJ Lee: “Dan Geldon, Warren's longtime aide and former Senate chief of staff, will serve as chief of staff on the presidential campaign. Warren's decision to put Lau and Geldon in two such prominent roles reflect her reliance on a fiercely loyal and small circle of aides she has come to trust over the years. The appointment is also a historic one: Lau appears to be the first Asian-American campaign manager for a major American presidential candidate — particularly notable in an election that already features an unprecedentedly diverse field of candidates.”

-- Conservative commentators accused Kamala Harris of lying about listening to Tupac in college. But that might not have actually happened. From the Times’s Astead Herndon: “Conservative news outlets feasted on what they portrayed as an embarrassing gaffe, with the popular morning show 'Fox & Friends' even dedicating a segment to it Wednesday morning. Less partisan media outlets also publicized the supposed controversy, with some alleging that it was further proof Ms. Harris, who is likely the most viable black woman ever to run for president, was playing up parts of her identity in order to impress black voters. … The only problem: Ms. Harris’s campaign vehemently denies that she ever claimed to be listening to Tupac and Snoop Dogg while in college, and a video recording of the radio interview provides additional context that may support that account.”

-- Qualifications for the first two debates will be announced this week. DNC Chairman Tom Perez said the qualifying threshold will include a grass-roots fundraising metric. (AP)


The March for Our Lives Twitter account announced it will go dark for a few days in remembrance of the shooting's victims:

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) reacted to Trump's call for her resignation:

But Omar has generally avoided questions about the controversy surrounding her tweet that was criticized as anti-Semitic. From a CNN reporter:

Ann Coulter mocked Trump's assurances about the border wall:

Theresa May said she sometimes eats expired jam, and the Internet was grossed out:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) expressed shock at this Capitol Hill practice:

Eli Rosenberg provides some background on how the line-standing tradition started: "The practice began in the late 1980s or early 1990s, Meredith McGehee, the executive director of Issue One, a nonprofit that works to limit the influence of money on the political system, said in a phone interview. She said it grew in the years after the landmark 1986 tax bill, which lowered top income tax rates, as lobbying by moneyed interests became a more influential force in D.C."

The White House shared this press release on the president's meeting with Colombia's leader (and misspelled "Colombia" along the way):

A presidential historian shared this heartbreaking note from Theodore Roosevelt: 

NASA said a heartfelt goodbye to its Mars rover, Opportunity:

And a former first lady's mother questioned whether she was a "real star":


-- Bloomberg, “What happened when I bought a house with solar panels,” by Esmé E. Deprez: “On a rare rainy day early last year, my husband, Alex, and I toured what, with any luck, would become the most exciting and daunting purchase of our lives: a cream-colored bungalow-style fixer-upper … The location was a big draw, as was, at least initially, the fact that the red pitched roof of the two-car garage was outfitted with 17 solar panels. … just before we entered escrow, we learned the solar array … [belonged to] Sunrun Inc., the largest provider of residential solar in the U.S. … We’d be paying Sunrun for more capacity than we needed. A state policy called net metering meant we could sell back excess production to SoCal Edison, earning us about $7.50 a month, but even so, the utility would charge us $10 a month or more to remain connected to the grid. Accounting for all these things, taking on [the] lease would translate to us paying at least $30 a month more. We’d lose money from Day 1.”

-- Wall Street Journal, “Venezuela’s Maduro Shows No Sign of Leaving. Now What?” by David Luhnow and Juan Forero: “Many among Venezuela’s opposition and its U.S. backers figured President Nicolás Maduro’s regime would crumble quickly after Washington threw its support behind a plan designed to sap his military support and spur his exit. It hasn’t happened that way. … Mr. Maduro, who polls show is deeply unpopular among Venezuelans, could face an uprising at any time. But the longer he hangs on to power, the greater the likelihood of a long stalemate, raising the risks of violent confrontation and a regional crisis as new U.S. economic sanctions deepen the country’s economic collapse.”

-- “An unlikely Washington love story: Debbie Dingell on her 38-year marriage to John Dingell,” by Roxanne Roberts: “He called her ‘The Lovely Deborah’ or, when he was annoyed or impatient, ‘Woman.’ She called him ‘Honey’ or just ‘John Dingell.’ Debbie and John Dingell lived a Washington love story for 38 years. It was a marriage, a partnership, a public romance that made them one of the most powerful couples in the nation’s capital: he as the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history, she as an auto executive and, more recently, his successor as the representative for Michigan’s 12th Congressional District. They were unabashed in their affection for each other, a rare and sentimental display. Friends teased that they made every other couple in the nation’s capital look uninspired and humdrum.”

-- New York Times, “The secret history of women in coding,” by Clive Thompson: “A good programmer was concise and elegant and never wasted a word. They were poets of bits … What sort of person possesses that kind of mentality? Back then, it was assumed to be women. They had already played a foundational role in the prehistory of computing: During World War II, women operated some of the first computational machines used for code-breaking at Bletchley Park in Britain. In the United States, by 1960, according to government statistics, more than one in four programmers were women. At M.I.T.’s Lincoln Labs in the 1960s, where [programmer Mary Allen] Wilkes worked, she recalls that most of those the government categorized as ‘career programmers’ were female. It wasn’t high-status work — yet.”


“Wisconsin GOP lawmakers force removal of Colin Kaepernick’s name from a Black History Month resolution,” from Cindy Boren: “Wisconsin Republican lawmakers, deeming Colin Kaepernick too controversial to honor during Black History Month, blocked a proposed resolution until his name was removed from it on Tuesday. Instead, Republican members of the Assembly drafted their own resolution, one that did not contain the name of Kaepernick … The lawmakers added the names of Mandela Barnes, the state’s first black lieutenant governor, and Vel Phillips, the state’s first black secretary of state. One of the authors of the resolution called Kaepernick’s removal ‘a textbook example of white privilege’ and ‘a slap in the face.’”



“Trump Approval, Economic Confidence Rebound,” from Gallup: “Trump's job approval rating has risen to 44% after the conclusion of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. … Trump's overall approval rating, which had slumped to 37% amid the shutdown, hasn't been this high since October, after his nominee Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice. His current approval is just one percentage point shy of his personal best … Although Americans' perceptions of the job market have been positive for the past year, the 69% in February who say it is now a good time to find a quality job is the highest it has been (albeit by one point) since Gallup first asked the question in 2001.”



Trump will participate in a national antiabortion conference call and meet with the homeland security secretary.


“It goes without saying that neither side is getting everything it wants. That’s the way it goes in divided government ... If the text of the bill reflects the principles agreed to on Monday, it won’t be a perfect deal — but it will be a good deal.” — Mitch McConnell on the border deal



-- Take in the sun while it lasts because a cooler weekend is approaching. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: "Enjoy the relatively mild and mostly dry weather today and tomorrow as the weekend turns more wintry. Snow may be mixed with rain on Saturday or might even slip away to the south. That limits accumulation chances, souring the mood of snow lovers. And the damp chill all weekend long depresses those hoping for an early spring." 

-- The Wizards lost to the Raptors 129-120. (Candace Buckner)

-- The Nationals’ pitchers and catchers reported for spring training amid ongoing questions about Bryce Harper’s future. Jesse Dougherty reports: “The Nationals still can’t say Harper won’t rejoin them soon, at least with any true certainty, making it possible that a revamped roster is not quite complete. Harper has not signed with a team as spring training begins in Florida and Arizona this week. … This all makes it hard to know how this season will look, for the Nationals, their players and the sport.”


NASA's Mars rover, Opportunity, was declared dead after 15 years of service. We look back on its best achievements. 

Rep. Ilhan Omar clashed with the Trump administration's envoy to Venezuela during a tense hearing:

Trevor Noah shared a trailer for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal. 

The Fact Checker awarded Kamala Harris Four Pinocchios for her claim about tax refunds:

Stephen Colbert is tired of celebrating the government's ability to stay open. 

And Bob and Elizabeth Dole talked to the "Today" show about their 45 years together for Valentine's Day: