The Hill's Morning Report - Can Sanders be stopped?




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Tuesday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the daily co-creators, so find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and recommend the Morning Report to your friends. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Good morning! Four more days until the South Carolina primary … seven more days until Super Tuesday … 252 days until Election Day!

The Democratic primary field will convene on a debate stage for the 10th time tonight as Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden wins Puerto Rico primary In politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Biden wins Louisiana primary MORE (I-Vt.) comes under fire while trying to capture the Democratic nomination.


With two wins in his pocket and hurricane-level gusts of wind at his back, Sanders is the front-runner. A win in South Carolina and a convincing performance on Super Tuesday would defy the centrist wing of the Democratic Party as it works to stop Sanders while boasting that a moderate nominee could defeat President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Meadows trying to root out suspected White House leakers by feeding them info: Axios Pressley hits DeVos over reopening schools: 'I wouldn't trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child' MORE.


Sanders is under renewed scrutiny for remarks he made to “60 Minutes” on Sunday when he suggested it was “unfair to simply say everything is bad” under the rule of late Cuban leader Fidel Castro. His rivals howled, and so did some key Democratic lawmakers, including members of Congress from South Florida who represent thousands of Cuban Americans (The Hill).


Socialism, communism and dictators may emerge as debate topics tonight in Charleston, S.C., when seven contenders make their closing national arguments before primary voters in 14 states are heard. Former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergWake up, America — see what's coming Bloomberg urges court to throw out lawsuit by former campaign staffers Former Obama Ebola czar Ron Klain says White House's bad decisions have put US behind many other nations on COVID-19; Fears of virus reemergence intensify MORE expects new pummeling after his rocky debate performance in Nevada. But Sanders knows he’s the night’s target. 


The New York Times: Tonight’s Democratic debate: Everyone vs. Bernie Sanders.


Niall Stanage: The Memo: Democratic rivals have seven days to stop Sanders.


NBC News: 5 things to watch in the South Carolina debate: Will Biden's firewall hold?


Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Teachers face off against Trump on school reopenings Biden wins Puerto Rico primary MORE, who is facing a do-or-die contest on Saturday, has gone on the attack in recent days against the democratic socialist from Vermont. In a new ad released Monday, Biden accused Sanders of attempting to undermine former President Obama’s reelection in 2012 by threatening a primary challenge (The Hill). 


“When it comes to building on Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump defends golf outings: It's my 'exercise' How Trump can get his mojo back Trump confirms 2018 US cyberattack on Russian troll farm MORE’s legacy, Bernie Sanders just can’t be trusted,” the Biden campaign ad says (Politico).


In surveys, Biden continues to lead in the Palmetto State. According to new surveys released Monday by NBC News and Marist College and PublicPolicyPolling, the former VP tops Sanders by 4 and 15 points, respectively. 


While some candidates have spent time meeting voters in Super Tuesday states this week, Biden planted himself in South Carolina to fortify his claim that he’s the candidate best able to win the support of African Americans and minority voters. If he wins on Saturday, Biden’s first primary victory as a presidential candidate would give him the opening he needs to fight on.


The New York Times: Sanders says he’ll attract a wave of new voters. It hasn’t happened.


Gerald F. Seib: Four debate questions Bernie Sanders could be asked.


The Washington Post: As other campaigns go national, Biden is laser-focused on South Carolina. 


The Hill: Sanders seeks to capitalize on Nevada in Texas, California.


As Sanders continues to pace the field, Democrats who are desperate to thwart his momentum are heaping pressure on some candidates to drop out to help the party unite around a single contender. According to reporting by Max Greenwood and Amie Parnes, the nudges are aimed at Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Fauci says focus should be on pausing reopenings rather than reverting to shutdowns; WHO director pleads for international unity in pandemic response State election officials warn budget cuts could lead to November chaos Biden strikes populist tone in blistering rebuke of Trump, Wall Street MORE (D-Minn.) and Tom SteyerTom SteyerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Jacksonville mandates face coverings as GOP convention approaches Steyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary Celebrities fundraise for Markey ahead of Massachusetts Senate primary MORE. They both struggled mightily in Nevada and do not have clear paths to the nomination. 


They are not alone. Some Democrats are questioning whether former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegIn politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Biden campaign hires top cybersecurity officials to defend against threats Biden strikes populist tone in blistering rebuke of Trump, Wall Street MORE has a realistic trajectory, even as he competes with Sanders for the lead as measured by delegates captured to date. He notched top finishes in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary but has struggled to gain traction among minority voters. Calls will begin to be heard for Biden to exit the race if he loses to Sanders in South Carolina, and even his surrogates suggest his third bid for the White House will be over if he performs poorly in the states that vote March 3, which Democrats see as a national primary. 


“I think sooner rather than later, a bunch of these candidates are going to have to understand that they don’t have a viable path to the nomination and need to get behind someone,” said Rufus Gifford, the finance director for Obama’s 2012 bid, a Biden supporter.


The Hill: GOP casts Sanders as 2020 boogeyman.


The Hill: At CNN town hall, Sanders defends Castro comments despite Dem backlash. 


The Hill: Sanders releases list of how to pay for his proposals.


CNN: Bloomberg says at a private event says Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyChris Christie: I wouldn't have commuted Roger Stone sentence We haven't seen how low it can go Trump lashes out at Toomey, Romney after Roger Stone clemency criticism MORE would have done a better job than Obama if elected in 2012.





WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The president was halfway around the world in India during the early morning hours there when he tweeted reassurances as global financial markets sagged.


The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Monday suffered their biggest one-day percentage losses in two years on worries the spread of the coronavirus beyond China and into Europe signals more prolonged uncertainty for global production, supply chains, sales, trade, travel and employment. Investors sold riskier assets and rushed to traditionally safer bets such as gold and U.S. Treasuries (Reuters).


“The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA,” Trump tweeted. “We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”


The administration on Monday sent Congress a request for $1.25 billion in emergency funding to address the coronavirus outbreak, to be combined with $535 million in reprogrammed Ebola funds and other already appropriated resources. The White House budget office said the needed funds would cover vaccines, treatment and protective equipment (The Associated Press). A total of 53 Americans confirmed to have been infected with the virus have been or are being treated in the United States, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data.


The president faces a challenge to balance COVID-19 risks with responses (The Hill). The administration set up a coronavirus task force in late January in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and implemented a quarantine process for Americans returning from China and travel restrictions to mitigate the spread of the virus. A White House spokesman told reporters that Trump continues to be briefed on the situation daily (The Hill). 


WHO, the global health organization, on Monday described “deeply concerning” spikes in COVID-19 cases in Italy, Iran and South Korea. U.S. public health officials and infectious disease experts acknowledge the virus may spread beyond current containment efforts in the United States but have continued to reassure the public that the risks of infection remain low.


The virus has killed 2,704 people worldwide since December, most of them in China, and infected at least 80,289 people, according to the latest information.


The Associated Press: Airline, cruise stocks pummeled on fear of the spreading virus.


The Associated Press: Asian shares today extend losses after Monday’s financial markets swoon.


Reuters: South Korea, nearing 900 cases of the virus today, says it will test mass numbers of people for infection.


The Associated Press: World health officials say COVID-19 has the potential to be a pandemic but isn’t one yet. 


The Associated Press: The United States and South Korea may cut back on joint military exercises because of the virus.


The Miami Herald: How one Florida patient’s worry about coronavirus collided with his “junk” health insurance and produced a whopping emergency room bill for the flu, plus new insurance hurdles.





Other administration news: New rules promulgated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services took effect on Monday to disqualify people from acquiring green cards if they use certain government benefits. Around the country, fearful immigrants, including citizens and legal residents, have dropped social services to which they or their children may be entitled because they worry they might be deported. Advocates for immigrant rights demonstrated against the new restrictions in numerous cities and urged people to seek legal advice to sort out the federal changes. A 5-4 Supreme Court vote Friday was a win for Trump on thepublic charge rule as justices lifted a final injunction covering Illinois (The Associated Press). … Extraditions of criminal suspects from Mexico to the United States soar under Trump (The New York Times) … Legal immigration fell 11 percent under Trump policies, based on 2018 data. The trend is expected to accelerate through 2021 (The New York Times).


Trump wraps up two days in India: Today, Trump held meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and expressed optimism about an eventual trade deal between the two countries, but was not specific. “The last two days were amazing in every sense of the word,” Trump said as he and Modi briefly addressed reporters after the first of their two meetings. The president described the trip as “unforgettable,” “extraordinary” and an expression of “love” (The Associated Press). The president on Monday received a warm welcome in India, where he announced a $3 billion defense deal and toured the Taj Mahal at sunset. He and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpMelania Trump posts video of herself wearing mask during stop at women's center Statue of Melania Trump set on fire in Slovenia The Memo: Trump gambles on school push MORE fly back to Washington today (The Hill).


CONGRESS: National intelligence: Senate Republicans have been handed some new headaches following Trump's temporary appointment of Richard Grenell to serve as acting director of national intelligence (DNI). Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Biden campaign adds staff in three battleground states Exclusive investigation on the coronavirus pandemic: Where was Congress? MORE (R-N.C.) released a statement praising the work of former acting DNI Joseph MaguireJoseph MaguireHillicon Valley: Pompeo floats TikTok ban | Civil rights groups slam Facebook after call | Election security funding included in proposal Pompeo: US 'certainly looking at' ban on Chinese social media apps like TikTok Trump gives Grenell his Cabinet chair after he steps down MORE and his deputy, Andrew Hallman, while omitting reference to Grenell. Especially concerning among some lawmakers was Grenell's hiring of Kashyap Patel, a former key aide to Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesSunday shows preview: Coronavirus poses questions about school safety; Trump commutes Roger Stone sentence How conservative conspiracy theories are deepening America's political divide Lawmaker-linked businesses received PPP loans MORE (R-Calif.), who will have a mandate to sideline or jettison officials viewed as disloyal to Trump, according to reports. Because Grenell says he is not a candidate to be nominated to permanently serve as DNI, senators have limited leverage over his management (The Hill).


> Tech & Congress: The Transportation Security Agency is barring employees from using the popular video app TikTok following criticism from Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' A renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs MORE (D-N.Y.) and other China hawks in Congress who raised national security concerns (The Hill).


> Sweet thank-yous: And speaking of Schumer, the New Yorker on Sunday acknowledged a report that he spent more than $8,600 on cheesecake in less than 10 years, saying it is his "guilty pleasure" and that he frequently rewards supporters with gifts created by a famed New York restaurant (The New York Post). The senator's PAC, Friends of Schumer, paid Junior's Cheesecake in New York for "supporter acknowledgments" in amounts ranging from $46 to $516.45 (CNN).




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!


The fringes are absorbing the parties. That’s dangerous, by Charles Lane, columnist, The Washington Post.


Bernie’s Cuba illiteracy, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board.


The new wealth test for immigrants is un-American, by Catherine S. Ramírez, opinion contributor, The New York Times.


The House returns to legislative work at 2 p.m. following the Presidents Day recess. Lawmakers will debate five Veterans Affairs measures.  


The Senate resumes work on nominations at 10 a.m. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar will testify at 10 a.m. to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee about the president’s fiscal 2021 budget request for HHS. He is expected to respond to questions about U.S. preparedness and response to the coronavirus as a public health issue. 


The president and the first lady are returning from India today.


Vice President Pence speaks to a gathering organized by the Michigan Farm Bureau in Lansing, Mich., at 12:45 p.m. After flying to Troy, Mich., the vice president will headline a reelection event at 5 p.m. and return to Washington.


Attorney General William BarrBill BarrWe haven't seen how low it can go Trump lashes out at Toomey, Romney after Roger Stone clemency criticism GOP senator says Trump commuting Stone was a 'mistake' MORE will attend the weekly Senate GOP luncheon today in the Capitol. That conversation should be lively.


Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Richard Clarida will speak at 3 p.m. about the U.S. economic outlook and monetary policy at the annual policy conference of the National Association for Business Economics in Washington. Investors are listening carefully following market jitters and global worries about the effects of the coronavirus contagion.


The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget hosts a “2020 Better Budget Process Summit: Building Momentum for Meaningful Reform” from 1:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill (registration is HERE). Speakers include Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Chamber of Commerce endorses Cornyn for reelection Trump, GOP clash over new round of checks MORE (R-Wyo.) along with Sens. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Tulsa to resume search for race massacre mass graves next week GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday MORE (R-Okla.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrat asks Barr to preserve any records tied to environmental hacking probe Democrats warn Biden against releasing SCOTUS list Key Democrat accuses Labor head of 'misleading' testimony on jobless benefits MORE (D-R.I.). Budget experts Bill Hoagland from the Bipartisan Policy Center, Laura Blessing from Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute, and Bill Dauster of the University of Pennsylvania will join summit host Maya MacGuineas for a deep-dive discussion about “reforming our broken budget process.”


The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) annual governmental affairs conference at the Washington Convention Center today features speakers Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyIf the US wants a better WTO, it should lead the way Bolton book shows nastiness rules at Trump White House George Floyd's brother calls on United Nations to study police brutality in US MORE, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump and former governor of South Carolina; Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDemocrats seek to tie GOP candidates to Trump, DeVos Senate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Finger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate MORE (R-Colo.); Reps. Patrick McHenryPatrick Timothy McHenrySupreme Court rulings reignite Trump oversight wars in Congress Consumer bureau revokes payday lending restrictions The Hill's Morning Report - Capitol Hill weighs action on racial justice as protests carry on MORE (R-N.C.) and Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanHouse passes bill to sanction Chinese banks over Hong Kong security law The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - As virus concerns grow, can it get worse for Trump? Black Caucus rallies behind Meeks for Foreign Affairs gavel MORE (D-Calif.), both members of the House Financial Services Committee; and David Plouffe, who steered campaigns for former President Obama. 


The Hoover Institution will host “The Human Prosperity Project on Socialism and Free-Market Capitalism” from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in downtown Washington. Information/RSVP:


You’re invited to The Hill’s 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 Patrick JoyceThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The American Investment Council - Trump takes his 'ready to reopen' mantra on the road GE cutting up to one-quarter of aviation unit's workers Boeing suspends Washington production, GE Aviation lays off thousands MORE (R-Ohio) and Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court upholds permit for B pipeline under Appalachian Trail | Report finds NOAA 'Sharpiegate' statement 'not based on science' but political influence | EPA faces suit over plan to release genetically engineered mosquito Report finds NOAA 'sharpiegate' statement 'not based on science' but political influence Democrats call for green energy relief in next stimulus package MORE (D-N.Y.). RSVP today


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Courts: Following accusations of sexual assault spanning decades that launched the #MeToo movement and ended the Hollywood career of disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein, a jury in New York on Monday found him guilty on counts of rape and sexual assault. On three other charges, jurors found Weinstein, 67, not guilty. He was immediately jailed and faces a prison sentence of up to 29 years (The Associated Press). Weinstein also faces civil lawsuits and prosecution in Los Angeles (Los Angeles Times). … The Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in a legal battle about whether federal law authorizes the U.S. Forest Service to allow a gas pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail. The ruling could determine if the $8 billion pipeline project moves forward (The Hill). … The justices on Monday agreed to hear a religious rights dispute involving the city of Philadelphia’s refusal to place children for foster care with a Catholic agency that bars same-sex couples from serving as foster parents (Reuters).


Justice: As WikiLeaks founder Julian AssangeJulian Paul AssangeGlenn Greenwald calls charges against Assange a threat to journalistic freedoms Hillicon Valley: Justice Department announces superseding indictment against WikiLeaks' Assange | Facebook ad boycott gains momentum | FBI sees spike in coronavirus-related cyber threats | Boston city government bans facial recognition technology Justice Department announces superseding indictment against Wikileaks' Assange MORE’s extradition hearing in London began on Monday, a British judge heard conflicting portraits that described either a truth-telling journalist or a reckless criminal (The Associated Press). Assange, 48, is fighting extradition to stand trial in the United States on charges of violating the Espionage Act, arguing he would not receive a fair trial (The Washington Post). The United States argues that Assange put lives at risk with his decision in 2010 to make public or publish thousands of classified military documents and diplomatic cables via the online WikiLeaks site (NBC News).  


Celebration of life: Vanessa Bryant eulogized her husband, the late Kobe Bryant, and her daughter Gianna Bryant at a memorial service before 20,000 at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Monday. Speaking through tears, she labeled the former Los Angeles Lakers star "the MVP of girl dads" and said that it was fitting that he died alongside Gianna, saying they had to be “together.” Vanessa Bryant led the memorial ceremony, which also featured speeches from Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant’s former teammate, and a performance by Beyoncé (ESPN). On Monday, Vanessa Bryant also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter operator, saying that the company failed “to use ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft” (Los Angeles Times).





And finally … Who says Washington power brokers don’t work across the aisle anymore? If you don’t immediately recognize this fun couple spotted in the posh Cafe Milano in the nation’s capital on Monday night  Trump’s U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerGOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 Pelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House MORE and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka enjoyed some after-dinner Cohiba cigars and bonhomie among other VIP diners. The two men have been friends for more than 30 years and celebrated their shared contributions to the new NAFTA, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement initiated by Trump and recently ratified by Congress, reports The Hill’s editor-at-large Steve Clemons, who filed to the Morning Report, played paparazzi and apparently enjoyed a delicious meal.