The Hill's Morning Report — Sanders, Dems zero in on Super Tuesday

The Hill's Morning Report — Sanders, Dems zero in on Super Tuesday
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Democrats are increasingly concerned with the rise of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats say they have the votes to advance .5T budget measure Millennial momentum means trouble for the GOP Briahna Joy Gray: White House thinks extending student loan pause is a 'bad look' MORE (I-Vt.) in the 2020 primary fight as he comes closer to winning the Nevada caucuses on Saturday and remains the front-runner ahead of Super Tuesday.

Democrats are sounding the alarm about the senator’s standing and warn that if the field does not consolidate behind an alternative, he could steamroll to the nomination, report The Hill’s Jonathan Easley and Julia Manchester. One-third of the party’s delegates are set to be doled out after votes are tallied in 14 states and one territory on March 3, and the unprecedented number of states in which voters have been turning in ballots early could upend candidates’ calculus.   

Sanders, who nearly has Nevada in the bag heading into Saturday’s results, has already turned his attention to March 3. He’s campaigned in delegate-rich California and Colorado in recent days and plans to appear in Texas over the weekend. Sanders sees a path to get a leg up on the Democratic field as his rivals focus on voters in South Carolina next weekend.  

Early voting — and the contest for delegates — is well underway in several states with primary elections on Super Tuesday, including California, Texas, Tennessee, Utah and Minnesota. With South Carolina seen as especially important to former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFirst lady leaves Walter Reed after foot procedure Biden backs effort to include immigration in budget package MyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News MORE, his rivals are thinking about next month’s contests and the potentially unbeatable delegate prize in play.  

The Hill: Poll: Biden's lead in South Carolina drops to 5 points.

Amy Walter, Cook Political Report: Las Vegas debate doesn't change Sanders's status as Democratic frontrunner. 

Peggy Noonan: The best Democratic debate in years.

Former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergWHO leader issues warning on 'harmful' e-cigarettes Six months in, two challenges could define Biden's presidency Why Democrats' .5 trillion reconciliation bill is a losing game MORE, who jumped into the race late, clearly has the March 3 math in mind. Fresh off his underwhelming debate performance in Las Vegas but somewhat soothed by the fact he’s not on the Nevada or South Carolina ballots, Bloomberg plowed ahead in Utah on Thursday with his Super Tuesday strategy (KSL). 

Amie Parnes reports that Democrats (and some moderate Republicans who do not support Trump) panned Bloomberg’s performance on Thursday, leading some to wonder if the 78-year-old billionaire businessman talked himself out of contention.  

"Super Tuesday — the first time people can vote for him — is two weeks away," Philippe Reines, a longtime aide to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClintons, Stacey Abrams meeting Texas Democrats Biden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections Highest-ranking GOP assemblyman in WI against another audit of 2020 vote MORE, said in an interview on Thursday. "That's two months in political dog years. Aside from another debate next week, and aside from his opponents stumbling, as I'm sure some will, he has his paid media to help rebound, and he has other opportunities of his making. So, he's lucky today isn't Super Thursday."

The Associated Press: Wounded but defiant, Bloomberg promises to keep fighting. 

The Hill: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenPelosi disputes Biden's power to forgive student loans Warren hits the airwaves for Newsom ahead of recall election Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action MORE (D-Mass.) creates document to release people from NDAs with Bloomberg.

However, as Niall Stanage writes, Bloomberg had a chance to shine in the centrist lane on debate night but left that path to the nomination a muddle.  

Bloomberg’s advantage, however, is money. According to his January Federal Election Commission filing, Bloomberg spent $409 million of his considerable fortune in the first 10 weeks of his campaign, a monstrous figure that has allowed him to blanket the airwaves and social media with advertising (The Associated Press). 

The Washington Post: The most interesting takeaways from how 2020 candidates spent their money in January. 

The New York Times: How Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol Overnight Health Care: CDC advises vaccinated to wear masks in high-risk areas | Biden admin considering vaccine mandate for federal workers Four senators call on Becerra to back importation of prescription drugs from Canada MORE (D-Minn.) suddenly became a rival worth attacking.

The Hill: Trump seeks to boost vulnerable GOP senator with Colorado rally.

Reid Wilson, The Hill: Top GOP super PAC spent money on North Carolina Democrat.




COURTS, TRUMP & ADMINISTRATION: Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Trump ally Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneCould Andrew Cuomo — despite scandals — be re-elected because of Trump? Has Trump beaten the system? Trump is on the ballot whether his name is there or not MORE to more than three years in prison on Thursday for obstruction of a congressional investigation and witness tampering tied to the probe of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election (The Hill). Jackson said from the bench that one of Stone's motives was to “shield” the president. She denied the 67-year-old’s request for a new trial.  

Trump, speaking extensively in defense of his friend soon after the sentencing, said his decision about whether to pardon Stone was not imminent, despite his belief that the case should have been thrown out. Stone’s conviction last year on seven counts grew out of the investigation conducted by former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE.

“I’m not going to do anything in terms of the great powers bestowed upon a president of the United States. I want the process to play out,” Trump told an audience in Las Vegas. “I think that’s the best thing to do. Because I’d love to see Roger exonerated, and I’d love to see it happen, because I personally believe he was treated very unfairly” (The Hill).

Trump’s prominent defenders have celebrated as FBI and Justice Department officials who were part of the Mueller investigation departed government or were ousted. The president’s allies are urging him to finish the job inside the executive branch (Politico). 

GOP suspicions that critics are actively working against the president inside the executive branch affected a White House national security official who was reassigned to the Energy Department. Despite public denials by the NSC and from deputy Victoria Coates, the president and some of his allies reportedly worried she was the author of an anonymous op-ed published by The New York Times in 2018 that was critical of him and his presidency (Axios). The unattributed article was titled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.”

This week, Trump soured on acting intelligence chief Joseph MaguireJoseph MaguireJudge dismisses Nunes's defamation suit against Washington Post Retired Navy admiral behind bin Laden raid says he voted for Biden Congressional Democrats request FBI briefing on foreign election interference efforts MORE after the intelligence community briefed lawmakers from both parties days ago about ongoing Russian interference in the 2020 election. The president was concerned that the intelligence professionals handed Democratic lawmakers, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOfficers offer harrowing accounts at first Jan. 6 committee hearing Live coverage: House panel holds first hearing on Jan. 6 probe Five things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work MORE (D-Calif.), information that could be used against him in his bid for reelection. Lawmakers have been warned of evidence that the Kremlin views a second Trump term as in Russia’s interests and is working to keep him in the White House (The New York Times and The Associated Press).

The president’s suspicions about the briefing prompted him to appoint ally Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, as acting intelligence chief despite Grennell’s inexperience with the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies (The Washington Post). 

The president told reporters on Thursday that he’s considering nominating Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsLoeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run Georgia agriculture commissioner launches Senate campaign against Warnock Poll shows tight GOP primary for Georgia governor MORE (R-Ga.) to head the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to the position temporarily filled by Grenell (The Hill). Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, would need Senate confirmation. The selection of Collins might resolve a GOP primary problem in Georgia in which Collins is challenging fellow Republican Sen. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerHarris's bad polls trigger Democratic worries Schumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up Trump says Herschel Walker will enter Georgia Senate race MORE for a Senate seat (Roll Call).   

> Economy: On Thursday, the White House issued its Economic Report of the President, a wonky annual dissection of policy preferences and political agendas. In it, Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers conceded the administration’s previous projection of 3 percent growth is out of reach. A more realistic estimate is 2.4 percent, according to the report (The Washington Post).

Separately, acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' MORE privately told an audience in the United Kingdom on Wednesday that continued growth in the United States requires more workers and legal immigrants.

“We are desperate — desperate — for more people,” Mulvaney said. “We are running out of people to fuel the economic growth that we’ve had in our nation over the last four years. We need more immigrants” (The Washington Post).




INTERNATIONAL: The coronavirus death toll stands at 2,247 this morning, with at least 76,727 cases of infection worldwide, according to the latest data. China today reported a rise in confirmed new cases of the virus (Reuters), and Iran identified two more deaths among 13 reported cases (Agence France Presse). In South Korea, officials are seeing a shift and rapid spread of COVID-19. The number of confirmed cases has quadrupled in two days to 204. South Korea’s new patients had not traveled internationally before being infected, officials said today (The Associated Press). 

We’re learning more about a clash between experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection and the State Department in Washington about the evacuation early this week of 14 Americans from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan. At the last minute (and after announcing that no infected passengers would be released from quarantine), a cluster of Americans tested positive for the COVID-19 virus among a larger group being flown to the United States aboard chartered planes. The CDC believed those infected individuals should not be commingled with uninfected passengers but CDC advice was overruled. More than 620 of the 3,700 passengers and crew members on the cruise liner have now tested positive for the virus and two elderly Japanese passengers have died (The Washington Post).

A COVID-19 screening test the CDC hoped to use in the United States has run into trouble and is delayed (Politico).

A race is on for medical weapons against the pathogen, and some infectious disease experts believe it might take a year. Among avenues being explored: therapies that could boost the human immune system to fight the virus, and possible ways to alter the virus itself to reduce its ability to replicate. 

Trials of two drug therapies against the coronavirus are beginning in China, World Health Organization officials said on Thursday. Early results may be available within three weeks (The New York Times). Additional research is happening in the United States and in select labs around the world.

> Afghanistan - Taliban: The United States this morning announced an “understanding” with the Taliban to halt violence — an accord that has not been endorsed by leaders in Afghanistan. Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoNoem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event Poll: Trump leads 2024 GOP primary trailed by Pence, DeSantis Pence v. Biden on China: Competing but consistent visions MORE tweeted, “After decades of conflict, we have come to an understanding with the Taliban on a significant reduction in violence across Afghanistan. This is an important step on a long road to peace, and I call on all Afghans to seize this opportunity.” The U.S. statement describing a Feb. 29 signing is HERE.

> India: In connection with Trump’s scheduled travel to India on Monday and Tuesday, Westinghouse is expected to sign a new agreement with state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India for the supply of six nuclear reactors (Reuters).

Trump’s first trip as president to the most populous democracy in the world follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States last year. The goal is to smooth bilateral relations frayed over trade differences. Modi is pulling out the stops to impress Trump, who plans to visit capital New Delhi, along with the western city of Ahmedabad and Agra, where the president will view the Taj Mahal at sunset. Indian authorities are on a cleaning spree and tackling the polluted Yamuna River near the monument (Reuters). 

Recognizing that Trump is impressed by crowd sizes, Modi is bringing the U.S. president to Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad, the largest cricket stadium in the world with a capacity for 110,000 spectators. Trump has said Modi promised "millions and millions" of people would line his route (Al Jazeera).

Trump’s approval rating in India has improved during his first term, according to a recent Pew Research Center global attitude survey. The hitch for the president is that his trade policies are unpopular in India, although 56 percent of Indians say they’re confident Trump will do the right thing in world affairs, up from 16 percent in 2016 (Quartz).


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


Bloomberg isn’t the one Democrats should be going after, by Eugene Robinson, columnist, The Washington Post. 

The U.S. Can’t Afford to Lose the Philippines, by James Stavridis, columnist, Bloomberg View.


The House returns to legislative work on Tuesday.

The Senate will return from recess on Monday.

The president headlines a reelection rally at 3 p.m. ET in Las Vegas, just a day before the Nevada caucuses. He returns to the White House tonight. 

Vice President Pence will speak at an “Evangelicals For Trump” event in Las Vegas and again at a reelection gathering with supporters in Reno, Nev. Pence will return to Washington tonight. 

Pompeo meets in Oman today with Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said in Muscat.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Biden rallies Senate Dems behind mammoth spending plan Mnuchin dodges CNBC questions on whether Trump lying over election Democrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer MORE flies on Saturday to Saudi Arabia to attend the G20 meeting of finance ministers and the gathering of central bank governors in Riyadh. 

Economic indicator: The National Association of Realtors at 10 a.m. reports on existing home sales in January. 

You’re invited to The Hill’s upcoming newsmaker event:

America's Opioid Epidemic: Lessons Learned & A Way Forward, on Wednesday in Washington, explores access to treatment for opioid addiction and recovery issues with Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Rep. David JoyceDavid JoyceBipartisan lawmakers highlight COVID-19 impact on mental health, addiction The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats await Manchin decision on voting rights bill Porter urges increased budget for children's National Parks program MORE (R-Ohio) and Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoEnergy chief touts electric vehicle funding in Senate plan Nearly 140 Democrats urge EPA to 'promptly' allow California to set its own vehicle pollution standards OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden suspends Arctic oil leases issued under Trump |  Experts warn US needs to better prepare for hurricane season | Progressives set sights on Civilian Climate Corps MORE (D-N.Y.). RSVP today!  

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State watch: New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas (D) on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Alphabet Inc.’s Google, alleging the company violated privacy rights by using its products such as Gmail, Calendar and Drives to collect information from students under 13 years of age without parental consent (Reuters). … In Florida, lawmakers passed a bill that would require parental consent for abortions under age 18; Republican Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisBiden: 'Every school should be open' in the fall Florida county to require masks in schools, defying DeSantis Protest repression and the new public/private Federalism MORE is expected to sign it (The Associated Press). ... Also in Florida, 59-year-old patient Nelson Gibson argues he gains comfort during his dialysis treatments from a life-size cardboard cutout he brings depicting a thumbs-up Trump, but he’s accusing his dialysis center of censorship for asking him to stick with smaller renditions of the president while in its care (The Washington Post). … In Missouri, the Saint Louis Zoo on Thursday unveiled baby “Teak,” an adorable colobus monkey born Feb. 3. Cuteness knows no bounds (The Associated Press).



Free tuition: The University of Southern California will phase in free tuition for undergraduate students from families with an annual income of $80,000 or less. As part of a plan announced on Thursday, ownership of a home will not be counted in determining a student’s financial need to attend the Los Angeles private college, where the tuition and living expenses top $77,000 a year (The Associated Press).

Retail trends: Brick and mortar stores, shopping malls and large department store chains in the United States are struggling with the loss of foot traffic coupled with the rise of online shopping and discount options. Sears reached a deal for a fresh financial lifeline totaling roughly $100 million from hedge fund Brigade Capital Management LP as it tries to stabilize after bankruptcy, sources told Reuters on Thursday. ... Meanwhile, Victoria’s Secret, once a popular lingerie trendsetter, was sold by owner L Brands to private-equity firm Sycamore Partners for $525 million, handing off the challenge of reinventing a brand to appeal to a new generation of women demanding comfort, fit and practical styles (The Associated Press).


And finally … Congratulations to this week’s Morning Report quiz winners! 

We rounded up an impressive group of victorious readers to help us mark Presidents Day! These folks sifted through news coverage and correctly flagged a few American presidents from the past:

Ki Harvey, Georgia Keightley, Jeff Sturchio, Nancy Idaka Sheran, Paul Golis, Tim Aiken, Donna Nackers, Jeff Crawford, Larry Hart, Romell Boyle, Daniel McLellan, R. Milton Howell III, Phil Kirstein, Allyson Foster, Margaret Gainer, Joseph Coss, Candi Cee, Naomi Freeman, Daniel Bachhuber, Michael J. Wells and Walter Pflaumer.

Also among the quiz masters: Ron Wolfarth, John H. van Santen, Thomas Miller, Ken Sparks, Nancy D. Miller, BJ Ford, Randall S. Patrick, Donna Harman, Mike Roberts, Dick Francis, Carol Katz, David Anderson, Patrick Kavanagh, Bob Schneiderman, Mark McKeen, Michael Mullen, John Donato, Luther Berg, Buzz Watkins, Laura Silver, Lynn Farrar and Ron Bier.   

They knew an op-ed published this week about George Washington noted he was the youngest surveyor in Culpeper County, Va., at age 17.

Longtime Trump friend and adviser Roger Stone (handed a prison sentence on Thursday) has a prominent tattoo on his back depicting a smiling former President Nixon.

South Dakota lawmakers voted last week to invite Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpOnly Trump can fix vaccine hesitancy among his supporters Trump discussed pardoning Ghislaine Maxwell: book Jill Biden appears on Vogue cover MORE to Mount Rushmore for the Fourth of July. Franklin D. Roosevelt is the former president in the quiz menu who is not carved into the Black Hills granite.

Former President Obama has repeatedly reinforced his preference to remain on the 2020 sidelines with an endorsement until his party has chosen its nominee.