With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro
THE BIG IDEA: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who is poised to formally announce that he is running for president as early as this week, has held elected office since before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, was born.
Though he said it has felt lonely at times, the 68-year-old has been trying to do something about global warming for almost that entire time. He’s learned more from his failures than his successes. Now he hopes that Democratic primary voters come to value hard-earned wisdom.
Every 2020 candidate is talking extensively about climate change in his or her stump speech, but no one else has made it the central rationale for seeking the presidency. “I've got three grandkids, and I want them to experience what I have: salmon in the river, snow in the mountains, clean air and forests to hike in,” he said in an interview this weekend at the National Governors Association winter meeting. “It's all going to be degraded if we don't take this battle on.”
As a congressman, Inslee was a key player in the push for a cap-and-trade system 10 years ago. A bill passed in the House but stalled in the Senate, even though Democrats had a near-filibuster-proof majority.
Last March, Inslee fought hard but failed to enact the nation’s first carbon tax in Washington state. He couldn’t whip the votes to pass the bill through his state’s Democratic-controlled legislature. This past November, voters in his state rejected a ballot initiative to impose a carbon fee on fossil fuel emissions. A separate push he spearheaded to cap emissions was blocked in the courts.
Inslee said “perseverance” is his single greatest personal quality. “You have to realize it’s a necessary quality to achieve any major social change,” he said. “Suffragettes understood that. ... You have to just keep plugging away at it. Sometimes perseverance is more important than genius.”
-- Inslee said he “welcomes” Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal for its ambition and for drawing attention to his pet issue, but he said there’s not really a plan for him to endorse. “This was not a policy document. It was really not meant to be,” he said. “So now people like me will issue policies to actually put meat on the bones.”
Republicans have warned in apocalyptic terms that the resolution could take away people’s cars and even lead to killing cows. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is moving to hold a show vote to force Democrats to take a position on the resolution. Inslee said Republicans are using scare tactics that remind him of the debate over Obamacare.
“It’s just death panels all over again,” he said. “They squawk … and they make up stuff out of thin air, just like they did on health care, and then we win. I believe, and I hope, it will be the same result on climate change.”
During our conversation at the Marriott Marquis, I noted that Democrats lost the House in 2010 after they passed the Affordable Care Act and that several congressmen lost their seats specifically because they walked the plank to vote for cap-and-trade system during the same Congress. “Timing is everything — in comedy and politics,” he said.
-- Inslee explained that he’s cleareyed about what’s realistic. He does not think getting to a carbonless economy in a decade is doable. After his defeats of the past decade, the governor also no longer advocates for a carbon tax or a carbon-pricing system.
“I'm proposing alternatives,” he said. “What's important to realize is this other assortment of tools in the toolbox can achieve the same carbon reduction as a carbon charge. There's a lot of routes to this destination.”
When cap-and-trade failed in 2010, Inslee argues that “it was just a line on the graph.” Now people experience more frequent fires, flooding and hurricanes, plus worse air quality, so it feels real and thus they’re inclined to act.
While the general idea of action is popular, specific steps can generate backlash. During our interview, I noted that the mass yellow vest protests in Paris over the past few months started because of public outcry over France imposing a new tax to fight climate change. Inslee emphasized that this is partly why he does not advocate carbon taxes.
“Look, we've got a suite of policies that are available to us, not just carbon pricing,” he said. “In my state, we've got five bills in the legislature that are all moving forward with the goal of 100 percent clean energy. … We've learned that we have multiple tools, not just one. There are a lot of different ways to skin this cat.”
-- Inslee’s decision to go all in on climate is certainly calculated, but it’s not craven. This is not some election-year conversion. Back in 2007, Inslee co-authored a 416-page book on this topic called “Apollo's Fire: Igniting America's Clean Energy Economy.” Bill Clinton wrote the foreword.
Inslee pointed to a poll conducted this month by the Center for American Progress, a progressive advocacy group, that found “addressing the climate crisis” is tied with universal health-care coverage as the top priority among Democratic voters in the five early states.
Another poll this month from Saint Anselm College found that 88 percent of likely New Hampshire Democratic voters said they are more likely to support a candidate who advocates for the Green New Deal. That was a higher number than Medicare-for-all, regulating Wall Street, taxing the ultra-wealthy and providing tuition-free college.
A December poll from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found 69 percent of all Americans are at least “somewhat” worried about climate change, up seven points from last March.
-- Inslee said he would be willing to declare a national emergency on climate change, allowing drastic federal action that could not pass Congress, if the Supreme Court upholds President Trump’s emergency declaration to build a wall on the southern border. The governor emphasized that he’s against Trump’s invocation of emergency powers and hopes it gets struck down. “But if the rules change and the circumstances change, we’re going to play by whatever rules exist to deal with this existential crisis,” he said. “So if the possibility exists, we'll say yes.”
-- Inslee notes that he has made tangible, if incremental, progress as governor. Indeed, the Seattle Times Editorial Board praised him last month for trying to elevate the national conversation surrounding global warming and for his work to reduce emissions during six years as governor: “Inslee has a compelling story to tell about the state’s ability to grow its economy, increase education spending and host the nation’s two most valuable companies — all while reducing emissions, increasing use of renewable energy and enforcing strong regulations to protect the health of forests, waterways and air quality. …
“Inslee secured investments in clean-energy research, pushed to increase electric vehicle use in the state and co-founded a coalition of 17 governors working to uphold the Paris Agreement on climate-change goals. Energy related greenhouse-gas emissions in Washington declined 3 percent since their pre-recession high in 2007, despite population growth and the nation’s fastest economic growth in recent years. Emissions are expected to fall 5.5 percent by the time Inslee’s current term ends in 2020 … He’s been a strong advocate for private- and public-sector research and advanced product development. That includes championing state support for Boeing’s development of cutting-edge, fuel-efficient jetliners.”
-- Inslee has significantly more experience than most of his better-known rivals for the nomination. He got elected to the state House in 1988, won a U.S. House seat in 1992, lost reelection in 1994 because he voted for the assault weapons ban, battled his way back to Congress in 1998 and stayed there until he won the governorship in 2012. His second term wraps up at the end of 2020. Inslee also recently wrapped up a successful stint as the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.
Right now, however, he doesn’t register in the early polls.
-- But the governor says he’s accustomed to starting races as the underdog. He noted that he defeated a GOP incumbent to win his House seat and said he didn’t have support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “They flew a guy out to Yakima to tell me they weren't going to help me,” he recalled. “I said why didn't you just call?”
MORE ON THE CLIMATE WARS:
-- New this morning: “EPA regulator skirts the line between former clients and current job,” by Juliet Eilperin: “Less than a month into his tenure as the top air policy official at the Environmental Protection Agency, Bill Wehrum hopped into the EPA’s electric Chevy Volt and rode to the Pennsylvania Avenue offices of his former law firm. There, he met with representatives of the nation’s largest power companies — including two groups that, shortly, had been his paying clients — to brief them on the Trump administration’s plans to weaken federal environmental regulations. The Dec. 7, 2017, meeting is just one example of interactions between Wehrum, a skilled lawyer and regulator, and former clients that ethics experts say comes dangerously close to violating federal ethics rules.
“Three Democrats — Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Thomas R. Carper (Del.) — asked the EPA’s Office of Inspector General to investigate Wehrum’s conduct, saying it runs afoul of rules requiring federal appointees to recuse themselves from most matters involving former clients and employers for two years.
“In an interview, Wehrum [said] he has followed the letter of the law … [He] acknowledges that he has met with two former clients at his old firm — without consulting in advance with ethics officials, even though they had cautioned him about such interactions. He also weighed in on a policy shift that could have influenced litigation involving DTE Energy, a Detroit-based utility represented by his former firm.”
-- The Trump administration is moving ahead with its most deliberate effort yet to challenge accepted science on climate change and has chosen to do so in a way that will minimize transparency. “The White House plans to create an ad hoc group of select federal scientists to reassess the government’s analysis of climate science and counter conclusions that the continued burning of fossil fuels is harming the planet,” Eilperin, Josh Dawsey and Brady Dennis report. “The National Security Council initiative would include scientists who question the severity of climate impacts and the extent to which humans contribute to the problem …
“The idea of a new working group, which top administration officials discussed Friday in the White House Situation Room, represents a modified version of an earlier plan to establish a federal advisory panel on climate and national security. That plan — championed by William Happer, an NSC senior director and a physicist who has challenged the idea that carbon dioxide could damage the planet — would have created an independent federal advisory committee. The Federal Advisory Committee Act imposes several ground rules for such panels, including that they meet in public, are subject to public records requests and include a representative membership. The new working group, by contrast, would not be subject to any of those requirements.”
-- The Washington Post Editorial Board, which is independent of the news division, endorses the idea of a Green New Deal but opposes the version offered by Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). Today’s paper has the first editorial in a five-part series outlining what a smarter and more effective Green New Deal would look like. (Read it here.)
MORE ON 2020:
-- Get ready for the governors. Inslee is one of four current or former governors who could soon join the fray, Dan Balz notes in his column: “They would bring executive experience and non-Washington credentials to a contest that so far has been defined largely by candidates who make their living inside the Beltway. … Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper has been scouting venues for his anticipated announcement. Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe is itching to run but still weighing his prospects. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, the current NGA chair, has been in and out of Iowa and New Hampshire taking soundings for months. Hickenlooper is a business-friendly Democrat who eschews negative advertising. McAuliffe, too, is pro-business with a centrist philosophy and relishes political combat. Bullock, who has a reformer’s sensibility, was twice elected in a red state (the second time in 2016, when Donald Trump was winning Montana handily).” Two of the past three Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, were governors.
-- Half a dozen Democrats campaigned in Iowa this weekend: Kamala Harris, who drew huge crowds, and everyone else. Hickenlooper, Tulsi Gabbard, Julián Castro and Bill de Blasio all drew audiences numbering in the double digits. Cleve R. Woodson Jr. and Chelsea Janes report: “At one point, Harris, Castro and Hickenlooper were at the same event, a Saturday night soup dinner in Ames. Castro entered quietly from the back and dutifully went up to tables, shook hands and introduced himself. When people noticed Harris had arrived, attendees and TV cameras gravitated toward her, blocking the room’s central aisle.”
-- Testing the waters in Iowa, de Blasio criticized Hillary Clinton. The New York Post’s Julia Marsh reports: “‘We’re not going to win by talking about Donald Trump,’ the mayor said … ‘I have deep respect for our previous nominee — I know her very well — but I think a lot of us would say that was one of the mistakes, the focus on Trump,’ he said. … He also faulted Clinton for failing to unify her party after winning the nomination. ‘There was not a true effort to say, ‘Okay everyone come in together.’ … The mayor defended his progressive bona fides during a question and answer session with reporters by saying that Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren are ‘kindred’ spirits. He also gave an unexpected compliment to the president saying, ‘Don’t go to sleep on Donald Trump when it comes to strategy. He should not be underestimated.’”
-- Democratic candidates, desperate to break through, continue to play footsie with extreme ideas that would make it harder to defeat Trump. The latest is retro: packing the Supreme Court. FDR is rolling his eyes somewhere. Michael Scherer reports: “At an event last week in Philadelphia, Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., said he was open to discussing a plan pushed by some liberal groups for the next Democratic president to appoint four new justices to the Supreme Court, bringing the total to 13. ‘We need to set that as the level of intellectual and policy ambition that we have, which does not come naturally to our party lately,’ Buttigieg said. ‘So I haven’t reached a considered opinion on that one yet, but I do think very bold, very ambitious ideas deserve a hearing right now.’” Scherer likens this kind of boldness to when Alan Cranston embraced the “nuclear freeze” movement as a candidate in 1984.
