With Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: What people will remember from the final debate before the Iowa caucuses is Elizabeth Warren declining to shake Bernie Sanders’s outstretched hand after their brief onstage clash over whether he really told her during a one-on-one dinner more than a year ago that a woman cannot get elected president. While that made for compelling television, it also distracted from a starker ideological choice that looms for Democratic voters in the weeks ahead.

The more substantive portions of the two-hour debate at Drake University in Des Moines put in stark relief the chasm between the approaches of Sanders and Joe Biden – the two leaders in Iowa and national polling – on the biggest issues that face a president, including foreign policy, health care and trade.

It also highlighted continuing tensions between the two men over experience vs. judgment, incrementalism vs. radicalism and whether Democrats are more likely to win in November by igniting the base or appealing to disenchanted moderates who defected to Donald Trump in 2016. 

Whoever is coronated at the convention in Milwaukee six months from now will chart the future of the party as its standard-bearer. In Sanders’s case, he has spent decades proudly resisting pressure to register as a Democrat. He remains an independent who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate.

Iowa looks like a jump ball, with the latest polls showing no overwhelming favorite and many voters either undecided or willing to change their minds. The next three weeks would be an unpredictable free-for-all in the Hawkeye State anyway. But the impeachment trial threatens to strand a handful of senators in Washington for days at a time with only Sundays away from the chamber.

-- It is conceivable that neither Biden nor Sanders ultimately wins the Feb. 3 caucuses. Nevertheless, the two septuagenarians represent the ideological goalposts and the outer bounds – Sanders on the left and the Biden on the right (which, to be clear, is still left-of-center) – of what party regulars will abide. 

“Joe and I have a fundamental disagreement here, in case you haven't noticed,” Sanders said last night during the round on trade, a salient issue in a farm state where children are taught in school that Iowa is a net exporter. The line, though, can be applied to most every other flashpoint in Democratic politics.

Just as he opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Biden voted for, Sanders now opposes its replacement, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal. This iteration just passed the Democratic-controlled House and won the endorsement of the AFL-CIO. It’s awaiting a vote in the Senate. “The answer is we could do much better than a Trump-led trade bill,” Sanders said. “If this is passed, I think it will set us back a number of years.”

Biden, who supports the new deal, accused Sanders of knee-jerk opposition to everything. “I don't know that there's any trade agreement that the senator would ever think made any sense, but the problem is that 95 percent of the customers are out there,” Biden said, referring to the rest of the world. “So we better figure out how we begin to write the rules of the road, not China.”

Sanders attacked Biden for voting to ratify multiple agreements over the years that he said have helped large multinational corporations at the expense of workers. Biden compared Sanders's approach to “poking our finger in the eye of all of our friends and allies” by not trying to negotiate trade agreements with the rest of the world, which he argued empowers China.

-- The trade clash was particularly interesting to watch because Sanders proudly stood alone onstage among the top-tier candidates in opposing the USMCA deal. Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and even Warren endorsed it. Trying to show that she has a pragmatic streak, Warren called the deal imperfect but reasoned that “it will give some relief” to farmers and workers. “We get up the next day and fight for a better trade deal,” she said.

It was a reminder of the extent to which the other candidates have all sought to position themselves somewhere between the poles of Sanders and Biden, and this played out repeatedly. In theory, Biden and Sanders occupy separate “lanes,” to use the parlance of the operative class. But both men see the other as a direct threat. The Sanders team, in particular, has believed all election cycle that they’re competing for Biden voters just as much as Warren voters.

Warren also tried to distinguish herself at one point by noting that she was the only candidate onstage who has defeated a Republican incumbent in the last 30 years. She ousted Republican Scott Brown in 2012 to take back Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts. Sanders chimed in to say that he defeated a GOP incumbent in Vermont to win a House seat in 1990. An amused Warren, once a high school debate state champion in Oklahoma, noted that this was why she specified 30 years. Then Biden added that he won a major upset in 1972 – 48 years ago – over a Republican incumbent to win his Senate seat.

-- Biden often sounds like he’s promising a return to the pre-Trump status quo, when he was vice president. “We can overcome four years of Donald Trump, but eight years of Donald Trump will be an absolute disaster and fundamentally change this nation,” he said. “We have to restore America's soul, as I've said from the moment I announced.”

Sanders counters that “this is the moment when we have got to think big, not small”: “This is the moment when we have got to have the courage to take on the 1 percent, take on the greed and take on the corruption of the corporate elite,” he said in his closing, “and create an economy and create a government that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.”

CNN’s Abby Phillip also noted that Sanders identifies as a democratic socialist and pointed to a poll that showed about two-thirds of Americans don’t like the idea of voting for a socialist. She wondered, “Doesn’t that put your chances of beating Donald Trump at risk?” Sanders replied, “Nope, not at all.” He pivoted to attack Trump, displaying the moral certitude that his supporters love but Democratic establishmentarians loathe.

-- The gulf between Sanders and Biden was apparent from the opening question of the debate. The crisis in Iran has prompted the leading candidates to re-litigate the 2002 debate over whether to go to war with Iraq. “Joe and I listened to what Dick Cheney and George Bush and [Donald] Rumsfeld had to say,” Sanders said. “I thought they were lying. I didn’t believe them for a moment. I took to the floor. I did everything I could to prevent that war. Joe saw it differently.”

Biden emphasized his work bringing troops home from Iraq as Barack Obama’s vice president. “It was a mistake to trust that they weren’t going to go to war,” he said, referring to the Bush administration. “They said they were not going to go to war. … It was a mistake, and I acknowledge that.”

-- The well-trod debate over health care was similar, as Biden and Sanders went at it again over the price tag for Medicare-for-all and the other candidates staked out ground in between them. Phillip, one of three moderators, asked Sanders about a study that said his policy proposals would double federal spending as a share of GDP to a level not seen since World War II. “No, my plan would not bankrupt the country,” he answered. “I think you should show how you’re going to pay for things, Bernie,” replied Klobuchar.

Warren sponsored Sanders’s Medicare-for-all bill, but she moved away from it in the face of questions about how she’d implement it without raising taxes on the middle class or kicking people off their private insurance. Warren ultimately proposed a three-year transition period to Medicare-for-all, but this only led to attacks from her left and right. Last night, Warren and Buttigieg bickered about who would get covered and how much it would cost.

-- Our Fact Checker team calls out Biden and Sanders, more than the other candidates, for making multiple misleading or false statements. For example, Biden did not provide an accurate description of what Bush said before the 2002 vote that allowed for war. Biden also boasted about getting troops out of Iraq under Obama without noting that this allowed for the emergence of the Islamic State, which required the Obama-Biden administration to send combat troops back into the country. The Fact Checker team faults Sanders for claiming that Medicare-for-all will cost less than the status quo, for significantly exaggerating the number of people who go bankrupt because of medical bills and for incorrectly claiming that the United States spends twice as much per person on health care as “any other country.” It’s only true compared to the developed world.

-- Warren, Buttigieg and Klobuchar are trying to varying degrees to position themselves as unity candidates between Sanders and Biden who can win support from both sides and therefore beat Trump.

“It is easy to draw lines in the sand and sketch out grand ideological visions that will never see the light of day,” said Klobuchar. “What is hard is bringing people together and finding common ground instead of scorched earth. ... If you are tired of the extremes in our politics and the noise and the nonsense, you have a home with me.”

“We cannot take the risk with so much on the line of trying to confront this president with the same Washington mindset and political warfare that led us to this point,” said Buttigieg. “If you are watching this at home and you are exhausted by the spectacle of division and dysfunction, I'm asking you to join me to help turn the page on our politics.” 

-- Here’s what you need to know about the Warren vs. Sanders kerfuffle: Sanders’s campaign manager Faiz Shakir told The Post that Warren “came to raise a concern” with him after the debate. “And he said let's talk about that later,” Shakir said, declining to provide further details about the conversation captured in a viral video.

“Warren said Sanders disagreed with her view that a woman could win the presidential election. Sanders contends that he merely outlined what he said would be Trump's efforts to defeat another female candidate, and in the debate, he said, ‘Of course a woman can win,’” Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan report. “The video … shows Sanders extending his hand as Warren approaches him onstage. Rather than shaking it, Warren clasps her hands together and speaks to Sanders. He responds, as Tom Steyer walks toward them. … Warren and Sanders then separate. Steyer and Sanders shake hands on one side of the stage. Nearby, Warren shakes hands with [Buttigieg]. … Representatives for the Warren campaign declined to comment. After the debate, Steyer told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that he did not know what Warren and Sanders said to each other.”

-- Dan Balz notes that the Warren-Sanders clash was inevitable, and they remain on a collision course after last night: “For the past few months, Warren found herself looking at Buttigieg as a more immediate threat in Iowa. She took a lead in a September Iowa poll by the Des Moines Register and CNN, only to see Buttigieg overtake her in the November poll. She and the mayor seemed to be competing in Iowa for the support of more-affluent voters with college degrees. Sanders’s campaign saw that as an opening and seized it.” 

New Hampshire could be even more consequential because Warren and Sanders both come from neighboring states and have invested heavily. “That gives both of them a potential edge, and whoever finishes behind the other will have suffered a significant setback,” Dan notes.

-- Warren spoke the most during the debate:

-- The Post’s opinion columnists largely focused on Warren vs. Sanders. “Can a woman be elected president? Let’s put that silly question behind us,” wrote Karen Tumulty. “Sanders vs. Warren shows the difference between identifying sexism and giving in to it,” declared Ruth Marcus. “There’s a reason Bernie Sanders said Elizabeth Warren is lying,” noted David Von Drehle. “Democratic officials have reason to hope for a happy ending,” said Eugene Robinson. “The debate shows why.”

-- Pundits are all over the place in their lists of winners and losers, suggesting that the muddled debate will do little to alter the trajectory of the race. The Fix’s Aaron Blake considered Warren’s sly attack on Sanders and Sanders’s response winning moves. He said Buttigieg lost and Biden was “in the middle.” CNN’s Chris Cillizza thought Buttigieg, Warren and Klobuchar won, but Biden, Sanders and Steyer lost. But Politico’s campaign reporters agreed with one another that Biden had the best night. Fox News’s Bret Baier said Biden’s performance was lackluster and Klobuchar “actually had a really good night” while Sanders “took a lot of incoming.” Vox put Sanders and Buttigieg on its winners list and named Steyer as the losing candidate. Biden was on neither. Jennifer Rubin said Klobuchar and Biden shined. “The rest, not so much,” she wrote.

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-- Speaker Nancy Pelosi named the seven House Democrats who will serve as impeachment managers during the Senate trial: Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (Calif.), Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (N.Y.), Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), Sylvia Garcia (Tex.), Val Demings (Fla.), Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) and Jason Crow (Colo.). Trump’s defense team is expected to be led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone. Notably, Rep. Justin Amash, the Republican-turned-independent who voted for impeachment, is not one of the managers. Lofgren worked on Richard Nixon’s impeachment as a House staffer and was on the House Judiciary Committee during Bill Clinton’s impeachment. (We'll update our liveblog with more news all day.)

-- New materials released last night by House Democrats appear to show Ukraine’s top prosecutor offering one of Rudy Giuliani's associates damaging information related to Joe Biden if the Trump administration recalled the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Paul Sonne, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger report: “The text messages and documents provided to Congress by former Giuliani associate Lev Parnas also show that before the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, was removed from her post, a Parnas associate now running for Congress sent menacing text messages suggesting that he had Yovanovitch under surveillance in Ukraine. A lawyer for Yovanovitch said Tuesday that the episode should be investigated. … 

"Among the revelations in the documents released Tuesday: a message from Giuliani to Parnas saying he had involved a person he called “no 1” — possibly Trump himself — in an effort to lift a U.S. visa ban on a former Ukrainian prosecutor who was planning to come to the United States to make claims about Biden. The materials also include a letter Giuliani wrote to Ukraine’s then-president-elect, Volodymyr Zelensky, requesting a May 14 meeting with the new leader in Giuliani’s “capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent.” Giuliani scrapped his planned trip, and the meeting never took place. Another document released by the House investigators appears to show Parnas directly involved with efforts to get Zelensky to announce investigations related to Biden. In handwritten notes on a piece of stationery from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Vienna, Parnas wrote, 'get Zalenksy [sic] to Annouce [sic] that the Biden case will be Investigated.' ...

"The materials show that Parnas, a Russian-speaker who helped coordinate Giuliani’s outreach to Ukrainian sources, was directly communicating with an array of top Ukrainian officials. Among them was Yuri Lutsenko, at the time Ukraine’s top prosecutor and a close political ally of then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who was running for reelection. Lutsenko wanted to get rid of Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador, in part because she had been critical of his office and supported a quasi-independent anti-corruption bureau he despised. The messages, written in Russian, show Lutsenko urging Parnas to force out Yovanovitch in exchange for cooperation regarding Biden. At one point, Lutsenko suggests he won’t make any helpful public statements unless 'madam' is removed.

“The new documents also introduced a new character in the drama over the ambassador’s ouster: a Republican congressional candidate from Connecticut who asserted to Parnas in messages that he had Yovanovitch under physical and electronic surveillance. ‘Wow. Can’t believe Trumo [sic] hasn’t fired this b----,’ Robert F. Hyde wrote in an encrypted message to Parnas on March 23. ‘I’ll get right [on] that.’ Hyde described having contact with a ‘private security’ team located near the embassy that was apparently monitoring the ambassador’s movements. 'She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off,' he wrote in one message. 'They will let me know when she’s on the move,' he said in another. Later, he alerted Parnas that he had been told Yovanovitch would not be moved to a 'special security unit.' 'They are willing to help if we/you would like a price,' he said in one note. 'Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money . . . what I was told.' Hyde did not explain how his team might 'help' Parnas, who responded only with 'lol.' When asked for comment by The Washington Post in a text message, Hyde replied: 'Sorry I can’t talk right now.' Hyde is one of three Republicans running to unseat an incumbent Democrat in the 5th Congressional District in Connecticut. He frequently tweets about his support for Trump and posted photos of himself with the president." (Review the full cache of material for yourself here.)

-- All the president's men, cont.: Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn asked a federal judge for permission to withdraw his guilty plea of lying to the FBI about this Russian contacts during special counsel Bob Mueller’s probe. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “The stunning reversal — more than two years after Flynn pleaded guilty Dec. 1, 2017, and two weeks before he faces sentencing — threatens to sidetrack, if not derail, the prosecution of the highest-ranking Trump official charged and one of the first to cooperate with Mueller’s office.”

-- Russia’s prime minister submitted his resignation today as part of a surprise government shake-up directed by President Vladimir Putin. Isabelle Khurshudyan reports from Moscow: “Putin accepted the resignation of the prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, and asked the members of Medvedev’s Cabinet to remain in place until a new government is formed … The sweeping moves came shortly after Putin gave his annual address to Russia’s lower house of parliament and proposed constitutional changes to boost the powers of prime ministers and Cabinet members. … Earlier, Putin proposed sweeping changes to the constitution Wednesday, including strengthening parliament and revamping the country’s state council, possibly hinting at his plans for after he leaves power in 2024. In his annual address to lawmakers, Putin again suggested limiting presidential term limits to two, indicating that 20 years after he first became president, he won’t attempt to seek a third consecutive term. But Putin’s plan to give constitutional status to the state council, a top advisory body to the president he created in 2000, and transfer more power to parliament, including naming the country’s prime minister, could be a path for him to maintain significant influence in a different capacity once this presidential term is finished. As the Russian constitution stands now, the president has the sole power to appoint the prime minister.”

-- Mitch McConnell is trying to balance the feuding factions within the Senate Republican Conference over whether to vote on calling witnesses. Seung Min Kim, Elise Viebeck and Robert Costa report: “On one end, a group of influential swing GOP senators — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee — are pushing to hold a vote on whether to call witnesses later in the proceedings. Democrats have vowed to exert pressure on the group to break with their party on witnesses and other issues, such as obtaining documents. At the same time, the Senate’s right flank is increasingly making the case to [McConnell] and other GOP leaders for a more aggressive posture in defense of Trump. In a private meeting with McConnell on Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) argued that if Democrats press the case for potentially damaging witnesses — such as former national security adviser John Bolton — the GOP should insist on incendiary witnesses of their own, such as Hunter BidenMcConnell appeared receptive to Cruz’s pitch … 

“Despite their role as potential swing GOP votes in a narrowly divided Senate, the group of moderates has yet to defect in any significant fashion from party leaders … In a nod to the moderates, there is expected to be a provision guaranteeing a vote on whether the Senate could consider subpoenaing witnesses, according to two GOP officials familiar with the matter … GOP leaders are confident that once voting begins to set the scope of the trial — called an organizing resolution — that no Republicans will defect, with the moderates placated by a guaranteed decision on witnesses later. That calculus could change once the Senate goes through the grind of opening arguments and a litany of questions, and if key GOP senators become dissatisfied that they hadn’t gotten enough information from the trial proceedings.” 

-- Capitol Hill reporters are protesting unexpected restrictions on their access to the Senate during the impeachment trial. Derek Hawkins, Felicia Sonmez and Fred Barbash report: “The organization representing daily reporters on Capitol Hill is protesting restrictions expected to be imposed on the news media during the Senate impeachment trial, saying the security crackdown will severely limit access to lawmakers and stifle coverage of the proceedings. … Capitol security officials are [reportedly] considering measures that are all but certain to make it harder for journalists to report on the trial and question senators about their actions. A magnetometer in the Senate press gallery will require reporters to trickle into the chamber one at a time. Electronic devices will be banned, leaving reporters to scuttle in and out of the room to send tweets and emails. Reporters will be placed in pens, roping them off and restricting their ability to speak freely with senators as they enter and exit. … Details about the nature and scope of the restrictions under consideration remained unclear, as neither the Senate sergeant at arms nor the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, which are responsible for them, has issued a formal document.”

-- Trump’s impeachment trial is a perilous duty for Chief Justice John Roberts because any signs of partisanship could further erode the Supreme Court's legitimacy. From the New York Times: “The chief justice’s responsibilities at the trial are fluid and ill-defined, and they will probably turn out to be largely ceremonial. … The managers will march the articles over to the Senate chamber, touching off a series of steps that will initiate the trial. But before it can get underway Chief Justice Roberts will be sworn in as the presiding officer and, in his first official act, administer an oath to senators in which they swear to do ‘impartial justice’ in the trial, with the real work not expected to begin until Tuesday. … Roberts has plenty on his plate already, much of it related to Mr. Trump. He is working on a Supreme Court docket crowded with divisive issues, including three cases on whether to allow release of Mr. Trump’s financial records and one on Mr. Trump’s efforts to withdraw protection from deportation for young immigrants. … And Chief Justice Roberts has exchanged sharp remarks with Mr. Trump, laying bare a fundamental disagreement about the independence of federal judges.”


-- The Senate is poised to pass a resolution limiting Trump’s military authority on Iran, as four Republicans say they will vote with Democrats to assert Congress’s war powers under the Constitution. Karoun Demirjian reports: “‘Congress cannot be sidelined on these important decisions,’ said [Collins] who on Tuesday declared her support for the measure. She joins Sens. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and all 47 Democrats. A vote could come as soon as next week. … The resolution is ‘privileged,’ meaning Republicans opposed to the measure cannot block it from coming to a vote once it is ‘ripe.’ It also means that supporters must secure only a simple majority of the Senate, 51 votes, for it to pass. But it is almost certain that Trump will veto the measure and that Congress will not have the votes to override a veto. … Trump’s deputies and supporters said that such resolutions send a negative message to the troops and seemingly project support for the Iranian regime despite its sponsorship of terrorist activities that have led to the deaths of U.S. service members  … Supporters of the war powers measures have taken pains to say they believe [Iranian commander, Maj. Gen. Qasem] Soleimani was reprehensible as they argue that Trump cannot trample on Congress’s right to declare war.” (Kaine and Lee make the case for the resolution in an op-ed in today’s newspaper.)

-- New video shows two Iranian missiles hit the downed Ukrainian plane last week. The Times reports: “The missiles were launched from an Iranian military site around eight miles from the plane. The new video fills a gap about why the plane’s transponder stopped working, seconds before it was hit by a second missile. … Neither strike downed the plane immediately. The new video shows the airliner on fire, circling back toward Tehran’s international airport. Minutes later it exploded and crashed down, narrowly missing the village of Khalaj Abad … The Times has confirmed that the new video was filmed by a camera on the roof of a building near the village of Bidkaneh, four miles from an Iranian military site. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ airspace unit, said that missiles were launched from a base near there.” (Watch the video here.)

-- The Iranian people, disturbed by the downing of the plane and the killing of Soleimani, have shown that it is possible to be angry at both their government and the United States at the same time. Erin Cunningham explains: “On Tuesday, student protesters at the University of Tehran chanted anti-government slogans as officials scrambled to find a way to quell the growing unrest. … The efforts by senior officials to calm the public are in stark contrast to the defiant tones struck by Tehran amid an outpouring of grief this month for Soleimani at his funeral procession … Iran is often presented 'as a monolith . . . a country where all of its citizens move as one,' said Reza Akbari, a researcher of Iranian politics at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Washington. 'But Iranians are capable of condemning U.S. attacks against their sovereignty while protesting the gross negligence of their government,' he said. For many Iranians, Soleimani’s killing in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad was a national affront and came amid widespread resentment over harsh economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the Trump administration … At the same time, the protests over the downed airliner, Akbari said, align with longer-term demands from the Iranian population for transparency, justice and accountability.”

-- The repressive Iranian regime arrested someone for recording a video of the missile strike that brought down the plane. From the Times: “The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a powerful arm of Iran’s military, said it had arrested a person it identified as having recorded a video ... which undercut the military’s initial denials that Iran was responsible. The arrest was announced by Iranian media outlets affiliated with the Guards. The contradictory messages from the president, who is elected, and the Guards, who answer to Iran’s clerical leaders, reflect the competing power centers in the Iranian government. … In an apparent criticism of the military, [Hassan] Rouhani, a moderate, urged that an official inquiry be candid about its findings. But some hard-line lawmakers have lashed out at his administration, demanding resignations.” 

-- Officials at the State and Defense departments have discussed possible cuts of $250 million in military aid to Iraq if U.S. troops are asked to leave, according to emails reviewed by the Wall Street Journal: “The emails indicate that the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs is working to cut all $250 million in funds under the U.S. foreign military financing program for Iraq for the current fiscal year. The bureau also plans to ask the White House Office of Management and Budget whether it can eliminate the $100 million request for fiscal year 2021, ‘due to current optics on the ground,’ according to the emails. ‘This does not preclude further congressional consideration of foreign assistance should the situation change in Iraq,’ one of the emails said. The emails assert that no final decision has been made, but top administration officials have ordered a review of what funds may be held or reallocated in the event Iraq requires the U.S. troops be removed. One of the emails said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo directed that the 2020 foreign military financing funds be repurposed, or used elsewhere.” 


-- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) will ban guns from the grounds of the state's capitol, at least temporarily. Laura Vozzella and Gregory S. Schneider report: “The move comes just days after newly empowered Democrats banned guns from the Capitol building and an adjacent legislative office building. And it comes just ahead of a gun rights rally planned for Monday, which organizers say will draw tens of thousands to Capitol Square. The rally has drawn interest from militias and extremist groups across the country, raising security concerns in Richmond. … Security has been unusually tight during the General Assembly session that kicked off last week, as Democrats … consider far-reaching gun-control legislation.”

-- More than 100 billion doses of pain medication oxycodone and hydrocodone were shipped nationwide from 2006 through 2014, saturating the nation with 24 billion more doses than previously known to the public. Steven Rich, Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz report: “The Washington Post and the company that owns the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia first obtained the data, collected by the Drug Enforcement Administration, from 2006 through 2012 after waging a year-long legal fight. In July, The Post reported that the data revealed that the nation’s drug companies had manufactured and distributed more than 76 billion pain pills. The two additional years of information — 2013 and 2014 — was recently posted by a data analytics company managed by lawyers for the plaintiffs in a massive lawsuit against the opioid industry. … The newly released data, which traces the path of pills from manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies across the country, confirms again that six companies distributed the vast majority of the pain pills. McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, Walgreens, AmerisourceBergen, CVS and Walmart accounted for 76 percent of the oxycodone and hydrocodone pills that were shipped between 2006 and 2014 … Three manufacturers still accounted for 85 percent of the pills: SpecGx, a subsidiary of Mallin­ckrodt; ­Actavis Pharma; and Par Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Endo Pharmaceuticals.”

-- The White House’s secret plan to divert $7.2 billion in Pentagon funding for Trump’s border wall drew bipartisan criticism. Paul Sonne, Jeff Stein and Nick Miroff report: “Senior Republicans grumbled about the plan but mostly put the blame on Democrats, who agreed to provide $1.4 billion in border barrier funding this year — far less than the $5 billion Trump requested. ‘I wish they’d get the money somewhere else, instead of defense,’ said Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. ‘But I do support building the wall.’ … ‘I think it’s outrageous,’ said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the top Democrat on the armed services committee, who called it ‘a slap to the military as well as a slap to Congress’ … Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, asked Tuesday if he supports the continued diverting of Defense Department money to fund the border wall, said that one of the Pentagon’s missions is supporting homeland defense. ‘If that’s what it takes, we are prepared to support’ it, he said.”

-- An appeals court temporarily halted the purge of more than 200,000 people from Wisconsin’s voter rolls. Reis Thebault reports: “The Tuesday order came one day after the state’s elections commission and its three Democratic members were found in contempt of court for not complying with a judge’s previous order to cancel the registrations of roughly 6 percent of its voters. The case is largely split along partisan lines. Republicans argue that thousands of people who have changed addresses have not updated their voter registration status and should therefore be struck from the rolls to ensure election integrity, while Democrats and voting rights advocates say the move will unjustly disenfranchise swaths of the electorate … The six-person election commission had been split evenly along partisan lines, the Republicans voting in favor of the purge and the Democrats voting against it. In a meeting on Tuesday, commissioners again disagreed — 3 to 3 — about how to respond. … A Journal Sentinel analysis of the over 200,000 register voters targeted — all of whom were sent a letter in October seeking address confirmation — found that most lived in municipalities that supported Hillary Clinton in 2016.” 

-- The Trump administration’s push to restart federal executions after nearly two decades heads back to court today. Mark Berman and Ann E. Marimow report: “Justice Department lawyers are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to reverse a judge’s order and allow the administration to move forward with four executions the administration had scheduled for December and January. U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan in November found that the government had probably exceeded its powers with the adoption of a new lethal-injection protocol to be used in those executions. The new protocol, she wrote, is inconsistent with a 1994 law that requires federal executions to be carried out ‘in the manner prescribed by the law of the State in which the sentence is imposed.’”

-- The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the “Bridgegate” scandal that shook New Jersey politics. The case could heavily impact future public corruption prosecutions. Matt Zapotosky reports: “As former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R) looked on, the Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday on whether to overturn the convictions against two of his ex-political allies in the ‘Bridgegate’ case, and the decision could have broad implications for how federal prosecutors pursue allegations of public corruption. The two former allies — Bridget Kelly and William E. Baroni Jr. — argue that the Justice Department reached too far in charging them with fraud for their roles in an alleged plot to back up traffic on the George Washington Bridge, the nation’s busiest, as retaliation against a local mayor who declined to endorse Christie’s reelection bid. … The Justice Department counters that Kelly and Baroni are misstating what occurred and that the evidence was sufficient to support their convictions. The questioning Tuesday did not break down neatly along traditional ideological lines, and it was difficult to predict what the ultimate decision might be. Some justices who asked questions of the attorneys for Baroni and Kelly also seemed critical of some of the government’s points. … In filings to the Supreme Court, Kelly and Baroni argued that — even if they did exactly what prosecutors allege — it could not constitute a federal crime. They argued that they were essentially convicted of lying about their true political motive for a decision.”

-- Michael Avenatti, the former attorney for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, was arrested by IRS agents for allegedly violating his bail terms a week before his federal trial. Timothy Bella reports: “Avenatti, who is accused of extorting Nike for up to $25 million and stealing millions of dollars from his clients for his own interests among other charges, was arrested while appearing before the State Bar Court in Los Angeles, in the middle of a disciplinary hearing alleging that he stole about $840,000 from a former client.” 

-- Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) is rolling out 16 Democratic endorsements for his primary challenge against incumbent Sen. Ed Markey, including Reps. John Lewis (Ga.) and Joaquin Castro (Tex.). From Boston Magazine: “Also on the list was co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressman Mark Pocan, and the Caucus’s chair emeriti, Congressman Raul Grijalva. … Kennedy collected endorsements from several other key groups in the House, including the co-chairs of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus, … members of the Congressional Black Caucus … and several members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus … Kennedy is also now outpacing Markey when it comes to raising campaign cash. ... Kennedy raised more than $2.4 million over the last three months of 2019, while Markey’s campaign reports raising only $1.4 million.” 

-- Boeing’s new CEO pledged greater transparency in a message to employees still reeling from the two 737 Max jet crashes that killed hundreds in the last two years. Lori Aratani reports: “‘This is a crucial time for Boeing,’ [David Calhoun] wrote. ‘We have work to do to uphold our values and to build on our strengths. I see greatness in this company, but I also see opportunities to do better. Much better.’ Calhoun’s top priority will be convincing federal regulators that the 737 Max is safe to fly. The plane has been grounded worldwide since March. Boeing also is counting on Calhoun to rebuild relationships with customers, regulators and the public.”

-- A Delta flight dumped jet fuel on a playground near Los Angeles, leaving dozens with minor injuries. Justin Wm. Moyer reports: “Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said they responded to an elementary school ... after the aircraft apparently dumped the fuel while on a final approach to the airport. Twenty children and 11 adults complained of minor injuries, officials said. No one was taken to a hospital, officials said, and no evacuations were initiated. … In a statement, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said Delta Air Lines Flight 89 declared an emergency after departing from the airport, then returned to the airport and ‘landed without incident.’”


Here are the candidates most tweeted about during the debate: 

Klobuchar struggled during the debate to remember the name of the Democratic governor of Kansas who defeated Kris Kobach in 2018. The governor gamely replied:

The former chief strategist for Obama noted that Sanders’s 2016 clashes with Hillary Clinton created the backdrop to his back-and-forth with Warren over whether he said a woman cannot win. David Axelrod also makes the good point that Sanders is being much more explicit in saying he’ll support the Democratic nominee than four years ago:

Biden raised eyebrows when he said during the debate that he had to get by as a single dad on a $42,000 salary when he became a senator in 1973:

An organizational psychology professor at the Wharton School of Business suggested the Democratic candidates play a few board games instead of debating: 

A Democratic congressman called out Mike Pompeo for talking to Fox News instead of showing up to a House hearing on Iran: 

A Daily Beast reporter shared an image of Lev Parnas with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump:

The documents Parnas turned in to Democratic investigators include this peculiar White House menu: 

Other evidence in the hands of House Intelligence investigators includes this note: 

And this email: 

Conservative lawyer George Conway, husband of counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, said Senate Republicans are restricting press access to the impeachment trial because they're scared and have something to hide:

A Times photographer captured Trump wearing his reading glasses last night:

Warren’s staff sent a pick-me-up to Cory Booker’s team after the New Jersey senator dropped out of the presidential race:

And it finally rained in Melbourne:

Heavy rain, flash floods and severe thunderstorms swept over the Australian city. The very-welcome storm is expected to hit fire-affected parts of New South Wales and Victoria later this week, the Guardian reports.


"Lyndon Johnson was sort of a tough guy. Can you imagine his phone calls? He's probably looking down, or looking up,” Trump said during his rally in Wisconsin last night, suggesting that LBJ may be in hell. (HuffPost)


Stephen Colbert did his show live last night so he could cover the Democratic debate:

And then he wondered why Trump would talk about dishwashers during his rally in Milwaukee:

Trevor Noah opened his post-debate monologue by pointing out the demographics of the group of Democratic candidates who remain in the race:

Seth Meyers took a break from politics to introduce us all to some teen slang:

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants Brits to pitch in and raise half a million pounds so that Big Ben can bong for Brexit: