With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders share one common challenge as they both run for president again in 2020. Hillary Clinton won’t be on the ballot.

The president still routinely uses his 2016 opponent as a foil to rally his base — 27 months after he defeated her in the electoral college. Trump supporters still chant “Lock her up” during his rallies, as they did in Texas last week.

The Vermont senator, who formally announced this morning that he will again seek the Democratic nomination for president, also benefited from Clinton fatigue last time that he cannot count on again. She was perceived as so formidable that potential rivals like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren passed on challenging her. That left Bernie as the alternative. Many of his supporters in 2016 didn’t identify as democratic socialists, but they did think Clinton was too supportive of free trade, too hawkish and too dynastic.

Sanders — who received more than 13 million votes in 2016 — enters an already crowded, and still growing, field with one of the best email lists in politics, a proven ability to raise lots of money from small-dollar donors, a huge social media following and very high name recognition. The party he seeks to lead is also lurching leftward and moving his direction on a battery of issues.

He is determined to prove that he’s more than a protest candidate or a modern-day Moses guiding liberals through the wilderness. Yet most Democratic strategists, analysts and insiders see Bernie’s quest as quixotic. As Bernie tries again, here are 10 challenges facing the political revolution:

1. Beware the ghost of Rick Santorum.

Politicians across the ideological spectrum often have unrealistic views of the loyalty they command at the grass-roots level. History shows that caucus-goers and primary voters in the early states are fickle and cruel mistresses. The former Pennsylvania senator won the Iowa caucuses in 2012 with 30,000 votes. When he ran again four years later, Santorum spent just as much time camped out in the Hawkeye State but amassed only 1,783 votes — less than one percentage point. Mike Huckabee, who won the caucuses in 2008, got less than 2 percent of the vote. Santorum and Huckabee believed they could count on their old supporters coming home. They counted wrong.

2. He’ll suffer from the burden of high expectations.

Clinton narrowly won the Iowa caucuses four years ago; it was essentially a tie. But Bernie beat her by 22 points in the New Hampshire primary a week later. This doesn’t mean he’s got a lock on the Granite State in 2020. Far from it. But it does mean that Sanders’s 2020 apparatus, fundraising and more will be constantly compared to their 2016 equivalents.

Bernie is legendary for drawing huge crowds. If he cannot turn out big numbers for his events, this will be covered as evidence of diminished enthusiasm — even if the events are larger than at this point in the cycle four years before. “In early polls of Iowa and New Hampshire, where he won 50 percent and 60 percent of the vote, support for the senator from Vermont has ranged from the low teens to 30 percent,” Dave Weigel notes.

3. The old band isn’t getting back together.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) worked as an organizer for the Sanders campaign in 2016, and she still has nice things to say about him, but the liberal phenom made clear that she will stay on the sidelines of the 2020 campaign. The 29-year-old suggested earlier this month that she might wait to back a horse until the eve of the New York primary, when she could play the role of kingmaker.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) was one of Bernie’s biggest surrogates in 2016. Now she’s running for president herself. Author Marianne Williamson also supported Sanders, but she’s running too. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the only senator to endorse Sanders last time, continues to explore his own bid for the nomination.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a longtime friend, didn’t endorse Sanders last time. But she’s cutting into his coalition now. She also poached Brendan Summers, the Iowa caucuses director for Sanders in 2016.

4. He’s a victim of his own success.

Sanders correctly points out that most Democratic candidates have embraced or copied his positions on Medicare-for-all, a $15 minimum wage and debt-free college that Clinton surrogates portrayed as extreme last time. “All of these policies and more are now supported by a majority of Americans,” Bernie wrote in a 1,500-word email to supporters this morning. “Together, you and I and our 2016 campaign began the political revolution. Now, it is time to complete that revolution and implement the vision that we fought for.” The challenge is that Sanders does not have this turf to himself anymore, and just because he was first, doesn’t mean people who want Medicare-for-all will necessarily back him.

5. He’ll face more scrutiny.

Clinton herself was afraid to attack Sanders too hard, lest she alienate his supporters and push them toward Green Party nominee Jill Stein — or even Trump, who was also decrying trade deals and promising to do something about income inequality as a candidate.

Because reporters didn’t believe Sanders could actually win the nomination, and saw him mainly as a foil against Clinton, they didn’t dive as deeply into his record early on as they would have with more conventional candidates. This allowed Sanders to introduce himself to voters on his own terms.

The recent #MeToo reckoning has offered a taste of the extra scrutiny Sanders will face this time that he didn’t last time. The senator publicly apologized last month to female staffers of his 2016 campaign who say they were sexually harassed by co-workers. His apology came after news reports that Sanders’s former Iowa campaign manager had been named in a $30,000 federal discrimination settlement with two former employees. Sanders said he was unaware of the $30,000 payout.

