1/ Nikki Haley vowed to continue her presidential campaign even if Trump wins New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation Republican primary, saying “This has always been a marathon. It’s never been a sprint.” Most polls, however, showed Haley trailing Trump going into today’s primary by double digits. Voting is scheduled to close statewide at 8 p.m. Eastern. New Hampshire is the second state on the Republican electoral calendar after the Iowa caucuses, which Trump won last week. The Nevada Republicans will hold caucuses Feb. 8, followed by South Carolina’s primary Feb. 24. (NBC News / CNN / Washington Post / New York Times / Associated Press / NPR / Politico / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)
Why many Democrats want Trump to win big in New Hampshire. “Either Trump dominates Nikki Haley in New Hampshire and the general election campaign effectively begins Wednesday — or Trump gets caught in a drawn-out primary at least until South Carolina’s GOP contest on Feb. 24.” (Axios)
Trump has a big problem ahead. “There’s a whole swath of the Republican electorate and a good chunk of independents who appear firmly committed to not voting for him in November if he becomes the nominee.” (Politico)
2/ Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who recently ended his 2024 presidential campaign and endorsed Trump, suggested that he would veto a proposed Republican bill to use taxpayer money to help pay Trump’s legal bills. The proposed bill would have allowed the state to create the “Freedom Fighters Fund,” which could then give Trump up to $5 million in taxpayer dollars for legal fees incurred from his ongoing court cases. The proposed new fund would come from the state’s public campaign-matching funds program and later be replenished from voluntary donations via driver’s license registrations. DeSantis, however, said he did not support the measure, tweeting: “But not the Florida Republican who wields the veto pen…” (Politico / Axios / Bloomberg)
3/ A federal appeals court rejected Trump’s request to lift a gag order that restricts his ability to criticize witnesses in his criminal case for attempting to overturn the 2020 election. “The court had a duty to act proactively to prevent the creation of an atmosphere of fear or intimidation aimed at preventing trial participants and staff from performing their functions within the trial process,” Judge Patricia Millett wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel. The gag order was initially imposed by Judge Tanya Chutkan in October in response to concerns from special counsel Jack Smith that Trump’s threats to witnesses, attorneys, and court personnel could taint the proceedings, intimidate witnesses, and influence jurors. A three-judge panel upheld the gag order last month, but narrowed the restrictions on speaking about witnesses in the case, but freed Trump to publicly criticize Smith. Trump can now appeal to the Supreme Court. (Associated Press / Politico / CNN)
4/ Israel proposed allowing Hamas senior leaders to leave Gaza as part of an agreement for a two-month ceasefire in exchange for the release of all remaining hostages. Pressure is building on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resolve his nearly four-month war, which has failed to capture or kill most of Hamas’s senior leaders in Gaza and left around 70% of Hamas’ fighting force intact, according to Israel’s own estimates. International calls for a two-state solution have also intensified, which Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected. Meanwhile, Israel’s military said 24 soldiers were killed in the Gaza Strip – the deadliest day for the country’s forces since the war began – while trying to demolish part of a Palestinian neighborhood to create what they describe as a “security zone” between Gaza and Israel. The buffer zone would be about a half-mile wide and run along the entire length of Israel’s roughly 36-mile border with Gaza. Since Oct. 7, more than 25,000 people have been killed in Gaza, with more than 62,000 injured, over 1.9 million Palestinians have been displaced, nearly the entire Gaza Strip population faces a humanitarian crisis, and more than half a million people in the territory face “catastrophic hunger.” (CNN / Axios / Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / CNN / Wall Street Journal)
5/ The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set their “Doomsday Clock” at 90 seconds to midnight, citing global instability driven by Russia’s war in Ukraine, Israel’s war on Hamas, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, artificial intelligence, state-sponsored disinformation, and the worsening climate crisis. The time on the symbolic clock is the same as last year. (NBC News / USA Today / CBS News)
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