with Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: During that freewheeling news conference at which he declared a national emergency the Friday before last, President Trump made the case for why he should receive the Nobel Peace Prize. In doing so, he came closer than ever to publicly acknowledging that he is a disciple of what Richard Nixon dubbed the “madman theory” of foreign policy.

The president gleefully recounted his own bellicosity to suggest that his rhetoric scared North Korean leader Kim Jong Un into coming to the table in pursuit of peace. “‘Fire and fury,’ ‘Total annihilation,’ ‘My button is bigger than yours,’ and ‘My button works.’ Remember that? … And people said, ‘Trump is crazy,’” Trump said in the Rose Garden. “And you know what it ended up being? A very good relationship. I like him a lot, and he likes me a lot.”

The president’s comments are instructive ahead of his second summit with Kim on Wednesday in Hanoi, where he just touched down on Air Force One. The North Korean leader arrived overnight via train. “Nobody else would have done that,” Trump said of his willingness to escalate tensions with Pyongyang in a bid to ultimately defuse them. “The Obama administration couldn’t have done it.”

-- When Trump seems crazy to his critics, sometimes he is being crazy like a fox. Friends and former aides say he is more aware than most people think of how he’s perceived at home and abroad. He has repeatedly sought to use his reputation for rashness and unpredictability to his advantage, sometimes successfully.

Trump is not wrong that his threats have packed more of a punch because foreign leaders think he might go through with them. For example, no one would have believed Barack Obama or George W. Bush if either of them threatened to scuttle NATO or NAFTA to prod allies to spend more on defense or improve the terms of existing trade deals. People also wouldn’t have believed past presidents if they had tweeted they were going to impose stiff tariffs on all Chinese imports.

Yet many serious people really thought a year ago that there was some possibility Trump might actually go through with a preemptive strike on Pyongyang after all his charged rhetoric, despite American military commanders warning that such a move could lead to tens of thousands being killed. In other words, Trump’s intimidations have seemed more credible because he’s gladly encouraged the global perception that he’s quarrelsome.

The president has preached the virtue of strategic unpredictability as a lever to gain the upper hand in negotiations. “We must as a nation be more unpredictable,” Trump said as a candidate in 2016. “We have to be unpredictable!”

-- A generation ago, when the eyes of the world were on Hanoi for a very different reason, Nixon wanted to convince the Soviets and their North Vietnamese clients that he was an unstable hothead who was willing to use nuclear weapons. The goal was to bring an end to the quagmire at the negotiating table.

“I call it the madman theory,” Nixon explained to H.R. Haldeman, who would serve as his White House chief of staff, while they walked along a foggy beach one day in 1968, according to Haldeman’s memoir. “I want the North Vietnamese to believe I’ve reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We’ll just slip the word to them that, ‘For God’s sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can’t restrain him when he’s angry — and he has his hand on the nuclear button!’ And Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.”

-- Nixon certainly didn’t invent the concept; he just coined the term. Niccolò Machiavelli wrote back in 1517 that “at times it is a very wise thing to simulate madness.”

-- Trump has long admired Nixon, and he signaled even before taking office that he’d embrace the madman theory. Henry Kissinger, the nonagenarian who was tasked back in the day with “slipping the word” that Nixon might just be wacky enough to use The Bomb, has tutored Trump on foreign policy and repeatedly given him advice before big meetings with heads of state, including Kim and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

During an April 1971 conversation, which was recorded and has now been transcribed, Nixon told Kissinger that he should try to break an impasse in peace talks by hinting to Hanoi that the use of nuclear weapons was back on the table.

“You can say, ‘I cannot control him.’ Put it that way,” Nixon told his secretary of state.

“Yeah,” Kissinger replied. “And imply that you might use nuclear weapons.”

“Yes, sir,” said Nixon, adding that Kissinger should say: “I just want you to know he is not going to cave.”

President Trump's early tough talk toward North Korean leader Kim Jong Un mellowed into compliments and legitimizing references after the two met. (The Washington Post)

-- Game theory experts teach that acting irrationally can sometimes be very rational. Trump plainly believes he’s a good bluffer, even when his bluffs get called again and again. The fact that he doesn’t always fold right away, even when he has a losing hand, has strengthened his capacity to keep others on their toes.

Consider the partial government shutdown, which became the longest in American history. Even though he ultimately caved, and declared a national emergency to try getting the money Congress would not appropriate for a wall, Trump showed he was willing to drag out the fight. He kept it going even as his polling numbers took a hit.

The same is true on the world stage. He’s kept the door open to military intervention in Venezuela, even as he orders a drawdown of troops in Syria and Afghanistan. He’s also saber-rattled against Iran since pulling out of the nuclear deal. And he said during his State of the Union this month that he would be willing to spend whatever is necessary to win an arms race with the Russians. All these moves are risky and might backfire over the long term, but Trump appears to believe he is setting the terms of the debate.

-- Ever the showman, Trump recognizes the power of fear. Indeed, Bob Woodward’s entire book last year (“Fear”) was based on this premise.

-- Trump has even advised his own aides to tell people on the outside that he is “crazy” if they think it will help in negotiations. During an Oval Office meeting in September 2017, Trump told chief trade negotiator Bob Lighthizer that he should threaten to have the U.S. withdraw from its free trade agreement with South Korea. Axios reported this exchange at the time:

“You've got 30 days, and if you don't get concessions, then I'm pulling out,” Trump told Lighthizer.

“Okay, well I'll tell the Koreans they've got 30 days," Lighthizer replied.

“No, no, no," Trump interjected. "That's not how you negotiate. You don't tell them they've got 30 days. You tell them, 'This guy's so crazy he could pull out any minute!’”

“That's what you tell them: Any minute,” Trump continued.

During an Oval Office meeting this past Friday focused on defusing the trade war that he started, Trump once again admonished Lighthizer – this time in front of a Chinese delegation. The veteran lawyer was rebuked by Trump for saying the two sides were working on a “memorandum of understanding.” Trump said the term, routinely used in situations like this, does not “mean very much.” The president also did this in front of reporters. For close Trump observers, it felt like he was saying this as much to unnerve his foreign visitors and keep them on their toes as because he was going to kill the deal. But with Trump you never know. And that’s just the way he wants it.

-- The irony, of course, is that the madman theory did not ultimately work for Nixon. Vietnam remains one of the most humiliating chapters in America’s history. New York University historian Tim Naftali, the former director of the Nixon presidential library, says North Vietnam more likely came to the table for other reasons. He also argues that Nixon played the part of a madman to give himself domestic cover with his base to open relations with China and pursue detente with the Kremlin.

“Nixon’s madman strategy wasn’t supposed to take three and a half years, over 21,000 U.S. deaths, and untold Vietnamese losses, to work. It was supposed to be a version of 'shock and awe,’” Naftali wrote for the Atlantic in 2017. “There can be little debate, however, over what Nixon’s calculated unpredictability abroad achieved at home. It tore this country apart. In a declassified ‘eyes only’ memorandum to Alexander Haig on May 20, 1972, after ordering the mining of Haiphong harbor, Nixon explained who his domestic audience was: ‘The hawks are our hard core and we must do everything that we can to keep them from jumping ship [in reaction to arms-control talks with Moscow] after getting their enthusiasm restored as a result of our mining operation in the North.’” 

President Trump and Kim Jong Un are set to meet for a second time. The Washington Post’s Simon Denyer tells you what’s at stake at the summit in Hanoi. (The Washington Post)
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Prime Minister Theresa May told lawmakers Feb. 26 Britain will only leave the European Union without a deal on March 29 with the explicit consent of Parliament. (Reuters)

-- British Prime Minister Theresa May for the first time admitted that Brexit may be delayed, as a bitterly divided Parliament struggles over how — or even if — Britain should leave the European Union. William Booth and Karla Adam report from London: “May told lawmakers that if Parliament next month rejects her Brexit deal again, the lawmakers will be given a vote on whether to ask the European Union to allow Britain to remain a part of the trading bloc for several more months. May said that if such an extension were triggered, it would likely be granted only once and that the time would be ‘short and limited.’ She suggested an extension until June would be possible, so as not to collide with upcoming elections for the European parliament. This was a major concession by May, who has insisted that not only is her Brexit deal the best and only one on offer, but that it would be reckless to delay leaving the European Union beyond March 29. … Now May is offering compromise in a series of possible votes, each one based upon the results of the one before.”

-- India launched an airstrike into Pakistan-controlled territory in retaliation for the terrorist attack earlier this month that killed 40 Indian paramilitary officers in Kashmir. A spokesman for Pakistan's military said there were no casualties, while the Indian foreign ministry said there were “a large number of casualties.” Joanna Slater reports: “India’s foreign secretary, Vijay Gokhale, told reporters that the strike targeted a training camp run by Jaish-e-Muhammad, the Pakistan-based militant group that claimed responsibility for the attack this month. ... Gokhale ... said the Indian strike was based on ‘credible intelligence’ that further attacks were being planned by Jaish-e-Muhammad, which is designated a terrorist organization by the United States. He called the strike a ‘preemptive action’ specifically targeting Jaish-e-Muhammad that was ‘conditioned by our desire to avoid civilian casualties.’”

Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican treasurer and former top adviser to Pope Francis, was found guilty Feb. 26 on five charges of child sexual offenses. (Reuters)


  1. Australian Cardinal George Pell, one of the most senior figures in the Catholic Church, was convicted of sexually assaulting two 13-year-old choirboys. He caught the boys drinking sacramental wine 22 years ago and then allegedly forced them to perform sexual acts. His bail will be revoked tomorrow. (A. Odysseus Patrick and Chico Harlan)

  2. The Iowa diocese identified 28 priests accused of abusing minors. The list includes about 5 percent of the priests who have worked for the diocese since its inception in 1902. (AP)

  3. The SEC asked a federal judge to hold Tesla CEO Elon Musk in contempt for allegedly breaking an agreement under which Musk had to seek approval before posting any potentially market-moving tweets. Last week, Musk tweeted that Tesla would make about 500,000 cars this year, a message that had not been preapproved. (Renae Merle and Drew Harwell)

  4. New findings indicate stratocumulus clouds could break up altogether in about a century, adding eight degrees to Earth’s temperature, unless carbon emissions are limited. The predicted warming, which was calculated by climate physicists at Caltech, would be in addition to the four-degree increase caused by carbon dioxide directly. If this happens, the planet would experience mass extinctions. (Quanta Magazine)

  5. Newly obtained documents show that a lawyer working with the payday-lending industry helped direct the research of a professor who released a favorable report on the companies. The report has been repeatedly cited by supporters of the industry as it has pushed for deregulation. (Renae Merle)

  6. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly solicited sex at a Florida massage parlor hours before his team played in the AFC championship game last month. Authorities videotaped Kraft visiting the parlor before the Jan. 20 game, as well as the night before, according to court documents that were released as he was formally charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution. (Will Hobson)

  7. R. Kelly walked out of Cook County Jail after posting $100,000 bail. After three days in custody, Kelly pleaded not guilty to sexual abuse charges. (Chicago Tribune)

  8. The Supreme Court ruled that a late judge’s vote should not have been counted toward a decision issued after his death. “Federal judges are appointed for life, not for eternity,” the court wrote in an unsigned opinion, which sent back a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on the Equal Pay Act. (Robert Barnes)

  9. Former North Carolina governor Pat McCrory (R) said he would not run for the 9th Congressional District seat. “My fire in the belly is teaching and being a radio host and keeping the option open of running for governor or senator” in 2022, McCrory said on his radio show. (John Wagner)

  10. Sprint is planning a launch of its 5G wireless network in May, which could make the company the first U.S. wireless carrier to offer the service to a mass market. Sprint said it would test the network in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City before expanding to Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix and D.C. (Brian Fung)

  11. A Florida pediatrician is pushing YouTube to remove videos marketed toward children that include suicide tips. Free Hess has blogged about the disturbing videos and successfully lobbied to get some of them taken down, but more keep popping up as Internet trolls target children to encourage self-harm. (Lindsey Bever)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Feb. 25 that Democrats would vote on a resolution to halt President Trump's national emergency on border security. (Reuters)


-- Members of the House spent the day preparing to advance the resolution of disapproval that could overturn Trump’s emergency declaration — temporarily, anyway. GOP leaders pushed their members to fall in line to keep the final vote tally low, even though it is all but certain to pass the lower chamber. Erica Werner reports: “While Democrats tried to focus on the constitutional issues at stake in Trump using an emergency declaration to get border-wall money denied by Congress, Republicans trained their arguments on what they called dire conditions along the border that necessitated Trump’s move. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Monday evening that he wasn’t sure how many Republicans would vote for the resolution, ‘but there will not be enough to override any veto.’”

-- The outcome in the Senate remains uncertain. Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Thom Tillis (N.C.) are, so far, the only Republicans who have said they are likely to vote to overturn Trump’s declaration. Tillis, who has a tough reelection fight on his hands next year, explains his position in an op-ed for today’s Post: “Although Trump certainly has legitimate grievances over congressional Democrats’ obstruction of border-security funding, his national emergency declaration on Feb. 15 was not the right answer. ... If I were the leader of the Constitution’s Article II branch, I would probably declare an emergency and use all the tools at my disposal as well. But I am not. I am a member of the Senate, and I have grave concerns when our institution looks the other way at the expense of weakening Congress’s power. It is my responsibility to be a steward of the Article I branch, to preserve the separation of powers and to curb the kind of executive overreach that Congress has allowed to fester for the better part of the past century. I stood by that principle during the Obama administration, and I stand by it now.”

-- A group of 26 Republican former members of Congress signed an open letter opposing the declaration. John Wagner reports: “The letter argues that Trump is encroaching on Congress’s ‘power of the purse’ and urges current lawmakers to stand up for its constitutional powers. ‘We who have served where you serve now call on you to honor your oath of office and to protect the Constitution and the responsibilities it vested in Congress,’ says the letter.” Its signers are former senators John Danforth (Mo.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Gordon Humphrey (N.H.), Richard Lugar (Ind.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) and 21 former House members.

-- Trump, who has promised to veto a rejection of his emergency declaration, warned Republicans against defecting. “Be strong and smart,” he tweeted, “don't fall into the Democrats ‘trap’ of Open Borders and Crime.”

Reality check: The House will probably pass the disapproval resolution. Even if the Senate follows suit, however, Trump has promised to veto the measure, and there aren’t enough votes in Congress to override such a veto. The issue is likely to be tied up in the courts a long time, however.

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein on Feb. 25 suggested absolute transparency in Justice Department investigations could be “misleading." (C-SPAN)


-- Almost certainly alluding to Bob Mueller’s impending report, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein argued that the Justice Department should not reveal information about people it does not charge with crimes. Matt Zapotosky reports: “Rosenstein conceded there ‘may be legitimate reasons for making exceptions,’ but he felt the Justice Department generally should be sensitive ‘to the rights of uncharged people.’ … The comments seem to foreshadow what could be a grueling legal battle between Congress and the Justice Department over what information about Mueller’s work ultimately is released. The regulations that govern Mueller’s work require him to submit to the attorney general a confidential report detailing whom he charged — as well as who was investigated and not charged. The attorney general is then to notify Congress that Mueller’s investigation has ended. The regulations do not require the attorney general or Mueller to make significant details public, although they do not prohibit officials from doing so.” 

-- Paul Manafort’s attorneys urged a judge last night to sentence Trump’s former campaign chairman to less than 10 years in prison, arguing that he has been treated harshly by the special counsel and unfairly vilified. Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner report: “Manafort ‘is presented to this Court by the government as a hardened criminal who ‘brazenly’ violated the law and deserves no mercy. But this case is not about murder, drug cartels, organized crime, the Madoff Ponzi scheme or the collapse of Enron,’ the attorneys wrote in a memo filed in U.S. District Court in Washington. … The defense said Manafort was unduly singled out for prosecution by the special counsel’s office for ‘garden-variety’ financial crimes and ‘esoteric’ foreign lobbying disclosure violations but not, they said, on charges that showed any links between the Russian government or individuals and the campaign. … The two wide-ranging conspiracy charges to which Manafort pleaded guilty in Washington carry a maximum sentence of 10 years. … Manafort’s attorneys asked for any sentences to run concurrently. ‘In light of his age and health concerns, a significant additional period of incarceration will likely amount to a life sentence for a first time offender,’” his attorneys said.

-- Although Mueller’s name has captured headlines, it has been one of his lead prosecutors, Andrew Goldstein, who has questioned Trump’s associates and negotiated with his attorneys about a potential interview. The New York Times’s Noah Weiland and Michael S. Schmidt profile the former high school teacher and Time magazine reporter: “Mr. Goldstein, the lone prosecutor in Mr. Mueller’s office who came directly from a corruption unit at the Justice Department, has conducted every major interview of the president’s advisers. … And he was one of two prosecutors who relayed to the president’s lawyers dozens of questions about Mr. Trump’s behavior in office that Mr. Mueller wanted the president to answer under oath. The questions showed the Mueller team’s hand for the first time: extensive, detailed lines of inquiry that could imperil the presidency. …

“As evidence built over two years, Mr. Goldstein functioned as a repository of conversations that Mr. Trump had with lawyers, advisers and top law enforcement officials from early 2017 on. Among Mr. Goldstein’s jewels, according to Mr. Trump’s lawyers: exhaustive notes taken by Annie Donaldson, Mr. McGahn’s former chief of staff, which detailed in real time Mr. Trump’s behavior in the West Wing. … Like Mr. Mueller, Mr. Goldstein wears starched white dress shirts to work and prizes secrecy. Mr. Goldstein told a friend, Tim Lear, that Mr. Mueller even complained to his prosecutors about being photographed near Donald Trump Jr. at an airport.”

-- Michael Cohen plans on telling lawmakers that Trump repeatedly asked him about a skyscraper project in Moscow long after securing the Republican nomination, Reuters’s Nathan Layne and Ginger Gibson report: “Cohen’s assertion that Trump was inquiring about the project as late as June 2016, if true, would show Trump remained personally interested in a business venture in Russia well into his candidacy. Cohen, scheduled to report to prison in May, has already said he briefed Trump on the project in June 2016. ... In addition, Cohen will offer new information on Trump’s financial statements that ‘have never been produced before’ relating to how Trump represented the values of his assets in financial transactions and other matters,” according to a person familiar with the matter.

-- Here are some other questions Cohen might answer during his testimony on Wednesday, as compiled by Matt Zapotosky and Rosalind S. Helderman

  • Who are the “White House-based staff and legal counsel” to Trump that Cohen remained in contact with, and what instruction did they give him about his testimony in Congress, in which he ultimately lied to lawmakers?
  • Did Trump personally direct Cohen to lie, and did he tell that to the special counsel’s office?
  • Does Cohen believe Trump obstructed any investigation, and does he have evidence to prove that?
  • Was Cohen ever offered a pardon in exchange for being silent?
  • To Cohen’s knowledge, was Trump informed by his son Donald Trump Jr. or anyone else before his son took a meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016?
  • Did Cohen discuss payments to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels with other members of the Trump family? With other campaign officials? 
  • Does Cohen believe that Trump or anyone associated with his campaign coordinated with a Russian effort to interfere in the U.S. election?

 -- House investigators are probing the president’s contacts with then-acting attorney general Matt Whitaker after reports that Trump asked Whitaker whether U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman could un-recuse himself to intervene in Cohen’s case. The Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Ballhaus and Dustin Volz report: “There is no sign Mr. Whitaker acted on any request from Mr. Trump … But the House Judiciary Committee is investigating whether Mr. Whitaker may have perjured himself in his appearance before the panel earlier this month, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. Mr. Whitaker told the panel: ‘At no time has the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel’s investigation or any other investigation.’ Any evidence that Mr. Trump sought to intervene in the federal prosecutors’ probe could propel further lines of inquiry by lawmakers into whether he has tried to obstruct the investigation into his business dealings.”

-- The Trump Organization asked the House Judiciary Committee to stop investigating the company, accusing the panel of hiring a lawyer with a conflict of interest. John Wagner and Tom Hamburger report: “In a letter Monday to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Trump Organization lawyer Alan S. Futerfas objected to the committee’s hiring of Berry H. Berke on the grounds that his law firm, Kramer Levin, has represented the Trump Organization on an array of issues. ‘This state of affairs violates recognized ethical obligations and irreparably taints the Committee’s work,’ Futerfas wrote … In a statement, Kramer Levin called the Trump Organization’s letter to Nadler ‘baseless’ and said Berke’s consulting work for the Judiciary Committee ‘complies fully with all applicable ethical rules, does not pose any conflicts of interest and respects any obligations the firm may have.’”

-- Trump has asked his outside legal team to remain with him as investigations continue to unfold. The Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng and Erin Banco report: “The president broached the topic of keeping his team together starting late last year, according to two sources familiar with the exchanges, by discussing other legal woes he might face after the Special Counsel’s Office submits its report to the Department of Justice. Trump’s focus at the time? The Southern District of New York. … Despite all the bustle surrounding the submission of a Mueller report, sources close to the president say Trump’s legal team remains focused on pending matters in New York, as well as preparing for whatever other legal fallout could come stemming from Mueller’s Russia investigation.”

-- Washington’s Prettyman Courthouse has become a public stage for the Mueller investigation. On days when Trump associates are questioned, more than a hundred people routinely line up to catch a glimpse of the action. Avi Selk reports: “The people came for Roger Stone’s hearing, as they have been coming to other Trump confidant hearings in this building for months — sleuthing for clues, or awaiting grand jury smoke signals, or simply compelled to be proximate to what could be the most potent criminal case since Watergate. … There were people in matching blue suits, in sloganed sweatshirts and sneakers. One man brought a guitar case for reasons unknown. Court security guards impersonated bouncers, snatching forbidden camera phones out of the queue and turning handbags inside out. Snippets of hazy, speculative chatter issued from the queuers, as if they were in line at a movie theater discussing the fate of some character: ‘I hope Roger gets a taste.’ ‘Roger is looking for the next piece.’ … The courthouse is also where Mueller’s grand jury regularly convenes behind closed doors with no public warning, weighing evidence the public may never see, making decisions that could affect the United States for years to come.”

In a new lawsuit, Alva Johnson alleges that Donald Trump kissed her against her will in 2016, an allegation the White House denies. (The Washington Post)


-- A former staffer on the president’s 2016 campaign has filed a lawsuit in which she claims Trump forcibly kissed her before a Florida rally. The White House denies it. Beth Reinhard and Alice Crites report: “In interviews and in the lawsuit, Alva Johnson said Trump grabbed her hand and leaned in to kiss her on the lips as he exited an RV outside the rally in Tampa on Aug. 24, 2016. Johnson said she turned her head and the unwanted kiss landed on the side of her mouth. In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders dismissed Johnson’s allegation as ‘absurd on its face.’ ‘This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eye witness accounts,’ she wrote. Two Trump supporters that Johnson identified as witnesses — a campaign official and Pam Bondi, then the Florida attorney general — denied seeing the alleged kiss in interviews with The Washington Post.

As recently as May 2017, Johnson spoke glowingly of Trump in a radio interview. ‘He is more incredible in person than I think you would even think as you see him on TV,’ she told the Alabama-based program ‘Politics and Moore.’ ‘He’s just the nicest guy. … He treats everyone as if they are a part of his family.’ She also said she expected to be given a job as the ‘second-in-command’ at the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon. ‘I will at some point be heading over to Portugal to work in the embassy,’ she said. The Post found the recording of the show after the first version of this story was published. One of Johnson’s lawyers, Hassan Zavareei, said that at the time of the radio interview, she was bound by a nondisclosure agreement and was ‘saying what she thought Trump and his supporters wanted.’ …

“Johnson said she told her boyfriend, mother and stepfather about the alleged kiss on the day that it occurred, an account all three confirmed to The Post. Two months later, Johnson consulted a Florida attorney; he gave The Post text messages showing that he considered her ‘credible’ but did not take her case for business reasons. The attorney gave Johnson the name of a therapist, whose notes, which The Post reviewed, reference an unspecified event during the campaign that had left her distraught. … Johnson, an event planner who lives in Madison County, Ala., is seeking unspecified damages for emotional pain and suffering. The federal lawsuit, filed Monday in Florida, also alleges that the campaign discriminated against Johnson, who is black, by paying her less than her white male counterparts. A campaign spokeswoman, Kayleigh McEnany, rejected that claim as ‘off-base and unfounded.’”

-- “The most legally significant aspect of Johnson’s suit may ultimately be something the complaint does not explicitly address: the pervasive use of nondisclosure agreements by Trump during his campaign and in his Administration,” Ronan Farrow adds in the New Yorker. “Johnson’s suit is at least the sixth legal case in which Trump campaign or Administration employees have defied their nondisclosure agreements. Three of those actions, including Johnson’s, were filed this month. ... Legal experts said that Johnson’s case, and the broader pattern of high-profile legal skirmishes over Trump’s use of nondisclosure agreements, could produce significant legal rulings and affect the President’s ability to enforce the contracts.”

-- Johnson’s attorney said Trump’s reaction to the violence in Charlottesville helped persuade her client to come forward. The Daily Beast’s Olivia Messer reports: “Zavareei said that Johnson watched—and suffered—with each national controversy, including when Trump enacted a policy of separating migrant children from their parents coming into the United States without documentation. ‘It made her feel like she had some responsibility, having worked on his campaign,’ said Zavareei.”


-- Justice Elena Kagan could cast the deciding vote in one of the year’s biggest cases: whether the Bladensburg Peace Cross dedicated to Marylanders killed in World War I stays or goes. Robert Barnes has a fun preview of oral arguments scheduled for tomorrow: “Kagan has emerged as one of the Supreme Court’s most powerful voices on the separation of church and state, often rebuking conservative colleagues for allowing government actions that she says favor one religion over another. But the last time the justices considered the fate of a cross constructed on public land, Kagan was on the other side of the bench and on one side of the issue. As President Barack Obama’s solicitor general, Kagan successfully defended a cross in the Mojave National Preserve, convincing the court’s conservatives that what she unwaveringly referred to as a ‘war memorial’ should remain as a tribute to the sacrifice of World War I dead. 

“One of only four women to serve on the Supreme Court, Kagan is the least in the public eye. Although she is consistently on the court’s left, she crosses over more often than the better-known Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. But she is a favorite of those who follow and practice before the court. Lawyers who argue conservative causes say she is the justice most likely to probe the weak spots of their cases. And law professors across the ideological spectrum praise her clear and often colloquial writing style.” 

-- Nikki Haley is launching a policy group as the former U.N. ambassador deflects questions about a potential 2024 presidential bid. Anne Gearan reports: “She insists she is not planning that far ahead, even as her range of activities suggest she is keeping her options open. … The organization’s initial list of subjects reflects Haley’s conservative worldview and political instincts, while its website features photographs of Haley traveling the world as U.N. ambassador and taking questions in the White House briefing room. The group’s policy positions mostly align with Trump’s, while also bearing echoes of traditional Republican views that have taken a back seat during the populist-flavored Trump era. She is tougher rhetorically on Russia than her former boss usually is and says she disagrees with Trump’s preference for punitive tariffs as a negotiating tactic in trade disputes.”

-- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has undergone a transformation from Trump’s virulent 2016 primary opponent to one of the president’s biggest backers, isolating some of his colleagues in the process. Mark Leibovich (of “This Town” fame) profiles Graham for Sunday’s New York Times Magazine:

  • Graham acknowledged he has cozied up to Trump to remain “relevant” ahead of his reelection bid next year: “‘Well, O.K., from my point of view, if you know anything about me, it’d be odd not to do this,’ he said. I asked what ‘this’ was. ‘This,’ Graham said, ‘is to try to be relevant.’ Politics, he explained, was the art of what works and what brings desired outcomes. ‘I’ve got an opportunity up here working with the president to get some really good outcomes for the country,’ he told me.”
  • The senator offered a calculated answer when asked whether he trusted Trump: “Graham’s eyes seemed to bulge for a split second. He sat back in his chair and paused. ‘That’s a good question,’ he told me. He paused some more. ‘Do I trust him?’ he said at last. ‘I trust the president to want to be successful,’ he said. The president’s mercurialness, he acknowledged, could be a problem.”
  • This combination of factors gave rise to the ‘What happened to Lindsey Graham?’ question, which has become synonymous enough with the South Carolinian’s national political identity that he felt compelled to own it on the stump. ‘What happened to me?’ Graham asked in Greenville. ‘Not a damn thing.’ The crowd gave him a standing ovation.”
  • Graham’s angry defense of Brett Kavanaugh has particularly affected the senator’s relationship with erstwhile Democratic allies: “Senator Chris Coons, the Delaware Democrat, told me that his longtime colleague is ‘hysterically funny’ and ‘personally engaging.’ But the personal nature of Graham’s outburst at the hearing left him stunned. ‘It was unprecedented,’ Coons said, adding that he and Graham did not speak for several weeks afterward. ‘I am still struggling to renew my working relationship with Senator Graham,’ he added.”

-- Former Fed chair Janet Yellen said she does not believe Trump understands macroeconomics. “I doubt that he would even be able to say that the Fed’s goals are maximum employment and price stability, which is the goals that Congress have assigned to the Fed,” Yellen said in a Marketplace interview. “He’s made comments about the Fed having an exchange rate objective in order to support his trade plans, or possibly targeting the U.S. balance of trade. And, you know, I think comments like that shows a lack of understanding of the impact of the Fed on the economy, and appropriate policy goals.” (Politico)

The Post’s Robert Barnes analyzes how states are passing laws restricting abortion rights and testing how the Supreme Court’s new conservative majority decides. (The Washington Post)


-- The Senate blocked a bill that would have punished doctors for failing to provide full medical care to a child born alive after an attempted abortion. Felicia Sonmez reports: “All but three Democrats voted against a procedural motion on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, denying it the necessary 60 votes to proceed. … The bill includes criminal penalties, a right of civil action for an affected mother and a mandatory reporting requirement for other health providers. Opponents of the bill argued that it represented an unjustified attack on abortion rights, preventing doctors from exercising their best medical judgment and exposing them to possible lawsuits or prosecution. … Several medical groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Women’s Association and the American Public Health Association … have publicly opposed the bill ... The Republican push to pass these bills follows efforts in New York and Virginia to roll back restrictions surrounding late-term abortions.

-- A federal judge said the bump-stock ban enacted by the Trump administration can stand. Meagan Flynn reports: “U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich found that the Firearms Policy Coalition and other groups did not put forth any convincing legal arguments in favor of stopping the Trump administration from carrying out the ban, which targets a device used in the 2017 Las Vegas massacre, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Friedrich, a 2017 appointee of President Trump to the District of Columbia, ruled it was ‘reasonable’ of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to conclude that a bump-stock, which uses the recoil energy from a rifle to automatically fire the next round, performs the same function as a machine gun and should therefore be banned just like machine guns under federal law.”

-- Several House Democrats requested information from the Pentagon on how it screens military recruits after service members were recently arrested in cases involving white supremacy. The lawmakers asked how these recruits were able to circumvent the military’s checks with their extremist views, which they said posed a “significant concern, particularly given their combat and weapons training.” (Dan Lamothe)

-- A 24-year-old Honduran woman’s pregnancy ended in a stillbirth while she was being held at an ICE detention center. Reis Thebault reports: “The woman ... was arrested near Hidalgo, Tex., on Feb. 18. She was six months pregnant at the time. Four days later, she went into labor and delivered a premature and unresponsive baby boy. Local doctors pronounced the newborn dead soon after. … ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection doesn’t count stillbirths as in-custody deaths; rather, they’re recorded in their own category, along with miscarriages. … The stillbirth will probably raise new questions about ICE’s policy of detaining pregnant women, which changed from a ‘presumption of release for all pregnant detainees’ after an executive order from President Trump directed the agency ‘to enforce the immigration laws of the United States against all removable aliens.’”

-- Border officials didn’t receive guidance on the “zero tolerance” policy until after Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen enacted it. From BuzzFeed News’s Hamed Aleaziz: “The guidance was delivered May 4, 2018, nearly a month after then-attorney general Jeff Sessions announced that Justice Department prosecutors would charge all individuals who crossed the southern border without authorization under a zero tolerance policy. Even then, the memo appeared to leave some room for confusion among officials, who said they would apply ‘common sense’ until additional clarification and guidance was issued.”

-- The Interior Department has given offshore oil drillers nearly 1,700 waivers to Obama-era safety regulations put in place after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. From Politico’s Ben Lefebvre: “The waivers mostly focused on 53 provisions of the final Obama-era rule that took effect at the end of July 2016 and which the industry had complained were the most burdensome. The Trump administration has begun to ease those provisions under its own rulemaking that began in May 2018. Those revisions are currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget. … BP, Chevron, Hess, Anadarko Petroleum and other companies that had applied for roughly 1,300 Gulf drilling permits during the 20-month period … More than a third of the 1,679 waivers granted during those 20 months allowed companies to deviate from regulations concerning tests that companies must perform on blowout preventers.”

2020 WATCH:

-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced she will not participate in a high-dollar fundraising program during her bid for the Democratic nomination. “Candidates spend too much time with wealthy donors, and I’ve made a decision to change that,” she wrote in an email to supporters. “That means no fancy receptions or big money fundraisers only with people who can write the big checks. It means that wealthy donors won’t be able to purchase better seats or one-on-one time with me at our events.”

Reading between the lines: “Warren has acknowledged in her fundraising emails that she hasn’t achieved her online targets, a problem confirmed by a person familiar with her campaign’s finances,” Annie Linskey reports. “The move will provide Warren’s camp with a ready-made excuse if her first-quarter fundraising totals are lower than expected. Those figures are released in mid-April and are traditionally seen as an early gauge of a candidate’s strength. … Closing the door to high-dollar events will put even more pressure on her to come up with smaller contributions.”

-- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he has already raised $10 million since announcing his bid last week. The New York Times’s Shane Goldmacher reports: “But perhaps just as daunting a figure for his rivals is this: Nearly 39 percent of those donors used an email address that had never before been used to give to Mr. Sanders. For Mr. Sanders, the flood of money from fresh email addresses suggested to his team that he was dramatically expanding a donor network that had already dwarfed his 2020 competition.”

-- Bernie is also preparing to release 10 years of his tax returns, according to the National Journal’s Hanna Trudo: “The display of personal financial transparency goes well beyond what the Vermont independent did during his 2016 presidential bid, when he failed to produce a comprehensive look at prior returns. … Sanders brought in roughly $1.75 million in book royalties across 2016 and 2017, on top of his $174,000 Senate salary. But he still ranks among the least wealthy senators, according to the most recent public data.”

-- During a CNN town hall last night, Sanders praised Trump for his willingness to meet with Kim. The senator also pledged to support the Democratic presidential candidate, no matter who it ends up being, and said that learning about allegations of sexual harassment within his campaign was very painful. He promised it “will not happen again.” (CNN)

-- Trump’s former deputy campaign manager David Bossie is using a collection of endorsements from prominent Maryland Republicans for the president’s reelection campaign to discourage Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) from a 2020 primary challenge. Jenna Johnson, Robert Costa and Arelis R. Hernández report: “Bossie, who is one of two Republican National Committee representatives for Maryland, spoke at the Montgomery County GOP Convention on Saturday. There he met privately with allies of the president to discuss assembling a statement that would send a clear signal to Hogan (R) about Trump’s support in the state as the governor mulls a 2020 bid … the statement, which is not yet finalized, is expected to express support for Hogan as governor while fully backing Trump in the 2020 presidential election. … Hogan criticized Bossie’s attempt to divide Republicans in his state. ‘These kind of heavy-handed tactics are not what we need in our politics. We should be focused on encouraging discussion and debate, not seeking to divide,’ Hogan said.”

-- Hillary Clinton is not running in 2020, but her presence is still felt. From the Times’ Shane Goldmacher and Lisa Lerer: “Whether it is building or deepening a relationship with Mrs. Clinton — or navigating or repairing a long-term one — the men and women in the 2020 race must grapple with how the 2016 nominee will factor into the next 18 months." Not everyone has reached out to Clinton, including Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke and, more notably, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. According to a Clinton strategist, she doesn’t plan on endorsing a primary candidate but will support the eventual nominee. 

-- Democratic campaigns are grappling with whether they should pursue the Rust Belt states that Trump carried in 2016 or chase Sun Belt states trending purple. The Times’s Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns report: “There is a growing school of thought that Democrats should not spend so much time, money and psychic energy tailoring their message to a heavily white, rural and blue-collar part of the country when their coalition is increasingly made up of racial minorities and suburbanites. … The dispute is not merely a tactical one — it goes to the heart of how Democrats envision themselves becoming a majority party. The question is whether that is accomplished through a focus on kitchen-table topics like health care and jobs, aimed at winning moderates and disaffected Trump voters, or by unapologetically elevating matters of race and identity, such as immigration, to mobilize young people and minorities with new fervor.”

-- On the other side of the aisle: Major GOP donors fear Trump will not be able to hold on to Rust Belt states in 2020. Politico’s Anita Kumar and Maggie Severns report: “Late last month, more than 100 major Republican donors gathered at the Trump International Hotel for a presentation from the president’s campaign manager Brad Parscale and other top political hands on their plans to keep the White House in 2020 after a brutal midterm election. … According to two attendees, campaign officials acknowledged that Trump is under-performing in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, though they said he is holding steady in Florida and trending upward in Ohio. But they offered no details on what they're doing to regain ground in the Midwest, the attendees said.”

-- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is making an early play for the support of grass-roots groups in South Carolina. The State’s Emma Dumain reports: “In interviews with nearly a dozen S.C. advocacy groups — many of them local chapters of national progressive organizations — representatives report they so far only have heard from the campaign of [Harris]. Harris’ strategy has been to reach out to these groups early, long before anyone is prepared to offer an endorsement, in hopes of laying the groundwork for future support. … So far, the strategy is paying off. Activists in the traditionally conservative state are excited about being courted, listened to and valued.”

-- Former White House official Anthony Scaramucci said Trump would be worried if former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg runs for president. Scaramucci said Bloomberg is “the one that the president would be quietly worried about” because he has the “mental discipline” to handle challenges posed by Trump. Bloomberg, a registered Democrat, hasn't announced his intention to run yet, but fellow billionaire Warren Buffett already said he will support his bid. (CNBC)

The United States and Latin American countries announced measures to exert further pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Feb. 24. (Reuters)


-- Vice President Pence announced new sanctions against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in the Trump administration’s latest effort to force the autocratic leader out of office. Anne Gearan, Anthony Faiola and Carol Morello report: “Pence arrived in [Bogota, Colombia] to reiterate that Washington will not back away from diplomatic confrontation. His trip comes as some in the Venezuelan opposition have begun openly calling for the use of 'force' to oust Maduro’s socialist government. Pence did not publicly back immediate military force, but he reiterated a long-standing administration stance that all options were being considered. … Pence later acknowledged to reporters that Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó has sought assurances that the United States could use force if necessary, but the vice president did not set a red line for that decision or hint at what he would recommend to Trump.”

-- Univision journalist Jorge Ramos and his team were detained at Maduro's presidential palace after showing him a video of Venezuelans eating out of a garbage truck, Ramos said. Reis Thebault, Michael Brice-Saddler and Eli Rosenberg report: “The group was freed shortly after, said Daniel Coronell, Univision’s president for news in the United States. Coronell said Venezuelan government officials confiscated the journalists’ equipment. Ramos, in a phone interview with Univision after he was released, said the interview with Maduro lasted about 17 minutes. 'He didn’t like the things we were asking him about the lack of democracy in Venezuela, about torture, political prisoners, the humanitarian crisis that they were living,' he said. ... Ramos said the interview they recorded was also taken.” 

This is the video that Ramos said upset Maduro: 

-- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made an unannounced visit to Iran to discuss U.S. policy with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani. From the AP’s Nasser Karimi and Albert Aji: “Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said Khamenei told the visiting Assad that ‘the buffer zone that Americans are after in Syria is among dangerous plots that should be rejected,’ and that the U.S. plan to maintain a presence in Syria near the Iraqi border ‘is another sample of their designs.’ … Assad accused the U.S. and its regional allies like Saudi Arabia of creating rifts among various religious and ethnic groups in Syria, saying such efforts have backfired.”

-- Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif abruptly resigned, via Instagram. Erin Cunningham and Carol Morello report: “The move by Zarif, a well-liked diplomat both at home and abroad, could upend Iran’s foreign policy at a critical time for the Islamic republic, which is suffering from renewed U.S. sanctions. … The reason for Zarif’s resignation was not disclosed. Nor is it clear whether top Iranian officials will accept the resignation, and there were immediately conflicting reports about whether President Hassan Rouhani had already rejected it. ‘He has handed in his resignation, but that doesn’t mean that this is the end of this story,’ said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council in Washington. … Zarif’s departure may be rooted in domestic issues, rather than foreign policy, because there are no significant prospects for negotiations on either Iran’s nuclear program or on the issues of concern to Europeans and Americans.”

-- U.S. senators predict a vote on whether to end U.S. involvement in Yemen as soon as next week. From Reuters’s Patricia Zengerle: “Officials from the U.S. State and Defense Departments met with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee behind closed doors on Monday to discuss the situation in Yemen, amid a months-long outcry in Congress about Saudi Arabia. ‘I don’t think they won any hearts and minds,’ Democratic Senator Chris Murphy told reporters as he left the briefing. Critics of Riyadh, including some of President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, have blasted a Saudi-led coalition waging an air campaign in Yemen’s civil war over high civilian casualties.”

-- China's Xi Jinping is nervous about the multiple major risks the Communist Party faces this year. The New York Times's Chris Buckley reports: Xi “abruptly summoned hundreds of officials to Beijing recently, forcing some to reschedule long-planned local assemblies. ... 'Globally, sources of turmoil and points of risk are multiplying,' he told the gathering in January at the Central Party School. At home, he added, 'the party is at risk from indolence, incompetence and of becoming divorced from the public.' ... There are no political challengers on the horizon who could pose an immediate threat to the Communist Party or Mr. Xi. But his remarks made clear that especially in 2019 — a year of politically sensitive anniversaries — the party would aggressively extinguish sparks that could ignite protests and turbulence.” 

-- Also nervous? U.S. businessmen in China. According to a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China, two-thirds of U.S. businesses in China have suffered as a result of the trade war between the world’s two largest economies. But there's still general support for the president's approach to Beijing. Anna Fifield reports: “Trump’s constant exhortations for American businesses to move their operations back home, coupled with Chinese [Xi’s] calls for 'self reliance,' have only exacerbated business concerns about a protracted trade war leading to what is sometimes called economic 'decoupling' — the world’s two biggest economies trying to separate from each other... Still, the American companies generally felt that the pain would be worth it if the Trump administration could force China to make structural changes in its economy that would create better business conditions.”

-- The Post is launching a fellowship in honor of the paper’s late contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Arabian writer and activist Hala Al-Dosari was named the first recipient of the fellowship, which offers a platform for journalists who come from parts of the world where freedom of expression is restricted.

-- Israel leader Benjamin Netanyahu's opponent Benny Gatz is surging in polls after joining forces with the country's second-largest opposition party. Alon Yakter and Mark Tessler explain why: “Gantz’s centrist political party, Blue and White, leads the opposition despite being particularly vague on Israel’s most important ideological cleavage: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In what has become something of a joke, Gantz has both stated that he would seek peace through compromise with the Palestinians and has run graphic ads boasting of the damage inflicted on Palestinians in Gaza during his time as head” of the Israel Defense Forces.


Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said he would travel to Alabama to draw attention to voting rights as he mulls a presidential campaign:

Dozens of young protesters demanding action on the Green New Deal were arrested outside Mitch McConnell's office:

A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff offered this insight:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg offered her opinion on her former colleague Anthony Kennedy:

2020 hopeful Julián Castro doubled down on his comments in support of reparations: 

Bernie Sanders's deputy chief of staff pointed this out:

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle called for the release of Jorge Ramos from detention in Venezuela. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) scoffed at the suggestion the U.S. had orchestrated the incident:

And in a tweet in Spanish, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez (D) called Maduro's actions "repugnant": 


-- The Verge, “The Trauma Floor: The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America,” by Casey Newton: “It’s a place where, in stark contrast to the perks lavished on Facebook employees, team leaders micromanage content moderators’ every bathroom and prayer break; where employees, desperate for a dopamine rush amid the misery, have been found having sex inside stairwells and a room reserved for lactating mothers; where people develop severe anxiety while still in training, and continue to struggle with trauma symptoms long after they leave; and where the counseling that Cognizant offers them ends the moment they quit — or are simply let go. The moderators told me it’s a place where the conspiracy videos and memes that they see each day gradually lead them to embrace fringe views. One auditor walks the floor promoting the idea that the Earth is flat. A former employee told me he has begun to question certain aspects of the Holocaust.”

-- “At Deadspin, can the cool kids of the sports Internet become its moral authority?” by Ben Strauss: “In its early years, Deadspin was an irreverent boys club. It called out the stuffiness of ESPN’s analysts and exposed network executives for having an extramarital affair … As its national profile grew exponentially, it also suffered from charges of sexism and homophobia, crossing journalistic lines and moral lines — with few apologies. … These days, the most shocking and paid-for scoops in sports typically are found at TMZ, while a coterie of other outlets and reporters thoroughly cover ESPN and provide the media criticism Deadspin made famous. Deadspin has evolved into an unabashedly progressive voice in sports and beyond. … Deadspin is currently for sale by parent company Univision, but even as it wrestles with the uncertain economics of digital media, there is a more fundamental question for the site. The enfant terrible has grown up: Is the new version righteous or self-righteous?”

-- The Guardian, “A young woman vanishes. The police can't help. Her desperate family won't give up,” by Kate Hodal: “There is no single database that tracks the number of Native women who go missing or are murdered every year. But FBI figures show that Native Americans disappear at twice the per capita rate of white Americans – despite comprising a far smaller population. Last year, after more than two dozen Native Americans, most of them women, went missing in Montana alone, state senator Jon Tester declared the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) across America an ‘epidemic’ and vowed to find solutions. ‘People ask me: “Why are these women going missing? Is it the cartels?”’ says cartographer Annita Lucchesi, a Southern Cheyenne descendant who is building the first ever US- and Canada-wide database devoted solely to missing and murdered indigenous women. 'It’s not the cartels – although that does happen – it’s the devaluation of Native women.'"


“Trump Jr.: You would be shot in 'two seconds' for wearing Trump hat in Chicago,” from Politico: “Donald Trump Jr. claimed Monday that anyone wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat in Chicago would be shot in ‘two seconds,’ as he continued to bash ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett for allegedly staging an attack by Trump supporters. During an interview on ‘Fox and Friends,’ Trump's eldest son claimed that he had been censored on social media after he ‘sarcastically’ tweeted about Smollett's assault, which was later alleged to have been orchestrated by the actor. ‘Man, I'm really shocked that people in downtown Chicago, in the coldest night of the year, weren't actually there wearing MAGA hats,’ Trump Jr. said … ‘You know, if you wear a MAGA hat in downtown Chicago, you probably wouldn’t last too long, OK, about two seconds before you get shot,’ Trump Jr. continued.”



“Ocasio-Cortez says there is a ‘legitimate question’ that needs to be asked: ‘Is it okay to still have children?’” from Fox News: “Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said young people have to ask a ‘legitimate question’ in the wake of climate change and mounting student loan debt: ‘Is it okay to still have children?’ In an Instagram Live video over the weekend, Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., welcomed supporters into her kitchen—and gave a ‘special hello to my haters’—while she made chili and poured herself a glass of white wine. ‘Our planet is going to face disaster if we don’t turn this ship around,’ she said, as she chopped sweet potatoes. ‘And so it’s basically like, there is a scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult and it does lead, I think young people, to have a legitimate question. Ya know, should—is it okay to still have children?’”



Trump is in Hanoi.

Pence is back from Colombia and will participate in a Senate Republican policy lunch. 


“In hindsight, I wish every day for a George Bush again. I think he and I had our differences, but no one ever questioned his patriotism.” — Former Senate majority leader Harry Reid on CNN.



-- The wind is winding down and the rest of the week should be calmer, but prepare for potential snow on Thursday or Friday. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “After a windy start to the week, our weather calms down for a few days with seasonably cool conditions. But then the next storm system complicates the weather late Thursday into Friday. We could see some snow or mixed precipitation before milder weather and rain late Friday into Saturday.” 

-- A white Maryland lawmaker apologized to the leaders of the state's Legislative Black Caucus after allegedly using the n-word with her colleagues. Ovetta Wiggins reports: “Caucus members confronted Del. Mary Ann Lisanti (D) on Monday night over allegations that she told a white colleague, during an after-hours gathering at an Annapolis cigar bar, that when he campaigned in Prince George’s on behalf of a candidate last fall he was door-knocking in a 'n----- district.' ... Her apologies came after each of the seven members of the caucus’s executive committee told her how they felt upon learning that their colleague allegedly used the racial slur.” 

-- Overwhelmingly white school districts received $23 billion more in state and local funding than predominantly nonwhite school districts in 2016, according to a new report. But school district organization in states such as Maryland and Virginia make funding more equitable. Laura Meckler reports: “The problem is worse in states where districts are small, cordoning off wealthy communities and limiting the likelihood that wealthier taxpayers will subsidize poorer students, said Rebecca Sibilia, EdBuild’s chief executive. In states such as Maryland and Virginia, she said, many school districts are comprised of entire counties, making funding more equitable. In Maryland, 880,000 students are served by just 24 districts, vs. New Jersey, where 1.3 million students are divided between 540 districts. Nonwhite districts in Maryland received $501 more per student than white districts, and in Virginia, they got $255 more per student.” 


Trevor Noah rounded up all the stories about alleged sex crimes making headlines worldwide: 

Stephen Colbert shared what Trump's golf simulator might look like if it were programmed in the interest of national security: 

The group Republicans for the Rule of Law released a video criticizing Trump's emergency declaration: 

Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Tex.) produced a video featuring some well-known faces, like Beto O'Rourke and Stacey Abrams, to promote their anti-corruption bill:

Russian state television said Moscow would target the Pentagon, Camp David and a naval communications base in Washington state in the event of a nuclear strike:

Russian state television said Moscow would target the Pentagon, Camp David and a naval communications base in Washington state in the event of a nuclear strike. (Reuters)

-- Walter Pincus notes this morning that Trump appears, ironically, to have taken a more conciliatory tone toward Kim even as North Korea has come meaningfully closer to full nuclear capability than when he was threatening to rain down “fire and fury.” In his column for the Cipher Brief, the dean of the national security press corps observes that the contours of the tentative deal that the Trump administration is negotiating with Kim “sounds very much like” the ill-fated 1994 framework that Bill Clinton agreed to with Kim Jong Il: “Kim and his representatives have been offering up Yongbyon in private conversations since last June’s US-North Korea summit. … In short, dismantling Yongbyon facilities, should that happen, would not close down North Korean production of weapons-grade fissile materials. … Like his father before him, Kim Jong-un has paused to see what he can get from the U.S. and its allies, based on the substantial advances he has made in becoming a world nuclear player.” 

-- The North Korean leader’s arrival has sparked a culture clash between the American press and Kim’s affinity for obedient, state-controlled media. David Nakamura and John Hudson report: “Kim was staying at the Melia hotel tower in the heart of the city, but the hotel also happened to have been booked by the White House as the filing center for the traveling press corps to cover the summit. Not long before Kim arrived, a notice was distributed to the press corps that the filing center would be moved to a separate filing center for the international press corps at the Cultural Friendship Palace. ... That left the U.S. press contingent scrambling to make the move. Television network producers had spent weeks setting up cameras, lights, monitors and other equipment shipped halfway across the world. A person with knowledge of the situation said the networks were told they could no longer do liveshots from the Melia, although the correspondents booked to stay in the hotel were not told they had to leave.” 

-- More team coverage:

Simon Denyer: “The grand bargain in Hanoi takes shape, but can Trump and Kim close the deal?”

Adam Taylor: “What Trump and Kim agreed to at their first meeting — and what actually happened afterward.” 

Sal Rizzo: “Trump’s imaginary numbers on military aid to South Korea.” 

Yoichi Funabashi: “Poor Japan-South Korea relations weaken Trump’s hand with Kim.” 

-- The plot thickens: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the Trump administration has been asking for Moscow’s advice. From the AP: “Lavrov, who is also visiting Vietnam this week, said in comments carried by Russian news agencies on Monday that Russia believes that the U.S. ought to offer Pyongyang ‘security guarantees’ for the disarmament deal to succeed. He also mentioned that ‘the U.S. is even asking our advice, our views on this or that scenario’ of how the summit in Hanoi could pan out.”

And a father put a microphone on his 4-year-old son to capture his thoughts during hockey practice. The resulting video has already attracted more than 3 million views on YouTube: