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




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Vermont Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHere's what the Dem candidates for president said about the Mueller report Booker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Harris wants Barr to testify on Mueller report as 2020 Dems call for its release 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 ClintonIf Mueller's report lacks indictments, collusion is a delusion Conservatives wage assault on Mueller report The wisdom of Trump's lawyers, and the accountability that must follow Mueller's report MORE. Democrats have a buffet of new options, including several with progressive appeal, such as Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHere's what the Dem candidates for president said about the Mueller report Booker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Harris wants Barr to testify on Mueller report as 2020 Dems call for its release MORE (D-Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisKamala Harris to pitch using federal funds to give teachers pay raises Dem senator: 'Appropriate' for Barr, Mueller to testify publicly about Russia probe Here's what the Dem candidates for president said about the Mueller report MORE (D-Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandHere's what the Dem candidates for president said about the Mueller report Booker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements CNN town halls put network at center of Dem primary MORE (D-N.Y.), and potentially Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownWarren, Klobuchar call on FTC to curtail use of non-compete clauses The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Dems put manufacturing sector in 2020 spotlight Trump faces political risks in fight over GM plant 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 LeahyTop Senate Dem to Trump: It would be a 'grave mistake' to follow in Richard Nixon's footsteps Booker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Hillicon Valley: Mueller delivers report, ending investigation | FEMA exposed info of 2.3M disaster survivors | Facebook asks judge to toss DC privacy lawsuit | Trump picks his first CTO | FCC settles lawsuit over net neutrality records MORE and Rep. Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchBooker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Divisions emerge over House drug price bills Trump CFO Weisselberg emerges as key person of interest for Dems 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 RomneyTrump's attacks on McCain exacerbate tensions with Senate GOP Lou Dobbs criticizes Republicans 'undercutting' Trump on 'nasty remarks about John McCain' GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' 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 TrumpMueller report findings could be a 'good day' for Trump, Dem senator says Trump officials heading to China for trade talks next week Showdown looms over Mueller report MORE, neurosurgeon Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonHousing and health care go hand-in-hand Carson's calendar includes trips to Florida on Fridays: report The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Dems grapple with race, gender and privilege MORE, and Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCNN town halls put network at center of Dem primary The Memo: Trump can't let go of McCain grudge Michael Bennet is close to deciding on possible presidential bid MORE (R-Texas) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game GOP eager to exploit Dem court-packing fight Rubio's pragmatic thinking on China 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 ObamaSouthern Poverty Law Center head announces resignation Michelle Obama on 'Becoming': 'Sasha still hasn't read it' Michelle Obama seeks volunteers for local campaigns: There are 'no "off" years' MORE would be tied with former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenBooker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Former Georgia candidate asks Abrams be given 'space' amid 2020 buzz Biden team denies 'pre-cooked plan' of Abrams as early running-mate pick 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 Jay RosensteinShowdown looms over Mueller report If Mueller's report lacks indictments, collusion is a delusion Conservatives wage assault on Mueller report MORE, who plans to leave the DOJ sometime next month. Rosenstein has been overseeing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s probe since former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMueller's investigation ends, but divisive political circus will continue Mueller delivers report to Justice, ending investigation Trump says 'people will not stand' for Mueller report 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 wisdom of Trump's lawyers, and the accountability that must follow Mueller's report Rosenstein still working at DOJ despite plans to leave in mid-March Graham says he'll probe Rosenstein's 25th Amendment remarks 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 StoneBill Maher questions whether Democrats put 'too much trust' in Mueller report Mueller delivers report to Justice, ending investigation The Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game 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 Assembly Speaker pens fiery response to Pence Dems prepare next steps after Trump's veto Uber to pay million to settle fight over driver benefits, pay 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).

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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 PompeoUS sanctions Venezuelan bank after Guaidó aide's arrest The Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game 2020 Dems avoid this year's AIPAC conference 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 CardinWarren, Klobuchar call on FTC to curtail use of non-compete clauses Overnight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election Democrats offer legislation to counter White House climate science council MORE (D-Md.) and Reps. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondMan arrested for allegedly throwing glass of water at Steve King House Dem renews call for censuring Steve King Louisiana rep calls Steve King a 'white supremacist' after Katrina comment MORE (D-La.) and Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsTrump, Congress brace for Mueller findings Lawmakers urge tech to root out extremism after New Zealand Nearly 40 advocacy groups press lawmakers over NSA call records program 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.