-- It's not just the long shots staking out positions that could prove toxic in a general election: Elizabeth Warren opened the door in New Hampshire this weekend to paying reparations to Native Americans. They should be “part of the conversation,” she said. (Annie Linskey)
-- This pressure from the left extends down the ballot as well: Former Colorado House speaker Crisanta Duran announced she will challenge Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) in a primary next year. Duran, the first Latina House speaker in Colorado, said it’s time “for something new and different.” DeGette has held the seat for 12 terms. (Denver Channel)
-- Bernie Sanders asked his surrogates to “respectfully engage” opponents and avoid “bullying and harassment of any kind.” HuffPost’s Daniel Marans reports: “During the 2016 presidential campaign, Sanders and his supporters endured criticism from backers of Hillary Clinton for the online vitriol they alleged was directed at them by some of his partisans. ... Sanders in his Saturday email said employing divisive rhetoric would be particularly counter-productive given his campaign’s bottom-line goal of unseating [Trump], who is notorious for his bullying and bigotry.”
-- An effort to tie electoral votes to the popular vote is gaining momentum. NPR’s Sam Brasch reports: “Democrats in Colorado and New Mexico are pushing ahead with legislation to pledge their 14 collective electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote — no matter who wins each state. The plan only goes into effect if the law passes in states representing an electoral majority. That threshold is 270 votes, which is the same number needed to win the presidency. … Proponents of the national popular vote measures have argued that it's not political, but Republicans, who have benefited in recent elections from the Electoral College system, disagree. … So far, 11 states — including New York, California and New Jersey — have joined the effort along with the District of Columbia, putting the effort 98 votes short of its goal.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- “Green Book” won best picture at the Oscars, while “Bohemian Rhapsody” took home four awards, the most of any film. Avi Selk reports: “The 91st Academy Awards eliminated its hosting duties, divided its trophies, and ultimately divided its audience — awarding best picture to ‘Green Book,’ which critics had alternately praised for its lighthearted depiction of a black pianist and his Italian American driver’s unlikely friendship in the 1960s, or condemned for shortchanging the violent bigotry of that era to focus on a heroic white character. ... Spike Lee scored his long-in-the-making first Oscar win while three nonwhite actors — Rami Malek, Regina King and Mahershala Ali — won major acting awards. Alfonso Cuarón’s directing win for Netflix’s ‘Roma’ made it five out of six years that Mexican filmmakers won best director. And largely, the academy’s attempts to reform itself after the #MeToo crisis of 2017 were at least partially realized as women — many of them first-time nominees — dominated the acceptance speeches.”
- Film critic Ann Hornaday on “Green Book”: “Faced with a choice between audacity, ambition, and one or two historic firsts, the Academy … played it safe, giving the top award to a modest crowd-pleaser.”
- TV critic Hank Stuever: “Oscar keeps it shorter without a host, but something still needs to done about those speeches.”
- Fashion critic Robin Givhan: “On the Oscars red carpet, fashion was finally unleashed — and the results were both stunning and outrageous.”
- Here's the complete list of last night's winners.
Trump promptly reacted to the Oscars with a tweet criticizing Spike Lee's speech, in which the director reminded voters that the 2020 election is just around the corner:
Be nice if Spike Lee could read his notes, or better yet not have to use notes at all, when doing his racist hit on your President, who has done more for African Americans (Criminal Justice Reform, Lowest Unemployment numbers in History, Tax Cuts,etc.) than almost any other Pres!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2019
-- Trump announced that he would delay increasing tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports. David J. Lynch reports: “The president’s decision to delay the increase in tariffs, which would have taken effect March 2, represents a gamble that his personal intervention can smooth the way to a final deal and quiet skeptics who fear he may be too quick to capitulate to the Chinese. Writing on Twitter Sunday evening, Trump said the United States had ‘made substantial progress in our trade talks with China on important structural issues including intellectual property protection, technology transfer, agriculture, services, currency, and many other issues.’ Trump, who did not set a new date for the tariff increase to take effect, also said he plans to host Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate, to finalize terms of the agreement, should the talks continue to make headway. That meeting, which the president had mulled publicly on Friday, is expected late next month.”
-- A bipartisan group of 58 former senior national security officials signed a statement saying there is no basis for Trump declaring a national emergency to build his wall on the southern border. The 11-page document is mainly intended to support lawsuits challenging the president's proclamation, Ellen Nakashima reports: “The joint statement, whose signatories include former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former defense secretary Chuck Hagel, will come a day before the House is expected to vote on a resolution to block Trump’s Feb. 15 declaration. ... Also signing were Eliot A. Cohen, State Department counselor under President George W. Bush; Thomas R. Pickering, President George H.W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations; John F. Kerry, Obama’s second secretary of state; Susan E. Rice, Obama’s national security adviser; Leon E. Panetta, Obama’s CIA director and defense secretary; as well as former intelligence and security officials who served under Republican and Democratic administrations.”
-- The Virginia legislature wrapped up the strangest General Assembly session in memory late Sunday, marred by multiple blackface scandals and allegations of sexual assault against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D). “Probably the most infamous session since 1861,” said Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City).
“The chaos overshadowed actual legislative accomplishments,” Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella report from Richmond, “including bipartisan agreement on incentives for the massive Amazon headquarters project in Arlington County, a plan to clean up coal ash ponds around the state, a law raising the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21 from 18 and pay raises for teachers and other public employees. Efforts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment and extend discrimination protections to gay men and lesbians, which initially seemed to have broad support, foundered in a climate of degenerating politics and historical irony.
“In a snub, the House and Senate did not send a delegation of lawmakers to the governor’s ceremonial office in the Capitol to report that they had adjourned, as is customary. [Ralph] Northam had let them know earlier Sunday that ‘he would be ready to receive them,’ spokeswoman Ofirah Yheskel said. Northam got a half-hour’s notice that they would not be coming. … Just 15 minutes after gaveling out, House Republicans launched a YouTube ad that spliced national coverage of the Democratic scandals with local TV reports on Republican plans for school safety, tax cuts and autism. ‘Virginia’s choice is clear: chaos and embarrassment,’ a female narrator says, ‘or leadership and results.’”
-- Channeling Clarence Thomas, Fairfax declared in extended remarks before the state Senate yesterday that he is the victim of “political lynchings”: “If we go backwards and we rush to judgment, and we allow for political lynchings without any due process, any facts, any evidence being heard, then I think we do a disservice to this very body in which we all serve,” he said. Senators of both parties reacted with silence.
GET SMART FAST:
Pope Francis concluded a Vatican summit by calling for an “all-out battle” against clerical sex abuse. But he laid out few specifics, and victims complained that church officials sidestepped major decisions while making points that should have been clear years ago. (Chico Harlan and Michelle Boorstein)
A federal judge ruled that the all-male military draft is unconstitutional now that women are eligible for combat roles. The case was brought by a men’s rights group that argued the draft is unfair, but the ruling did not come in the form of an injunction. A commission is expected to release a report next year on the future of the draft. (USA Today)
Chicago will hold its mayoral race tomorrow, but most election observers expect the contest to head to an April runoff. With a modern-day-record number of candidates and low voter turnout expected, most experts see little chance of one contender garnering more than 50 percent of the vote. (Chicago Tribune)
Violent storms in the Southeast killed at least two people. A Mississippi woman was killed by a tornado that struck her town, and a man in Tennessee died after driving into floodwaters. (AP)
The Trump Organization reported a small growth in foreign government profits in 2018. These profits were donated to the U.S. Treasury for the second year in a row. (Jonathan O’Connell)
An alleged terrorist was fatally shot after he attempted to hijack a plane headed to Dubai. The flight made an emergency landing in southeastern Bangladesh 40 minutes after taking off from the country’s capital of Dhaka. Military commandos then stormed the plane and shot the suspect. (Reis Thebault)
More than three-quarters of business economists expect a U.S. recession by 2021, according to a National Association for Business Economics survey. The majority also estimate that the Federal Reserve will continue to raise interest rates this year. (Bloomberg News)
California Republicans picked a Latina to lead the party into 2020. Jessica Patterson, an ally of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), will become the first woman in history to lead the California Republican Party after a series of losses in the 2018 election. (Politico)
The Alabama newspaper editor who called for the Ku Klux Klan ‘to night ride again’ will be replaced by a black woman. Elecia Dexter will now be the editor and publisher of the Democrat-Reporter, a small newspaper in Linden. (Michael Brice-Saddler)
A Kansas legislator repudiated his support of an anti-LGBT bill after his daughter shamed him about it in an open letter. Kansas state Rep. Ron Highland (R) said that sponsoring a measure that would describe same-sex unions as “parody marriages” was a mistake. (Lindsey Bever)
A South Carolina woman died from her injuries after two of her dogs mauled her. Authorities said the dogs, both boxer mixes, became “aggressive” with Nancy Cherryl Burgess-Dismuke while playing with her. “It went from looking like they were really playing to them really eating her alive,” a neighbor said. (Lindsey Bever)
A retired Howard University professor is pushing the NBA and schools across the country to play a song widely known as the “Black National Anthem” at games during Black History Month. “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” was written by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson, and former professor Eugene Williams calls it his “freedom song.” (Morgan Smith)
SHOWDOWN IN VENEZUELA:
-- Opposition leader Juan Guaidó will meet with regional leaders and Vice President Pence in Colombia today as he pushes for foreign allies to increase pressure on President Nicolás Maduro. Anthony Faiola reports: “Guaidó suggested that he would entertain more radical solutions to try to oust Maduro, a reference taken by observers to mean that he may broach the subject of additional moves by the United States, which has already imposed deep sanctions on Venezuela. … Guaidó’s comments suggested the opposition’s limitations after a plan they had hoped would cause deep fissures in Maduro’s military structure instead produced only modest cracks. In the face of Maduro’s military blockade of aid, they largely failed to bring in the assistance they had hoped to deliver to the neediest Venezuelans.”
-- Five Venezuelan soldiers who broke with Maduro and the nation’s armed forces shared their stories with The Post, describing a government willing to shoot civilians. Dylan Baddour reports: “Four defectors said they were compelled to leave the country after they were given orders to quash the protests, and one member of the special forces traveled from Caracas to escape during the demonstrations Saturday. They said they also opposed food supplies being rejected and burned while their families went hungry. … The defectors said that discontent in the ranks is high but that members of the armed forces are bound by fear. ‘The order they gave us from high command is that, for whoever takes a step toward the bridge or who tries to leave post, they are authorized to shoot us,’ said Piñera Martinez, 32, a sergeant deployed in San Antonio.”
-- Florida Republicans hope Trump’s push to oust Maduro will aid their electoral fortunes. Sean Sullivan reports: “Opposition to the socialist regime in Caracas, which is closely aligned with communist Cuba, has been a shared cause of the state’s large and traditionally pro-Republican Cuban American and Venezuelan immigrant communities. … Florida Democrats are disavowing the recent refusal by [Bernie Sanders] to label Maduro a dictator and call for him to go, though Sanders has criticized him.”
TRUMP’S SECOND SUMMIT WITH KIM JONG UN:
-- Some Trump administration officials have pointed to the fruitful U.S.-Vietnamese relationship as a possible example for North Korea to follow in transforming itself from foe to friend. But historians say that may not be realistic. Simon Denyer reports: “While it is clear that Kim would like to establish some carefully walled-off tourism and economic development zones, and learn from Vietnam’s experience in that regard, there is a vast difference between that and truly reforming the country’s economy. … Indeed, North Korea’s tolerance of private traders and markets has been matched by reports of a renewed crackdown on foreign cultural influences, such as videos of South Korean dramas and movies. … Vietnam’s economic transformation has been enabled by granting its people significant freedoms — to travel, to trade, to communicate with and learn from foreigners — just as China’s success came by unleashing its people’s entrepreneurial ability.”
-- Many experts fear Trump’s desire for a deal to distract from Michael Cohen's congressional testimony this week at home could lead him to make too many concessions to Kim. The AP’s Foster Klug reports: “Kim could agree to give up only part of his arsenal — his intercontinental missiles aimed at America, for instance, or his main nuclear reactor — in return for an easing of harsh sanctions. There’s also fear that Trump will eventually orchestrate some sort of drawdown of U.S. troops from South Korea or an extended halt to U.S.-South Korean military drills. … [Kim] would be taking a huge step toward cementing the North as a nuclear weapons state and, as a bonus, driving a wedge in the U.S.-South Korea alliance that the North maintains is aimed at the overthrow of the Kim family — all without addressing the North’s arsenal of short- and mid-range nuclear armed missiles aimed at Seoul, Tokyo and other parts of Asia.”
-- Eight Democratic senators said in a letter that the summit must “demonstrate tangible, verifiable progress on denuclearization and reducing tensions.” “As strong advocates for a diplomatic pathway to resolve the North Korea threat, we still believe there is a path forward for tough and principled diplomacy to secure, monitor, and verify the denuclearization of North Korea,” the lawmakers wrote. (Politico)
-- North Korea’s state media said Democratic lawmakers and the U.S. intelligence community will be to blame if the summit does not prove fruitful. Reuters’s Josh Smith and Hyonhee Shin report: “After weeks of silence about the summit in Vietnam, North Korea’s state news agency KCNA on Sunday announced Kim’s departure by train … KCNA later issued a commentary arguing that if Trump listened to skeptics at home, he could face a ‘shattered dream’ and ‘miss the rare historic opportunity’ to improve relations with North Korea. … Trump’s opponents would bear the responsibility if the summit failed to achieve results, which would leave the U.S. people exposed to ‘security threats’, it said.”
-- As the summit approaches, experts weigh in on Trump and Kim's relationship. Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey report: “‘Personal chemistry between leaders is clearly important,’ said Victor D. Cha, the top North Korea adviser in the George W. Bush administration. But, he added, ‘Is that personal relationship enough to create success in the policy? We are so far apart that the notion that the friendship alone would create a North Korean decision to give up all of their nuclear weapons is very hard to imagine.’ Absent from Trump’s messaging on North Korea over the past year has been any mention of human rights. The savagery of Kim and his government has been well documented and was once a rallying cry for Trump. But over the past year, Trump has said little publicly about Kim’s barbarism, and officials said that in private the president has told confidants that he considers human rights in North Korea largely inconsequential to striking a denuclearization deal.”
-- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo contradicted Trump by saying that North Korea remains a nuclear threat. Felicia Sonmez and Toluse Olorunnipa report: “Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper whether he believes North Korea remains a nuclear threat, Pompeo responded, ‘Yes.’ After last year’s summit with Kim in Singapore, Trump tweeted, ‘There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea...’ But Pompeo on Sunday disputed that Trump had said as much. ‘What he said was that the efforts that had been made in Singapore — this commitment that Chairman Kim made — have substantially taken down the risks to the American people. It’s the mission of the secretary of state and the president of the United States to keep the American people secure. We’re aiming to achieve that,’ the secretary of state said.”
-- The CNN interview reflected the fragile balance Pompeo has attempted to strike between defending the tenets of U.S. diplomacy and supporting Trump’s foreign policy. The New York Times’s David Sanger and Edward Wong look at Pompeo’s first year:
- Pompeo privately lashed out against Pence after the vice president criticized European allies for trying to save the Iran deal during a crucial meeting on the issue: “Aides said he complained Mr. Pence had undermined diplomacy — which one European official said included near-agreement about imposing new sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile tests — and prompted fresh headlines about trans-Atlantic tensions. But publicly, Mr. Pompeo never voiced his anger, keeping relations with the White House stable.”
- He has lowered expectations about what Kim might agree to this week: “In private discussions with Korea experts, Mr. Pompeo has conceded that he would be lucky if the North agreed to dismantle 60 percent of what the United States has demanded. But he said even that would be more than any other administration has achieved.”
- “Others in the administration wince at presidential tweets. [Pompeo] tells his staff to evaluate each one on whether it can be leveraged into something useful.”
-- In preparation for the summit, Vietnam deported a Kim Jong Un impersonator. Howard X, the impersonator, is a Hong Kong resident and held a fake summit with a Trump impersonator before having to leave the country. (BBC)
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Japanese voters in Okinawa rejected a referendum to build a new U.S. military base on their island. Akiko Kashiwagi and Simon Denyer report: “Okinawa is home to about half the 54,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan and houses the largest U.S. air base in the Asia-Pacific region. The U.S. military says its presence on the island is vital not only for the defense of Japan, but also for keeping peace in the region. But Okinawans say their small island bears an unfair burden of the U.S. military presence in Japan, and on Sunday, they made their resentment felt. The results showed that 72.2 percent of voters rejected the construction of a U.S. base at Henoko, in the north of the island. The turnout was over 52 percent.”
-- Taiwan's 2020 presidential election is kicking off, and it is all about the U.S. and China. Gerry Shih reports: “For years, officials in Washington — which is treaty-bound to defend Taiwan against Chinese aggression — viewed [President Tsai Ing-wen] with skepticism, if not outright concern. Now, the political calculus may be shifting at a time when the United States is stepping up its global competition against Beijing. Her Democratic Progressive Party does not recognize a 'one-China' framework that Beijing considers inviolable, and it leans toward declaring formal independence from China — a provocative move that would potentially spark a devastating conflict that also pulls in the United States. But the Washington of today — with a Trump administration staffed by China hawks in several key positions — has warmed up to a woman who is anathema to Beijing.”
-- A growing number of civilians were killed last year in Afghanistan. Sayed Salahuddin and Pamela Constable report: “The report from the U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan said that 3,804 civilians died in 2018, including 930 children. That reflected an 11 percent overall increase from 2017, a year that also saw near-record levels of civilian war-related deaths. In the past decade, it said, more than 32,000 noncombatants have been killed and almost 60,000 injured.”
-- A proposal from the Guatemalan Congress that would grant amnesty to more than 30 convicted former military officers who were found responsible for the deaths of nearly 200,000 during the country’s civil war has alarmed civil society groups, the U.N. and the U.S. government. Sandra Cuffe and Mary Beth Sheridan report: “The bill, which is expected to be back on Congress’s agenda next week, has prompted outrage from Guatemalan civil society groups and organizations representing the indigenous, who make up 40 percent of the population but more than 80 percent of the victims of wartime abuses. … In 2013, Guatemala became the first country to convict a former leader — ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt — of genocide. (His conviction was overturned on appeal, and he was being retried when he died last year.)”
-- Saudi Arabia appointed its first female ambassador to the United States, Princess Reema bint Bandar. Kareem Fahim reports: “Her appointment, which was announced in a royal decree late Saturday, was the latest sign of the kingdom’s effort to rehabilitate its image in the United States after U.S. lawmakers censured the Saudi leadership for the killing of [Post contributing columnist] Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, and the arrests and alleged torture of Saudi women’s rights activists.”
-- “China has put 1 million Muslims in concentration camps. MBS had nothing to say,” by Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt: “China is a leading oppressor of Muslims, so … Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman must have had a lot to say when he met Chinese President Xi Jinping late last week. Wait, what’s that you say? The prince had nothing to say on behalf of China’s Muslims? In fact, he defended what China calls an effort to fight extremism? Yes, that is in fact what happened. And the reason is simple: In return, China defended Saudi Arabia’s right to orchestrate a murder and get away with it. Your concentration camps are your internal affair. My conspiracy to commit murder is my internal affair. How nice, we understand each other. It has been nearly five months since Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was lured to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, murdered and dismembered. Little accountability has been achieved since then.”
WATCH WHAT THEY DO:
-- Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said he has “deep concerns” related to Neomi Rao, Trump’s nominee to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, because of a rumor he heard about her personal views on abortion. “I have heard directly from at least one individual who said Rao personally told them she was pro-choice. I don't know whether that’s accurate, but this is why we are doing our due diligence,” the freshman told Axios.
-- Lawmakers from both parties are objecting to Trump’s plan to boost defense spending by skirting federal budget limits. Politico’s Connor O’Brien reports: “The White House plans to stuff as much as $174 billion of its $750 billion request for national defense for the coming fiscal year into a special war fund, according to reports, allowing the administration to maintain its long-sought military buildup without violating a 2011 law aimed at reining in the deficit. The gimmick is especially striking given that Trump budget chief Mick Mulvaney once fought to limit the very same war account, known as the Overseas Contingency Operations fund. … Unless both parties can negotiate a deal to lift the spending caps, it could mean a quick demise for the military's ambitious investment plans.”
-- The Trump administration is increasingly requesting supplemental information from H-1B visa applicants and denying more petitions from high-skilled foreign workers. The Wall Street Journal’s Louise Radnofsky report: “Some 60% of companies that applied on behalf of foreign workers received requests for supplemental information in the last quarter of 2018, compared with about 46% of applicants who got the demand in the year-earlier quarter and 28% in the final quarter of 2016. The approval rate fell to 75% in the final quarter of 2018, from 83% a year earlier and 92% in the same period in 2016.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Democrats would subpoena Bob Mueller if the special counsel’s report isn’t made public. Felicia Sonmez reports: Schiff “said on ABC News’s ‘This Week’ that Democrats will also subpoena Mueller’s report and are prepared to go to court against the Trump administration. With Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation believed to be coming to an end, Democrats are seeking to ramp up pressure on Attorney General William P. Barr to release the full findings of the report — and setting down a marker for what course they will take if he doesn’t. … Rumors swirled last week that the report could be delivered before the end of the month. But a senior Justice Department official said Friday that the report will not be coming this week.”
-- Roger Stone said he couldn’t remember which “volunteer” gave him the image of a judge with what resembled a crosshairs symbol that led to a full gag order. But he did identify four members of the far-right, men-only extremist group Proud Boys who have been defending him online. BuzzFeed News’s Zoe Tillman reports: “Stone identified Enrique Tarrio, Tyler Whyte, Jacob Engels, and Rey Perez as his volunteers. Tarrio is chair of the Proud Boys and last week sat behind [Trump] during a speech in Miami wearing a T-shirt that said ‘Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong!’ Whyte leads a Proud Boys chapter in Florida. Engels has been involved in Proud Boys activities, but says he's a journalist embedded with the group, not a member. Perez identified himself on Facebook as a member of the Proud Boys and was at Stone's house in Florida to tape a podcast over cigars and baked ziti just before the Instagram post imbroglio. … In court last week, Stone didn't share many details about what his volunteers do for him — he told the judge that they perform ‘a lot of the clerical work’ — but he said Engels had access to his Instagram account, Whyte posted to his Facebook account, and that multiple people had access to his phone.”
-- Here are some steps that may follow once Mueller’s report comes out. (Dan Keating and Aaron Steckelberg)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump previewed a Fourth of July celebration at the Lincoln Memorial:
HOLD THE DATE! We will be having one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, D.C., on July 4th. It will be called “A Salute To America” and will be held at the Lincoln Memorial. Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2019
“It was initially unclear if the festivities Trump alluded to would complement or compete with the existing celebration on the Mall that has been held for decades,” Faiz Siddiqui reports. “There also are no details on who would pay for it.”
Trump also thanked his critics ahead of the North Korea summit:
So funny to watch people who have failed for years, they got NOTHING, telling me how to negotiate with North Korea. But thanks anyway!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2019
A House Republican accused his colleagues of hypocrisy:
The same congressional Republicans who joined me in blasting Pres. Obama’s executive overreach now cry out for a king to usurp legislative powers. If your faithfulness to the Constitution depends on which party controls the White House, then you are not faithful to it.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) February 23, 2019
A Democratic senator engaged in this back-and-forth with the RNC chairwoman after a clash over humanitarian aid caused violence in Venezuela:
Forgive me if I cast a tad of doubt on the humanitarian intentions of a President who locked little kids up in cages and tried to cut the State Dept by 40%. I draw issue w the method and bravado, not the aid. You can get food to Venezuela without inciting war. https://t.co/dgAyP8NlTt— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) February 24, 2019
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) suggested the United States should consider escalating its opposition to the Maduro regime in Venezuela:
After discussions tonight with several regional leaders it is now clear that the grave crimes committed today by the Maduro regime have opened the door to various potential multilateral actions not on the table just 24 hours ago. https://t.co/MvqFwB6E6d— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 24, 2019
A former senior staffer for Hillary Clinton's campaign challenged Trump's definition of collusion:
When Trump talks about Hillary's collusion, he means we hired an investigator to uncover how his campaign worked w/ Putin— Zac Petkanas (@Zac_Petkanas) February 24, 2019
But his team giving secret strategy memos to Russian military intelligence, directly coordinating w/ Wikileaks & meeting w/ spies at HQ is not collusion
Bernie Sanders is planning a campaign kickoff rally in Chicago:
My time at the University of Chicago, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, changed my life and helped shape me into the person I am today. I'm excited to return to Chicago as we kick off our movement. Join us at Navy Pier next Sunday, March 3rd: https://t.co/cfX3q4FvbI— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 24, 2019
A polling firm noted these undesirable numbers for Trump in advance of the 2020 election:
The 17 states where Trump's approval meets or exceeds 50% account for a combined total of 102 electoral votes. In contrast, the states in which Trump has an approval rating below 40% account for 201 electoral votes. https://t.co/bcXeMLm0fT pic.twitter.com/B3OECgqNd3— GallupNews (@GallupNews) February 24, 2019
George Conway, who is married to White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, analyzed Gallup's map further:
And not only is he under 50 in PA, MI, and WI (3 states he won by a total of 77,774 votes), he’s under 50 in TX and LA (which he won by 10 and 20%), and in others he must win, like FL, NC, GA, IN, OH, AZ. This even though the strong economy he inherited remains strong (for now). https://t.co/aTO3NWyQYt— George Conway (@gtconway3d) February 24, 2019
An Atlantic editor argued that Trump's strategy is at odds with America's demographic future:
In 1984, Ronald Reagan won 2/3 of white voters w/out a college degree and captured 59% of the total popular vote. In 2016, Trump won 2/3 of white voters w/out a college degree and captured 46% of the total popular vote. Arguing w/demography is like arguing w/gravity. https://t.co/GZTL6T0oYJ— Ronald Brownstein (@RonBrownstein) February 24, 2019
A Post reporter posed this question for followers of both politics and baseball:
Which comes first?— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) February 24, 2019
* Bryce Harper signs with an MLB team ending the weirdest free agent period;
* Mueller report, at least a summary, is released to Congress;
* Joe Biden decides on 2020.
Which comes last?https://t.co/Y97WsHSbqk
A Financial Times editor provided this picture from a Houston gun show:
Found this display of Nazi memorabilia at the Houston gun show. Sales guy said demand has surged in the last couple of years. pic.twitter.com/8vexx04N6v— Edward Luce (@EdwardGLuce) February 23, 2019
An NRA magazine placed a photo of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and former Arizona lawmaker Gabby Giffords, who was shot, next to the words “target practice,” sparking outrage online, with some claiming the magazine was calling for an attack against the two Democrats:
This is a call for violence by the @NRA against @GabbyGiffords, who was nearly killed by gunfire and @SpeakerPelosi, the most powerful legislator in America. The NRA should face legal consequences. But let’s put them out of business with boycotts and ballot boxes. #EnoughIsEnough pic.twitter.com/XFTAg5XJWI— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) February 23, 2019
From the father of a Parkland shooting victim:
For those who have ever challenged my assertion that the current NRA leadership uses terror tactics, look no further. To the decent law abiding members of the NRA, this is not what you signed up for. End your membership now. You deserve better. https://t.co/0FwijWbcSr— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) February 23, 2019
Some lawmakers, like Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.), defended the magazine:
How can you claim this? Are you deliberately lying or did you just not read it?— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) February 24, 2019
The article is about legislation targeting gun owners, not the NRA targeting Democrats.
If your goal is to ensure that “outrage culture” is alive and well, continuing to divide us, congrats. https://t.co/KsnSdPWPb6
Rubio shared a cryptic tweet showing before and after images of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi:
The tweet quickly gathered criticism:
ANTI-INTERVENTIONISTS: The more the U.S. gets involved in Venezuela, the greater the danger of turning the conflict into another Libya.— Jesse Walker (@notjessewalker) February 24, 2019
MARCO RUBIO: Hey! Let's have another Libya! https://t.co/rKxB2ZyBGi
A geographer shared this interesting view of the world:
Did Donald Trump Jr. hate-watch the Oscars?
I’ll save you guys the trouble & summarize the #Oscars so you don’t have to watch.— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 24, 2019
Trump: bad, despite booming economy & lowest black/Hispanic unemployment ever.
Walls: Immoral, except outside our houses.
Socialism: Pay no attention to mayhem in Venezuela, let’s give it a try
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
New York Times, “‘Austerity, That’s What I Know’: The Making of a U.K. Millennial Socialist,” by Ellen Barry: “The general election of 2017 exposed the starkest generation gap in the recent history of British politics. Young voters broke dramatically for the Labour Party, whose socialist leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has promised to rebuild the welfare state and redistribute wealth. Hardened against the centrists of their parents’ generation, they have tugged the party to the left, opening up rifts that are now fracturing Labour. The young also saw their views on exiting the European Union — three-quarters of them voted to Remain — bulldozed by Leavers their grandparents’ age. [Alex] McIntyre is still angry that he was too young, by a year, to vote in that 2016 referendum. He is pale and lanky, discreetly tattooed, caustically funny and so well-mannered that he would rather miss his train than cut into a line. (‘Being British can be limiting,’ he observed.) He is not representative of a generation. But his grievance is generational: that the state has taken away benefits his parents and grandparents enjoyed, like low-cost housing and free education.”
Foreign Policy, “What Comes After ISIS?” by Daniel Byman: “The Trump administration, like the Obama administration before it, is wrestling with how to balance vigilance and triumphalism. Trump, being Trump, is erring on the side of triumphalism, boasting about the Islamic State’s defeat—to the consternation of the counterterrorism community, which wants to stay in Syria to keep the pressure on. It’s appropriate to criticize Trump’s boasting as premature, but it is also important to recognize that the Islamic State has been hit hard and that the caliphate’s defeat marks a potential turning point. The foreign fighter flow has dried up, and the loss of territory makes it far harder for it to organize international terrorist attacks. The unusual circumstances that allowed the caliphate to briefly flourish may not soon recur, and it is unlikely that the Islamic State will soon revive at the same scale or that another front will emerge with the same appeal that Syria had. None of this, of course, means the end of jihadi terrorism.”
New Yorker, “‘They've got him!’ The emotional scene at the R. Kelly hearings,” by Jim DeRogatis: “Azriel Clary, who, her parents allege, is one of a group of women being held against their will by the singer, attended Kelly’s bond hearing, but she did not speak to her parents, or even turn around to look at them, as they sat several rows behind her in Courtroom 102. She stared straight ahead at Kelly, who appeared at the front of the room wearing a black sweatshirt, his face expressionless. On her way in and out of court, Clary held hands with Joycelyn Savage, a woman whose parents say also began a sexual relationship with Kelly, in 2015, when she was nineteen years old. Both women are still living with Kelly in what their parents call his “cult.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“NYU social work school acknowledges ‘institutional racism’ after classroom episode,” from Morgan Smith: “Shahem Mclaurin says he didn’t go to school to be a ‘revolutionary leader.’ But that’s the role he has found himself in after his tweet about an incident at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work spurred university officials to acknowledge ‘ongoing institutional racism’ in their classrooms and inspired other students to criticize the Silver School for failing to address racist behavior on campus. On Feb. 12, Mclaurin described the incident in a widely shared Twitter thread. [The 24-year-old graduate student] emailed his classmates … to ask if someone could connect him via FaceTime during class. No one responded. After class, one of the students emailed Shahem and explained why he didn’t answer. ‘I found it easier to lead the discussion without black presence in the room, since I do feel somewhat uncomfortable with the (perceived) threat that it poses — something which I have been working on, but it will take more time than I would like it to be,’ the student wrote.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Where in the world does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez live?” from the New York Post: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “has no district office and no local phone number, unlike the state’s three other freshman members. And it’s unclear whether the 29-year-old lawmaker, who represents the Bronx and Queens, actually still lives in the Parkchester neighborhood that has been so closely tied to her rise — even though she won her upset victory over fellow Democrat Rep. Joe Crowley with accusations that his home in Virginia made him too Washington-focused to serve his district. Ocasio-Cortez has used her deceased father’s Bronx condo on her voter registration since 2012 … But The Post could find little indication she continues to live there. … On Saturday night, a staffer promised a Post reporter that Ocasio-Cortez would talk to him after a speaking event in Corona. … ‘Come downstairs, I have to take a picture quick,’ the congresswoman then told the reporter after the event, instructing him to wait for her. Twenty minutes later, she ducked out a back door, jumped into a chauffeured SUV, and zoomed off.”
Ocasio-Cortez replied last night:
I still live in my hood and literally instagrammed from my apartment tonight. A man was just arrested last week with a stockpile of guns specifically trying to kill me & others, so yeah I’m not gonna disclose my personal address or tell people when I move. Sorry!— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 25, 2019
Trump will participate in a business session at the White House with U.S. governors before leaving for his summit with Kim Jong Un in Hanoi.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I think that 2019 is going to be the most vitriolic year in American politics since before the Civil War. And I include Vietnam in that. I think we're in for a very nasty 2019.” — Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon. (USA Today)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It's going to be a windy Monday, but the rest of the week should be much nicer. The Capital Weather Gang reports: “High winds rip across the region today, but then we have three straight days of calm, unremarkable weather. Our next chance of precipitation comes Friday, most likely in the form of rain. It could linger into the first part of Saturday before cold, dry air funnels back in.”
-- The Capitals beat the Rangers 6-5. (Samantha Pell)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Hasan Minhaj broke down some of the failures behind the U.S.‘s student loans system:
John Oliver took a deep dive into the world of psychics:
On Fox News, Ken Starr compared the ways the media covered his investigation and the Mueller probe:
April Reign, the activist who created the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite in 2015, talked to The Post about attending the awards show this year:
Queen and Adam Lambert opened the Oscars, which this year had no host:
And actor Javier Bardem celebrated foreign artists and said, “There are no borders or walls,” while presenting an Oscar in Spanish: