Opinion writer

* Erica Werner, Sean Sullivan, and Damian Paletta report that we may see the emergence of a Gang of Some Number to Be Named Later:

A bipartisan group of rank-and-file senators are planning to hold discussions on how to end the weeks-long government shutdown, with talks between congressional leaders and the White House at a standstill.

The group involves Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and others, according to an official with knowledge of the deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private discussions.

Prospects for the group to achieve any results — or even get off the ground — are uncertain as it begins meeting this week. But the group’s creation is a sign senators of both parties are eager to end the shutdown, even if it means taking matters into their own hands amid an impasse between top Democrats and President Trump.

As we’ve been arguing over and over, if Mitch McConnell would just let a bill come to a vote, it would pass and then Trump would be forced to sign it or veto it. That’s the way out.

* Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett report that the soon-to-be-confirmed attorney general is saying the right things:

Attorney general nominee William P. Barr said in written testimony released Monday that he would let special counsel Robert S. Mueller III finish his investigation of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign without political interference and that it was “very important” Congress and the public be informed of the results.

The four-page testimony, released a day ahead of Barr’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, offered a preview of how he will address what his advisers expect to be the most challenging lines of inquiry. Trump’s nominee to be the top U.S. law enforcement official has occasionally been critical of the special counsel investigation and wrote in a memo to Justice Department leaders last year that Mueller’s apparent theory of possible obstruction of justice by the president was “fatally misconceived.”

Expect some detailed questioning from Democrats on this question during his confirmation hearings, especially when it comes to the conversations Barr has had with the president.

* Tom Nichols argues that the evidence points to the conclusion that Vladimir Putin has compromising information on Donald Trump.

* Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt dig deep into their knowledge of autocrats around the world to show how they love creating “emergencies," something that our homegrown autocrat may be experimenting with before long.

* Rick Hasen argues that the Democrats' massive political reform bill would be truly transformative if it could ever get past Republican opposition.

* Taegan Goddard launches a new, useful interactive tool that allows you to experiment with electoral college combinations, complete with a series of explainers on how the EC works.

* Paul Glastris and the Washington Monthly serve up a package of articles explaining how Democrats can deal with their geographic disadvantage, something they must urgently address over time.

* James Downie digs through the latest polling to show that not a single major Trump argument about the wall has taken hold with a majority of the public.

* Adam Serwer demonstrates that there’s no significant difference between Steve King’s white nationalist views and Trump’s, and argues that Republicans' rejection of the former seems hollow, given their acquiescence to the latter.

* Jacob Coblentz and Sean McElwee present data showing that contrary to the warnings of centrists, supporting Medicare For All didn’t turn general election voters away from Democratic candidates in 2018. This is something the 2020 Democrats will be thinking about.

* Amanda Marcotte breaks down the arguments Republicans have been using to wave away the mounting evidence against Trump in the Russia scandal.

* Jamil Smith says that for someone supposedly so concerned about national security, Trump has been awfully servile to a hostile foreign power.

* And over at the American Prospect, I explored Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s apparent possession of superpowers.