Distaste for Trump has made a swath of party regulars and Democratic-leaning independents more open-minded about ideas and approaches that they dismissed as far-fetched and unrealistic not long ago.
“I used to think you have to be pragmatic. I just don’t believe that anymore. A lot of it is because of Trump,” said Brigid McNamee, 58, a librarian at a public school in Concord who voted for Clinton over Sanders in the 2016 primary. “I am so disgusted and outraged. I’m just disgusted by all the lies and corruption. It’s mind-blowing every day what that man and his administration are doing.”
McNamee swept her arm through the air as if she were pushing all the plates off a table onto the ground. She recently saw Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) speak at a meet-and-greet. He was nice and impressive, but she concluded his approach is insufficiently bold to heal the national wounds opened by Trump.
“I’m a more moderate person, but I feel compelled to support a revolution now because of him,” she said. “It’s got to be a revolution. That’s the only way.”
After watching Sanders speak for an hour in a Concord ballroom, her husband agreed. “You can’t brush your teeth too many times a day to get rid of this [Trump] taste,” said John King, 79, a retired teacher who also backed Clinton over Sanders last time. “The important thing to remember is this country was born in a revolution, and we need another one now. This time you don’t need muskets. You need ballots.”
Sanders bested Clinton by 22 points in the Granite State three years ago. Eleven months is an eternity in politics, especially during the fast-paced Trump era. A lot can — and will — change between now and next February. The 77-year-old benefits from high name recognition, but he cannot count on supporters staying loyal as fresher faces file through town. Bernie’s inroads with folks who didn’t support him in 2016, however, suggest that he has a genuine opportunity to broaden his appeal and credibly compete for the nomination despite persisting resistance from the party establishment.
Kimberly Pudlo-Schirmer voted for Clinton in the 2016 primary because she wanted to break the ultimate glass ceiling and elect a woman as president. She wore an “I’m with her” sweatshirt to Sanders’s afternoon rally at a Courtyard Marriott near the State Capitol in Concord. But the 50-year-old said she won’t vote for any of the women seeking the Democratic nomination in 2020. “I’m one of the ‘hindsight is 20/20’ people,” she said. “I’m definitely going to vote for Bernie. I do like them all, but the only one I see who really understands the middle class is Sanders.”
Pudlo-Schirmer said her job as a paramedic and her husband’s ongoing fight against lupus have given her a firsthand window into the dysfunctional health-care system. Her thinking has changed in recent years, and she now believes the only tenable solution is Medicare-for-all. “There’s a lot of really fractured stuff I see,” the resident of Northwood said. “This would give a lot of people hope.”
Mark King, a Democratic state representative from Nashua who volunteered for Sanders in 2016, said he was pleasantly surprised by how many fresh faces he saw on Sunday who weren’t involved before. “I knocked doors for Barack Obama for a couple cycles, and this is different,” said King, 56. “This is conceptually different. We’re building a movement. It’s truly beautiful.”
Something working to Sanders’s advantage right now is how many liberal activists — emboldened by the party’s success in the midterms and the president’s low approval rating — believe that basically any of their candidates could beat Trump next year. This is a debatable proposition, and Trump’s team sees it as its ticket to a second term, but the mentality makes people more inclined to get behind the most ideological candidate who is promising the biggest change. Electability is less of a concern at this juncture than it might become if Trump’s standing rebounds.
“When you live in an unprecedented moment, you need to have an unprecedented response,” Sanders said in Concord. “That’s what this campaign is about.”
-- Despite a heavy snowstorm on Sunday morning that created whiteout conditions on the roads for a few hours, Sanders drew an impressive crowd of 850 in Concord and another 1,000 people to a late-afternoon rally at a theater on Main Street here in Keene.
He made only one passing reference to Clinton. “We won more votes from young people than Trump and Clinton combined,” Sanders said, referring to the 2016 primaries.
But the senator, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, went on an extended riff about how many of the ideas he ran on before are now widely embraced by his 2020 rivals, from raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour to Medicare-for-all, a trillion-dollar infrastructure package and repudiating support from super PACS.
“When we first came to New Hampshire in 2015 to campaign, we were 30 or 40 points behind in the polls,” he said. “Further, the ideas that we were then talking about were considered by the establishment politicians and the establishment media as just too radical.”
Doing an impression of his critics, Sanders said they would ask him: “Bernie, what are you smoking?”
“And that is another issue that was considered to be too radical,” he continued, making a tongue-in-cheek reference to his early support for legalizing marijuana and ending the war on drugs.
He led the crowds in a call and response, saying an idea and the crowd yelling, “Too radical!” Then he argued at length that none of these ideas should be considered radical, from creating a universal pre-K system to making public colleges tuition-free or creating a federal jobs guarantee. “It’s hard for me to imagine that anybody thinks it’s a radical idea to take good care of our children,” he said. “It’s not a radical idea.”
“It is not a radical idea” was his refrain.
-- Sanders isn’t wrong that many Democrats have come his way on these and other issues. Several 2020 candidates, in fact, have based their campaigns on the assumption that they can co-opt his agenda and poach his followers by slightly repacking his ideas as their own. Most of them have moved leftward since 2016, racing to catch up with the grass roots.
The senator is already facing attacks from his left flank that he never had to worry about in 2016. Julián Castro, the former HUD secretary who is waging a long-shot presidential campaign, slammed Sanders on CNN’s “State of the Union” yesterday for opposing reparations. “What he said on ‘The View’ the other day was that he didn’t think the best way to address this was for the United States to write a check,” Castro said, referring to the legacy of slavery. “It’s interesting to me that, when it comes to Medicare-for-all, the response there has been, ‘We need to write a big check.’ When it comes to tuition-free or debt-free college, the answer has been, ‘We need to write a big check.’ … And so, if the issue is compensating the descendants of slaves, I don’t think the argument about writing a big check ought to be the argument that you make — if you’re making an argument that a big check needs to be written for a whole bunch of other stuff.”
-- Make no mistake, Sanders is not moderating. He remains a pitchfork-wielding populist as much as ever and fluently speaks the language of class warfare. In his speeches yesterday, he promised to wage total war against a dizzying array of powerful interest groups, from big banks to private prisons and large tech companies. Sanders said he’ll go after insurance companies to create universal care, the pharmaceutical lobby to lower drug prices, defense contractors to unravel the military-industrial complex, oil companies to combat climate change and big agribusinesses like Monsanto to help family farmers.
At times, Sanders speaks as if these deep-pocketed interests collude in the shadows to suppress the proletariat. He believes a popular movement, bigger than any single campaign, is needed to neuter them. “They are the 1 percent,” he said. “We are the 99 percent.”
“Let them feel the Bern,” a man yelled from the crowd.
Sanders then noted that he raised more than $10 million from small-dollar donors during his first week as a candidate, with an average donation of around $25, and added that 1.1 million people have already signed up online to volunteer for his 2020 campaign. He walked offstage to John Lennon’s 1971 “Power to the People.”
Unlike most of his Democratic opponents, who are trying to introduce themselves to voters on their own terms, Sanders makes attacking Trump a pillar of his stump speech. He said the president and “the billionaires” who support him “have had some success … dividing us up.” He said “kleptocracy and greed” have been animating principles for the administration. The senator predicted that these forces will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to stop him from winning the White House and to thwart his agenda. “They use that money to buy politicians,” he said. “Are you ready to get involved in that struggle? This is not just rhetoric.”
-- Sanders, who is from neighboring Vermont, leaned heavily on his home-field advantage during the first foray of the year into New Hampshire. He noted that he has four children and 7 grandchildren, three of whom live in New Hampshire. “I know that we New Englanders are hearty souls, but we didn’t expect this many people,” he said, referring to the snow. “We in New England have a heritage we are very proud of, and I’m not talking about the Patriots.”
Several folks I spoke with in Keene were longtime Bernie fans who drove in from Vermont or Massachusetts. They can’t vote in next February’s first-in-the-nation primary, but they’re eager to knock doors. It’s hard to guess how many people in the large crowds came from outside the state.
Brooke Hanson, 28, used to be a teacher. Now she works in the cannabis industry. She lives in New Bedford, Mass., but braved the snow to see Sanders at both of his rallies on Sunday. She drove up here four years ago to cheer him on as well. “People were laughing at a lot of what he said back then,” Hanson recalled. “They’re not ‘crazy’ ideas anymore. Now they’re common sense.”
MORE ON 2020:
-- “Trump and his advisers are launching a behemoth 2020 campaign operation combining his raw populist message from 2016 with a massive data-gathering and get-out-the-vote push aimed at dwarfing any previous presidential reelection effort,” Toluse Olorunnipa and Josh Dawsey report. “Trump’s advisers also believe the Democratic Party’s recent shift to the left … will help the president and other Republicans focus on a Trumpian message of strong economic growth, nationalist border restrictions and ‘America First’ trade policies. Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan will become, in signs and rally chants, ‘Keep America Great!’
- “The president’s strategy, however, relies on a risky and relatively narrow path for victory, hinged on demonizing Trump’s eventual opponent and juicing turnout among his most avid supporters in Florida, Pennsylvania and the Upper Midwest — the same areas that won him the White House but where his popularity has waned since he was elected. Some advisers are particularly concerned about the president’s persistent unpopularity among female and suburban voters, and fear it will be difficult to replicate the outcome of 2016 without [Clinton] as a foil. Campaign officials have also begun preparing for attacks on any politically damaging findings by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
- “The reelection effort has already raised more than $100 million … Officials said the operation is targeting 23 million key voters in swing states such as Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. The campaign also plans to enlist more than 1 million volunteers using a vast database of supporters who have attended Trump’s raucous political rallies over the past two years. The president will kick off a heavy rotation of such rallies in battleground states in coming weeks … The campaign, with headquarters in Arlington, Va., has already announced a national press team and, one official said, plans to create a unit for the sole purpose of waging war against the news media.
- “Trump recently received an extensive slide-show briefing on the campaign effort in the White House residence and has taken intense interest in the details of the battle to come … He regularly quizzes advisers about potential foes ... and about individual battleground states, such as Pennsylvania and Florida. He also has asked aides about the perceived popularity of his positions, such as his vow to remove troops from Syria, and is an avid consumer of polling data.”
-- A Des Moines Register-CNN poll of Iowa Democrats shows Joe Biden and Sanders atop the pack of 2020 candidates, with 27 percent and 25 percent respectively. The Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel reports:
- A solid majority say Biden should get in the race: “Seventy percent of respondents say they believe Biden’s political views are neither too liberal nor too conservative, but instead, are ‘about right’ — the highest percentage of any candidate tested. And 64 percent — including a majority in every demographic group — say they think Biden’s experience is an asset and he should enter the race.”
- But significant portions of the electorate say the time for a Biden or Sanders presidency has passed: “A majority — 54 percent — agree that Sanders’ 2016 candidacy ‘has pushed the party in a good direction, and he should be in the race again.’ But 43 percent say the time for Sanders as a candidate has passed and he should not be in the race. More are open to a Biden run. Nearly two-thirds say he should get in the race, and 31 percent say his time has passed.”
- For now, thanks partly to name ID, Biden and Bernie remain well ahead of every other declared candidate: “The next-closest challenger, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, trails Sanders by 16 percentage points. California Sen. Kamala Harris is in fourth place ... at 7 percent.”
-- While Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) spent last summer pressing Congress to update its sexual harassment policies, a mid-20s female aide in her office resigned in protest over the handling of a sexual harassment complaint she made. Politico’s Alex Thompson and Daniel Strauss report: “In July, the female staffer alleged one of Gillibrand’s closest aides — who was a decade her senior and married — repeatedly made unwelcome advances after the senator had told him he would be promoted to a supervisory role over her. … Less than three weeks after reporting the alleged harassment and subsequently claiming that the man retaliated against her for doing so, the woman told chief of staff Jess Fassler that she was resigning because of the office’s handling of the matter.”
The woman wrote a letter to the Senator’s office explaining her disappointment with the way the issue was handled after giving her three weeks notice. The office didn’t answer. Back then, Gillibrand defended her office’s handling of the incident and the male aide kept his job. However, when Politico “presented the office with its own findings of additional allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct” by the male aide, Abbas Malik, Gillibrand’s office opened a new investigation and dismissed him.
-- During a televised CNN town hall last night, Pete Buttigieg attacked Vice President Pence, a fellow Hoosier. The mayor of South Bend, Ind., said the former governor stopped “believing in scripture when he started believing Trump.”
-- Tulsi Gabbard declined to say whether she thinks Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a war criminal. “I think that the evidence needs to be gathered, and as I have said before, if there is evidence that he has committed war crimes, he should be prosecuted as such,” the Democrat from Hawaii said during her televised town hall on CNN.
-- An HBO documentary that premiered at South by Southwest showed how difficult Beto O’Rourke’s Senate campaign was on his young family. Jenna Johnson reports: “O’Rourke gave the documentary crew full access to his family and several campaign staffers for more than a year, allowing them to gather 700 hours of footage. … The result was a glimpse at a wrenching reality rarely seen in the sanitized, smiling images usually put forth by candidates. … O’Rourke’s wife explained that the children started writing old-school letters to their father instead of video-chatting with him because ‘after they hung up on the phone … they were in tears and really upset.’”
-- Julián Castro’s campaign manager, Maya Rupert, is, so far, the only black woman to lead a 2020 operation. From the Root's Terrell Jermaine Starr: “She sees her role as two-fold: convincing America that Castro should be their next president, and proving that a black woman can make it happen. ‘It’s definitely a lot of stress,’ she told me recently over a Friday-afternoon meal at Open City.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Ethiopian Airlines announced it will ground the aircraft model that was involved in yesterday’s crash that killed all 149 passengers and eight crew members six minutes after takeoff. “The decision follows that of Cayman Airways and Chinese airlines to suspend the use of the Boeing 737 Max 8 plane, the latest version of the industry’s most popular passenger airline,” Paul Schemm reports from Addis Ababa. “The same plane model crashed shortly after takeoff in October in Indonesia, raising concerns about the aircraft. … In its short flight, data shows the plane ascending then descending and then ascending again sharply while accelerating to speeds in excess of normal operations. The pilot asked to return to Addis Ababa because he was experiencing difficulties.”
-- Eight Americans were among the victims. So was a third-year Georgetown Law student. Cedric Asiavugwa was traveling home to Nairobi after the death of his fiancee’s mother. Born in Kenya, he was passionate about serving refugees and other marginalized people. He was involved in the campus ministry. (Donna St. George)
-- At least 22 U.N. workers from several countries were also on board. U.N. staffers often travel on the flight’s route, which connects Addis Ababa and Nairobi. Both cities are home to United Nations offices. (New York Times)
-- Boeing will postpone the launch of its new 777X jetliner following the crash. The plane was supposed to make its debut on Wednesday. (CNN)
-- Meanwhile, severe turbulence on a flight from Istanbul to New York injured 30 passengers. After the plane safely landed, one person was treated for a broken leg. The others suffered minor injuries. (AP)
-- Tucker Carlson refused to apologize after audio surfaced of him degrading women and airing controversial opinions about statutory rape and underage marriage on a radio program between 2006 and 2011. Allyson Chiu reports: “Instead, the Fox News host plugged his prime-time show and urged his detractors to come on as guests. Carlson was widely criticized on Sunday following a report from the nonprofit Media Matters for America that compiled and transcribed more than a dozen instances of the host appearing on the Bubba the Love Sponge Show, a popular radio program broadcast from Tampa. In the segments, Carlson suggested underage marriage is not as serious as forcible child rape, called rape shield laws ‘totally unfair’ and once said he would ‘love’ a scenario involving young girls sexually experimenting. He also described women as ‘extremely primitive,’ and used words such as ‘pig’ and the C-word.” Warning: The audio linked above contains explicit language.
GET SMART FAST:
More than 1,400 U.S. cities and towns have lost a newspaper over the past 15 years. The closures have left many Americans without a news outlet to cover their local government and affairs. (AP)
A Native American tribe donated $184,000 to cover the funeral costs for 23 tornado victims in Alabama. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians increased its donation by $100,000 after it found out another donor backed out of an initial arrangement. (Al.com)
An Oregon boy contracted tetanus back in 2017, the first case in the state in over 30 years, after his parents did not get him vaccinated against the disease. The child, who had cut his head on a rusty object and spent months recovering from the tetanus, still didn’t receive a tetanus booster shot because his parents refused to give it to him. (The Guardian)
A plaque at the Trump International golf course names the president as the champion of a 2018 tournament he did not even play in. Trump reportedly quipped to the actual champion, Ted Virtue, a New York CEO, that the only reason he won is because the president was unable to play. (Golf.com)
Police in Missouri searched a cancer patient’s room after receiving a call saying it smelled like marijuana. Nolan Sousley, who said he has Stage 4 cancer, had not smoked marijuana but had taken THC oil pills outside the hospital in a state where the substance is illegal. (Lindsey Bever)
An American cyclist who won a silver medal during the 2016 Olympic Games died at 23. Kelly Catlin's family confirmed she died by suicide. (Cindy Boren)
The son of an Oakland council member was fatally shot in an apparent robbery near the University of Southern California’s campus. Victor McElhaney, a student at USC’s Thornton School of Music, was reportedly approached by a group of men who attempted to rob him. (Los Angeles Times)
The Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to trade wide receiver Antonio Brown for two draft picks. The decision represents an official end to the team’s hope of winning Super Bowls with the offensive trio of Brown, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and running back Le’Veon Bell, who is also headed to a new team in free agency. (Mark Maske)
A woman was injured by a jaguar at an Arizona zoo after she climbed over a barrier to snap a selfie with the animal. A spokesman for the Rural Metro Fire Department said the jaguar reached out with its paw and scratched her arm. She'll live. (Lindsey Bever)
- “Captain Marvel,” the first female-led superhero movie from Marvel Studios, collected $153 million in its opening weekend. That makes it 2019's first blockbuster. (Wall Street Journal)
A new dinosaur was discovered in southeastern Australia. Its name is Galleonosaurus dorisae, and scientists believe it was alive 125 million years ago. (BBC)
-- In the budget request he will submit today, Trump demands at least $8.6 billion more in wall funding, rekindling a battle with Congress less than a month after he declared a national emergency at the border. Damian Paletta and Erica Werner report: Trump “will request $5 billion in funding for the Department of Homeland Security to continue building sections of a wall, three people briefed on the request said. He will request an additional $3.6 billion for the Defense Department’s military construction budget to erect more sections of a wall. … Asked whether Trump’s request signals that a new budget fight is coming, Larry Kudlow, the White House’s top economic adviser, said, ‘I suppose there will be.’” Top Democrats rejected Trump’s proposal, including Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, who said the request was “not even worth the paper it’s written on.”
The White House’s $4 trillion budget includes a broader request to cut $2.7 trillion in spending over the next decade for numerous programs like welfare assistance, environmental protection and foreign aid. The proposed budget would also:
Cut more than $1.1 trillion from Medicaid and other health-care programs by turning over more control to states.
Demand a boost to the military’s budget from $716 to $750 billion.
Cut $327 billion from other welfare programs, including those that provide housing and food assistance.
Implement an additional $207 billion cut by making changes to student loan programs over the next 10 years.
Cut $200 billion by modifying federal retirement programs and making major changes to the Postal Service.
Slash funding for the Education Department, the Department of Health and Human Services, the State Department, the Transportation Department and the Interior Department. The Environmental Protection Agency would suffer the largest cut, a 32 percent reduction.
-- NASA’s budget request will exceed $500 million for moon exploration, as the agency looks to accelerate work on lunar landers. The Wall Street Journal’s Andy Pasztor reports: “The latest proposal seeks to reorient the agency’s goals by speeding up human exploration and commercial activity around the moon and on its surface. The White House is seeking more than twice as much additional funding for such purposes as it did last year ... even as it cuts budget lines for some big-ticket exploration projects targeting human voyages deeper into the solar system.”
MORE ON THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- “Banks bow to pressure to stop profiting from Trump’s immigration policy, but Big Tech remains defiant,” by Tracy Jan: “JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank, became the latest major corporation to distance itself from Trump’s immigration policies, concluding that its investments in private detention centers conflicted with its broader business strategy. ‘We will no longer bank the private prison industry,’ spokesman Andrew Gray said in a statement. The announcement follows similar moves by Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank. Activists, who waged a two-year campaign against JPMorgan’s investments, hope that mounting public pressure will prod other financial giants, such as Bank of America, to follow suit. But they acknowledge that it’s much harder to persuade tech firms such as Amazon, Palantir and Microsoft to withdraw from lucrative federal contracts with agencies charged with mass surveillance and deportation.”
-- U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials anticipate that between 51,000 to 58,000 migrants — traveling as families — will attempt to cross the border this month, either legally by asking for asylum or illegally. The agency also projects that as many as 70,000 migrants may reach the border in May, according to a document reviewed by the Wall Street Journal.
-- Senate GOP leaders said they can whip enough votes to stop an override after Trump vetoes the resolution of disapproval of his “emergency.” The Senate’s No. 3 Republican, Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), said Sunday on Fox News that he’s met with Trump “a couple of times” over the past week and that they're confident “his veto will be sustained.” (Karoun Demirjian)
-- “Hundreds of millions of people will want to become Americans. Only a relatively small number realistically can,” writes David Frum in this month’s Atlantic cover story. “Who should choose which ones do? According to what rules? How will those rules be enforced? The Trump-era debate about a wall misses the point. The planet of tomorrow will be better educated, more mobile, more networked. Huddling behind a concrete barrier will not hold the world at bay when more and more of that world can afford a plane ticket. If Americans want to shape their own national destiny, rather than have it shaped by others, they have decisions to make now … The question before the United States and other advanced countries is not: Immigration, yes or no? In a mobile world, there will inevitably be quite a lot of movement of people. Immigration is not all or nothing. The questions to ask are: How much? What kind?”
-- Somali and Jewish leaders in Ilhan Omar’s Minnesota House district, who are longtime allies, are working to maintain their close ties amid the fallout from the Democratic congresswoman’s comments about Israel that many view as anti-Semitic. Elise Viebeck reports: “When Somali refugees arrived in Minnesota starting in 1993, Jewish leaders saw echoes of their forebears who faced virulent anti-Semitism as newcomers to the state more than a century before. … As Omar faced yet another firestorm last week, community leaders on both sides voiced pain and confusion, fearing that the comments could damage an alliance they have spent years trying to nurture. Somali community activist Omar Jamal of St. Paul said he is in touch with local Jewish leaders about how the two sides can reaffirm their solidarity at a moment of crisis. He said that he supported Omar’s congressional campaign but that her comments are ‘wrong, period.’”
-- Republican lawmakers criticized the anti-hate resolution passed by House Democrats as too broad, arguing that it should have been focused exclusively on anti-Semitism. Felicia Sonmez reports: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) “was one of 23 lawmakers, all Republicans, who opposed the resolution … In an interview on NBC News’s ‘Meet the Press,’ Cheney described the House resolution as ‘clearly an effort to actually protect Ilhan Omar, to cover up her bigotry and anti-Semitism by refusing to name her.’ … Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), one of the resolution’s lead sponsors, pushed back in an interview on MSNBC on Sunday afternoon. He called the measure the most powerful anti-Semitism resolution ‘in the history of the United States Congress’ and argued that those who opposed it were wrong to do so. ‘History is going to judge them very harshly for that,’ Raskin said.”
-- Fox News denounced host Jeanine Pirro’s statements on Omar, saying they don’t reflect the network’s opinion. In a statement, the network said it has addressed the issue with her directly. (Politico)
-- Referencing the Omar controversy, Trump told Republican donors that Democrats “hate Jewish people.” The president also expressed bafflement that any Jewish American could vote for Democrats after everything he has done to support Israel. (Axios)
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- A massive blackout across Venezuela has begun claiming lives. Mary Beth Sheridan and Mariana Zuñiga report: “The lack of power has left hospitals depending on generators — if they have them — and has also shut the Caracas metro and virtually halted public transportation. That means many medical personnel can’t get to their jobs. On Sunday afternoon, a 24-year-old woman sat in a chair weeping outside the hospital at the Central University of Venezuela. 'My baby just died,' she said softly. 'There was no pediatric surgeon.' ... The director of the hospital, Earle Siso, said in an interview that no patients had died because of the power outage; a generator was providing electricity for emergency cases. He denied a shortage of medical personnel. 'Our biggest problem is the international blockade that’s been in effect since the era of President Obama,' he said. But, shortly before talking to a reporter, he was surrounded by doctors and nurses complaining loudly that their colleagues hadn’t reported for work.”
-- Video footage reveals that opposition forces in Venezuela accidentally set fire to a convoy of humanitarian aid, undermining the official U.S. claim that President Nicolás Maduro’s government intentionally destroyed the trucks. The New York Times’s Nicholas Casey, Christoph Koettl and Deborah Acosta report: The footage “suggests that a Molotov cocktail thrown by an antigovernment protester was the most likely trigger for the blaze. At one point, a homemade bomb made from a bottle is hurled toward the police, who were blocking a bridge connecting Colombia and Venezuela to prevent the aid trucks from getting through. But the rag used to light the Molotov cocktail separates from the bottle, flying toward the aid truck instead. Half a minute later, that truck is in flames.”
Claims that Maduro ordered a shipment of medicine to be set on fire also appear to be unsubstantiated. “The United States Agency for International Development, the principal supplier of the aid at the bridge, did not list medicine among its donations. A top opposition official on the bridge that day told The Times that the burned shipment contained medical supplies like face masks and gloves, but not medicine. And video clips reviewed by The Times show some of the boxes contained hygiene kits, which the Americans identified as containing supplies like soap and toothpaste. Yet the claim that Mr. Maduro burned medicine has persisted.”
-- U.S. airstrikes killed hundreds in Somalia in a shadowy battle against al-Shabab, an extremist group affiliated with al-Qaeda. The Times’s Eric Schmitt and Charlie Savage report: “During January and February, the United States Africa Command reported killing 225 people in 24 strikes in Somalia. … ‘People need to pay attention to the fact that there is this massive war going on,’ said Brittany Brown, who worked on Somalia policy at the National Security Council in the Obama and Trump administrations … The war in Somalia appears to be ‘on autopilot,’ she added, and one that is drawing the United States significantly deeper into an armed conflict without much public debate. … Analysts suggested that the increase in American strikes may also reflect an unspoken effort by American commanders to inflict as much punishment on the Shabab while they can.”
-- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enraged his Arab constituents by calling the country a homeland “only of the Jewish people.” The AP reports: “Netanyahu on Sunday addressed ‘slightly confused people’ after an Israeli celebrity defended the rights of Israel’s Arab population. Arabs comprise about 20 percent of Israel’s 9 million residents. They have full citizenship rights but have faced decades of discrimination. On Saturday, actress Rotem Sela denounced Netanyahu’s frequent talking point that his political rival will form a government with Arab political parties. ‘When the hell will someone in this government tell the public that Israel is a country of all its citizens,’ Sela wrote on Instagram. Netanyahu responded: Israel ‘is the national state, not of all its citizens, but only of the Jewish people.’”
-- “Wonder Woman” actress Gal Godot struck back against Netanyahu, who is staking out this explosive position in an effort to boost his weak reelection prospects. “Loving your neighbor as yourself is not a matter of right-left, Jewish-Arab, secular or religious, it is a matter of dialogue, of dialogue for peace, equality and tolerance for each other,” Gadot wrote in Hebrew. “The responsibility for such hope is on us to create a brighter future for our children. Rotem, my sister, you’re an inspiration for us all.” (Ruth Eglash)
-- A U.N. report found that North Korea is eluding sanctions meant to pressure Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons programs and its long-range missiles. The Wall Street Journal’s Michael R. Gordon reports: “Pyongyang has also defied sanctions by selling small arms and other military equipment to the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen and to Libya and Sudan. They made the arms shipments through foreign intermediaries, including a Syrian arms trafficker in the case of the Houthis. … The report notes that North Koreans continue to operate around the world by forming joint ventures with foreign companies and individuals in more than a dozen countries in contravention to the U.N. sanctions resolution. … The report is also implicitly critical of some U.S. policies, suggesting that the push to tightly enforce sanctions has had the unintended effect of interfering with the flow of humanitarian assistance.”
-- What's going on here? The Indonesian woman accused of killing Kim Jong Un’s half brother was set free after prosecutors unexpectedly dropped charges against her. Shibani Mahtani reports: Siti Aisyah was arrested in 2017 after she appeared to assault Kim Jong Nam with a nerve agent. She will “now be allowed to return home to Indonesia, Malaysian officials say, after being held for over two years in Malaysia. She and the second suspect in the murder, Doan Thi Huong, 30, from Vietnam, both appeared in court on Monday, but the acquittal only applies to her. ‘I feel very happy,’ she told reporters at a news conference, thanking everyone who worked for her release. ‘I didn’t expect that today will be the day of my freedom.’”
-- National security adviser John Bolton admitted the Islamic State remains a threat. Felicia Sonmez reports: “‘The president has been, I think, as clear as clear can be, when he talks about the defeat of the ISIS territorial caliphate,’ Bolton said. ‘He has never said that the elimination of the territorial caliphate means the end of ISIS in total. We know that’s not the case.’ He added that Islamic State fighters are ‘scattered still around Syria and Iraq, and that ISIS itself is growing in other parts of the world. The ISIS threat will remain.’ The White House has delivered mixed messages on the matter. On Friday night, at an outdoor fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., Trump said the caliphate was 100 percent destroyed, according to an attendee.”
-- Ireland’s minister for justice and equality said he will make “every effort” to bring home an Irish woman believed to have joined the Islamic State. Emily Tamkin reports: “Lisa Smyth, formerly of the Irish Defense Forces, is believed to have been radicalized and gone to Syria a few years ago. She allegedly has ties to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. She is also believed to have a young son. Speaking to Irish public broadcaster RTE, Flanagan said, ‘I understand there is an Irish citizen. … She’s keen to come home.’ … Flanagan’s initial reaction stands in contrast to many high-profile cases in Europe and the United States regarding Islamic State fighters and their families,” in which nations of origin have tried to refuse the return of foreign fighters and their families.
-- Turkey entered its first recession in a decade as municipal elections approach next month. Bloomberg News's Cagan Koc reports: “Gross domestic product shrank 2.4 percent last quarter ... For investors, the worry is that Turkey will face a long slog to recovery as the torrent of foreign capital dries up while households and companies begin paying down debts. ... For now, the outlook remains bleak."
FOLLOW THE MONEY:
-- A mysterious payment to Paul Manafort’s attorneys demonstrates how the longtime Republican operative manipulated the many facets of Trump’s campaign to enrich associates and ultimately benefit himself. CNBC’s Christina Wilkie reports: “The payment, for $125,000, was made in June 2017, halfway through Trump’s first year in office. But it wasn’t disclosed publicly until late last year, when prosecutors accused Manafort in court filings of repeatedly lying to them about where the money actually came from. … But the route this money traveled, from its origin as a donation made to a pro-Trump political group, to its final destination in the bank account of Manafort’s attorney, offers a rare glimpse into the inner workings of relationships Manafort built over 40 years in Republican politics.”
- The payment’s journey began during the campaign, when Manafort tapped his longtime associate Laury Gay to run the pro-Trump super PAC Rebuilding America Now. “With Manafort’s blessing and Gay at its helm, Rebuilding America Now raised more than $24 million between June and December 2016, more than any other pro-Trump super PAC did during the entire election.”
- A year later, when Manafort was facing mounting legal bills, he contacted Gay. “In order to get the $125,000, Gay reached out to someone else, whose name is redacted in court filings. Prosecutors described the person as having ‘a long relationship’ with Manafort. … Crucially, in a January court filing the special counsel also noted that this person ran a firm that had been paid ‘approximately $19 million’ by the super PAC that Gay was running in 2016. There is only one firm that received anything near $19 million from Rebuilding America Now. … It is a political ad-buying firm called Multi Media Services Corporation, or MMSC, based in Alexandria, Virginia.”
- The silent owner of MMSC is chief Trump campaign pollster Tony Fabrizio. “Fabrizio’s dual role as: a) the owner of MMSC, which was the biggest vendor to the top pro-Trump super PAC, Rebuilding America Now, and b) the Trump campaign’s lead pollster, has not been reported until now.”
- “The rapid succession of these hirings — first Manafort to chair the campaign, then Fabrizio to poll for the campaign, then Gay to run Rebuilding America Now, then Fabrizio’s ad-buying firm to buy the airtime for Rebuilding America Now — offer a striking example of how Manafort turned his unpaid role on the Trump campaign into an opportunity to secure lucrative work for his longtime associates.”
-- Cindy Yang, who once owned the Florida spa where Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly solicited prostitution, has made a business out of selling Chinese executives access to Trump and his family. Mother Jones’s David Corn, Dan Friedman and Daniel Schulman report: Yang “and her husband, Zubin Gong, started GY US Investments LLC in 2017. The company describes itself on its website, which is mostly in Chinese, as an ‘international business consulting firm that provides public relations services to assist businesses in America to establish and expand their brand image in the modern Chinese marketplace.’ But the firm notes that its services also address clients looking to make high-level connections in the United States. On a page displaying a photo of Mar-a-Lago, Yang’s company says its ‘activities for clients’ have included providing them ‘the opportunity to interact with the president, the [American] Minister of Commerce and other political figures.’ The company boasts it has ‘arranged taking photos with the President’ and suggests it can set up a ‘White House and Capitol Hill Dinner.’ …
“The GY US Investments website lists upcoming events at Mar-a-Lago at which Yang’s clients presumably can mingle with Trump or members of his family. This includes something called the International Leaders Elite Forum, where Trump’s sister, Elizabeth Trump Grau, will supposedly be the featured speaker. … Another event for which Yang’s firm says it can provide access is Trump’s annual New Year’s celebration at Mar-a-Lago. Elsewhere on the website, the firm boasts that ‘GY Company arranged a number of guests to attend the 2019 New Year’s Eve dinner. All the guests took photos with’ members of Trump’s family. This page displays photos of Chinese executives and a Chinese movie star with Donald Trump Jr., suggesting that these pics were arranged by the company, and also includes a photo of Yang with Elizabeth Trump Grau.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The president appears to have accidentally “liked” a surprising tweet:
A Reuters reporter captured this moment from the campaign trail:
A Post reporter shared this amusing moment from Kamala's South Carolina swing:
An LA Times writer expressed skepticism about this common political trope:
A Post columnist came up with a 2020 Democratic ticket name combination that would probably take up a lot of headline space:
This 2020 candidate reacted to Trump's new $8.6 billion demand for border wall funding:
A Fox News employee asked host Jeanine Pirro to stop spreading Islamophobic beliefs:
And a Republican senator slightly mixed up a development in Venezuela:
-- Boston Globe, “$50 could have saved him, but his GoFundMe pitch didn’t get the clicks,” by Luke O’Neil: “Shane Patrick Boyle lost his mother in March of 2017. You’ve heard this story before, or at least one like it, but you should listen again. It’s about Boyle but it’s also about the rest of us. About a month earlier, the well-liked Boyle, founder of Zine Fest Houston, had moved to Arkansas to care for his ailing mother, and in the process lost an arrangement he had with a local clinic at home in Texas to get the medication he needed to live at cost. So he did what has become natural to many of us in times of medical need today: He set up a GoFundMe. For weeks, according to Ted Closson, a comic book artist and friend of Boyle’s, the campaign languished just short of its $750 goal by $50. A few days later, Boyle died of complications from type 1 diabetes.”
-- “A white couple, a mixed-race baby and a forbidden adoption,” by Diane Bernard: “After Frank and Kara Speltz got married in 1965, the couple found out they couldn’t have children. … Longing for a child, the white couple, who were involved in the city’s civil rights struggles, began to research how they could adopt an African American child instead. … After the city rejected their interracial adoption request, a man came into St. Stephen’s [church] with a problem. He said he had a white friend who was pregnant by a black man. The woman felt she was too young and inexperienced to care for the child by herself, and she wanted to put the baby up for adoption. Could the church help them find a home for the baby? Kara, who now lives in Oakland, Calif., called the woman’s appearance in the church that day ‘a miracle.’”
-- New York Times, “Clean House to Survive? Museums Confront Their Crowded Basements,” by Robin Pogrebin: “Many American museums are bulging with stuff — so much stuff that some house thousands of objects that have never been displayed but are preserved, at considerable cost, in climate-controlled storage spaces. At the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: ashtrays, cocktail napkins, wine glasses. At the Indianapolis Art Museum: doilies, neckties and women’s underwear. In storage at the Brooklyn Museum: a roomful of home décor textiles, a full-size Rockefeller Center elevator and a trove of fake old master paintings the museum is barred from unloading. Some collections have grown tenfold in the past 50 years. Most museums display only a fraction of the works they own, in large part because so many are prints and drawings that can only sparingly be shown because of light sensitivity. ‘There is this inevitable march where you have to build more storage, more storage, more storage,’ said Charles L. Venable, the director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. ‘I don’t think it’s sustainable.’”
-- Trump falsely claimed to Republican donors that the media was spreading “fake news” by reporting that he accidentally called Apple CEO Tim Cook “Tim Apple,” a moment that was captured on video. Axios’s Jonathan Swan reports: “Trump told the donors that he actually said ‘Tim Cook Apple’ really fast, and the ‘Cook’ part of the sentence was soft. But all you heard from the ‘fake news,’ he said, was ‘Tim Apple.’ Two donors who were there told me they couldn't understand why the president would make such a claim given the whole thing is captured on video. Nobody cared, they said, and Tim Cook took it in good humor by changing his Twitter profile to Tim Apple.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Melania Trump 'mistook former female Australia FM for partner,’” from AFP: Julie Bishop, who was Australia's first female foreign minister and deputy leader of the Liberal Party, is among several senior politicians from the centre-right government set to quit parliament at upcoming national elections amid expectations of an opposition win. She told a talk in Adelaide Saturday that Melania thought her partner David Patton was Australia's foreign minister, instead of her, after [Trump] stuck up a conversation with him, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. ‘Melania, standing by, assumed David was the foreign minister and she said to me: 'Julie, will you be coming to my ladies' lunch tomorrow?,’ Bishop said of the encounter at the UN General Assembly Leaders' week in 2017. ‘And I said 'No, David's going to the partners' lunch'. She thought about that for a while, thinking: 'Why would Australia's foreign minister come to the partners' lunch?' ‘So this went on for a while until the president explained that I was the foreign minister.’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Company founded by Ocasio-Cortez in 2012 still owes $1,870 in taxes,” from the New York Post: “Brook Avenue Press, a company [Ocasio-Cortez] founded in 2012 to publish children’s books in The Bronx, owes the state $1,870.36 in corporate taxes, public records show. The state slapped the company with a warrant on July 6, 2017, two months after Ocasio-Cortez announced her candidacy to run against Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley for the district that encompasses parts of Queens and The Bronx. The state requires businesses to pay a corporation tax on a sliding scale based on revenue. The minimum payment last year was $25. ‘The company probably got numerous letters from the state and probably ignored them,’ one New York City accountant theorized. Public records show the state dissolved the company in October 2016, which can happen when a business fails to pay corporate taxes or file a return. The state Tax Department won’t comment on individual companies but typically files warrants as a last resort after trying to collect money.”
Trump will have lunch with Pence and receive his intelligence briefing.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said special counsel Bob Mueller is making a “mistake” by not requiring Trump to testify under oath: “As he’s made plain in the past, he feels it’s perfectly fine to lie to the public,” Schiff said. “After all, he has said, ‘It’s not like I’m talking before a magistrate.’ Well, maybe he should talk before a magistrate.” (Karoun Demirjian)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Spring is around the corner, even if it is a little windy out there today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “We’ve reached the time of year when winter and spring tug back and forth. Last week, winter had the edge. This week, spring gains ground. Through Friday, most days hit the 50s and 60s — a nice bump from the 30s and 40s of last week. Cooler air does return next weekend, preceded by the week’s lone rain chance on Friday.”
-- An Arlington County Board meeting scheduled for Saturday on Amazon’s new second headquarters will probably bring a decisive showdown between project opponents and board members who support it. Robert McCartney reports: “Support for the headquarters in Crystal City appears sufficiently strong on the five-member panel that the main group fighting the project concedes it cannot persuade the board at this time to reject a proposed $23 million incentives package for the online retail giant. … Instead, the ‘For Us, Not Amazon’ coalition hopes to turn out enough critics to convince the board to delay Saturday’s vote so that additional meetings can be held to examine the proposal, its leaders said. ‘What we’re expecting is community members to mobilize in big numbers, and to express concerns and ask questions,’ said Danny Cendejas, an organizer with the coalition. ‘We hope they will delay this vote.’” Board Chair Christian Dorsey (D) said he has no plans to postpone the vote, which affects only a fraction of the benefits Amazon will receive for picking Arlington as the site of its second headquarters. The vote, however, symbolizes the only opportunity activists have to curb the project.
-- The House will probably pass H.R. 51, a bill that would make D.C. the 51st state. But the bill has no future at the Republican-controlled Senate. “Even a Democratic President with a Democratic House and a simple Senate majority in 2021 would likely have to eliminate the legislative filibuster to pass such a bill,” writes the New Yorker’s Osita Nwanevu. Despite that, the bill and its advocates show a renewed push within the Democratic Party to think more ambitiously about statehood, an issue that has always revolved around voting rights: “Partisan strategizing has long influenced the statehood process. Frances Lee, a professor of political science at the University of Maryland, points to the slew of states that were added by Republicans in the decades following the Civil War—which had itself been fuelled by conflict over the admission of slave states and free states. 'Republicans tried to stack the Senate by admitting Republican-leaning states,’ Lee noted. ‘And so, for the latter half of the nineteenth century, Republicans were able to protect their Senate majority, even while they would lose control of the House or lose Presidential elections. That’s admitting North Dakota, South Dakota, Nevada—all these really small states. They’re still small!’”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
John Oliver took a stance against the FCC and its robo-call policies by playing a trick on the government agency:
SNL parodied R. Kelly’s explosive interview with Gayle King:
The conservative group Club for Growth is expected to start airing this ad against Beto O'Rourke in Iowa this week:
And Bill Nye the Science Guy crashed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's appearance at South by Southwest: