-- The first is a little-noticed paragraph inside the 150-page budget request that President Trump submitted to Congress on Monday: “Even with high levels of economic growth, excessive deficits continue to threaten the Nation’s progress, and any unforeseen shocks to the economy could make deficits unsustainable,” it says. “If financial obligations continue to grow at the current pace, the Nation’s creditors may demand higher interest rates to compensate, potentially leading to lower private investment and a smaller capital stock, harming both American businesses and workers.”
The document warns that deficits are on track to remain over a trillion dollars per year “for the foreseeable future,” the national debt — now $22 trillion — “will soon surpass a percent of GDP not seen since 1947,” and interest payments alone on the federal government’s debt will double by 2023 and exceed spending on the U.S. military by 2024 “if nothing is done.”
The White House projects that the government will need to spend $482 billion on interest payments for the debt next year alone. That’s more than the entire budget for Medicaid.
What’s remarkable is that there is no evidence of meaningful political will to tackle this potentially existential crisis. Leaders in both parties called the budget dead on arrival.
Although the budget proposes “the ‘most spending reductions ever sent to Congress,’ as one of Trump’s top aides put it, the deficit is expected to hit $1.1 trillion this year and stay above the trillion mark every year through at least 2022,” economics correspondent Heather Long reports. “This is unprecedented in good economic times and is occurring because Trump and Congress are spending more at the same time the GOP tax cuts drive down government revenue. (Trump’s budget shows small increases the next few years in tax revenue, but that might be a stretch given what is occurring so far this fiscal year).”
What should give Americans heartburn is that even the dire numbers are based on some fantastical — if not impossible — assumptions, including that there will not be a recession at any point in the next decade. “No president likes to predict a downturn, but Trump is being exceptionally rosy in his outlook,” Heather notes. “His budget predicts about 3 percent growth every year for a decade. In contrast, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts growth of slightly below 2 percent a year. To achieve Trump’s projection, the economy would have to grow at A-plus potential for years with no recessions, something the United States has never achieved before.”
There are certainly some fiscal hawks who work inside the administration, like acting OMB director Russ Vought and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, but what matters is who sits in the Oval Office. Trump has called himself the king of debt and argued privately that deficits don’t really matter because they won’t blow up until after he leaves office. He didn’t even mention the issue during his recent State of the Union address.
There’s a pattern of Republican politicians demanding fiscal responsibility when they’re in the wilderness but then spending like drunken sailors on shore leave when they hold power. It’s happening again. The 2017 GOP tax cuts, which overwhelmingly benefit the richest 1 percent of Americans and the biggest corporations, will add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the national debt over the next decade. With no change in trajectory, the ship of state will continue drifting down a river that ends with a waterfall.
2. Dick Cheney: “We’re getting into a situation when our friends and allies around the world that we depend upon are going to lack confidence in us. … I worry that the bottom line of that kind of an approach is we have an administration that looks a lot more like Barack Obama than Ronald Reagan.”
The former vice president uncorked one of the most searing conservative critiques to date of Trump’s foreign policy while conducting a Q&A with Vice President Pence at a donor retreat this weekend sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute. Someone leaked a transcript yesterday of the off-the-record session on Sea Island, Ga.
“Cheney respectfully but repeatedly and firmly pressed Pence on a number of the president’s foreign policy moves,” Ashley Parker and Bob Costa report. “He expressed concerns at such actions as taking a harder line toward U.S. allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and deciding to withdraw troops from Syria during what he fretted was ‘the middle of a phone call.’ … Cheney expressed alarm over news reports that Trump ‘supposedly doesn’t spend that much time with the intel people, or doesn’t agree with them, frequently,’ as well as the high staff turnover rate at the intelligence agencies.
“He worried aloud, again and again, that for Trump, foreign policy boils down to a crude dollars-and-cents transaction. … He worried about Trump’s decision to cancel the decades-long U.S. military exercises with South Korea and referenced a recent Bloomberg News report about the president’s directive ‘to pursue a policy that would insist that the Germans, the Japanese, and the South Koreans pay total cost for our deployments there, plus 50 percent on top of that.’ … ‘I don’t know, that sounded like a New York state real estate deal to me,’ Cheney quipped.”
Pence, unprepared for tough questions, mostly shrugged off Cheney’s concerns and praised Trump as a transformational leader. Reading the transcript shows what a total loyalist Pence has become to Trump. He staked out several positions that are at odds with the posture he took as a congressman and governor.
Moreover, the conversation between the two men who have held the No. 2 job underscored the deep fissures that remain inside the GOP over Trump’s foreign policy. It’s the same tension that led to Jim Mattis’s resignation in December as defense secretary after Trump abruptly announced the complete withdrawal of troops from Syria. The president eventually relented under pressure from hawks on the Hill. Some troops will stay.
3. Nancy Pelosi: “I’m not for impeachment. … Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.”
“This is news,” the House speaker told our Joe Heim last Wednesday for a story that published yesterday. “I haven’t said this to any press person before. But since you asked, and I’ve been thinking about this.”
The California Democrat said this knowing that she’d take instant and intense heat from her left flank, which she has, but her goal appears to be protecting vulnerable moderate members who are up for reelection next year in districts that Trump carried. Pelosi saw firsthand what happened to Republicans when they impeached Bill Clinton in the 1990s. She’s realistic that the Republican-controlled Senate wouldn’t convict Trump to remove him from office if Democrats acted unilaterally, and she gave herself an out to change her mind if something new emerges.
Many Democratic strategists believe that impeachment would give Trump a useful foil and get recalcitrant Republicans to rally behind him for 2020, barring big new bombshells from the investigations by special counsel Bob Mueller or newly empowered congressional committees. Pelosi is one of the shrewdest tacticians in modern political history, and she appears to be playing a long game of trying to increase her party’s odds of keeping its majority.
“While liberal firebrands have won an outsize share of media coverage, the House Democratic majority was captured largely because of freshmen who ran to the center, said Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — and many of them are uncomfortable with impeachment talk,” Mike DeBonis and Rachael Bade report.
“We’ve got 31 Democrats who serve in districts that Donald Trump won, and I’m one of them,” Bustos said. “When I go home, I don’t have people asking me about impeaching him. That is just not something that I hear. They consistently ask about health care and rebuilding our country and figuring out how to work together.”
Pelosi’s comments will make it harder for Trump to say Democrats plan to impeach him and will tamp down on momentum to do so from the left.
During her interview with Joe, the speaker was unequivocal that Trump is not fit to be president, ethically and intellectually. Then she demurred. “I hardly ever talk about him,” she explained. “You know, it’s not about him. It’s about what we can do for the people to lower health-care costs, bigger paychecks [and] cleaner government.”
4. Paul Ryan on 2020: “The person who defines that race is going to win the race. If this is about Donald Trump and his personality, he isn’t going to win it.”
The former speaker of the House reportedly said during a speech last night in Vero Beach, Fla., that there are some Democrats who could beat Trump and the president must make the race about his policies, not his personal brand, if he’s going to prevail.
“Ryan said one of the House’s biggest mistakes during his tenure was taking too long to negotiate a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act,” Ali Schmitz reports for Treasure Coast Newspapers. “Ryan blamed the right-leaning flank of the party, including the Freedom Caucus, for causing a three-month delay in moving the legislation through the House. ‘That three-month delay eroded public support for it, so by the time it got over to the Senate, it was hanging on a thread,’ Ryan said. Ryan said if there weren’t delays in moving it through the House, he would have expected it to pass the Senate.”
The 2012 GOP nominee for vice president said technology has created an outrage machine, according to the story: “He said people are ‘monetizing’ emotions, causing ‘entertainment wings’ of each party that focus on emotional responses rather than focusing on the merits” of their policies.
5. Tucker Carlson: “[W]e will never bow to the mob — ever. No matter what.”
Ryan didn’t mention Carlson, but there’s no doubt that the former House speaker was talking about people like him when he lamented the “entertainment wing” of the GOP and the way it is “monetizing” emotions.
The Fox News host opened his 8 p.m. show last night with a defiant, six-minute monologue in which he refused to show any contrition at all over a batch of offensive comments he made a decade ago.
Meanwhile, “Media Matters for America published a new video with clips of the Fox News host using racist and homophobic language to describe Iraqi people, African Americans, gay people and immigrants while speaking on a radio program between 2006 and 2011,” Michael Brice-Saddler and Eli Rosenberg report. “The self-described watchdog of ‘conservative misinformation in the U.S. media’ published the audio from Carlson’s appearances on a Tampa-based radio program, the ‘Bubba the Love Sponge Show,’ just 25 hours after releasing similar recordings in which he’s heard flippantly using sexist language to express his views on child rape, rape shield laws, underage marriage and other sensitive topics.
“The new audio highlights about a dozen instances of Carlson using racist language on the ‘shock jock’ show, which he apparently called into for about an hour per week. In 2008, Carlson lamented that ‘everyone’s embarrassed to be a white man,’ before stating that white men deserve credit for ‘creating civilization and stuff.’ In another instance, Carlson is heard saying that Iraq is a ‘crappy place filled with a bunch of, you know, semiliterate primitive monkeys,’ adding, ‘That’s why it wasn’t worth invading.’ That follows a 2006 segment on the show in which Carlson said he had ‘zero sympathy’ for Iraqi people and their culture because they ‘don’t use toilet paper or forks.’
“Carlson also spoke crassly of immigrants and questioned Barack Obama’s identity as a black man. ‘How is he black, for one thing? He has one white parent, one black parent,’ he said in 2006. Two years later, he added, ‘I don’t know how black he is, but I’m sure he’s a good basketball player — he says he is, anyway.’”
Carlson went on the air about the same time the second video was released and said his critics weren’t motivated by genuine concern. He said they’re trying to silence him. Carlson praised the network for having his back even after the revelations.
“First, Fox News is behind us, as they have been since the very first day,” he declared. “Toughness is a rare quality in a TV network, and we’re grateful for that.”
We live in an era of conservative counterpunchers. Tellingly, Donald Trump Jr. praised Carlson for refusing to apologize:
6. Donald Trump: “The Democrats hate Jewish people.”
Attendees say the president made that comment on Friday during a Republican National Committee fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago Club.
During her first news conference in more than 40 days, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders repeatedly declined to answer yesterday whether Trump truly believes Democrats “hate Jewish people.”
“I think that’s a question you ought to ask the Democrats,” she said from the podium.
George W. Bush wrote in his memoir that Kanye West saying that “Bush doesn’t care about black people” after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the “all-time low” point of his presidency. The rapper’s comment generated massive controversy. West later apologized to Bush, who forgave him.
In this case, it’s the president saying that the opposition party hates an entire faith of people and his press secretary not even trying to walk it back. The fact that it barely moves the needle shows how normalized over-the-top rhetoric, and questioning people’s motives, has become in the Trump era.
Sanders criticized the anti-hate resolution that passed the House last week for not singling out allegedly anti-Semitic comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Trump allies say that he hopes to capitalize on the internal divisions among Democrats that the episode exposed, which pitted vocal newcomers on the far left, including Omar and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), against veteran lawmakers and Jewish members.
The numbers don’t bear out Trump’s claims. “Thirty-two of the 34 Jewish members of Congress are Democrats. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 70 percent of Jewish Americans voted for [Hillary Clinton] in the 2016 presidential election,” Eugene Scott notes. “An October 2018 poll found that 74 percent of Jews planned to vote for Democratic candidates in the midterm elections. Three quarters of respondents disapproved of the president’s policies. … The president has developed close ties with Israel, and in particular [Bibi Netanyahu], but being pro-Israel and being the party of American Jews is not the same thing.”
Neither does the record: “After white nationalists marched through Charlottesville, chanting ‘Jews will not replace us,’ Trump called some of the protesters ‘very fine people,’” Eugene recalls. “During the 2016 campaign, the president defended the use of an image of a six-point star, which resembled the Star of David, over a pile of $100 bills. The image was part of an attack against Clinton; many Jewish leaders said it was anti-Semitic. At a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition in 2015, Trump made comments that reinforced stereotypes about Jewish people. And in the final days of the campaign, he made headlines for running an ad that referenced the ‘global power structure’ attempting to control the world through Clinton while featuring images of prominent Jewish leaders.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Britain just banned the Boeing 737 Max from its airspace after China, Australia and other nations grounded the jets in the wake of the crash in Ethiopia. Gerry Shih reports: “When China became the first country on Monday to order all Boeing 737 Max 8 planes grounded in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines crash, its aviation regulator sent an unmistakable signal: the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is no longer the only authority in civil aviation worldwide. … China’s move, which was unprecedented for a government that once took cues from the FAA, was motivated by what Chinese officials and pilots said was months of equivocation from U.S. officials and Boeing in response to safety inquiries from China after the crash of a 737 Max 8 in Indonesia last October. …
“After China ordered a dozen carriers to ground their 96 planes — roughly a quarter of all 737 Max in operation globally — authorities in Ethiopia, Singapore, Indonesia, Morocco and Mongolia quickly followed suit, as did carriers in Latin America and South Korea. Despite the FAA issuing a statement backing the Boeing jet’s airworthiness, Britain, Australia, Malaysia and Oman became the latest countries to ground the model a day later, with authorities saying the aircraft would not be allowed to fly to or from their countries pending the investigation.”
-- The United States is pulling out its remaining diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced overnight. Paul Schemm reports: “The United States and the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro are increasingly at odds, with the Trump administration openly supporting his rival, Juan Guaidó, as the country’s legitimate leader. The country has been crippled by a five-day power outage that has plunged people into darkness and left food and water scarce. … The government announced that schools and commercial activities would again be suspended on Tuesday due to the power outage. … Appearing on television Monday, Maduro stated that progress was being made in restoring power. He blamed the crisis on sabotage.”
-- A Venezuelan journalist whom Maduro allies have accused of orchestrating the blackout is missing, and press freedom groups believe the government is holding him. The reporter, Luis Carlos Diaz, has been a frequent critic of Maduro's government and frequently been the target of online attacks by accounts close to Maduro's government after he revealed the state-run telephone and Internet provider in Venezuela was phishing its users. (InfoBae)
GET SMART FAST:
Democrats announced their 2020 convention will be in Milwaukee. The Wisconsin city beat out Houston and Miami. Republicans will gather in Charlotte. (John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez)
A Roy Moore supporter plead the Fifth 65 times while being questioned about an alleged bribery attempt during the Republican's 2017 campaign for Senate in Alabama. Bert Davi and another Moore supporter allegedly approached the lawyer of a woman who accused Moore of touching her sexually when she was 14 and offered him $10,000 to drop the accuser as a client. (Shawn Boburg)
An unflattering new book portrays Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner as Trump's “chief enablers,” not the moderating or stabilizing influences they privately claim to be. “Kushner Inc.” comes out March 19. The journalist Vicky Ward, who says she interviewed 220 people, portrays them as two children forged by domineering fathers — one overinvolved with his son, one disengaged from his daughter — who routinely disregard protocol and skirt the rules. (New York Times)
A federal court advanced the Miami Herald’s motion to unseal documents that could reveal details of multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking operation. The case could raise further questions about why former Miami prosecutors, specifically Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, agreed to such a lenient plea deal for the alleged sexual abuser. (Miami Herald)
The Coast Guard lieutenant accused of plotting a terrorist attack pleaded not guilty during a court appearance in Maryland. Christopher Hasson, 49, did not speak other than to answer straightforward yes-or-no questions from the judge. The feds indicted him on additional weapons charges related to what the government says were silencers found among a stockpile of weapons seized from his basement apartment. (Lynh Bui)
A lawsuit driven by the state of Oklahoma targets Johnson & Johnson as the “kingpin” that fueled the nation's opioid crisis. Oklahoma is alleging the company, which is commonly known for Band-Aids and baby powder but also produces raw narcotics, targeted vulnerable populations for painkiller prescriptions. (Axios)
An Oklahoma developer created an app for Trump supporters looking to feel safe in retail spaces while wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. The app gauges whether restaurants and shops are friendly to conservatives. (Amy B Wang)
Tesla CEO Elon Musk asked a federal judge to drop a contempt order against him over tweets the Securities and Exchange Commission says violated an agreement. Musk’s lawyer said the government is attempting a “power grab” to control the billionaire. (Renae Merle)
Black lawmakers in New York threatened to block the state from legalizing marijuana unless people of color are guaranteed a cut of the tax revenue. The legislators want money to go into job training programs and a requirement nonwhite entrepreneurs will receive licenses to open marijuana dispensaries. (New York Times)
New Jersey police warned that people are getting high off the animal sedative Catnip Cocktail. After receiving several reports of people showing alarming behavior after ingesting the little-known drug, police raided a nutrition store last week. (Antonia Noori Farzan)
- A woman in Sioux Falls, S.D., was arrested for the 1981 murder of a newborn who came to be known as Baby Andrew. Authorities used genetic genealogy to identify Theresa Bentaas as the baby’s biological mother and arrested her late last month. (Meagan Flynn)
An 81-year-old woman was reunited with the purse she lost at her Indiana high school in 1954. A construction crew helping with a renovation at Jeffersonville High found Marty Ingham Everett’s purse behind a cabinet in the science room. Using Facebook, the school was later able to identify Everett as its rightful owner and return it to her in Florida. (Cathy Free)
MORE ON THE TRUMP BUDGET:
-- Nancy Pelosi promised that the House will reject Trump’s budget, and even many congressional Republicans criticized various elements of the proposal. Damian Paletta, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report: “And the demand for $8.6 billion for a border wall, less than two months after a 35-day shutdown paralyzed much of Washington, raised the possibility that there could be an even more dramatic impasse if a spending deal isn’t reached by the end of September. … Top White House officials acknowledged that lawmakers routinely dismiss these budget proposals, but they signaled a willingness on Monday to fight harder this year than they have in the past. … Trump’s GOP allies, meanwhile, received the budget plan with a lukewarm embrace. … The defense spending increase in the budget includes funneling more than $170 billion into a special overseas account, something even some Republicans dismissed as a gimmick aimed at getting around existing spending caps.”
-- Trump’s proposal to cut Medicare spending by $845 billion over the next 10 years, despite his campaign promises to protect the popular program, will encounter some of the strongest resistance. From Jeff Stein and Amy Goldstein: “Most of the trims relate to changing payments to doctors and hospitals … During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump said he would not cut Medicare or Social Security, the retirement program for the elderly, but his budget last year also included a proposed cut of more than $550 billion to the program.”
-- “Medicare-for-all v. Medicare-for-less: Trump’s proposed cuts put health care at center of 2020 race,” Toluse Olorunnipa and Sean Sullivan report: “Trump’s proposed Medicare savings are more than three times as large as those in his previous budget, and industry lobbying groups said the reductions would hurt hospitals and seniors. ... Democratic strategists and officials argued Monday that Trump’s budget proposal exposed how little credibility Republicans have in debating health care, and showed signs of confidence that it would sharpen the contrast Democrats are seeking to make in the run-up to the 2020 election.”
-- Cronyism alert: One of the budget's clearest beneficiaries is Trump's golfing buddy Jack Nicklaus, the namesake of a children's hospital in Miami. Under the proposal, the Health and Human Services Department would steer $20 million toward a mobile children's hospital project at the Nicklaus Children's Hospital. Politico's Dan Diamond reports: Nicklaus “had lobbied Trump on the golf course in Florida, and he met with HHS Secretary Alex Azar and then-OMB Director Mick Mulvaney in Washington, D.C., to request funds, say two individuals with knowledge. Trump personally directed HHS to earmark the funds to help Nicklaus develop mobile children's hospitals, one individual said.”
-- Trump’s budget proposal would hit America’s poor the hardest, “slashing billions of dollars in food stamps, health insurance and federal housing subsidies while pushing legislation to institute broad work requirements for families receiving housing vouchers, expanding on moves by some states to require recipients of Medicaid and food stamps to work,” Caitlin Dewey, Tracy Jan and Jeff Stein report.
- It would gut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, by $17.2 billion and would redesign the entire program, using a portion of SNAP benefit money to buy and deliver a monthly food box. Eater’s Whitney Filloon writes the proposal “claims the box would ‘significantly reduc[e] the cost to taxpayers,’” but provides no information on how “shipping a box of government-selected canned goods to millions of people would be at all cost-saving.”
- It would slash the Department of Housing and Urban Development's budget by 14 percent, eliminating the entire fund for public housing capital repairs. Trump called for cutting a federal housing subsidy program that experts estimate would result in more than a quarter-million low-income families losing assistance.
-- The budget would slash $8.5 billion from the Department of Education. Moriah Balingit and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel report: “Trump’s budget request again seeks to cut popular programs, including one that supports after-school activities for children in impoverished communities and another that offers wide-ranging grants that underwrite textbooks, equipment, counseling services and other needs for schools. That pool of money — the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program — also underwrites school safety efforts, including mental-health services and school safety equipment.”
-- The budget would also make federal workers pay more toward their retirement benefits until the employee and government share is equal. Eric Yoder reports: “For most employees that would mean an increase of about six percentage points, which would be phased in as one percentage point more per year. The government share would decrease on the same schedule. Also under the proposal, for employees retiring after an unspecified date, annuity benefits would be based on the highest five consecutive salary years rather than the currently used 'high-3.' Further, it would end a supplemental benefit paid to many employees who retire before age 62, when they become eligible for Social Security.”
-- House Dems are likely to skip a vote on a budget this year to avoid what could be an embarrassing intraparty battle. Though publicly many Democrats have said they want a chance to vote on their party’s fiscal blueprint, privately they’re saying that a budget is unlikely to come to a vote given the multiple divisions within the caucus. (Politico)
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank for records relating to the financing of four Trump Organization projects, as well as Trump's failed effort to buy the Buffalo Bills. Michael Cohen testified during last month's hearing that Trump inflated his assets in financial statements, and Cohen provided copies of statements he said had been submitted to Deutsche Bank. “The inquiry by Ms. James’s office is a civil investigation, not a criminal one, although its focus and scope were unclear,” the Times’s William K. Rashbaum and Danny Hakim report.
-- House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is seeking testimony from two lawyers responsible for Trump’s ethical and financial disclosures. But the White House is blocking him from talking to a potentially key witness. CNN's Jeremy Herb and Pamela Brown report: “White House Counsel Pat Cipollone accused the committee of making 'grossly unfair' allegations against Stefan Passantino and Trump's personal attorney Sheri Dillon — both of whom Cummings wants to interview — and damaging their reputations. Last month, Cummings sent a letter to Cipollone that stated the committee has obtained new documents showing Passantino and Dillon 'may have provided false information' when they were questioned by federal ethics officials about hush money payments paid to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. ... In response, Cipollone chided Cummings for directly requesting an interview with Passantino, instead of going through the White House counsel's office, and said the White House would not make Passantino available.”
-- Contradicting Cohen's sworn testimony, Stormy Daniels’s former lawyer Keith Davidson said Trump’s longtime fixer was outraged when no White House position materialized for him. ABC News’s Tom Llamas and Kaitlyn Folmer report: “The man who once famously said he would ‘take a bullet’ for Trump was left embarrassed and embittered, Davidson said, when despite his years of loyalty, he was not tapped for a position, like White House chief of staff or attorney general, in Trump's administration. ‘He confided in me that he was just beside himself, and, in his words, you know, he said, 'Can you … believe, after everything I've done, he's not taking me to Washington?'‘ Davidson recalled. ‘He felt that it was a personal embarrassment for him, that he was rejected.’”
-- Former acting attorney general Matt Whitaker will return to Capitol Hill tomorrow for a private meeting with the House Judiciary Committee. Karoun Demirjian reports: “In a letter to Whitaker after his testimony, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said members of the panel found Whitaker’s answers ‘unsatisfactory, incomplete, or contradicted by other evidence,’ stressing that they wanted to meet with him again so he could ‘elaborate’ on his testimony. … Nadler questioned Whitaker’s testimony indicating that he never discussed Trump’s frustration with Michael Cohen.”
-- The Senate Intelligence Committee spoke privately to Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos, who is married to former Trump campaign foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos. Karoun Demirjian reports: “The panel asked Mangiante Papadopoulos about her former employer Joseph Mifsud, a London-based professor with suspected ties to the Kremlin ... Mifsud, prosecutors have said, offered to help her husband ... broker meetings between the Trump campaign and Russian officials … Mangiante Papadopoulos said congressional investigators were more focused on her experience working with Mifsud than what she knew of her husband’s activities during the campaign.”
-- Attorneys for Roger Stone apologized in a new filing last night for misrepresenting to a federal judge plans about his new book criticizing Bob Mueller. But they said it was an unintentional mistake and the court can still seat an impartial jury. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “Attorneys for the Republican operative and longtime friend of President Trump acknowledge that the gaffe could land Stone in jail if the judge finds he violated a gag order in his case barring him from feeding prejudicial pretrial publicity. But they denied using an erroneous March 1 filing notifying the court of the 'imminent release' of the book — after the judge imposed the gag order Feb. 21 — to build publicity for the work, 'The Myth of Russian Collusion,' a retitled version of his earlier book about Trump’s 2016 campaign, with a new introduction. 'There was/is no intention to hide anything,' wrote Stone’s attorneys.”
-- The same federal judge overseeing Stone’s criminal case, Amy Berman Jackson, will decide tomorrow whether to add prison time to Manafort’s sentence. Spencer reports: “The looming question Wednesday is whether any prison time Jackson might impose will overlap or be tacked on to the 47-month term Manafort received last week from U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria. … In overseeing the Manafort case and the separate case of [Stone], Jackson has given a master class in how to try high-profile cases, some colleagues on the bench said, by relying on preparation, discretion and a refusal to get drawn into side disputes.”
-- For what it's worth, the special counsel's effort is fully funded through the end of September. After that, Mueller can request funding for the next fiscal year by the end of June. (Reuters)
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- A major cocaine bust highlights an inconvenient truth for Trump and his immigration policies: The vast majority of drugs come through legal ports of entry. Eli Rosenberg writes: “Despite Trump’s claims, experts say the majority of drugs come into the United States through legal ports of entry — not illegal crossings. Customs and Border Protection announced that a task force drawn from six law enforcement organizations had seized 3,200 pounds of cocaine — a street value of $77 million — on Feb. 28, not from some dusty overland trail in Texas, but from a shipping container that arrived at the port in Newark. It was the largest cocaine seizure at the port in nearly 25 years.”
-- More than 2,000 people in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody have been quarantined amid an outbreak of mumps and other contagious diseases. From CNN’s Geneva Sands, Michelle Lou and Susan Scutti: “‘As of March 7, 2019, there was a total of 2,287 detainees cohorted for exposure to a detainee with a contagious condition,’ said ICE spokesperson Brendan Raedy in a statement. In the past 12 months, there have been health investigations at 51 ICE detention facilities for mumps, chickenpox and influenza, according to Raedy. There have been 236 reported cases of mumps, with another 16 suspected cases during this time period. … It was unclear Monday, if ICE was taking additional steps to deal with issues of disease in its facilities.”
-- Top officials at a troubled Texas charity for migrants resigned following months of investigations into allegations of mismanagement and malfeasance. The Times's Nicholas Kulish, Kim Barker and Rebecca R. Ruiz report: “For months, Juan Sanchez was at the center of the national uproar over family separations at the Mexican border because the nonprofit he founded, Southwest Key Programs, was housing migrant children taken from their parents. On Monday, facing intense scrutiny from his own organization and federal investigations over alleged financial improprieties, he stepped down after 32 years at the helm. ... The Southwest Key shelter in a former Walmart superstore in Brownsville, Tex., known as Casa Padre, became a symbol of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, with immigration advocates likening it to a warehouse for children. But it was also a generator of millions of dollars in federal grants at a nonprofit unusually concerned with its bottom line. ... Mr. Sanchez earned $1.5 million in 2017, the most recent tax return available. His wife earned $500,000. His daughter from a previous marriage also held a senior position, but her salary was not available. Ms. Chung earned $1 million.”
-- The Customs and Border Protection agency plans to implement a “biometric entry-exit system” using facial recognition technology on more than 100 million travelers flying out of the United States. BuzzFeed News's Davey Alba reports on documents obtained by the nonprofit research organization Electronic Privacy Information Center: “These same documents state — explicitly — that there were no limits on how partnering airlines can use this facial recognition data. CBP did not answer specific questions about whether there are any guidelines for how other technology companies involved in processing the data can potentially also use it. ... CBP did not explain what its current policies around data sharing of biometric information with participating companies and third-party firms are, but it did say that the agency 'retains photos … for up to 14 days' of non-US citizens departing the country, for 'evaluation of the technology' and 'assurance of the accuracy of the algorithms' — which implies such photos might be used for further training of its facial matching AI.”
Facial recognition technology is already at use in 17 international airports, including New York, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and Houston. Major airlines including Delta, American Airlines and British Airways support the usage of this technology.
-- The apparel manufacturing, taxi and limousine services, as well as nail salons and personal care industries depend the most on immigrant labor, according to a new report by the New American Economy group. In New York, 80 percent of limo and taxi drivers are immigrants while in California, more than 75 percent of agriculture workers are immigrants. (Axios)
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- British lawmakers will determine this week whether to delay Britain’s departure from the European Union. William Booth and Karla Adam report: “On Tuesday, British lawmakers are scheduled to vote again on [Prime Minister Theresa] May’s withdrawal agreement, along with the supplemental statements. A possible series of votes this week will help determine whether Britain will depart on schedule on March 29 — or whether there will be more uncertainty, division and delay.”
-- Pelosi and Mitch McConnell extended a rare bipartisan invitation to NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg to address a joint session of Congress next month. Seung Min Kim, Rachael Bade and Robert Costa report: “NATO declined to say whether Stoltenberg would accept the invitation, saying that his schedule during his Washington trip in April ‘will be announced in due course.’ The invitation could put the NATO leader in a slightly awkward position. Stoltenberg has gone to great lengths to foster a positive relationship with Trump. If the congressional invitation were seen as too direct a rebuke to the White House, it could suck him into a domestic U.S. political battle he has been eager to avoid.”
-- The Trump administration threatened to scale back its intelligence sharing with Germany if Berlin allows the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei to participate in the country’s development of a 5G network. The Wall Street Journal’s Bojan Pancevski and Sara Germano report: The threat “marks the first time the U.S. has explicitly warned an ally that refusing to ostracize Huawei could lessen security cooperation with Washington. … Both German and U.S. officials said the threat from Washington will unsettle Germany’s security community, which is a big consumer of intelligence provided by the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and other U.S. information gatherers.”
-- The Trump administration has taken a harder-line approach to denuclearizing North Korea since the president's failed second summit with Kim Jong Un last month. John Hudson reports: “In remarks Monday, a top U.S. envoy said the United States would not lift sanctions on North Korea until it completely dismantles its nuclear and ballistic missiles. The United States is also seeking an end to Pyongyang’s chemical and biological weapons, he said. … Confronted with North Korea’s insistence on major sanctions relief at the summit, the United States made a counterproposal demanding full sanctions relief for full denuclearization, said the diplomats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations.”
-- Syrian government forces have frequently subjected male prisoners to sexual violence. Louisa Loveluck reports: “According to a report released Monday by Lawyers and Doctors for Human Rights, a Syrian rights group, security forces have used rape and enforced sterilization, as well as the tying, burning and mutilation of men’s genitals, to force confessions and submission.”
-- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) continues to defend her office's investigation into sexual harassment claims made by a former aide. She said she has no regrets about the way it was handled and she has not spoken with the woman who made the claims since she left her staff last summer. (Felicia Sonmez)
-- Beto O’Rourke is expected to launch his presidential campaign very soon, even though he has not really prepared in the traditional way. The New York Times’s Matt Flegenheimer and Lisa Lerer report: “There has been no flirtation tour in Iowa, no trip to New Hampshire since his college years as an Ivy League rower. Mr. O’Rourke had no traditional campaign-in-waiting at the ready after the midterms … Few doubt Mr. O’Rourke’s capacity to upend the race regardless, buoyed by a talent for relentless retail politics, a formidable low-dollar fundraising army and an unsubtle contrast to front-runners in their 70s, like [Biden and Sanders]. … But perhaps no major 2020 player invites as many question marks as Mr. O’Rourke, and his drawn-out non-candidacy has provided few answers.” O’Rourke announced in a Twitter video that he would make his first visit to Iowa this weekend.
-- Stacey Abrams, who also lost the Georgia gubernatorial race last year, said she could run for president in 2020 after saying previously that 2028 would be the earliest race she'd consider. (CNN)
-- Under fire, Facebook quickly reversed its decision to pull ads by Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign calling for the breakup of the social media giant. Politico’s Cristiano Lima reports: “The ads, which had identical images and text, touted Warren's recently announced plan to unwind ‘anti-competitive’ tech mergers, including Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram. … A message on the three ads said: ‘This ad was taken down because it goes against Facebook's advertising policies.’ A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the ads had been taken down but said the company is in the process of restoring them.”
-- Related: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission accusing the agency of allowing Facebook and other tech giants to mishandle consumers’ private data. Tony Romm reports: “Hawley said there is ‘substantial evidence’ that Facebook had broken a 2011 agreement with the FTC that settled an earlier probe into its privacy practices — a breach that could trigger steep federal fines.”
-- “Court packing” is gaining currency among far-left activists, who in turn are trying to prod presidential candidates to embrace it. Michael Scherer reports: “Former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr., who recently decided against running for president, became the latest figure to embrace an expansion of the nine-member court in recent talks at Yale Law School and Columbia University. … [South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg] has also discussed a 15-justice structure for the court — five Democratic appointees, five Republican appointees and five chosen by the other 10. … The concept of expanding the Supreme Court, like the phrase ‘court packing’ itself, fell into lengthy disrepute after 1937, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt ... sought to add six friendlier justices, prompting an outcry even from allies.
-- The strong showings of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in the latest Iowa poll are impressive but shouldn’t be overemphasized, Dan Balz writes: “The poll should be read in two ways — as a sign of initial strength for each of them, and as an indication of the vulnerabilities the two best-known figures in the race could face. … With a big field assembling, those numbers — Biden at 27 percent and Sanders at 25 percent — are helpful but not overwhelmingly impressive. At every candidate event this year, there are more shoppers than buyers, and any number of candidates are drawing crowds and good reviews. Other candidates are and will have their moments. Still, it is notable that Biden and Sanders are where they are, given who they are.”
-- This week, Biden will address the International Association of Firefighters and the Delaware Democratic Party, two supportive audiences that will serve as the final test drive before the former vice president makes a 2020 decision. From NBC News’s Mike Memoli: “The coming week may be a point of no return for him, as aides recognize that the party’s patience is wearing thin. To the extent advisers identify any potential hurdles he’s still reckoning with, they are parallel: how and when to engage with attacks from the most strident partisan voices in both parties, including Trump.” No final decisions have been made on what Biden’s campaign platform would be, but advisers said their starting point is similar to the one he sketched out when he considered joining the 2016 race which includes:
- A $15 per-hour minimum wage
- Free tuition at public colleges and universities
- A tax code overhaul to treat investment income as earned income.
-- Many of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s closest aides are trying to talk him out of running for president. Politico’s Laura Nahmias and Sally Goldenberg report: “As de Blasio touted his liberal record in Iowa and South Carolina in recent weeks, nearly three dozen former and current aides, consultants and allies ... panned the idea or doubted that the mayor would run for the Democratic nomination. Aside from the few people working on the nascent effort, only two said de Blasio should run.”
-- The large Democratic field is stressing out a very specific group of people: pollsters. Politico's Steven Shepard reports: “New surveys are cramming up to 23 Democrats into their questionnaires after the Democratic National Committee set a low, 1 percent polling threshold to gain admittance into the party’s first primary debates. The miles-long list of candidates has created an unusual set of methodological challenges for pollsters already battling declining engagement with their surveys. ... The 2020 race presents a different problem: which candidates to include. Most pollsters are choosing to list as many candidates as possible — even at the risk of flooding poll respondents with a long list of names.”
-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will speak at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics's Politics & Eggs series. It's a common campaign stop for White House hopefuls. Hogan is weighing a primary challenge to Trump. (Ovetta Wiggins)
-- Some NRA leaders are expressing concern about NRATV, the group’s streaming service that has attracted controversy as its hosts have wandered far from the issue of gun rights. The New York Times’s Danny Hakim reports: “Since its creation in 2016, it has adopted an increasingly apocalyptic, hard-right tone, warning of race wars, describing Barack Obama as a ‘fresh-faced flower-child president,’ calling for a march on the Federal Bureau of Investigation and comparing journalists to rodents. In recent weeks, in a rare airing of internal debate at the N.R.A., two prominent board members expressed concerns about NRATV.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
A prominent Republican strategist predicted that Trump may soon start searching for a new running mate:
A CNN reporter made this note about Trump's travel costs:
Trump backed a growing movement to adopt daylight saving time year-round:
"His tweet followed the introduction of a bill last week by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that would make daylight saving time a year-round reality. Rep. Vern Buchanan, another Florida Republican, introduced matching legislation of the Sunshine Protection Act in the House," John Wagner and Joel Achenbach explain.
An Atlantic reporter noted how volatile presidential election polls can be this early in the race:
Ann Coulter hit back at Trump's attacks:
The executive producer of "Veep" responded to Trump's tweet with this reference to the show:
A Bloomberg editor shared this typo:
A Wisconsin native, who now writes for the Los Angeles Times, shared some guidance for those heading to Milwaukee for the DNC convention:
And the National Press Photographers Association's photographer of the year shared some of his best pictures from 2018:
-- “Two decades after vanishing, her daughter suddenly showed up with children, a new identity — and speaking Spanish,” by Terrence McCoy: “Twenty years, 10 months and two weeks after her daughter vanished, Cynthia Haag was inside the rowhouse she refused to abandon — lest her missing child come back — when her phone started to ring. Her other daughter was on the line, saying she’d just gotten an unexpected message on Facebook. It was from Crystal. The long-lost child. … Her hair was now short. She spoke Spanish fluently. And she was no longer Crystal Haag, who would have been 35, but had adopted the alias of Crystal Saunders, who was 44. In that moment, however, none of those changes mattered. ‘Still my pretty girl,’ Cynthia said, hugging her. Her missing daughter was finally home, but the hard part was just beginning.”
-- New Yorker, “‘Captain Marvel’ wants you to know it’s a capital-‘D’-Democratic movie,” by Richard Brody: “’Captain Marvel’ is like a political commercial — it packs a worthy message, but it hardly counts as an aesthetic experience. The message of the film is conveyed less through the story than through its casting: women and people of color need to have starring roles in major Hollywood productions, which, at the moment, mainly mean big-budget superhero movies, the most profitable films in the industry. Its implicit subject is more than representation — it’s also the redistribution of power in Hollywood. There are some secondary (but still significant) messages, too, but the movie itself is, for the most part, trivial. Its significance is what it promises for movies to come.”
-- Daily Beast, “‘Colony of Hell’: 911 Calls From Inside Amazon Warehouses,” by Max Zahn and Sharif Paget: “Dozens and dozens of times over five years, calls were made from Amazon warehouses to 911 dispatchers about men and women on the brink. There was the suicidal employee in Hebron, Kentucky, who police said ‘is pregnant and threatening the baby’ in December 2016. The 22-year-old woman in Joliet, Illinois, who said she wanted to ‘stab herself in the stomach’ that same month. … Between October 2013 and October 2018, emergency workers were summoned to Amazon warehouses at least 189 times for suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts, and other mental-health episodes, according to 911 call logs, ambulance and police reports reviewed and analyzed by The Daily Beast.” (Amazon CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Pro-Jeb Bush super PAC improperly accepted $1.3 million from Chinese-owned company, FEC says,” from Michelle Ye Hee Lee: “The Federal Election Commission found that the super PAC that supported Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign violated a federal ban on the involvement of foreign nationals in donations to political committees when it accepted $1.3 million from a company owned by two Chinese nationals. The FEC ordered the super PAC and the company to pay a combined $940,000 in penalties — one of its largest fines to date, according to FEC records. The violation centered on communications between a Chinese couple, Gordon Tang and Huaidan Chen, and Bush’s brother Neil Bush, who was raising money for the super PAC and was involved in business with the couple.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Hoyer hits back at Tlaib, Omar, Ocasio-Cortez after Pelosi backs away from Trump impeachment push,” from Fox News's Frank Miles: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland hit back at some of the most visible new Democrats in Congress when asked Monday by Fox News about the push to impeach President Trump: 'We’ve got 62 new (Democratic) members. Not three.' ... Hoyer apparently was referring to Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who regularly have fought the Trump administration's policies since entering Congress. ... He also said he thought anything the House might attempt would die in the Senate, which requires 67 yeas to convict and remove the president: 'Nobody thinks there is going to be a conviction in the Senate.'”
Trump will be presented with the Boy Scouts’ report to the nation and participate in a bill signing.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) criticized the DNC’s decision to not air any primary debates on Fox: “You know, look, it's no surprise to anybody, including Fox News watchers, that Fox is largely an instrument of the right wing -- of the Republican Party. It's a propaganda arm for the White House,” Himes said on CNN. “As they say, 'You don't need to persuade your friends, you need to persuade people who disagree with you.' So I would've made a different decision.” (CNN)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Today might be cool and breezy, but at least the sun is out. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “We keep a much-appreciated dry spell going the next several days. Meanwhile temperatures bounce around some. After a brief cool-down today, temperatures begin an upward climb tomorrow. By Thursday, we’re back into the 60s. We have a shot at 70 or so Friday, but that’s when the dry spell ends as showers move in. The weekend dries out and cools back down with below-normal temperatures.”
-- The Wizards beat the Kings 121-115. (Candace Buckner)
-- Maryland teachers rallied for increased education funding. Erin Cox reports: “More than 170 school buses brought education advocates, clad in red T-shirts, to pressure lawmakers to commit billions more to public schools. The long-planned 'March for Our Schools' rally took place even after top Democrats promised last week to pump $1 billion into public schools over the next two years. While similar rallies in other states have been tied to teacher strikes in recent years, Maryland’s teachers say the strategy here is a political full-court press to improve schools they say have been chronically underfunded by as much as $2.9 billion per year.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert joked that Trump came up with a few new nicknames for the 2020 Democratic candidates:
He also took a stab at Tucker Carlson's "apology":
Seth Meyers dissected some of Trump's "lies," including the one he made to RNC members when he said he didn't call Tim Cook "Tim Apple":
Trevor Noah tackled the "fake Melania" conspiracy:
And a Democratic senator from Wisconsin praised the DNC's decision to hold the 2020 convention in Milwaukee: