The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Daily 202: The Democratic debate descends into class warfare, as the billionaire and socialist play off each other

with Mariana Alfaro

With Mariana Alfaro

“Should you exist?”

NBC anchor Chuck Todd’s question to Mike Bloomberg during the Democratic debate in Las Vegas was prompted by a tweet last year from Bernie Sanders. “Billionaires should not exist,” the senator from Vermont wrote.

“I can't speak for all billionaires,” the former New York mayor answered on Wednesday night. “All I know is I've been very lucky, made a lot of money, and I'm giving it all away to make this country better.”

Todd followed up: “Should you have earned that much money?”

“Yes,” Bloomberg replied. “I worked very hard for it.”

Sanders, who identifies as a democratic socialist, says the word billionaire like it’s a grotesque slur. “Mike Bloomberg owns more wealth than the bottom 125 million Americans,” he replied. “That’s wrong. That’s immoral.”

The sizzling two-hour debate underscored the extent to which class has emerged as a stark dividing line inside the factionalized Democratic Party, as significant as race or gender. The proliferation of soak-the-rich rhetoric at this level of presidential politics would have been unthinkable in the not-distant past. Sanders has moved the Overton window to the left on a battery of issues, including the debate over the virtues of capitalism itself.

In the Democratic debate in Las Vegas on Feb. 19, the six participating candidates went after health care, climate change, wealth inequality — and each other. (Video: The Washington Post)

Bloomberg leaned on his financial success as a differentiator. “I’m the only one here that’s ever started a business,” he said. The chief executive of Bloomberg LP has spent more than $409 million since launching his campaign just 10 weeks ago. That money has, essentially, bought him second place in national polling. It’s still less than 1 percent of his net worth, which Forbes estimates at $65.2 billion – making him the eighth richest person in America.

Elizabeth Warren compared Bloomberg to President Trump. “Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another,” said the senator from Massachusetts, as he stood next to her, avoiding eye contact.

Just as Trump did four years ago, Bloomberg cites his wealth as evidence that he’s incorruptible. After Pete Buttigieg urged people to visit his campaign website, for example, Bloomberg joked that people can go to his, as well, but they won’t be able to give money because he’s not raising any. Unlike Trump, though, Bloomberg is not pretending to be a populist. He’s running as a managerial technocrat who can make the trains run on time.

Class-tinged resentments were a consistent undercurrent in the pile-on against Bloomberg. “As the lone person on this stage who's not a millionaire, let alone a billionaire,” said the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., “I believe that part of what needs to change is for the voices of the communities that haven't felt heard on Wall Street or in Washington to actually be brought to Capitol Hill.”

Joe Biden chimed in. “For 36 years [in the Senate] and as vice president, I was listed as the poorest man in Congress,” he said. “I made money when I wrote a book about my son, and it surprised me how much it sold. First time I've ever made any money.”

The crowd booed Bloomberg when he explained why it would take a few more “weeks” to release his tax returns. “Unfortunately, or fortunately, I make a lot of money and we do business all around the world, and we are preparing it,” he explained. “The number of pages will probably be thousands of pages. I can’t go to TurboTax.”

“Pay overtime,” said Warren, “and get it done.”

Amy Klobuchar noted that her husband prepares their taxes. “We probably could go to TurboTax,” said the senator from Minnesota. 

Because of the ongoing realignment between the parties, the Democratic coalition writ large has become more affluent and highly educated. Many blue-collar, non-college-educated whites in places like the industrial Midwest have gravitated away from their ancestral home toward the GOP because of cultural grievances, among other factors.

Sanders, however, tailors his message more to the working class than the middle class. His rallies have a decidedly more blue-collar vibe than Buttigieg’s or Klobuchar’s or Warren’s. During a town-hall-style meeting the weekend before last in New Hampshire, for instance, a speaker warming up the crowd for Sanders asked how many people work for minimum wage. More than a third of the people in the audience raised their hands.

“What our movement is about is bringing working-class people together, black and white and Latino, Native American, Asian American, around an agenda that works for all of us and not just the billionaire class,” Sanders said in the debate. “Real change never takes place from the top on down. It never takes place from an oligarchy controlled by billionaires.”

Democratic presidential candidates went on the attack in a fiery debate in Nevada on Feb. 19. Here are some of their best one-liners. (Video: The Washington Post)

Sanders continued to attack Buttigieg for having the temerity to even accept money from 46 billionaires. “We are giving a voice to people who are saying we are sick and tired of billionaires like Mr. Bloomberg seeing huge expansions of their wealth while half-a-million people sleep out on the street tonight,” said Sanders. “What we are saying, Pete, is maybe it's time for the working class of this country to have a little bit of power in Washington, rather than your billionaire campaign contributors.”

Buttigieg, who got pummeled at the December debate for holding a fundraiser in a Napa Valley wine cave, replied that the billionaires are “among the hundreds of thousands of contributors” to his campaign. “You're not the only one who cares about the working class,” he told Sanders. “Most Americans believe we need to empower workers.” Buttigieg added that “you're the one who is at war with the Culinary Union right here in Las Vegas.” To which Sanders replied: “We’ve got more union support than you have ever dreamed of.”

You could sense the urgency, even the desperation, in the air as several of the candidates whose futures hinge on the coming weeks waved their arms to be recognized. “We've got to wake up as a party,” Buttigieg pleaded with the audience. “We could wake up two weeks from today, the day after Super Tuesday, and the only candidates left standing will be Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg, the two most polarizing figures on this stage. And most Americans don't see where they fit if they've got to choose between a socialist who thinks that capitalism is the root of all evil and a billionaire who thinks that money ought to be the root of all power.”

One reason Klobuchar’s clashes with Buttigieg were so intensely bitter is that they’re both trying to claim this middle ground. “I believe in capitalism, but I think the goal of someone in government … should be a check on that,” she said. “I'm not going to limit what people make, but right now our tax code is so tilted against regular people, and that is what's wrong.”

Warren boasts in her stump speech about how she made a billionaire cry on television with her wealth tax proposal. People chant “two cents” at her events as she explains how anyone worth more than $50 million will need to pay 2 percent of their net worth in taxes every year – including, as she puts it, on their yachts, Rembrandts and diamonds. The cheers are louder when Warren talks about taxing the super-rich than when she explains what she’ll do with that extra revenue. That speaks volumes about the pitchfork populism that’s been ascendant on the left. 

For his part, even Bloomberg goes out of his way to say the rich must pay more in taxes. “I disagree with the senator on the wealth tax, but I do agree with her that the rich aren't paying their fair share,” Bloomberg volunteered during the debate. “We should raise taxes on the rich. I did that as mayor in New York City.” Then Sanders complimented Warren’s proposed wealth tax. “Ours is a little bit tougher on Mr. Bloomberg than hers,” he added, with pride.

At the Democratic debate on Feb. 19, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) attacked Mike Bloomberg over nondisclosure agreements with women who worked at his firm. (Video: MSNBC)

Bloomberg and Sanders both saw the other as a useful foil since they appeal to different constituencies. “I believe in democratic socialism for working people, not billionaires,” said Sanders. “Creating a government that works for all, not just for Mr. Bloomberg.”

“What a wonderful country we have,” Bloomberg replied. “The best-known socialist in the country happens to be a millionaire with three houses. What did I miss here?”

Sanders replied that his first house is in Washington, where he works, and the second is in Burlington, Vt., where he lives. “And like thousands of other Vermonters, I do have a summer camp,” he added. “We have the insane situation that billionaires today, if you can believe it, have an effective tax rate lower than the middle class.” Bloomberg replied that Sanders, as a member of Congress, can write the tax code.

Asked whether workers should be able to sit on corporate boards, something Sanders and Warren support, Bloomberg said absolutely not. “I can’t think of a way that would make it easier for Donald Trump to get reelected than listening to this conversation,” he said. Bloomberg argued that Sanders couldn’t defeat Trump in a general election because he’s too far to the left and wants to take away people’s private health insurance. 

“Maybe we can talk about a billionaire saying that we should not raise the minimum wage,” Sanders countered. “If that's a way to beat Donald Trump, wow, I would be very surprised.”

NBC’s Lester Holt, another moderator, asked Sanders about the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll that found two-thirds of all voters said they were uncomfortable with a socialist candidate for president. Asked what message he has for them, Sanders replied that the same poll showed him leading among Democratic voters. “I was winning, and I think by a fairly comfortable margin,” he said. “You might mention that.”

Bloomberg suggested that Sanders is really a communist, not a socialist. “We're not going to throw out capitalism. We tried that. Other countries tried that,” he said. “It was called communism, and it just didn't work.”

“That’s a cheap shot,” Sanders replied, clarifying that what he stands for is democratic socialism. “We are living, in many ways, in a socialist society right now. The problem is, as Dr. Martin Luther King reminded us, we have socialism for the very rich [and] rugged individualism for the poor.”

There were class undertones even when the debate turned to topics related to gender. Klobuchar seized on a memo released by the Bloomberg campaign that said the other moderates should step aside to “pave the way” for Bloomberg to stop Sanders from capturing the nomination. “As a woman,” the senator said, “I've been told many times to wait my turn and to step aside. And I'm not going to do that now. … We need something different than Donald Trump. I don't think you look at Donald Trump and say we need someone richer in the White House.”

Bloomberg’s riches also probably help explain the sense of entitlement he exuded. He seemed like a man unaccustomed to both waiting on others and being challenged. He was caught on camera rolling his eyes at criticism. When moderators didn’t come back to him during a discussion on health care, Bloomberg was clearly perturbed. “What am I,” he said, “chicken liver?”

Bloomberg hadn’t debated since 2009, and it showed. He’s not on the ballot in Nevada, which caucuses on Saturday, or in South Carolina, whose primary is the following Saturday. He’s invested in the states that vote on Super Tuesday, four days after that, so he can make up some for his wobbly debate debut during a CBS debate next week in the Palmetto State. “He was just warming up,” campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said in a statement afterward.

Quote of the day

Tom Steyer, the other billionaire seeking the Democratic nomination, didn’t qualify for this debate but tweeted throughout. “Looks like Mike Bloomberg might be running in the wrong primary,” he wrote.

Here's a roundup of five claims from the ninth Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 campaign. (Video: The Washington Post)
More from our team coverage
  • Dan Balz: “It’s a critical moment in the Democratic race. The debate made that clear.”
  • Michael Kranish: “Bloomberg faces attacks for refusing to release women from confidentiality agreements.”
  • Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Sarah Cahlan fact-checked seven claims.
What pundits are saying about winners and losers
How it’s playing elsewhere

More on 2020

Nevadans at early voting sites on Feb. 19 discussed various fears about casting their ballots, from Russian interference in 2016 to the Iowa caucus meltdown. (Video: The Washington Post)
Democrats won’t commit to a same-day release of the Nevada results. 

“Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told The Associated Press that several factors, including early voting and potentially high turnout, could affect the tabulation and timing of results. In addition, Nevada, like Iowa, will be reporting three sets of data from the multistage caucus process. Perez said he doesn’t know when results will be released. ‘We’re going to do our best to release results as soon as possible, but our North Star, again, is accuracy,’ he said late Tuesday after touring an early voting site in Las Vegas.” 

Despite Warren’s rejection of super PACs, one launched to support her bid.

“The group, Persist PAC, filed its papers on Tuesday,” Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports. “It has already launched a 30-second ad in Nevada highlighting the senator’s record establishing a federal financial watchdog agency and supporting policies that help women and middle-class families. … [Warren] has emphatically rejected super PACs and attacked her opponents receiving their help. In a statement, Warren’s campaign said the senator’s position has not changed. … The statement did not address Warren’s feelings about Persist PAC, however, and the campaign did not respond to questions about whether the senator thinks the group should continue to exist to support her candidacy.” 

Warren’s campaign announced that it raised more than $1 million during the debate and $2.8 million during the course of Wednesday.

Barack Obama has privately said he doesn’t like the idea of Sanders as a nominee. 

“To Obama, Sanders is a lot of what’s wrong with Democrats: unrelenting, unrealistic, so deep in his own fight that he doesn’t see how many people disagree with him or that he’s turning off people who should be his allies,” the Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere reports. “Obama has made clear in private conversations that he doesn’t like the idea of Sanders as the nominee (and has been only slightly more subtle in public comments), but he’s pushed back on some who have urged him to get involved, anxious that any move he makes could destroy the hope of him using his unique position to unite the party and defeat Trump during the general election. … Obama is determined to make it work — if he has to.”

Sanders was serious enough about waging a primary challenge against Obama in 2012 that then-Senate majority leader Harry Reid had to intervene to stop him, according to the story: “It took Reid two conversations over the summer of 2011 to get Sanders to scrap the idea, according to multiple people who remember the incident. … That summer, Sanders privately discussed a potential primary challenge to Obama with several people, including Patrick Leahy, his fellow Vermont senator. Leahy, alarmed, warned Jim Messina, Obama’s presidential reelection-campaign manager. Obama’s campaign team was ‘absolutely panicked’ by Leahy’s report, Messina [said], since ‘every president who has gotten a real primary has lost a general [election].’ … In another incident, in 2013, Sanders laid into Obama in a private meeting he held with Democratic senators, saying that the president was selling out to Republicans over Social Security benefits.” Obama replied that he didn't need to be lectured.

As Super Tuesday approaches, the candidates are rolling out endorsements. 
  • Bloomberg this morning unveiled endorsements from three more Democratic members of Congress – Nita Lowey (N.Y.), Pete Aguilar (Calif.) and Josh Gottheimer (N.J.) – bringing his total to 16.
  • Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Tex.), one of the House impeachment managers, backed Biden, giving him his sixth supporter from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. (Politico)
  • Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds, the 2009 nominee for governor, endorsed Klobuchar. (Roanoke Times)
  • Three Arizona state senators – Andrea Dalessandro, Jamescita Peshlakai and Victoria Steele – endorsed Warren on the first day of early voting in the state. The state votes March 17. (Arizona Mirror)
The Bloomberg campaign is paying people $2,500 a month to promote him to all their contacts. 

The campaign is hiring more than 500 “deputy digital organizers” to work 20 to 30 hours a week, documents reviewed by the Wall Street Journal show. The workers are expected to promote Bloomberg weekly to everyone in their phone's contacts by text message and make daily social media posts supporting him.

Andrew Yang joined CNN as a political commentator.

“Learned a lot these past months and am glad to contribute to the public discussion,” said the former presidential contender, who dropped out after the New Hampshire primary.

Florida’s new law prohibiting certain ex-felons from voting was ruled unconstitutional. 

The rule would’ve prohibited ex-felons who cannot pay certain legal fines from voting. The case “could have significant consequences for one of the country’s largest swing states,” Elise Viebeck reports. “In a unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit affirmed a lower court’s finding that Florida’s S.B. 7066 violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. The panel also upheld that court’s preliminary injunction barring enforcement for the plaintiffs. Florida’s governor immediately signaled that he would appeal the decision to the full circuit. … ‘Continued disenfranchisement is indisputably punitive in nature,’ the judges wrote, adding, ‘Felons who are unable to pay are subject to continued punishment solely because of their inability to pay.’ ”

The White House predicts the economy will not grow at a rate of 3 percent or higher this year.

The Council of Economic Advisers forecasts that, unless Congress enacts a major infrastructure package and additional tax cuts, the U.S. economy will grow at a 2.4 percent pace this year and at a 2.3 percent pace in 2021. (Heather Long)

All the president's men

Mick Mulvaney admitted that the GOP is hypocritical on deficits. 

“My party is very interested in deficits when there is a Democrat in the White House. The worst thing in the whole world is deficits when Barack Obama was the president. Then Donald Trump became president, and we’re a lot less interested as a party,” he said at the Oxford Union to a group of several hundred people. 

“Mulvaney, who ran the Office of Management and Budget before taking the acting chief of staff role, said he found the growing deficit — which reached almost $1 trillion in 2019, soaring in the Trump era – ‘extraordinarily disturbing’ but that neither party, nor voters, cared much about it,” Josh Dawsey reports. “Mulvaney’s comments, which lasted about an hour, came as he visited Britain and Ireland to talk about Brexit and other issues. … He criticized his predecessor, John F. Kelly, as chief of staff, and railed against the ‘deep state,’ giving the audience examples of civil servants who he said were working against the Trump administration. … 

Mulvaney robustly defended the president’s actions regarding Ukraine … He said the president regularly complained that Europeans don’t give Ukraine enough money. ‘And number two, they’re corrupt as hell, which is true,’ Mulvaney said. … He joked about his news conference last year in which he conceded, from the White House podium, that there was a ‘quid pro quo’ and that it was normal in foreign policy and that people should ‘get over it.’ Mulvaney said he realized he’d made a mistake when he walked away from the podium. Another White House official, he said, ‘came up to me and said, ‘Do you know you just said X?’ I said, ‘No I didn’t say that.’’ Soon, he realized, ‘S---, I said X.’ Mulvaney issued a statement later that day attacking the media for mischaracterizing his comments.”

Trump fired the Pentagon’s policy chief, who spoke out internally against his freeze on Ukraine aid.

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood, who was charged with certifying that Ukraine met its anti-corruption targets in order to receive U.S. military aid, was dismissed after clashing with colleagues over the implementation of Trump’s foreign policy agenda for more than two years, Paul Sonne and Missy Ryan report. His last day is Feb. 28. “Rood wrote that he understood, from speaking to Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, that Trump had requested his resignation. … In an email to Esper hours after Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Rood said that ‘placing a hold on security assistance at this time would jeopardize this unique window of opportunity and undermine our defense priorities with a key partner in the strategic competition with Russia.' … The hold proceeded anyway.” 

Trump will install German ambassador Richard Grenell as acting director of national intelligence. 

Trump is nominating “a fiercely loyal ally atop an intelligence structure he has frequently railed against,” Shane Harris, Anne Gearan and Dawsey report. “It is unclear whether Trump intends to nominate Grenell to fill the top intelligence post on a permanent basis, which would require Senate confirmation. The appointment took many in Washington, including on Capitol Hill, by surprise. Grenell, a former State Department official and communications executive, has been a Trump confidant and ad hoc adviser on issues beyond his ambassadorial work in Berlin. He is a conservative foreign policy hawk and sometime media critic, as well as a vocal supporter of Trump on social media. He has sparked controversy in his diplomatic role, but also won praise in Germany and elsewhere for taking on issues such as gay rights in Eastern Europe and the long-running tensions between Kosovo and Serbia. Grenell would be the first openly gay member of the Trump Cabinet.”

Trump continues to test his relationship with Bill Barr by tweeting about the Justice Department. 

A day after it was revealed that the attorney general has told people close to Trump that he’s considered quitting, the president amplified “conservative allies demanding he ‘clean house’ at the Justice Department and target those involved in the Russia investigation that once threatened his presidency,” John Wagner, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett report. “The grievances shared by Trump in a flurry of morning tweets included claims of a ‘seditious conspiracy’ against him, and attacks on a ‘criminal gang’ at the FBI and the Justice Department.” The fragile equilibrium may be tested again Thursday, as Roger Stone is scheduled to be sentenced for lying to Congress and obstruction.

John Bolton said his testimony wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the impeachment trial. 

The former national security adviser “denounced the House’s impeachment proceedings against [Trump] as ‘grossly partisan’ and said his testimony would not have changed Trump’s acquittal in the Senate,” the AP reports. “Bolton was on stage at Vanderbilt University with former national security adviser Susan Rice, who questioned Bolton’s refusal to discuss more details. … Bolton contended that the House ‘committed impeachment malpractice,’ drawing some grumbling from the audience, saying ‘the process drove Republicans who might have voted for impeachment away because it was so partisan.’ He also said he didn’t expect the Senate to vote against having him testify. ‘People can argue about what I should have said and what I should have done,’ Bolton said. ‘I would bet you a dollar right here and now, my testimony would have made no difference to the ultimate outcome.’”

Mike Pompeo and lawmakers sparred over “deep state” attacks while in Munich.

“The meeting became contentious early on, when Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) confronted Pompeo about what the senator described as a severe morale problem among Foreign Service officers and civil servants working for the State Department both in Washington and around the world,” Josh Rogin reports. “Pompeo reacted angrily. The secretary didn’t just deny that he had failed to protect his employees sufficiently; he also claimed that morale at the State Department is great, according to four lawmakers who were in the room.”

Trump is considering more pardons.

The president assembled a team of advisers to guide the clemency process. “The White House is moving to take more direct control over pardons and commutations, with Trump aiming to limit the role of the Justice Department in the clemency process as he weighs a flurry of additional pardon announcements,” Toluse Olorunnipa, Dawsey and Neena Satija report. “Trump, who granted clemency Tuesday to a group of 11 people that included several political allies and supporters, has assembled a team of advisers to recommend and vet candidates for pardons. … The group, essentially an informal task force of at least a half-dozen presidential allies, has been meeting since late last year to discuss a revamped pardon system in the White House. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is taking a leading role in the new clemency initiative. … Trump, who prefers granting clemency to people with compelling personal stories or lengthy sentences, is inclined to grant more pardons before facing voters in November, one official said.” (Interesting op-ed by John K. Carroll: “I was a prosecutor in the Michael Milken case. I’m outraged at the pardon process.”)

Julian Assange’s lawyer said a then-GOP congressman dangled a pardon if he would absolve Russia in the DNC hack. Assange's attorney told a British judge that former Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a Trump ally who lost in 2018, made an offer to the WikiLeaks founder on behalf of Trump in 2017 to pardon Assange in exchange for saying that Russia had nothing to do with the 2016 hack and leak of DNC emails. “Assange is in a British prison while he awaits a decision on an extradition request by the United States,” William Booth and Ellen Nakashima report. “In a statement posted to his website on Wednesday, Rohrabacher said … ‘at no time did I offer Julian Assange anything from the President because I had not spoken with the President about this issue at all.’ But, he added, he told Assange that if he gave him evidence about who provided him the DNC emails, he would ask Trump to pardon him. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham on Wednesday denied the allegation that Trump was seeking a trade with Assange.”

An unrepentant Rod Blagojevich declared himself “a freed political prisoner” as he spoke to reporters outside his Chicago home. “We want to express our most profound and everlasting gratitude to President Trump,” said the former Democratic governor of Illinois. (Susan Berger and John Wagner)

Trump granted clemency to three of Alice Johnson’s friends. The women said they hadn't spoken in years with Johnson, whom Trump freed in 2018, and were only vaguely aware of her efforts, Beth Reinhard reports.

Trump’s pardon of Bernie Kerik also apparently wiped out $103,000 of the former New York City police commissioner’s debt to taxpayers. The White House credited the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani – Kerik’s friend and former boss – for convincing Trump to pardon Kerik. (The Week)

The new world order

Coronavirus cases surged in South Korea.

“Authorities worldwide warned about the spread of the coronavirus beyond China on Thursday as Japan reported the first two deaths from the Diamond Princess cruise liner, South Korea reported its first fatality and a major city there asked citizens to refrain from venturing outdoors,” Gerry Shih, Rick Noack and Teo Armus report. “A Japanese man and woman, both said to be in their 80s, were among more than 600 passengers who contracted the disease while on board the Diamond Princess. They left the ship last week and had been hospitalized but died on Thursday … In nearby South Korea, cases soared by nearly two-thirds, mostly in the southern part of the peninsula … The mayor of Daegu, the city where 10 South Koreans contracted the disease from a church service, asked residents to stay indoors. 

Iran also reported two infected that then died. Many international experts say the disease will continue to spread globally even as the Chinese government seeks to present the image that it is coming to grips with the epidemic. New cases inside China dropped again Wednesday, officials reported Thursday, after national authorities changed for the second time in a week the criteria for how cases are diagnosed and counted.”

A “xenophobic” motive is suspected in an overnight shooting that left 10 dead in Germany. 

“A spokesman for the Public Prosecutor General said that the office had taken over the investigation. Nine people were killed in shootings at the two hookah bars in Hanau, which is about 15 miles east of Frankfurt, on Wednesday night,” Loveday Morris, Rick Noack and Luisa Beck report. “The body of the suspected attacker, and that of another person, were found in his home in the early hours of Thursday morning, police said. They didn't provide any additional information, but said there were ‘no indications of further perpetrators.’ German newspaper Bild reported the second body belonged to the suspect's mother. Police said they couldn’t provide details on the attacker’s motive or comment on German news reports saying the shooter left a confessional letter and video that indicated a confused, extreme-right, anti-immigrant ideology.”

Britain wants to close its borders to low-skill migrants and lure English-speaking engineers. 

“Home Secretary Priti Patel called the immigration plan ‘a historic moment for the whole country,’ as the government pledged to transform the British economy by starving its businesses of low-wage workers from Europe and forcing companies to adopt technology and automation instead,” William Booth and Karla Adam report. “The government said that beginning next year, it will reduce the overall number of migrants allowed into the country, honoring what it sees as one of the main mandates of the Brexit vote in June 2016. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who led the campaign for Brexit, has called the new immigration regime revolutionary. His government formally outlined the new plan Wednesday, confirming that Britain will install a new ‘points-based’ system, which will take back control of its borders and end what it described as the country’s overreliance on low-skilled workers.” 

A Mexican national was arrested in Florida on accusation of spying for Russia.

Hector Cabrera was arrested on charges that he collected information about a U.S. government informant on Russia, Brittany Shammas reports. “U.S. prosecutors claim he was carrying out orders from a Russian official who had recruited him with promises of helping his family. A Singapore resident and researcher at the country’s National Heart Center, Fuentes made several trips to Moscow to meet with the official, who directed him to rent a specific property in Miami-Dade County and report back to Russia the license plate and location of the informant’s car.”

Chris Steele said he feared assassination, directed by Russia, after he outlined alleged links between Trump and the Kremlin before the 2016 election. The Telegraph reports that the former MI6 agent feared reprisals after he circulated memos that become known as the Steele dossier.

Mexico is investigating ex-president Enrique Peña Nieto, a top official said. Peña Nieto has been linked to the high-profile bribery case against the former CEO of Pemex, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman is sparring no detail in the planning of the Group of 20 summit, which he hopes will shift focus from the killing of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi. (Bloomberg News)

Scientists say we’ve dramatically underestimated how much methane gas we’re emitting. 

“The contention emerges in a new study in the influential journal Nature, which draws on samples of ancient air extracted from within the Greenland ice sheet to measure levels of atmospheric methane before humans started burning fossil fuels,” Chris Mooney reports. “If the researchers are right, then tens of millions of tons of methane could be wafting into the atmosphere, unaccounted for, from oil and gas fields around the world.”

Social media speed read

Bloomberg's hometown papers were not gentle with their former mayor's debut performance:

Not surprisingly, Trump also panned the former mayor's performance:

Warren didn’t want to become an accidental influencer:

The activists who interrupted Biden's closing statement said they did so because there have been too few immigration questions in this cycle’s debates:

The Bloomberg campaign shared old clips of Biden praising the former mayor, and Biden hit back:

Videos of the day

A group glued tiny “Make America Great Again” hats onto pigeons in Las Vegas:

Video released by “Pigeons United to Interfere Now” on Feb. 19 showed birds wearing Trump-like wigs and MAGA hats. (Video: P.U.T.I.N.)

Trevor Noah shared what his ideal presidential debate would look like: