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Good morning! Five more days until the South Carolina primary … eight more days until Super Tuesday … 252 days until Election Day!
Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Briahna Joy Gray: Last-minute push for voting legislation felt 'perfomative' Biden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service MORE is on the cusp of leading the Democratic Party after a decisive win in Nevada’s primary and momentum that carries him into South Carolina on Saturday and toward the delegate-rich states that vote next week.
Sanders’s frontrunner status has put some Democrats on edge that the liberal revolutionary will harm the party’s chances to seize the White House and hurt down-ballot moderate Democrats who helped put their party in charge of the House in the last election.
The biggest problem facing establishment Democrats is eerily similar to what happened to Republicans in 2016 as they plotted to take down President TrumpDonald TrumpPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy Hannity after Jan. 6 texted McEnany 'no more stolen election talk' in five-point plan for Trump MORE: a splintered field with no signs of anyone dropping out in the near future, making it tough for the party to coalesce behind anyone in order to stop Sanders.
“Someone needs to pull an Andrew YangAndrew YangBottom line American elections are getting less predictable; there's a reason for that Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run MORE and be like, ‘I’ve done the math. I'm not going to win,’” said Yang, who pulled the plug on his campaign after New Hampshire, on Saturday night. However, the remaining campaigns are offering reasons for sticking in the race — namely, that they have the financial wherewithal or a viable path to the nomination.
The post-Nevada landscape, however, has left Democrats fretting about a potential Sanders nomination and a potential path to block his nomination. One House Democrat complained to the Morning Report that some candidates in the field need to drop out, starting with Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Manchin, Collins leading talks on overhauling election law, protecting election officials Senate's antitrust bill would raise consumer prices and lower our competitiveness MORE (D-Minn.) and Tom SteyerTom SteyerYouth voting organization launches M registration effort in key battlegrounds Overnight Energy: 'Eye of fire,' Exxon lobbyist's comments fuel renewed attacks on oil industry | Celebrities push Biden to oppose controversial Minnesota pipeline | More than 75 companies ask Congress to pass clean electricity standard Celebrities push Biden to oppose controversial Minnesota pipeline MORE, arguing that neither has a path to the nomination and each pulls votes from rivals who have better chances to topple Sanders. Neither Klobuchar nor Steyer pulled 5 percent support in Nevada, according to the most recent results.
The lawmaker added that reactions to Sanders’s momentum are mixed among front-line Democrats who could be most at risk of losing their seats in districts Trump carried in 2016.
“A few are concerned, but think they will be able to weather it. And a few are absolutely freaking out,” the lawmaker told The Hill.
The New York Times: Sanders looks to knock out Biden as pressure builds on Democrats.
CBS News: In South Carolina, Biden's lead narrows, with Sanders and Steyer on his heels.
New York magazine: No, you drop out: Why Bernie’s rivals are all stubbornly staying in the race.
The Washington Post: As Bernie Sanders’s momentum builds, down-ballot Democrats move to distance themselves.
Biden has long proclaimed that South Carolina is his primary to lose. However, Sanders’s ability to win support from African Americans and Hispanics voters put a dent in the former vice president’s claim that he’s the top choice in states that have diverse electorates.
However, Biden still leads in the Palmetto State and is expected to receive the endorsement of House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) on Wednesday (Politico). Clyburn, a powerful political force in South Carolina, told ABC’s “This Week” that he expects the Nevada results to have an impact in his state, which will also host the final Democratic debate on Tuesday night leading into Saturday’s primary and Super Tuesday (The Hill).
MSNBC Kasie Hunt interview: Biden: “I’d vote for Mickey Mouse against Donald Trump.”
RealClearPolitics South Carolina polling average: Biden, 24.5 percent; Sanders, 21.5; Steyer, 16.5; former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks Airlines suspend US flights in response to 5G deployment AT&T, Verizon to delay 5G rollout near certain airports MORE, 10.8; Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Biden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service Trump by the numbers: 2024 isn't simple MORE, 9.5.
Also complicating matters is money. While Sanders (along with Steyer and former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergBiden's Jan. 6 speech was a missed opportunity to unite the nation Democrats must face the reality of their Latino voter problem Invest in kids and families now so that someday I'll be out of a job MORE) has the financial means to compete for the long haul, the same cannot be said of many in the race. By the end of January, none of the campaigns working for Biden, Warren, Buttigieg or Klobuchar had more than $10 million in the bank, although most of the four had strong fundraising surges this month. Nevertheless, financial challenges would make it tough for candidates to keep pace during or beyond the Super Tuesday blitz.
Julie Pace, The Associated Press: Sanders’s path has echoes of Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Reid Wilson, The Hill: Bernie Sanders and the paradox of choice.
The New York Times: Five takeaways from the Nevada caucuses (the big one: Sanders takes control).
The Hill: Sunday shows - 2020 spotlight shifts to South Carolina.
Publicly, some Democrats are signaling they could support Sanders as the nominee. For instance, Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyBiden huddles with group of senators on Ukraine-Russia tensions Overnight Defense & National Security — Texas hostage situation rattles nation Senators to meet with Ukraine president to reaffirm US support MORE (D-Conn.) told “Meet The Press” he has no qualms with Sanders’s stance on gun control, which has moved increasingly left in the past four years (The Hill).
Outside of the campaigns, high-profile Democratic pundits are loudly sounding an alarm. James Carville, who has been blasting Sanders for weeks, equated nominating him to “political suicide,” adding that those who believe Sanders can beat Trump are as “stupid” as deniers of climate change. Rahm Emanuel, who served as White House chief of staff to former President Obama, added that Sanders is “stoppable” but only if moderates coalesce around a singular candidate (The Hill).
Trump’s team, however, welcomes Sanders’s standing as the front-runner for the nomination. The president lauded the senator’s achievement in Nevada on Sunday before he departed for India, calling it a “great victory.” Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Pence, told “Fox News Sunday” that the White House would “look forward” to a general election match-up against the Vermont Independent.
“I think it would show a stark contrast between a president who’s had unemployment rates of 3.5 percent, helped create over 7 million jobs versus a candidate who I think continues to embrace socialism,” Short said. “I think that’s a stark contrast and record [for] people to choose from.”
LEADING THE DAY
WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: In India, tens of thousands of people packed the route to greet Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi as they departed the airport in Ahmedabad early today. The crowds waved their phones and flags and roared with “Namaste Trump” (translated as “we bow to Trump”) at the world’s largest cricket stadium, which can hold 110,000 people.
“I thought it was fantastic,” Trump told reporters after the stadium event. “They worked really hard.”
It’s the president’s first official visit to India, and was stage-managed by Modi to engulf Trump in warm wishes from the most populous democracy in the world. Trump gave Modi the red-carpet treatment in the United States last year, and the two countries remain in a trade dispute that won’t be resolved during Trump’s quick trip (Reuters).
Asked about the trade impasse, Trump said he was in “no rush” to resolve the differences. “We are doing well with India, we are making deals.”
With the time change, Trump has already delivered Monday remarks at the packed Motera Stadium in Agra, toured the Taj Mahal at sunset with first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpRaskin: Grisham told Jan. 6 panel about 'names that I had not heard before' Grisham says former Trump officials meeting next week 'to try and stop him' Former Trump press secretary to meet Wednesday with Jan. 6 committee MORE and will spend the night in New Delhi, the capital.
Reporters traveling with the president described dozens of large billboards leading from the airport in Ahmedabad showing pictures of Trump and Modi. The signs conveyed the prime minister’s strategic message aimed at a president who is known to be impressed by crowd sizes and over-the-top pomp: “Stronger friendship for a brighter future”; “Two dynamic personalities, one momentous occasion”; “Two strong nations, one great friendship”; “Welcome to the land of Mahatma Gandhi.”
The Associated Press (with 11 images): India pours on the pageantry with colorful welcome for Trump.
Before departing Washington for India, Trump on Sunday expressed his frustration with a classified intelligence briefing for House lawmakers last week asserting that Russia is meddling in the 2020 U.S. election to try to help him win reelection.
There is no subject that rankles the president more than talk of Russia’s influence over his political prospects. The president is so persuaded that his political foes are embedded inside the intelligence community that he is in the midst of overhauling the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. He believes House Democrats are repeatedly the recipients of intelligence they deploy as weapons against him.
White House senior officials on Sunday challenged reports that intelligence officials have information that the Kremlin is working in secret to help Trump, appearing on talk shows to express fury over leaks and to argue that the administration has been tough on Moscow and is working to prevent foreign meddling in this year’s elections.
Trump said Sanders may be Russia’s actual target, referring to a report by The Washington Post that the Vermont senator learned recently that Moscow is trying to benefit his front-runner campaign. The president called for an investigation into congressional leaks, citing without evidence his impeachment nemesis, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffCIA says 'Havana syndrome' unlikely a result of 'worldwide campaign' by foreign power The Hill's Morning Report - Biden to make voting rights play in Atlanta Democrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit MORE (D-Calif.), as the likely culprit.
“I read where Russia is helping Bernie Sanders. Nobody said it to me at all. Nobody briefed me about that at all,” Trump told reporters. “They leaked it, Adam Schiff and his group. They leaked it to the papers and, as usual, they ought to investigate Adam Schiff for leaking that information” (Reuters).
Schiff blasted Trump for making what he said were false claims (The Hill). Democrats in Congress are reeling about the controversy (The Hill), and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Predictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure Voting rights and Senate wrongs MORE (D-N.Y.) said Republicans would “rather let [Russian President Vladimir] Putin win than stand up to President Trump.”
White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien, interviewed on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” also suggested Sanders may be Russia’s favorite candidate. How O’Brien came to this conclusion is unclear, since he also said he had not requested a briefing from intelligence officials about what they told Congress.
"From what I understand about the report [to lawmakers], I get this second-hand, but from Republican congressmen that were in the committee, there was no intelligence behind it," O'Brien said. "I haven't seen any intelligence to support the reports that were leaked out of the House.”
Last week, Trump nudged his 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, out of his job shortly after The New York Times disclosed there had been a briefing for lawmakers. Maguire was set to leave as acting by March 11. In his place, Trump installed former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell as the acting director, leaning on a Trump family loyalist who has no experience in intelligence.
The president last week said he would soon nominate a candidate to oversee the nation’s 17 spy agencies in Grenell’s place, an appointment rollercoaster that sparked confusion and questions (The Hill). For hours last week, there was speculation that Trump might name the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee to the post, until Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsJan. 6 panel releases contempt report on Trump DOJ official ahead of censure vote Lobbying world Sunday shows preview: Biden administration confronts inflation spike MORE, who is challenging a fellow Republican for a Senate seat in Georgia, said he was not interested in the intelligence vacancy (The Hill).
The president is now looking for a new ambassador to send to Berlin (Reuters).
Trump, with the help of friends and allies, has assembled detailed lists of potential hires and “snakes” to fire inside the government. Allies say he has the power to appoint people who will work to further his agenda. Critics say they worry about disruptive churn, flimsy qualifications and defiance of institutions and necessary checks on the executive branch (Axios).
The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that Trump’s persistent suspicions about the motives of intelligence professionals and fury about the Russia probe and the House impeachment inquiry, which he calls “hoaxes,” propel the White House to seek an overhaul with Congress of the nation’s spying laws, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The Washington Post editorial board: Congress must step up if Trump doesn’t want to hear about Russian election interference.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CORONAVIRUS: COVID-19 outbreaks have worsened in South Korea, Italy, Lebanon and Iran, prompting a warning that the window to contain the spread, now in 28 countries, is closing quickly. World leaders are calling for an “all out” effort to halt the contagion, but without uniform tools or techniques to accomplish that.
The virus has killed 2,620 people and infected at least 79,441 worldwide, according to the latest information. The transmission beyond China poses increasing public health worries about a pandemic amid concerns about strained health care systems and global economic impacts that may prove long-lasting.
The New York Times op-ed by infectious disease expert Michael T. Osterholm and writer Mark Olshaker: Is it a pandemic yet? What’s next? “Every country’s top priority should be to protect its health care workers.”
Italian officials scrambled on Sunday to contain the first major outbreak of the coronavirus in Europe, locking down at least 10 towns near Milan, closing schools and canceling the Venice Carnival, as 215 cases have been reported (The New York Times).
Austria is so concerned about the spread of the virus in Europe that it dangled the possibility of closing its border if the viral emergency worsens (The Associated Press).
On Sunday, Chinese President Xi Jinping labeled the epidemic of COVID-19 as “grim and complex” and called for more infectious disease intervention along with economic action. He said the situation in China is at a “critical stage” and called on officials to “resolutely curb the spread of the epidemic” (The Associated Press).
Pakistan and Turkey closed their borders with Iran, which reported 43 cases of the virus and at least eight deaths over the weekend (The New York Times). A lawmaker in Iran this morning cited 50 deaths this month from the virus in the city of Qom, although health officials have only described 12 (The Associated Press).
The Trump administration is expected to ask Congress for emergency funding to combat the coronavirus. Lawmakers have been advised the request is coming, but an amount is under discussion (Politico).
CONGRESS: U.S. surveillance programs: Congress is gearing up for high-profile fights in the next month about whether to reauthorize a handful of controversial surveillance programs, including the expiring provisions of the 2015 USA Freedom Act, which succeeded the post-9/11 Patriot Act. Attorney General William BarrBill BarrWilliam Barr's memoir set for release in early March The enemy within: Now every day is Jan. 6 Dems worry they'll be boxed out without changes to filibuster, voting rules MORE will lobby GOP senators in the Capitol on Tuesday, Jordain Carney reports (The Hill).
> Housing: Some members of Congress, urged on by advocacy groups, are gearing up to oppose the president’s budget proposals that would cut housing assistance at the Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as mandatory spending programs for housing. The administration’s proposal would require some low-income program participants to pay a higher percentage of their income toward rent while also calling for work requirements and other restrictions for certain housing assistance. Access to affordable, quality housing is a potent election year issue nationwide (The Hill).
> Lynching: The House is scheduled to vote on legislation this week that would classify lynching as a federal hate crime and send the bill to the president for his signature.
The Emmett Till Antilynching Act — introduced by Rep. Bobby RushBobby Lee RushClyburn says he's worried about losing House, 'losing this democracy' On The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood Chicago alderman announces bid for Rep. Bobby Rush's seat MORE (D-Ill.) — is scheduled to come to the floor on Wednesday, roughly 120 years after the first House legislation to criminalize lynchings was defeated in committee, and nearly a century after the House passed its first bill.
“This legislation is long overdue, but it is never too late to do the right thing and address these gruesome, racially motivated acts of terror that have plagued our nation’s history,” House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi says she's open to stock trading ban for Congress Former Maryland rep announces bid for old House seat Fury over voting rights fight turns personal on Capitol Hill MORE (D-Md.) said in a statement.
The Hill: This week: House to consider anti-vaping legislation; Senate to vote on abortion bill, nominations.
Politico: Pelosi’s ally, the underdog and the next-in-line: Dems battle to lead spending panel.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Sanders isn’t Trump’s challenger so much as his sequel, by Terry Sullivan, opinion contributor, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/37NSaQR
The U.S.-India relationship is bigger than Trump and Modi, by William J. Burns, contributing writer, The Atlantic. https://bit.ly/32lg84R
WHERE AND WHEN
The House returns to legislative work at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. and consider the nomination of Robert Molloy to be a district judge for the Virgin Islands.
The president and the first lady are in India. With the time change, they’ve already visited the largest cricket stadium in the world, toured the Taj Mahal at sunset and flown to New Delhi to spend the night. They depart on Tuesday. Security for the visit is described in India as enormous (The Hindu).
The Council on Foreign Relations this evening hosts another in its discussion series titled “Election 2020 U.S. Foreign Policy.” The forum at Wayne State University in Detroit at 6 p.m. will be live streamed. Analyzing current global developments will be Stephen Hadley, national security adviser to former President George W. Bush; Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security secretary under former President Obama; and Penny PritzkerPenny Sue PritzkerThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders steamrolls to South Carolina primary, Super Tuesday Biden's new campaign ad features Obama speech praising him Obama Commerce secretary backs Biden's 2020 bid MORE, a former Commerce secretary in the Obama Cabinet. Council president Richard Haass is a panelist.
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 JoyceLouisiana Democrat running for US Senate smokes marijuana in campaign ad The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Gosar censured as GOP drama heightens The Memo: Gosar censured, but toxic culture grows MORE (R-Ohio) and Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoThe Biden administration's first year: Slow and steady does not win this race Hillicon Valley — Inside the Twitter shakeup Lawmakers take aim at 'Grinches' using bots to target consumers during holidays MORE (D-N.Y.). RSVP today!
Catch The Hill’s Campaign Report newsletter, with the latest from The Hill’s politics team. Sign up to receive evening updates, polling data and insights about the 2020 elections.
➔ Supreme Court: Justices this week will hear arguments on behalf of victims of the 1998 terrorist attacks in East Africa who seek to reinstate almost $5 billion in punitive damages against Sudan for its role in twin U.S. Embassy bombings that killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans. Resolution of the case is a key requirement for Sudan's removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism (The Hill).
➔ Pope FrancisPope FrancisInvestigators say Pope Benedict knew about abused children while Munich archbishop Pope says prison inmates should not be deprived of hope Top Vatican official, aide test positive for COVID-19 MORE: Trump’s Middle East peace plan got a thumbs-down from Francis on Sunday in his first public remarks about the U.S. proposal announced at the White House last month. During remarks in Italy, he warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would be only “a prelude to new crises” (Reuters).
➔ Taliban: Five things to know about the emerging pact to end offensive violence, a deal negotiated between the Trump administration and the Taliban in Afghanistan, to be signed on Feb. 29. If it holds, it could mark the historic withdrawal of U.S. forces (The Hill).
➔ NASCAR: Incredibly, race car driver Ryan Newman says he suffered a head injury but no injuries to internal organs or broken bones in a fiery crash during the final lap of the Daytona 500 last week. There is no word about his return to racing (The Associated Press).
✔ We’re adding more QUIZ WINNERS to the list we published on Friday. Readers Joel Brill and John Gannon mastered all four questions last week, but their responses languished in a spam folder until being rescued. Our apologies.
And finally … Who among us could possibly transition from the Zamboni driver to victorious National Hockey League goalie in a single game? David Ayres, 42, became the oldest goalie in NHL history to win his regular-season debut through the most improbable of circumstances on Saturday in Toronto. The Carolina Hurricanes picked up a stunning 6-3 victory over the Maple Leafs, and Ayers was the star. Not long after the final buzzer, the Hurricanes were hawking T-shirts on Twitter sporting the stand-in goalie’s No. 90 (The Associated Press).
Here’s some video of Ayres’s appreciative teammates welcoming him into the locker room following the triumph. He called their reaction a shower before a shower.