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The Daily 202: Decrying court packing, Michael Bennet pleads with Democrats to care more about electability

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) speaks at a town hall meeting in Jaffrey, N.H. (James Hohmann/The Washington Post)
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with Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro


CONCORD, N.H.—Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) slammed his head on the table four times when I asked what he thought about other Democratic presidential contenders embracing the idea of expanding the Supreme Court.

“Having seen up close just how cynical and how vicious the tea party guys and the Freedom Caucus guys and Mitch McConnell have been, the last thing I want to do is be those guys,” he said during an interview at a coffee shop here the Friday night before last. “What I want to do is beat these guys so that we can begin to govern again.”

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., suggested that morning during a speech in Manchester, which coincided with Bennet’s first foray to New Hampshire, that the number of justices should grow from nine to 15 – with Republicans picking five, Democrats picking five and those 10 justices together agreeing on the rest.

“I can understand Mayor Pete's frustration because he's a mayor,” Bennet said. “He comes to this with the purest intentions a person could have. I'm not sure if he spent a couple months in Washington that he'd have the same point of view.”

But Buttigieg is far from alone. Even some of Bennet’s Senate colleagues have rushed to endorse the latest litmus test from the far left: Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand express varying degrees of openness to the concept of changing the composition of the court to benefit liberals. Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, however, each express skepticism about the very idea that famously derailed Franklin Roosevelt’s second term.

Court packing, like reparations, has emerged as a bright new dividing line to separate the pragmatists from the ideologues in the Democratic contest. The issue is quickly become a proxy for the larger choice Democrats must confront as they pick a standard bearer for 2020: Will they go with their heads or their hearts?

-- Bennet, who says he’s inclined to run for president and will decide in a matter of “weeks,” represents an antidote to the Democratic Party’s leftward lurch. “I guess I'm starting to think strongly that we need a voice in this primary that's willing to make the kind of case that I think that I would make,” he said.

Speaking at a house party up the hill from the State House after our interview, Bennet made an impassioned plea to 50 Democrats that the party must be more careful to avoid the “traps” being laid by President Trump. “Look, we’ve got to nominate somebody who can beat Donald Trump. That means we have a responsibility not to do ourselves in,” he said. “I went around in 2016 saying Trump couldn’t win. I was totally wrong. …

Trump’s not an idiot,” he continued. Whatever you think of Trump – and I can’t stand the guy myself – he is a marketing genius. He is a savant of some kind when it comes to marketing. And where he sees the weakness, he will exploit it. … Trump knows he can't get elected on his two feet. What he's trying to do is disqualify the Democratic Party. He looks for opportunities to do that by calling people socialists … by saying Democrats are for open borders … and by saying Democrats are anti-Israel. … I think Democrats need to be very strategic in not falling into the traps that Donald Trump is laying for us.”

Bennet explained why he stood to applaud the president during the State of the Union. “When he said we're never going to be a socialist country, I was the first Democrat out of their chair,” he said. “I didn't know this at the time, but Bernie [Sanders] ... is sitting right behind me and he's sitting in his chair scowling while I'm standing up and applauding. ... The reason I was on my feet is that I’m not going to let him disqualify us that way. I know what he’s trying to do. … It’s not because I’m applauding him. It’s because I want to show that Democrats don’t feel that way. Most Democrats don’t.”

Asked about the Medicare-for-all bill that several of his Senate colleagues running for president have co-sponsored, Bennet made the case against the bill both on the substance and the politics. “That legislation takes insurance away from 180 million people who get it from their employer, 80 percent of whom like it,” he said. “It takes it away from every single union that has collectively bargained for their health-care plan. It takes it away from 20 million people that have Medicare Advantage who love Medicare Advantage. …

“We’re making it too easy for the people who don’t want to cover everybody,” he continued. “Donald Trump has been smart enough to figure out that he can agitate seniors about this question because he’s going to say to seniors, ‘Wait a minute, you guys had to wait until you were 65 years old. You spent your whole life paying into it. And now all of America is going to be in the plan with you.’ I have no problem with political slogans, but we have to have a plan for how to address this. … I want to say very clearly: This is a not a call for moderation. It is not a call for splitting the difference.”

-- Bennet’s pedigree, plus his status as a second-term senator from a purple state that Democrats must carry to win the White House in 2020, would have made him a top-tier candidate in presidential elections of the recent past. His resume and record are more distinguished, and his platform is more polished, than someone like former House member and failed Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, who has been the subject of saturation media coverage since he announced last Thursday. Bennet even chaired the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the 2014 cycle. Traditionally, this kind of coveted post was considered invaluable for a candidate to build a national network of major donors. But Beto raised $6.1 million of small-dollar contributions during his first 24 hours as a candidate without it, and Bennet so far has been little more than an afterthought among pundits or an asterisk in polls.

-- Partly this is because so much of the energy has been on the left thus far, and there’s so much hunger for sending a shock to the political system. “‘Morning Joe’ calls you a ‘centrist’ candidate,” a man at the house party told Bennet, referring to MSNBC host Joe Scarborough. “Is that what you are!?”

“I’m not,” Bennet said, before pausing for eight solid seconds. “If you get up in the morning worrying about the poor kids in America’s schools and you think about that all day and you go to bed thinking about that, then I would say you’re a progressive. That’s how I think about it. … Sometimes I don’t hear about that from more ‘progressive’ candidates. So I hope in this debate maybe we can redefine some terms about what’s progressive, what’s centrist, what’s moderate, what’s whatever. I was described by a reporter in the New Haven Register as a ‘pragmatic idealist.’ I’ll take that description. I think that’s what we need.”

-- If there was an American aristocracy, Bennet would be part of it. His grandfather was an economic adviser to FDR during the New Deal. His father worked for Lyndon Johnson during the Great Society and was Jimmy Carter’s assistant secretary of state before taking the helm of National Public Radio. His brother is currently the editorial page editor of the New York Times. (The Times says James Bennet will recuse himself from any work related to the 2020 election “or major issues in the campaign” if Michael runs.)

The senator went to St. Albans and Wesleyan University before Yale Law School. Then he clerked for a circuit court judge, worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in Connecticut and served a stint in Bill Clinton’s Justice Department. But he really didn’t want to be a practicing attorney. So he moved to Denver to support his wife Susan’s career as an environmental lawyer – like Bill and Hillary, they met at Yale Law – and took a very lucrative job overseeing corporate reorganizations and consolidations at the investment company owned by billionaire conservative megadonor Phil Anschutz. Bennet brushed aside my question about the certain attacks he’d face in the Democratic primaries for this work. “I stand on my record in the private sector,” he said.

Feeling called to public service, Bennet gave up the big paychecks in 2003 to become chief of staff to the new mayor of Denver, a fellow by the name of John Hickenlooper. Bennet later became the superintendent of the city’s public schools. When Obama appointed then-Sen. Ken Salazar as Interior secretary in 2009, the governor at the time appointed Bennet to replace him. He won a full term in 2010 and another in 2016.

Hickenlooper, who also wanted that open Senate seat, instead got elected as governor in 2010 and just finished his second term. He’s already announced he’s running for president, which is awkward. Both Hickenlooper and Bennet downplay differences and say they’re different people with different backgrounds. In fact – temperamentally, ideologically and geographically –  they seem quite similar. “I don’t think my being in the race would have kept John out of the race, and I think the reverse is true,” Bennet said.

-- My question about court packing really got Bennet animated. He believes strongly that Trump won in 2016 as a direct result of McConnell blockading Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court, and he’s angry that the majority leader went nuclear in 2017 after Democrats filibustered Neil Gorsuch. But he volunteered without prompting that he doesn’t have a totally clean nose. Referring to Harry Reid ending the filibuster for circuit court judges in 2013 after McConnell prevented so many of Barack Obama’s nominees from getting a vote, which he supported at the time, Bennet said: “We didn't always follow the rules. We changed the rules. People can decide whose fault it was. There's plenty of blame to go around. My point is that we owe something much better than this to the American people."

Bennet, who edited the most prestigious of the law reviews at Yale and studied American history as an undergraduate, praised the founding fathers for devising a Constitution that created “the most elegant mechanisms” to facilitate decision making among free people. Sitting next to him at the table was the eldest of his three daughters. Caroline, 19, a Yale freshman, is on spring break. They wore matching fleece Patagonia pullovers. The 54-year-old father turned his answer into an extended civics lesson.

“They believed we would have disagreement, that this was an essential part of living in a democracy, and out of that disagreement would come much more durable and imaginative solutions than any king or tyrant could ever think of,” he said. “That's what those mechanisms are for, and we're in the process of breaking all of those mechanisms. We should think long and hard about whether or not we want to destroy all that, whether we think that what we should do is live in a world where they have their version of one-party rule for a while and then we substitute it with our version of one-party rule. To me, that seems like a really bad answer.”

Bennet has sought to stake out the moral high ground as a vocal defender of institutions and norms. He complained that both parties focus too much on raw power. He lamented the descent of American politics into “this continuous game of shirts and skins, where you put in your climate policy for two years and they rip it out and then you put in another and they rip it out.” He criticized his congressional colleagues for believing that dueling press releases somehow serve the people they represent. “I don't know why we think we can be so lazy that we could just go on cable television at night and somehow our work is done,” Bennet complained. “Or that we've introduced legislation and somehow that’s the same thing as actually providing health care to people in America.

“For me, this isn’t just about beating Trump, which I think is important and essential but not sufficient. We also have to figure out how to govern the country, and we're not. We weren't before Trump showed up,” Bennet added. “I'm not going to say one thing in the primary and something else in the general, and obviously I’m betting on the fact that that’s going to be appealing to people who want politicians to … level with them. That may sound naive, but I think that's the only path that I have. And I don't happen to think it’s naive because I think what’s naive is imagining that we can keep repeating what we're doing in Washington – and this is even without Trump – and imagine that our kids and grandkids are going to remember us very favorably.”

-- Independents can vote in either party’s primary in New Hampshire, and they’re central to Bennet’s theory of the case. If Trump doesn’t have a credible challenger on the right, many swing voters will take ballots to vote in next February’s Democratic contest. Bennet interacted with several of these voters during a town hall style meeting for employees of a rural manufacturing plant in the town of Jaffrey.

Barry Charron, 36, is an independent who didn’t vote in the 2016 primary or general election because none of the candidates caught his fancy. He’s undecided about 2020. “He has a very moderate approach, and I appreciate that, because I only see things escalating,” Charron said after watching Bennet talk for an hour. “It’s a pendulum right now, and I’m afraid that the next president that we’re going to get will be even worse than Trump but in the other direction. Like painfully liberal. To the point where they’re ignoring important issues just to make people clap.”

Chris Hanley, 42, is also an independent who works in the machine shop. He voted for John Kasich in the 2016 GOP primary and Hillary Clinton in the general election. He pressed Bennet about how Democrats can do a better job reaching blue-collar voters. “He probably needs to present himself a little bit more firmly and speak a little bit louder and what not, but I liked his answers and I was pretty impressed with him as a candidate,” Hanley said afterward. “Some people in Congress are really alienating people in their own parties that aren’t far enough to the right or far enough to the left. And that’s really a shame because, if you don’t have compromise, you don’t really have a working government.”

-- Bennet has given everyone who hosted him in Iowa and New Hampshire two books wrapped together in a blue bow: “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” by Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond, and “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom,” by Yale historian David Blight.

“The abolitionists were saying the Constitution was a pro-slavery document, and Frederick Douglass said that's not right,” Bennet explained when I asked about these selections. “He said it’s an anti-slavery document and we are not living up to what it says. In his generation, he changed the politics of the abolitionist movement. I think it made them successful in what they were trying to do. As a result, I think Frederick Douglass deserves to be considered a founder just as much as any of the people who wrote the Constitution. That was just as important as what they did.

“We forget how hard people have struggled to make this society, as imperfect as it is, less imperfect than it has been,” he added. “When we think about what it means to be a citizen in a republic that is under the kind of stress this republic is under, we should be thinking of ourselves as founders. That's why I can't accept … the idea that we are fated to have this pathetic and disgraceful political system for the rest of our lives. Other Americans have found ways to fix it. We should be able to find ways to fix it.”

-- Bottom line: If he decides not to try in 2020, Bennet would be well positioned to run in 2024 if Democrats nominate the kind of unelectable candidate whom he fears – and that person subsequently flames out a la George McGovern in 1972.

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-- The black box data from the Ethiopian Airlines crash shows “clear similarities” with the Lion Air flight that went down last October in Indonesia, Ethiopia’s transportation minister said. She intends to release a preliminary report on what caused the crash in the next month, per Paul Schemm.

-- Aviation experts are scrutinizing the angle-of-attack sensor on Boeing jets after the two crashes, Todd Frankel reports: “Accident investigators have raised concerns about the role of the sensor — a device used on virtually every commercial flight — in the October crash … There are concerns it may have sent the wrong signals to new software on the flight that automatically dips the plane’s nose to prevent a stall. It is not clear whether the angle-of-attack sensor played a role in the Ethiopian crash. … Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg said Sunday that his company is finalizing software updates and pilot training protocols to address problems that have emerged ‘in response to erroneous sensor inputs.’ He did not specify which sensors.

  • Six experts said that the risks posed by a faulty angle-of-attack sensor are amplified by the increasing role of cockpit automation. It is an example of how the same technology that makes aircraft safer — automated software — can be undone by a seemingly small problem.
  • “Angle-of-attack sensors have been flagged as problems more than 50 times on U.S. commercial airplanes over the past five years, although no accidents have occurred over millions of miles flown, according to reports made to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Service Difficulty Reporting database.
  • "The FAA reports include 19 reported cases of sensor trouble on Boeing aircraft, such as an American Airlines flight last year that declared a midflight emergency when the plane’s stall-warning system went off, despite normal airspeed. The Boeing 737-800 landed safely.”

-- After publicly emphasizing his direct role in determining whether to ground the 737 Max 8, Trump and his team are now trying to deflect responsibility for the decision back to the Federal Aviation Administration. Michael Laris, Josh Dawsey, Luz Lazo and Ashley Halsey III report: “It was extraordinary for a president to intervene in matters typically left to the FAA or the Department of Transportation. … Rather than simply being briefed on the FAA’s findings in the day's after the crash, Trump played an active role, participating in phone calls with [Muilenburg] and other stakeholders, and offering his thoughts about the aviation industry."


  1. Duke secured the No. 1 overall seed inthe NCAA tournament. Virginia, North Carolina and Gonzaga won the other three No. 1 seeds for the college basketball bracket. (Patrick Stevens and Mike Hume)
  2. A man released from prison because of the criminal justice reform bill was denied an apartment in Nashville because of his criminal record even after Kim Kardashian West offered to pay his rent. Matthew Charles served 21 years for drug-related offenses and was one of Trump’s guests at this year’s State of the Union, but he’s still having a hard time finding a new place to live. (CNN

  3. At least two people were killed by flooding in the Midwest. Nebraska, which has seen some of the worst damage, confirmed the two fatalities and said two others have been missing for days. (Mark Berman and Reis Thebault)

  4. In Indonesia, at least 50 people have been killed by flash floods. Torrential rain and landslides left 59 more injured and dozens of homes damaged. (AFP)

  5. Yale’s former head women’s soccer coach, Rudy Meredith, who was implicated in the admissions cheating scandal, allegedly pressured players to write papers for his graduate school essays. Two former players said Meredith asked players to edit and write significant portions of his academic assignments while he was pursuing a master’s degree at Ohio University, questionable behavior that was allegedly shared with Yale’s president and Department of Athletics. (Yale Daily News)

  6. Therapists who specialize in helping clients decide whether to have children say they have recently seen an uptick in interest at their practices. The therapists have observed more members of the “xennial” microgeneration, those in their mid-30s to early 40s, seeking guidance as their fertility window narrows. (Caitlin Gibson)  

  7. Historically black colleges and universities are experiencing a resurgent appeal in an era of racially divisive rhetoric. Enrollment at HBCUs is on the rise as students increasingly see the schools as a "safe haven" from racist views. (Peter Jamison)

  8. Trump strongly dislikes driverless cars. He thinks the autonomous vehicle revolution is "crazy" and worries the vehicles will veer out of control. He says privately he'd never let a computer drive him. (Axios)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced March 18 her cabinet’s decision to change gun laws. (Video: Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)


-- “New Zealand’s coalition government plans to unveil gun law reforms within the next week in response to the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Monday,” Anna Fifield and Shibani Mahtani report from Christchurch, N.Z.: “These could include restricting the military-style semiautomatic weapons that were used in the attacks, which left 50 people dead and some 40 injured, and that have been used in many of the recent mass shootings in the United States. ... The cabinet is dominated by the center-left Labour Party but including four members of the right-wing New Zealand First party. It made a decision ‘in principle’ about reforming gun laws, Ardern said, adding that she would provide further detail before the cabinet meets again next Monday.”

From the prime minister’s address to the nation: “Within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism, we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer. … As a cabinet, we were absolutely unified and very clear. … It has exposed a range of weaknesses in New Zealand’s gun laws. The clear lesson from history around the world is that, to make our community safe, the time to act is now.”

-- "Besides the debate on gun control, New Zealanders considered a call to open doors to more refugees and whether an enormously successful rugby team in Canterbury should change its name from the Crusaders because of the overtones of religious intolerance," Shibani and Emanuel Stoakes report.

-- Facebook said it removed 1.5 million videos of the shooting in the 24 hours after the attack. Shibani Mahtani reports: “Of the 1.5 million videos of the massacre, filmed by a body-worn camera on the perpetrator almost in the style of a video game, 1.2 million were blocked at upload. Facebook’s statement came after Ardern said ... that there were ‘further questions to be answered’ by Facebook and other social media sites over their response to the events. … And though Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have all removed Tarrant’s accounts, dozens of archived versions remain available, along with the links and videos he shared.”

-- The editorial board of the Annapolis Capital, the Maryland newspaper attacked by a gunman last year, posed the following question: How do you navigate a world where you can be shot to death in any conceivable location? “How do you get out of bed in the morning, head out the door, say goodbye to your loved ones when you know that violent death may be waiting for you or them around the corner: one angry person with a gun? ... Anyone with a gun, white supremacists from Australia or angry men from Laurel, can be out to kill you. ... This is about guns, but more than guns. It is about unbridled hate, powered by the internet and armed through easy access to deadly firepower.”

Police said they will provide “a highly visible” presence when New Zealanders return to daily life three days after an attack on two mosques killed 50 people. (Video: Monica Akhtar, Allie Caren, Drea Cornejo, Sarah Parnass, Taylor Turner/The Washington Post)

-- Information on the victims has been trickling out as more identifications are made. Siobhán O'Grady and Katie Mettler report: “The slain include refugees and immigrants from a number of countries, high school students, toddlers, academics and leaders of local Muslim organizations. Government officials have confirmed that at least six Pakistanis, four Jordanians and four Egyptians are among the dead. The Saudi Embassy confirmed that two Saudi citizens were injured, and the family of one later told the news organization Al Arabiya that he had died of his injuries. The Red Cross New Zealand is maintaining a list of names online of those who have not yet been accounted for.”

-- The families of the slain are pressuring authorities to release the bodies of their loved ones, as Muslim tradition dictates the dead should be laid to rest as quickly as possible. Anna reports: “Mucad Ibrahim was wearing little white socks, the type with grips on the bottom so that toddlers don’t slip, when he was carried out of the Al Noor mosque … That was the last time his family saw him. They hope they will finally get to wash and wrap his tiny body and bury him Monday, much later than is traditional in Islam. … Mucad, whose name is pronounced Mou’ad but who was more commonly called by the Arabic diminutive ‘Mou’adee,’ was 3 years old. He was born in New Zealand to a Somali family who had fled fighting in their home country more than 20 years ago. … He was the youngest of the 50 victims in the attacks ... But just as the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut caused particular heartache because of the first-grade victims’ innocence, so too does Mucad’s death encapsulate the inexplicability of this man-made disaster. ... [W]hen the gunman stormed into the mosque about 10 minutes into the sermon and started spraying bullets indiscriminately around the men’s section, little Mucad appeared to think it was a scene from the kind of video game his older brothers liked to play. He ran toward the gunman."

-- An additional 34 people are still being treated in Christchurch Hospital, with 12 in critical condition in intensive care. A 4-year-old girl has been moved to a dedicated children’s hospital in Auckland, where she is also in critical condition.

-- A Pakistani man who tried to stop the shooter will be recognized by his home country. Shaiq Hussain and Pamela Constable report: “Naeem Rashid, 50, a teacher and father of three who emigrated from Pakistan to New Zealand a decade ago, was busy this month planning the spring wedding of his son Talha, 21. Neither father nor son lived to celebrate the occasion. Both were killed Friday. But since then, Rashid has become a national hero in his native country, after video footage of the shootings showed him trying to tackle the gunman outside one mosque before being shot. … Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced Sunday that Rashid would be given a posthumous national award for bravery.”

Brenton Harrison Tarrant’s grandmother said March 17 she was left "gobsmacked" upon hearing the news that he was allegedly responsible for the mosque shootings. (Video: Reuters)

-- The alleged shooter fired his lawyer and plans to represent himself, leading to speculation he might try to showcase his extremist views during the trial. Anna reports: “Brenton Tarrant, 28, of Australia, who has been charged with one count of murder, appeared to be lucid and not mentally unstable, said Richard Peters, his former attorney. He is expected to face more charges when he next appears in court on April 5. … ‘What did seem apparent to me is he seemed quite clear and lucid, whereas this may seem like very irrational behavior,’ said Peters, who represented Tarrant during his first court appearance Saturday. ‘He didn’t appear to me to be facing any challenges or mental impairment, other than holding fairly extreme views,’ Peters told the New Zealand Herald, adding that the accused gunman did not display any regret.” 

-- “In Australian media, a picture began to emerge of a young man who grew up with computers as his best friends, lost in a world of violent video games [and] uncomfortable around girls," Brett Cole reports. "Tarrant’s mother and sister have been moved to a safe house by police."

-- Miles away from the shooting, in San Francisco, YouTube struggled to shut down the video of the massacre. Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg report: Neal Mohan, "YouTube’s chief product officer, had assembled his war room — a group of senior executives known internally as 'incident commanders' who jump into crises, such as when footage of a suicide or shooting spreads online. The team worked through the night, trying to identify and remove tens of thousands of videos — many repackaged or recut versions of the original footage that showed the horrific murders. As soon as the group took down one, another would appear, as quickly as one per second in the hours after the shooting, Mohan said in an interview. As its efforts faltered, the team finally took unprecedented steps — including temporarily disabling several search functions and cutting off human review features to speed the removal of videos flagged by automated systems. Many of the new clips were altered in ways that outsmarted the company’s detection systems. ... The uploads came more rapidly and in far greater volume than during previous mass shootings, Mohan said.  ... In this case, humans determined to beat the company’s detection tools won the day — to the horror of people watching around the world." 


-- Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman authorized a secret campaign to crush dissent a year before Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed, the New York Times’s Mark Mazzetti and Ben Hubbard report: “Members of the team that killed Mr. Khashoggi, which American officials called the Saudi Rapid Intervention Group, were involved in at least a dozen operations starting in 2017 ... Some of the operations involved forcibly repatriating Saudis from other Arab countries and detaining and abusing prisoners in palaces belonging to the crown prince and his father, King Salman … The rapid intervention team had been so busy that last June its leader asked a top adviser to Prince Mohammed whether the crown prince would give the team bonuses for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan.”

-- The U.S. military is planning on leaving as many as 1,000 troops in Syria, three months after Trump ordered a complete withdrawal. The Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum and Nancy A. Youssef report: “Protracted administration talks with Turkey, European allies and U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters have so far failed to secure an agreement to create a safe zone in northeastern Syria, part of Mr. Trump’s plan for leaving Syria. The U.S. now plans to keep working with Kurdish fighters in Syria, despite Turkish threats to cross the border and attack the Kurds, U.S. officials said. … After [this] story appeared online Sunday evening, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a statement saying it was ‘factually inaccurate’ to say the military was developing plans to keep nearly 1,000 troops in Syria. ‘We continue to implement the president’s direction to draw down U.S. forces to a residual presence,’ he said.”

-- Israel's top court banned a far-right candidate from the country's presidential election but allowed an Arab slate, plus a candidate from a leftist alliance, to run. Ruth Eglash reports: "Michael Ben Ari, leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit faction, called the decision to prevent his candidacy anti-democratic. ... Ben Ari and his party, which translates as Jewish Power, have argued for the forcible transfer of Israel’s minority Arabs unless they swear an oath of loyalty. The faction had been given a shot at entering the Knesset thanks to a deal it reached with two other far-right parties. The agreement was encouraged by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu."

-- One Israeli was killed and two others were wounded after an attack at the West Bank, where a Palestinian assailant opened fire at two locations. Ruth reports: “Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli army spokesman, said a manhunt was underway for the assailant, who fled the area after first assaulting an Israeli soldier with a knife, stealing his weapon and then opening fire on passing vehicles and at an intersection. … Immediately after Sunday’s shooting, two militant Palestinian factions — Hamas and Islamic Jihad — released statements praising the attack as ‘heroic.’ Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip and has an increasingly powerful presence in the West Bank, said the shooting was in response to ‘the crimes of the Israeli occupation.’”

-- The Philippines left the International Criminal Court, becoming the second country in the world to do so, amid a probe into President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. Regine Cabato reports: “The Philippines’ withdrawal comes a year after it submitted notice of its exit, which followed an ICC announcement that the country was under preliminary examination for thousands of killings since Duterte rose to the presidency in 2016. The probe is a prelude to a possible investigation, which Duterte’s critics hope will find him criminally accountable under international law. Duterte in turn threatened to arrest ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda if she set foot in the Philippines."

-- The U.S.-China trade wars are going into overtime with both countries pushing for a late April date for their summit meeting. The Times’s Ana Swanson reports: “Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said Thursday that the administration was “pleased with the progress” of the talks and that ‘a lot of documents’ were moving back and forth but acknowledged that a signing ceremony this month was out of the question. ‘We still have more work to do,’ Mr. Mnuchin said. ‘It’s more important we get the right agreement and not rush it, but we’re working diligently to try to do this as quickly as possible.’ The Chinese are now pushing for Mr. Xi’s trip to take the form of a state visit to Washington, though plans are still in flux, people with knowledge of the discussions said.” 

-- The U.S. is failing to get Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei banned overseas since its allies won’t give the company up. The Times’s Julian E. Barnes and Adam Satariano report: “Over the past several months, American officials have tried to pressure, scold and, increasingly, threaten other nations that are considering using Huawei in building fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless networks. Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, has pledged to withhold intelligence from nations that continue to use Chinese telecom equipment. The American ambassador to Germany cautioned Berlin this month that the United States would curtail intelligence sharing if that country used Huawei. … But the campaign has run aground. Britain, Germany, India and the United Arab Emirates are among the countries signaling they are unlikely to back the American effort to entirely ban Huawei from building their 5G networks.” 


-- “A federal investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein had flagged scores of potential underage victims, including the 14-year-old girl who first alerted police. But when he pleaded guilty in state court in 2008, the only minor Epstein was convicted of soliciting was 16 years old at the time the offenses began,” Beth Reinhard, Kimberly Kindy and Julie Tate scooped last night. "The younger girl who initially notified police has long believed that hers was the case referenced in the guilty plea, her attorney said. Some media accounts said as much. Publicly available charging documents contained no name or age, however. Pressed to resolve the ambiguity, state prosecutors in Florida recently provided The Post with the victim’s date of birth.

“The decision to charge Epstein with a crime involving an older teen — part of a plea deal that has already been criticized as overly lenient — has eased his obligations to register as a sex offender. In New Mexico, for instance, where Epstein has a 7,600-acre property called Zorro Ranch, he is not required to register because his victim was not under 16, state officials said. The case has faced growing scrutiny since last month, when a federal judge ruled that the prosecution team led by then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, now President Trump’s labor secretary, violated the rights of alleged victims by failing to notify them of an agreement not to bring federal charges. Some House Democrats are calling for the resignation of Acosta, whose department oversees investigations into sex trafficking and workplace abuses.”

-- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he won't run for Senate next year, but he continues to hint at plans for a future run in his home state. “I try now to avoid predicting what I may do, but I dearly love the people of Kansas," he said, per the Wichita Eagle’s Lindsay Wise and Bryan Lowry. “'I try to just avoid ruling things out when there’s others who are in control,’ Pompeo said. ‘The Lord will get me to the right place.’ Republicans in the state think that means one of two things — a bid for Senate or the governor’s mansion in 2022. That is, if Pompeo doesn’t decide to run for president in 2024 instead. He’d be well placed for a run in Kansas. One internal Republican poll from January showed Pompeo beating any potential GOP rival statewide by double digits. And he’s sitting on nearly $1 million in his dormant federal campaign committee.” 

-- Rudy Giuliani hasn’t made a major TV appearance since his problematic stumbles in January. Axios’s Jonathan Swan reports: “Sources familiar with Giuliani's thinking say he views a major part of his job as trying to undermine public confidence in the Mueller probe and harden the support of Republican voters for Trump to protect him against impeachment. So for Giuliani to stay off TV for an extended stretch is odd. … Giuliani said he decided to stay off TV so as 'not to upset the apple cart, not to create unnecessary, additional, needless friction' with [Bob Mueller's] team."

-- Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s Friday schedules are usually empty or have him penciled down for visits to Florida. He’s also reportedly met with the author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” and the creator of MyPillow. NBC News’ Laura Strickler reports: “A list of appointments for a 31-week period shows that for about half of the Fridays Carson worked a traditional eight or nine-hour day. For five of the Fridays he was off or had no appointments. For five more Fridays he left before 2 p.m. to get to the airport to fly to South Florida, where he owns a house valued at $4.3 million. For the remaining six, he had no scheduled appointments past 3 p.m. In all, he made a dozen weekend trips to South Florida during the 31 weeks.” 

-- Attorney General William Barr asserted his state secrets privilege for the first time in a lawsuit brought by Twitter. Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports: “Barr filed a formal declaration invoking the privilege Friday night with a federal judge in Oakland, Calif. who has been handling the suit Twitter filed more than four years ago. In the case, the company contends its First Amendment rights are being violated by the government’s refusal to allow the firm to publish more detailed statistics on National Security Letters and surveillance orders the firm receives under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.” 

-- Vice President Mike Pence will headline Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) re-election campaign kickoff event later this month. Graham at first seemed like a vulnerable candidate for the GOP going into 2020. But now, the former critic of Trump and his administration, is a close ally to the president and has seen his popularity among conservatives rise after his support of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. (Post and Courier)

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visited St. John's Episcopal Church in D.C., on March 17. (Video: Reuters)


-- The president attended a St. Patrick’s Day church service on Sunday, a brief interruption in a day otherwise spent rage tweeting at his opponents and the press. Anne Gearan reports: “Other U.S. presidents have decried horror abroad as an affront to values shared among liberal democratic allies, but Trump has made no major address to mourn those gunned down last week as they worshiped at mosques in New Zealand. … It was a weekend of nonstop grievances from the leader of the free world. ... ‘It’s truly incredible that shows like Saturday Night Live, not funny/no talent, can spend all of their time knocking the same person (me), over & over, without so much of a mention of ‘the other side,’ ’ Trump tweeted just before 8 a.m. Sunday ...

  • "In addition to ‘Saturday Night Live,’ Trump attacked the late senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), Democrats, the so-called ‘Steele dossier’ linking Trump to Russian interests, the ‘Fake News,’ and even Trump-friendly Fox News, whose weekend coverage displeased him."
  • Trump also demanded that Fox "bring back" host Jeanine Pirro. Her weekly show did not air on Saturday night after Fox denounced her on-air suggestion last week that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) does not support the Constitution because she is Muslim and wears a hijab.

-- The president's critics were particularly offended by his defense of Pirro in the wake of the mosque shooting. From Reis Thebault: “Trump accused Pirro’s critics of waging ‘all out campaigns’ against Pirro and fellow Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who was widely rebuked after decade-old racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments resurfaced last week. Both of their comments prompted some advertisers to boycott the shows. ‘Stop working soooo hard on being politically correct, which will only bring you down,’ Trump said in another tweet, before issuing a curiously dire warning to ‘Be strong & prosper, be weak & die!’ … Carlson is on his regular weeknight schedule, but the network declined to say whether it had suspended Pirro, and a spokeswoman did not respond to a question about when her show would return.”

-- Trump's attacks on McCain, months after his death from brain cancer, also contained multiple falsehoods. Felicia Sonmez reports: “Returning to the subject of the Steele dossier, Trump incorrectly stated that McCain, who the president claimed had been ‘last in his class’ at the U.S. Naval Academy, had ‘sent the Fake Dossier to the FBI and Media hoping to have it printed BEFORE the Election.’ … Trump’s tweet contained three errors. McCain, a member of the Naval Academy’s class of 1958, graduated fifth from last in his class. The senator was not made aware of the Steele dossier until Nov. 18, 2016 — after Trump had won the election. And there is no evidence that McCain gave the dossier to the media.”


--In an op-ed for The Post, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) reflects on how her experiences as a Somalian refugee influence the way she understands U.S. foreign policy: "I believe in an inclusive foreign policy — one that centers on human rights, justice and peace as the pillars of America’s engagement in the world, one that brings our troops home and truly makes military action a last resort. This is a vision that centers on the experiences of the people directly affected by conflict, that takes into account the long-term effects of U.S. engagement in war and that is sincere about our values regardless of short-term political convenience. ... We do not have the credibility to support those fighting for human rights in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua if we do not also support those fighting for human rights in Honduras, Guatemala and Brazil. Our criticisms of oppression and regional instability caused by Iran are not legitimate if we do not hold Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to the same standards. And we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to repression in Saudi Arabia ... Whether it is the murder of dissenters such as Jamal Khashoggi or war crimes against civilian populations in Yemen, we must hold all of our allies to the same international standards as our enemies. This vision also applies to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

-- Two New York University students who confronted Chelsea Clinton about her recent comments on Omar during a vigil for the mosque victims have been inundated with criticism and threats, Colby Itkowitz and Katie Mettler report: "'Co-signed as an American,' Clinton said in response to a tweet condemning Omar for comments that were criticized as anti-Semitic. 'We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism.' Leen Dweik, a Muslim Palestinian, and Rose Asaf, a Jewish Israeli American, took offense to Clinton’s reaction, particularly her reference to ‘as an American.’ … After the event, [Dweik] confronted Clinton about her tweet, accusing her of adding to the hatred of Muslims. Afterward, Asaf posted a short clip of the encounter. It quickly went viral. By Saturday afternoon, Asaf had deleted her Twitter account because of the intense backlash and threats she and Dweik received.”

-- The two students explain why they accosted Chelsea in an op-ed for Buzzfeed: "We were shocked when Clinton arrived at the vigil, given that she had not yet apologized to Rep. Omar for the public vilification against her. ... We were not alone in feeling uncomfortable — many students were dismayed to see her there. ... We took our chance to speak truth to power. Chelsea hurt our fight against white supremacy when she stood by the petty weaponizers of antisemitism, showing no regard for Rep. Omar and the hatred being directed at her." 

-- Seven current members of the U.S. military have been connected to a white nationalist group, HuffPost Christopher Mathias's reports: All seven “belong to an organization called Identity Evropa ... For years, Identity Evropa members have used a server on Discord, a group chat app popular among the alt-right, to send messages to one another. Last week the independent media collective Unicorn Riot published the contents of that Discord server in its entirety. A largely anonymous network of anti-fascist activists reviewed the Discord logs, using biographical details mentioned by Identity Evropa members, most of whom posted under pseudonyms, to uncover their offline identities. Building off that research, HuffPost verified the identities of seven men currently serving in the military. Their messages on the Discord server indicate that they hold deeply racist and anti-Semitic views and participate in Identity Evropa propaganda campaigns, posting stickers and flyers in cities and on college campuses." Representatives for all four military branches confirmed the men are in service. The men are all now under investigation, the military said, to determine whether they violated rules regarding discrimination and extremist activity.


-- Beto O'Rourke's campaign raised $6.1 within its first 24 hours, outpacing all his Democratic rivals — including Bernie Sanders, who raised $5.9 in his first day on the race. Matt Viser reports: “'In just 24 hours, Americans across this country came together to prove that it is possible to run a true grassroots campaign for president — a campaign by all of us for all of us that answers not to the PACs, corporations, and special interests but to the people,” O’Rourke said. ... In the hours after he announced, several emails and text messages were blasted out to his supporters, urging them to donate. At one point during a first day spent campaigning in Iowa, he stopped at a gas station, broadcasting on Facebook Live that it had cost $28.53 to fill up the Dodge Caravan he was driving and urging people to donate to help fuel his road trip."

-- O’Rourke’s decision to enter the crowded 2020 field came as a result of months of conversations with his wife and three trusted advisers – a process that lacked the deliberative considerations that usually mark such a process. Matt Viser has details:

  • O’Rourke made the final call in recent weeks while brushing his teeth. “He and his wife, Amy, had been engaged in the morning sprint to get out the door. Fixing breakfast for their three children, packing lunches, getting dressed. It was then, a few weeks ago, the teeth brushing and all, when he says he decided to run for president of the United States. ‘We never had a formal sit-down conversation or a checklist. But we’d been talking about it off and on,’ O’Rourke said. ‘I just turned to her and I said, ‘Is this what you want to do?’ She said, ‘Yeah. Is this what you want to do?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ And it just felt good. We were both in the same place.’”
  • O’Rourke initially said he would not consider a 2020 bid because he was convinced he would win his Senate race. “The loss was crushing, but the day after the O’Rourkes had friends over for breakfast and started to contemplate what might come next.”
  • A meeting with Obama helped convince O’Rourke to run, although he said the former president did not directly encourage his potential candidacy. “Throughout his 2018 campaign in Texas against Sen. Ted Cruz (R), O’Rourke would talk about the difficulty of missing family events at home. … Obama had him to his office in Washington, where they discussed the rigors of a presidential campaign and the effect on the Obama family. … O’Rourke’s family, though, took away a key lesson: The Obama family spent more time together in the White House than they had in the previous years.”
  • “After he left office Jan. 3, O’Rourke and his wife began holding frequent conference calls with his three closest advisers — Cynthia Cano, his road manager; Chris Evans, his communications director; and David Wysong, a longtime friend who ran his House office, helped manage his Senate race, and who had been talking about O’Rourke running for president for some time. Wysong began attempting to build the framework of a campaign in case it was needed. Evans and Cano sifted through a barrage of emails.”

-- Former Obama deputy campaign manager and veteran Democratic strategist Jen O’Malley Dillon is reportedly in talks to become O'Rourke's campaign manager. The two met at South by Southwest in Austin last week to talk shop, according to aides. Dillon reportedly remains uncertain about the job but will make a decision soon. (CNN)

-- O’Rourke said that his recognition of the “privileges” he has been afforded would help power his campaign. “As a white man who has had privileges that others could not depend on, or take for granted, I've clearly had advantages over the course of my life,” O’Rourke told “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd. “I think recognizing that and understanding that others have not — doing everything I can to ensure that there is opportunity and the possibility for advancement and advantage for everyone — is a big part of this campaign and a big part of the people who comprise this campaign.” (NBC News)

-- O’Rourke acknowledged in an interview with a reporter for Reuters, which published Friday, that he belonged to a group of computer hackers called the Cult of the Dead Cow as a teenager: “It’s unclear whether the United States is ready for a presidential contender who, as a teenager, stole long-distance phone service for his dial-up modem, wrote a murder fantasy in which the narrator drives over children on the street, and mused about a society without money. … His CDC writing from nearly three decades ago, under the handle ‘Psychedelic Warlord,’ remains online.”

  • O’Rourke apologized for the old posts: “I’m mortified to read it now, incredibly embarrassed, but I have to take ownership of my words,” he told reporters.
  • Joseph Menn discovered O’Rourke’s role in the group more than a year ago while doing research for a book about the hacking collective. But the Reuters reporter said that he agreed not to write about it until after the 2018 elections in order to get O’Rourke to participate in the project.

-- Iowa voters don't seem to care about skepticism over O'Rourke's experience in politics. BuzzFeed News's Molly Hensley-Clancy reports: "It wasn’t that Iowans hadn’t seen the skepticism about O’Rourke. It was that many of them didn’t much care. They saw an O’Rourke much closer to the one stormed across Texas, coming within a narrow margin of defeating Cruz. They were entranced, they said, by his charisma, his oratory, and his particular style of campaigning — down-to-earth, personal, and relentlessly positive. Though few were willing to commit to voting for him, as is common this early in Iowa, many said they were convinced that he could deliver on the promise of unity that he offered at every campaign stop. 'I tend to agree with some of the stories … but I look at him and he’s the only one that gives me that hope,' said Anne Phillips, a graphic designer who saw O’Rourke interviewed for a podcast in Cedar Rapids." 

-- O’Rourke told Iowa voters he would prefer a female running mate if he wins the nomination. The Dallas Morning News’s Todd J. Gillman reports: “‘It would be very difficult not to select a woman with so many extraordinary women who are running right now,’ he said. ‘But first I would have to win and there's-- you know, this is as open as it has ever been.’"

-- He's not the only one. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) also plans on picking a woman as his running mate if he nabs the nomination. (Reuters)

MORE ON 2020:

-- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) will hold a rally outside one of Trump’s hotels later this month to relaunch her presidential campaign that's failed to gain traction. David Weigel reports: “Her speech outside the Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York City will be held on March 24. Gillibrand, 52, announced her intention to run for president on Jan. 15 and headed quickly to Iowa and New Hampshire. She had hoped to draw from the increasing political activism of Democratic women but drew smaller early crowds than some better-known contenders, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The latest edition of the Des Moines Register/CNN Iowa poll put Gillibrand’s support at 0 percent. … On Monday, Gillibrand will head to Michigan for a town hall meeting hosted by MSNBC, then head to Iowa and Nevada to meet voters.”

-- Bernie Sanders clarified his position on reparations during an interview with NPR that aired today on “Morning Edition.” Told that white families in this country hold 20 times the wealth that black families do, the Vermont senator was asked if he’d support “a reparations plan designed specifically to narrow that gap.” “Yeah, but not if it means just a cash payment or a check to families. I would not support that,” Sanders said. “I am sympathetic to an idea brought forth by Congressman Jim Clyburn [D-S.C.] and Clyburn is the highest ranking African American in the House. He has what he calls a 10-20-30 plan, which says that 10 percent of federal resources should go to communities that have had 20 percent levels of poverty for 30 years. … That means rebuilding infrastructure, making sure that all the kids have decent education opportunities, have health care opportunities and that we lower the rate of incarceration. … That will address, in a good way, the disparities that we're seeing in distressed communities, whether they're black, white or Latino.” Hillary Clinton repeatedly mentioned the 10-20-30 proposal during her 2016 battle against Sanders. (NPR)

-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) says he is still considering running against Trump in a 2020 GOP primary, a race in which he would pitch himself as closer to the GOP’s historic values than Trump. Robert Costa and Erin Cox report: “Hogan ... presented himself as a lifelong conservative who has adapted to the left-leaning politics of his state without embracing them … As a Roman Catholic, he said he is ‘personally opposed to abortion.’ But as governor, he has not tried to restrict access to the procedure … On guns, Hogan said that he is a ‘strong supporter of the Second Amendment,’ but that he has ‘always supported the universal background check.’ … Trump’s signature issue of immigration is another possible battleground. Although Hogan asked the federal government in 2015 to stop sending Syrian refugees to Maryland unless they were more thoroughly vetted, he pressed the Trump administration this year to grant more work visas to immigrant laborers, and has protested family separations by recalling a small Maryland National Guard contingent from the southern border.”


Meghan McCain reacted to Trump's attacks on her late father:

A New York Times reporter directed this question at McCain's longtime friend:

Graham later came to McCain's defense without specifically mentioning Trump:

George Conway, who is married to senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, said this after Trump spent the morning tweeting about Fox News and SNL, among other things:

A Post reporter questioned Trump's rationale:

The Post's Fact Checker scrutinized a story retweeted by Trump:

From a Toronto Star reporter:

The controversial former Milwaukee sheriff joined the president in slamming Fox News:

One of Trump's lawyers called for dismissing the indictment of the president's former national security adviser:

The RNC attracted criticism for this tweet about Beto O'Rourke's 1998 arrest for drunk driving:

Felicia Sonmez reports: "Republicans have previously sought to focus attention on O’Rourke’s DWI arrest, but the tweet by the RNC — which came on St. Patrick’s Day and described O’Rourke as a “noted Irishman” — appeared to be the first time they have raised the topic of his ancestry."

From a Kansas City Star reporter:

From a Post reporter:

From a former Republican senator:

From a strategist for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.):

From a former speechwriter for George W. Bush:

O'Rourke listed his travels across Iowa after launching his presidential campaign:

He also shared this photo from the campaign trail:

O'Rourke fielded this question:

The Post's book critic highlighted this moment from O'Rourke's NBC interview:

A HuffPost reporter added this:

A House Democrat who once considered a primary challenge against Gillibrand endorsed her candidacy:

Buttigieg's husband revealed that the candidate is a Hufflepuff, a fact he didn't expect would become national news: 

A conservative congressman tweeted this photo with Trump:

John Boehner is clearly enjoying his life out of politics:


-- New York Magazine, "Ta-Nehisi Coates Is an Optimist Now: a conversation about race and 2020," by Eric Levitz: "When I say I am for reparations, I’m saying that I am for the idea that this country and its major institutions has had an extractive relationship with black people for much of our history; that this fact explains basically all of the socioeconomic gap between black and white America, and thus, the way to close that gap is to pay it back. In terms of political candidates, and how this should be talked about, and how this should be dealt with, it seems like it would be a very easy solution. It’s actually the policy recommendation that I gave in the piece, and that is to support HR 40. That’s the bill that says you form a commission. You study what damage was done from slavery, and the legacy of slavery, and then you try to figure out the best ways to remedy it. It’s pretty simple. I think that’s Nancy Pelosi’s position at this point ... The first step is to get some idea of what actually happened. We’ve never really done that. You’re talking about an epic crime that literally has its origins before there was a United States of America, and carries all the way up to this very day."

-- Charleston Post and Courier, “SC sheriffs fly first class, bully employees and line their pockets with taxpayer money,” by Tony Bartelme and Joseph Cranney: “South Carolina sheriffs have embezzled, bribed and dipped into public funds for expensive chauffeurs. They’ve driven drunk and bullied other public officials. They’ve been accused of leveraging their power to sexually assault their female employees. … The newspaper requested spending records from all of the state’s counties under the Freedom of Information Act. Reporters sifted through more than 5,000 pages of bank statements, receipts, lawsuits, campaign filings and IRS records. They interviewed former and current deputies and criminal justice experts. Among the findings: some sheriffs spent public money on luxury accommodations, personal clothing and a host of other questionable purchases. Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood spent thousands to fly first class to conferences. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott used thousands of dollars in campaign funds to join a private club where members dine on beef tenderloin and rack of lamb.”

-- New York Times, "How Parents Are Robbing Their Children of Adulthood," by Claire Cain Miller and Jonah Engel Bromwich: "Helicopter parenting, the practice of hovering anxiously near one’s children, monitoring their every activity, is so 20th century. Some affluent mothers and fathers now are more like snowplows: machines chugging ahead, clearing any obstacles in their child’s path to success  ... In its less outrageous — and wholly legal — form, snowplowing (also known as lawn-mowing and bulldozing) has become the most brazen mode of parenting of the privileged children in the everyone-gets-a-trophy generation. ... One [college student] came home because there was a rat in the dorm room. ... [Another] didn’t like to eat food with sauce. Her whole life, her parents had helped her avoid sauce, calling friends before going to their houses for dinner. At college, she didn’t know how to cope with the cafeteria options — covered in sauce."


“Ted Cruz campaign inaccurately reported loans from Goldman Sachs, Citibank, FEC says,” from Michelle Ye Hee Lee: “The Federal Election Commission has fined the 2012 Senate campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) $35,000 for inaccurately reporting the source of more than $1 million in loans that came from Goldman Sachs and Citibank, according to records made public Friday. Cruz’s campaign committee had reported to the FEC that the candidate loaned himself just over $1 million in ‘personal funds.’ But the funds actually came from Goldman Sachs — his wife’s employer — and Citibank, the FEC concluded, according to a legally binding conciliatory agreement. Cruz obtained an $800,000 loan from Goldman Sachs and a $264,000 line of credit from Citibank, the agreement says.”



“If You're Running for President, You Should Be Talking to Journalists,” from columnist Connie Schultz: “Earlier this month, my husband, Sen. Sherrod Brown, went on a listening tour of four early-primary states as he considered running for president. I traveled with him to Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, as did a caravan of political reporters … Virtually all presidential candidates — and plenty of congressional candidates, too — regularly treat journalists as vermin to dodge and mislead. This is as true of Democrats as it is Republicans. That's disappointing — that's not the word I want to use — but I can't say I'm surprised. This disdain for journalists is increasingly common in the very people who have always needed our coverage to reach voters.”



Trump will receive a briefing on the Economic Report of the President and have lunch with Pence. He will later receive his intelligence briefing and attend a celebration for Greek Independence Day.


Trump’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said it was “absurd” to draw a connection between the president’s comments on immigration and the mosque shooting: “I don’t think it’s fair to cast this person as a supporter of Donald Trump any more than it is to look at his eco-terrorist passages in that manifesto and align him with [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi or [Rep. Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez.” (Shane Harris and Felicia Sonmez)



-- There’s a slight chance of snow and rain but, other than that, you should prepare for a dry spell. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Today is chilly and we can’t rule out some cold rain drops or even a few snowflakes, but it’s probably the worst winter throws at us this week. The season officially ends Wednesday and spring seems ready to take command. Starting Tuesday, we should have a good deal of sunshine most days (Thursday may be an exception), and temperatures at least hitting 50. We don’t see any particularly warm weather like the end of last week (i.e. 70s) but nothing unseasonably cold, either. (Remember last year it snowed several inches on March 21?)” 

-- The Supreme Court will hear arguments in a redistricting case that could determine the balance of power in Virginia's legislature. Gregory S. Schneider reports: "A panel of lower-court judges ruled last year that 11 Virginia House of Delegates districts were racially gerrymandered and ordered a new map to correct them. House Republicans appealed that finding and will argue against the new map Monday before the high court. ... In agreeing to hear the appeal, the Supreme Court said it would first consider the issue of whether the House Republicans have legal standing to bring it. That hinges on whether the House leaders can show they would be harmed by the ruling." 

-- A Virginia student accused of sexual harassment said the school system discriminated against him. Debbie Truong reports: "The 18-year-old, identified as 'John Doe' in court papers, said that Fairfax County Public Schools inadequately investigated accusations leveled against him by a female student at Robinson Secondary School. The male student, who has a 3.2 grade-point average and was on the school’s wrestling team, was transferred to an alternative school and placed on probationary status, according to the lawsuit. The student is asking a federal judge to clear his record, which the student said could jeopardize his college wrestling scholarship and admission to a 'prestigious' university," an argument that resonates on a federal level, given Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's moves to rewrite rules governing campus sexual harassment and assault in a way that would give the accused more rights. 


John Oliver tackled public shaming, one of the Internet's favorite activities: 

After much demand, Hassan Minhaj made an episode about the Indian election: 

In the face of the college admissions scandal, Trevor Noah discussed the realities of merit-based opportunities in America: 

An Australian lawmaker who claimed immigration was to blame for the New Zealand mosque attack was egged by protesters:

Australian Sen. Fraser Anning was egged at a news conference March 16, 2019 after issuing controversial statements in regards to a mosque attack in New Zealand. (Video: Reuters)