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Breaking: At least 23 people were killed in deadly tornadoes that tore through Alabama, Georgia and Florida last night. The death toll may rise as recovery efforts continue today.

At the White House

ALL ABOUT 2020: President Trump dove headfirst into campaign mode at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, delivering a sharp and sweeping preview of what we can expect from candidate-Trump over the course of the next 600-ish days until the November 2020. 

Trump's unscripted speech, peppered with more than 100 misleading statements, relied on tried-and-true campaign riffs from 2016 — from “Crooked Hillary” to building the wall to stopping endless wars — laced with new attacks on special counsel Bob Mueller's “phony witch hunt,” and he once again pitted aggrieved voters “under siege” against the “failed ruling class,” socialists, and undocumented immigrants in the name of “reclaiming our nation’s priceless heritage.”

They are the highlights of what we're likely to hear on the road from Trump as his reelection campaign begins in earnest (and countless Democrats enter the field against him): 

  • New campaign slogan?: “We believe in the American Dream, not in the socialist nightmare.” 
  • Attacks on Democrats: “They're embracing open borders, socialism, and extreme late-term abortion.” 
  • Hello, Steve Bannon: “With your help, we are reversing decades of blunders and betrayals. These are serious, serious betrayals to our nation and to everything we stand for. It's been done by the failed ruling class that enriched foreign countries at our expense.”
  • Green New Deal fixation: “But perhaps nothing is more extreme than the Democrats' plan to completely takeover American energy and completely destroy America's economy through their new $100 trillion Green New Deal.” 
  • The crux of his GOP appeal: “Whether you like me or not — if my name is Smith instead of Trump, and if you told him I put in over 100 federal judges — it'll soon be 145 federal judges and two Supreme Court judges. And 17 appellate division judges ... That we've cut more regulations in two years than any president has ever done, whether it's for eight or beyond.” 

The speech capped one of the most bruising week's of Trump's presidency following Michael Cohen's public testimony alleging the president is a “racist,” a “con man,” and a “cheat” and Trump's failure to reach a diplomatic breakthrough in North Korea. For the president, the stemwinder before his base seemed as cathartic as it was performative.

It also underscored the reality that the president still enjoys the full backing of his party. Trump still has an uphill battle ahead: an NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday shows that just four in 10 voters say they'd reelect Trump next year and 60 percent disapprove of his national emergency declaration to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

  • But: “The president's job rating remains stable with nearly 90 percent of Republicans approving of his job. And a majority of Americans remain confident in the economy, believing that there won’t be a recession in the next year,” per NBC News's Mark Murray. 
  • Key: “It’s a 45-55 against the president at this stage of the game,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart. Bill McInturff, a GOP pollster, added, “As long as these economic numbers look like this, that always keeps an incumbent president in the race.
  • Economic optimism: Sixty-nine percent of Americans are optimistic that they'll be “financially better off' at this time next year,'" according to a January Gallup poll, which is only “two percentage points below the all-time high of 71 percent, recorded in March 1998 at a time when the nation's economic boom was producing strong economic growth combined with the lowest inflation and unemployment rates in decades.”
  • Some economists, however, think a recession is just around the corner: “More than a third of top economic forecasters now predict a U.S. recession in 2020, according to the latest Blue Chip forecast, and 44 percent of fund managers in the latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch survey expect global growth to slow in the next year, the worst outlook for the world economy since November 2008,” The Post's Heather Long reported after 2018 midterms.

My colleague Bob Costa examined the “acquiescence to Trump” that has become the “defining trait of the Republican Party” and the ways in which the president has managed to secure support from all corners of the party leading up to 2020: 

  • “In interviews over the past week, Republicans on Capitol Hill offered an array of reasons for their unflinching loyalty to Trump as the 2020 campaign begins to take shape: a deep-seated fear of his pull with their supporters in primary races; fraying consensus about conservatism as nationalism takes hold of the party; and shared partisan disdain for Trump’s perceived enemies in the news media and the Democratic Party,” Costa reports. 
  • Key: “Republicans say Trump’s overhaul of the federal judiciary and the confirmation of two Supreme Court justices, along with the passage of the GOP’s sweeping tax law, have helped bind the party together through bouts of political turbulence,” per Costa. 
  • Fealty, despite “his warts”: “I think people know what they’re going to get with President Trump,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Costa. “A lot of people said some of the same things about him in the campaign. I’ve come to get to know the president. I like him, I understand his warts.”
  • “There's a lot of really bad headlines and Donald Trump has shown a unique ability to ignore them and refuse to get thrown out of the ring and, at the end of the day, the ring he's in is the Oval Office and there is one method for changing power in this country and it's an election,” the New York Times's Maggie Haberman told CNN Sunday. 

Signs of life? Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who is friendly with the president, announced yesterday that he will vote for the resolution blocking Trump's emergency declaration on the southern border. His opposition means the Senate will likely pass the resolution -- but Congress doesn't have the votes to muster an override to Trump's expected veto (more on this below).

Programming notes:

  • Tomorrow, Trump will welcome the North Dakota State University Bison football team, the reigning FCS national champions. He'll then deliver remarks to the National Association of Attorneys General tomorrow afternoon. 
  • Wednesday, the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board will hold its first meeting. Co-chaired by Ivanka Trump and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, the board is composed of various CEOs who provide recommendations on ways to “combat the skills crisis” among American workers. 
  • Loose ends: The U.S. and China are close to closing a trade deal, according to the Wall Street Journal's Lingling Wei and Bob Davis, and “talks have progressed to the extent that a formal agreement could be reached at a summit between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, probably around March 27, after Mr. Xi finishes a trip to Italy and France, individuals with knowledge of the plans said.” 
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, landed in Iowa last night. He's on a domestic swing that also includes stops in Kansas (where he's being encouraged to run for Senate) and then Houston. Pompeo denied the trip was politically motivated in an interview with USA Today's Deirdre Shesgreen. 
 

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The Investigations

INVESTIGATIONS MULTIPLY: House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) announced on ABC News's “This Week” he plans to today request documents from over 60 different people connected to President Trump, “to begin investigations to present the case to the American people about obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power.” 

  • Not the “I word,” yet: “Impeachment is a long way down the road. We don’t have the facts yet. But we’re going to initiate proper investigations,” Nadler said
  • Making the case? “Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen. You have to persuade enough of the opposition party voters, the Trump voters, that you’re not just trying . . . to reverse the results of the last election,” Nadler said. “We may or may not get there. But what we have to do is protect the rule of law.”

  • The president's son, Donald Trump Jr., and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's chief financial officer, are among those from whom Nadler will seek documents. 
  • After Nadler's appearance, Trump tweeted: “I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted & corrupt people in a Witch Hunt that is illegal & should never have been allowed to start,” he wrote. “And only because I won the Election! Despite this, great success!”

TAX RETURNS: Meanwhile, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Richard Neal (D -Mass.) is close to launching a request for Trump's tax returns to be submitted to the Internal Revenue Service in the “next few weeks”, as first reported by NBC News's Heidi Przybyla. 

  • “Neal has also contacted the chairs of several other House investigative committees, including Oversight and Government Reform, Financial Services, Intelligence and Judiciary, asking them to provide detailed arguments for why they need the president’s tax returns to conduct their probes,” Przybyla reports.

PARDON ME?: My colleagues Matt Zapotosky, Tom Hamburger, and Karoun Demirjian reported over the weekend that the House and Senate Intelligence committees are investigating “whether ... [Cohen] was involved in any discussions about possible pardons — which they view as a potentially ripe area of inquiry into whether anyone sought to obstruct justice, people familiar with the matter said.”

  • “Cohen has said publicly he never asked for — and would not accept — a pardon from Trump. But people familiar with the matter said his knowledge on the topic seems to extend beyond that statement,” they report. “Privately, lawmakers on the House and Senate Intelligence committees pressed Cohen this week on whether he had had any discussions about a possible pardon and, if so, when and with whom those conversations took place, the people said.”

  • Key: “It was not immediately clear what, if anything, Cohen told lawmakers to pique their interest. Depending on the details, such pardon talks could be incendiary, suggesting an effort to dissuade Cohen from cooperating with law enforcement,” according to Matt, Tom and Karoun. 

  • March 6: Cohen will return to the Hill on Wednesday to finish his closed-door hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said.

On The Hill

A SYMBOLIC BUT EMBARRASSING REBUKE: Paul made the announcement that he would side with dissenters on Trump's emergency declaration in a Fox News op-ed yesterday where he said that he would lose his “political soul” if he supported the president's action.

Paul signaled the move over the weekend, per the Bowling Green Daily News's Don Sergent. At the Southern Kentucky Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday, Paul told the group that he “can’t vote to give extra-Constitutional powers to the president.” 

  • Burn: “I can’t vote to give the president the power to spend money that hasn’t been appropriated by Congress,” Paul told the group. “We may want more money for border security, but Congress didn’t authorize it. If we take away those checks and balances, it’s a dangerous thing.”

  • Paul's vote makes the bill likely to clear the Senate since it's already passed the House and only requires a simple majority to pass the GOP-controlled Senate. The Senate is likely to vote on the disapproval resolution at the end of the month. However, a Senate rejection would likely be purely symbolic as “lawmakers in both chambers lack the votes to override a threatened presidential veto,” reports my colleague Felicia Sonmez.  

Reminder: During an interview last week with Fox News's Sean Hannity, Trump said that Republicans who oppose him “will put themselvese at great jeopardy. I think that really it’s a very dangerous thing for people to be voting against border security.” 

Global Power

THREE-WAY TALKS?: After Trump's failure to bring home a grand bargain with North Korea, South Korea “will push for three-way talks with the United States and North Korea as a way of resuming U.S.-North Korea denuclearization dialogue, Seoul's top diplomat said Monday.”

  • “We will seek various ways to create a venue for the resumption of North Korea-U. S. dialogue,” Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said in a National Security Council meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss next steps post- Hanoi summit, Yonhap's Byun Duk-kun reports

  • “The second North Korea-U. S. summit, though it is very disappointing in its result, was a chance to confirm the very meaningful progress that has been made through dialogue between the two countries,” Moon said. 

“The big deal”: national security adviser John Bolton confirmed to “Face the Nation’s” Margaret Brennan on Sunday that Trump had sought “the big deal” in Hanoi with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un.

  • Bolton said that “the issue really was whether North Korea was prepared to accept what the president called the 'big deal,' which is denuclearization entirely, under a definition the president handed to Kim Jong Un, and have the potential for an enormous economic future, or try to do something less than that, which was unacceptable to us. So the president held firm to his view." 
  • Bolton still called the summit, which abruptly ended early, a “success.” 

But hours after Bolton spoke, Trump blamed the collapse of talks with North Korea on Cohen’s congressional testimony, which occurred while Trump was meeting with Kim in Hanoi. 

  • “For the Democrats to interview in open hearings a convicted liar & fraudster, at the same time as the very important Nuclear Summit with North Korea, is perhaps a new low in American politics and may have contributed to the ‘walk,’ ” Trump tweeted. “Never done when a president is overseas. Shame!”

Notable: Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo struggled to defend Trump’s statement that Kim did not know about the treatment of University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, who died last year after being imprisoned by the regime in 2017. 

  • “I don't believe he knew about it,” Trump said of Kim in Hanoi last week. “He tells me that he didn't know about it, and I will take him at his word.” 
  • In an interview with USA Today, Pompeo “refused to say if he believes that Kim Jong Un did not know about Otto Warmbier's mistreatment while the American college student was imprisoned in North Korea, as President Trump has asserted,” Shesgreen reports. 
  • “The best thing North Korea could do right now would be to give us a full accounting of what happened and who was responsible for it,” Bolton told CNN’s Jake Tapper. 
  • “My opinion doesn’t matter,” Bolton replied when pushed again by Tapper. “I am not the national security decision-maker,” Bolton added. “That's his view,” he said, referring to Trump. 

The People

2020 WATCH: Bernie Sanders is officially running again. He announced in Brooklyn on Saturday, swung through Selma, Ala, m on Sunday for the 54th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday,” and ended in Chicago on Sunday night.  

In his newsletter, The Trailer, my colleague Dave Weigel reports on Sanders's announcement weekend. "And for the first time, he addressed the president as a potential opponent — not as a theoretical challenger once he got past the primaries,” Weigel writes. 

  • “I did not come from a family of privilege that prepared me to entertain people on television by telling workers, ‘You’re fired,’” Sanders said in Brooklyn. “I did not come from a politically connected family whose multinational corporation got special tax breaks and subsidies. I came from a family where my parents paid their taxes and understood the important role that government plays in a democracy.”

Also in Alabama: Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). Booker addressed the crowd on Sunday as well, delivering a fiery keynote about “moral vandalism” in the U.S. and institutional shortcomings from the lack of clean water and affordable health care to gun violence and widespread poverty across the country. 

  • “For the New Jersey senator, much of the day felt personal. In Brown Chapel he sat next to [Jesse] Jackson, for whom he cast his first ballot as an 18-year-old during Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign. He later marched to the bridge alongside Jackson, their arms locked together,” the Associated Press's Errin Haines Whack reports. 

  • “I would not be here if it wasn’t for marchers on a bridge who inspired a man a thousand miles away in New Jersey . . . The dream is under attack. You honor history by emulating it, by us recommitting ourselves to it,” Booker said. 

The governors are coming: “Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was the first state executive to enter the presidential field, launching his campaign Friday by declaring climate change the nation’s most pressing task and his campaign’s defining issue,” writes the Associated Press's Bill Barrow. “Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to join soon. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe are considering bids, as well.” [Hickenlooper appears to have just filed a Hickenlooper 2020 FEC filing, per Recode's Teddy Schleifer.] 

  • Head winds: “Adding to the governors’ challenges, they are middle-aged to older white men at a time when the Democratic Party base is dominated by women nonwhites and young voters — an electorate that may not be clamoring for the offerings of conventional politicians. Inslee and Hickenlooper are in their late 60s. McAuliffe is 62. Bullock is the youngest, at 52,” Barrow writes. 

Former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was also in attendance on Sunday and delivered remarks. My colleague Matt Viser noted the following of Clinton's interactions: “When Cory Booker left the stage here in Selma, Hillary Clinton stood and gave a big hug. The warmth was palpable. When Bernie Sanders left the stage, she stood and, as he was briskly walking past, it appeared they briefly shook hands. The chilliness was palpable.”

Meanwhile in D.C., Amy Klobuchar attended the Gridiron, per the Associated Press, and made light of her comb scandal: “A recent New York Times story depicted Klobuchar as a difficult boss and included an anecdote in which the senator chewed out a staffer for bringing her a salad without a fork and that she ate the salad with a comb. She asked the dinner guests, 'How did everyone like the salad?' and that it needed 'a little scalp oil' and a 'pinch of dandruff.'”

LOL: “Klobuchar promised the audience at the Renaissance Washington Hotel that her remarks would be 'shorter than a Robert Kraft visit to the Orchids day spa.' Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots and a friend of President Donald Trump, has been charged in Florida with two counts of soliciting prostitution. Klobuchar added: 'A woman can tell a dirty joke.'" 
 

Viral

New York Magazine's latest cover story: "Coolheaded Obaman technocracy is out; strident left-wing moral clarity is in. And while this atmospheric shift is felt most acutely among the left-literary crowd, it’s also bled into the general discourse, such that Teen Vogue is constantly flacking against capitalism and one of the most devastating insults in certain corners of the internet is to call someone a neoliberal."