The Hill's 12:30 Report: Stone pleads not guilty | How lawmakers want to end shutdowns for good | Some Dems float Ocasio-Cortez primary challenge

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--> A midday take on what's happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.*

*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha--breaks down crying hysterically.


The Hill's 12:30 Report: Stone pleads not guilty to Mueller charges | How lawmakers want to end shutdowns for good | Some Dems floating AOC primary challenge | Ocasio-Cortez fires back | Trump as White House tour guide | Flake rules out 2020 run | Polar vortex slams Midwest | DC braces for snow storm, frigid temps | McDonald's giving out free bacon for one hour



All I can think of when I see Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneThe Hill's Morning Report - Is impeachment back on the table? End of Mueller shifts focus to existing probes Heavily redacted Mueller report leaves major questions unanswered MORE's entrance is Trump's 2016 announcement


President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls Sri Lankan prime minister following church bombings Ex-Trump lawyer: Mueller knew Trump had to call investigation a 'witch hunt' for 'political reasons' The biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone MORE's longtime informal adviser Roger Stone just pleaded not guilty in D.C. federal court today after being indicted on seven charges in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation.

The charges: Lying to Congress about his WikiLeaks interactions, obstructing an official proceeding and witness tampering.

Yikes -- it was a madhouse outside the courthouse: "Protesters and reporters swarmed the street around the black SUV picking him up (he didn't talk), a couple guys waved Russian flags, and there was music. It was a *scene*" Video -- this is pretty crazy:

Photos of Stone leaving the courthouse: "Stone was mobbed outside the courthouses but slid into a black SUV without making any statements." (Via The Hill's Lydia WheelerPhotos — wow:



It's been an eerie Tuesday morning in D.C. right before a frigid cold and winter storm hits.❄️ I'm Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what's coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to -- and follow along on Twitter @CateMartel and  Facebook.

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Snow and arctic temperatures are expected in the Washington, D.C., area starting this afternoon. The federal government and some schools are closing early today because of an expected messy evening commute. 

Live updates of the storm for the D.C. area:

When federal employees in D.C. can leave work today: The Office of Personnel Management announced that D.C. area employees can leave two hours early today.

Updated list of school closings: Via Fox 5 DC:

Photo of snow forming in Maryland:

Potentially record-breaking cold: "Nearly 90 million people will experience temperatures at or below zero degrees this week from the Midwest to New England, according to the National Weather Service, and 25 million of those will face temperatures below minus-20."

Omg: Wind chills in the Dakotas and northern Minnesota hit minus 50 this morning!

Fun fact: Here's a map of the coldest temperatures ever recorded in each state:

I'm on a beach. A warm, sunny beach.



What would a holiday season even look like without a shutdown threat...?

You mean we could book our Christmas flights ... early?:

Via The Hill's Cristina Marcos, after the longest shutdown in U.S. history with an estimated $3 billion in permanent losses, lawmakers in both parties have introduced bills to automatically fund the government if Congress can't make the deadline. I.e.: No more shutdowns, ever.


Getting traction -- the AOC welcoming committee:

Via The Hill's Scott Wong, "Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezTrump takes aim at Dem talk of impeachment Democrats leave impeachment on the table Michael Steele: A missed opportunity at holding banks accountable MORE (D-N.Y.) has infuriated colleagues by aligning with a progressive outside group that's threatening to primary entrenched Democrats. Now some of those lawmakers are turning the tables on her and are discussing recruiting a primary challenger to run against the social media sensation."

Reaction from a Democratic lawmaker, who told The Hill: "What I have recommended to the New York delegation is that you find her a primary opponent and make her a one-term congressperson. You've got numerous council people and state legislators who've been waiting 20 years for that seat. I'm sure they can find numerous people who want that seat in that district."

Reaction from AOC -- she referred to the quote above ^: "That broken mentality, that public office is something you wait in line for, instead of earning through hard organizing, is exactly what voters want to change. Shows you how disconnected some folks here are."

Good point — context from Luke Russert: "If this were to actually happen, AOC would set a fundraising record for a primary. She could go on the air for 6 months in the massively expensive NYC media market and still have money left over to canvass. She should fundraise off it today."


The Odd Couple:

Via The Hill's Alexander Bolton, "Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiTrump pushes back on impeachment talk: 'Tables are finally turning on the Witch Hunt!' Moulton enters 2020 White House race Trump takes aim at Dem talk of impeachment MORE (D-Calif.) has emerged as the senior partner in her relationship with Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage Former FBI official praises Barr for 'professional' press conference MORE (N.Y.), and he appears happy to defer to her in the interest of maximizing their shared power." How this power dynamic will be testing for Trump:



Where do I sign up for that tour?:

The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey obtained excerpts of a new book from former White House aide Cliff Sims


Donald Trump, tour guide: President Trump loves giving tours in the White House. "Trump relishes giving tours to acquaintances and strangers by the hundreds, bragging all the while about improving it while he lives there. ... With new chandeliers and imported artwork added during his tenure, showing guests around the White House is among his favorite activities." 

On former President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky: "I'm told this is where Bill and Monica..." Trump reportedly told a TV anchor on a tour in 2017. Others say Trump made similar comments: "Laughing and making facial expressions. The subject often leads to lengthy, sometimes crass conversations, aides said." 

On the Lincoln bedroom: "When the president finishes dinners with members of Congress, he often raises the same question. 'You want to see the Lincoln Bedroom?' he asks, before beckoning lawmakers up the stairs. He often remarks how tall President Lincoln was and how short the bed is during these visits, before noting the nearby Lincoln desk and the Bill of Rights, guests said." 

Read the preview and excerpts:



2020 NEWS

Jeff Flaked out (rimshot):

Former Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Flake opens up about threats against him and his family MORE (R-Ariz.) announced this morning that he will not run for president in 2020.

Flake said on "CBS This Morning": "I have always said that I do hope that there is a Republican who challenges the president in the primary. I still hope that somebody does, but that somebody won't be me. I will not be a candidate."

Instead: Flake said he's joining CBS News as a contributor.

Watch the announcement:


She's running:

Rapper Cardi B is making her Des Moines, Iowa, debut in May. Details -- ahem journalists and staffers who may be in Iowa:

Lol: "Before you ask, Cardi B will not be eligible to run for president until 2028." (Via The Washington Post's Dave Weigel



Yikes for everyone, but yiiiikes for Chicago and Minneapolis:

Give those poor people a color!


Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisPro-life Christians are demanding pollution protections Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Abrams: Schumer has been 'relentless but thoughtful' about Senate bid MORE (R-N.C.), you have a very cute assistant:



The House and Senate are in.

President Trump has no public events on his calendar.

2 p.m. EST: First and last votes in the House.

3:45 p.m. EST: Vice President Pence meets with Carlos Alfredo Vecchio, the Chargé d'Affaires of Venezuela. 

Today -- tomorrow: Top officials from the U.S. and China will discuss trade during meetings in Washington, D.C. Details: Op-ed:

Feb. 5: President Trump will give his State of the Union address in the House Chamber. Keep in mind: The address was scheduled for today but was pushed because of the government shutdown. Details:

Just announced -- Feb. 8: President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen has agreed to testify before the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors. Details:



This morning: A Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on threats to the United States. Testifying: CIA Director Gina Haspel, National Intelligence Director Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsJordan, Meadows press intelligence chief on House Intel Russia probe transcripts Overnight Energy: John Kerry hits Trump over climate change at hearing | Defends Ocasio-Cortez from GOP attacks | Dems grill EPA chief over auto emissions rollback plan Kerry goes after Trump over climate on Capitol Hill MORE and FBI Director Christopher WrayLivestream:

Wednesday morning: Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who is considering running as an independent presidential candidate in 2020, will appear on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."



Today is National Corn Chip Day.


ALERT -- Free bacon at McDonald's today -- ALERT, THIS IS NOT A DRILL:

McDonald's is offering free bacon from 4 to 5 p.m. today to celebrate bacon's arrival to its nationwide menu.

Bacon entrees that will be available at McDonald's starting tomorrow: Cheesy Bacon Fries, the Big Mac Bacon burger and the Quarter Pounder Bacon burger. Photos:


And because you made it to the end, here are two bunnies posing for their next album cover: