Good morning friends. A State of the Union delivered, 50 Russia probe transcripts requested, too many hearings to count, one confused opossum and no deal yet to avoid the shutdown (or resignations in Virginia, for that matter). But we made it to Friday 😵 Reach out and sign up -- enjoy your weekend.
DEATH OF A GIANT: Former dean of the House John Dingell passed away last night at the age of 92. The Michigan Democrat was the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history, "who helped write most of the nation's major environmental and energy laws," according to the Detroit News's obituary honoring the life of their former congressman.
Nicknamed “The Truck” and “Big John,” Dingell was also an advocate for the auto industry and "used his considerable power in the House of Representatives to uncover government fraud," Emma Brown writes in The Post's obit. “When asked to define the jurisdiction of his committee, Mr. Dingell liked to point at a photograph of the Earth taken from space,” Brown writes.
“He died peacefully at his home in Dearborn, surrounded by his wife, U.S. Rep. Deborah Dingell,” her office said in a statement. “He was a lion of the United States Congress and a loving son, father, husband, grandfather, and friend. He will be remembered for his decades of public service to the people of Southeast Michigan, his razor sharp wit, and a lifetime of dedication to improving the lives of all who walk this earth,” the statement said.
A remarkable paragraph that captures the gravity and span of Dingell's life: “Seventy-two years ago, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., heard the news of the Pearl Harbor bombing on a Washington, D.C. street. The following day, Dingell, then a 15-year-old senior House page, was assigned to the House gallery to help radio broadcaster Fulton Lewis, Jr. record Franklin Roosevelt’s now-iconic 'date which will live in infamy' speech. The Dean of the House spoke with National Journal about what he witnessed during those days," Alex Brown wrote for The Atlantic in 2013.
Rest in Peace, Mr. Dingell and sending ❤️ to Rep. Dingell (D-Mich.) and the family.
We lost two great Americans today – Frank Robinson and John Dingell – citizens who inspired me and so many others by leading on the civil rights issues of our time, opening doors to others, and leaving it all on the field.— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 8, 2019
From the Courts
BREAKING: “Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined with the Supreme Court’s liberals Thursday night to block a Louisiana law that opponents say would close most of the state’s abortion clinics and leave it with only one doctor eligible to perform the procedure,” my colleague Robert Barnes reported last night.
The key quote: “The justices may yet consider whether the 2014 law — requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals — unduly burdens a woman’s access to abortion. The Louisiana law has never been enforced, and the Supreme Court in 2016 found a nearly identical Texas law to be unconstitutional,” per Barnes.
The other key quote: “'The Supreme Court has stepped in under the wire to protect the rights of Louisiana women,' said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represented the law’s challengers. 'The three clinics left in Louisiana can stay open while we ask the Supreme Court to hear our case. This should be an easy case — all that’s needed is a straightforward application of the court’s own precedent,'" per Barnes.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a dissent, per CNN.
The bigger picture: " . . . in recent days and weeks, there has been a flurry of new state legislation that could prove important if the nation’s highest court rules on more abortion-related cases," reports the New York Times's Julia Jacons and Matt Stevens. “In some states, lawmakers have sought to pass laws that would ban or severely restrict abortion in the event that Roe v. Wade is eventually overturned or effectively gutted."
- Tennessee, Arkansas and South Carolina
COMING UP KHASHOGGI: The New York Times's Mark Mazzetti broke an important story about murdered Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi. According to current and former U.S. and foreign officials with direct knowledge of intelligence reports, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told a top aide in 2017 that he would use “a bullet” on Khashoggi if he did not return home and stop criticizing the Saudi government. If they were unable to lure the journalist back to the kingdom, then he should be returned by force, Prince Mohammed told his aide in the conversation.
- Mazetti reports: “The conversation, intercepted by American intelligence agencies, is the most detailed evidence to date that the crown prince considered killing Mr. Khashoggi long before a team of Saudi operatives strangled him inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and dismembered his body using a bone saw. Mr. Khashoggi’s murder prompted weeks of outrage around the world and among both parties in Washington, where senior lawmakers called for an investigation into who was responsible.”
- More: “The conversation appears to have been recently transcribed and analyzed as part of an effort by intelligence agencies to find proof of who was responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s death. The National Security Agency and other American spy agencies are now sifting through years of the crown prince’s voice and text communications that the N.S.A. routinely intercepted and stored, much as the agency has long done for other top foreign officials, including close allies of the United States.”
Timing: Mazzetti's scoop comes ahead of today's deadline for the Trump administration to announce whether they will impose additional sanctions on MBS. Today marks 120 days since senators triggered the Magnitsky Act a week after Khashoggi's murder in October, and requires Trump to “determine whether a foreign person — in this case [MBS} — is responsible for a gross violation of human rights 'against an individual exercising freedom of expression,'" CNN's Brian Stelter reports.
Mazzetti's scoop also comes on the heels of another timely report: The Wall Street Journal's Warren Strobel found that the Saudi government released their own “confidential report prepared for the Saudi public prosecutor” that contests “a prominent element of a CIA assessment that concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman likely ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.”
Counterpunch: Preliminary findings from a U.N. human rights expert leading an independent inquiry into the murder of Khashoggi were also released on Thursday. My colleague in Istanbul Kareem Fahim reports the findings indicate not only had Saudi Arabia “seriously curtailed and undermined” Turkey's investigation of the Saudi consulate, where Khashoggi was killed in October, but also that Khashoggi was the victim of murder “planned and perpetrated by officials of the State of Saudi Arabia.”
- Agnes Callamard, the expert leading the investigation, said “she initiated her investigation on her own because the United Nations had been unwilling to pursue an international criminal investigation. Her four-person team has no authority to bring criminal charges and will present the findings of its investigation to the U.N. Human Rights Council in June.”
- Key — the audio: “In Turkey, Callamard’s team met with senior Turkish officials, including Istanbul’s chief prosecutor and the head of Turkish intelligence. The team was “given access to some crucial information about Mr. Khashoggi’s murder, including to parts of the chilling and gruesome audio material obtained and retained by the Turkish Intelligence agency,” Callamard’s statement said.
Reminder — Trump in November of 2018 cast doubt on the CIA's findings: “Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t! That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi.”
And: Jared Kushner is set to travel to the Middle East later this month seeking “buy-in” for his peace plan, reports Politico's Eliana Johnson, where he "will for the first time share significant details of the economic portion of the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan, whose development he has spent nearly two years overseeing.”
At the White House
FLOTUS ARRIVES: first lady Melania Trump appeared at the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America's Youth Initiative in Maryland on Thursday where she delivered her first speech of 2019, kicking off a year ahead focused on her anti-bullying “Be Best” campaign, paired with her push to help women and children affected by the opioid crisis and addiction. Power Up tagged along for FLOTUS's day about town.
- “Part of my Be Best campaign focuses on understanding the harmful effects of opioid abuse on our children and finding opportunities to help families and young mothers who have been affected by this very real problem,” Melania Trump told the audience of youth anti-drug advocates, before referencing her State of the Union guest Ashley Evans. “Ashley suffered from opioid and substance abuse for most of her life but found help through Brigid's Path, a medical care facility in Ohio.”
- “Recovery is possible,” Trump added.
Trump's remarks were followed by a briefing at the Office of National Drug Control Policy led by newly confirmed Director James Carroll, who previously served as President Trump's deputy chief of staff.
- ONDCP staffers ran through a Power Point presentation outlining the nature of the epidemic -- from the effects of fentanyl to high-intensity drug trafficking areas to the Department of Health and Human Service's pilot program for treatment of pregnant and postpartum women.
- Trump asked follow ups and signaled that the epidemic would be a topic next week during the visit of Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez and First Lady Maria Juliana Ruiz Sandoval. A border wall was not raised during the briefing.
Next week: Separately, Politico reports that Carroll has shaken up the ONDCP office by reassigning “top career policy staffers and spreading public health aides across other policy areas.” Carroll agreed to testify before the House Oversight Committee next week about the president's drug control strategy released last week.
- Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) issued a statement on the hearing: “Unfortunately, the Trump Administration did not have a strategy in place to deal with this epidemic over the past two years. Although I am encouraged that the White House has finally put out its long overdue plan, I am very concerned that this strategy fails to identify additional resources to make treatment available for many who desperately need it, fails to identify quantifiable and measurable objectives and goals, and — in my opinion — fails to address the gravity of the generational crisis our nation now faces.”
Today's coming attraction: Trump will receive his second physical as POTUS today. Get up to speed on his health with Jeremy Diamond and Kevin Liptak's look at how Trump has his doctor's orders.
"UNLIMITED PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT”: The new Democratic House majority is making up for lost time, much to the nightmare of everyone trying to keep their head on straight, but especially to the chagrin of the president. Although his issues with oversight responsibilities are for different reasons (please see Trump's Twitter feed).
About those tax returns: My colleague Jeff Stein reports that House Democrats commenced hearings yesterday to devise a plan to force Trump to release his tax returns. Lawmakers did not take action but worked to “lay the groundwork for a potential request, with lawmakers expected to ask about their authority to request the records,” Stein reports.
- “We have to be very, very careful as we go forward,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters. “. . . In terms of the tax issue, it’s not a question of just sending a letter. You have to do it in a very careful way, and the chairman of the committee will be doing that.”
- Counterpunch: Administration sources told Politico's Nancy Cook that the Treasury Department is “readying plans to drag the expected Democratic request for Trump's past tax filings, which he has closely guarded into a quagmire of arcane legal arguments.”
- Going ahead: “A House Ways and Means Committee panel brought in several experts in tax law to discuss the impact of a provision in Democrats’ anti-corruption bill that would compel presidential candidates to release 10 years of tax returns within 30 days of receiving their party’s nomination. The provision would apply to Trump, but Republicans oppose the measure and are expected to have the votes to block it in the Senate.”
Apple of his eye: House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) was the main target of Trump's Twitter tirade on yesterday, where the president referred to the news that Schiff's committee has hired at least one former White House national security aide, my colleagues David Nakamura, Seung Min Kim, and Josh Dawsey report.
Shade: “Although none of our staff has come directly from the White House, we have hired people with prior experience on the National Security Council staff for oversight of the agencies, and will continue to do so at our discretion,” an aide for the House Intelligence Committee told The Post. “We do not discriminate against potential hires on the basis of their prior work experience, including the administration,” the aide added.
What to watch today: After much drama, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker agreed to testify publicly today before the House Judiciary Committee at 9:30am. The hearing will feature "a potentially dramatic confrontation over President Trump and the special counsel investigation into the 2016 campaign," my colleagues Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian report.
- The drama: “Whitaker had said Thursday that he would not appear before the committee as scheduled unless committee Democrats gave him assurances he wouldn’t be subpoenaed. Earlier Thursday evening, Nadler sent a letter to Whitaker that provided no such promise, saying only that “there will be no need for a subpoena' if Whitaker answers lawmakers’ questions. 'To the extent that you believe you are unable to fully respond to any specific question, we are prepared to handle your concerns on a case-by-case basis, both during and after tomorrow’s hearing,' Nadler wrote,” per my colleagues.
- Detente: “The two sides continued discussions throughout the evening and eventually, according to Justice Department officials, [Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry] Nadler agreed that no subpoena would be issued Thursday or Friday.”
In the Media
Good news, dogs: USPS is honoring military dogs with a 2019 stamp collection. By CNN's Lauren M. Johnson.
What to do when you're blackmailed: No thank you, Mr. Pecker. By Jeff Bezos on Medium.
Shot: The Green New Deal is generating lots of left-wing enthusiasm. But not every Democrat is on board. By The Post's Dino Grandoni.
Juicy: “I am disgusted": Behind the scenes of Trump's increasingly scrutinized $107 million inauguration. By Vanity Fair's Emily Jane Fox.
What we're reading this weekend: ‘What the Hell Is Going On?’ How a Small Group Seized Control of Venezuela’s Opposition. By The Wall Street Journal's By David Luhnow, Juan Forero and José de Córdoba.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn't gonna pick favorites before the 2020 New York presidential primary (no date on the calendar yet):
CHUCK TODD: "You felt the Bern last time. You still feeling the Bern?"— Waleed Shahid (@_waleedshahid) February 7, 2019
AOC: "I love Senator Sanders. I think he's great. In terms of an endorsement, I joke, don't ask me until the day of the New York primary." pic.twitter.com/ZqKo2tWCTm