1/ Trump asked acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker if a Trump-appointed attorney could lead the Southern District of New York's investigation into Michael Cohen's hush money payments during the 2016 election. Whitaker couldn't put Geoffrey Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, in charge, because Berman had already recused himself from the investigation, which led to Trump complaining about Whitaker's inability to pull the strings necessary at the Justice Department to make his legal problems go away. There is no evidence that Whitaker took any direct steps to intervene in the Manhattan investigation, but Whitaker privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to "jump on a grenade" for Trump. Earlier this month Whitaker testified to the House Judiciary Committee that Trump had never pressured him to intervene in an investigation, which is now under scrutiny by House Democrats for possible perjury. [Editor's note: This is a must read] (New York Times)

  • Trump denied the report that he asked Whitaker to put an ally in charge of the investigation into pre-election hush payments to women who claimed to have had affairs with him. Trump then praised Whitaker, who was replaced by William Barr last week, saying "I think he’s done a great job" and "should be given a lot of thanks by the nation." (Politico / The Hill)

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asked Whitaker to clarify his recent testimony, saying Whitaker "refused to offer clear responses regarding your communications with the White House." (Politico)

  • Michael Cohen plans to describe his "personal, front-line experiences of memories, and incidents, and conduct, and comments that Donald Trump said over that 10-year time period behind closed doors," which is lawyer described as "chilling." Cohen has pledged to appear before closed sessions of the House and Senate intelligence committees and in a public session of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee before he reports for a federal prison sentence on March 6. (ABC News)

  • Trump has publicly criticized the Russia investigation nearly 1,200 times. (New York Times)

2/ Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe briefed congressional leaders in 2017 about the counterintelligence investigation he opened into Trump and that "no one objected," including Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. McCabe ordered the obstruction of justice and counterintelligence investigations after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May of 2017, which made McCabe acting director of the bureau at the time. The FBI wanted to know whether Trump had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests. "The purpose of the briefing was to let our congressional leadership know exactly what we'd been doing," McCabe said, and that nobody raised concerns, "not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds, and not based on the facts." Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also attended the meeting, which is when the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation was first announced. Eight days after Comey was fired, Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller. (NBC News / CNBC / Politico / Daily Beast / The Atlantic / CBS News)

  • WATCH: The full Andrew McCabe interview. (CBS News)

  • McCabe: Trump is unwilling to accept intelligence on North Korea given to him by U.S. officials, telling them, "I don't care, I believe Putin." Trump said he didn't believe that North Korea has missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland because Putin told him the missiles didn't exist. (The Hill / 60 Minutes)

3/ Trump accused McCabe and Rosenstein of "illegal and treasonous" actions. In a tweet, Trump said McCabe and Rosenstein "look like they were planning a very illegal act, and got caught" in response to McCabe's interview on 60 Minutes. McCabe and Rosenstein had discussed "counting votes" among Cabinet members to see who would consider invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from power. "There is a lot of explaining to do to the millions of people who had just elected a president who they really like and who has done a great job for them with the Military, Vets, Economy and so much more," Trump continued. "This was the illegal and treasonous 'insurance policy' in full action!" (Daily Beast / Washington Post)

  • Trump circulated a call by Rush Limbaugh to imprison the people investigating him and his administration, including Robert Mueller. Trump quoted Limbaugh in a tweet, writing, "These guys, the investigators, ought to be in jail. What they have done, working with the Obama intelligence agencies, is simply unprecedented." He continued: "This is one of the greatest political hoaxes ever perpetrated on the people of this Country, and Mueller is a coverup." Later, Trump added his own condemnation of Mueller and his team, calling the investigation "totally conflicted, illegal and rigged!" (Daily Beast)

  • House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff said there is "evidence in plain sight" of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia. Schiff rejected the conclusions of Senate Intelligence Chair Richard Burr, who said no such evidence exists. "You can see evidence in plain sight on the issue of collusion, pretty compelling evidence," Schiff said. "There is a difference between seeing evidence of collusion and being able to prove a criminal conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt." (Politico)

4/ Rosenstein will resign as deputy attorney general and leave the Justice Department in March. Incoming Attorney General William Barr is expected to name Rosenstein's successor as early as this week. Justice Department officials say Rosenstein's departure has nothing to do with McCabe's recent interview on 60 Minutes. It is unclear what this means for Mueller's investigation, which will likely be handed off to Barr. (CBS News / CNN / Reuters / Washington Post)

  • Barr's son-in-law, Tyler McGaughey, will be leaving his job at the Justice Department and will join the White House counsel's office, where he'll "advise the president, the executive office, and White House staff on legal issues concerning the president and the presidency." (Vanity Fair / CNN)

5/ Michael Flynn and several other Trump administration appointees ignored repeated legal and ethical warnings as they promoted the sale of nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia. The 24-page report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee outlined actions by the Trump administration to have American companies build dozens of nuclear power plants across Saudi Arabia, potentially at the risk of spreading nuclear weapons technology. The report said the unnamed whistleblowers inside the White House came forward because they were worried by the continued effort to sell the power plants. House Democrats said the White House was still considering the proposal as recently as last week. The Oversight Committee said it would continue to investigate the matter and make new requests for documents from the White House and cabinet agencies "to determine whether the actions being pursued by the Trump administration are in the national security interests of the United States, or rather, serve those who stand to gain financially." (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / Reuters / NBC News)

6/ California, New York, and 14 other states joined a lawsuit to challenge Trump's plan to use a national emergency declaration to funnel billions of dollars into his border wall. The suit was filed in Federal District Court in San Francisco, and claims that Trump does not have the authority to redirect funds from other projects to pay for his border wall over the objections of Congress, which controls government spending. Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai'i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Virginia also joined the lawsuit. Several nonprofit organizations have also announced plans to sue. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)

poll/ 61% of Americans disapprove of Trump's decision to declare a national emergency to build his border wall along the southern border. 94% of Democrats and 63% of independents disapprove, while 12% of Republicans feel the same. Nearly 60% of Americans also don't believe there is an emergency at the southern border. (NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist)


Notables.

  1. Robert Mueller recommended that Paul Manafort spend 19-24 years in prison and pay up to $52 million in fines and forfeitures. Trump's former campaign chairman was convicted in August on eight felony counts including tax and bank fraud. Mueller added that "the government does not take a position as to the specific sentence to be imposed here," but he did remind the court about Manafort's long career of criminal activity. "Manafort acted for more than a decade as if he were above the law," Mueller said, "and deprived the federal government and various financial institutions of millions of dollars." (CNBC / BuzzFeed News / Bloomberg / Politico)

  2. Roger Stone was ordered to appear in court after posting a photo of the judge in his case with what appeared to be crosshairs near her head days after the judge imposed a gag order on him. The photo of Judge Amy Berman Jackson was posted alongside a caption that referred to her as "an Obama appointed judge who dismissed the Benghazi charges against Hillary Clinton and incarcerated Paul Manafort prior to his conviction for any crime." The post also mentioned the "Deep State" and featured a plea to help Stone "fight for my life" by donating to his legal defense fund. Stone later deleted the post and issued an apology. (Rolling Stone / The Guardian / Washington Post / NBC News) / NPR)

  3. Former Maine Gov. Paul LePage and his staff bought more than 40 rooms in Trump's D.C. hotel for $22,000 over a two-year period, which coincided with trips to meet with Trump or members of his inner circle, as well as visits to White House events and Congressional meetings. LePage and his staff also spent hundreds of dollars on expensive steaks and other luxury menu items at the restaurants in Trump's hotel. (Portland Press Herald)

  4. Bernie Sanders announced that he is running for president again in 2020. Polls show the 77-year-old independent senator from Vermont ahead of the rest of the pack, trailing only Joe Biden in the 2020 field. (CNN / NBC News / New York Times)

  5. Trump's pick to serve as ambassador to the United Nations withdrew from consideration. Heather Nauert had a nanny who was in the United States legally but did not have the proper work visa. (New York Times)

  6. Trump's former legislative affairs director will now serve as Pence's chief of staff. Marc Short will fill the role that was left vacant by Nick Ayers when he resigned earlier this year. (New York Times / CNBC)

  7. Trump will sign a directive to establish a Space Force, but instead of being a new branch of the military dedicated to space, it will instead remain part of the Air Force. It will be structured similarly to how the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy. (Politico)