6. He enters the race with high negatives, limiting his upside potential.

Sanders endorsed Clinton at the Democratic convention and campaigned for her in the fall, but many from the party establishment nonetheless blamed him for their defeat. “His attacks caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign,” Clinton complained in her 2017 campaign memoir.

Another factor that still annoys many Democrats: He is not a registered Democrat. Sanders caucuses with them in the Senate, but he’s steadfastly refused to register as a member of the party he seeks to lead. (He and I discussed his reasoning last June.)

7. He’s four years older.

Sanders has impressive stamina, but he is 77. That would make him the oldest nominee ever for a major party, breaking the record set by Trump. He’d turn 80 during his first year in office. The opposition party very often gravitates toward someone who is the opposite of the president in power. There seems to be hunger at the activist level for fresh faces, plus women and candidates of color. History suggests that Democrats will gravitate toward someone who is younger, the way they put Barack Obama up against John McCain in 2008, Bill Clinton against George H.W. Bush in 1992 and Jimmy Carter against Gerald Ford in 1976.

8. Democrats badly want to defeat Trump, and Sanders will face lingering questions about electability.

“A Monmouth University poll found that 56 percent of Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents wanted a candidate who will perform well against Trump, even if they disagree with that person on most issues,” Clare Malone notes on FiveThirtyEight. “What electability actually means in this context is quite vague, but if it becomes a proxy for a centrist candidate palatable to swing voters, Sanders might be out of luck. Or, even if voters decide that ‘electable’ means more left, Sanders could lose out to new faces trying to sell their pragmatic progressivism … We might be wise not to discount voters’ affinity for these new, shiny candidates: 59 percent of respondents in a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll said they would be interested in ‘someone entirely new’ as their nominee. Forty-one percent of those polled said Sanders shouldn’t even run again.”

9. He will again take heat for past apostasies on immigration and guns.

Sanders played a key role in killing a comprehensive immigration overhaul during George W. Bush’s second term because he took the side of labor unions over Latinos, something that their allies on Capitol Hill have never forgotten. The politics have changed, as have the unions, and Sanders has now staked out a position that’s in line with the rest of the party.

Gun control is another area where Sanders has worked to catch up with the zeitgeist in Democratic politics. He represents a rural state that, while liberal, has a significant gun culture. In fact, Sanders was once endorsed by the NRA. Now he brags about his bad rating.

Clinton scored points on guns and immigration in 2016, but both these issues have taken on even more outsize importance to Democratic primary voters in the ensuing years. In fact, they’ve become litmus tests.

10. He’s got his work cut out for him with African Americans.

Sanders stumbled in 2016 when he got demolished in South Carolina because he failed to make inroads with black voters, which cost him several other states in the South. African American women emerged as Clinton’s firewall in the series of primaries on March 1, 2016.

A story on the front page of Monday’s New York Times looked at why Sanders struggled to prioritize and execute a winning plan to build support in the black community. “Top aides lost faith in their African-American outreach organizers, whose leadership was replaced and whose team members were scattered across the country. Initiatives like a tour of historically black colleges and universities fizzled; Mr. Sanders even missed its kickoff event,” Sydney Ember reported. “And his campaign’s experience in 2016, as described in interviews with nearly two dozen current and former advisers and staff members, reveals a strikingly uneven commitment on the part of Mr. Sanders and his top advisers to organize and communicate effectively with black voters and leaders.”

The senator has stepped up outreach and takes the problem seriously, but this time at least two of his opponents will be African American: fellow senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.

MORE ON 2020:

-- Barack Obama does not plan to endorse any of the Democratic presidential candidates, but he has been offering advice to several contenders. The New York Times’s Alex Burns reports: “Mr. Obama has told friends and likely presidential candidates in private … that he does not see it as his role to settle the 2020 nomination, and prefers to let the primary unfold as a contest of ideas. [Michelle Obama] also has no plans to endorse a candidate, a person familiar with her thinking said. Even former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. does not expect to secure Mr. Obama’s backing if he runs … [Obama] has counseled more than a dozen declared or likely candidates on what he believes it will take to beat [Trump], holding private talks with leading contenders like [Kamala] Harris, [Cory] Booker and [Elizabeth] Warren; underdogs like Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind.; and prominent figures who remain undecided on the race, like Eric H. Holder, his former attorney general, and Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York.”

-- The new “virtual” caucus option being offered to Iowa Democrats in 2020 could expand the electorate by almost a third. The Des Moines Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel reports: “The results show that 21 percent of Iowans say they will definitely or probably participate in the 2020 Democratic caucuses. Eight percent initially said they were unlikely to caucus for Democrats in person, but also say they would definitely or probably participate if they had the option to do so remotely. All told, the results suggest 29 percent of Iowa adults expect to participate in the Democratic caucuses in 2020.”

-- Amy Klobuchar portrayed herself as the most pragmatic Democrat in the field during a CNN town hall in New Hampshire last night. The Minnesota senator called progressive platforms “aspirational,” said that Medicare-for-all is “something we can look to in the future" and added she is "not for [free] four-year college at all." From Politico's Elena Schneider: Klobuchar “is pitching herself as pragmatic Midwesterner who won’t over-promise liberal policies to primary voters. The three-term senator carefully calibrated her answers on several progressive platforms — expressing support without fully committing to them. But her tell-it-like-it-is centrism could prove problematic for a Democratic primary electorate that has drawn further to the left. … On climate change, Klobuchar said she believes that ‘we can get close’ to the Green New Deal, but that she doesn’t ‘think we’re going to get rid of entire industries in the U.S.'”

-- Kamala Harris is under fire for her rush to judgment after “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett claimed he was attacked. The California Democrat quickly tweeted the alleged attack was “an attempted modern day lynching.” But now that Chicago police reportedly believe the attack may have been staged, the senator said she won’t comment until an investigation is completed. Harris said “the facts are still unfolding” and that while she is “very concerned” about Smollett’s initial allegation and that it should be taken seriously, “there should be an investigation," per the Associated Press.

The Chicago Police Department, meanwhile, would not confirm or deny press reports that authorities are investigating whether Smollett staged the attack. The two brothers who were questioned about the attack were released without charges. According to the local CBS affiliate in Chicago, Smollett may have decided to stage the attack because he was frustrated that a racist letter to the “Empire” studio didn’t get a “bigger reaction.”

-- Elizabeth Warren will unveil an initiative designed to provide every family with affordable, high-quality child care. From the HuffPost’s Jonathan Cohn: “The plan seeks to make access to child care universal … No family would have to spend more than 7 percent of its household income on child care, no matter the number of kids. Families with incomes below twice the poverty line, which is roughly $50,000 a year for a family of four, would pay nothing. … The campaign has an internal analysis that shows the initiative will likely require approximately $700 billion in new federal spending over 10 years. … If that estimate is indicative, the new outlays in Warren’s plan would be at least four times what the federal government currently spends on its main early childhood programs.”

-- Beto O’Rourke’s voting record on a border wall could become a vulnerability if he enters the presidential field. The AP’s Will Weissert reports: “In March, he supported a spending package that other leading Democratic contenders opposed and included $1.6 billion for border wall construction in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and elsewhere. Buried in that was $445 million for repairs of existing fencing elsewhere — including [El Paso, which O'Rourke represented in Congress]. … O’Rourke’s nuanced position on border barriers, sometimes willing to use them as a bargaining chip, could be politically awkward in a national campaign but it’s shared in El Paso. Here, many people accept dozens of miles of existing walls as a fact of life, objecting mostly to structures so intrusive they suggest a war zone.”

-- Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has given away $6.4 billion to numerous charities fighting, among other issues, climate change, gun violence and obesity. He may soon find out whether his financial backing will translate into support for a presidential campaign. (Politico)

-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan remains popular three months after being reelected to a second term, but a majority of Marylanders don’t want the Republican to challenge Trump in a primary. Arelis Hernández reports on a new Goucher College poll: “Large majorities of Marylanders find the governor likable (85 percent) and ‘honest and trustworthy’ (70 percent) and applaud his management of the state government (80 percent) … Two-thirds of residents say they disapprove of Trump’s performance in the White House, while 30 percent approve. Still, more than half of Marylanders — 55 percent — say Hogan should not run for president.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING: 

-- A coalition of 16 states led by California filed a federal lawsuit aimed at blocking Trump’s plan to build a border wall by declaring a national emergency. Amy Goldstein reports: “The lawsuit, brought by states with Democratic governors — except one, Maryland — seeks a preliminary injunction that would prevent the president from acting on his emergency declaration while the case plays out in the courts. … Several nonprofit organizations already have gone to court or announced plans to sue. And protesters took to the streets in several cities Monday. Across from the White House, demonstrators held neon-colored letters that spelled ‘Power grab.’

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, a San Francisco-based court whose judges have ruled against an array of other Trump administration policies. … Judges there, for example, have ruled against efforts by the Commerce Department to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, numerous rollbacks of environmental regulations, efforts to curtail asylum for migrants and the Department of Homeland Security’s revocation of special ‘temporary protected status’ for hundreds of thousands of immigrants legally living in the United States. Cases appealed from that court go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which has become a whipping post for Trump.”

The 56-page lawsuit says diverting money that Congress designated for other purposes violates the separation of powers defined in the Constitution: “Another clause of the Constitution, the lawsuit notes, prevents money from being paid from the U.S. Treasury unless Congress has appropriated it. The lawsuit also says that the ‘federal government’s own data prove there is no national emergency at the southern border that warrants construction of a wall. Customs and Border Protection data show that unlawful entries are near 45-year lows.’ And it enumerates ways that residents of the participating states — and the states themselves — could be harmed by the diversion of money. They include loss of funding to military bases, weakened drug-fighting efforts and damage to states’ economies.”

The other states besides California that joined the suit are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Virginia. Maryland is the only party to the suit with a GOP governor, but the complaint was signed by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat.

-- More than 6 in 10 Americans disapprove of Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency over the border wall, according to a poll by NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist. “Nearly 6-in-10 also don't believe there is an emergency at the southern border and that the president is misusing his presidential authority. They also believe that his decision should be challenged in court. ‘All things related to the declaring of a national emergency, the president is striking out in the court of public opinion,’ said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the survey. ‘He's maintaining his base and little else.’”

-- A Mexican man detained by Customs and Border Protection died at a medical facility in McAllen, Tex., after seeking medical attention twice. His death is likely to raise more questions about the way the border agency is organized and funded as the White House continues demanding money for a border wall. Isaac Stanley-Becker reports: “The detainee requested medical attention, and was transported to a hospital in Mission, Tex., adjacent to McAllen. The same day, the individual was cleared to travel and sent back to a CBP station in Rio Grande City, close to Roma. On Feb. 3, the detainee again requested medical attention, and, according to CBP, was transported to the McAllen Medical Center ‘shortly thereafter.’ The Mexican national was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and congestive heart failure and remained at the 441-bed hospital from Feb. 3 until dying just before 9 a.m. Monday.”

-- In West Virginia, teachers and school workers who inspired a national movement against low pay are standing up once again to protest the investment of state funds into private school vouchers and charter schools. Moriah Balingit reports: “West Virginia teachers say they are frustrated by a proposal to create education savings account, a kind of private school voucher in which the state deposits money in a special account for eligible recipients to pay for private school. The bill would have also allowed for charter schools to establish in the state. The State Senate wrote the proposals into a funding bill that included raises for teachers and more funding for rural schools. West Virginia’s House of Delegates voted to strip both proposals from the bill.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. The North Carolina State Board of Elections started its evidentiary hearing to determine whether enough ballots were tampered with to taint the results of the 9th Congressional District race. State officials accused Leslie McCrae Dowless, a political operative for Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris, of executing a “coordinated, unlawful, and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme” in the race. (Amy Gardner)

  2. Defrocked cardinal Theodore McCarrick will remain in church housing until other arrangements are finalized. McCarrick lost his right to income and housing from the Catholic Church after he became the first cardinal to be removed from the priesthood over allegations of sexual abuse. (Julie Zauzmer)

  3. The Vatican confirmed that it has internal guidelines for dealing with priests who break their vows of celibacy and father children. Vincent Doyle, who created a global support group for children of priests like himself, will meet this week with senior church officials to discuss the issue. (New York Times)

  4. The shooter at an Illinois factory lied about his criminal record when he applied for a gun owner's ID card in 2014. A background check failed to flag Gary Martin's 1995 felony conviction for aggravated battery. (Wall Street Journal)

  5. The nation’s first all-LGBT city council has angered Latinos and sparked a debate in California about the meaning of diversity. The Palm Springs Council’s election in 2017 was initially celebrated, but the all-white council quickly sparked criticism and even a lawsuit from a Latino civil rights group claiming the city’s at-large voting system disadvantages Hispanics. (Scott Wilson)

  6. A grand jury has been convened in Illinois in connection with new sexual assault allegations against R. Kelly. Lawyer Michael Avenatti said last week he gave the Cook County State's Attorney's Office a video allegedly showing Kelly engaging in sexual acts with an underage girl. (CNN)

  7. New York City will ban discrimination based on hair or hairstyle. New guidelines from the city’s Commission on Human Rights will classify such targeting as racial discrimination and will specifically give New Yorkers the right to maintain their “natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.” (New York Times)
  8. The editor of a small Alabama newspaper called for the Ku Klux Klan to “clean out” Washington of Democrats, who he complained are trying to “raise taxes in Alabama.” Goodloe Sutton, the publisher of the Democrat-Reporter newspaper in Linden, wrote that America would be “better off” if the white-supremacist group returned. (Montgomery Advertiser)

  9. George Mendonsa, who is believed to be the sailor in that iconic 1945 photo known as “The Kiss,” died at 95. Several researchers over the years used facial recognition technology to corroborate Mendonsa’s claim he is the man featured in Alfred Eisenstaedt's photo, which came to symbolize the end of World War II. (Harrison Smith)

  10. The Trump administration released proposed drone rules that would both ease concerns raised by security officials and roll back certain regulations on the use of the devices. Under one of the proposed changes, the Federal Aviation Administration may allow drones to fly over people. (Michael Laris)

  11. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) is planning on decriminalizing the possession, manufacturing and distribution of marijuana in amounts of 25 grams or less. Evers also wants to legalize the use of medical marijuana and make it possible for residents to acquire CBD oil without the need for a doctor’s certification. (AP)

  12. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) asked his supporters to pray for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy so he restores King’s committee assignments. King, who lost his committees after he questioned why white-supremacist language is offensive, said McCarthy needs to “separate his ego from this issue.” (Sioux County Journal)

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe said Tuesday that officials briefed a bipartisan group of lawmakers after the bureau opened an investigation into Trump in May 2017, and that no one in the room pushed back. “That’s the important part here,” McCabe said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show. “No one objected. Not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds and not based on the facts.”

“The briefing, McCabe said, was with the Gang of Eight — a bipartisan group of lawmakers comprising the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, as well as the leaders from both parties of the House and Senate intelligence committees,” Matt Zapotosky reports. “McCabe — who is in the middle of a media tour promoting his new book, ‘The Threat’ — told [Savannah] Guthrie the FBI felt it had good reason to investigate Trump in May 2017 after he fired James B. Comey as the bureau’s director. He said the bureau thought it was ‘possible’ that Trump was working on behalf of Russia, and opening a case signified that the FBI was treating the matter as a national security threat. ‘It is saying that we had information that led us to believe that there might be a threat to national security — in this case that the president himself might, in fact, be a threat to the United States’ national security,’ McCabe said.

The comments seemed designed to rebut criticism that McCabe has faced from Trump and other Republicans in recent days for initiating the investigation into Trump and participating in conversations about other, more dramatic steps against the president,” Zapotosky notes. “McCabe told CBS’s ‘60 Minutes’ over the weekend that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein talked with him about wearing a wire to surreptitiously record the president, or using the 25th Amendment to oust him — prompting a strong, negative reaction from Trump and his GOP allies. Rosenstein has vaguely disputed McCabe’s description of those conversations. ‘Treason!’ Trump wrote Monday night on Twitter, after apparently quoting from a segment on Sean Hannity’s television show about McCabe."

-- Rosenstein is planning on leaving the Justice Department next month. Zapotosky reports: “Rosenstein, the No. 2 Justice Department official … made it known in recent weeks that he planned to leave if and when a new attorney general was confirmed by the Senate. … People familiar with the matter said the administration also has decided to nominate Jeffrey A. Rosen, the deputy secretary of transportation, to take over [Rosenstein’s] job. He will need to be confirmed by the Senate, which probably would occur after Rosenstein leaves.”

-- Days after a federal judge imposed a limited gag order on him, Roger Stone posted a photograph of that judge to his Instagram page that included her name, a close-up of her face and what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun sight near her head. Stone, a longtime [Trump] confidant, deleted the picture soon afterward, then reposted it without the crosshairs before deleting that second post as well,” Reis Thebault and Manuel Roig-Franzia report. “In the text accompanying the first post, Stone referred to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who brought the case against him. ‘Through legal trickery Deep State hitman Robert Mueller has guaranteed that my upcoming show trial is before Judge Amy Berman Jackson,’ Stone wrote, adding that Jackson is ‘an Obama appointed judge’ and the ‘#fixisin.’ … In a text message to The Washington Post on Monday, Stone said the photograph of Jackson had been posted by a ‘volunteer’ who helps him with his social media accounts. ‘The photo has been misinterpreted and in no way did I mean to threaten the judge or disrespect the court,' Stone wrote.”

  • Jackson imposed the gag order Friday, telling Stone that he could not make statements to the media about his case near the federal courthouse in Washington, but imposing no other restrictions on his ability to make public comments.”
  • In a Monday court filing, Stone’s lawyers formally apologized for the post. ‘Undersigned counsel, with the attached authority of Roger J. Stone, hereby apologizes to the Court for the improper photograph and comment posted on Instagram today,’ the filing reads. ‘Mr. Stone recognizes the impropriety and had it removed.’”

-- House Democrats are launching a new investigation into the alleged ties between the NRA and senior Russians with connections to the Kremlin. ABC News’s Pete Madden and Matthew Mosk report: “In a letter sent to NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre … Rep. Ted Lieu of California and Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York expressed concern about the NRA’s attempts to distance itself from any formal involvement in a now infamous trip to Moscow undertaken by a group of its high-ranking members. … [Lieu and Rice] … requested a full accounting of any communications, meetings and monetary transactions between NRA officials and Russia-linked individuals.”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- China has been capitalizing on the United States pulling back from Afghanistan to expand its power in central Asia. Gerry Shih reports from Shaymak, Tajikistan: “Two miles above sea level in the inhospitable highlands of Central Asia, there’s a new power watching over an old passage into Afghanistan: China. For at least three years, Chinese troops have quietly monitored this choke point in Tajikistan just beyond China’s western frontier, according to interviews, analysis of satellite images and photographs, and firsthand observations by a Washington Post journalist. While veiled in secrecy, the outpost of about two dozen buildings and lookout towers illustrates how the footprint of Chinese hard power has been expanding alongside the country’s swelling economic reach.”

The modest facility in Tajikistan — which offers a springboard into Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor a few miles away — has not been publicly acknowledged by any government. At a moment when the United States might consider a pact that would pull American troops out of Afghanistan, China appears to be tiptoeing into a volatile region critical to its security and its continental ambitions.”

-- A few months after the U.S. arrested Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s CFO, the company’s founder (and Wanzhou’s father) said that the U.S. can’t crush the company and that the world can’t leave it. (BBC)

-- A top official in the U.S. Chamber of Congress said the U.S. can’t count on pledges from China to buy more American goods if the White House doesn’t first set up ways to enforce the trade agreement with the nation. (CNBC)

-- Trump warned that Venezuelan military officials who do not abandon President Nicolás Maduro in favor of the U.S.-backed opposition will “lose everything.” Toluse Olorunnipa and Anne Gearan report: “The president spoke to a crowd in Miami that included Venezuelan expatriates who fled the country’s socialist policies and soaring inflation. … Trump, who in 2017 said that he was considering a ‘military option’ for Venezuela, warned military leaders not to threaten violence against peaceful protesters. He came as close as he has thus far to threatening to use U.S. force against the Maduro regime. … In a televised event Monday, Maduro called Trump’s speech a ‘Nazi’ discourse.”

-- Some Democrats criticized Trump for doing too little to help exiled Venezuelans inside the United States. From the Miami Herald's David Smiley and Martin Vassolo: “Democratic members of Florida’s congressional delegation again called on Trump to extend Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans, and accused Trump of 'using the suffering of Venezuelans to score points.' ... Rep. Donna Shalala, who has filed a bill to extend TPS for Venezuelans, said deportations of Venezuelans increased from 182 in 2006 to 248 in 2017, and that there’s a backlog of 70,000 petitions for asylum from Venezuelan exiles that has accumulated over the last three years. Currently, 150,000 Venezuelans living in the U.S. would qualify to stay in the country legally should Trump choose to extend TPS by executive order. 'He simply shouldn’t come to South Florida this afternoon without extending TPS and ending deportations,' Shalala said.”

-- Trump may gain some Florida voters through his attacks on Maduro during a rally in Miami, worrying some Democrats. The New York Times’s Annie Karni and Patricia Mazzei report: “In South Florida, home to the largest population of Venezuelans in the country, his remarks were ... seen as a bid to win over what may be a critical bloc of voters in the 2020 presidential race. … ‘I’m concerned about the Trump administration politicizing this issue, using Venezuelans’ suffering to score political points here in Florida,’ said Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Democrat of Miami. ‘We shouldn’t be using this as a political weapon.’ …

“The most emotional moment of the speech Monday came when Mr. Trump invited to the stage the mother of a rebel police officer who was killed by government forces in Venezuela last year. ‘I apologize if I start crying,’ Aminta Pérez said in Spanish as she took the microphone … A president often associated with a wall on the Southern border seemed happy to welcome the Spanish speaker standing next to him.”

-- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would not confirm local media reports that he nominated Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize. Simon Denyer and Akiko Kashiwagi report: “Trump said Friday that Abe had personally given him ‘the most beautiful copy’ of a five-page nomination letter recommending him for the prize for opening talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and lowering tensions. But Abe wouldn’t confirm that Monday. … Japanese media reports on Sunday suggested that Trump was telling the truth. The Nikkei newspaper, citing government sources, said Abe had indeed sent in a nomination. ‘He showed a five page-long copy of a letter of recommendation for the Nobel Peace Prize to President Trump at the past summit meeting,’ it quoted a source as saying.”

-- Trump is considering four people, including former deputy national security adviser Dina Powell, to be U.N. ambassador after Heather Nauert withdrew her nomination late Saturday night. “Top White House aides have also discussed nominating Trump’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump if no front-runner emerges,” Bloomberg News’s Jennifer Jacobs reports. Nauert “withdrew her nomination to replace former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley in the job, partly due to issues that arose around a nanny Nauert once employed. The nanny was a legal U.S. immigrant but wasn’t authorized to work, according to two people familiar with the matter.” Trump is also considering two current ambassadors — Kelly Craft in Canada and Richard Grenell in Germany — as well as former Senate candidate John James.

-- People living in the last village held under Islamic State control said escaping felt like walking “out of hell.” Louisa Loveluck reports: “Wives and children of the Islamic State fighters looked confused and exhausted. Yazidi women and their families, who had been enslaved by the militants, were in shock. … The militant group’s most die-hard fighters have seen escape as a betrayal. But as the final battle loomed, others chose survival, laying down their guns and skulking out among fleeing civilians, or using middlemen to negotiate surrender. … As the end approached, refugees from Baghouz and SDF fighters said, the caliphate’s smugglers were making vast sums. Rumors swirled that several thousand dollars would get a man to Iraq or into Syrian government territory. Families paid hundreds per person to get safe passage from the snipers and out along the path to surrender.”

-- European leaders hit back at Trump’s demand that they bring home citizens who left the E.U. to join, and in some cases fight with, the Islamic State. Michael Birnbaum reports: “Many European nations have been content to leave citizens who may sympathize with the Islamic State in Syria … Trump over the weekend threatened E.U. allies on Twitter that if they did not repatriate their citizens, the United States would simply let them go … ‘There is a problem. We are aware of that in Europe,’ Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said. ‘If we want to find a reasonable solution, then we have to discuss this, not send tweets back and forth.’”

-- Seven British lawmakers quit the Labour Party over its handling of Brexit and allegations of anti-Semitism. Karla Adam and William Booth report: “The seven said that they would sit in Parliament as an independent group. Their defection creates new opportunities and complications for the upcoming votes on how Britain leaves the European Union next month —if it leaves at all.”

-- Using taxpayer funds, the Hungarian government has launched a campaign against European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Hungarian-born businessman George Soros. The campaign alleges that Brussels, Juncker and Soros are threatening Hungary’s security by incentivizing migration. (Politico)

-- Brazil’s new far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, is cracking down on LGBT rights in ways that have alarmed the country’s liberals. Anthony Faiola and Marina Lopes report: “Under Bolsonaro, the new Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights declined to add the LGBT community as a group explicitly protected by its mandate. Last month, the health official who headed the nation’s HIV-prevention task force was fired, apparently for authorizing a campaign aimed at educating transgender Brazilians. … In recent years, killings of LGBT Brazilians have soared, a trend activists say is getting worse as homophobic rhetoric finds an official perch.”

-- Justin Trudeau’s top political adviser resigned, widening the Canadian prime minister’s political crisis. The New York Times’s Ian Austen reports: “Gerald Butts, who has been a close friend of Mr. Trudeau’s since their university days, linked his leaving to the allegations that he, the prime minister and others improperly pressured Jody Wilson-Raybould, when she was the justice minister and attorney general, to quash the criminal prosecution of a major Canadian engineering and construction company. Mr. Butts repeatedly denied in his resignation letter that any such action took place. … Mr. Butts’s absence will leave a significant void in Mr. Trudeau’s leadership and campaign team just eight months before an election.”

-- The U.S. might open a liaison office in North Korea, a move that would further normalize relations between the two countries. The Wall Street Journal’s Michael Gordon reports: “The Trump administration official said that the liaison office idea, which appears to be just one element of a package of negotiating proposals, might be discussed further when Mr. Biegun meets in Hanoi with his North Korean counterpart prior to the summit. … Robert Einhorn, a former senior State Department official who negotiated with North Korea over its missile programs, said a liaison offices ‘would be valuable for both sides, but I am not sure whether the North Koreans are more receptive to the idea than they were in the past.’”

-- Israel is joining the latest space race to the moon by planning on sending an unmanned spacecraft there. (Fox News)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

The vice president's daughter got engaged:

Chelsea Clinton and Jenna Bush Hager reacted to a tabloid’s story of Malia Obama’s alleged private social media account:

Hillary Clinton shared a Presidents' Day post:

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Happy Presidents' Day!

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The current first lady visited a children's hospital in Miami:

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) seemed particularly thrilled to be in New Hampshire:

While in Iowa City, Kirsten Gillibrand bumped into a voter who was on a mission:

The president's son accused liberals of hypocrisy as new questions arise about the attack on Jussie Smollett:

An ABC reporter made this observation about one of Trump’s weekend rants:

Alec Baldwin, who plays Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” responded to the president's criticism of this weekend's episode: 

A look into Mar-a-Lago's omelet bar went viral this weekend: 

And “Sesame Street” reminded us of a presidential campaign of yore. 

GOOD READS:

-- AP, “DC’s many prankster activists turn anger into street theater,” by Ashraf Khalil: “There’s an ethos of performative prankster-style protest wired into the District of Columbia’s history, dating back decades. This confrontational street-theater school is flourishing with the Trump administration as its nemesis. Each month brings new acts of political theater — some confrontational, some deliberately absurdist. … For about a month last fall, a Robert Mueller investigation-themed ice cream truck roamed Washington, passing out free scoops with names like IndictMint Chip and Rocky Rod Rosenstein.”

-- The Atlantic, “What Presidential Announcements Reveal About the Candidates,” by John Dickerson: “The presidential announcement is a rare act of campaigning over which the candidates have near-total control. They pick the timing, venue, and message. Only the weather is left to chance, and the good candidates shape that too. In 1952, Dwight Eisenhower spoke in the rain at his boyhood home of Abilene, Kansas. He joked about the rain in the English Channel, a casual way to remind anyone who needed it that he had led the successful D-Day invasion there. A look at the announcements of the past 70 years shows that one change is obvious: Presidential hopefuls used to declare their candidacy in a single speech; now the process is drawn out with peekaboo hints, social-media announcements that lead to explorations, and talk-show teases. It’s like an Advent calendar, but no one gets a square of chocolate.”

-- BuzzFeed News, "20 Years After Hugo Chávez Launched The Revolution, Venezuela Is Falling Apart From Within,” by Karla Zabludovsky: “Romer Sánchez used to be a staunch supporter of Chávez’s revolution, working at a government-owned company and serving as a policeman. But last month he packed his bags and started looking at flights to Spain, where he wanted to request political asylum, joining an exodus of several million people who’ve left the country since 2014. That all changed when Guaidó took center stage. ... Sánchez lives in La Guaira, a port city to the north of Caracas that until January had not risen up against Maduro. For two decades, neighborhoods like this Chavista stronghold defined themselves by their anti-American sentiment — they sang the songs of the regime, and protested against any provocation from the US. But now the idea of a US invasion, though still frightening to many, has become somewhat more palatable to those who want to see Maduro out. 'I’ll invite the gringos to come. I’ll make them coffee myself. What we need is a radical change,' said Sánchez.”

-- “In 1969, someone sent Robert Fink a telegram. It was finally delivered last month,” by John Kelly: “It is my belief that Robert Fink is the recipient of the very last Western Union telegram ever delivered. … Notice that I said the very last telegram ‘delivered,’ not ‘sent.’ Fink received it on Jan. 2, but it was sent nearly 50 years earlier. Fink’s telegram read: ‘Sorry we cannot be there to applaud when you get your diploma but our hearts and best wishes are with you. Love Dr. and Mrs. Fischman.’ The telegram congratulated Fink on his graduation from the University of Michigan. It was sent on May 2, 1969.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Florida sixth-grader arrested after dispute with teacher over Pledge of Allegiance,” from Kristine Phillips: “A Florida student is facing misdemeanor charges after a confrontation with his teacher that began with his refusal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and escalated into what officials described as disruptive behavior. The student, a sixth-grader at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Fla., east of Tampa, refused to stand for the pledge in the Feb. 4 incident, telling the teacher that he thinks the flag and the national anthem are ‘racist’ against black people, according to an affidavit.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Man accused of pulling gun on victim wearing MAGA hat,” from ABC affiliate WBKO: “A Tennessee man is in jail after being accused of pulling a gun on a Sam's Club customer Saturday. According to the police report, officers were called to Sam's Club due to a person with a gun. According to the alleged victim Terry Pierce, a man pulled a gun on him because he was wearing a Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat. … The police report confirms that the suspect, identified as James Phillips, admitted to flipping off Pierce and Pierce's wife because of their hats.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen before having lunch with Pence.

The president will also sign a directive today that will formally establish Space Policy Directive 4, a branch of the Air Force dedicated to space exploration that, against former expectations, won’t be a fully independent department.

Barack Obama is holding a town hall with NBA player Steph Curry for the former president’s initiative My Brother's Keeper Alliance. It will be live-streamed from Oakland, Calif., starting at 7:15 p.m. Eastern time.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“My point here is that if they believe that Donald Trump cannot fulfill the obligations of his office, then they have a constitutional responsibility to invoke the 25th Amendment. Their loyalty under law is not to him personally. It is to the Constitution of the United States and to the people of United States.” — Elizabeth Warren on McCabe’s claim that he and Rosenstein discussed removing Trump from office. (Nevada Independent)

 

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

-- It might be sunny for a few hours this morning, but prepare for a snowy Wednesday. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Sunshine is a rare commodity this week, so enjoy today’s dry respite before winter unleashes late tonight. A disruptive snow event greets us Wednesday morning before transitioning to sleet and freezing rain, and eventually all rain late in most areas by Wednesday night. Some clouds linger as we dry out later Thursday into Friday before a wet weekend looms. Temperatures have a shot to reach the 60s by Sunday.”

-- Meredith Watson, who has accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) of sexual assault, wrote a Post op-ed calling on the General Assembly to hold hearings on the allegations against him. She writes: “Despite the professed belief of numerous elected officials in Virginia and elsewhere that Vanessa Tyson, who says that Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2004, and I have brought forward credible allegations, the Virginia General Assembly has not taken the simple and responsible step of arranging the thorough public hearing that we have sought. This is how the culture of sexual assault, harassment and the disempowerment of women persists.”

-- Four homeless men struggling with alcoholism are challenging a Virginia state law making it a crime for people designated as “habitual” drinkers to consume or have alcohol. The law, which has been criticized as criminalizing poverty, is now the subject of a pending federal appeals court. (Ann E. Marimow)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

John Oliver returned to “Last Week Tonight” and checked in on Brexit:

Trevor Noah poked fun at the way Trump announced his emergency declaration:

SNL lampooned Trump's emergency declaration in the cold open:

And Jimmy Fallon got Steph Curry to slip in some interesting phrases in his interviews: