The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Daily 202: Conservative intellectuals launch a new group to challenge free-market ‘fundamentalism’ on the right

Placeholder while article actions load

with Mariana Alfaro

With Mariana Alfaro

Oren Cass believes conservatives have blundered by outsourcing GOP economic policymaking to libertarian “fundamentalists” who see the free market as an end unto itself, rather than as a means for improving quality of life to strengthen families and communities. The former domestic policy director on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign quit his job as a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute to launch a new group called American Compass that aims to reorient the right. He previewed their plans in an exclusive interview on Monday afternoon.

Joining him on the board of directors will be Sen. Marco Rubio’s chief of staff Mike Needham, the former chief executive of Heritage Action for America; Julius Krein, the editor of American Affairs, a quarterly political journal; and David Azerrad, a Hillsdale College professor who was formerly a fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Wells King will be the research director. Until last week, the former McKinsey consultant was a policy adviser to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on the Joint Economic Committee.

Cass compares President Trump to an earthquake. 

Running as a populist, Trump challenged Republican orthodoxy on free trade and tapped into the disaffection of blue-collar workers in the heartland who have been left behind by the growing, but uneven, economy. For the most part, however, he said conservative elites in the think tank world have not followed suit.

“The goal, long term, is to think about what the post-Trump right-of-center is going to be,” said Cass. “One of the reasons we think this is such an important project is that, even four-plus years after Trump emerged on the scene, there really has been very little new and interesting ferment in the right of center. It’s pretty much the same set of institutions and publications and so forth. … By and large, the establishment is what it was. And it seems to be keeping its head down and sort of hoping that everything can just go back post-Trump to the way that it was pre-Trump. To the extent that the future should sound different, and certainly I think it should, now is the time to start building the institutions and efforts that are going to make that a reality.”

Cass acknowledges the problems animating populism are very real, but he argues that they won’t be solved by the governing ideologies he blames for creating the crisis, nor by the populism itself, “which has demonstrated no ability to formulate or implement a coherent response.”

“An earthquake clears a lot of space for rebuilding, but an earthquake does not rebuild,” Cass explained. “And there are a lot of people who want to rush right back in and build what you already had after the earthquake. But something an earthquake shows you is which of the things that you'd already built were really not built very thoughtfully. It’s important to learn lessons from this disruption that has occurred. It's important to go back to first principles and ask: What do we actually believe and why? What do we care about and why?”

Inside the GOP coalition, Cass argues, traditional economic conservatives ceded economic policy to libertarians as part of a “bargain” to win the Cold War. Ronald Reagan called it a three-legged stool: economic libertarians, social conservatives and national security hawks. Cass believes this “fusionism” worked well – in the past. “When you had a situation where the free market was delivering the social outcomes that conservatives most prized, libertarians and conservatives tended to agree,” he said. “What we've seen more recently is a growing understanding that the market does not necessarily in all cases deliver a set of social outcomes that conservatives prize.”

A society’s vitality, of course, cannot be judged solely by its gross domestic product.

Markets are good, Cass explained, but life is about so much more than markets. He said American conservatism historically had a richer conception of the role of government beyond maximizing returns, such as strengthening domestic industry. He lamented the growing concentration of wealth, geographically on the coasts and in the big cities, as well as in a handful of industries, which has accelerated income inequality.

“When you zoom out, you can have a rising GDP, but if it's in the context of collapsing families and people no longer getting married and declining fertility rates and so on and so forth, you haven't necessarily enhanced well-being,” said Cass. “Likewise, if you are generating growth by trading off the non-market work that people historically performed within their households for a model where everyone goes to work and then they pay each other for the things they used to do in their own household, that's not great either. Obviously, there are times when disruption, even if unfortunate, is necessary, but it's important to recognize that, alongside the value that the hyper-efficient conglomerate brings, there is also an awful lot of value that the locally-owned small business brings.”

Cass said American Compass will “think differently” about labor vs. capital than Republicans have in recent generations. “A big component of the market fundamentalism – in many cases, held entirely in good faith; in some cases, more as a matter of political convenience – is the argument that whatever policies are best for shareholders in the short run are the best policies and will eventually be good for everyone else also,” he said. “That is something that's not actually part of real economics, and it's certainly not a conservative way of thinking about how a society operates. … We need to recognize that sometimes we should feel just as comfortable saying, ‘What's good for workers is going to be good for shareholders in the long run.’”

Two GOP senators have been championing this sort of an approach. 

Freshman Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has talked a great deal over the last year about the need for new policies that make it easier for people to stay in their hometowns if they want to, among other things. Rubio, the senior senator from Florida, has retrofitted his approach to economic policy since losing to Trump in the 2016 primaries. He’s challenged shareholder primacy theory and even embraced Catholic social doctrine as a way to respond to capitalism’s inevitable failures. 

“As you look across the Republican conference, you've got Rubio and Hawley who are furthest out in front, but then right behind them is a very interesting group of folks who are really thoughtful and heterodox on these issues,” said Cass. He named Lee as part of that contingent, along with Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Romney (Utah).

“In terms of how it fits ideologically, I think there are certainly components of it that sound more Trumpian,” Cass said. “For instance, an actual conservative economics would be much more skeptical of free trade than is libertarian economics. But this is not an effort to codify and carry forward Trumpism.”

Cass, 36, graduated from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the law review, after working as a management consultant at Bain, Romney’s former firm, in the firm’s Boston and New Delhi offices. He emphasized that American Compass, the new initiative, is “not an exercise in starting from scratch.” He said the mission is really about “going back and finding things that always were part of the American tradition that have been important to conservative thinkers, but that seem to have gotten lost in in the more market fundamentalist mode of especially the last 20 to 30 years.” 

“I think there is just tremendous intellectual energy … that's working on and discussing and hashing these things out, but there aren't really any institutional trappings of it yet,” he said. “There is not really even a vocabulary for it. If you said, ‘Who are the people working on this stuff?,’ it's hard to know where to look. We want to provide that base. We'll just be one entity in the flotilla or the armada or the fleet. I don't know the difference between those three things. But hopefully one that has some prominent people on board and can facilitate communication and can bring people together and … help focus attacks when there are fights to be had.”

2020 watch

Scoop: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will endorse Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar in Texas.

The seven-term congressman is facing a vigorous challenge on his left from Jessica Cisneros in a March 3 primary. Cisneros, a 26-year-old immigration attorney, has endorsements from women’s groups like EMILY’s List, environmental groups like the Sierra Club and national liberal leaders like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The U.S. Chamber joins the Koch-backed group Libre Initiative Action, which endorsed Cuellar on Friday.

“At a time when the country continues to be polarized, it’s important to elect centrist candidates who aim to find common ground on common sense solutions to better serve Americans and strengthen communities,” said Scott Reed, the U.S. Chamber’s chief political strategist. He praised Cuellar for his early work on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, as well as business-friendly efforts to protect Texas’s auto industry from tariffs and fighting for the oil and gas industry. “Cuellar has consistently stepped up to the plate,” said Reed.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, Sen. Edward Markey will square off tonight in the first televised debate with his Democratic primary challenger, Rep. Joe Kennedy III. (Karen Weintraub has a preview.)

Mike Bloomberg has qualified for Wednesday's Democratic debate.

A new NPR-PBS-Marist poll showed him in second place with the support of 19 percent of Democratic primary voters nationally, trailing Bernie Sanders at 31 percent. Bloomberg has leapfrogged Joe Biden by spending more than $300 million on television in states that vote on Super Tuesday and beyond. Biden has fallen to third place with 15 percent, followed by Elizabeth Warren at 12 percent, Amy Klobuchar at 9 percent and Pete Buttigieg at 8 percent. Sanders and Bloomberg are tied at 22 percent in Virginia, according to a new Monmouth University poll that also came out this morning. Biden comes in third in the commonwealth, pulling in 18 percent.

Bloomberg has been preparing for the debate on the assumption he’d qualify.

“Top Bloomberg lieutenants and policy experts have been preparing him for what would be the most unscripted event yet of his three-month-old campaign,” Politico reports. “Howard Wolfson, the veteran Democratic strategist who joined Bloomberg’s orbit in 2009 after working on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential race, is playing the role of Sanders; Julie Wood, Bloomberg’s national press secretary, is depicting [Warren]; and senior advisers Marc La Vorgna and Marcia Hale are stand-ins for [Buttigieg and Klobuchar], respectively. Wolfson joked that his inspiration for Sanders came from watching ‘Statler and Waldorf,’ the cantankerous elderly Muppets who lob critiques from their balcony seats. Asked about rivals trying to get under Bloomberg’s own skin, he quipped, ‘Haters gonna hate. Bring it on.’

“Bloomberg is trying to hone a crisp and energetic appeal to voters that will contrast with Biden— another white, male septuagenarian on stage, according to advisers. … Other potential pitfalls for Bloomberg are his tendency to use dated language — words like ‘bawdy,’ for instance — to dismiss concerns about his financial news service’s work culture for female employees. Bloomberg has a history of losing his cool in public. He once grew visibly annoyed at a reporter in a wheelchair who interrupted his press conference when he dropped a recording device. More recently, he urged a reporter to ‘get on with it’ when he was pressed about his controversial stop-and-frisk policing tactic. Snapping at other candidates or a moderator could undermine his efforts to convey empathy and contrition.”

The former New York City mayor is making inroads with black voters who backed Biden. 

“Bloomberg has pummeled the airwaves in South Carolina, Nevada and Super Tuesday states with ads, so much so that a questioner at a Tennessee news conference thanked him for a $3.5 million buy at his media station before proceeding," Cleve Wootson, Bob Costa and Michael Scherer report. "Biden’s unsteady turn — a fourth-place finish in Iowa preceded his decline in New Hampshire — has given an opening to rivals to make their own arguments to black and Latino voters. … Rosemary Lawrence, a 75-year-old black woman who leads the political ministry at Charlotte’s mostly black Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, … supported Biden when he entered the race in April, laying out the argument for anyone who asked that he was the candidate most likely to defeat Trump. … ‘I love Joe Biden,’ she said. … ‘I really wanted to support him, but what I’ve seen recently is he doesn’t seem to be as energized and focused and alert as he was, say, eight years ago even. And now his funding is drying up. The bottom line is I want to find somebody who can beat Donald Trump.’ Early voting has already started in North Carolina. Next week, Lawrence plans to cast a ballot for Bloomberg.”

To be sure, Bloomberg has his own problems with stop-and-frisk, among other things. “While his crowds, even in southern states, are often affluent and white, he is regularly introduced by black leaders who testify to Bloomberg’s understanding of the history of racism in the country and his commitment to nonwhite voters. Bloomberg has been endorsed by more than 100 mayors, many of them black. He has proposed a plan, named ‘the Greenwood Initiative’ for a black Tulsa community destroyed in a 1921 racial massacre, that sets a goal of helping 1 million black families buy a home, double the number of black-owned businesses and triple the net worth of a typical black family.”

Bloomberg launched his first attack against Sanders. Others followed. 

In a web video, Bloomberg compared Sanders’s campaign tactics to Trump’s. Sanders replied by comparing Bloomberg to Trump. Biden called on Sanders to disavow “Trump-like” attacks by some of his supporters on officials at the Nevada culinary workers union, per the Times. Elizabeth Warren also jumped into the fray, saying Sanders “has a lot of questions to answer” about his supporters’ behavior. “I am particularly worried about what happened in the attacks on members of the culinary union,” Warren said, per NBC. “That is not how we build an inclusive Democratic Party. ... We do not build on a foundation of hate."

Biden's campaign is counting on at least a second-place finish in Nevada.

“First would be wonderful, but us getting a second place I think does the work that we need to do to win South Carolina,” Biden campaign manager Greg Schultz told supporters on a conference call. “We win South Carolina, we’re going to have ended the first four contests likely with a delegate advantage. … I think the Democratic Party will sigh a collective sigh of relief when we finish second or better in Nevada.” (NYT)

The Afghanistan war shattered Biden’s faith in American military power. 

“Biden talks about America in grand, almost Reaganesque, terms,” writes Greg Jaffe in the latest installment of our Pursuits series. “But inside the Obama administration Biden was a consistent voice of caution. The mismatch is a product of an approach to foreign policy that is guided largely by impulse and feeling rather than abiding philosophy. And it reflects a decades-long career in which Biden has been all over the map on the biggest questions of war and peace. … In the 1990s, Biden had made an impassioned argument that U.S. credibility and the country’s moral standing demanded that it use military force to stop a slaughter in the Balkans. In Afghanistan, Biden rejected the notion that America had any moral obligation to improve the lives of Afghans or prevent civil wars. ‘He had that empathy for the people in the Balkans. He even had it for people in Iraq,’ said a senior Obama administration official... ‘I never saw it in Afghanistan.’” 

Speaking of Afghanistan: Results released today, nearly five months after the election, show that President Ashraf Ghani has won a second term. “The announcement comes after months of political uncertainty and just days after U.S. and Taliban negotiators announced they had reached a conditional peace deal that could be signed as soon as the end of the month,” Sayed Salahuddin and Sharif Hassan report.

The coronavirus

With no end in sight of the outbreak, 300 Americans quarantined for two weeks on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship were flown home on Feb. 16. (Video: Reuters)
The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. is now 29.

“Fourteen Americans who tested positive for corona­virus were among the hundreds of U.S. citizens evacuated from a cruise ship off Japan to U.S. facilities over the holiday weekend, the result of a chaotic chain of events that put virus-stricken passengers on flights with other evacuees," Anna Fifield, Alex Horton and Abha Bhattarai report. “Their return almost doubles the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States … The 14 U.S. passengers tested positive for the virus after disembarking from the Diamond Princess, a cruise liner carrying 2,666 passengers and 1,045 crew members that had been quarantined for two weeks off the Japanese port of Yokohama. But by the time their test results arrived, they were already on a fleet of buses that took 328 asymptomatic passengers from the ship to two charter planes bound for U.S. military bases in Texas and California … 

"It was a wrench in a coordinated effort. While the buses sat on the tarmac, health experts mulled whether to put the 14 on the flights or divert them to hospitals in Japan … The planes each included a sealed-off section of 18 seats in the back, and part of the plan was to isolate passengers there if they developed symptoms midflight … Health authorities deemed the 14 ‘fit to fly’ because they were not showing symptoms, the State Department and the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement Monday. They were cordoned off from the other passengers during the flights.” The Diamond Princess quarantine will end as scheduled on Wednesday, Japan’s health minister said today, as 88 more cases were discovered, bringing the total linked to the ship to 542. A total of 35 Filipino crew members on the cruise ship have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Apple said the virus will cause it to miss revenue targets. 

Apple warned that “it expects to fall short of revenue goals in the current quarter because of the coronavirus outbreak, underscoring the far-reaching effects of the public health crisis on the global economy,” Derek Hawkins and Reed Albergotti report. “In a statement to investors, Apple said that while factories in China were reopening, iPhone production in the country was ramping up more slowly than expected. … Demand for Apple products has also dampened in China, where all the company’s stores and many of its partner stores have shuttered…”

The virus killed the director of Wuhan’s main hospital.

“A respected neurologist who was the director of Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan died Tuesday after contracting the novel coronavirus,“ Anna Fifield and Rick Noack report. Liu Zhiming, who was 51, passed away despite a “full effort rescue,“ according to a statement from Wuhan’s municipal health commission. Zhiming “became the most prominent victim of the outbreak since another doctor, whistleblower Li Wenliang died Feb. 7, sparking an outpouring of public anger and grief. Liu’s death follows that last week of a nurse, Liu Fan, from the same hospital. A total of eight front -ine health care workers have now died, while as many as 3,000 have been infected with the coronavirus. …

“Officials have been sounding a more upbeat note in recent days about the prospects for containing the virus. But a renowned Chinese pulmonologist who predicted a peak this month clarified his remarks to say that the peak may be followed by a plateau, rather than an outright fall in cases. … China reported 1,886 new coronavirus cases and 98 more deaths in its daily update on the outbreak Tuesday, bringing the death toll in mainland China to 1,868, with 72,436 confirmed cases. The overwhelming majority have been in Hubei province.”

In China, 200 million kids are back in school – thanks to the Internet. 

“They didn’t stand in front of a flagpole and sing the national anthem. They watched it on screens. In some parts of the country, so many kids were watching at the same time that Internet speeds ground to a halt,” Fifield reports. “One middle school boy, sitting with his computer at his front door in Beijing, was asked what he was studying. He responded: physical education. Chinese authorities have taken extreme measures to try to contain the coronavirus, which has spread nationwide. More than half the country’s 1.4 billion people are now restricted from leaving their homes in some way. Public gatherings are banned, including those in schoolyards.” 

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) keeps repeating a debunked conspiracy theory. 

“Cotton referenced a laboratory in the city, the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, in an interview on Fox News’s ‘Sunday Morning Futures.’ He said the lab was near a market some scientists initially thought was a starting point for the virus’s spread,” Paulina Firozi reports. “‘We don’t know where it originated, and we have to get to the bottom of that,’ Cotton said. ‘We also know that just a few miles away from that food market is China’s only biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases.’ Yet Cotton acknowledged there is no evidence that the disease originated at the lab. Instead, he suggested it’s necessary to ask Chinese authorities about the possibility, fanning the embers of a conspiracy theory that has been repeatedly debunked by experts.”

Domestic developments that shouldn't be overlooked

María Reynoso and her 9-year-old daughter Adelaida were one of the first migrant families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2017. (Video: The Washington Post)
A Guatemalan family separated by the Trump administration has now been apart over two years.

“When her teacher, or her social worker, or her best friend Ashley asks, Adelaida sounds it out — one of the first words she learned in English. ‘They separated us,’” Kevin Sieff reports. “Adelaida Reynoso and her mother, María, were among the first migrant families broken up by the Trump administration, on July 31, 2017, long before the government acknowledged it was separating parents and children at the border. They haven’t seen each other since. Adelaida is now 9, a third-grader in southwest Florida, one of the top students in her class, carrying a thick English dictionary in a purple backpack. María, now 31, was deported alone to rural Guatemala. She has met with lawyers and smugglers and priests about reuniting with her daughter. Nothing has worked."

The administration will waive federal contracting laws to speed border wall construction. 

The Department of Homeland Security said waiving 10 regulations would allow for 177 miles of wall to be built quickly in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. (AP)

The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy, facing a wave of lawsuits over allegations of sexual abuse.

“The long-anticipated Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing will allow the Boy Scouts to keep operating as it reorganizes its finances and handles claims from hundreds of potential victims,” Samantha Schmidt reports. “It will also give alleged victims a limited amount of time to come forward before being barred indefinitely from seeking compensation. … Lawyers throughout the country have begun representing hundreds of clients and have filed lawsuits in states such as New York and Pennsylvania. ‘In a way, this is an acknowledgment finally on the part of the Boy Scouts that they had this enormous problem and the problem is so large that they can’t deal with it themselves,’ said Michael Pfau, a lawyer who said he represents about 300 victims. …

“A key question will be whether the Boy Scouts of America will be able to protect the assets of the local councils, which own camps and properties in prime real estate throughout the country. The local councils are incorporated separately but hold 70 percent of the Boy Scouts’ wealth, [per the WSJ]. … Many of these institutions could be implicated in the claims, making for an even more complicated bankruptcy case, said Pfau.”

Cardinal McCarrick quietly gave nearly $1 million to a group led by a cleric accused of sexual misconduct. 

“From 2004 to 2017, [Theodore] McCarrick sent the Institute of the Incarnate Word dozens of checks — some as large as $50,000 — from a charitable account he controlled at the Archdiocese of Washington,” according to ledgers obtained by Shawn Boburg and Robert O’Harrow Jr. “During those years, Carlos Buela, who founded the group decades ago in Argentina, repeatedly defied Vatican sanctions for alleged sexual misconduct with seminarians, according to a confidential Vatican order. … Six current and former members of Incarnate Word said McCarrick was celebrated internally for using his influence to protect the group. They said multiple members had warned church officials about alleged sexual encounters between Buela and seminarians. They also complained to church officials that institute leaders stifled internal criticism and punished dissenters.” 

The EPA is about to change a rule cutting mercury pollution. The industry doesn’t even want it.

“Exelon, one of the nation’s largest utilities, told the EPA that its effort to change a rule that has cut emissions of mercury and other toxins is ‘an action that is entirely unnecessary, unreasonable, and universally opposed by the power generation sector,’” Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report. “Despite a chorus of opposition from unions, business groups and electric utilities, the EPA is on the verge of finalizing its proposal as part of a broader effort to overhaul how the government calculates the health benefits of cleaner air. The agency plans to declare that it is not ‘appropriate and necessary’ for the government to limit harmful pollutants from power plants, even though every utility in America has complied with standards put in place in 2011 … 

“While it will technically keep existing restrictions on mercury in place, it means the government would not be able to count collateral benefits — such as reducing soot and smog — when it sets limits on toxic air pollutants. It’s a rollback that industry officials argue could open the door to new legal fights, prompt some plants to turn off their pollution controls and ultimately sicken more Americans — all so that the administration can rewire how the government weighs the costs of regulation. The changes could give a boost to struggling coal companies, while hamstringing future efforts to limit mercury emissions from the nation’s power plants. The rule in question, known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), targets a powerful neurotoxin that can affect the IQ and motor skills of children, even in utero. Between 2006, when states began to curb mercury from coal plants, and 2016, when the Obama-era rule took full effect, emissions have declined 85 percent.”

Jeff Bezos will give $10 billion to fight climate change. 

Through the Bezos Earth Fund, the Amazon founder and Washington Post owner will “provide $10 billion in grants to scientists and activists to fund their efforts to fight climate change,” Kimberly Kindy reports. "[Bezos] said the grants, which will be issued this summer, will go to individuals and organizations from around the globe, adding that the effort will ‘take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals.’” 

The Virginia ban on assault weapons sales didn’t make it through a state Senate committee. 

The failed vote handed Gov. Ralph Northam (D) a big defeat as he attempts to push a package of eight gun-control measures, Laura Vozzella reports. “The House has passed all eight of Northam’s bills, but a handful of Democrats in the less liberal Senate have quashed three of them amid fears that the newly empowered party might overplay its hand. The same tension has been playing out on other fronts, with the Senate taking a more cautious approach on issues such as the minimum wage, collective bargaining and state budgeting.” 

A college accredited by an Education Department-sanctioned group doesn’t actually exist. 

“Reagan National University was supposed to be a place of higher learning, but it was unclear how it awarded degrees. By all appearances, at present, it has no students, no faculty and no classrooms. An agency meant to serve as a gatekeeper for federal money gave the university approval to operate anyway,” USA Today reports. The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools “exists mainly because it was saved by the Education Department in 2018.”

More than 2,000 Justice Department alumni are calling on Bill Barr to resign.

The nonpartisan group Protect Democracy wrote that "political interference in the conduct of a criminal prosecution is anathema to the Department's core mission and to its sacred obligation to ensure equal justice under the law,” according to ABC News. The former officials also said it is "outrageous" the way Barr interfered in the Roger Stone case. "Although there are times when political leadership appropriately weighs in on individual prosecutions, it is unheard of for the Department's top leaders to overrule line prosecutors, who are following established policies, in order to give preferential treatment to a close associate of the President, as Attorney General Barr did in the Stone case," they wrote.

An association of federal judges called an emergency meeting. 

“Philadelphia U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe, who heads the independent Federal Judges Association, said the group ‘could not wait’ until its spring conference to weigh in on a deepening crisis that has enveloped the Justice Department and [Barr],” USA Today reports. Rufe “said the group of more than 1,000 federal jurists called for the meeting last week after Trump criticized prosecutors' initial sentencing recommendation for Stone and the Department of Justice overruled them.” 

Peter Navarro – Trump’s top trade adviser – has a side project: Hunting for “Anonymous.” 

“Since at least the time of the impeachment process against Trump, Navarro—whom the president affectionately calls ‘my Peter’—began conducting his own private investigation into the identity of Anonymous,reports the Daily Beast. “One of those sources described Navarro’s investigative efforts as partially an in-depth analysis of the language and phrases used in Anonymous’ book and other public writings. The process … mimics forensic linguistic profiling, and the goal is to cross-reference Navarro's ‘profile’ with a list of potential suspects.”

Quote of the day

“In my view, to pursue the right policies for America I was willing to put up with a lot. I’m not asking for martyrdom because of that,” said John Bolton, describing his work for the Trump administration. “I knew – think I knew what I was getting into. I did it for 17 months. I did the best I could. You can judge the results by what the policies are.” (The Atlantic)

Social media speed read

After Bloomberg’s campaign called Sanders Trump’s new “bro,” the Vermont senator replied with this picture:

Cher endorsed Joe Biden: 

Biden offered to meet up in Vegas:

Amy Klobuchar played along with an Internet joke about her branding strategy:

Pete Buttigieg got some sun:

A former presidential candidate made dinner for her husband:

Barack Obama highlighted the anniversary of the Recovery Act:

And his successor seemed to respond:

Ivanka Trump's trip to the United Arab Emirates over the weekend drew attention to another conflict of interest:

And Stephen Miller, Trump’s domestic policy adviser who oversees immigration policy, married Katie Waldman, Vice President Pence's press secretary, at the Trump hotel in D.C. on Sunday. The president attended – as did an Elvis impersonator:

Videos of the day

John Oliver is back, and, in a very timely fashion, he talked about Medicare-for-all: