With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort faced up to 24 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines for the bank and tax fraud he was convicted of in Virginia, but U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis said that would be “excessive.” Last night, Ellis sentenced Manafort to just under four years.

Manafort, 69, sat in a wheelchair and wore a green jumpsuit as he pleaded for “compassion” from Ellis, who is 78. The defendant thanked the judge for giving him a fair trial. “To say that I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement,” Manafort said.

Ellis defended his decision by noting that Manafort has no prior convictions. “He’s lived an otherwise blameless life,” the judge said, adding that anyone who doesn’t think the sentence is tough should “go and spend a day [or] a week in jail … He has to spend 47 months.”

Rachel Weiner, who has spent a lot of time watching Ellis as our beat reporter in his courthouse, said what surprised her the most was that the judge usually places a high degree of importance on a defendant’s acceptance of responsibility. He even called out Manafort yesterday for not doing so, yet he didn't punish him for it.

-- A chorus of Democratic presidential candidates quickly seized on the news to offer broader critiques of the justice system.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said the federal guidelines are “there for a reason” and that the criminality Manafort was convicted of played out over several years. “Crimes committed in an office building should be treated as seriously as crimes committed on a street corner,” said Klobuchar, who was the district attorney for the county that includes Minneapolis before winning her seat in 2006. “Can’t have two systems of justice!”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said he is “really ticked off” but no longer surprised by white-collar criminals getting treated better than the poor and people of color. “You can tell a lot about a country by who they incarcerate,” Booker told Stephen Colbert in a taped interview that will air tonight on CBS. “In Russia, they incarcerate political opposition. In Turkey, they are actually incarcerating the media. … But in our country, we prey on the most vulnerable citizens in our nation: poor folks, mentally ill folks, addicted folks and overwhelmingly black and brown folks.”

Booker, the former mayor of Newark, lamented the costs of the war on drugs. “There are people from neighborhoods like mine in America who get convictions for doing things that two of the last three presidents admitted to doing,” he said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) pointed to the plight of a specific nonviolent drug offender: 

-- Criticizing Manafort’s sentence, Monica Lewinsky said Ken Starr’s team threatened her with 27 years in prison if she didn’t flip on Bill Clinton:

-- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who is too young to run for president but gets as much coverage as any of the candidates, said the case proves that justice isn’t blind:

--Manafort has already spent nine months in jail — meaning the sentence imposed Thursday could end in less than three years, with an additional reduction for good behavior. … But he still faces sentencing for related conspiracy charges in a case in D.C. federal court — in which he could receive an additional 10-year prison term,” Weiner, Lynh Bui, Justin Jouvenal and Devlin Barrett report.

The onetime GOP power broker will find out his fate in that case next Wednesday. The judge is Amy Berman Jackson. Appointed by Barack Obama, she’s also presiding over Roger Stone’s case. She has the discretion to decide whether the sentences will run simultaneously or back to back. This will make a big difference in how much time Manafort spends behind bars.

Special counsel Bob Mueller wants to throw the book at Manafort after he allegedly reneged on a plea deal in the D.C. case. At yesterday’s hearing, Manafort’s attorneys said their client spent 50 hours in proffer sessions with Mueller’s team for the D.C. case. Prosecutor Greg Andres replied that it was worthless. “He did not provide valuable cooperation,” Andres said. “He lied.”

-- A string of defense attorneys, especially public defenders, pointed to much harsher sentences doled out to people for non-white-collar crimes than what Manafort got from Ellis. Mueller’s team laid out evidence during the Virginia trial that Manafort, by concealing $16 million in income, didn’t pay $6 million he would have owed in federal taxes, among other crimes.

“Scott Hechinger, a senior staff attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services, an organization that provides legal representation to defendants who cannot afford it, used one of his recent clients, who was just offered a 36-to-72-month sentence, as an example. The crime? Stealing $100-worth of quarters from a residential laundry room. Hechinger’s client may wind up doing more time than Manafort, a man who defrauded the Internal Revenue Service out of $6 million,” Reis Thebault and Michael Brice-Saddler report. “Hechinger listed a half dozen more examples. Among them were a Brooklyn teenager who got a 19-years-to-life sentence for burning a mattress in the hallway of his apartment building, resulting in the smoke-inhalation death of an officer who responded to the scene. He also cited the case of Cyrstal Mason, an ex-felon who was sent back to prison for five years after voting in the 2016 presidential election while on probation — an act she says she didn’t know was illegal.”

Louis Laverone, an international financial crimes attorney, pointed to the case of a Turkish banker who was charged with participating in a multibillion-dollar scheme and violating U.S. economic sanctions. In that case, guidelines called for a possible 105-year sentence. He got 32 months.

-- In years past, Ellis has complained about – but complied with – mandatory minimum sentences set by Congress. But there are no mandatory minimums for the crimes Manafort was convicted of. Last summer, Ellis sentenced a 37-year-old man to 40 years of hard time for dealing methamphetamine. “I chafe a bit at that, but I follow the law,” Ellis said when he handed down the sentence, per Politico’s Josh Gerstein. “If I thought it was blatantly immoral, I’d have to resign. It’s wrong, but not immoral.”

-- The Atlantic’s Frank Foer, who wrote a truly exceptional cover story about Manafort last year, upbraided the judge over his statement that the convict “has lived an otherwise blameless life.”

“In an otherwise blameless life, he helped the Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos bolster his image in Washington after he assassinated his primary political opponent,” Foer writes in a blog post that went up overnight. “In an otherwise blameless life, he worked to keep arms flowing to the Angolan generalissimo Jonas Savimbi, a monstrous leader bankrolled by the apartheid government in South Africa. … In otherwise blameless life, he produced a public-relations campaign to convince Washington that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was acting within his democratic rights and duties when he imprisoned his most compelling rival for power. In an otherwise blameless life, he stood mute as Yanukovych’s police killed 130 protesters in the Maidan. …

“In an otherwise blameless life, he attempted to phone a potential witness in his trial, so that they could align their stories. … In an otherwise blameless life, he acted with impunity, as if the laws never applied to him. … And with Ellis’s featherweight punishment, … Manafort managed to bring his life’s project to a strange completion. He had devoted his career to normalizing corruption in Washington. By the time he was caught, his extraordinary avarice had become so commonplace that not even a federal judge could blame him for it.”

-- The Washington Post yesterday asked the federal court in D.C. to unseal records in Manafort’s case. “At issue are redacted or sealed filings, sentencing memos, hearing transcripts and more than 800 pages of exhibits submitted after the special counsel’s office alleged in November that Manafort voided his cooperation agreement,” Richard Leiby reports. “Prosecutors submitted the materials to substantiate their allegations but did so under seal or with heavy redactions, arguing that information related to uncharged individuals or ongoing criminal investigations, including secret grand jury matters, should not become public.”

Statement from Post Executive Editor Martin Baron: “The long-standing principle of open criminal proceedings deserves to be sustained in this important case, especially considering that it comes in the context of an investigation into the integrity of a presidential election and relentless attacks on the investigation itself.”

FOLLOW THE MONEY:

-- Senior Democratic investigators are moving to open an oversight probe into whether Ivanka Trump has benefited personally from her position as a White House senior adviser, including through Chinese regulators’ approval of trademarks for her apparel company. “But investigating Ivanka Trump is so politically sensitive that Democrats are proceeding with caution,” Rachael Bade, Phil Rucker and Josh Dawsey report. “It is unclear even which House committee would take the lead; aides for several panels with jurisdiction suggested that other committees may be better suited to probing the president’s eldest daughter. … (The president) has said privately he does not want his children testifying on Capitol Hill or providing documents to their investigations. … 

Last May, China approved more than a half-dozen Ivanka trademarks around the time Trump shielded a major Chinese state-owned equipment company from U.S. sanctions. The year before, Ivanka’s clothing line saw the same trademark boon the same day she dined with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. … Abbe Lowell, the attorney for Ivanka Trump, did not respond to a request for comment.”

Top Democrats said yesterday that Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, will not get special treatment. “Whomever falls into that net, falls into that net,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “They are advisers to the president. They have security clearances. This is not their children at home.” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) added: “They have to be as accountable as everybody else. We’ve got to do our job.”

-- A White House source reportedly leaked documents related to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s security clearance process to the House Oversight Committee. (Axios)

-- Michael Cohen sued the Trump Organization to cover millions of dollars in legal fees. Felicia Sonmez reports: The president's former fixer “said in a lawsuit filed Thursday in New York that the Trump Organization had breached a July 2017 agreement under which it agreed to cover the costs Cohen incurred while participating in ongoing investigations into his work for the company. Cohen is seeking more than $1.9 million in attorneys’ fees as well as an additional $1.9 million that he has been ordered to pay as part of his sentence for crimes he committed while working for Trump. … It alleges that after initially paying some of Cohen’s legal fees, the Trump Organization stopped paying him in June 2018, once it ‘became clear that Mr. Cohen would cooperate in ongoing investigations into his work’ on behalf of the company and Trump.”

-- Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg is well known among his colleagues for being dependable to the point of dullness, but the congressional investigations could force him into the limelight. The AP’s Bernard Condon reports: “The modest money man has always been content to work behind the scenes, with no hint of flash, braggadocio or ostentatious spending. … But Weisselberg also has his name on all manner of checks and documents of the company going back decades, is familiar with its tax returns, its lenders and investors, and is said to track every penny going in and out.”

-- A federal judge tossed out Stormy Daniels’s lawsuit against Trump seeking to tear up their hush-money settlement. The California judge said the suit was irrelevant because Trump and Cohen didn’t penalize Daniels for violating a nondisclosure agreement she signed in exchange for a $130,000 payment. Daniels wanted the agreement to be declared illegal so she could talk freely about her alleged affair with Trump. (AP)

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GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Facebook announced it will crack down on anti-vaccine misinformation being spread on its platform. The social media giant said it would use machine learning and manual human review to quash anti-vaccine hoaxes, including the totally discredited myth that vaccines cause autism. (BuzzFeed News)

  2. High-ranking Pentagon officials pledged to address problems plaguing privatized military housing. During a Senate hearing, officials proposed a tenants’ bill of rights for military families, many of whom have complained about vermin, lead paint and mold in their residences. (Paul Sonne)

  3. Ralph Hall, the oldest congressman in House history, died at 95. The Republican from Texas, a former Navy pilot, served 17 terms. (Emily Langer)

  4. Total household net worth fell during the last quarter of 2018 by the largest amount in 10 years. During that period, it fell by about $3.7 trillion, a 3.5 percent quarterly decline. (Christopher Ingraham)

  5. Six-year-old AJ Hernandez, the youngest victim of last weekend's Alabama tornadoes, was killed while seeking shelter in a closet with his father and brother. After the twister tore through the Hernandez house, AJ’s father and brother were badly injured and brought to the hospital. The young boy’s body was not discovered until later that day. (Sarah Kaplan)

  6. The South could see a new round of damaging thunderstorms this weekend. The forecast is far from certain, but it appears the region could be struck by more dangerous winds and, potentially, tornadoes. (Ian Livingston)
  7. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station will participate in the first all-female spacewalk, which coincides with Women's History Month. Anne McClain and Christina Koch will venture out of the station together with other women controlling the mission. (Kayla Epstein)

  8. Samuel Alito told Congress the Supreme Court will not televise hearings in the foreseeable future, despite this being a common request, arguing that it would lead to “irresistible” attorney grandstanding. Elena Kagan said John Roberts is also studying whether the court should have its own ethics code. (Robert Barnes)

  9. Elon Musk might lose his security clearance from the Pentagon after the billionaire smoked marijuana on a podcast last year. Musk has a secret-level clearance because he’s the CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (Bloomberg News)

  10. Disgraced pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli continues to weigh in on decisions at his former company from prison. Shkreli has used a contraband smartphone to remain up to date on business matters at Phoenixus AG, even going as far as to fire the drug company’s chief executive over the phone a few weeks ago. (Wall Street Journal)

  11. A Vermont town elected a goat as its honorary mayor. The Nubian goat named Lincoln will become the first honorary pet mayor of Fair Haven, a town with no human mayor. (AP)

  12. A high school teacher in Georgia won $10,000 for reading the fine print of her travel insurance policy. The insurance company Tin Leg was trying to encourage customers to read their full contracts by offering the money to the first person who emailed about a provision titled “Pays to Read,” and 59-year-old Donelan Andrews reached out before any other policyholder. (Allison Klein)

  13. A “Simpsons” episode featuring Michael Jackson’s voice will be pulled from circulation. James Brooks, the show’s executive producer, said removing the episode “feels clearly the only choice to make” after he watched the HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland,” in which two men credibly allege that Jackson molested them. (Wall Street Journal)

A DIVIDED AMERICA: 

-- The House overwhelmingly passed a broad, watered-down “anti-hate” resolution that was originally intended as a response to allegedly anti-Semitic comments from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) but that wound up not mentioning her. Mike DeBonis, Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner report: “The 407-to-23 vote capped days of frustration and anger over the comments by [Omar] that have overshadowed Democratic policies — both legislation and investigations — and raised questions about whether [Pelosi] could keep her fractious caucus together.” In the end, no Democrats opposed the measure — including Omar — while all 23 "nay" votes were Republicans.

  • The final version included a wide array of groups: “The resolution was revised shortly before the vote to add Latinos, Asian Americans and LGBT people to a list of groups subject to hate. The resolution condemned anti-Semitism and discrimination against Muslims in equal measure, a shift from a draft circulated Monday that rebuked only anti-Semitism.”
  • Republicans heavily mocked the Democrats over the fight. But the bill ended up splitting Republicans: “Reps. Lee Zeldin (N.Y.) and Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the GOP conference chairwoman, said the resolution should have dealt only with anti-Semitism. Rep. Peter T. King (N.Y.) and others objected to language dealing with law enforcement profiling, and Rep. Mo Brooks (Ala.) said he was ‘shocked’ that the measure ‘refused to similarly condemn discrimination against Caucasian Americans and Christians.’”
  • Behind the scenes, Democratic aides worked around the clock to draft a proposal that would unite everyone: “As recently as Wednesday night, Democratic aides played down the potential for quick action after a rancorous closed-door caucus meeting earlier in the day exposed the raw divide between members. But, according to aides involved in the process, members and staff worked through the night to draft a broader repudiation of hatred — motivated, in no small part, by the belief that the internal crisis would only worsen if left unaddressed.”
  • “Omar remained silent Thursday as she attended the morning meeting and evening votes in the House. After the vote, she issued a statement with fellow Muslim Reps. André Carson (D-Ind.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) calling the vote ‘historic on many fronts’ for denouncing ‘all forms of bigotry.’” Many called it tone-deaf. 

-- House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) attracted controversy before the vote by claiming that Omar’s experience with hate as a refugee was “more personal” than that of the children of Holocaust survivors. Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis report: “In the interview with the Hill, Clyburn said he had spoken at length with Omar, who was born in Somalia and fled with her family to a refu­gee camp in Kenya where she lived for four years as a child. She ‘is living through a lot of pain,’ Clyburn told the newspaper, drawing a contrast between Omar’s firsthand experience and the perspectives of those whose parents or grandparents survived the Holocaust or other historical atrocities. ‘There are people who tell me, ‘Well, my parents are Holocaust survivors.’ ‘My parents did this.’ It’s more personal with her,’ Clyburn said in the interview.”

-- “Only one thing can save Trump now: Democrats,” Dana Milbank writes of the whole ugly squabble.

-- Two officials at ICE shared or approved of social media posts that spread false conspiracy theories about Omar. BuzzFeed News’s Hamed Aleaziz reports: “A post shared on LinkedIn by senior ICE agent Leslie Derewonko and ‘liked’ by Jerry Templet, the second-in-command of Homeland Security Investigations in San Francisco, insinuated that [Omar] was a terrorist threat. The post described Omar as a ‘trojan horse’ who came to the US because of a ‘refugee outbreak’ under former president Barack Obama, to which Derewonko commented, ‘And this is what represents America?’ … Derewonko has been a prolific LinkedIn user, sharing and commenting on posts that have stated or insinuated that so-called caravans of Central American migrants were part of an Election Day ‘false flag’ and that the caravan was the UN’s ‘invading force.’”

-- Students at the Sidwell Friends School in D.C., one of the most elite private schools in the country, displayed swastikas during an assembly presentation about a student-run nonprofit that works to help refugee children. Students were allowed to use their phones to send responses to an interactive quiz displayed during the presentation, but the projections were quickly turned off when an administrator saw that two of the students’ usernames included swastikas, Perry Stein reports. “Several other usernames expressed racist views of Asians and Native Americans. ... ‘I am disappointed, dismayed, and deeply sorry that such an incident could take place at our School,’ Bryan Garman, the head of the school, wrote in the letter to Sidwell families. ‘Racism and ­anti-Semitism will not be tolerated in this community.’”

-- A black student was picking up trash outside his residence in Boulder, Colo., when a cop called for backup after questioning him. The Boulder Police Department is investigating after a video surfaced showing that at least one officer drew his gun. Kayla Epstein reports: “In the 16-minute video, which appears to have been taken by a friend and fellow building resident after the encounter began, the man can be seen holding a bucket and a trash picker. ‘You’re on my property with a gun in your hand threatening to shoot me because I’m picking up trash?’ the man with the trash picker says. The man being questioned repeatedly says of the officer, ‘He’s got a gun!’ ‘Just relax, man,’ the officer responds as sirens are heard and more officers arrive and surround him.”

-- A jury found a fired police officer guilty of manslaughter and attempted murder in the shooting death of a stranded black motorist. “It is the first time in 30 years that an officer in Florida has been convicted of an on-duty shooting,” Katie Mettler notes. Nouman Raja, 41, faces life in prison. The former Palm Beach Gardens police officer was fired shortly after the [2015] shooting. [Corey] Jones, 31, a well-known musician in the South Florida community, had been on his way home from a Saturday night gig with his band when his car broke down on an Interstate 95 off-ramp.”

-- A Catholic school in Kansas is refusing to enroll the kindergarten-aged child of a same-sex couple. Deanna Paul reports that more than 1,000 people have urged the school to change its mind: “In a letter sent to the parents of students at St. Ann Catholic School in Prairie Village, the Rev. Craig J. Maxim explained that he had sought the archdiocese’s opinion on the matter: ‘Same sex unions are not in conformance with the Church’s teachings’ … Maxim’s congregants circulated a petition to neighboring Catholics in protest of the decision. ... [It says] the decision ‘lacks the compassion and mercy of Christ’s message.’”

JOE BIDEN’S PAST WILL COME BACK TO HAUNT HIM IF HE RUNS:

-- As the former vice president moves toward a campaign announcement in early April, his long paper trail of comments on race and gender that put him deeply at odds with today's Democratic Party will enter heavier circulation and could imperil his third try for the presidency. Matt Viser has an important story in today's newspaper about Biden's role, while a freshman senator from Delaware in the 1970s, as a leading opponent of school busing. He spoke out repeatedly and forcefully against sending white children to majority-black schools and black children to majority-white schools. Not only did Biden play down the persistence of overt racism, in fact, but he also suggested the government should play only a limited role in integration. “Biden, 76, declined to be interviewed for this article. But his spokesman, Bill Russo, said the former vice president still believes he was right to oppose busing,” Matt reports. Keep that in mind as you read these quotes from the story:

“I do not buy the concept, popular in the ’60s, which said, ‘We have suppressed the black man for 300 years and the white man is now far ahead in the race for everything our society offers. In order to even the score, we must now give the black man a head start, or even hold the white man back, to even the race.’ I don’t buy that,” Biden told a Delaware-based weekly newspaper in 1975. “I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather. I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation. And I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.”

  • Biden dismissed government efforts to impose diversity in schools: “We’ve lost our bearings since the 1954 Brown vs. School Board desegregation case,” he said in the same interview. “To ‘desegregate’ is different than to ‘integrate.’ … I am philosophically opposed to quota systems. They insure mediocrity.”
  • If anything, he said, it was busing plans that were racist: “The new integration plans being offered are really just quota systems to assure a certain number of blacks, Chicanos, or whatever in each school. That, to me, is the most racist concept you can come up with,” Biden said. “What it says is, ‘In order for your child with curly black hair, brown eyes, and dark skin to be able to learn anything, he needs to sit next to my blond-haired, blue-eyed son.’ That’s racist! Who the hell do we think we are, that the only way a black man or woman can learn is if they rub shoulders with my white child?” (Read the full 1975 interview.)

-- In a 1993 speech, Biden warned of “predators on our streets” who were “beyond the pale.” CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reports: “Biden, then chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, made the comments on the Senate floor a day before a vote was scheduled on the Senate's version of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. … ‘We have predators on our streets that society has in fact, in part because of its neglect, created,’ said Biden, then a fourth-term senator from Delaware so committed to the bill that he has referred to it over the years as ‘the Biden bill.’ ‘They are beyond the pale many of those people, beyond the pale,’ Biden continued. ‘And it's a sad commentary on society. We have no choice but to take them out of society.’”

-- Hmmm: While Biden has bragged for at least a decade that his Senate colleagues derisively called him “Middle-Class Joe,” there is no evidence that anyone has ever actually done so, HuffPost’s Arthur Delaney reports

-- Meanwhile, Wall Street executives are pinning their hopes on Biden after Michael Bloomberg said he won't run, Vanity Fair’s Tina Nguyen reports.

2020 WATCH:

-- Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) announced that he won't run in 2020. David Weigel and Chelsea Janes report: "Brown, who had never seriously considered a presidential bid until urged to do so after the 2016 election, found that he did not have the same investment in a run as other Democrats. He was also encouraged on hearing several rival candidates adopt his ‘dignity of work’ motto on the trail, seeing that as evidence that the party was not making the same blunders that it had ahead of Trump’s win."

-- The two biggest winners from Sherrod’s decision not to run: Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer.

  • Bernie's allies saw Brown as a potentially grave threat. He's a younger, fresher voice who doesn't generate the same electability concerns because he's won repeatedly in a presidential battleground. He's also been a strong ally of organized labor, consistently opposed trade deals and voted against the Iraq War.
  • Schumer was worried that a Brown candidacy could make it harder to realize his dream of becoming Senate majority leader in 2021. Had Brown run and won the presidency, Ohio’s Republican governor would have appointed his replacement.

-- Brown will continue to be a force in the Senate: The 66-year-old is the top Democrat on the Banking Committee.

-- Former attorney general Eric Holder said the next Democratic president should “seriously” consider packing the Supreme Court. The Daily Beast’s Sam Stein reports: “The comments came during a discussion Holder held with the Yale Law National Security Group. There was no recording of the event and only a snippet of what Holder said was tweeted out publicly. But a spokesman for Holder confirmed to The Daily Beast that he did embrace the idea of court-packing. … Holder’s willingness to entertain the idea of court packing makes him one of the most senior Democratic officials to do so. To date, virtually all elected Democrats have either ignored the proposal or dismissed it out of hand. The one 2020 Democratic candidate who has said that court packing should be a consideration is South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.”

-- Unlike many of her primary competitors, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) has so far failed to pick up endorsements from her fellow New York lawmakers. The New York Times’s Shane Goldmacher reports: “No one from New York’s 21-member congressional delegation is yet backing her bid for president. And neither is New York’s governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, or its other senator, Chuck Schumer, who as minority leader is staying neutral because numerous senators are in the race. … Ms. Gillibrand’s missing support back home is revealing of both her New York relationships and how she has constructed her national profile, often by staying far from the state’s notoriously fractious and rough-and-tumble fray. … It’s not that Ms. Gillibrand and her aides have not been trying. This week, she invited the full New York delegation to her Washington home next Wednesday for drinks. It’s just that no endorsements have materialized so far.”

-- Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) is positioning himself to launch a presidential campaign focused on criticizing Trump’s national security agenda. The Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere reports: “Moulton told me he will run through VFW halls and college campuses, leaning in on a national-security focus which, even in a field this huge, he is all alone in focusing on—a stance that not only differentiates him, but could eventually draw the others out on foreign affairs. … Moulton has set his timeline for making a final decision at two months, by about May. He hasn’t started fundraising or hiring a staff. But he’s acting as if he has already entered the race. On March 19 and 20, he’ll be in South Carolina … and he has plans to visit the other early-primary states by the end of April.”

-- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) wants to decriminalize sex work. BuzzFeed News’s Dominic Holden reports: “Gabbard’s embrace of the issue comes just days after Sen. Bernie Sanders was asked for his position and didn’t have one. ‘That’s a good question, and I don’t have an answer for that,’ he told The Breakfast Club.” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) opposed a sex work decriminalization measure in 2008, but when asked by the Root last month whether she supports decriminalization now she said “I think so. I do.”

-- “Howard Schultz has recruited at least three veteran House Republican staffers and consultants to join his presidential campaign-in-waiting,” per the Hill’s Scott Wong: “They include Brendon DelToro and Matt LoParco, who served as deputy political director and external affairs director, respectively, to former National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) during the 2018 cycle. A third Schultz hire, GOP consultant Greg Strimple, founder of GS Strategy Group, has done polling and other consulting for the NRCC, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund. … In an interview, Stivers said former NRCC staffers are free to do what they want but called it ‘frustrating’ that some would choose to work for a man who is looking to oust Trump next year.”

-- Good history lesson: Trump has revived the old Republican jab of referring to the Democratic Party as the “Democrat Party.” Paul Farhi reports: “References to ‘the Democrat Party’ — and variants in which ‘Democrat’ is used as a modifier — have been around for decades, rising and falling over the years. … According to the late New York Times political columnist and language aficionado William Safire, Minnesota Gov. Harold Stassen (R) urged Republican nominee Wendell Wilkie to use the phrase during the 1940 presidential campaign. Stassen, who managed Wilkie’s campaign, told Safire in 1984 that he did so to emphasize that the Democratic Party wasn’t especially democratic — that it was controlled by party bosses and big-city political machines.”

-- Trump’s CPAC speech revealed he will continue to focus on appealing to his base in 2020 at the expense of moderate voters, Ronald Brownstein writes for the Atlantic: “Trump may have synthesized the essence of his reelection strategy in just three words toward the back end of his two-hour harangue: ‘I’ll protect you.’ … The comment underscored his determination to convince his followers of a two-stage proposition: First, that they are ‘under siege,’ as he put it, by an array of forces that he presented as either hostile to their interests or contemptuous of their values, and second, that only he can shield them from those threats. That dark and martial message shows that Trump continues to prioritize energizing his core supporters—blue-collar, older, and nonurban whites uneasy about demographic, cultural, and economic change—even at the price of further alienating voters dismayed or disgusted by his behavior as president.”

-- Beto O’Rourke’s team is already looking for possible staffers in New Hampshire, sources told WMUR’s John DiStasoPeople close to O’Rourke have reportedly reached out to strategists in the Granite State as the former Texas congressman continues to hold off on a presidential campaign decision.

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- As its self-described caliphate falls, the Islamic State is seeding sleeper cells across parts of Syria and Iraq for a future insurgency. Louisa Loveluck reports: “Conditions in Deir al-Zour province, where the Islamic State is mounting its final stand, remain unusually fertile for the militants. Clandestine cells are active in several areas, where shattered villages and vast tracts of desert are difficult to police, experts say. Across the porous border in Iraq, the central government has regained control over areas once occupied by the militants. But corruption and sectarian discrimination remain a problem, and the long-standing mistrust between residents and state security forces — which fueled local support for the Islamic State in the past — has not gone away.”

-- Fearing a darkening global economy driven by a slowdown in China, plus Brexit and Trump’s trade wars, the  European Central Bank unveiled a new economic rescue package and cut its 2019 growth forecast by nearly one-third. The announcement sounded alarms about a looming global slowdown that caught many off guard. David J. Lynch reports: “‘It’s a highly significant move,’ said Adam Tooze, a Columbia University historian and author of ‘Crashed,’ a history of recent financial crises. … Despite the accumulation of bad news, the global economy is still likely to grow this year. The bigger concern is that central banks like the ECB have little ammunition to fight a deeper downturn, whether triggered by events in Europe or elsewhere. … In the United States, the Fed’s benchmark lending rate is less than one-half what it was on the eve of the global financial crisis. So Chair Jerome H. Powell would have little room to cut rates to spur growth if a recession occurs.”

-- A massive power outage has left much of Venezuela in the dark, shutting down the capital’s metro and sending thousands of people into the streets as the South American nation remains in a political standoff. Venezuelan authorities called the outage an act of “sabotage” without providing any evidence. (Mary Beth Sheridan)

-- At the White House, Trump hosted Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis. Anne Gearan reports: “Trump has hosted several right-leaning populist or nationalist Eastern and Central European leaders at the White House in recent months, including 32-year-old Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in February … Kurz’s anti-immigration platform, coalition with a far-right party and general willingness to challenge German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s views endeared him to Trump, who exclaimed about Kurz’s youth during their Oval Office photo op."

-- North Korea’s state-run news service condemned the United States over its scaled-back military exercises with South Korea. Denyer reports: “The exercise, called Dong Maeng, or ‘Alliance,’ began on Monday and is running until March 12. … North Korea routinely condemns any joint exercises conducted by the United States and South Korea and denounced South Korean independent air force exercises in December. But the latest statement is notable for its timing and forcefulness about the latest war games. ‘It is a violent violation of the joint declarations and statements that North Korea reached with the U.S. and South Korea,’ KCNA wrote. … Meanwhile, satellite images released Thursday showed North Korea appeared to have completed rebuilding work at a satellite rocket launchpad and engine test site.”

-- The U.S. is asking North Korea for access to a missile base that Pyongyang appears to be rehabilitating and that the U.S. once thought was shut down. Wall Street Journal’s Michael R. Gordon reports: “The State Department official said the U.S. wasn’t certain why the activity was taking place and was monitoring it closely. He added that the U.S. would continue to press for access to the site as part of a larger effort to eliminate the North’s nuclear weapons and long-range missile programs." 

-- The administration is planning on demanding that countries hosting U.S. troops pay the full price of having American soldiers on their soil plus an extra 50 percent fee. Bloomberg News’s Nick Wadhams and Jennifer Jacobs report: “Officials caution that the idea is one of many under consideration as the U.S. presses allies to pay more, and it may be toned down. Yet even at this early stage, it has sent shock waves through the departments of Defense and State, where officials fear it will be an especially large affront to stalwart U.S. allies in Asia and Europe already questioning the depth of Trump’s commitment to them. … Critics argue that the demand also misreads the benefits that overseas troop deployments bring to the U.S."

-- Former president Jimmy Carter, who once brokered a nuclear deal with Kim's grandfather, reportedly offered to visit North Korea to once again try to break the nuclear stalemate. Politico’s Carla Marinucci reports: “Carter, now 94, no longer travels but told [Rep. Ro] Khanna (D-Calif.) that he would go to North Korea if the Trump administration wanted his assistance. Khanna noted that Carter is ‘perhaps the only person in the nation’ who had direct contact and negotiations with Kim’s grandfather, a revered figure in North Korea."

-- China’s top diplomat said he backs Huawei’s fight against the U.S. government and praised the company for “refusing to be victimized.” With his remarks, Foreign Minister Wang Yi marked the first time the Chinese government addressed a lawsuit filed this week by the tech giant in which it argued that the U.S. unfairly stigmatized it by claiming it posed an espionage threat. (Gerry Shih)

THE IMMIGRATION WARS:

-- Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the Pentagon is planning on diverting $1 billion in leftover funds from military pay and pension accounts to help pay for Trump's wall. The AP’s Andrew Taylor and Lisa Mascaro report: “Durbin said the funds are available because Army recruitment is down and a voluntary early military retirement program is being underutilized. … Durbin said, ‘Imagine the Democrats making that proposal — that for whatever our project is, we’re going to cut military pay and pensions.’ … The Pentagon is planning to transfer money from various accounts into a fund dedicated to drug interdiction, with the money then slated to be redirected for border barriers and other purposes."

-- Though the administration has yet to identify which specific military projects will be tapped to pay for the wall, the White House continues pressuring undecided Republicans to support the president’s emergency declaration. Erica Werner and Seung Min Kim report: “Many Senate Republicans say that they would like more information before they decide whether to vote to protect Trump’s emergency declaration, such as ... whether a military project in their home state would be affected. ‘I’m not aware that anybody has seen it yet,’ said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, referring to a list of military projects. ‘I think there would be a lot of our members who will be concerned about voting on this before they’ve seen that.’ … GOP senators on Thursday were discussing whether they could revise the disapproval resolution to constrain the emergency powers available to presidents.”

-- Congress and the Department of Homeland Security inspector general have begun investigating whether U.S. border agents have been targeting journalists and activists involved with the migrant caravan after reports surfaced of a list of 59 reporters, lawyers and activists who were pulled aside for further screening after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. NBC’s Julia Ainsley reports: “The House Homeland Security Committee, led by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D.-Miss.), asked CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan to provide a copy of the list with the 59 names, a copy of any dossiers on the individuals, an explanation of why each person was included on the list, an account of who had been stopped for screening and an account of any cell phone seizures.”

-- Thousands of migrant children might soon be detained on military bases. The Daily Beast’s Spencer Ackerman reports: “Once again, the Pentagon has been asked to identify military bases for the detention of thousands of migrant children, a spokesperson said Thursday. Lt. Col. Jamie Davis announced that on March 5, the Department of Health and Human Services requested the Pentagon ‘identify space to house up to 5,000 unaccompanied alien children on DoD installations, if needed, through September 30, 2019.’”

MORE ON THE NEW CONGRESS:

-- House Democrats are expected to today pass their sweeping ethics and elections bill H.R. 1. The proposal, which is considered dead on arrival in the Senate, would create a system to publicly finance congressional campaigns. Mike DeBonis reports: “The legislation also calls for making Election Day a national holiday, requiring presidential candidates to release 10 years of their tax returns, and automatic voter registration. It stands no chance in the Republican-controlled Senate, where [Mitch McConnell] vehemently opposes the legislation and said this week he wouldn’t even allow a vote. But advocates of campaign finance reform say it is a watershed to have near-universal support for public financing among Democrats after 45 years of failed attempts.”

-- House Democrats are seeking records from the Trump administration’s handling of the Time-Warner merger deal that could show whether President Trump or his allies interfered in the regulator’s review of the $85 billion deal. Brian Fung and Tony Romm report: “In a pair of letters sent to Justice Department antitrust chief Makan Delrahim and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, top Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee requested documents and communications logs between Trump and senior officials — including Gary Cohn, the former director of the National Economic Council. … The letters underscore how exposed the White House remains to a deeper investigation of Trump’s interest in the AT&T-Time Warner deal, even as the two companies have completed their merger and survived court challenges by the government.”

-- A Trump administration official said firing commercial air guns underwater to search for oil-and-gas deposits would have no effect on whales, so Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) blasted him with an air horn. Darryl Fears reports: “As committee members engaged in a predictable debate along typical party lines — Republicans in support of testing and President Trump’s energy agenda, Democrats against it — Cunningham reached for the air horn, put his finger on the button and turned to [the official Chris] Oliver. ‘It’s fair to say seismic air gun blasting is extremely loud and disruptive ... is that correct?’ the congressman asked. ‘I don’t know exactly how loud it is. I actually never experienced it myself,’ Oliver replied. So Cunningham gave Oliver a taste of the 120-decibel horn. … ‘Was that disruptive?’ Cunningham asked. ‘It was irritating, but I didn’t find it too disruptive,’ Oliver said.”

-- Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) has immediately become a central figure in the debate over how to combat military sexual assault after disclosing her own rape and arguing that such cases should be kept in the chain of command. Paul Sonne and Seung Min Kim report: “The military justice system gives the commanders rather than outside prosecutors the power to decide how and whether to pursue a criminal case regarding sexual assault. Critics of that setup, including [Gillibrand], say victims don’t trust the chain of command to deliver justice and often fear retaliation or bias. … Previous attempts by Gillibrand to change that system were met with opposition from members of her own party, including most prominently former senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) … While Gillibrand intends to reintroduce her legislation, McSally showed signs on Wednesday that she would take up McCaskill’s mantle.”

-- Eric Murphy, a 36-year-old lawyer who repeatedly led proposals to make it harder for people to vote, was confirmed by the Senate to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. From the HuffPost’s Jennifer Bendery: “Murphy is perhaps best known for defending Ohio’s notorious voter purge law before the Supreme Court in 2018, arguing that the state should be able to drop people from its voter rolls if they don’t vote for six years and don’t respond to a postcard asking them to confirm their address. … Murphy is the third of three U.S. circuit court nominees who Republicans confirmed this week. All three are young, right-wing ideologues who are members of the conservative Federalist Society, which has been driving Trump’s judicial selection process by funneling anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ prospective nominees to the White House.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said that Manafort's legal team appeared to be angling for a pardon despite his lenient sentence:

From a member of the New York Times editorial board:

From an MSNBC host:

From a former federal and state prosecutor:

From an Obama-era Justice Department spokesman:

A House Republican mocked how expansive the anti-hate resolution became:

The former U.N. ambassador and governor of South Carolina condemned the House majority whip's controversial comments before the vote:

The House speaker's daughter highlighted the Republicans who voted against the resolution:

Former KKK grand wizard David Duke endorsed Rep. Ilhan Omar's comments on Israel:

A New York Times reporter previewed upcoming congressional testimony:

A Post reporter provided an update on Roger Stone's criminal case:

A reporter for a Mexican newspaper expressed skepticism about his government's explanations for reports of journalists and activists linked to the migrant caravan being tracked:

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) met with a top immigration official as he prepares for a potentially difficult reelection next year:

Joe Biden's former chief of staff reacted to reports of Jared Kushner shutting out U.S. diplomats in Saudi Arabia:

Columnist Connie Schultz, who is married to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), reflected on his decision to not run for president:

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) applauded his colleague's work after he said he would remain in the Senate:

Brown's digital director was awed by his commitment to his Senate work:

A New York Times reporter added this quip:

A C-SPAN social media specialist looked at how frequently Biden pops up in the network's archives:

A Post reporter analyzed polling data from the Midwest:

Sen. Kamala Harris proposed a memorial for another black woman who ran for president decades before her:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) bragged about her constituents:

And a Post reporter captured this moment on Capitol Hill:

GOOD READS:

-- New York Times, “Why Birthrates Among Hispanic Americans Have Plummeted,” by Sabrina Tavernise: “It is a story of becoming more like other Americans. Nearly two-thirds of Hispanics in the United States today are born in this country, a fact that is often lost in the noisy political battles over immigration. Young American-born Hispanic women are less likely to be poor and more likely to be educated than their immigrant mothers and grandmothers, according to the Pew Research Center, and many are delaying childbearing to finish school and start careers, just like other American-born women.”

-- “The Stevens — Soderbergh and Spielberg — defined late-20th-century film. Can they agree on its 21st-century future?” by Ann Hornaday: “It’s somehow fitting that the two men who defined late-20th-century American filmmaking are now embodying the debate over what 21st-century filmmaking should look like. … While Spielberg was creating cinema’s culture of hyper-commercialized spectacle, Soderbergh was helping to resuscitate the American indie … Spielberg has been criticized — even ridiculed — for his devotion to tradition. But deeper than trying to shore up shaky business models or outmoded canonical standards, his anxieties speak to something even platform agnostics like Soderbergh can understand. What Spielberg is missing, and mourning, is the sense of occasion that has historically defined film as an aesthetic experience.”

-- New York Times, “Thousands of New Millionaires Are About to Eat San Francisco Alive,” by Nellie Bowles:“Big wealth doesn’t come in monthly paychecks. It comes when a start-up goes public, transforming hypothetical money into extremely real money. This year — with Uber, Lyft, Slack, Postmates, Pinterest and Airbnb all hoping to enter the public markets — there’s going to be a lot of it in the Bay Area. … Welcomed finally into the elite caste who can afford to live comfortably in the Bay Area, the fleet of new millionaires are already itching to claim what has been promised all these years. They want cars. They want to open new restaurants. They want to throw bigger parties. And they want houses.”

-- Politico Magazine, “How Trump is like JFK,” by John F. Harris: “In the years that followed JFK’s death, the personal and professional distance between presidents and the working press in general has steadily widened. Oval Office tapes from Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency reveal him constantly wooing media types like columnist Mary McGrory. But he became deeply embittered when most coverage turned negative late in his presidency over Vietnam and urban rioting, and he launched a sarcastic Trump-style personal attack on Walter Lippmann, a columnist who turned critical despite constant behind-the-scenes wooing by LBJ. … Trump, on the other hand, seems interested in media figures precisely because of their immersion in the daily rumpus.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“U.S. Cancels Journalist’s Award Over Her Criticism of Trump,” from Foreign Policy: “Jessikka Aro, a Finnish investigative journalist, has faced down death threats and harassment over her work exposing Russia’s propaganda machine long before the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. In January, the U.S. State Department took notice, telling Aro she would be honored with the prestigious International Women of Courage Award, to be presented in Washington by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Weeks later, the State Department rescinded the award offer. A State Department spokesperson said it was due to a ‘regrettable error,’ but Aro and U.S. officials familiar with the internal deliberations tell a different story. They say the department revoked her award after U.S. officials went through Aro’s social media posts and found she had also frequently criticized [Trump].”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Utah teacher forced student to wash off Ash Wednesday cross on forehead, family says,” from Fox News: “A Utah elementary school teacher apologized to one of her Catholic students Wednesday -- and may still face disciplinary action -- after she forced him to wash off the Ash Wednesday cross on his forehead, the boy’s family said. William McLeod, a fourth grader at Valley View Elementary School, received the ash marking -- made in the shape of a cross and applied by a priest --  for the Catholic religious day that signals the start of the Lenten season and then went to school in Bountiful … William's teacher, who was not identified, later approached him and forced him to wash off the symbol, he said. … Davis School District’s spokesman Chris Williams apologized for the incident and said an investigation is being conducted.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump and the first lady will visit tornado-stricken Lee County, Ala., briefly before heading to Mar-a-Lago, where he will participate in a fundraising event.

Pence and the second lady are traveling to Ohio, where the vice president will speak at the Ohio Oil and Gass Association annual meeting. They will later fly to Kentucky, where Pence will speak at a GOP event. 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“How long does it take to figure out, just don’t hate? How many pages does it take to cite ill and evil? Evil is evil.”  Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) on the Democrats’ anti-hate resolution. (Mike DeBonis, Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner)

 

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

-- It might snow today and then rain on Saturday, but it looks like Sunday will be warm. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Clouds hang tough with a few rain and/or snow showers starting later in the morning. Perhaps midday downtown. Grassy accumulations are possible, mainly north and west of town. As the afternoon progresses, more rain may mix in. The commute looks wet versus icy, but if snow should come down heavier for a time, it could briefly impact travel in a few spots. Mid-to-upper 30s may be as high as temperatures can get.”

-- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) took to the Senate floor to demand that the FBI answer his questions about the investigation into the 2017 death of Bijan Ghaisar, who was shot and killed by two Park Police officers in Fairfax, Va. Tom Jackman reports: “In December, more than a year after the fatal shooting, Grassley sent a letter to the FBI asking whether the investigation was complete. The senator also asked whether the FBI would commit to providing its report to the Senate Judiciary Committee when the investigation was concluded. … The FBI has not responded to the letter, despite about six follow-up inquiries, Grassley spokesman Taylor Foy said. On Thursday Grassley began by asking ‘why I can’t get answers for citizens of the United States for the murder of a son.’ He noted that Ghaisar’s family ‘has been looking for answers but they have only encountered silence.’”

-- The Maryland House passed an aid-in-dying bill, but its path to becoming law remains unclear. Ovetta Wiggins reports: “The 74-66 vote was a major victory for advocates who have tried for years to get Maryland to join several other states and the District in allowing doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medicine to terminally ill patients. The bill now moves to the Senate, where its fate is unclear. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has not said whether he would veto the bill or allow it to become law, should it clear both chambers.”

-- Police arrested a fugitive on the FBI's most-wanted list in connection with a murder in New Jersey who is now linked to a murder in D.C. Peter Hermann, Clarence Williams and Lynh Bui report: "Lamont Stephenson’s alleged D.C. victim, Natina Kiah, was working as a security guard at a homeless shelter, her family said, and met Stephenson in recent weeks while he was staying there. Her body was found stabbed in her bedroom in Southeast on Wednesday night, along with her cat, according to police and family members. ...  The arrest brought Stephenson’s years on the run in a 2014 New Jersey case to a halt. Authorities said he now is in the hands of federal authorities. It was unclear when he would make an appearance in the D.C. case or be returned to New Jersey." 

-- The little girl who was critically injured last summer by an electric shock at MGM National Harbor still cannot speak or walk. A lawyer for Zynae Green’s family, who is suing MGM, said she is receiving 24-hour care in her home after the then-6-year-old was jolted while playing on a lighted handrail. (Rachel Chason and Dan Morse)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Late-night hosts reacted to Paul Manafort's sentence: 

Stephen Colbert noted the irony of Trump accusing Barack Obama of being a "terrible student" while he attempted to bury his academic records. 

Jimmy Kimmel shared clips from Kim Jong Un's Hanoi visit video: 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) explained his opposition to Trump's emergency declaration:

The Post's Moscow correspondent explained how a stray cat became a mascot for one of Vladimir Putin's most controversial projects:

Two Indian lawmakers got into a footwear fight:

And a debate broke out on the House floor over the band Nickelback: