The Hill's Morning Report - Can Bernie recapture 2016 magic?




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Our newsletter gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Co-creators are Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger (CLICK HERE to subscribe!). On Twitter, you can find us at @joneasley and @asimendinger.


Vermont Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersVolatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties GOP memo deflects some gun questions to 'violence from the left' British Bookmaker: Warren has replaced Biden as Democratic primary favorite MORE’s 2020 presidential run will look vastly different from his charmed 2016 campaign, which soared on the energy of young people and marked the arrival of an ascendant left wing of the Democratic Party.

This time around, Sanders enters the crowded Democratic fray as a top contender.

While lesser-known candidates scrap for media coverage and money, Sanders will be awash in both. The self-described democratic socialist raised more than $4 million in the hours after his announcement on Tuesday and his entrance received top billing in the political press.

Soon after he launched his 2016 campaign, Sanders admitted he was a long shot to become president. Now, Sanders is expressing confidence on his 2020 run.

“We’re going to win.” - Sanders

He will be able to rely on an enthusiastic base of supporters and can take credit for the Democratic Party’s embrace of the issues he brought to the forefront in 2016, such as “Medicare for all” and tuition-free education at public universities.

The Memo: Sanders’s White House quest sharpens “socialist” question

The Hill: Betting against Bernie? Dems assess risk.

But even some of Sanders’s most enthusiastic backers are warning about how difficult the path to the nomination will be in 2020.

The obstacles

> This time around, Sanders isn’t just running against former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonAre Democrats turning Trump-like? The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy MORE. Democrats have a buffet of new options, including several with progressive appeal, such as Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Manufacturing shrinks, raising questions for Trump Volatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties MORE (D-Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Volatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties Conservative commentator rips Shapiro over criticism of people with multiple jobs MORE (D-Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandSteve King to Gillibrand: Odds of me resigning same as yours of winning presidential nomination The Hill's Morning Report — Recession fears climb and markets dive — now what? King incites furor with abortion, rape and incest remarks MORE (D-N.Y.), and potentially Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownThe Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape Dayton Democrat launches challenge to longtime GOP rep Dayton mayor: Trump visit after shooting was 'difficult on the community' MORE (D-Ohio).

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee is already backing Warren. The liberal group Democracy for America backed Sanders in 2016 but is not committing to a candidate yet for 2020.

“Blessed with a diverse field of candidates committed to inclusive populist reforms, we're looking forward to seeing how Sanders and the movement behind him makes the case for 'political revolution' in a very different 2020 contest.” —- DFA Executive Director Yvette Simpson

Liberal activist Jonathan Tasini, who supported Sanders in 2016, said that with most Democrats “singing from Bernie’s policy playbook,” it will be harder for him to stand out, even if he’s the one who wrote the tunes.

“Whether, as some of my hard-core Bernie friends say, the carriers of the policy message are pretenders or not reliable is a fair point but may not matter in the back-and-forth of a campaign. The ‘brand’ could get muddled and co-opted.” —- Tasini

While some 2016 Sanders backers are keeping their powder dry, the senator did pick up home state endorsements from Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions Graham moves controversial asylum bill through panel; Democrats charge he's broken the rules MORE and Rep. Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchOvernight Health Care: Oversight chair plans to call drug executives to testify on costs | Biden airs anti-'Medicare for All' video | House panel claims Juul deliberately targeted kids Mueller agrees investigation did not 'fail to turn up evidence of conspiracy' Live coverage: Mueller testifies before Congress MORE. Leahy endorsed Clinton in 2016 while Welch backed Sanders back then.

> It could be difficult for Sanders to expand his reach beyond the progressive wing of the party. He has steadfastly refused to join the Democratic Party and many mainstream Democrats remain bitter at Sanders, believing he lingered in the 2016 primary for too long and damaged Clinton’s general election prospects.

> Recent history tells us that runners-up can struggle the next time around. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R) made an unlikely run at Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyA US-UK free trade agreement can hold the Kremlin to account Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Overnight Defense: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces MORE (Utah) in the 2012 GOP nominating contest, electrifying conservative voters in search of an alternative. By 2016, those same voters had moved on to the next big thing —- President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE, neurosurgeon Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonCarson's affordable housing idea drawing undue flak Overnight Energy: Trump EPA looks to change air pollution permit process | GOP senators propose easing Obama water rule | Green group sues EPA over lead dust rules Green group sues EPA over lead dust rules it says are too lax MORE, and Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape O'Rourke says he will not 'in any scenario' run for Senate MORE (R-Texas) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move MORE (R-Fla.), among them. Santorum failed to make an impact on the race.

> Sanders is 77 years old and a straight white male. Those are all marks against him in a contest where many Democrats are eager to nominate a woman or someone from a minority group. The Vermont senator notably failed to connect with African-American voters in 2016, helping Clinton to close the deal on the nomination.

> It’s tough to be a front-runner or top contender. Sanders benefitted in 2016 by coming out of nowhere. Clinton absorbed intense scrutiny, while much of the coverage around Sanders focused on the insurgent element of his campaign.

This time around, Sanders is already having to answer tough questions about allegations of sexual harassment by his former campaign officials.

John Nichols: The U.S. might be ready to elect a Democratic Socialist.

David Von Drehle: Sanders’s moment has come and gone.



More from campaigns and politics … Former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama to present Lin-Manuel Miranda with the Portrait of a Nation Prize Michelle Obama thanks her high school for naming new athletic complex after her US ambassador to Germany calls out journalists who blocked him on Twitter MORE would be tied with former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Volatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties British Bookmaker: Warren has replaced Biden as Democratic primary favorite MORE as frontrunner if she ran in 2020, poll finds (The Hill) … Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who has been mentioned as a potential primary challenger to Trump, says the president’s reelection bid looks “pretty weak” (CBS News).


INVESTIGATIONS: Trump last night announced his intention to nominate Department of Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Rosen to be the next Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

If confirmed, Rosen would replace current Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWhy the presumption of innocence doesn't apply to Trump McCabe sues FBI, DOJ, blames Trump for his firing Rosenstein: Trump should focus on preventing people from 'becoming violent white supremacists' MORE, who plans to leave the DOJ sometime next month. Rosenstein has been overseeing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report MORE’s probe since former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsLewandowski says he's 'happy' to testify before House panel The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Nadler subpoenas Lewandowski, former White House official for testimony MORE recused himself.

Newly sworn in Attorney General William Barr will oversee the special counsel now. Barr handpicked Rosen to be his deputy. The two men worked together previously at the prestigious Kirkland & Ellis law firm.

The ongoing shake-up at the DOJ comes as accusations fly between the DOJ, FBI and White House over the origins and extent of investigations into Trump’s ties to Moscow.

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeThe Hill's Morning Report — Will Congress do anything on gun control? McCabe sues FBI, DOJ, blames Trump for his firing McCabe says it's 'absolutely' time to launch impeachment inquiry into Trump MORE claims that Rosenstein offered to wear a wire with Trump as part of an effort to remove the president from office. Barr praised Rosenstein in a statement announcing Rosen’s nomination on Tuesday night.

“[Rosen’s] years of outstanding legal and management experience make him an excellent choice to succeed Deputy Attorney  General Rod Rosenstein, who has served the Department of Justice over many years with dedication and distinction.” - Barr

The Associated Press: Trump nominates Rosen to replace Rosenstein.

The Washington Post: Barr in a tough spot as he takes the reins at Justice.

> Rebecca Kheel reports … Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee have launched a new investigation into the Trump administration’s dealings with Saudi Arabia.

The investigation is focused on whether senior White House officials sought to profit off the sale of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia despite warnings from ethics advisers and national security officials (The Hill).

Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI last year, is at the heart of the investigation.

Read the Oversight report HERE.

The Hill: Dems open new front against Trump.

The Associated Press: Flynn pushed to share nuclear tech with Saudis, report says.



> The New York Times reports that Trump asked former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker whether U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, a Trump ally, could be put in charge of a Southern District of New York probe into his former attorney, Michael Cohen.

The brutal headline: “Intimidation, pressure and humiliation: Inside Trump’s two-year war on the investigations encircling him.”

Trump denied the report, calling it “fake news.

More on the investigations front … FBI had backup plan to save Russia probe evidence (The Associated Press) … Judge orders Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneJudge rejects Stone's request to dismiss charges Judge dismisses DNC lawsuit against Trump campaign, Russia over election interference Prosecutors ask to air clip from 'The Godfather Part II' during Roger Stone trial MORE to appear in court after he shared photo of her with crosshairs (The Hill).


CONGRESS: Trump is barreling toward a showdown with Congress over his national emergency declaration.

House Democrats are certain to pass a resolution seeking to block the order. Will the GOP-controlled Senate follow suit?

Alexander Bolton takes a look at the 10 Republican senators who are most likely to break with the president. Democrats in the Senate need at least four Republicans to join them to pass any resolution through the upper chamber (The Hill).

Meanwhile, Mike Lillis and Scott Wong report that Democrats believe they’re winning the political and public relations fight over the declaration (The Hill).

Trump on Tuesday blasted Democrats for challenging his executive order in the courts. Sixteen states, led by California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraCalifornia leads states in lawsuit over Trump public charge rule Overnight Energy: Trump sparks new fight over endangered species protections | States sue over repeal of Obama power plant rules | Interior changes rules for ethics watchdogs California counties file first lawsuit over Trump 'public charge' rule MORE, launched a legal challenge to the national emergency declaration this week.



The American Civil Liberties Union is the latest group to file a lawsuit seeking to block the order.

More from Congress … A bipartisan coalition of House lawmakers are fighting to give federally chartered banks and credit unions legal cover to serve the rapidly expanding cannabis industry (The Hill) … Lawmakers are zeroing in on the skyrocketing cost of insulin and putting pressure on manufacturers as they work to address high drug prices (The Hill) … Rubio is at the center of the U.S. fight with the government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela (The Hill).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley & Alexis Simendinger. We want to hear from you! and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


Now that the government is funded, here’s what workers want to see, by Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO and opinion contributor for The Hill.

Time to fill the gaping hole in the constitution, by Alan Dershowitz, opinion contributor for The Hill.


The House and Senate are out this week.

The president meets with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump meets with national security team on Afghanistan peace plan Japan's Hormuz dilemma The Hill's Morning Report — Recession fears climb and markets dive — now what? MORE and will have a bilateral meeting with the chancellor of Austria. Vice President Pence will join for the expanded bilateral meeting.

The Hill will hold a Leadership in Action: Criminal Justice Reform panel on Tuesday, February 26th, featuring Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinAmerica is in desperate need of infrastructure investment: Senate highway bill a step in the right direction Financial aid fraud is wrong — but overcorrection could hurt more students Democrats denounce Trump's attack on Cummings: 'These are not the words of a patriot' MORE (D-Md.) and Reps. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondHouse Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' Embattled Juul seeks allies in Washington Democratic lawmakers support Bustos after DCCC resignations MORE (D-La.) and Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsThe United States broken patent system is getting worse Democratic Women's Caucus calls for investigation into Epstein plea deal Activist groups push House Judiciary leaders to end mass phone data collection MORE (R-Ga.). Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack and Hill.TV's Jamal Simmons will moderate the panel on the future of criminal justice reform and what comes next after the passage of the First Step Act. RSVP here.

The Attorney Poker Tour is having its first annual charity poker tournament at MGM National Harbor on Saturday, Feb 23rd, at 10:00 a.m. in the poker room. The event benefits the charity Protect Our Defenders, which advocates against sexual violence in the military. Although this is an event for the Washington legal community, anyone can play and all are invited. Details are on the site:


The Middle East: The Washington Post’s Louisa Loveluck has a gripping account from the front lines of the Islamic State in Al-Hol, Syria. “Families have fled. Militants are hoarding food. Some fighters have turned their guns on each other. As U.S.-backed forces surround the last square mile of Islamic State territory, preparing for a final assault on the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz, people who have escaped describe a desperate scrabble for survival in the dying days of the statelet.”  Pressure is building to get civilians out of the area, The Associated Press reports.

Reuters: Does the Islamic State still pose a threat?

The New York Times: Two Americans married ISIS militants. Now they want to come home.

Separately, the Trump administration is launching an effort to decriminalize homosexuality around the world as part of a plan to pressure Iran over its human rights record (NBC News). The effort will be led by U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest-ranking openly gay official in the Trump administration.

Around town: Former White House legislative director Marc Short is rejoining the Trump administration as Vice President Pence’s chief of staff. White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters, who has been with the administration from the start, will leave soon for a job with Edelman, a public relations firm.

The Trump campaign is staffing up, hiring Tim Murtaugh to act as director of communications. Cole Blocker will be director of finance and Megan Powers will serve as director of administrative operations.

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research has tapped Reihan Salam to be its next president. Salam is the former executive editor of The National Review.

Sarah Isgur, the former Justice Department spokeswoman under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is joining CNN as a campaigns editor.

Media: Attorneys representing a Covington High School student are suing The Washington Post for $250 million over its coverage of his encounter with a Native American protester on the national mall (


And finally … Spring is near but winter is making its final stand.

Large swaths of the U.S. will get pounded today with snow, sleet and freezing rain.

From CNN: “More than 90 million people from the Plains and Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast are under some sort of winter weather watch, warning or advisory. Nearly 20 million are facing a flood warning, watch or a flash flood watch across the Southeast.”

The nation’s capital is no exception. The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang is warning about a “winter wallop” of snow, ice and rain. Washington is under a winter storm warning throughout the day.

No one is safe from the arctic blast. reports that Las Vegas experienced a rare second snowfall of the month on Sunday.

The snowfall count so far this winter in Buffalo, N.Y.? More than 100 inches, according to The Buffalo News.

Stay warm and dry and safe on the roads if you’re traveling today.