What The Fuck Just Happened Today?

Today's essential guide to the daily shock and awe in national politics. Read in moderation.
Curated by @matt_kiser

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Day 1166: Ill informed, misleading, and downright wrong.

1/ The U.S. could see 100,000 to 200,000 coronavirus deaths even “if we do things almost perfectly.” Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said “no state, no metro area will be spared from the virus” and the projections by Dr. Anthony Fauci that U.S. deaths could range from 1.6 million to 2.2 million is a worst case scenario if the country did “nothing” to contain the outbreak. Birx added that “we’re not sure all of America is responding in a uniform way.” Dr. Fauci, meanwhile, warned that the COVID-19 outbreak is still on track to overwhelm hospitals and kill tens of thousands of Americans, even with action to slow the spread. (NBC News / TODAY / Bloomberg / ABC News / NPR)

  • Confirmed cases of COVID-19 rise to more than 755,000 globally; U.S. cases pass 150,000, more than 2,500 dead. (Wall Street Journal)

  • The FDA issued an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine – malaria drugs championed by Trump – saying there are no available alternatives and the “known and potential” benefits of the product outweigh the risks. There are only a few, small anecdotal studies showing a possible benefit of the drugs to relieve the acute respiratory symptoms of COVID-19. Nevertheless, millions of doses will be distributed to hospitals across the country to try to slow the disease. (Politico / Washington Post / Bloomberg)

  • FEMA sent refrigerated trucks to New York City to serve as temporary morgues as nearly more than 790 people have died in the city from the coronavirus. (Politico)

  • Live Blogs: New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / CNN / Wall Street Journal / CNBC / The Guardian

2/ Trump raised the idea of issuing an “enforceable” quarantine of New York, New Jersey, and parts of Connecticut only to back away from it hours later. Instead, the CDC issued a travel advisory calling on residents of the tri-state to avoid “non-essential domestic travel” for the next two weeks to help slow the spread of coronavirus. Dr. Fauci later clarified that Trump settled on the advisory after “very intensive discussions” at the White House. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, called the quarantine idea a “declaration of war on states” that would crash financial markets and results in legal challenges, saying “A lockdown is what they did in Wuhan, China, and we’re not in China.” (NBC News / Vox / CNN / New York Times / Wall Street Journal /Bloomberg / CNBC / Axios)

3/ Trump blamed hospitals for the shortage of masks and ventilators, suggesting that hospitals were “hoarding” ventilators and that states were requesting equipment despite not needing it. Trump, noting the sudden increase in need for masks, questioned “How do you go from 10 to 20 [thousand masks per week] to 300,000? Ten [thousand] to 20,000 masks, to 300,000 — even though this is different? Something is going on […] Are they going out the back door?” (Washington Post)

  • In at least 10 government reports from 2003 to 2015, federal officials predicted the U.S. would experience a shortage of ventilators and other medical supplies if it faced a large-scale infectious disease outbreak. (CNN)

  • Trump administration officials declined an offer for congressional coronavirus funding on February 5. The officials, including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, said they “didn’t need emergency funding, that they would be able to handle it within existing appropriations,” Sen. Chris Murphy recalled. Murphy said the funding he and other congressional leaders wanted to allocate in February would have paid for essential preventative measures, including hiring local screening and testing staff, researching a vaccine and treatments, and the stockpiling of needed medical supplies. (Yahoo News)

  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said her state is not getting the health and safety equipment needed because contractors are sending their products to the federal government, implying that the order came from the Trump administration. On Friday, Trump said he had instructed Pence not to call governors who have not been “appreciative” enough of his efforts on coronavirus. “If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” Trump said, adding: “Don’t call the woman in Michigan.” (WWJ 950 / Crain’s Detroit Business / CNN / Associated Press / USA Today)

4/ The Trump administration donated more than 35,000 pounds of “masks, gowns, gauze, respirators, and other vital materials” to China the same day the World Health Organization warned about “the limited stock of PPE (personal protective equipment).” The first known case of coronavirus case in U.S. was confirmed by the CDC on January 21, 2020. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the donation to China on February 7. (CNN)

5/ Trump bragged about the ratings of his coronavirus task force briefings, tweeting that the rise in ratings is driving the media “CRAZY” while suggesting that the viewership is fueling discussions in the media about ending the practice of broadcasting them live. Trump sent about a half-dozen tweets touting the high television ratings while selectively citing an article that compared them to “The Bachelor” and “Monday Night Football.” News outlets have struggled with how to cover Trump’s coronavirus press briefings live because Trump “has repeatedly delivered information that doctors and public health officials have called ill informed, misleading, or downright wrong.” (Vox / Axios / Vanity Fair / CNN)

6/ Trump extended federal social distancing guidelines until at least April 30 – a reversal from last week when Trump said he planned to relax restrictions by Easter. Trump said all Americans must continue to stay home when possible and avoid gatherings of 10 or more people for at least another month. “By June 1, we will be well on our way to recovery,” Trump said. “We think by June 1, a lot of great things will be happening.” Trump claimed his earlier predictions of an April 12 “reopening” of the country was simply “aspirational” and was not meant to be an actual timeline. Dr. Anthony Fauci called the extension of social distancing guidelines a “wise and prudent decision.” (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / CNBC / Business Insider / CNN / NBC News)

7/ Trump believes the inspector general overseeing the $500 billion relief fund will first need his permission to make reports to Congress. In a signing statement, released hours after Trump signed the bill, Trump suggested he can gag the inspector general and can decide what information the inspector general could share with Congress. (New York Times / CNBC)

8/ The EPA stopped enforcing environmental regulations because of the coronavirus pandemic. The relaxation of environmental rules allow power plants, factories, and other facilities discretion in deciding whether or not they think the coronavirus will prevent them from meeting legal requirements on air and water pollution and hazardous waste management. The EPA will not be fining companies for violating certain requirements during this time. The new directive will remain in place indefinitely. (New York Times / Vox / Business Insider)

9/ The Justice Department is investigating a series of stock transactions made by lawmakers leading up to the coronavirus-related market crash and if the trades were based on confidential briefings they received. The inquiry is still in its early stages and is being conducted in coordination with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The FBI has already reached out to one lawmaker — Sen. Richard Burr — with requests for information about his trades. The investigation hinges on whether lawmakers sought to profit from information they obtained from non-public briefings about the coronavirus pandemic. One of Burr’s attorneys said Burr “welcomes a thorough review of the facts in this matter, which will establish that his actions were appropriate.” (CNN / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌Day 1156: At least four senators sold off millions of dollars’ worth of stocks just before the market dropped amid fears of the coronavirus pandemic. Sens. Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler sold off more than a million dollars each in stocks after attending private, senators-only briefings about the severity of the impending coronavirus crisis. Burr, who serves as the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had been receiving daily updates from the intelligence community on threats to the U.S., including the coronavirus, before dumped up to $1.56 million on Feb. 13 – days after he wrote an op-ed for Fox News arguing that the U.S. is “better prepared than ever before” when it comes to facing public health threats like COVID-19. Loeffler, who is married to the chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, and her husband sold up to $3.1 million in jointly owned stocks starting on Jan. 24 – the same day the Senate Health Committee, on which she sits, briefed senators briefing about the coronavirus. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, also a member of the intelligence committee, and her husband sold up to $6 million worth of stock in Jan. and Feb. And, Sen. James Inhofe sold as much as $400,000 in January. Burr said he has asked the Senate Ethics Committee to review his sale. (ProPublica / Daily Beast / NPR / NBC News / Axios / New York Times / Atlanta Journal-Constitution / The Guardian / Washington Post / The Hill / Reuters)

10/ The Department of Defense is isolating some of its senior military commanders, as well as nuclear and special operations forces, in case they’re needed in the event of a sudden security crisis. A U.S. military official at NORAD said they are “isolating specific command personnel involved in critical mission areas” in order to “ensure we remain capable of defending the homeland despite the pandemic.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper has also put a hold on all military movements for 60 days, which impacts some 90,000 troops worldwide. (CNN)

  • The Pentagon ordered military commanders to plan for an escalation of combat in Iraq. The top U.S. commander in Iraq, however, has warned that a campaign to destroy an Iranian-backed militia group could be bloody and counterproductive and risks war with Iran. (New York Times)

👑 Portrait of a President.

  • The contrarian coronavirus theory that informed the Trump administration. Trump, who at one point called the coronavirus pandemic an “invisible enemy” and said it made him a “wartime President,” has in recent days questioned its seriousness, tweeting, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.” (New Yorker)

  • The Lost Month: How a Failure to Test Blinded the U.S. to COVID-19. Aggressive screening might have helped contain the coronavirus in the United States. But technical flaws, regulatory hurdles and lapses in leadership let it spread undetected for weeks. (New York Times)

  • The missing six weeks: How Trump failed the biggest test of his life. Trump was aware of the danger from the coronavirus – but a lack of leadership has created an emergency of epic proportions. (The Guardian)

  • As Trump invokes presidential powers to fight the coronavirus, he sows confusion along the way. The unprecedented push as has Trump has ramped up efforts to show he is using some of his broadest powers as commander in chief has also been plagued by growing confusion about how far his authorities actually extend and how much he is willing to use them. (Washington Post)

  • Trump: I’m doing a great job fighting the coronavirus, and 100,000 of you will die. “Only in the world of Trumpian dumbfuckery could anyone brighter than a toaster oven think 100,000 avoidable deaths is a win.” (Daily Beast)

  • Fact Check: Donald Trump denied saying what he publicly said last week. (CNN)

Day 1163: "Wasting time."

1/ The House passed the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package and Trump signed it into law. The legislation will deliver one-time direct payments of $1,200 to most taxpayers and enhance unemployment benefits. The measure also creates a $500 billion lending program for businesses, cities and states, and a $367 billion fund for small businesses. The package was approved by voice vote after a Republican lawmaker attempted to delay the approval and force lawmakers to return to Washington in order to assemble the 216 members needed for a quorum. Trump attacked Rep. Thomas Massie in a series of tweets, calling him a “third rate grandstander” and suggesting that Republican leaders “throw” him out of the party. The size of the stimulus package, along with Federal Reserve actions, will amount to an injection of about $6 trillion into the economy – or about 30% of annual gross domestic product. “We got hit by the invisible enemy and we got hit hard,” Trump said before signing the bill. “I think we are going to have a tremendous rebound.” (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / CNBC / Vox / CNN / NBC News / The Guardian / ABC News / CBS News / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)

  • Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surpassed 100,000 – doubling in just three days. (CNBC)

  • The World Health Organization enrolled the first patients in test treatments for the coronavirus in Norway and Spain. Health officials are testing four drugs to fight COVID-19, including malaria medications chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, an antiviral compound called Remdesivir, a combination of HIV drugs Lopinavir and Ritonavir, and a combination of those drugs plus interferon-beta. (CNBC)

  • Doctors in New York will try to treat patients with COVID-19 with plasma infusions from people who have recovered after the Food and Drug Administration approved the experimental use of plasma on an emergency basis to treat coronavirus patients. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for the coronavirus. Hours later, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he had also tested positive for the virus. And then, England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said he was also experiencing symptoms of a COVID-19 infection. (NBC News / Washington Post)

  • 💻 Live Blogs: New York Times / Washington Post / CNBC / CNN / NBC News / The Guardian / ABC News / Wall Street Journal

2/ Trump ordered General Motors to produce 40,000 ventilators under the Defense Production Act hours after criticizing the company on Twitter for not acting quickly enough to produce supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic. Trump said “GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.” Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that “General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!!” The White House also canceled an announcement planned for next week on a joint venture between General Motors and Ventec Life Systems to build as many as 80,000 ventilators. FEMA said it needed more time to assess whether the estimated cost of more than $1 billion was too expensive. GM and Ventec Life said they were ready to ramp up production, but were waiting on the Trump administration to provide clarity about how many ventilators were needed and who would be paid to build them. (CNBC / Washington Post / New York Times / Axios / Politico / Bloomberg / New York Times / CNN)

  • Trump to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.” Trump, speaking to Sean Hannity on Fox News, was responding to Cuomo’s projections that the state will need up to 30,000 ventilators within the next two weeks to adequately respond to the peak of coronavirus cases that are expected to hit the state. “You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators,” Trump continued. “And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’” Trump’s comments come as some New York City hospitals have been forced to start sharing ventilators between as many as four patients at once. As of Friday, 44,635 cases had been confirmed in the state, resulting in 519 deaths. New York state hospitals have 4,000 ventilators in the system. (Politico / New York Times / CBS News / The Guardian)

  • Trump blamed two Democratic governors for the spread of coronavirus, accusing Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of not doing enough to address the health crisis. “He shouldn’t be relying on the federal government. He’s always complaining,” Trump said of Inslee. “And your governor of Michigan, she’s not stepping up,” Trump said. “I don’t know if she knows what’s going on. All she does is sit there and blame the federal government.” (Washington Post)

  • Nearly 90% of U.S. mayors said they lack sufficient tests kits, face masks and other protective equipment for their emergency responders and medical workers, while 85% said they do not have enough ventilators for their hospitals. (Washington Post)

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on Trump to approve the construction of 4,000 additional hospital beds in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio, meanwhile, said Trump is “not looking at the facts of this astronomical growth of this crisis… We believe over half the people in this city will ultimately be infected. Over half.” More than 8 million people live in New York City. (Politico / The Guardian / CBS News)

3/ Trump notified U.S. governors that his administration will be issuing new guidelines about “maintaining, increasing or relaxing social distancing and other mitigation measures.” Mike Pence and a small group of public health officials are expected to brief Trump on his options this weekend about whether to extend the White House’s 15-day social distancing guidelines or loosen them for some or all parts of the country. In his letter to governors, Trump said the guidance will contain instructions for classifying certain counties as “high risk, medium risk or low risk,” as well as data that will drive the “next phase” of the government’s response. Trump floated re-opening the country by Easter, saying he’d like to have the “country opened up and just raring to go” by the April 12 holiday. Since then, however, White House officials have backed away from that date. (Politico / NPR / Bloomberg)

  • Trump said there’s “no way” he’ll cancel the Republican National Convention in August because of the coronavirus. “Somebody was asking today, ‘Will you cancel your convention?’,” Trump told Sean Hannity. “I said no way I’m going to cancel the convention. We’re going to have the convention, it’s going to be incredible.” The GOP convention is scheduled for Aug. 24-27, roughly two months before the November general election. (The Hill)

4/ Jared Kushner’s shadow coronavirus task force appears to be violating both the Presidential Records Act and Federal Advisory Committee Act. Kushner’s task force is using private email accounts and has not complied with requirements to document, preserve and maintain records of “the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of the President’s constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties.” (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethic in Washington)

poll/ 93% of Americans say they’re practicing social distancing and staying away from other people during the coronavirus crisis. 91% say they’re staying home as much as possible, while 88% have stopped going to restaurants and bars. 82% are washing their hands more often, 61% say they’ve stocked up on food and supplies, and 53% have canceled travel plans. (Washington Post)

Day 1162: "We may well be in a recession."

1/ A record 3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week – the largest number of unemployment claims ever recorded for a single week since the government began collecting data in 1967. The number shatters the Great Recession peak of 665,000 claims in March 2009 and the all-time mark of 695,000 in October 1982. As a result, the U.S. unemployment rate has likely already risen to 5.5% from 3.5% in February – a level not seen since 2015. A similarly large number of initial unemployment claims is expected next week when the Labor Department releases its report on claims filed this week. In the prior Labor Department report, for the week ended March 14, initial claims totaled 282,000. (NPR / CNBC / Washington Post / CNN / New York Times / Politico / Bloomberg)

  • 😷 COVID-ables:

  • U.S. death toll hit 1,000. (Washington Post)

  • The U.S. leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases with at least 81,321 people known to have been infected. (New York Times)

  • Nearly 1.5 million N95 respirator masks are sitting in a U.S. government warehouse in Indiana, but authorities have not shipped them because they are past their expiration date. (Washington Post)

  • “We may well be in a recession.”Fed Chairman Jerome Powell

  • Trump’s cabinet pastor blamed the outbreak on those who have “a proclivity toward lesbianism and homosexuality.” Ralph Drollinger wrote that the U.S. is “experiencing the consequential wrath of God” because the “forsaken,” which includes environmentalists and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, have “given over” to their “degrading passions.” Betsy DeVos, Mike Pompeo, Ben Carson, and Rick Perry all regularly attend Drollinger’s bible study sessions, with Perry describing him as a “brilliant, knowledgeable bible instructor.” (NBC News / Independent)

  • 🔥 Read This: How the pandemic will end. The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.(The Atlantic)

  • Live Blogs: New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / CNN

2/ U.S. stocks had their best three-day rally since 1931. Over the past three days, the Dow is up more than 20% and has emerged from the bear market it fell into on March 11. The S&P 500 posted its first three-day rally since February, closing up 6.2%. The Nasdaq rose 5.6%. (CNBC / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNN)

3/ The Senate passed an emergency $2.2 trillion relief package to address the economic impacts of the coronavirus. The bill passed unanimously and includes direct payments to individuals making less than $99,000 per year — which could be sent out as early as April 6 — $250 billion to bolster unemployment insurance, $500 billion for hard-hit industries and states, $50 billion for airlines, $350 billion in loans for small businesses that are eligible for loan forgiveness if companies use them to keep workers on payroll, $130 billion in aid to hospitals, and $150 billion to help state and local governments. The bill now heads to the House, where lawmakers are expected to vote on it Friday morning. (Washington Post / New York Times / The Guardian / CNBC / NBC News / CNN)

  • The Senate will recess after passing the stimulus package and not return until April 20. Senators were scheduled to go on a two-week recess starting on March 31, but will now cancel next week’s scheduled session and leave town for a total of three weeks. (The Hill)

4/ The Trump administration ignored a White House playbook that was created in 2016 to help fight back against a potential pandemic. The National Security Council playbook lays out strategies and recommendations that an administration should take, including moving swiftly to fully detect potential outbreaks, securing supplemental funding and considering invoking the Defense Production Act, and making sure there are sufficient personal protective equipment available for healthcare workers. The NSC created the guide — officially titled the “Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents” but known colloquially as “the pandemic playbook” — in 2016 and the Trump administration was briefed on it in 2017, but administration officials ignored it and it never became official policy. (Politico)

  • Internal CDC emails show how public health officials fumbled communication and underestimated the threat of the coronavirus as it gained a foothold in the United States. (ProPublica)

5/ The Trump administration fired more than two-thirds of the staff working at a key U.S. public health agency operating in China leading up to the coronavirus outbreak. Staff at the CDC’s Beijing office was slashed from roughly 47 people to 14 people since Trump took office. The CDC has worked in China for the last 30 years. The National Science Foundation and the USAID office, which helped China monitor and respond to outbreaks, also shuttered their Beijing offices on Trump’s watch. (Reuters / New York Times)

6/ The Trump administration blocked a joint statement from G-7 countries on the coronavirus by insisting that the U.N. Security Council refer to the pandemic as “the Wuhan virus.” The U.S. repeatedly tried to insert references to “the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, Hubei province in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in November 2019” into the joint statement. China, meanwhile, has consistently vetoed those efforts and accused the U.S. of “irresponsible practices” and of “politicizing the outbreak and blaming China.” (NBC News / Washington Post)

7/ The Department of Homeland Security requested that military forces be deployed to the U.S.-Canada border to provide additional security between entry points. There has been no final decision on whether or not to approve the request. Canada, meanwhile, has told the U.S. that it is strongly opposed to the proposal, saying it would damage relations between the two allies. (ABC News / Global News / Politico)

8/ The Justice Department announced narco-terrorism and other criminal charges against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and senior leaders from his government. Charges brought by federal prosecutors in New York’s Southern District, Miami and Washington, DC, allege that the leaders of the Venezuelan regime manage a drug cartel and coordinate with the Colombian rebel group FARC to traffic cocaine to the U.S. Maduro’s government is “plagued by criminality and corruption,” Attorney General William Barr said in announcing the charges. (New York Times / CNN / Miami Herald)

poll/ 33% of Americans said the coronavirus outbreak has caused them or an immediate family member to lose their job. 51% said they’ve had their hours or pay cut. 92% said a recession is likely. (Washington Post)

Day 1161: "Critical to maintaining national security."

  • Editor’s note: The White House coronavirus task force briefing just started and a last-minute dispute over unemployment aid is delaying a Senate vote on the aid package. Per usual, who the f*ck knows what’s going to happen. So instead of waiting indefinitely, here we go instead.

1/ Senators reached an agreement on a $2 trillion stimulus package to combat the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic – the largest relief package in American history. The package will provide direct payments to Americans, $130 billion in funding for hospitals, $350 billion in small business loans, $250 billion in unemployment insurance benefits, and $500 billion in loans for distressed companies. A vote is expected Wednesday afternoon. The House is expected to take it up no sooner than Thursday. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin promised that Trump would “absolutely” sign it if Congress passes it. The package is the third Congress has considered to address the pandemic. Trump previously signed into law a $8.3 billion emergency aid and relief package providing paid leave, free testing and additional aid for families affected by the pandemic. (New York Times / CNN / NBC News / Washington Post / Politico / The Guardian)

  • ⚠️ What’s in the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill: Direct cash payments, expanded unemployment insurance, small business support, assistance for corporations, public health funding, state aid, and more. (CNN / NBC News / CBS News)

  • 💰 Who would get what and when from the $2 trillion stimulus package: Individuals who earn $75,000 or less would get direct payments of $1,200 each, with married couples earning up to $150,000 receiving $2,400. An additional $500 per child will be tacked on to that. Payments would scale down as income rises, phasing out at $99,000 for singles and $198,000 for couples without children. (ABC News / CNBC)

  • 💻 Live Blogs: New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / NBC News / CBS News / The Guardian

2/ Trump’s businesses are prohibited from receiving loans or investments from Treasury programs under the coronavirus stimulus package. Firms owned by Trump, Pence, members of Congress, or heads of executive departments would all be excluded from receiving that aid under the new stimulus package, including companies controlled by their children, spouses or in-laws. (Bloomberg / CNBC / Washington Post / CBS News / The Guardian)

  • The Senate’s $2 trillion stimulus package includes a $17 billion federal loan program – aimed at providing assistance to Boeing – for businesses deemed “critical to maintaining national security.” The carve-out is separate from the $58 billion the Senate package is providing in loans for cargo and passenger airlines, as well as the $425 billion in loans it is allocating to help firms, states and cities hurt by the current downturn. (Washington Post / New York Times )

3/ The Trump administration has not released unemployment funds to three states Trump has formally declared coronavirus disaster areas. New York, California, or Washington state all requested access to several aid programs provided under a disaster declaration, including disaster unemployment assistance. A senior administration official said the administration is holding off on approving requests for disaster unemployment assistance because Congress is expected to provide similar protections in the stimulus package. (Politico)

  • State unemployment websites and systems crashed stemming from a “historic increase” in people applying for unemployment. New York State’s Department of Labor has seen a 1000% increase in claims. (ABC News)

  • At least 1 million Californians filed unemployment claims this month. The initial claims data has never before surpassed 1 million, and it was 285,000 last week. (CNBC)


😷 COVID-ables.

  • The global death toll from the new coronavirus surpassed 20,000 and the number of confirmed COVID-19 infections worldwide climbed to more than 454,000. More than 61,000 people have tested positive and more than 800 have died of the disease in the United States. (John Hopkins University)

  • A drug for malaria that Trump promoted as a treatment for coronavirus is no more effective than conventional care. The report published by the Journal of Zhejiang University in China showed that patients who received Hydroxychloroquine didn’t fight off the new coronavirus more often than those who did not get the medicine. (Bloomberg)

  • A CDC epidemiologist estimates that the peak of coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. will peak in three weeks, after which “most of the damage will be done.” (CNN)

  • New York state has 10 times the COVID-19 cases California has. Why? New York is testing far more people — three times as many as California — and as a result identifying more cases. (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • Idaho ordered residents to self-isolate and close non-essential businesses for at least 21 days. (NBC News)

  • About 3,200 NYPD officers have called out sick as 177 uniformed officers and another 34 civilian NYPD employees tested positive for the coronavirus. (Politico)

  • New York City’s morgues are expected to reach capacity next week. (Politico)

Day 1160: "I want America to understand: This week, it's going to get bad."

1/ Congressional negotiators signaled that they are nearing a bipartisan agreement on an estimated $2 trillion emergency stimulus package to address economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin all said they expected an agreement later Tuesday. The Senate bill would direct payments of $1,200 to most American adults and $500 to most children, create a $500 billion lending program for companies, states, and cities, and extend another $367 billion to help small businesses make payroll. White House officials agreed to allow an independent inspector general, and an oversight board to scrutinize the lending decisions after Trump said he would “be the oversight.” (Politico / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)

  • U.S. stocks rallied on the news, posting one of their best days ever. The S&P 500 rose more than 9%, rebounding from its lowest level since 2016 – and the biggest one-day gain since October 2008. The Dow rose more than 11% – its biggest one-day gain since 1933. The Nasdaq notched gains of just over 8%. (Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNBC / NBC News / CNN / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Nancy Pelosi unveiled a $2.5 trillion coronavirus aid package in the House. The “Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act” would increase the amount of money being offered to individuals from $1,000 to $1,500, and up to $7,500 for a family of five. It also waives $10,000 in federal student loan payments, allocates $150 billion to support hospitals and medical facilities, eliminates cost-sharing for coronavirus treatments and vaccines, provides $500 billion in interest-free loans for small businesses, and much more. (Axios)

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned of “troubling and astronomical numbers” in the rate of coronavirus infections that are rising faster than expected. (The Guardian)

  • New York has 7,000 ventilators but needs 30,000. America’s essential personnel need an estimated 3.5 billion N95 masks. (Axios)

  • The Trump administration is set to use the Defense Production Act for the first time to procure about 60,000 coronavirus test kits. FEMA’s administrator said the federal government was also inserting “DPA language” into its contract for 500 million masks. Trump, however, said “We didn’t have to exercise or utilize the DPA in any way.” Trump has resisted calls to use the act, saying he is concerned about nationalizing American businesses and that his authorization of the DPA serves as enough “leverage” to compel companies to produce medical supplies without invoking the act to force them to start up production. (Wall Street Journal / CNN)

  • The White House coronavirus task force urged anyone who leaves New York City to self-quarantine for 14-days in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. (CNBC)

  • U.S. airlines are drafting plans for a potential voluntary shutdown of virtually all domestic flights. No final decisions have been made by the carriers or the White House. Airlines are also preparing for the possibility that contagion-driven staffing emergencies at air traffic control facilities could make it impossible to continue operating in parts of the country. (Wall Street Journal)

  • The Trump administration stopped collection on defaulted federal student loans amid the coronavirus pandemic “until further notice.” (Politico)

  • India’s prime minister ordered all 1.3 billion people in the country to stay inside their homes for three weeks. “There will be a total ban of coming out of your homes,” the prime minister, Narendra Modi, announced. “Every state, every district, every lane, every village will be under lockdown.” (New York Times)

  • There are at least 52,381 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States. At least 680 people have died. (CNN)

  • 💻 Live Blogs: Washington Post / New York Times / CNN / NBC News / CNBC / The Guardian / Bloomberg

2/ Trump’s patience with Dr. Anthony Fauci has reportedly started to wear thin as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has repeatedly corrected Trump’s falsehoods about the spread of the coronavirus. Dr. Fauci and Trump have publicly disagreed on how long it will take for a coronavirus vaccine to become available and whether chloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, could help. In an interview with Science Magazine, Dr. Fauci addressed Trump’s false statements, saying: “I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down. OK, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time.” Dr. Fauci, the most credible U.S. infectious disease expert on the coronavirus outbreak, has been absent from White House events for three days after contradicting Trump. Meanwhile, Dr. Fauci said: “To my knowledge, I haven’t been fired.” (New York Times / Politico / ABC News / Washington Post / Bloomberg)

3/ Trump said he wants the nation “opened up and just raring to go by Easter” – less than three weeks away – after expressing outrage over having to “close the country” by shutting down businesses and implementing social distancing. Trump predicted that “there will be tremendous death” from shutting down the economy and job losses, suggesting there is “probably” more damage being done to the economy than the threat of the virus spreading further. Trump said that once the 15-day period of social distancing ends next week, “we’ll stay a little bit longer than that” but that he wants the effective shutdown of the country to end “very soon.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, said that the state is expecting the height of coronavirus infections to come in two to three weeks. Trump’s Surgeon General Jerome Adams also said the pandemic is going to get much worse in the U.S. before it gets better. Trump’s comments also came hours after Mike Pence told conservative leaders that White House aides were discussing ways to encourage businesses to reopen and for healthy Americans to return to work at the end of the current 15-day period. “I think it’s possible, why not?” Trump said with a shrug. Health experts, however, point to overwhelming evidence from around the world that closing businesses and schools and minimizing social contact are crucial for avoiding exponentially mounting infections. Trump – again – compared coronavirus to the seasonal flu and auto accidents, despite warnings from his health advisers, including Dr. Fauci, that such analogies are a “false equivalency.” Nevertheless, Trump said: “The faster we go back, the better it’s going to be.” And, earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that “THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (by far) THAN THE PROBLEM!” (Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Politico / CNN / ABC News / NBC News / Bloomberg / Washington Post / Washington Post)

4/ Health officials want Trump to “double down, not lighten up” on social distancing restrictions, contending that the fallout will be worse if the White House eases up now. “Our country wasn’t built to be shut down,” Trump said during a Monday night briefing as the U.S. entered week two of trying to contain the spread of the coronavirus. “America will again and soon be open for business,” Trump said, “a lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting, a lot sooner.” Public health officials warn, however, that relaxing restrictions now could significantly increase the death toll from the virus. Trump’s comments on re-opening the economy came as the U.S. saw 100-plus fatalities and nearly 10,000 more confirmed coronavirus cases – in a single day. (Politico / New York Times / NBC News)

  • 🔥 U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams: “I want America to understand: This week, it’s going to get bad.” The disease is spreading, he said, because many people are not abiding by guidance to stay at home and practice social distancing. (Washington Post / NBC News / Today)

5/ Trump’s private businesses have shut down six of its top seven revenue-producing clubs and hotels because of restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The closures come as Trump is considering easing restrictions on social distancing. (Washington Post)

poll/ 57% of Americans say the nation’s efforts to combat the coronavirus are going badly, 51% call it a crisis, and 47% see a months-long process before it is contained. 88% trust medical professionals for information about the virus compared to 44% who trust Trump. (CBS News)

poll/ 49% of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president – up from 44% earlier this month. (Gallup)


👑 Portrait of a President

  • Trump confronts a crisis unlike any before. Trump is no stranger to crisis. He has spent a lifetime grappling with bankruptcy, fending off creditors, evading tax collectors, defending lawsuits, deflecting regulators, spinning reporters and dueling with estranged wives, usually coming out ahead, at least as he defines it. But these were crises of his own creation involving human adversaries he knew how to confront. Nothing in his background in business, entertainment or multiple marriages prepared him for the coronavirus pandemic now threatening America’s health and wealth. (New York Times)

  • Short-term thinking plagues Trump’s coronavirus response. Inside the Trump administration, officials are continuing to sort out which teams are responsible for elements of coronavirus response, part of an ever-shifting patchwork of alliances and strategy, while working to manage the president’s unpredictable requests. Five officials said that Trump had grown appropriately concerned about the coronavirus outbreak after weeks of ignoring or playing down the threat, but that the administration is now rushing to solve issues that could have been addressed months ago, like obtaining the necessary supplies for the nation’s emergency stockpile. (Politico)

  • Trump’s up-and-down command of a pandemic. All week, Trump reveled in his newfound character — that of a crisis commander steering his skittish nation through battle with what he called an “invisible enemy.” He parried questions, barked orders and stood stoically by as he accepted praise, day after day, from his underlings for his “strong leadership” and “decisive actions.” But on Friday, Trump faltered. He argued based on “just a feeling” that, despite no scientific evidence yet, an anti-malaria drug could cure the coronavirus. He complained that he has not been credited for fixing a nationwide testing system that clearly is still broken. And when asked what message he had for Americans who were scared, he lashed out. (Washington Post)

  • Trump struggles to adjust to crisis presidency. Now, as the coronavirus crisis threatens his presidency, and upends his campaign for reelection, Trump is rapidly losing patience with the medical professionals who have made the case day after day that the only way to prevent a catastrophic loss of life is to essentially shut down the country — to minimize transmission and “flatten the curve” so hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with critical patients. (Associated Press)

  • As the crisis escalates, Trump experiments with a pivot. With his “wartime president” posture failing to stop the slide and his presidency in the balance, Trump toys with reopening the economy early. (Vanity Fair)

  • Trump made 33 false claims about the coronavirus crisis in the first two weeks of March. Trump made 50 false claims from March 2 through March 8, then 21 false claims from March 9 through March 15. Of those 71 false claims, 33 were related to the coronavirus. (CNN)

Day 1159: "The pandemic is accelerating."

1/ The World Health Organization: “The pandemic is accelerating.” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO, said “It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for second 100,000 cases, and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.” More than 34,000 people have contracted the virus in the U.S., and at least 485 people have died. Worldwide, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is nearing 350,000, with at least 15,000 deaths. (CNBC / CBS News)

2/ The Senate failed to pass the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill for the second day in a row. The procedural vote on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act failed 49-46 – short of the 60 vote threshold needed to advance the legislation for a final debate. Democrats argued that the bill disproportionately helps companies and needs to include more benefits for families and health care providers. Republicans, meanwhile, insisted that the bill offers financial assistance to the entire economy and needs to be passed before more people lose their jobs. After the vote, Mitch McConnell warned that the Senate might not be able to pass a bill until Friday or Saturday, blaming Democrats for “mindless obstruction.” Nancy Pelosi said the House would unveil its own coronavirus stimulus bill. (Politico / Washington Post / ABC News / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Washington Post / NBC News)

  • Live Blogs: New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / CNN / ABC News / The Guardian / Bloomberg / CBS News

  • 😷 COVID-ables.

  • Sen. Rand Paul tested positive for COVID-19, making him the first U.S. senator to contract the virus. He does not have any symptoms and said was not aware of any instance where he had direct contact with an infected person. Earlier this month, Paul was the only senator to vote against a bipartisan deal that would have provided $8 billion in emergency coronavirus funding. (Axios)

  • Rep. Ben McAdams has been hospitalized for “severe shortness of breath” after testing positive for COVID-19 last week. McAdams symptoms started getting worse on Friday, so he called the medical hotline for the virus and was told to go to the hospital and check in with the isolation unit. “I was admitted and have been receiving oxygen as I struggled to maintain my blood oxygen at appropriate levels,” McAdams said in a statement. “I am now off oxygen and feeling relatively better and expect to be released as soon as the doctor determines it is appropriate.” (NBC News)

  • The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will be postponed. (USA Today)

  • The United Kingdom issued a three-week national lockdown. All businesses deemed nonessential will close. (NBC News)

3/ The U.S. economy is deteriorating more quickly than anticipated with more than 84 million Americans at home because of shutdowns to combat the coronavirus. The Labor Department is expected to report that roughly 3 million Americans have filed first-time claims for unemployment assistance – more than four times the record high set during the 1982 recession. A JPMorgan Chase economist told clients that the jobless rate could spike to 20% from today’s 3.5%. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard predicted that the U.S. unemployment rate could hit 30% in the second quarter, with a 50% drop in gross domestic product. (Washington Post / Bloomberg / Quartz)

4/ Trump is considering ending “social distancing” guidelines due to concerns about the economic damage from an extended shutdown. Easing guidelines would run counter to recommendations by senior U.S. health officials, who have warned that the U.S. has not yet felt the worst of the pandemic. “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” Trump tweeted late Sunday. “AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!” The 15-day period ends on March 30. Administration officials said there is a growing sentiment that the White House went too far in allowing public health experts to set policy to “flatten the curve” that has hurt the economy. Pence, meanwhile, said the CDC will issue guidance allowing people exposed to the coronavirus to return to work sooner by wearing a mask. (Washington Post / New York Times / Axios / Politico / NBC News / Bloomberg / CNN / Wall Street Journal)

5/ The Trump administration is updating guidance on how hospitals should respond if supplies like masks, face shields, and other protective equipment run out. The coronavirus task force has compared the need for ventilators, masks, and other protective equipment against the current supply and has acknowledged that the stockpile is short of what’s needed. Trade data also shows a decline in imports of medical supplies, including testing swabs, protective masks, surgical gowns, and hand sanitizer, from China starting in mid-February. Some emergency rooms, hospitals and clinics have already run out of supplies, while others are rationing personal protective equipment like gloves and masks. Trump, meanwhile, has resisted appeals from state, local officials, and hospital administrators to invoke the Defense Production Act to compel companies to make face masks and other gear to protect health workers. The American Medical Association called the shortages of protective gear for medical professionals treating coronavirus cases “unacceptable.” (Washington Post / Associated Press / NBC News / New York Times)

  • Trump promoted two unproven drugs to treat coronavirus, which has lead to shortages for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients who depend on them to alleviate symptoms of inflammation, including preventing organ damage in lupus patients. (Washington Post)

  • Governors and mayors in growing uproar over Trump’s lagging coronavirus response. (Washington Post)

  • The Trump administration is considering a special enrollment period for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act because of the coronavirus crisis. Open enrollment for states that use the federal exchange ended on Dec. 15. A special enrollment period because of coronavirus would be aimed partly at ensuring people don’t put off getting tested or treated because they don’t have health insurance. About 30 million Americans are uninsured. (Wall Street Journal)

6/ U.S. intelligence agencies issued classified warnings in January and February about the global danger posed by the coronavirus. The reports didn’t predict when the virus would hit the U.S. or recommend steps public health officials should take, but it did track the spread of the virus in China and warned that Chinese officials appeared to be minimizing the severity of the outbreak.Trump and lawmakers, however, repeatedly played down the threat and failed to take action that might have slowed the spread of the virus. (Washington Post)

7/ The Trump administration eliminated a CDC disease expert position in China a few months before the coronavirus pandemic began. The position, known as resident adviser to the U.S. Field Epidemiology Training Program in China, was funded by the CDC and was focused on helping detect disease outbreaks in China. No other foreign disease experts were embedded to lead the program after Dr. Linda Quick had to leave her post in July amid the U.S. trade dispute with China. The post was officially discontinued as of September 2019. The CDC first learned of a “cluster of 27 cases of pneumonia” of unexplained origin in Wuhan, China on Dec. 31. (Reuters)

8/ The Justice Department asked Congress to allow chief judges to detain people indefinitely without trial during emergencies. In one request, the DOJ asked Congress to give the attorney general and top judges broad powers that would allow them to pause court proceedings during emergencies or “whenever the district court is fully or partially closed by virtue of any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation.” These new powers would apply to “any statutes or rules of procedure otherwise affecting pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-trial, trial, and post-trial procedures in criminal and juvenile proceedings and all civil process and proceedings.” The DOJ’s requests are unlikely to make it through a Democratic-led House. (Politico)

poll/ 72% of Americans say their state’s governors have done a good job dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. 50% say Trump has done a good job, while 45% say he’s done bad job. (Monmouth University Polling Institute)

Day 1156: "The only thing we weren't prepared for."

1/ Senate Republican and Democratic negotiators, as well as senior Trump administration officials kicked off talks on a $1 trillion economic stabilization plan – the third stimulus package Congress has considered this month to confront the coronavirus – with the goal of having a deal by the end of the day. Mitch McConnell has promised to pass the new stimulus though the chamber by Monday despite multiple disagreements over the structure of the bill, which was released Thursday. The initial plan would have given many Americans $1,200 in a one-time payment, but those without federal tax liability – i.e. the poorest Americans – would get as little as $600. Trump has also promised that the initial payment would be substantially higher than $1,000. (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)

  • 💻 Live Blogs: (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / CNN / The Guardian)

  • 😷 COVID-ables:

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all nonessential workers across the state to stay home. The executive order takes effect Sunday evening. (CNN / NBC News)

  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the state’s nearly 40 million residents to stay home. The order takes effect immediately and remains in place “until further notice.” (Politico)

  • Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a “stay at home” order for the entire state starting Saturday at 5 p.m. through April 7. (Chicago Tribune)

  • The U.S. and Mexico agreed to temporarily close the border to nonessential travel. Trump said the move was intended to “reduce the incentive for a mass global migration that would badly deplete” health care resources. (The Hill / Politico / CNN)

  • The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said Americans will likely have to continue practicing social distancing for “at least several weeks.” (NBC News)

  • Student loan borrowers can suspend their federal student loan payments without penalty for at least 60 days. Additionally, interest will be waived for 60 days, starting retroactively on March 13. (CNN)

  • The Department of Education will waive standardized tests for K-12 for states affected by the coronavirus. States must apply for the exemption. (NPR)

  • The Trump administration has held up $40 million in emergency aid Congress approved to help American Indians combat the coronavirus. The initial $8.3 billion coronavirus response package Trump signed into law March 6 allocated $40 million to help support American Indian care providers. (Politico)

  • Trump canceled plans to host the G7 summit at Camp David and will instead hold the gathering of world leaders as a teleconference. White House officials said holding the summit virtually will allow all countries involved to save money on travel and preparations, while also reducing the risk of further contamination. (CNN / Reuters)

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pushed Tax Day from April 15 to July 15. “All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties,” Mnuchin tweeted, adding that Americans with refunds should “file now to get your money.” (NBC News / CNN)

2/ Trump said he’s put the Defense Production Act into “high gear” two days after saying he’d only use it “in a worst case scenario.” The Korean War-era law allows for a government-mandated increase in supply production in response to the coronavirus pandemic. At a coronavirus task force briefing, Trump claimed “we are literally being besieged” by companies “that want to do the work and help our country,” suggesting that General Motors and Ford Motor Co., among others, had volunteered to produce supplies. (CNN / New York Times / CNBC / Reuters / ABC News)

  • Trump’s directed state governors to acquire their own medical equipment, but then the federal government outbid them for protective gear for doctors and nurses, as well as respirators. (Bloomberg / Business Insider)

3/ Trump attacked a reporter on live TV who asked what his message would be to Americans who are frightened by the coronavirus pandemic. Trump responded by calling Peter Alexander, an NBC News correspondent, “a terrible reporter. That’s what I say. I think it’s a very nasty question and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people.” Moments earlier during the coronavirus task force’s daily briefing, Trump’s director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said any evidence about drug therapies being tested was “anecdotal” and not the product of a “clinical trial.” Trump nevertheless said he felt “good” about the treatments and that the federal government had already ordered “millions of units” of them. Later in the briefing, Mike Pence responded to Alexander’s question, saying, “do not be afraid, be vigilant” and went on to explain that the risk of serious illness for most Americans is low. (NBC News / CNN / The Guardian)

  • Trump claimed his administration was fully prepared for the coronavirus, but said the “only thing we weren’t prepared for was the media.” Trump said the media “has not treated it fairly” and complained that NBC News “called me racist and other words” after he called for a ban on travel to the U.S. from China. He went on to accuse mainstream media outlets of “siding with China” and parroting the propaganda from the Chinese Communist Party. (Axios)

4/ At least four senators sold off millions of dollars’ worth of stocks just before the market dropped amid fears of the coronavirus pandemic. Sens. Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler sold off more than a million dollars each in stocks after attending private, senators-only briefings about the severity of the impending coronavirus crisis. Burr, who serves as the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had been receiving daily updates from the intelligence community on threats to the U.S., including the coronavirus, before dumped up to $1.56 million on Feb. 13 – days after he wrote an op-ed for Fox News arguing that the U.S. is “better prepared than ever before” when it comes to facing public health threats like COVID-19. Loeffler, who is married to the chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, and her husband sold up to $3.1 million in jointly owned stocks starting on Jan. 24 – the same day the Senate Health Committee, on which she sits, briefed senators briefing about the coronavirus. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, also a member of the intelligence committee, and her husband sold up to $6 million worth of stock in Jan. and Feb. And, Sen. James Inhofe sold as much as $400,000 in January. Burr said he has asked the Senate Ethics Committee to review his sale. (ProPublica / Daily Beast / NPR / NBC News / Axios / New York Times / Atlanta Journal-Constitution / The Guardian / Washington Post / The Hill / Reuters)

  • 📌 Day 1155: The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned constituents three weeks ago to prepare for dire economic and societal effects from the coronavirus. “There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history,” Sen. Richard Burr said on Feb. 27, according to a secret recording of the remarks. “It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.” On that same day, Trump suggested that the virus is “going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle. It will disappear,” before adding, “it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens.” On Feb 13., Burr sold off between $582,029 and $1.56 million of his holdings despite reassuring the public at the time that the government had the coronavirus outbreak under control. A week later, the stock market began a sharp decline and has lost about 30% since. (NPR / Politico / ProPublica)

5/ The Trump administration asked states to hold off on releasing unemployment claims data before the regularly scheduled national report of weekly U.S. jobless claims. Economists at Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, predict that filings for unemployment will show 2.25 million Americans filed for their first week of benefits this week — eight times the number of people who filed last week and the highest level on record. (Wall Street Journal / CNN / Bloomberg / CNN)

  • Wall Street had its worst week since 2008 with the Dow erasing the so-called “Trump bump” and closing below where it stood the day before Trump was inaugurated. Stocks have collapsed more than 30% in a month, wiping out trillions in value and ending an 11-year long bull market. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / CNBC)

6/ A federal judge froze a House lawsuit seeking to enforce a subpoena for six years of Trump’s federal tax records until an appeals court rules on whether Congress, in a separate case related to Trump’s former White House counsel Donald McGahn, can sue to compel executive branch officials to testify. The House sued the administration in July after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to comply with a subpoena for Trump’s business and tax records issued in May. (Washington Post)

poll/ 55% of Americans approve of Trump’s management of the coronavirus crisis, compared to 43% who disapprove. (ABC News)

Day 1155: "Nobody knew."

1/ The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned constituents three weeks ago to prepare for dire economic and societal effects from the coronavirus. “There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history,” Sen. Richard Burr said on Feb. 27, according to a secret recording of the remarks. “It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.” On that same day, Trump suggested that the virus is “going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle. It will disappear,” before adding, “it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens.” On Feb 13., Burr sold off between $582,029 and $1.56 million of his holdings despite reassuring the public at the time that the government had the coronavirus outbreak under control. A week later, the stock market began a sharp decline and has lost about 30% since. (NPR / Politico / ProPublica)

  • 🚨 The Trump administration simulated a series of pandemic outbreaks from China in 2019 and found the U.S. government response was “underfunded, underprepared, and uncoordinated.” The series of exercises resulted in some 110 million sick Americans, leading to 7.7 million hospitalizations, and 586,000 deaths. The draft report, marked “not to be disclosed,” detailed repeated cases of “confusion” during the exercises. (New York Times)

  • 🚨 Trump claimed that “Nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion” at the daily Coronavirus Task Force briefing today. “Nobody has ever seen anything like this before.” (Washington Post)

  • Trump agreed with a reporter from a right-wing outlet who accused “major left wing news media” of “siding with state propaganda” from China for criticizing his use of the term “Chinese virus.” Trump went on to call the Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal of being “very dishonest” and siding with Chinese propaganda days after calling news media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic “very fair.” Trump added that he wanted to remove 75% to 80% of the journalists in the briefing room in the name of social distancing. (Politico)

2/ Trump promised that a therapeutic drug would be available “almost immediately” only to be contradicted minutes later by the commissioner of the FDA. The drug, chloroquine, hasn’t yet been approved for treatment of COVID-19, but Trump – for some reason – asserted that it was, and that he wanted to “remove every barrier” to test more drugs and “allow many more Americans to access drugs that have shown really good promise.” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, however, cautioned that use of the drug – used to combat malaria – would first need to be part of a controlled trial to find out whether or not it works, and if so, what dose would be safe and effective. Trump, meanwhile, claimed that “it’s not going to kill anybody.” (Bloomberg / The Guardian)

  • 💻 Live Blogs: New York Times / Washington Post / The Guardian / ABC News / NBC News / Bloomberg

  • Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act – a relief package to provide sick leave, unemployment benefits, free coronavirus testing, and food and medical aid to people affected by the pandemic. (NBC News / New York Times)

  • The White House “temporary paused” congressional testimony for senior officials involved in the coronavirus response. (Politico)

  • U.S. confirmed cases of the coronavirus crossed 11,500 infections and 150 deaths. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide passed 242,000. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / ABC News)

  • California projects 56% of residents – 25.5 million people – will become infected by mid-May. Gov. Gavin Newsom requested that the White House deploy the USNS Mercy Hospital Ship to Los Angeles through September “to help decompress our current health care delivery system.” (ABC News)

  • Italy’s coronavirus death toll surpassed China’s. Italy has recorded at least 3,405 deaths, while 3,249 people have died in China — a country with a population more than 20 times larger. (NBC News)

3/ Trump directed governors to obtain the medical equipment they need to fight the coronavirus pandemic, saying the federal government is “not a shipping clerk.” Trump said his administration will “help out wherever we can,” but that acquiring supplies “is really for the local governments, governors and people in the state.” Yesterday, Trump signed an executive order to invoke the Defense Production Act, but tweeted that he’d only use it if needed “in a worst case scenario in the future.” Mike Pence, meanwhile, asked for construction companies to donate their N95 protective masks to local hospitals. (Politico / NPR / CBS News)

  • U.S. hospitals requested $100 billion in direct financial assistance from Congress to respond to the coronavirus pandemic as some hospitals are already running short of supplies for both patients and health care workers. The American Hospital Association warned congressional leaders that “more needs to be urgently done” after two legislative packages, which did not provide direct funding for hospitals, were signed into law. The hospital association also urged Trump to use the Defense Production Act to direct American manufacturers to produce the needed supplies. (NBC News)

  • The CDC advised health care workers to use bandanas or scarves when face masks are not available. “In settings where face masks are not available, [health-care providers] might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort,” the CDC said. “Caution should be exercised when considering this option.” (McClatchy DC / Washington Post / CNN)

  • Trump’s plan to buy 500 million N95 air-filtering face masks could take up to 18 months to be delivered. The government expects the masks to be delivered incrementally.(Bloomberg / Washington Post / Quartz)

  • Trump suggested that cruise ships could be used as floating hospitals to help relieve stress on the health care system. Carnival Cruise Lines reportedly offered to make some ships available to treat non-COVID-19 patients. “Certainly they have a lot of rooms,” Trump said. “They’re big and have a lot of rooms.” (Bloomberg / USA Today)

  • A CDC report showed 38% of those sick enough to be hospitalized were younger than 55. In the CDC report, 20% of the hospitalized patients and 12% of the intensive care patients were between the ages of 20 and 44. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • Two members of Congress tested positive for the coronavirus. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ben McAdams revealed their test results on Wednesday, making them the first two members of Congress to contract the virus. Balart said he started noticing symptoms on Saturday after voting on the floor of the House to approve the coronavirus response bill. McAdams said his symptoms also began on Saturday night. Rep. Drew Ferguson has also been advised to self-quarantine until March 27 after a House doctor informed him that he had “contact with a member of Congress on March 13th that has since tested positive for COVID-19.” (Politico / CNN / NBC News)

4/ The State Department warned Americans against all international travel and advised those abroad to return to the U.S. or prepare to shelter in place “for an indefinite timeframe.” The agency raised its travel advisory to Level 4: Do Not Travel – the most serious category. The agency said Americans who traveled abroad may find their travel plans “severely disrupted” and “may be forced to remain outside of the United States.” (Politico / Associated Press / NBC News / Bloomberg / Washington Post)

  • The Labor Department reported that the initial number of unemployment claims rose to 281,000 last week – a 33% increase from the previous week. It was the largest week-to-week change during – or since – the 2008 financial crisis. More than a million workers are expected to lose their jobs by the end of March. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico)

  • Bank of America: “We are officially declaring that the economy has fallen into a recession.” Bank of America economist Michelle Meyer wrote a note to investors to notify them that the firm expects the U.S. economy to “collapse” in the second quarter and shrink by 12%. They also expect the unemployment rate to nearly double, with a total of roughly 3.5 million jobs lost by the start of Q3. Meyer said she expects a “very slow return to growth thereafter with the economy feeling somewhat more normal by July.” She added that while the firm believes the decline will be severe, it will also be “fairly short lived.” (CNBC / The Hill)

5/ Senate Republicans introduced a $1 trillion emergency coronavirus stimulus bill, which includes direct cash payments for some Americans. The proposal calls for $1,200 direct payments to individuals making $75,000 or less based on a 2018 tax return, or $2,400 for couples filing jointly, plus $500 per child. The payments would decrease for those making more than $75,000, and is capped at $99,000 per individual or $198,000 for couples. Those diagnosed with COVID-19 or those who suffer “adverse financial consequences” can tap into their 401(k)s and IRAs without a penalty. And, taxpayers get up $300 in charitable deductions for 2020. (NBC News / Washington Post / CNN / The Guardian / New York Times)

6/ The Department of Agriculture is fighting to implement changes to SNAP benefits, despite a federal judge’s ruling that it would be “arbitrary and capricious” to move forward during a global health crisis. The new rules were set to go into effect on April 1, but Judge Beryl Howell ordered a freeze on the changes in a ruling last week. The new rules would eliminate states’ ability to waive work and time requirements for SNAP recipients in areas with high unemployment rates. The changes are expected to kick roughly 700,000 people off the program if enacted. (PBS Newshour)

7/ The acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center was fired by the acting director of national intelligence. (Washington Post)

Day 1154: "Just in case we need it."

1/ The Senate approved a coronavirus relief package to provide sick leave, unemployment benefits, free testing, and food and medical aid to people impacted by the pandemic. The bill now goes to Trump, who is expected to sign it. The Senate’s approval of the House-passed coronavirus bill, known as “phase two,” comes as senators are expected to begin negotiations on a $1.3 trillion “phase three” stimulus package. (USA Today / Politico / Washington Post / CNBC / Bloomberg)

  • Rand Paul delayed the Senate vote on the aid package by forcing a vote on an amendment to “require a social security number for purposes of the child tax credit.” The amendment would also give Trump “the authority to transfer funds as necessary, and to terminate United States military operations and reconstruction activities in Afghanistan.” (NBC News)

2/ Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin warned lawmakers that unemployment could reach as high as 20% if they fail to act on a $1.3 trillion White House stimulus package. The “phase three” stimulus would send two $1,000 checks to Americans and allocate $300 billion to help small businesses avoid layoffs. Unemployment currently stands at 3.5%. In Connecticut, about 30,000 claims for unemployment benefits have been filed since Friday – 10 times the average weekly total. In Ohio more than 48,000 applications over two days have been filed, compared to just under 2,000 for the same period the week before. In New Jersey, 15,000 applications arrived on Monday, causing the state’s website to crash. Pennsylvania experienced more than 50,000 applications on Monday and more than that on Tuesday. The leading labor union for hospitality workers said it expects 80% to 90% of its 300,000 members to be out of work due to the coronavirus outbreak. The U.S. Travel Association projects 4.6 million jobs lost this year in the travel industry, which would push the unemployment rate up to 6.3%. It’s estimated that unemployment hit 25% during the Great Depression and 10% during the Great Recession. An official from the Treasury Department later clarified that the 20% figure was not meant to be a forecast, but simply an illustration of what could happen if lawmakers failed to act. (CNBC / NBC News / Washington Post / Politico / HuffPost / New York Times / Bloomberg)

  • The IRS closed field offices in Northern California, Seattle, Puerto Rico, and the New York City area. The Social Security Administration closed 1,400 offices. The federal government has 2.1 million employees and is the nation’s largest employer. (Washington Post)

  • Trump’s federal personnel director quit her post with no notice yesterday, leaving the agency that oversees workplace policy for 2.1 million civil servants with no leader. Office of Personnel Management chief Dale Cabaniss resigned in frustration after just five months on the job due to ongoing tensions with the White House budget office and with John McEntee, a 29-year-old political appointee and Trump loyalist the budget office installed at OPM in the last month. Cabaniss felt she was being micromanaged and that her authority was not respected. Cabaniss’s deputy, Michael Rigas, will take over as acting head of the agency. (Washington Post / Politico)

  • The U.S. and Canada suspended “all nonessential travel” between the two countries. (CNN / Associated Press)

  • Germany closed its borders to travelers from other EU countries. (Politico)

3/ The Dow closed below 20,000 points for the first time since February 2017, erasing nearly all of the index’s gains since Trump’s inauguration. The S&P 500 dropped 5.2% and closed nearly 30% below its record high set last month. Trading was also briefly suspended after a “circuit breaker” meant to ensure orderly market behavior halted trading across the U.S. stock exchanges for 15 minutes. It was the fourth time in a week that a circuit breaker was triggered. (CNBC / Politico / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

  • The New York Stock Exchange will temporarily close its trading floor and move fully to electronic trading starting March 23 after two people tested positive for coronavirus at entrance screenings. (CNBC)

4/ Trump invoked the Defense Production Act “just in case we need it,” allowing the government to boost manufacturing of masks, ventilators, respirators, and other protective gear for health care workers. Trump also ordered two Navy hospital ships with 1,000 beds each to help with the crisis – one to New York, the other to the West Coast – which he described as “the big white ships with the red cross on the sides.” Trump later clarified on Twitter that while he signed the Korean War-era law, he would only “invoke it in a worst case scenario in the future.” (New York Times / Bloomberg / ABC News)

  • The Trump administration is considering mobilizing the National Guard and Reserve at the federal level to help combat the coronavirus. At the state level, 18 governors have already activated more than 1,500 guardsmen to assist with the U.S. response to the virus. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, called on Trump to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to retrofit existing buildings to care for COVID-19 patients. (Politico) / Vox / New York Times)

  • The U.S. and other countries face a shortage of ventilators. U.S. hospitals have roughly 160,000 ventilators and there are another 12,700 in the National Strategic Stockpile. American and European manufacturers, however, say they can’t speed up production to meet global demand. Earlier this week, Trump urged governors to find ways to procure new ventilators, saying “Try getting it yourselves.” (New York Times)

  • The U.S. Air Force flew 500,000 coronavirus test swabs from Italy to Memphis, Tennessee. (Defense One)

  • Trump considered issuing an executive order expand the use of experimental drugs against coronavirus over the objections of FDA scientists, who warned it could pose unneeded risks to patients. The order, entitled the Executive Order to Save Lives, would have allowed any drug or therapy with “evidence of safety” to begin Phase 1 testing for patients infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus disease. (Wall Street Journal)

  • [STUDY] How quickly hospitals can be overwhelmed by coronavirus and why it’s important to “flatten the curve.” In 40% of markets, hospitals would not be able to make enough room for all the coronavirus cases, even if they could empty their beds of other patients. In a best-case scenario, with cases of coronavirus spread out over 18 months, American hospital beds would be about 95% full. (New York Times / ProPublica)

5/ Trump plans to turn back all asylum seekers and other non-U.S. citizens trying to cross the southwestern border illegally. Ports of entry will remain open to U.S. citizens, green card holders, select others with proper documentation, and commercial traffic. But under the new rule, Border Patrol will be under orders to immediately return anyone who tries to cross the southern border between legal ports of entry back to Mexico. Asylum seekers will not be held at any American facility or given due process. (New York Times)

  • Trump – again – attempted to blame China for the spread of the coronavirus by calling it the “China Virus,” which – aside from being racially offensive and inaccurate – advocacy groups say has put Asian Americans at risk of retaliation. “It’s not racist at all,” Trump told reporters. “No, not at all. It comes from China, that’s why. It comes from China. I want to be accurate.” After the emergence of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), the WHO asked national authorities, scientists, and the media to not name a virus after people, a geographic location, a cultural group or even a species of animal, because that can stigmatize communities. Separately, a Chinese American news reporter said that a White House official referred to coronavirus as the “Kung-Flu” to her face. (Politico / ABC News / Associated Press / Vox / Washington Post)

poll/ 70% of Americans say the coronavirus outbreak poses a major threat to the U.S. economy. 47% say it is a major threat to the overall health of the U.S. population. (Pew Research Center)

poll/ 18% of Americans have experienced layoffs and reduced hours due to the coronavirus pandemic. Of those affected, a quarter of households making less than $50,000 had experienced cut hours or a job loss. (NPR)

poll/ 42% of Americans trust Trump to protect the country from the coronavirus, compared to the CDC (75%), National Institutes of Health (68%), and the World Health Organization (66%). (Axios)

Day 1153: "We have it totally under control."

1/ Trump called on Congress “to go big” and approve a $1 trillion stimulus package to address the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which includes distributing roughly $250 billion in cash payments to Americans by the end of April. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin added that the plan would also include roughly $50 billion for the airline industry, because “this is worse than 9/11 for the airline industry.” Congress already passed, and Trump signed into law, an $8.3 billion bill that funds vaccine development and provides money to state and local governments. Last week, the House passed a $100 billion bill to expand unemployment insurance, offer paid sick days, and mandate that testing for the virus be free. Trump is expected to sign the package once the Senate passes the bill. Senate Democrats have also proposed a $750 billion plan that includes more emergency aid for hospitals, expanded unemployment insurance, more funds for small business, help with child care, and food assistance for seniors. In 2008, Congress passed a $700 billion package to try and rescue the financial system. Trump, meanwhile, promised that “if we do this right […] we’re going to win” the “war” against the coronavirus. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal / ABC News / CNBC / NBC News)

  • The federal government postponed the April 15 tax payment deadline for 90 days. The delay is available to people who owe $1 million or less and corporations that owe $10 million or less. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Researchers concluded that “the only viable strategy at the current time” is to keep social distancing measures in place for at least three months. A report by the COVID-19 Response Team at the Imperial College of London argues that suppression – i.e. “social distancing of the entire population” – would prevent U.S. hospitals from becoming extremely overburdened until a vaccine becomes available in about 18 months. Researchers also outlined mitigation policies, which focus on “slowing but not necessarily stopping epidemic spread” by isolating people suspected of having the virus at home and quarantining their contacts. Mitigation could reduce the demand on the health care system by two-thirds and cut the number of deaths in half if applied for three months. The would still result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and in health systems “overwhelmed many times over.” The group shared their projections with the White House task force about a week ago. [Editor’s note: It’s worth reading both of these articles to fully understand the scenarios and expected outcomes. This is extremely sobering research.] (New York Times / Vox)

2/ Trump claimed he “always viewed” coronavirus as a “pandemic long before it was called a pandemic” despite repeatedly minimizing and mocking concern about the threat it posed to Americans. Since January, Trump has boasted that “we have it totally under control”; that “one day” the coronavirus will “disappear” like a “miracle”; that “it’s going to work out fine” because of the “warm weather” in April; that coronavirus is a “new hoax” by Democrats; and to “Just stay calm. It will go away.” (New York Times / CNBC / Politico)

  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned New Yorkers to prepare for a “shelter-in-place” order. A decision will be made in the next 48 hours. (CNBC / Politico / NBC News)

  • The European Union will close its external borders for 30 days. Movement of people within the European Union’s 27 member nations will still be allowed under the restrictions. (CNBC / Politico)

  • Trump’s press secretary is in self-quarantine. (New York Post)

  • Mick Mulvaney is in self-quarantine. (New York Times)

3/ The U.S. military will provide 5 million respirator masks, 2,000 ventilators, and ready its hospital ships in response to the growing coronavirus crisis. The Pentagon will also open up as many as 16 labs to test civilians and potentially call up more members of the National Guard and Reserve. (Wall Street Journal)

  • At least 100 people in the U.S. have died from the coronavirus and at least 5,303 confirmed cases. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • Dozens of health care workers have fallen ill with COVID-19, and more are quarantined after exposure to the virus. (Washington Post)

  • One of the nation’s top cancer hospitals has a week’s supply of masks left and at least five employees and three patients have been diagnosed with COVID-19. (BuzzFeed News)

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs removed its mission statement to serve as a backup health system in times of crisis from its website. The VA’s main three missions are to serve veterans through care, research and training, but a “fourth mission” was added by Congress in 1982: to provide hospital care and medical services to civilians during disasters and emergencies. On Friday, all references to that fourth mission were removed and replaced with information that contains no reference to the mission whatsoever. It is unclear why the page was edited. (Washington Post)

4/ The Justice Department moved to drop charges against two Russian shell companies accused of financing efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Concord Management and Concord Consulting were indicted by Robert Mueller’s team in 2018 — along with 13 Russians and the Internet Research Agency — for using social media to spread disinformation, exacerbate U.S. social divisions, and sabotage the 2016 election. Prosecutors recommended that the DOJ drop the charges to prevent Concord from accessing and potentially publishing a cache of documents that includes details about the government’s sources and methods for investigation. In a motion filed on Monday, prosecutors said Concorcd is “eager and aggressive in using the judicial system to gather information about how the United States detects and prevents foreign election interference.” Prosecutors are still pursuing charges against the 13 Russians and the Internet Research Agency. (Washington Post / New York Times)

poll/ 18% of Americans reported that they had been laid off or that their work hours had been cut because of the coronavirus pandemic. 56% of Americans considered the coronavirus outbreak a “real threat,” while 38% said it was “blown out of proportion.” (Los Angeles Times)

poll/ 46% of Americans say the federal government is doing enough to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, down from 61% in February. 37% of Americans say they have trust in what Trump says about the crisis, while 60% say they don’t trust what he’s saying. (NPR)

Day 1152: "This is bad."

1/ Trump recommended all Americans avoid groups of 10 or more people, stop discretionary travel, avoid bars, restaurants, gyms, and other public places for the next 15 days, saying the coronavirus pandemic “is a bad one, this is a very bad one, this is bad in the sense that it’s so contagious, it’s just so contagious, sort of record-setting type contagion.” Trump also recommended that schools close nationwide and for parents to homeschool their children when possible. Trump, however, said he was not considering a national curfew to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, but that Americans should expect cases to extend into at least July. Trump then proceeded to give his administration’s response to the epidemic a 10 out of 10, saying “I think we’ve done a great job.” There have been more than 4,000 confirmed cases in the U.S. and 71 deaths. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / NPR / Bloomberg / The Guardian / Bloomberg / NBC News / CNBC)

  • The CDC recommended canceling all gatherings of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks. (CNN)

  • San Francisco ordered 7 million residents to “shelter in place” until April 7 to help contain the coronavirus outbreak. Mayor London Breed said the city “will require people to stay home except for essential needs,” adding that places like grocery stores, gas stations, convenience stores, and banks will remain open. The order affects residents of six Bay Area Counties, including San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties. (KRON 4 / CNBC / Bloomberg)

  • Governors in 26 states and the District of Columbia announced statewide school closures, impacting nearly 30 million children across the U.S. — more than half of the nation’s school enrollment. (Wall Street Journal / NBC News)

  • Ohio postponed the state’s primaries until June. Ohio is one of four states with primaries scheduled on Tuesday, along with Arizona, Florida and Illinois. (WBNS 10 / Columbus Dispatch / NBC News / Politico)

  • Georgia elections officials postponed the state’s March 24 presidential primary until May due to the coronavirus. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution / NBC News)

  • Most of the 2.1 million federal workers in the U.S. reported to work in person today, despite widespread closures and recommended social distancing. The Trump administration urged agencies in the D.C. area to “offer maximum telework flexibilities” to employees who are eligible for remote work, but the directive was not mandatory and left out most government employees. 15% of federal workers are located in the D.C. area. Mike Pence, meanwhile, sent White House staff an email recommending social distancing and to “avoid physical contact” with their colleagues. (Washington Post / Axios)

2/ The House passed a coronavirus aid package, which directs tens of billions of dollars for paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, free testing, and other resources intended to help stem the crisis and stabilize financial markets. Trump endorsed the legislation on Twitter and Mitch McConnell suggested that it has support in the Senate. (Vox / NBC News / Washington Post)

3/ The Dow dropped nearly 3,000 points – its worst day since the “Black Monday” market crash in 1987 and its third-worst day ever. The S&P 500 fell 12%, wiping out its 2019 gains and is now down almost 30% from its all-time high reached less than a month ago. All U.S. indices are now in a bear market. Trump, meanwhile, acknowledged that the U.S. “may” be heading toward a recession, but promised there would be a “tremendous surge” in the economy as a result of “pent-up demand” and that “the market will take care of itself […] once we get rid of the virus.” (Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNBC / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)

  • The Federal Reserve cut interest rates to near zero and offered to buy at least $500 billion in Treasury securities and $200 billion in mortgage-backed securities in order to protect the U.S. economy. The moves represent the most dramatic steps taken by the U.S. central bank since the 2008 financial crisis. (CNBC / Wall Street Journal / Vox / NPR / Bloomberg / Politico / Washington Post)

  • Trump applauded the Federal Reserve’s move to cut interest rates, saying “It makes me very happy,” adding that “people in the market should be very thrilled.” The last time the Fed cut rates so low was during the global financial crisis just more than a decade ago. (CNN / CNBC)

  • U.S. airline industry asked more than $50 billion in federal assistance — more than three times the size of the industry’s bailout after the Sept. 11 attacks. The request included $25 billion in grants for passenger carriers, $4 billion in grants for cargo, and $25 billion in loan guarantees. Trump said it’s “not their fault” and that his administration will back airlines “100%” but did not specify if there would be loans or a bailout of the airline industry. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / CNN)

4/ Trump offered “large sums” of money to a German company for exclusive access to a COVID-19 vaccine so that it would be available in the U.S. first. Trump offered the CEO of CureVac roughly $1 billion for access to a vaccine “only for the United States” at the White House on March 2. Germany’s Health Ministry confirmed that Trump had made the offer and that Berlin has been offering CureVac financial incentives to remain in Germany. (Welt / New York Times / Politico / Reuters / Vox / Washington Post / The Guardian)

  • Trump told governors that states should work on getting their own respirators and ventilators, and to not wait for the federal government to provide them. (New York Times)

  • Trump tested negative for the coronavirus. Meanwhile, the White House started checking the temperatures of anyone in close contact with Trump or Mike Pence. (CNN / Associated Press / Politico / Washington Post)

  • The first clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine will begin today. The vaccine will be tested on 45 young, healthy volunteers, who will receive different doses of the experimental vaccine that were co-developed by the the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc. Officials said it will take anywhere from a year to 18 months to fully validate any potential vaccine. (Associated Press)

  • An emergency room doctor at EvergreenHealth in Washington state tested positive for coronavirus and is in critical condition. The hospital at the center of the coronavirus outbreak in King County. (Seattle Times)

  • The White House announced more coronavirus drive-through and walk-through testing locations will open this week. The sites will be equipped to test 2-4,000 people per day. Priority status will be given to healthcare workers, first responders, people over the age of 65, as well as those with respiratory symptoms and fevers above 99.9 degrees. Adm. Brett Giroir, who is coordinating testing efforts for the Department of Health and Human Services, said the U.S. is currently “going from somewhat manual, relatively slow phases, to a testing regimen that we can test many tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of individuals per week, and maybe even more.” Officials said roughly 2 million tests are expected to be available this week and more than 10 states currently have drive-through testing sites. (NPR)

5/ The Dept. of Health and Human Services was hit with a cyberattack. The activity was a distributed denial of service – not a hack – designed to overload the HHS servers with millions of hits over several hours. The attack reportedly didn’t succeed in significantly slowing the agency’s systems. (Bloomberg / ABC News / Axios)

poll/ 60% of Americans believe the worst is yet to come for the U.S. coronavirus pandemic, 40% say their daily lives will change as a result of the pandemic, and 45% approve of Trump’s handling of the pandemic — almost identical to his 46% overall job performance rating. (NBC News)


✏️ Notables.

  1. Trump is “strongly considering” a full pardon for former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about the nature of his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak prior to Trump’s inauguration. “After destroying his life & the life of his wonderful family (and many others also), the FBI, working in conjunction with the Justice Department, has ‘lost’ the records of General Michael Flynn,” Trump tweeted shortly after the Justice Department initiated a review of the criminal case against Flynn. “How convenient,” he added. “I am strongly considering a Full Pardon!” Flynn is currently attempting to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming that he was the victim of prosecutorial misconduct during his initial trial. (CNBC / Washington Post / New York Times / CNN)

  2. The Supreme Court will delay oral arguments over concerns about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The court was scheduled to hear a handful of high-profile cases starting next week, including the March 31 argument over Trump’s attempts to keep Congress and a New York prosecutor from seeing his tax returns and other financial documents. The court has not disrupted its own operations since the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which resumed a month later. The justices still plan to conduct their regular closed-door conference on Friday, but some of them will likely participate over the phone. The announcement did not say when oral arguments would resume. (NBC News / Politico / Associated Press)

  3. Mitch McConnell has been privately contacting sitting federal judges and urging them to retire so they can be replaced while the Republicans still hold the Senate and the White House. McConnell and other Senate Republicans have contacted an unknown number of Republican-nominated judges who are eligible to retire and reminding them that if they don’t retire soon they may have to wait another eight years before they can leave under another Republican administration. More than 90 Republican-nominated judges are either currently eligible or will become eligible this year to enter “senior status,” which allows their spots on the bench to be filled, even though they’ll still be allowed to hear cases, hire clerks, and receive full pay. (New York Times)


👑 Portrait of a President.

  • Inside the Trump administration’s troubled coronavirus response: Infighting, missteps and a son-in-law hungry for results. (Washington Post)

  • Inside Trump’s failed attempt to calm coronavirus fears: In the most scripted of presidential settings, a prime-time televised address to the nation, Trump decided to ad-lib — and his errors triggered a market meltdown, panicked travelers overseas and crystallized for his critics just how dangerously he has fumbled his management of the coronavirus. (Washington Post)

  • How Trump changed course on coronavirus: In the span of 48 hours, from the moment markets plunged after a confusing and stiff Oval Office address to his national emergency declaration from the Rose Garden, Trump watched his own assessment of the viral outbreak transform in extraordinary fashion, forcing him into a course correction. (Politico)

  • Inside the fight over Trump’s virus speech: The speech was Trump delivering – one day late – a report he promised to the nation on his virus plan. It came after a rolling, day-long series of meetings at the White House, capped by Trump’s decision to endorse the travel restrictions. But beyond the travel ban, the economic measures he announced – paid family leave and small business loans – were modest and vague. (Bloomberg)

  • How the White House bungled the coronavirus response: Trump’s own advisers acknowledged to NBC News that the failure to focus on widespread testing was a major misstep. (NBC News)

  • Trump finds his MAGA movement fracturing over coronavirus. While the MAGA movement is divided over how seriously to take the coronavirus threat or how to tackle it, the message among his supporters is increasingly unanimous: If Trump fails to control the virus, prevent its spread and prove his leadership, much less save the economy, he will lose the election and cripple his movement. (Politico)

  • The complete list of Trump’s attempts to downplay the coronavirus threat. Trump made his first public comments about the coronavirus on Jan. 22, saying “we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” (New York Times)

Day 1149: "Full-scale disaster."

1/ Trump declared a national emergency – which he described as “two very big words” – to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Trump then shook hands with members of his team. The declaration will “open up access” to $50 billion in emergency funding, lift restrictions on doctors and hospitals to “do as they want,” and waive student loan interest. Trump also announced plans for a large-scale drive-thru protocol for testing for the virus, but said “We don’t want everybody taking this test. It’s totally unnecessary.” Trump then blamed existing rules set by prior administrations for limiting options, saying “I don’t take responsibility at all” for the lack of available testing. The administration expects 1.4 million additional tests to be available next week and five million within a month. When asked about the closure of the White House’s pandemic response team in 2018, Trump called it a “nasty question” and denied firing the team. Trump also announced that the government would buy large quantities of crude oil for the nation’s strategic reserve while oil prices are low. (Politico / NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / CNN / Wall Street Journal / The Guardian)

  • Trump criticized the CDC for its response to COVID-19 and blamed the Obama administration for the situation. In a pair of tweets, Trump — without evidence — claimed that the CDC knew its testing system for large-scale pandemics was “inadequate” and “did nothing about it.” Trump also called the Obama administration’s response to the Swine flu pandemic a “full scale disaster” and said Obama “made changes that only complicated things further.” (NBC News / New York Times)

  • The CDC’s worst-case scenario projects that as many as 200,000 to 1.7 million Americans could die from coronavirus. Between 160 million and 214 million people in the U.S. could be infected during the pandemic, which could last months to over a year. And, 2.4 million to 21 million people in the U.S. could require hospitalization. The U.S. has about 925,000 staffed hospital beds. (New York Times / USA Today)

  • [QUOTABLE] “The federal response has been a fiasco.”Dr. Ashish Jha of the Harvard Global Health Institute (PBS)

  • [QUOTABLE] “The system is not really geared to what we need right now. That is a failing. Let’s admit it.” – Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NBC News)

  • [ANALYSIS] Trump as Bystander. School superintendents, sports commissioners, college presidents, governors, and business owners have taken it upon themselves to shut down much of American life without clear guidance from Trump. (New York Times)

  • [OPINION] Trump failed the defining test of his presidency. He attempted to calm the nation, provide clarity, and offer a clear plan of action, but accomplished none of those things in his Oval Office address on the coronavirus. (The Atlantic)

2/ The Trump administration blocked states from using Medicaid to expand medical services as part the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. During major disasters, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has traditionally loosened Medicaid rules, allowing states to quickly sign up poor patients for coverage so they can get necessary testing or treatment. Until now, Trump has been reluctant to declare a national emergency, as previous administrations did after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the H1N1 flu, because it would contradict with his repeated efforts to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic. (Los Angeles Times)

  • [REPORT] The White House knew of coronavirus’ “major threat,” but infighting at the Department of Health and Human Services and the need to flatter Trump impeded the response to the coronavirus. (NPR)

  • [REPORT] A former homeland security adviser repeatedly tried to be patched through to Trump or Mike Pence to warn them how dire the pandemic really is, but was blocked by White House officials. (New York Times)

3/ The FDA granted emergency approval for a new coronavirus test that works about 10 times faster. The test was developed by Roche and is designed to run on the company’s automated machines, which are already installed in more than 100 laboratories across the U.S. It will be available immediately and labs will be able to process as many as 4,000 samples a day. (Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / TechCrunch / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Jared Kushner tapped his brother’s wife’s father to crowd-source coronavirus response recommendations from physicians on Facebook. Kurt Kloss sent Kushner 12 recommendations after consulting the Facebook group, EM Docs, which has nearly 22,000 members. (Politico)

  • The Australian minister for home affairs tested positive for coronavirus days after meeting with Attorney General William Barr, Ivanka Trump, and Kellyanne Conway. (CNN / New York Times)

  • Miami’s mayor tested positive for COVID-19 four days after attending an event with a Brazilian government official who later tested positive for the virus. Mayor Francis Suarez was one of several politicians, including Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Sen. Rick Scott and Trump, who interacted with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his staff last week. Fabio Wajngarten, press secretary to Bolsonaro, tested positive. (Miami Herald)

  • A second person who visited Mar-a-Lago last weekend tested positive for coronavirus, according to emails from Republican party officials to other guests who were present. Trump was has been near two people in two days who have since been diagnosed as infected. (Washington Post)

  • Trump said he will “most likely” get tested for coronavirus after all, but insisted that it was not because of who he’s recently has been in contact with. “I think I will do it anyway,” Trump said. “Fairly soon.” (Washington Post / CNN)

4/ Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would vote on a multi-billion dollar aid package to address the coronavirus pandemic, which would guarantee sick pay for workers, boost food programs for children, families and seniors, provide free testing, and more. Pelosi implored the Trump administration and congressional Republicans to back the effort and “put families first” after days of negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Trump, however, accused Democrats of “not doing what’s right for the country” because the bill would, among other things, provide paid leave to Americans who can’t work during the pandemic, but not include his demand for a payroll tax cut. Top Republicans haven’t committed their support, saying they want assurances that Trump will support the agreement. (Politico / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / CNN)

  • The Trump administration plans to move ahead with enacting strict work requirements on people who use food stamps. Starting April 1, people without a disability or children are required to work 20 hours per week to qualify for SNAP. The White House projects 700,000 people would lose SNAP eligibility as a result. (BuzzFeed News)

Notables.

  1. Louisiana postponed its presidential primary, which was originally scheduled for April 4. The election will be delayed until June 20. (Politico / Wall Street Journal)

  2. Los Angeles shut down the nation’s second-largest school system. San Diego Unified School District will also shut down. (Los Angeles Times)

  3. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have (so far) resisted closing the school system – the nation’s largest school system. (New York Times)

  4. The acting director of national intelligence ordered a department-wide hiring freeze and review of the agency’s mission and personnel. Some current and former officials questioned why Richard Grenell ordered the large-scale reorganization, which some of his predecessors had considered but set aside, even though his role is temporary. An assistant director of national intelligence said the move was “not an effort to purge,” but simply an attempt to “make sure scarce intelligence community resources are used in the best way possible.” Trump recently tapped Rep. John Ratcliffe to be his fifth DNI, but the Senate has yet to set a date for Ratcliffe’s confirmation hearing. (New York Times)

  5. The U.S. carried out airstrikes against multiple Iranian-backed militia sites in Iraq in response to a rocket attack on a base where coalition forces are located. (CNN)

Day 1148: Canceled.

1/ Trump banned foreign visitors from most of Europe for 30-days in an effort to curb the growing COVID-19 pandemic. Trump blamed European and Chinese travelers for bringing the “foreign virus” to the U.S., while accusing the European Union of “[failing] to take the same precautions” the U.S. had implemented to contain the coronavirus outbreak. The ban, which begins Friday at midnight, does not apply to the United Kingdom or to U.S. citizens, and there are waivers under multiple circumstances. Reading from a prepared script, Trump incorrectly described his own policy, saying that the travel restrictions would impact a “tremendous amount” of trade and cargo. The White House later clarified that the ban would not include cargo. Trump urged Americans to heed the CDC’s guidelines for Americans to protect themselves and others from the spread of the virus – instructions he has repeatedly contradicted, ignored, or downplayed over the last few weeks – and claimed the government was moving “very quickly” to fix a chronic shortage of coronavirus test kits. Trump, however, provided no specifics about how many Americans would be able to be tested, and when and where those tests could occur. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / CNN / ABC News / The Intercept)

  • The U.S. did not coordinate or notify the European Union before Trump announced the travel restrictions. The European Union also condemned Trump’s decision to ban travelers from most of Europe visiting the U.S., saying “The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action.” (NBC News / Politico / Reuters / Al Jazeera)

  • Trump’s European travel restrictions exempt nations where his three golf courses are located. Trump has two properties in the United Kingdom – Trump Turnberry and Trump International Golf Links in Scotland – plus another resort in Doonbeg, Ireland. (Politico / Business Insider)

  • Trump suggested that it’s a “possibility” he could impose travel restrictions within the U.S. if certain areas get “too hot.” Trump also defended his restrictions on travel from Europe, saying that he didn’t consult with E.U. leaders because he had to “move quickly.” (NBC News / Politico)

  • EXPLAINED: Trump’s travel ban. (Politico)

2/ The CDC tested 77 total people for coronavirus on Monday and Tuesday. The total number of people tested for the coronavirus in the U.S. by the CDC as of Wednesday morning was 1,784. Meanwhile, 7,617 people have been tested by state laboratories. The U.S. has 1,300 confirmed cases, with 38 deaths. Lawmakers, meanwhile, are “frustrated” with the CDC’s “struggle to give a really strong answer” about why the U.S. hasn’t been able to duplicate the testing being used in other countries like South Korea. (Yahoo News / CNN)

3/ Trump met with a Brazilian official at Mar-a-Lago who later tested positive for coronavirus. Fabio Wajngarten, communications secretary to Jair Bolsonaro, accompanied the Brazilian president on the visit to Florida and dined with Trump and other U.S. official on Saturday. The White House said Trump will not be tested for the coronavirus because “Both the president and vice president had almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive.” Sen. Rick Scott and Sen. Lindsey Graham, however, decided to self-quarantine due to possible contact with Wajngarten. Two days ago, Bolsonaro said the danger posed by coronavirus “is not all the mainstream media makes it out to be.” Trump, meanwhile, told reporters: “Let’s put it this way: I’m not concerned.” (NPR / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / CNN / The Guardian)

  • A Senate staffer tested positive for COVID-19. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office announced that the staffer has been placed in isolation and that the office will be closed for the rest of the week to undergo cleaning. The case marks the first known incident of a congressional staffer contracting the virus. (The Hill)

  • Satellite images show new sections of graveyards in Iran the size of a football field near where coronavirus infections emerged. While Iran’s government has not released an official death toll for Qom, the spiritual center of Iran’s ruling Shiite clerics, Iranian authorities began digging a pair of trenches for victims days after the government disclosed the initial outbreak. Iran’s Health Ministry officially said that 429 people have died from COVID-19 in the country. (Washington Post)

4/ Trump is expected to sign a limited federal disaster declaration to cover small business loans, paychecks for hourly workers, and delay tax bills in an effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Trump, however, is reportedly concerned that going further would undermine his narrative that the coronavirus is similar to the seasonal flu and further hurt the markets. (CNN / Politico / Politico)

  • Mike Pence said people are using “irresponsible rhetoric” to downplay the seriousness of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak. On Monday, Trump said the “fake news media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything to inflame the coronavirus situation.” (NBC News)

  • Trump attacked Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi nine hours after calling on lawmakers to “put politics aside [and] stop the partisanship.” (New York Times)

5/ The Trump administration and House Democrats are negotiating a bipartisan deal on an economic coronavirus relief package, which would provide food security assistance, paid sick leave, free coronavirus testing, and unemployment benefits for people affected by the spread of the pandemic. The House hopes to vote on the package Thursday and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would cancel next week’s recess to advance “bipartisan legislation to continue combating the coronavirus and keep our economy strong.” Trump, however, objected to what he called Democratic “goodies” in the bill – specifically an increase in federal funding for Medicaid and changes to what that White House said could provide money for abortions. Republicans are opposed to the paid sick leave proposal, complaining that Democrats are using the pandemic to accomplish long-held domestic priorities, which McConnell called an “ideological wish list.” (Washington Post / Politico / Bloomberg / New York Times / New York Times / Reuters)

6/ The S&P 500 and Dow both had their worst day since the 1987 Black Monday market crash. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also joined the Dow in bear market territory — a decline of 20% from the most recent highs. Trading was halted twice after triggering thresholds in premarket trading and immediately after the opening bell. Trump, meanwhile, predicted that the markets are “going to all bounce back and it’s going to bounce back very big.” (Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / CNBC / NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Trump – in an explosive tirade – reportedly pressured Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to encourage the Federal Reserve to do more to stimulate the economy. Trump complained that Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is damaging his presidency and should never have been appointed. Mnuchin encouraged Trump to nominate Powell in 2017. (Washington Post)

  • The Federal Reserve said it would inject more than $1.5 trillion of temporary liquidity into the financial system. The action is not intended to stimulate the economy, but ensure proper functioning of the market for Treasuries, which influences all other credit markets. (Wall Street Journal / Politico / CNBC)

7/ The Pentagon is waiting on Trump to decide how to respond to an attack in Iraq that killed two U.S. troops. Iranian-backed militia groups fired about 30 rockets in Iraq, with about 12 to 18 hitting a base north of Baghdad. (Washington Post)


Canceled.

  1. Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered Californians to cancel or postpone gatherings of 250 or more people statewide through the end of March. California now has 198 confirmed coronavirus case. (The Mercury News / Los Angeles Times)

  2. Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned gatherings of 500 or more people across New York state. New York now has 328 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. (New York Times / CNBC)

  3. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency, saying large venues like Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden will likely be closed for months. (CNBC)

  4. All Broadway theaters in New York City are closed. The Broadway League announced that the ban will be in effect until Sunday, April 12. (Time Out / Variety)

  5. Schools in Ohio are closed for at least three weeks. Gov. Mike DeWine said the “extended spring break” will begin Monday. (Cleveland.com)

  6. Washington State closed all K-12 schools, public and private, in the Seattle metro area until April 24. Across the King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties, nearly 563,600 students attend public or charter schools. Roughly 216,700 of them qualify for subsidized meals. (Seattle Times)

  7. Maryland closed all public schools through March 27 and banned gatherings of more than 250 people. (NBC Washington)

  8. France closed all schools and universities until further notice. (Washington Post)

  9. Disneyland is closed until the end of the month. Its the fourth time in history that Disneyland has fully suspended operations. The park previously closed following the Sept. 11 attacks, the morning after JFK’s assassination, and the Northridge earthquake. (Variety)

  10. The NBA suspended its season “until further notice” after two Utah Jazz players tested positive for the coronavirus. Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell both tested positive. (ESPN / Bleacher Report)

  11. The NCAA canceled the March Madness basketball tournaments. The ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12, American, Atlantic 10, Conference USA, MAC, America East, Big Sky, and WAC also all canceled their conference basketball tournaments. Kansas and Duke banned all athletic travel indefinitely. (CNBC / ESPN / Washington Post)

  12. The NHL suspended its season with 189 games and three and a half weeks remaining in the regular season. (ESPN)

  13. MLS suspended its season for 30 days and the U.S. Soccer Federation canceled scheduled friendlies. (ESPN)

  14. MLB suspended the remainder of spring training. MLB was scheduled to open its season on March 26, with all 30 teams in action. (ESPN)

  15. The PGA Tour will continue to play but fans will not be allowed to attend the events through April 5. (Bleacher Report)

  16. The NFL said it has “no plans to move the start of the league year,” which starts March 18. (ESPN)

Day 1147: "It's going to get worse."

1/ The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, saying “We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction.” The declaration came as the number of known cases surpassed 120,000 worldwide with at least 4,369 deaths, and has spread to more than 100 countries. (Politico / NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times)

  • MORE:

  • Trump will address the nation at 9 p.m. ET. Trump said he would be making “both” health and economic related announcements from the Oval Office. (NBC News)

  • The Dow entered a bear market, closing down 20.3% from its record high and ending an 11-year bull market. All three indexes are in negative territory for the year and the S&P 500 is down 19% from its Feb. 19 peak. (Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNBC / MarketWatch / New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)

  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other senators plan to ask Trump to issue an emergency declaration for the coronavirus pandemic, which would allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to use more than $40 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund to assist local state government in their response to the coronavirus. (CNN)

  • House Democrats plan to vote Thursday on a coronavirus relief package that will include expanded unemployment insurance, paid sick leave, and food security assistance in order to contain economic concerns. The Senate, however, is unlikely to act before next week’s scheduled congressional recess. (Politico / Washington Post)

  • The CDC Director said U.S. labs don’t have an adequate stock of the supplies needed for coronavirus testing. Robert Redfield said there’s a growing scarcity of “RNA extraction” kits, which are needed to prepare samples for testing. (Politico)

  • Two Trump allies received coronavirus testing despite showing no symptoms of respiratory illness. The CDC recommended that health care providers prioritize tests for hospitalized patients who are exhibiting coronavirus symptoms and elderly and medically fragile individuals. (Washington Post)

  • The White House is considering moving all of Europe to a Level 3 travel advisory, which discourages all nonessential travel to those regions. (Washington Post)

2/ A top U.S. health official testified that the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. is “going to get worse,” saying “we will see more cases, and things will get worse than they are right now.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the House Oversight and Reform Committee that COVID-19 is at least 10 times “more lethal” than the seasonal flu, even if the mortality rate drops below the World Health Organization’s current estimate of 3.4%. (NPR / Politico / CNBC / ABC News)

  • Up to 150 million Americans are expected to contract the coronavirus, according to Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician of Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court. Monahan told Senate staffers during a closed-door meeting that he expects between 70-150 million people in the U.S. — about a third of the country — to contract the coronavirus. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that up to 70% of the country’s population - some 58 million people - could contract the coronavirus. (Axios / CNBC / Daily Beast / BBC)

  • Trump held an emergency meeting at the White House with top U.S. health officials. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said a hearing on the U.S. coronavirus response had to be cut short as a result and “There seems to be a great deal of confusion and a lack of coordination at the White House.” (CNBC)

3/ Since mid-January, the White House has ordered all meetings discussing coronavirus to be classified. The move restricted staffers, federal health officials, and government experts without security clearances from participating in discussions about the scope of the epidemic, quarantines, and travel restrictions, which potentially delayed the administration’s response to the crisis. The meetings were held at the Department of Health and Human Services in a secure area called a “Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility,” which is usually reserved for intelligence and military operations. One administration official suggested that security clearances were required not to protect national security, but to prevent leaks. Another official added: “This came directly from the White House.” (Reuters)

4/ The Trump administration is developing plans for hundreds of thousands of federal workers to work from home to limit exposure to the coronavirus. The Office of Personnel Management called on the heads of government agencies to go over their telecommuting policies with the nearly 2.1 million federal employees under their collective jurisdiction. The Trump administration scaled back working from home in January, but federal agencies are now looking to expand their policies. (Washington Post)

  • Washington State banned all gatherings of more than 250 people in the Seattle metro area. Gov. Jay Inslee said it is “very likely” the ban could extend beyond March and could be expanded in the days to come. Shortly after the announcement, Seattle Public Schools announced that schools would close for a minimum of two weeks. (Seattle Times / KIRO 7)

  • San Francisco canceled all public gatherings of 1,000 or more people for at least two weeks. In light of the moratorium, the Chase Center will be empty for Thursday’s Warriors game against the Brooklyn Nets. (San Francisco Chronicle / KTVU)

  • The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be played with no fans present. The games begin Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio, and will be played “with only essential staff and limited family attendance.” (USA Today / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

  • Italy ordered a nationwide closure of all restaurants and bars, as well as most stores. (Wall Street Journal)

  • A coronavirus conference was canceled because of coronavirus. The Council on Foreign Relations was due to hold a roundtable titled “Doing Business Under Coronavirus” on Friday, but decided to cancel it due to the spread of the virus. (Bloomberg / New York Post)

  • Harvey Weinstein unfortunately does not have coronavirus but will, however, serve 23 years for sexually assaulting two women. The judge imposed 20 years for a first-degree criminal sex act and three years for third-degree rape, to be served consecutively. (Washington Post / The Guardian)

5/ The Treasury Department is considering extending the April 15 tax deadline in response to the economic disruption caused by the coronavirus. Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee sent a letter to the IRS commissioner asking for an update on the agency’s plans, saying they are “concerned about the ability of the IRS to provide taxpayer assistance and process returns, as well as the ability of taxpayers, free tax preparation sites, and tax professionals to meet the filing deadline.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he would recommend to Trump that the IRS delay tax payments without penalty or interest for “virtually all Americans other than the superrich.” (Wall Street Journal / New York Times / CNN)


Notables.

  1. The Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to maintain its “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers despite a lower court saying the policy was at odds with both federal law and international treaties and was causing “extreme and irreversible harm.” The program has forced about 60,000 asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their requests are heard. The order allows the program to continue while lawsuits challenging the legality of the Migrant Protection Protocols program make their way through the federal court system. (Washington Post / New York Times / Associated Press / Axios)

  2. A special interest group paid Trump’s National Doral resort $700,650 for an event in 2017. Less than two weeks after the November meeting, the Trump administration announced its support for a policy the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute had lobbied in favor of. (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)

  3. The Trump Organization paid bribes, through middlemen, to lower its property tax bills for several Manhattan buildings in the 1980s and 1990s. Two city employees said they personally took bribes to lower the assessment on a Trump property, while three others said they had indirect knowledge of the payments. (ProPublica)

  4. Trump’s moon mission could cost $50 billion. The White House mandated a return to the lunar surface by 2024, but the rocket and spacecraft NASA plans to use to get astronauts to the moon has been plagued by oversight and performance issues. (Washington Post)

Day 1146: "Everything is working out."

1/ Trump – again – downplayed the severity of the coronavirus epidemic, saying “everything is working out” and that “it will go away, just stay calm.” There have been more than 800 cases of coronavirus in the U.S., including 27 deaths. And, despite markets showing continued volatility following Wall Street’s worst day since the 2008 financial crisis, Trump suggested that “The consumer has never been in a better position than they are right now.” (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • Trump invited a group of Wall Street executives to the White House to discuss the response to COVID-19 after stock market losses. The seven biggest banks in the U.S. were invited, and at least two of them plan to send their CEO to attend the meeting on Wednesday. (CNBC)

2/ Trump pitched Republican lawmakers on a 0% payroll tax rate that would last through the November election as the White House tries to put together an economic stimulus plan to counteract the impact from the coronavirus outbreak. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Trump called the meeting “great” and said there was “tremendous unity” despite the meeting ending without a plan for crafting an economic package. Republican and Democratic senators also expressed reluctance about a payroll tax cut to address the economic impact. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, is working on an economic stimulus package to ensure workers have access to free coronavirus tests and paid sick leave. Payroll taxes are paid by employers and employees to fund Social Security, Medicare, and other government programs. (CNBC / Bloomberg / Washington Post / Politico)

  • YESTERDAY: Trump promised “very substantial” economic measures to combat the fallout from the coronavirus, including aid for the airline and cruise industries, and expanding loans by the Small Business Administration.(Bloomberg / New York Times / Politico)

  • ALSO: The White House is considering federal assistance for oil and natural gas producers hit by plummeting oil prices amid the coronavirus outbreak and a price war that broke out between Saudi Arabia and Russia. (Washington Post)

3/ The Trump administration postponed an annual intelligence report – without explanation – that warns that the U.S. remains unprepared for a global pandemic. The office of the Director of National Intelligence was scheduled to deliver the Worldwide Threat Assessment to the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 12. The hearing, however, has not been rescheduled. Two officials who have read the classified report, said that the warnings are similar to those published in the 2019 report, which states: “The United States will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support.” (Time)

  • The CDC expanded its guidance for people over 60 or who have chronic illnesses to stock up on goods and plan for a lengthy stay at home. The CDC also recommended that travelers with underlying health conditions “avoid non-essential travel.” (CNBC)

  • 📌 Day 1135: A worldwide threats assessment in 2018 and 2017 warned about the increasing risks of a global pandemic that could strain resources and damage the global economy. Intelligence analysts even mentioned a close cousin of the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus by name, saying it had “pandemic potential” if it were “to acquire efficient human-to-human responsibility.” The 2019 worldwide threat assessment reported “that the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support.” (NBC News)

4/ Trump’s incoming White House chief of staff quarantined himself after possibly coming in contact with a confirmed carrier of the coronavirus. Rep. Mark Meadows is the fifth Republican lawmaker to self-quarantine himself over fears coronavirus exposure. Sen. Ted Cruz and Reps. Paul Gosar, Doug Collins and Matt Gaetz have also quarantined themselves for 14 days out of caution. Meadows, Cruz, Collins, and Gaetz all interacted with Trump on the day they were exposed. Trump, meanwhile, hasn’t been tested for coronavirus, saying “I don’t think it’s a big deal […] I feel extremely good.” (Washington Post / Bloomberg / Politico / CNN /Axios)

5/ The Trump administration ordered immigration courts to remove all coronavirus posters from courtrooms and waiting areas. After the Miami Herald published news about an Executive Office for Immigration Review email that directed all judges and staff members to remove the posters, a Department of Justice spokesman said that the “the signs shouldn’t have been removed. It’s now being rectified.” The official, however, declined to discuss why the email directive was sent in the first place. (Miami Herald)

  • The CDC director contradicted Trump’s claim that his border wall will contain the coronavirus. Trump tweeted that his wall is “Going up fast […] We need the Wall more than ever!” Hour later, Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, said testified to lawmakers that he was unaware that physical barriers along America’s borders would help halt the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. (Politico)

  • Trump administration officials discussed shutting down travel from Italy and South Korea as the coronavirus outbreak worsened. Ultimately, officials decided that the virus was spreading too quickly to be contained and it would be hard to justify the diplomatic, logistical, and economic consequences. (Axios)

6/ A federal appeals court granted House Democrats permission to access grand jury material from Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The Justice Department must now give lawmakers access to all the report’s blacked-out words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and pages, as well as underlying interviews and memos cited in Mueller’s probe. The lawsuit was filed before the start of the impeachment inquiry, but House lawyers told the court that lawmakers are still trying to determine whether Trump lied in his written responses to questions from Mueller’s investigators. The ruling can be appealed to the full court or to the Supreme Court. (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Axios)

  • 📌Day 1009: A federal judge directed the Justice Department to hand over Robert Mueller’s secret grand jury evidence to the House Judiciary Committee, which Attorney General William Barr has withheld from lawmakers. U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell rejected the Trump administration’s claim that the impeachment probe is illegitimate, saying the material could help the House Judiciary Committee substantiate “potentially impeachable conduct” by Trump. The materials must be disclosed by Wednesday. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Politico)

  • 📌 Day 1012: The Trump administration appealed a judge’s ruling requiring the Justice Department to give the House Judiciary Committee grand jury material related to Robert Mueller’s report. Chief Judge Beryl Howell’s ruling granted the Judiciary Committee access to portions of Mueller’s report and underlying grand jury information that were redacted. (Politico / CNBC)

  • 📌 Day 1033: The House is investigating whether Trump lied to Robert Mueller. Former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates testified in last week’s trial that Roger Stone spoke with Trump in a July 2016 phone call, and that Trump then told Gates that “more information would be coming.” Trump, however, told Mueller in written answers that he did not recall discussing WikiLeaks with Stone. The House Judiciary Committee is seeking grand jury testimony from the redacted version of Mueller’s report into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. House General Counsel Douglas Letter told a federal appeals court that investigators have an “immense” need for the material, because it will help House members answer the question, “Did the president lie? Was the president not truthful in his responses to the Mueller investigation?” (CNN / Washington Post / New York Times / Axios / Associated Press / Politico)

  • 📌 Day 1061: The House told a federal appeals court that it still needs access to Robert Mueller’s confidential grand jury information for use in the impeachment proceedings. The House argued that the grand jury information allegedly contains “certain redacted materials [that] pertain to a Trump Campaign member’s dealings with Ukraine, and bear on whether the President committed impeachable offenses by soliciting Ukrainian interference in the 2020 Presidential election.” (CNN)

7/ Russia is – again – trying to stoke racial tensions as part of its effort to influence November’s presidential election. According to officials briefed on recent intelligence, Russian intelligence services have prodded white nationalists to spread and amplify hate messages while also trying to push black extremist groups toward violence in an effort to foster a sense of chaos in the United States. (New York Times)

  • Trump’s acting director of national intelligence declined to meet with Congress for a briefing on foreign election threats. Richard Grenell said he was apprehensive about his preparedness to address questions about intelligence assessments that Russia is again interfering in U.S. politics. (Washington Post)

8/ Blackwater founder Erik Prince worked with Project Veritas to recruit former U.S. and British spies to infiltrate Democratic congressional campaigns. Project Veritas is a conservative group that uses hidden cameras and microphones for sting operations on news organizations, Democratic politicians, and liberal advocacy groups. Prince is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy Devos. (New York Times)

Day 1145: "Nobody is trying to minimize this."

1/ Trump had contact with two Republican congressmen before they self-quarantined themselves after learning they had been exposed to someone diagnosed with coronavirus at CPAC. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who attended a party with Trump at Mar-a-Lago this weekend, learned shortly after Air Force One was airborne that he had been in contact with a person at CPAC who has since been diagnosed with coronavirus. Gaetz then sat in a section of the plane by himself. Rep. Doug Collins, who had also been in contact with a person at CPAC with coronavirus, shook hands with Trump during a CDC tour on Friday. Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Paul Gosar also announced they would self-quarantine after coming into contact with a person with coronavirus at the CPAC. Gaetz and Gosar both mocked the coronavirus spending package passed last week by the House. Gosar said the money was unnecessary with so few people sick in the U.S. while Gaetz wore a gas mask to the vote. Days later, Gaetz announced that a constituent had died of COVID-19. (New York Times / CNBC / CNN / Axios / CNN / NBC News / The Hill / Washington Post / Washington Post / Gizmodo)

  • COVID-19 has infected more than 550 people in the U.S., killing more than 20. More than 111,000 people have been infected worldwide, while more than 3,800 have died.

2/ The White House overruled health officials who wanted to warn Americans to avoid commercial airlines because of the coronavirus. The CDC originally submitted a plan that recommended that elderly and medically vulnerable Americans avoid flying as a way of trying to control the outbreak, but the White House ordered the air travel language removed from from the plan. The Trump administration, however, has since issued guidance that certain people should not be traveling and the CDC quietly updated its website to tell older adults to “stay home as much as possible” and avoid crowds. Administration officials pushed back, calling it “complete fiction” and saying “it was never a recommendation to the Task Force.” (Associated Press)

  • Trump, wearing a “Keep America Great” hat, said he told Mike Pence not to compliment Washington Gov. Jay Inslee because “he is a snake.” Inslee had criticized the administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, saying he wanted Trump to stick to the science when discussing the virus. (Seattle Times / Politico / ABC News / Vox)

  • Trump accused New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of attempting “political weaponization” of the coronavirus crisis after the Democratic governor declared a state of emergency. (Politico)

  • Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson declined to “preview” the Trump administration’s plan for the docking of the Grand Princess cruise ship, which is carrying at least 21 passengers who contracted coronavirus. During an interview with George Stephanopoulos, the HUD secretary said Pence would implement a plan “within 72 hours.” Stephanopoulos responded: “The ship’s docking tomorrow.” (ABC News / The Hill)

  • Trump and Mike Pence attempted to reassure donors at Mar-a-Lago that they have everything under control. (CNBC)

  • Trump’s reelection campaign canceled its bus tour amid concerns about the coronavirus. A campaign spokeswoman initially cited “scheduling conflicts” for the postponement of the three-day bus tour through Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. (New York Times)

3/ The White House and national health agencies have reportedly grown distrustful of one another over the mixed messaging on coronavirus. While Trump has called his administration’s response a “perfectly coordinated and fine tuned plan,” the top infectious disease doctor at the National Institutes of Health and Surgeon General told the public to be prepared for more cases and deaths, warning the elderly and medically vulnerable to avoid large crowds and long trips or cruises. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also said the Trump administration considers the coronavirus “a very serious public health threat” and that “Nobody is trying to minimize this.” Six minutes later, Trump downplayed the severity of coronavirus, comparing it to the “common Flu,” tweeting: “Think about that!” Meanwhile, during a tour at the CDC, Trump mused that he had a “natural ability” to understand the coronavirus outbreak, saying “People are really surprised I understand this stuff. Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’” (CNN / NBC News / New York Times / Bloomberg / Politico / Washington Post)

  • Quotables:

  • U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams: “We now are seeing community spread and we’re trying to help people understand how to mitigate the impact of disease spread,”

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health: “There comes a time, when you have containment which […] you’re trying to find out who’s infected and put them in isolation. And if and when that happens — and I hope it’s if and not when — that you get so many people who are infected that the best thing you need to do is what we call mitigation in addition to containment.”

  • Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration: “We’re past the point of containment. We have to implement broad mitigation strategies. The next two weeks are really going to change the complexion in this country. We’ll get through this, but it’s going to be a hard period. We’re looking at two months, probably, of difficulty.”

4/ U.S. stocks fell more than 7.5% in the worst day on Wall Street since the financial crisis on fears about the spread of the coronavirus and an oil price war. Stocks fell fast enough to trigger a circuit breaker for the first time in 23 years that halted trading for 15 minutes. The Dow fell 2,000 points, while the S&P 500, already down 12% from its February high, fell more than 7%. (Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNBC / NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Trump blamed Wall Street’s meltdown on the “Fake News Media” and the Democrats for trying to “inflame the CoronaVirus situation.” Trump also tried to cast the decline in oil prices in positive terms, tweeting: “Good for the consumer, gasoline prices coming down!” Trump added: “Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on.” (Washington Post / CNBC)

5/ Trump said he will ask Congress to provide financial relief for workers and businesses hurt by the coronavirus, including a possible payroll tax cut. Trump said he’d announce the “dramatic” details of the proposed relief on Tuesday after meeting with members of the House and Senate. “They will be major,” he said. (NBC News / NPR / USA Today)

6/ Trump replaced Mick Mulvaney with Rep. Mark Meadows as his next White House chief of staff. Trump announced the change on Twitter from Mar-a-Lago. Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff for the last 14 months, will become the U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland. Meadows will be Trump’s fourth White House chief of staff, following Mulvaney, John Kelly and Reince Priebus. (Associated Press / NPR / CNN / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / New York Times)

7/ The Taliban reportedly has “no intention” of honoring the U.S.-Taliban peace agreement, according to “persuasive intelligence” gathered by the U.S. Official briefed on the intelligence say the Taliban views the peace process as a way of securing the withdrawal of American “occupiers,” after which it will attack the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan. Trump also acknowledged that the Taliban could “possibly” overrun the Afghan government after U.S. leaves the region, saying “Countries have to take care of themselves […] You can only hold someone’s hand for so long.” American troops, meanwhile, have started leaving Afghanistan. (NBC News / Associated Press)

8/ An altered video of Joe Biden shared by the White House and retweeted by Trump has been flagged as “manipulated media” by Twitter. It’s the first test of the new policy implemented on March 5 to label tweets that include manipulated content, which includes everything from edited videos to full “deep fakes” of events that never actually happened. The altered video of Biden shows him stumbling through a speech, but cuts off after Biden accidentally says, “Excuse me. We can only reelect Donald Trump.” The video leaves out the rest of the quote: “We can only reelect Donald Trump if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here. It’s gotta be a positive campaign.” (Washington Post / New York Times)

poll/ 54% of Republicans said they had not altered their daily routines because of the coronavirus, compared to about 40% of Democrats. (Reuters)

Day 1142: "Contained."

1/ The Trump administration claimed that the coronavirus outbreak was “contained” even as the number of U.S. cases have surpassed 250 – more than double since Monday – and test kits remain in short supply. Federal officials initially said nearly 1 million tests were expected to be available by the end of this week. While the CDC has refused to share how many people have been tested for COVID-19, a survey of public health agencies in every state could only verify 1,895 Americans who had been tested for the virus. About 10% of them tested positive. In California – population 40 million – has the capacity to test about 7,400 people through the weekend. About 1,250 Californians were possibly exposed to coronavirus on a cruise ship – 21 people have tested positive for coronavirus out of the 46 tested so far – and there are more than 9,000 people in California who recently returned from countries experiencing severe outbreaks. California, however, has only tested 516 people for COVID-19 to date. Nevertheless, Kellyanne Conway told reporters that “It is being contained,” challenging a reporter who suggested it isn’t. “Are you a doctor aware of it not being contained?” Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, echoed Conway, saying the outbreak “looks relatively contained.” (Bloomberg / The Atlantic / Los Angeles Times / Washington Post)

  • COVID-19 Factoids:

  • 100,000 people have been infected worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

  • 15 people in the U.S. have died from coronavirus.

  • At least 44 people in New York state test positive for coronavirus – up from 23 yesterday. A 5th person tested positive for coronavirus in New York City.

  • The virus has been reported in 20 new states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

  • Live Blogs: New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / CNN

2/ Trump abruptly canceled – then rescheduled – a planned trip to CDC headquarters in Atlanta. Trump said the trip was scrapped because of a suspected coronavirus case at the CDC itself. The White House, however, said the visit was canceled because “the president does not want to interfere with the CDC’s mission to protect the health and welfare of their people and the agency.” The report of an infection at CDC turned out to be negative and the trip was rescheduled. CDC staffers learned about potential coronavirus case at the agency only after Trump mentioned it to reporters. Trump is slated to go to Atlanta after touring tornado damage in Tennessee and before heading to Mar-a-Lago for the weekend. (Politico / New York Times / Associated Press / NBC News)

3/ Trump signed an $8.3 billion emergency funding package to combat the rising number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. The bill provides a total of $7.7 billion in new discretionary spending and authorizes an additional $490 million in mandatory spending through Medicare. “You have to be calm,” Trump said at the White House. “It will go away.” (Bloomberg / Politico / BBC / The Guardian)

4/ White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the Trump administration is considering “timely and targeted” relief to help workers and businesses economically vulnerable to the outbreak. Kudlow insisted that the U.S. economy is “fundamentally sound,” but Trump administration officials have considered deferring taxes for sectors most affected by the outbreak, including the hospitality, cruise, travel and airline industries. Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said “what we’re seeing is a drop off in domestic travel […] It has a 9/11-like feel.” More than 1,000 planes have been taken out of service worldwide and airline stocks have fallen 28% since the coronavirus outbreak began. Global airlines stand to lose $113 billion in sales. Meanwhile at a Fox News town hall, Trump said he “likes” that “people are now staying in the United States, spending their money in the US […] They’re sort of enforced doing that.” (Washington Post / Axios / Wall Street Journal / The Hill / CNN / Vox)

  • The University of Washington moved its 50,000 students to online classes. (New York Times)

5/ The Trump administration plans to collect DNA samples from undocumented immigrants held in U.S. detention facilities. Under the new rule, the Department of Homeland Security can collect DNA samples from non-U.S. citizens who are detained for criminal offenses in federal facilities. The samples would be put into a database operated by the FBI for federal, state, and local authorities to use to identify and locate violent criminals who are in the country illegally. Officials said the collection effort will fully enforce the 2015 DNA Fingerprint Act, which requires taking DNA samples from anyone arrested, facing charges or convicted — and from any non-U.S. citizens “who are detained under the authority of the United States.” The Department of Homeland Security, however, asked for an exemption from the law during the Obama administration, saying it did not have the manpower to gather the samples. (Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / NBC News)

6/ The Trump Organization charged the Secret Service $157,000 more than was previously known and billed taxpayers for rooms at his clubs at much higher rates than the company claimed. Newly obtained documents show Trump’s company charged the Secret Service more than $628,000 since he took office in 2017. The full scope of the Trump Organization’s business relationship with the Trump administration is still unknown because the only publicly available records are mostly from 2017 and 2018 — the rest are still hidden. The new documents show charges for 177 additional nightly room rentals in 2017, 2018, and 2019 at a rate of $396.15 per night per room. They also reveal that Trump charged the Secret Service $17,000 per month to rent a cottage near Trump’s in Bedminster, NJ. There is no requirement that presidents charge the Secret Service for using space on their properties, and most presidents have provided space for free. (Washington Post / Public Citizen)

  • 📌 Day 1114: The Trump Organization charged Trump’s Secret Service rates as high as $650 a night and $17,000 a month for a cottage at his properties to protect him. The disclosures contradict Eric Trump’s own statements that “If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free.” At Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, the Secret Service was charged the $650 rate dozens of times in 2017, and a different rate – $396.15 – dozens more times in 2018. At the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, the Secret Service was charged $17,000 a month to use a cottage in 2017. The Trump Organization also billed the government for days when Trump wasn’t there. The full extent of the Secret Service’s payments to Trump’s company is not known. (Washington Post)

7/ House Democrats asked a federal appeals court to reconsider enforcing a congressional subpoena for Trump’s former White House counsel Donald McGahn. Last week, an appeals court panel ruled 2-1 that the House may not ask judges to force the White House to make McGahn available for testimony. Today, House lawyers argued that blocking lawmakers from suing to obtain information from the executive branch would leave Congress with little choice but to “direct its sergeant at arms to arrest current and former high-level executive branch officials for failing to respond to subpoenas.” (Politico / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 1135: A federal appeals court ruled that former White House counsel Donald McGahn does not have to comply with a subpoena seeking his testimony. The House wanted McGahn to answer questions related to possible efforts by Trump to obstruct Robert Mueller’s investigation. (Politico / CNBC / New York Times)

8/ The deputy White House communications director resigned. Adam Kennedy will leave his position to go work in the private sector at the end of the month. He was one of the few remaining original Trump White House staffers. (Bloomberg / Politico)

  • More than a third of all Senate-confirmed civilian positions at the Department of Defense are now vacant or filled by temporary officials – a new high for the Trump administration. (Politico)

Day 1141: Confusion.

1/ The Trump administration won’t meet its promised timeline of having a million coronavirus tests available by the end of the week. Lawmakers said the government is “in the process” of sending test kits out and that people will then need to be trained on how to use them, saying that the process could take days or weeks. Earlier this week, the FDA said the U.S. would have the “capacity” to perform up to 1 million tests by the end of this week, which was backed up by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Mike Pence also said that 1.5 million tests would be going out. The Senate, meanwhile, passed an $8.3 billion emergency funding bill to fight the coronavirus. The package will be sent to the White House for Trump’s signature after passing the House yesterday. (Bloomberg / Politico / CNBC / CNN)

  • Patients in 18 states have tested positive or are presumptively positive for coronavirus. Officials in Nevada, New Jersey, Tennessee and Texas said they had identified new cases in the last 24 hours. At least 162 people nationwide have been infected. (The Hill / The Nevada Independent)

  • COVID-19 cases in New York doubled overnight to 22 state-wide. At least eight of the new cases are connected to a lawyer from Westchester. Two of the new cases are in New York City and one is in Long Island. (CNBC)

  • The Dow closed down 3.5%, the S&P 500 dropped 3.3%, and the Nasdaq fell 3.1% on fears that the coronavirus will disrupt the global economy. (Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / CNBC / New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ A State Department official blamed Russia for “swarms of online, false personas” spreading misinformation about coronavirus on social media, saying the “entire ecosystem of Russian disinformation is at play.” Lea Gabrielle, the coordinator of the government’s Global Engagement Center, testified to Congress that Russian actors using “state proxy websites,” official state-owned media, and fake accounts online were part of an effort to “take advantage of a health crisis, where people are terrified worldwide, to try to advance their priorities.” A Global Engagement Center report last week revealed nearly 2 million tweets over a three-week period that pushed coronavirus-related conspiracies. (Washington Post / Bloomberg)

3/ Trump – on Fox News – contradicted the World Health Organization estimate that the global mortality rate for coronavirus is 3.4%, calling it “a false number.” While the WHO’s estimate is likely to change as more is learned about the virus, Trump said his “hunch” is that the real figure “way under 1%.” The 3.4% figure was reached using the latest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths. Trump also speculated that “thousands or hundreds of thousands” of people might have recovered “by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work but they get better.” (Politico / Business Insider)

4/ The International Criminal Court authorized an investigation into allegations of U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan – days after American officials signed a peace deal with the Taliban. The ICC says it has evidence that proves U.S. forces “committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence” in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, and later at CIA black sites in Poland, Romania and Lithuania. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the ruling “reckless,” noting that “The United States is not a party to the ICC, and we will take all necessary measures to protect our citizens from this renegade court.” (New York Times / Politico / Associated Press / BBC / Axios / NBC News)

5/ A federal judge criticized Attorney General William Barr’s handling of Robert Mueller’s report, saying that Barr’s public statements about the report were “distorted” and “misleading.” Judge Reggie Walton cited “inconsistencies” between Barr’s statements and the public, partially redacted version of the report, saying Barr’s “lack of candor” called “into question [his] credibility and, in turn, the department’s” assurances to the court. The judge ordered the Justice Department to privately show him the portions of the report that were redacted so he could independently verify whether the Justice Department’s redactions were appropriate. (Washington Post / New York Times)

6/ Attorney General William Barr intervened in an immigration asylum case by narrowing the definition of torture for asylum seekers. Barr used a process known as “certification,” which allows him to overrule decisions made by the Board of Immigration Appeals and set binding precedent, after a Mexican national seeking asylum invoked torture as grounds for staying in the U.S. (Washington Post)

7/ Facebook removed ads run by Trump’s re-election campaign that urged people to “respond now” to an “Official Congressional District Census.” The ads linked to a survey on the Trump campaign’s website before asking them to donate money to the campaign. Facebook said the ads violated its policies to “prevent confusion around the official US census.” (Politico / CNN)

Day 1140: "A perfect storm."

1/ Bipartisan congressional negotiators reached an agreement on a $8.3 billion emergency spending bill to address the coronavirus. The deal – more than triple the size of the Trump administration’s $2.5 billion request – provides more than $3 billion for research and development of vaccines, $2.2 billion for the CDC, $950 million to support state and local health agencies, $836 million for the National Institutes of Health, plus additional spending to address the coronavirus overseas. The bill is expected to be sent to Trump’s desk by the end of the week after passing both the House and Senate. (Washington Post / CNBC / Politico / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)

  • A 10th person in Washington State died from coronavirus. In total, 28 people in Washington State have been diagnosed. (Seattle Times)

  • Local health officials in California announced the state’s first COVID-19 death, bringing U.S. fatalities to at least 11. (CNBC)

2/ Trump blamed Obama for making it harder for his administration to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. While it’s not entirely clear what “decision” Trump was referring to, he called it “very detrimental” and claimed that it hampered his ability to enact widespread testing for the virus. Health experts and government officials during Obama’s presidency, however, said they were unaware of any policy or rule that would have affected the way the FDA approves tests related to the current crisis. (New York Times)

3/ A coalition of 19 states are suing to block the Trump administration’s diversion of $3.8 billion from the Pentagon to the border wall. The states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin – argue that redirecting money already allocated by lawmakers violates Congress’ appropriation powers. The states also argue that diverting billions from defense programs “will cause damage to their economies, harming their proprietary interests.” (Politico)

4/ The U.S. conducted an airstrike against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan days after signing a historic peace deal. Taliban fighters were reportedly “actively attacking” an Afghan government checkpoint. The drone strike – conducted as a “defensive” measure – came hours after a call between Trump and Taliban chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. After the call, Trump said: “We’ve agreed there’s no violence. We don’t want violence. We’ll see what happens.” (ABC News / CNN / Washington Post / New York Times)

5/ The Justice Department charged a Defense Department contractor with espionage. Mariam Thompson, a linguist who worked for the Pentagon, allegedly shared classified information with a Lebanese national with ties to the terror group Hezbollah. The information included details about intelligence assets working for the U.S. and military personnel. If convicted, Thompson could face life in prison. (ABC News / Politico)

6/ Trump mocked Mike Bloomberg after the former New York mayor ended his presidential campaign, tweeting that “He didn’t have what it takes.” Bloomberg endorsed Joe Biden, saying he got into the race “to defeat Donald Trump” and was “leaving for the same reason.” Trump also accused the Democratic Party of having “crushed” Bernie Sanders, attributing Biden’s win of at least 380 delegates to “a perfect storm.” Trump then called Elizabeth Warren “so selfish” for staying in the race while accusing her of being “the single biggest factor in the election” and “badly” hurting Sanders. (CNBC / Politico / CNN / Washington Post)

  • The Trump campaign abruptly shifted its attacks from Sanders to Biden as some Trump backers worry Biden could present an obstacle in swing areas. (Politico)

  • Trump taunted Jeff Sessions on Twitter after his former attorney general was forced into a runoff election for the Alabama GOP Senate nomination. Trump tweeted that “this is what happens to someone” who “doesn’t have the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt.” Sessions faces a March 31 runoff against Tommy Tuberville, a former Auburn football coach. (Politico / Bloomberg / New York Times)

Day 1139: Not good.

1/ The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the first major abortion case to come before the court since Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch took the bench. The case, June Medical Services v. Russo, challenges a 2014 Louisiana law, known as the “Unsafe Abortion Protection Act,” which requires doctors who provide abortions to obtain admitting privileges from a nearby hospital. When the law was signed, one of the state’s six abortion clinics had a physician who was compliant. Today, Louisiana has three abortion clinics and if the Supreme Court finds the law constitutional, all of three of them would stop offering the procedure. Louisiana’s law is identical to one from Texas that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016 when Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was seen as a swing vote on the issue, was still on the bench. A decision in the case is expected by June. (NBC News / CBS News / CNN / New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ The Trump administration is considering paying hospitals for treating uninsured patients with coronavirus. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is in discussions about using the National Disaster Medical System to reimburse hospitals and medical facilities as concerns rise over the costs of treating some of the 27 million Americans without health coverage. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Public and private labs say they’re not close to reaching the federal government’s promise to produce one million coronavirus test kits by the end of the week. Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the FDA, said that the CDC was working with a private manufacturer to increase the testing capacity of laboratories across the nation. White House officials, however, said that the number of tests actually administered could be considerably lower. (New York Times)

  • The CDC blocked a top scientist from the FDA from helping coordinate the government’s stalled coronavirus testing last month. The FDA had dispatched Timothy Stenzel to the CDC in an effort to expedite the development of lab tests for coronavirus, but the CDC made him wait overnight before granting him permission to the campus. Stenzel found evidence of lab contamination, which he reported to HHS officials. (Politico)

3/ Trump’s secretary of defense warned commanders not to make any decisions related to the coronavirus that might surprise the White House. Mark Esper issued the directive via a conference call, telling commanders deployed overseas that they must first clear any decisions related to protecting their troops with the White House. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 1134: The White House instructed government health officials and scientists to seek approval from Mike Pence’s office before speaking publicly about the coronavirus outbreak. An administrative official said the move isn’t intended to muzzle government scientists and other health experts, but to make sure their efforts are being coordinated. Yesterday, Trump appointed Pence to lead the government’s coronavirus task force, which is nominally led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Dr. Deborah Birx, the director of the U.S. effort to combat HIV and AIDS, will serve as the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House and report to Pence, but serve on the task force that Azar chairs. Additionally, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, and Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, will also join the coronavirus task force. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / Politico)

4/ The Federal Reserve made an emergency half-percentage-point rate cut, reflecting concerns about the coronavirus epidemic. It was the first unscheduled rate cut since the 2008 financial crisis. Stocks, meanwhile, fell sharply with the Dow, S&P500, and Nasdaq all pulling back more than 2.5%. Trump, who has no control over monetary policy, criticized the Fed, saying “the rate is too high. It should be eased down so we’re competitive” adding “we should have the low rate. But we have a Fed that doesn’t agree with that. I disagree with them.” (CNN / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / CNBC / New York Times / Washington Post)

5/ The Trump administration added a Trump-focused litmus test that candidates for political appointments must now complete. Candidates applying for a job in the Trump administration will have to explain what part of Trump’s campaign message “most appealed” to them and why. (CNN)

6/ A White House lawyer was named senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council. By promoting Michael Ellis, Trump has installed another loyalist to a key intelligence-related leadership position after appointing Richard Grenell, as acting Director of National Intelligence. (Politico / CNN)

  • The White House withdrew its nomination for Pentagon comptroller. Trump nominated Elaine McCusker last year, who has been serving as acting comptroller and chief financial officer of the Defense Department. McCusker, however, fought Trump’s decision last year to stall $250 million in Ukraine military aid and emails documenting her objections leaked in January. Trump decision to withdraw McCusker’s nomination comes as he and his allies continue their push to oust members of his administration who have been deemed disloyal. It is unclear if McCusker will continue to serve in her current role now that her nomination has been withdrawn. (Politico / New York Post)

Why I’m not covering Super Tuesday. Many of you have asked why I’m “ignoring” the Democratic primary. I’m not ignoring it, but it’s helpful to explain why the coverage is missing. The answer is pretty simple: WTFJHT covers politics through the lens of the administration, the White House, and the Congress – in that order. Unless events directly intersect with one of those three entities, you can assume they’ll be gently ignored here (plus, major news events like Super Tuesday are better covered via live blogs and network television – two things WTFJHT does not do, or in the case of network television, have). Here’s an example: The wild fires in California won’t be covered by WTFJHT unless Trump comments on them or takes some executive action. However, when Trump calls for Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar to be “impeached” for their “quid pro quo” deal to both drop out and endorse Joe Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination, you can expect to hear about it. That’s right, Trump told a crowd at a rally in North Carolina that it “Sounds like they made a deal” when the “They both supported sleepy Joe.” Trump added: “No good. Quid pro quo. They made a deal. Impeach them. They should be impeached.” (ABC News / International Business Times / Politico)

Day 1138: "No reason to panic."

1/ The Supreme Court agreed to take up a legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act during its next term starting in October. The court, however, did not say when it will hear oral arguments, making it unlikely the justices will rule on the lawsuit before the election. In December, a federal appeals court ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, sending the case back to the trial judge for another look at whether the entire law is invalid or some parts can survive. (NBC News / Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press)

  • 📌 Day 1063: A federal appeals court ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, but did not invalidate the entire law. The court ordered a lower court judge to evaluate whether other provisions of the law can survive without the mandate. (Politico / Axios / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)

2/ Trump called the coronavirus the Democrats’ “new hoax” and accused them of “politicizing” the deadly virus, which has now spread to China, Japan, South Korea, Iran, Italy and the U.S. Trump also blamed the press for acting hysterically about the virus, downplaying its dangers while he compared it to the flu. Experts say that the coronavirus is significantly more contagious than the flu and a vaccine is at least a year to 18 months away. Trump, however, told a a group of drug company executives at the White House to “get it done” on vaccines and antivirals to combat the coronavirus. Trump also authorized new travel restrictions after confirmation of the first coronavirus death in the U.S., saying there’s “no reason to panic” but additional cases in America were “likely.” (NBC News / Politico / CNN / The Guardian / Bloomberg)

  • Six people in Washington state have now died from coronavirus. Four people had been residents of a nursing center and two other people not connected to the center have also died in Washington. There are at least 18 confirmed cases of the illness in the state. New cases of the coronavirus were reported in New York, Florida, Illinois, and Rhode Island over the weekend. (Seattle Times / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Vox / Reuters / Chicago Tribune / Bloomberg)

  • Researchers say coronavirus may have been spreading in Washington state undetected for six weeks. According to an analysis of the virus’s genetic sequence, samples from two people living in the same county – who didn’t have contact with one another – suggest that the virus spread through other people in the community after the first person was no longer contagious. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • A top federal scientist warned that the lab where the government made test kits for the coronavirus was contaminated. The Trump administration has ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the apparent manufacturing defect at the CDC lab in Atlanta. Mike Pence, meanwhile, said “more than 15,000 testing kits” are in the mail to state and local clinics. (Axios / Politico / CNN)

  • FEMA is preparing for an “infectious disease emergency declaration” by Trump that would allow the agency to bring in extra funds and personnel to assist with the administration’s coronavirus response. (NBC News)

3/ The U.S. signed a deal with the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan. The agreement calls for the U.S. to pull all 12,000 troops out of the country within the next 14 months if the Taliban agrees to sever its ties with al Qaeda. The first phase of the withdrawal would bring U.S. troops numbers down to 8,600 within 135 days. In exchange, the Taliban has agreed to engage in talks with the Afghan government and commits not to allow terrorist groups to use Afghan soil to plot attacks against the U.S. or its allies. “Everybody’s tired of war,” Trump said. “It’s been a very long journey. It’s been a hard journey for everybody.” (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / USA Today)

4/ An Interior Department official inserted misleading information about climate change into the agency’s scientific reports, including debunked claims that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is beneficial. Indur Goklany was promoted in 2017 to the office of the deputy secretary and put in charge of reviewing the agency’s climate policies. Goklany pressured scientists to include misleading claims about climate change into at least nine different reports on environmental studies and impact statements on major watersheds in the American West. The wording, known internally as the “Goks uncertainty language,” inaccurately claimed that there is a lack of consensus among scientists that the earth is warming while pushing misleading interpretations of climate science. (New York Times)

5/ A federal judge ruled that Trump’s decision to appoint Ken Cuccinelli as acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss said Cuccinelli was never eligible to become acting USCIS chief, and his appointment violated the FVRA because “he never did and never will serve in a subordinate role — that is, as an ‘assistant’ — to any other USCIS official.” All policies put in place under Cuccinelli are now void, including an order that limited the amount of time asylum-seekers could consult with an attorney before undergoing their initial “credible fear” interview with immigration officers. (Axios / Politico / Washington Post / NBC News / BuzzFeed News)

Day 1135: "Deeply troubling."

1/ A federal appeals court blocked Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” immigration policy, which required people applying for asylum at the border to wait in Mexico while their claims for protection were reviewed. The court ruled that the policy “is invalid in its entirety due to its inconsistency with” federal law, and “should be enjoined in its entirety.” Some 59,000 people have been sent back to Mexico since January 2019. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals also issued a separate ruling that upheld a lower court’s block on an administration policy denying asylum to those who crossed the southern border illegally. (Washington Post / New York Times / ABC News / CNN / Reuters)

2/ Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney suggested that Americans ignore the media’s coverage of the coronavirus while acknowledging that the outbreak will likely cause disruptions to everyday life in the U.S., such as school closures and changes to public transportation. Mulvaney claimed that the media ignored the administration’s early efforts, because it was preoccupied with thinking impeachment “would bring down the president.” Mulvaney then suggested that the news media only switched to the coronavirus because “they think this is going to be what brings down” Trump. He then urged Americans to “Turn off your televisions for 24 hours.” (New York Times / CNBC / Washington Post / Bloomberg / The Hill)

  • Several House Republicans walked out of a closed-door coronavirus briefing with health officials after Democrats criticized the Trump administration’s response to the virus as disorganized and lacking urgency. (Politico)

  • A worldwide threats assessment in 2018 and 2017 warned about the increasing risks of a global pandemic that could strain resources and damage the global economy. Intelligence analysts even mentioned a close cousin of the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus by name, saying it had “pandemic potential” if it were “to acquire efficient human-to-human responsibility.” The 2019 worldwide threat assessment reported “that the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support.” (NBC News)

3/ The Trump administration is considering a tax cut package as part of the White House’s economic response to the coronavirus outbreak after all three major U.S. stock indexes suffered their worst weekly decline since the 2008 financial crisis. For the week, all three indexes fell more than 10%, and since Feb. 19, U.S. stocks have lost nearly $3.6 trillion in value. Trump’s top economic advisor Larry Kudlow suggested that investors shouldn’t “rule out more optimistic options,” saying “Stocks looks pretty cheap to me.” Trump, meanwhile, leaned on the Federal Reserve for help, saying he hopes “the Fed gets involved, and I hope they get involved soon.” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said that the central bank would “act as appropriate” to help the U.S. economy. (Washington Post / CNBC / New York Times / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / CNN)

  • The Trump administration is considering a 70-year-old war powers law to speed up the manufacturing of medical supplies in a potential coronavirus outbreak. The Defense Production Act, passed by Congress in 1950 during the Korean War, would allow Trump to expedite production of certain products like face masks, gowns, and gloves for national security purposes. (New York Times / NBC News)

4/ Mike Pence will host a $25,000-per-plate fundraiser in Florida. The event, hosted by the Florida Republican congressional delegation, benefits the National Republican Congressional Committee and costs $2,500 to attend, $5,000 for a picture with Pence, and $25,000 to have dinner with him. (Tampa Bay Times / Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

5/ A federal appeals court ruled that former White House counsel Donald McGahn does not have to comply with a subpoena seeking his testimony. The House wanted McGahn to answer questions related to possible efforts by Trump to obstruct Robert Mueller’s investigation. (Politico / CNBC / New York Times)

6/ The House Judiciary committee asked to interview the four career prosecutors who quit Roger Stone’s case after Trump and Attorney General William Barr intervened to demand a lighter jail sentence. Chairman Jerry Nadler also demanded that Barr hand over any messages Trump sent about Stone’s sentencing showing “improper political interference,” calling the recent events “deeply troubling.” (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / Daily Beast)

  • 📌 Day 1118: Three career prosecutors handling the Roger Stone case resigned after the Justice Department said in a new sentencing memo that Stone’s sentence should be “far less” than the seven to nine years that they had recommended. The memo noted that DOJ still wanted Stone to be incarcerated but declined to say for how long. Prosecutors Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, and Jonathan Kravis told the judge they were withdrawing immediately as attorneys. (Washington Post / CNN / Daily Beast / NBC News)

  • 📌 Day 1119: The fourth federal prosecutor resigned from Roger Stone’s case after the Justice Department announced that it planned to reduce its sentencing recommendation. Michael Marando’s departure means the entire prosecutorial team working on the case has resigned in protest over the DOJ’s decision. (Washington Post / NBC News / Associate Press / CNN)

7/ Trump announced that he would nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe as his permanent director of national intelligence. In 2019, Trump attempted to make the lawmaker his spy chief, but backed off after the nomination was met with resistance in Congress, where lawmakers raised questions about Ratcliffe’s credentials and whether he padded his resume. Nevertheless, Trump tweeted today that he was nominating Ratcliffe, calling him “an outstanding man of great talent!” (NBC News / CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

Day 1134: Muzzled.

1/ A whistleblower alleges that the Department of Health and Human Services “improperly deployed” more than a dozen workers to coronavirus quarantine locations who were “not properly trained or equipped to operate in a public health emergency situation.” The complaint alleges that the workers, who were not trained in wearing personal protective equipment, had face-to-face contact with repatriated Americans from China and were potentially exposed to coronavirus. The repatriated Americans were quarantined on military bases in California and Texas because they were considered at high risk for contracting the flu-like illness. The workers, however, returned to their normal duties, with some taking commercial flights back to their offices throughout the country. The complaint states that “appropriate steps were not taken to quarantine, monitor, or test [the workers] during their deployment and upon their return home.” (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)

2/ The White House instructed government health officials and scientists to seek approval from Mike Pence’s office before speaking publicly about the coronavirus outbreak. An administrative official said the move isn’t intended to muzzle government scientists and other health experts, but to make sure their efforts are being coordinated. Yesterday, Trump appointed Pence to lead the government’s coronavirus task force, which is nominally led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Dr. Deborah Birx, the director of the U.S. effort to combat HIV and AIDS, will serve as the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House and report to Pence, but serve on the task force that Azar chairs. Additionally, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, and Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, will also join the coronavirus task force. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / Politico)

3/ The Justice Department established an office to strip naturalized citizens of their rights. The new Denaturalization Section will review cases where individuals are believed to have illegally obtained U.S. citizenship. While denaturalizations can only occur in federal court, some Justice Department lawyers fear denaturalization lawsuits could be used against immigrants who have not committed serious crimes. Immigrant advocates called into question the standards used by the Trump administration to investigate those cases. (New York Times / CNN)

4/ The Trump administration “indefinitely postponed” a sea wall to protect New York City six weeks after Trump mocked the idea. Officials at the Army Corps of Engineers’ New York office refused to comment on whether they believed that Trump had influenced the decision, but in January Trump criticized the proposal to build a barrier to protect the region from flooding, calling it “foolish” and that “it will also look terrible.” Trump advised New Yorkers to get “mops and buckets ready.” While Trump cannot single-handedly cancel a Corps project because the funding is allocated by Congress, projects are determined by Corps officials, the Department of Defense, and the White House Office of Management and Budget. (New York Times)

5/ House Democrats are investigating why Trump told the Department of Veterans Affairs to “corner the market” on a new antidepressant drug that was promoted by a group of unofficial advisers at Mar-a-Lago. The chairmen of the House veterans affairs and oversight committees sent letters asking for emails and financial records from three advisers with no official government roles who act as an informal council and exert influence on the VA. In 2017, the Mar-a-Lago advisers – Ike Perlmutter, Bruce Moskowitz, and Marc Sherman – worked with the VA and Johnson & Johnson on a suicide-prevention awareness campaign. Trump later endorsed the antidepressant drug Spravato, pushing for the VA to “corner the market” on it despite doctors’ concerns about its safety and effectiveness. (ProPublica)

  • 📌 Day 566: Three Mar-a-Lago members with no official government roles act as an informal council, exerting influence at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Freedom of Information Act and interviews with former administration officials show that the “Mar-a-Lago Crowd” speaks with VA officials daily regarding policy and personnel decisions. VA officials have also travelled to Mar-a-Lago at taxpayer expense to hear their views. As one former administration official said: “Everyone has to go down and kiss the ring.” (ProPublica)

poll/ 34% of Americans are confident that their votes in the presidential election will be accurately counted. 45% of American say they are concerned about foreign governments tampering with voting systems or election results. (Associated Press)

Day 1133: "We're very, very ready for this."

1/ Trump’s re-election campaign sued the New York Times for libel over a 2019 opinion article, accusing the newspaper of intentionally publishing a false story about a “quid pro quo” between Russian officials and Trump’s 2016 campaign. The suit alleges that the Times “has engaged in a systematic pattern of bias” against Trump by falsely reporting “as fact a conspiracy with Russia” with the “intentional purpose” of damaging Trump’s chances for reelection. Trump’s campaign argues that the op-ed conclusion “is false” and that the Times published the essay “knowing it would misinform and mislead its own readers.” To win the lawsuit, however, the Trump campaign will have to prove that the Times knew in March 2019 that the op-ed was false because of what was later confirmed in the Mueller report, which was published in April 2019. (CNBC / Reuters / Mediate / New York Times)

2/ Trump appointed Mike Pence to coordinate his administration’s response to the coronavirus, saying his administration has the situation under control and is “ready to adapt” if the disease spreads. Trump maintained that the risk to the U.S. from the deadly coronavirus “remains very low” and that “We’re very, very ready for this.” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar added that “Our containment strategy has been working.” Trump also said the U.S. is “rapidly developing a vaccine.” The statement was immediately contradicted by Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who said a vaccine won’t be ready for more than a year. Trump also contradicted federal health officials warning that the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. was “inevitable,” saying “I don’t think it’s inevitable.” (New York Times / Politico / NBC News / NPR / CNBC / CNN / Axios / CBS News / The Guardian / Associated Press / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)

3/ During the press conference, the CDC confirmed the first possible “community spread” of the coronavirus in Northern California by a patient who did not travel to a foreign country or have contact with another confirmed case. “At this point, the patient’s exposure is unknown,” a CDC statement said. “It’s possible this could be an instance of community spread of COVID-19, which would be the first time this has happened in the United States.” The CDC said the “The case was detected through the U.S. public health system and picked up by astute clinicians.” The individual is a resident of Solano County and is receiving medical care in Sacramento County. (Washington Post / New York Times / CNBC / NBC News)

4/ Trump is reportedly “furious” about the stock market’s slide after health officials warned that the coronavirus is “likely” to continue to spread and that the American public should “prepare for the expectation that this is going to be bad.” Trump has cautioned aides against forecasting the impact of the virus over fears that stocks could fall further. Meanwhile, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow suggested that investor take advantage of the market slump by “buying these dips” because “The virus story is not going to last forever.” A top official at the FDA, however, said that “For all intents and purposes, I think it’s fair to say we are on the cusp of the pandemic.” The FDA is looking for alternative sourcing and manufacturing of medical devices and key drugs given the shutdown in China. Earlier in the day, Trump accused news organizations of “doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets,” misspelling the name of the virus. In 2018, the White House eliminated the position on the National Security Council dedicated to coordinating pandemic responses. (Washington Post / CNBC / Bloomberg)

5/ Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for $8.5 billion in emergency funding to combat the coronavirus – more than three times the $2.5 billion requested by the White House. Schumer’s request includes $1.5 billion for the CDC, $1 billion for vaccine development, the allocation of $3 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, $2 billion for reimbursements to state and local health departments, and $1 billion for the USAID’s Emergency Reserve Fund. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said a $2 billion spending bill was likely insufficient and instead suggested a package of around $4 billion. For comparison, Congress appropriated $5.4 billion for Ebola in 2015 and $7 billion for the H1N1 virus in 2009. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the Trump administration’s $2.5 billion request “meager” and “anemic.” (CBS News / Washington Post / Associated Press / The Hill)

  • 📌 Day 1132: The Trump administration asked Congress to approve $2.5 billion in emergency spending to address the coronavirus. Half of the money is new funding, while the rest will be reallocated from other spending, including $535 million from funds to combat Ebola. More than $1 billion would go toward creating a coronavirus vaccine. Rep. Nita Lowey, the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, called the request “woefully insufficient to protect Americans from the deadly coronavirus outbreak,” criticizing the administration for trying to “raid” money from other public health accounts. Separately, Trump’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins in October would cut the CDC budget by almost 16%, and the Health and Human Services budget by almost 10%. (Washington Post / Politico / New York Times / CNN / Reuters / NBC News / CNBC)

6/ A federal appeals court ruled that the Trump administration can withhold law enforcement grant money from so-called sanctuary cities and states that don’t cooperate with U.S. immigration enforcement. Seven states and New York City sued the U.S. government after the Justice Department said in 2017 that it would withhold funds from states and municipalities that don’t provide immigration enforcement officials with access to jails or provide notice when an undocumented migrant is scheduled to be released from jail. The ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals means the Trump administration can withhold millions of dollars in federal law enforcement grants. (Associated Press / Axios)

  • 📌 Day 200: Chicago is suing the Trump administration for threatening to withhold public money from so-called sanctuary cities. In July, Jeff Sessions announced that the DOJ will only provide grants to cities that allow the Department of Homeland Security access to local jails and to provide 48 hours’ notice before releasing anyone wanted for immigration violations. Chicago claims that it already complies with the federal law and the new conditions are unconstitutional. (CNN / The Guardian / Associated Press)

  • 📌 Day 300: A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration can’t withhold money from “sanctuary cities” for refusing to cooperate with federal authorities on immigration. Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department have argued that cities should hold foreign detainees until Immigration and Customs Enforcement can pick them up. (The Hill)

7/ Lawmakers criticized the Pentagon’s decision to divert $3.8 billion from the defense budget to pay for Trump’s border wall, saying the move circumvented Congress’ authority and “undercuts any argument about the need for resources within the Department of Defense.” The House Armed Services Committee warned Defense Secretary Mark Esper that “Congress alone has the constitutional authority to determine how the nation spends its defense dollars.” Rep. Mac Thornberry, the committee’s top Republican, said Congress could place greater restrictions on the Pentagon’s ability to move money around to meet military needs in the future. (CNN / Associated Press / New York Times)

8/ Trump said India will purchase $3 billion worth of military equipment from U.S. weapons manufacturers. India is buying 24 SeaHawk helicopters from Lockheed Martin worth $2.6 billion and plans to place another order for six Apache helicopters. Trump also said he and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “have made tremendous progress on a comprehensive trade agreement,” which could include a free trade agreement. Trump added that he is “optimistic we can reach a deal that will be of great importance to both countries.” (Reuters)

9/ The White House hired a college senior to be one of the top officials in the Presidential Personnel Office. Jason Bacon is 23 years old and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree at George Washington University. Bacon will be the PPO’s director of operations, where he will oversee paperwork and assist with vetting new White House personnel. (Politico)

10/ The director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement suppressed guidance from the agency’s engineers when it overhauled a well-drilling safety rule. Scott Angelle instructed an engineer to delete language from decision memos – intended to show how rules develop through a reasoned decision-making process – that would contradict guidance from BSEE engineers. Angelle personally ordered an engineer to strip a note that agency staffers wanted “no change to the testing frequency” of critical safety equipment and that the staff “does not agree with industry” that an industry-crafted protocol for managing well pressure was sufficient in all situations. The original memos also noted that staffers had argued for “no change to the testing frequency” of blowout preventers — mechanical devices that failed on the Deepwater Horizon. (Wall Street Journal)

Day 1132: "This might be bad."

1/ Trump demanded that Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg recuse themselves from “all Trump, or Trump-related” cases. On Twitter, Trump accused Sotomayor of trying to “shame” other justices into “voting her way” after she issued a dissent last week that the court has been too quick to grant “emergency” relief to the federal government. Sotomayor’s dissent came following the court’s majority allowing the Trump administration to proceed with a plan to deny green cards to immigrants who are deemed likely to become a “public charge.” Trump also tweeted that Sotomayor “never criticized Justice Ginsberg when she called me a ‘faker’” –  referring to Ginsberg’s July 2016 criticism that she could not imagine then-candidate Trump as president. (New York Times / Washington Post / NPR / CNN / CNBC / Politico / The Guardian)

  • Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife is among the network of conservative activists who’ve been compiling lists of disloyal government officials to oust. Ginni Thomas and other conservatives have worked for the past 18 months to provide the White House with memos and suggestions about who to fire and who to replace them with. Trump acknowledged the existence of the lists of government officials he plans to oust and replace with pro-Trump people, saying he wants “people who are good for the country, loyal to the country” working for him. (New York Times / Axios)

2/ Trump suggested that the coronavirus is “going to go away.” Trump attempted to downplay the risk, saying the virus is “very well under control in our country […] We think they’ll be in very good shape very, very soon.” Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, added that “we have contained this” and that “people should be as calm as possible.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, called Trump “asleep at the wheel” as the virus has spread to Europe and the Middle East. Among White House policy aides, there’s concern that the spread of the coronavirus will slow down both the U.S. and Chinese economies as it hits multiple industries, including manufacturers, airlines, automakers, and tech companies. (Bloomberg / CNN / Politics / CNBC)

  • Coronavirus has killed roughly 2% of the people who have contracted it so far. For comparison, the mortality rate for the seasonal flu in the U.S. is 0.095%, according to CDC estimates for the 2019-2020 season. Acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf, however, claimed during a Senate subcommittee budget hearing that the mortality rate for the seasonal flu in the U.S. was about 2%. The 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, which caused about 50 million deaths worldwide, had a morality rate 2.5%. Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio host and recent Trump Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, claimed that the coronavirus outbreak is a “bioweapon” created by China in a laboratory that is being “weaponized” by the media to bring down Trump, asserting that it’s nothing more than a “common cold.” [Editor’s note: Rush Limbaugh is a bum.] (Washington Post / CNBC / HuffPost / The Guardian)

3/ The CDC warned that the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. appears “inevitable,” saying Americans should “prepare for the expectation that this might be bad.” While public health officials have no idea how severe the spread of the disease in the U.S. would be, they told reporters that “It’s not a question of if this will happen, but when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses.” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told a Senate committee that “This is an unprecedented, potentially severe health challenge globally.” The World Health Organization, meanwhile, warned that the world is not ready for a major outbreak. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / Bloomberg)

4/ The Trump administration asked Congress to approve $2.5 billion in emergency spending to address the coronavirus. Half of the money is new funding, while the rest will be reallocated from other spending, including $535 million from funds to combat Ebola. More than $1 billion would go toward creating a coronavirus vaccine. Rep. Nita Lowey, the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, called the request “woefully insufficient to protect Americans from the deadly coronavirus outbreak,” criticizing the administration for trying to “raid” money from other public health accounts. Separately, Trump’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins in October would cut the CDC budget by almost 16%, and the Health and Human Services budget by almost 10%. (Washington Post / Politico / New York Times / CNN / Reuters / NBC News / CNBC)

5/ The stock market plunged for a second day in a row on concerns that the coronavirus will upend global economic growth. The declines put the Dow and S&P 500 more than 7% below their record highs from earlier this month, while the Nasdaq is trading 8.2% below its all-time high from mid-February. The 10-year Treasury yield also hit a record low. (CNBC / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

  • Trump blamed the stock market drop on Bernie Sanders – not the coronavirus outbreak – saying investors are worried that Sanders and other candidates have “a real chance” of winning the presidency. Trump also claimed that the stock market would crash if he loses the 2020 election, saying “if I don’t win you’re going to see a crash like you’ve never seen before.” (Bloomberg / Reuters)

6/ Trump confirmed that he wants “no help from any country” with his re-election bid. Trump, however, declined to say whether he believes Russia is interfering in the 2020 election and issued no warning for Putin not to. Trump instead accused House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of leaking information that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election to help Trump. (NBC News)

📺 TONIGHT: Democratic Debate #10. The debate starts at 8 p.m. ET. live on CBS, and will also stream on CBSN via Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV.

Day 1131: Snakes.

1/ Trump’s national security advisor disputed reports of Russian interference in the 2020 election, saying there’s “no intelligence behind” such claims. Robert O’Brien suggested that the House Intelligence Committee either misheard or misinterpreted part of last week’s briefing, and that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not mean to say that it believes the Russians are currently intervening in the election to help Trump. The U.S. intelligence community also clarified that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election and has separately assessed that Russia views Trump as a preferred leader. The intelligence community, however, says it does not have evidence that Russia’s interference is aimed at reelecting Trump. (CBS News / New York Times / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1127: An intelligence official in charge of election security warned the House Intelligence Committee last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get Trump re-elected. Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions by Shelby Pierson during the meeting, arguing that Trump has been tough on Russia and strengthened European security. Trump reportedly “erupted” and “berated” his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in the Oval Office following the meeting over what he perceived as disloyalty. Trump also erroneously believed that Pierson had given information exclusively to Rep. Adam Schiff, complaining that Democrats would “weaponize” the disclosure. Yesterday, Trump announced that he was replacing Maguire with Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and a vocal Trump supporter. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 1128: Trump dismissed the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was meddling in the 2020 presidential election, calling it “Hoax number 7!” Trump labeled the intelligence that Russia had “developed a preference” for Trump in 2020 “another misinformation campaign” by Democrats. Shelby Pierson, the intelligence community’s election threats expert, briefed the House Intelligence Committee last week that Russia was determined to interfere in the 2020 primaries and general election. Following the briefing, Trump blamed Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, for allowing the information about Russia’s meddling efforts to be included and for not informing him in advance. Trump then announced that he was replacing Maguire with Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany and a Trump supporter. (Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1128: U.S. intelligence officials briefed Sen. Bernie Sanders about a month ago that Russia was attempting to help his presidential campaign. Trump and lawmakers were also informed about the assistance. It’s not clear what form the Russian assistance has taken, but federal prosecutor previously found that Russia used social media to help Sanders in the 2016 election. “I don’t care, frankly, who Putin wants to be president,” Sanders said in a statement. (Washington Post / New York Times)

2/ Trump accused Adam Schiff — without evidence — of leaking classified information about Russian election interference to the media. “Somebody please tell incompetent (thanks for my high poll numbers) & corrupt politician Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff to stop leaking Classified information or, even worse, made up information, to the Fake News Media,” Trump tweeted. “Someday he will be caught, & that will be a very unpleasant experience!” Trump was referring to the meeting between an intelligence official in charge of election security and members of the House Intelligence Committee, during which Shelby Pierson told members that Russia has “developed a preference” for Trump and is trying to make sure he is reelected. (Washington Post)

3/ Trump told aides he wants fewer people working in the White House and only loyalists working in certain administration positions. Aides say Trump is convinced that his administration is filled with “snakes” and that he’s on the hunt for the “bad people” inside the White House and government who he’s been “warned about.” This follows reports that Trump’s allies have compiled a list over the last 18 months of government employees they’ve identified as disloyal. Meanwhile, John McEntee, Trump’s former body man who was recently took over the Office of Presidential Personnel and reports directly to Trump, has ordered a freeze on all political appointments across the government. He’s also instructed departments to search for people not loyal to Trump’s agenda so they can be removed. (CNN / New York Times / Axios)

  • 📌 Day 1128: Trump’s new personnel chief told agency officials to identify political appointees across the government who are believed to be anti-Trump. Trump tasked John McEntee with purging the “bad people” and “Deep State,” starting with personnel at the State Department and Department of Defense. McEntee, Trump’s former body man, was fired in 2018 by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly. (Axios / CNN)

4/ Trump’s new acting intelligence director used to work for an Eastern European oligarch who the U.S. accused of corruption. Richard Grenell’s public relations firm was paid to write articles in 2016 defending the Moldovan politician Vladimir Plahotniuc. Grenell did not register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act – the same law that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were convicted of violating – and never disclosed that he was being paid to write the articles. In January, Plahotniuc was banned from entering the U.S., citing his alleged “corrupt actions” which “undermined the rule of law and severely compromised the independence of democratic institutions in Moldova.” (ProPublica / Washington Post)

5/ Trump called John Bolton a “traitor” and wants to block his book from being published before the November election. Trump has directly weighed in on the White House review of the book, “The Room Where It Happened,” by his former national security adviser, telling aides that everything he said to Bolton about national security is classified. The book was originally slated for publication in March but it has been held up after the National Security Council said the draft manuscript “appears to contain significant amounts of classified information,” some of it top secret. (Washington Post / The Guardian)

6/ Trump joined Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India for a campaign-style rally at a 110,000-seat cricket stadium. “America loves India. America respects India,” Trump said. “And America will always be faithful and loyal friends to the Indian people.” Trump announced that India would buy $3 billion worth of U.S. weapons and military equipment. Trump, however, did not mention that Modi and his Hindu nationalist government revoked the statehood of Kashmir – India’s only Muslim-majority state – or Modi’s fundamental change to India’s citizenship law, which includes religion as a criterion for nationality. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Associated Press / NPR)

  • Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney didn’t travel with Trump to India because he has a cold. Mulvaney also didn’t travel with Trump last week, which aides took as a potential sign he won’t remain in the job for much longer. (CNN)

7/ The Trump administration is privately worried that a coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. could hurt Trump’s 2020 reelection bid by straining the government’s public health response and threatening an economic slowdown. Trump, a self-declared “germophobe,” has publicly downplayed the virus, but privately he rebuked officials at the State Department and Health and Human Services over their decision to fly 14 Americans home who tested positive for the virus and had been quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)

  • U.S. stocks fell sharply as the number of coronavirus outbreaks spread to Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere in Asia. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gave up its gain for 2020, dropping 1,030 points – its biggest point and percentage-point drop since February 2018. The S&P 500 also had its worst day in two years and wiped out its year-to-date gain. (CNBC / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)

  • The World Health Organization said it isn’t yet clear whether the coronavirus can be stopped from spreading further. (Wall Street Journal)

poll/ 57% of Americans believe Roger Stone should not be pardoned, while 21% say he should be, and 22% say they are unsure. 45% of Republicans support a presidential pardon for Stone. 76% of Democrats say Trump should not pardon Stone. (Axios / YouGov)

Day 1128: Presidential preference.

1/ Trump dismissed the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was meddling in the 2020 presidential election, calling it “Hoax number 7!” Trump labeled the intelligence that Russia had “developed a preference” for Trump in 2020 “another misinformation campaign” by Democrats. Shelby Pierson, the intelligence community’s election threats expert, briefed the House Intelligence Committee last week that Russia was determined to interfere in the 2020 primaries and general election. Following the briefing, Trump blamed Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, for allowing the information about Russia’s meddling efforts to be included and for not informing him in advance. Trump then announced that he was replacing Maguire with Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany and a Trump supporter. (Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1127: An intelligence official in charge of election security warned the House Intelligence Committee last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get Trump re-elected. Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions by Shelby Pierson during the meeting, arguing that Trump has been tough on Russia and strengthened European security. Trump reportedly “erupted” and “berated” his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in the Oval Office following the meeting over what he perceived as disloyalty. Trump also erroneously believed that Pierson had given information exclusively to Rep. Adam Schiff, complaining that Democrats would “weaponize” the disclosure. Yesterday, Trump announced that he was replacing Maguire with Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and a vocal Trump supporter. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • A former National Security Council official who helped discredit the Russia probe, is now a senior adviser for the new acting Director of National Intelligence. Kash Patel previously worked as Rep. Devin Nunes’s top staffer on the House Intelligence Committee. He will advise Richard Grenell. (Politico)

2/ U.S. intelligence officials briefed Sen. Bernie Sanders about a month ago that Russia was attempting to help his presidential campaign. Trump and lawmakers were also informed about the assistance. It’s not clear what form the Russian assistance has taken, but federal prosecutor previously found that Russia used social media to help Sanders in the 2016 election. “I don’t care, frankly, who Putin wants to be president,” Sanders said in a statement. (Washington Post / New York Times)

3/ Trump’s new personnel chief told agency officials to identify political appointees across the government who are believed to be anti-Trump. Trump tasked John McEntee with purging the “bad people” and “Deep State,” starting with personnel at the State Department and Department of Defense. McEntee, Trump’s former body man, was fired in 2018 by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly. (Axios / CNN)

4/ Trump – in an all-caps tweet – promised more bailout funding for U.S. farmers if purchases from trade deals with China, Canada and Mexico “kick in.” The Trump administration allocated $16 billion in 2019 and $12 billion in 2018 to help farmers make up for losses due to Trump’s trade war with China. Under the trade deal signed last month, China agreed to import about $40 billion in U.S. agricultural goods in 2020, but a slowing Chinese economy due to coronavirus could make it difficult for China to hit their import goals. Trump tweeted that the bailout funding would be “PAID FOR OUT OF THE MASSIVE TARIFF MONEY COMING INTO THE USA!” (Bloomberg / Washington Post / Politico / Wall Street Journal)

5/ Trump criticized the Academy Awards for naming Parasite this year’s Best Picture, because it’s a South Korean movie. “We got enough problems with South Korea with trade,” Trump said at a reelection rally. “On top of it, they give them the best movie of the year? Was it good? I don’t know.” Parasite was the first non-English film to win the top prize at the Oscars in the award show’s 92-year history. It also won the Oscars for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature Film. (BuzzFeed News / Washington Post)

Day 1127: Desperate.

1/ An intelligence official in charge of election security warned the House Intelligence Committee last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get Trump re-elected. Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions by Shelby Pierson during the meeting, arguing that Trump has been tough on Russia and strengthened European security. Trump reportedly “erupted” and “berated” his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in the Oval Office following the meeting over what he perceived as disloyalty. Trump also erroneously believed that Pierson had given information exclusively to Rep. Adam Schiff, complaining that Democrats would “weaponize” the disclosure. Yesterday, Trump announced that he was replacing Maguire with Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and a vocal Trump supporter. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • Trump named Richard Grenell acting director of national intelligence. Grenell, the current ambassador to Germany, has little experience with the intelligence community or running a large bureaucracy, but will now oversee 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. Grenell has also been a Trump confidant and adviser on issues beyond his work in Berlin, and will remain ambassador to Germany while he serves as acting DNI. (New York Times / Washington Post / Axios)

2/ Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee will spend more than $10 million to challenge Democratic voting-related lawsuits. The Democratic super PAC, Priorities USA, has filed multiple lawsuits against states they believe are unconstitutionally suppressing participation in elections. The super PAC is challenging state laws that restrict organizers from helping voters submit absentee ballots and make it a misdemeanor to organize vehicles to transport voters to their polling places unless the voters are “physically unable to walk.” RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the Republican Party will “aggressively defend” its stake in the November elections, accusing Democrats of “trying to rig the game with frivolous lawsuits that do nothing but create electoral chaos, waste taxpayer money, and distract election officials in an attempt to advance the Democrats’ voter suppression myth because they know they can’t beat President Trump at the ballot box.” (Politico / New York Times)

3/ Roger Stone was sentenced to three years and four months in prison for obstructing a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Stone was convicted in November on seven counts of lying to congressional investigators and tampering with a witness about his efforts to obtain damaging emails related to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign that were stolen by Russian agents. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Stone had shown “flagrant disrespect” for Congress and the court and that Stone “was not prosecuted for standing up for the president; he was prosecuted for covering up for the president.” (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / NBC News / ABC News / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / Associated Press / CNBC)

4/ Trump said he wouldn’t immediately pardon Stone but would intervene if courts don’t overturn his conviction. Trump said Stone has “a very good chance of exoneration,” because “I personally think he was treated very unfairly.” Trump also accused the forewoman of the jury of being an “anti-Trump activist,” claiming that the trial was “tainted.” One former senior administration said: “It’s not a question of if, it’s when.” Earlier in the day Trump tweeted a clip from Tucker Carlson’s show suggesting that Trump “could end this travesty in an instant with a pardon and there are indications tonight that he will do that.” (Bloomberg / NBC News / Washington Post / Politico / The Guardian)

  • Trump is assembling a team of advisers to help manage the clemency process as he considers more pardons. The White House is moving to take more direct control over pardons by limiting the Justice Department’s role in the clemency process. Meanwhile, Trump is said to be weighing a flurry of additional pardon announcements. (Washington Post)

5/ Dana Rohrabacher confirmed that he told Julian Assange he would get Trump to pardon him if he turned over information proving that Russia didn’t hack the Democratic National Committee emails. Rohrabacher said his goal was to find proof for the debunked conspiracy theory that WikiLeaks’ source for the emails was former DNC staffer Seth Rich. U.S. intelligence agencies and Robert Mueller’s prosecutors, however, concluded that Russian intelligence agents had hacked the Democratic Party and stolen the emails. Rohrabacher claimed he only wanted “truthful” information from Assange and never suggested that he “lie.” (Yahoo News)

  • 📌 Day 1126: Trump offered to pardon Julian Assange if the WikiLeaks founder agreed to say Russia was not involved in hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee. Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, claimed at a court hearing in London that former Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher offered Assange the deal in 2017. Fitzgerald said he had a statement from another Assange lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, that shows “Mr. Rohrabacher going to see Mr. Assange and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr. Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham denied the allegation, saying Trump “barely knows Dana Rohrabacher” and has “never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject.” In Sept. 2017, Rohrabacher said that as part of the deal, Assange would have to hand over a computer drive or other data storage devices that would prove that Russia was not the source of the hacked emails. The White House confirmed that Rohrabacher had called John Kelly, then Trump’s chief of staff, to talk about a possible deal with Assange. Kelly reportedly declined to pass it along to Trump. (The Guardian / Daily Beast / Washington Post / Washington Post / The Verge / CNBC)

6/ Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said the Trump administration is “desperate” and “needs more immigrants” to come in a “legal fashion” for the U.S. economy to continue growing. “We are desperate — desperate — for more people,” Mulvaney told a private group in England. “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.” Since Trump took office, the State Department has issued 17% fewer immigration visas. (Washington Post)

poll/ 49% of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president – up five percentage points since January. 45% of Americans are satisfied with the state of the nation – the highest since 2005. (Gallup)

poll/ 64% of small business owners approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president. [Editor’s note: Now’s a good time to remind the WTFam that this is my full-time job and it’s 100% sustained by your optional contributions. If you find my work valuable, consider supporting me by becoming a member.] (CNBC)

Day 1126: Cleaning house.

1/ Trump offered to pardon Julian Assange if the WikiLeaks founder agreed to say Russia was not involved in hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee. Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, claimed at a court hearing in London that former Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher offered Assange the deal in 2017. Fitzgerald said he had a statement from another Assange lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, that shows “Mr. Rohrabacher going to see Mr. Assange and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr. Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham denied the allegation, saying Trump “barely knows Dana Rohrabacher” and has “never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject.” In Sept. 2017, Rohrabacher said that as part of the deal, Assange would have to hand over a computer drive or other data storage devices that would prove that Russia was not the source of the hacked emails. The White House confirmed that Rohrabacher had called John Kelly, then Trump’s chief of staff, to talk about a possible deal with Assange. Kelly reportedly declined to pass it along to Trump. (The Guardian / Daily Beast / Washington Post / Washington Post / The Verge / CNBC)

  • 📌 Day 554: Accused Russian spy Maria Butina had dinner last year with Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican congressman on the House Foreign Relations Committee. Two years earlier, Butina arranged a meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, that included Rohrabacher and her mentor Alexander Torshin, who is one of Putin’s closest allies. Rohrabacher also met Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya during an official trip he made to Moscow in April 2016. Later that summer, Rohrabacher traveled to London to meet with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. WikiLeaks released Hillary Clinton’s hacked emails on July 22, 2016. (ABC News)

2/ Trump retweeted the claim that he was “the victim of a seditious conspiracy out of the” Justice Department and the FBI. Trump, ignoring Barr’s appeal for him to stop tweeting about the Justice Department, demanded “JUSTICE” for himself and future presidents. In a series of tweets, Trump promoted the idea by the president of a right-wing advocacy group that “Barr should clean house” at the Justice Department and that Trump can “appoint a special counsel directly” to investigate the purported conspiracy against him. (New York Times / CNBC)

3/ Attorney General Bill Barr told multiple people that he is considering quitting if Trump doesn’t stop tweeting about the Justice Department. Barr has reportedly been sharing his concerns with people close to Trump in the hopes that the message will get back to Trump to stop publicly musing about the DOJ’s ongoing investigations. Last week, Barr said Trump’s tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job.” (Washington Post / NBC News / Reuters / Associate Press / CNBC)

4/ Senate Republicans are urging Trump to keep Barr in the job, warning any move to fire or force Barr out would be a mistake and that the Senate would be unlikely to confirm a successor “any time soon.” (Politico)

  • 📌 Day 1125: Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and Kevin McCarthy issued a statement in support of Barr, saying “Suggestions from outside groups that the Attorney General has fallen short of the responsibilities of his office are unfounded. The Attorney General has shown that he is committed without qualification to securing equal justice under law for all Americans.” Separately, Trump said he had total confidence in Barr. (Axios / Reuters)

5/ Trump asked a top Defense Department official who advised against cutting off U.S. military aid to Ukraine to resign. John Rood, the Pentagon’s Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, was involved in certifying that Ukraine should receive the $250 million in security assistance at the center of Trump’s impeachment inquiry. Rood reportedly warned Defense Secretary Mark Esper against withholding the aid to Ukraine in an e-mail on July 25, hours after Trump’s now-infamous call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In a letter to Trump, Rood writes that he’ll step down Feb. 28 “as you requested.” (CNN / Bloomberg / New York Times / ABC News)

📺 Democratic presidential debate. Six presidential candidates will face off tonight at 9 p.m. ET from the Paris Theater in Las Vegas. The debate will air live on NBC News and MSNBC. [Editor’s note: Hold on to your butts.]

Day 1125: "Openly and repeatedly flouted."

1/ More than 2,000 former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials called on Attorney General William Barr to resign, claiming that his handling of Roger Stone’s case “openly and repeatedly flouted” the principle of equal justice when he intervened in Stone’s sentencing recommendation. A national association of federal judges also called an emergency meeting to address the intervention in politically sensitive cases by Trump and Barr after more than 1,100 life-term federal judges said the issue “could not wait.” (USA Today / Washington Post / New York Times / Axios)

  • Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and Kevin McCarthy issued a statement in support of Barr, saying “Suggestions from outside groups that the Attorney General has fallen short of the responsibilities of his office are unfounded. The Attorney General has shown that he is committed without qualification to securing equal justice under law for all Americans.” Separately, Trump said he had total confidence in Barr. (Axios / Reuters)

  • [Editorial] Bill Barr Must Resign. (The Atlantic)

  • [Editorial] William Barr must go. (Boston Globe)

  • 😳 Barr’s internal reviews and re-investigations feed resentment, suspicion inside Justice Dept. (Washington Post)

  • 😳 Fearful of Trump’s Attacks, Justice Dept. Lawyers Worry Barr Will Leave Them Exposed. (New York Times)

  • 😳 Attorney general’s actions spark outrage and unease among US prosecutors. (CNN)

2/ Trump threatened to file retaliatory lawsuits “all over the place” for damages he claims to have incurred as a result of Robert Mueller’s investigation. In a series of tweets, Trump criticized the 22-month-long probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying “Everything having to do with this fraudulent investigation is badly tainted and, in my opinion, should be thrown out.” Trump also accused Mueller of lying to Congress while invoking U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is scheduled to sentence Roger Stone on Thursday. (Politico)

  • 📌Day 1119: Trump defended Roger Stone in a series of tweets while attacking the federal judge and prosecutors involved in the case. Trump also “congratulated” Attorney General William Barr for “taking charge of the case” – confirming that Barr intervened in Stone’s sentencing recommendation. Trump claimed that Stone was treated “very badly” and suggested that prosecutors “ought to apologize to him.” Trump also implied that U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over the case, was biased because of her role in the sentencing of Paul Manafort and dismissal of a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton. Stone is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 20. When asked if he would pardon Stone, Trump replied: “I don’t want to say that yet, but I tell you what, people were hurt viciously and badly by these corrupt people.” (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 1120: Attorney General Bill Barr said Trump’s “constant background commentary” about the Justice Department “make it impossible for me to do my job” and that “I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody.” Barr’s comments came in response to Trump congratulating Barr for “taking charge” and personally intervening to overruling career prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone. Barr added, that “I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.” (ABC News / New York Times / Axios / NPR)

  • 📌 Day 1121: Trump declared that he has the “legal right” to ask Attorney General William Barr to intervene in federal criminal cases a day after Barr publicly asked Trump to stop tweeting about the Justice Department, because it “make[s] it impossible for me to do my job.” Trump tweeted Barr’s quote that Trump had never asked him to do anything related to a criminal case and said that “This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!” (New York Times / Washington Post / The Guardian / NBC News / USA Today)

  • 😳 ‘Something has to be done’: Trump’s quest to rewrite history of the Russia probe. (Washington Post)

3/ The federal judge overseeing Roger Stone’s criminal trial refused delay his sentencing despite Trump’s tweet that Stone’s conviction “should be thrown out.” Stone’s defense team also requested a new trial and lobbied to delay the sentencing. Prosecutors originally recommended a seven to nine year sentence in federal prison, but Attorney General William Barr reversed that decision and recommended a reduced sentence, which prompted the entire prosecution team to resign from the case in protest. Judge Amy Berman Jackson also ordered both sides to participate in a hearing after the prosecutors in charge of the case resigned. Trump later told reporters that he thought Stone had been “treated unfairly” but that he had not given any thought to issuing him a pardon. Asked if Stone deserves any prison time, Trump replied: “You’re going to see what happens. You’ll see what happens.” (Associated Press / Washington Post / NBC News / New York Times / CNBC / Politico / The Guardian)

4/ Federal prosecutors are considering additional charges against Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas. The U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York — which Giuliani led in the 1980s — is considering new charges against Parnas and at least one of his business partners for misleading of investors in their company, Fraud Guarantee. Giuliani was paid $500,000 by Fraud Guarantee in 2018 to advise the company – around the same time that Parnas and Igor Fruman began helping arrange meetings in Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden. (CNN / Washington Post)

5/ Trump’s top trade adviser has been conducting his own investigation to uncover the identity of the person known as “Anonymous” – the senior Trump administration official who declared that there was a “resistance” within the administration in 2018 and recently published the bestselling book titled A Warning. Peter Navarro has reportedly been compiling a “profile” of the language and phrases used in Anonymous’ book in order to cross-reference them with a list of potential suspects. Separately, Trump administration officials have discussed reassigning deputy national security adviser Victoria Coates from the National Security Council to the Department of Energy after officials in the White House suggested to reporters in recent weeks that Coates was Anonymous. (Daily Beast / Axios / Politico)

  • 📌 Day 595: The White House is in a state of “total meltdown” with Trump “absolutely livid” and reacting to the anonymous op-ed with “volcanic” anger. The op-ed by “a senior official in the Trump administration” who claims to be part of a “resistance” protecting the U.S. from its president, has set off finger-pointing within the West Wing at the highest levels of the administration. Aides and outside allies say “the sleeper cells have awoken” and that “it’s like the horror movies when everyone realizes the call is coming from inside the house.” (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / Talking Points Memo)

  • 📌 Day 1022: A forthcoming book by an anonymous senior Trump administration claims that high-level White House aides were certain that Mike Pence would support using the 25th Amendment to have Trump removed from office. The author of “A Warning” – the same official behind the 2018 op-ed that declared there was a “resistance” within the administration – claimed that White House officials put together a list of Cabinet secretaries who were open to the idea of removing Trump because of mental incapacity and that “there was no doubt in the minds of these senior officials that Pence would support invoking the 25th Amendment if the majority of the Cabinet signed off on it.” Pence, meanwhile, said he never heard about any discussion of using the 25th amendment in the White House. (HuffPost / Politico)

  • Former national security adviser John Bolton suggested that his forthcoming book contains revelations about Trump’s misconduct that go beyond his pressure campaign in Ukraine. Bolton claimed that the Ukraine revelations were “like the sprinkles on the ice cream sundae in terms of what’s in the book.” He also said the White House was trying to use its powers of classification to prevent the book, The Room Where It Happened, from coming out. “I say things in the manuscript about what he (Trump) said to me,” Bolton added. “I hope they become public someday.” (CNN / New York Times)

  • 📚 The WTF Just Happened Today? Recommended Book List


Notables.

  1. The White House memo justifying the assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani doesn’t mention an imminent threat, despite it being the Trump administration’s primary rationale for the attack. Instead, the two-page memo justifies the drone strike based on previous attacks and the need to deter Iran from carrying out attacks in the future. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel said the memo “directly contradicts the president’s false assertion that he attacked Iran to prevent an imminent attack against United States personnel and embassies.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Haaretz / CNN / CNBC / Slate)

  2. The Department of Homeland Security waived 10 federal contracting laws to speed up construction of Trump’s border wall, including requirements regarding open competition, justifying selections, and receiving all bonding from a contractor before any work can begin. DHS said waiving the laws would speed up the construction of 177 miles of border wall at sites in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. (Associated Press)

  3. Native American burial sites have been destroyed by construction crews building the U.S.-Mexico border wall. “Controlled blasting” has taken place at Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a Unesco-recognized natural reserve, without first consulting the Tohono O’odham Nation. (BBC)

  4. The top intelligence office lawyer who initially blocked the whistleblower complaint about Trump and Ukraine from reaching Congress is resigning. Jason Klitenic, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, will depart early next month. (Politico)

  5. Trump attended Stephen Miller’s wedding, which took place at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. (Politico)

  6. Trump’s campaign manager shared a photo of Air Force One at the Daytona 500 from 2004 and claimed that it was from Trump’s visit on Sunday. Brad Parscale deleted the photo from George W. Bush’s visit to the NASCAR race after users pointed out that the photo was from 2004. (CNN)

  7. Trump pardoned or commuted the sentences of 11 people, including Rod Blagojevich, Bernard Kerik, Michael Milken, and former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. Blagojevich was convicted of trying to essentially sell Obama’s vacated Senate seat for personal gain. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, was convicted of tax fraud and lying to the government. Milken, an investment banker, was known in the 1980s as the “junk bond king” and the face of the insider trading scandals of the 1980s. (New York Times / CNBC / Politico / CNN)

Day 1121: "Crime fighters."

1/ Trump declared that he has the “legal right” to ask Attorney General William Barr to intervene in federal criminal cases a day after Barr publicly asked Trump to stop tweeting about the Justice Department, because it “make[s] it impossible for me to do my job.” Trump tweeted Barr’s quote that Trump had never asked him to do anything related to a criminal case and said that “This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!” (New York Times / Washington Post / The Guardian / NBC News / USA Today)

2/ Barr assigned an outside prosecutor to review the criminal case against Michael Flynn – days after Barr’s Justice Department undercut Roger Stone’s recommended sentence by career prosecutors. Flynn, who served as Trump’s first national security adviser and resigned a month into the new administration, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about a conversation he had with the then-ambassador to Russia, but recently asked to withdraw that plea, further delaying his sentencing. In October, Trump tweeted that Flynn had been the target of a “setup.” (New York Times / NBC News / ABC News / CNN / Axios)

  • The Army will not investigate Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. The announcement comes after Trump said the military would “take a look at” whether Vindman should face disciplinary action for the “horrible things” he told House investigators about the phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last July. (Politico)

  • The Justice Department will not charge former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe with lying to investigators. The DOJ’s letter to McCabe’s attorney ends a months-long inquiry stemming from inaccurate statements McCabe made to FBI investigators about his actions around the time of the 2016 election. The White House was not given advance notice about the decision, which upset Trump. A White House official said Trump “believes very strongly that action should be taken.” (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal / Fox News)

3/ Trump admitted that he ordered Rudy Giuliani to go to Ukraine to dig up damaging information about his political opponents after denying it during the impeachment inquiry. When asked during an interview with Geraldo Rivera if he was sorry that he sent Giuliani to Ukraine, Trump replied: “No, not at all. Here’s my choice: I deal with the Comeys of the world, or I deal with Rudy.” Trump went on to defend his decision by claiming that Giuliani is a “crime fighter” and that “other presidents had [lawyers].” (CNN / New York Magazine / Business Insider)

4/ U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson canceled a planned trip to the U.S. after Trump slammed down the phone on the prime minister. Relations broke down in recent weeks following a series of disagreements between the two over Iran, Huawei, and a rejected request by the prime minister to extradite the wife of a U.S. diplomat. Trump’s behavior during the call was described by officials as “apoplectic.” (The Sun / Business Insider)

5/ Trump will be the guest of honor at a reelection fundraiser that costs $580,600 per couple to attend. The fundraiser, taking place miles from Mar-a-Lago, will be the most expensive since Trump took office. Trump has attended at least 48 gatherings with elite Republican donors since October 2017. (Washington Post)

6/ The Trump administration is deploying specially trained tactical units from the southern border to “sanctuary cities” to help carry out an immigrant arrest operation this weekend alongside Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. The officers are being sent to cities including Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit, and Newark, N.J. The deployment of the teams will run from February through May, according to an email sent to Customs and Border Protection personnel. (New York Times / Axios)

Day 1120: Impossible.

1/ Attorney General Bill Barr said Trump’s “constant background commentary” about the Justice Department “make it impossible for me to do my job” and that “I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody.” Barr’s comments came in response to Trump congratulating Barr for “taking charge” and personally intervening to overruling career prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone. Barr added, that “I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.” (ABC News / New York Times / Axios / NPR)

  • 📌 Day 1119: Trump defended Roger Stone in a series of tweets while attacking the federal judge and prosecutors involved in the case. Trump also “congratulated” Attorney General William Barr for “taking charge of the case” – confirming that Barr intervened in Stone’s sentencing recommendation. Trump claimed that Stone was treated “very badly” and suggested that prosecutors “ought to apologize to him.” Trump also implied that U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over the case, was biased because of her role in the sentencing of Paul Manafort and dismissal of a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton. Stone is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 20. When asked if he would pardon Stone, Trump replied: “I don’t want to say that yet, but I tell you what, people were hurt viciously and badly by these corrupt people.” (Washington Post / New York Times)

2/ The former U.S. attorney in charge of the Roger Stone prosecution resigned – two days after Trump abruptly withdrew her nomination for a top job at the agency. Jessie Liu, who previously headed the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, oversaw several cases that originated with Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including prosecutions of Stone and Michael Flynn. (NBC News / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1119: Trump withdrew Jessie Liu’s nomination to become the Treasury Department’s terrorism and financial crimes undersecretary because of her office’s handling of the Roger Stone and Michael Flynn cases. While head of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, Liu supervised the court proceedings for Trump aides and Mueller defendants, including Rick Gates, Flynn, and Stone. Liu served in the role from September 2017 until Jan. 31, and coinciding with her departure, the U.S. attorney’s office changed its sentencing stances in both Flynn and Stone’s cases. Trump pulled Liu’s nomination two days before her scheduled confirmation hearing. (Axios / Washington Post / NBC News / CNN)

3/ Former White House chief of staff John Kelly called Trump’s request for Ukraine to investigate his political rivals “tantamount to an illegal order,” saying Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was right to report Trump’s July 25 call with Volodymyr Zelensky. “He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave,” Kelly said. “He went and told his boss what he just heard.” Kelly said Trump’s decision – to make aid to Ukraine contingent upon Zelensky announcing investigations into his political rivals – “essentially changed” U.S. policy toward Ukraine. Trump, meanwhile, responded by tweeting that Kelly “came in with a bang, went out with a whimper, but like so many X’s, he misses the action & just can’t keep his mouth shut, which he actually has a military and legal obligation to do.” (The Atlantic / Washington Post / New York Times / The Guardian / CNN)

4/ The Senate voted to limit Trump’s ability to order future strikes against Iran without first seeking Congress’s explicit permission. Eight Republicans joined all Democrats in voting 55 to 45 for the measure – short of the two-thirds supermajority needed to override Trump’s promised veto. The war powers resolution would block Trump from engaging in hostilities without consulting Congress except in cases where self-defense is required against a clear, imminent attack. Prior to the vote, Trump warned the Senate not to vote for the measure, tweeting that it would “show weakness” and “sends a very bad signal.” (NPR / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Bloomberg)

5/ The House of Representatives voted to eliminate the deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which would ban discrimination on the basis of sex and guarantee equality for women under the Constitution. The measure passed the House largely along party lines by a vote of 232-183 with five Republicans voting in support. The amendment, proposed in 1972, originally had a ratification deadline of 1979, but Congress later bumped that to 1982. The deadline was never extended. Three-quarters of the states must ratify a proposed amendment for it to be added to the Constitution. Last month, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA. Mitch McConnell, however, has said he is “not a supporter” of the measure and is unlikely to take it up in the Senate. (NPR / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / CNN)

6/ The White House plans to take $3.8 billion from the Defense Department to build Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. For the second year in a row, Trump will dip into Defense Department funds earmarked for counterdrug activities and military construction for his border wall. The money will be drawn from several accounts intended to build fighter jets, ships, vehicles, and National Guard equipment. (Foreign Policy / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Defense One / Daily Beast)

7/ Trump’s rhetoric has been used by students and school staff members to harass children more than 300 times since the start of 2016, according to a review of 28,000 news stories. At least three-quarters of the attacks were directed at kids who are Hispanic, black or Muslim. Students have also been victimized because they support the president — more than 45 times during the same period. (Washington Post)

8/ Hope Hicks, Sean Spicer, and Reince Priebus will return to the White House. Hicks will report to Jared Kushner and work on Trump’s re-election campaign and other “strategic” matters. Her title will be “counselor to the president.” Priebus and Spicer will join the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships. (New York Times / BBC / Washington Post / ABC News / Salon)

  • Trump’s former body man recently returned to the West Wing. John McEntee was fired by John Kelly over security clearance issues. (Axios)

Day 1119: "Ought to apologize."

1/ Trump defended Roger Stone in a series of tweets while attacking the federal judge and prosecutors involved in the case. Trump also “congratulated” Attorney General William Barr for “taking charge of the case” – confirming that Barr intervened in Stone’s sentencing recommendation. Trump claimed that Stone was treated “very badly” and suggested that prosecutors “ought to apologize to him.” Trump also implied that U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over the case, was biased because of her role in the sentencing of Paul Manafort and dismissal of a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton. Stone is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 20. When asked if he would pardon Stone, Trump replied: “I don’t want to say that yet, but I tell you what, people were hurt viciously and badly by these corrupt people.” (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • The fourth federal prosecutor resigned from Roger Stone’s case after the Justice Department announced that it planned to reduce its sentencing recommendation. Michael Marando’s departure means the entire prosecutorial team working on the case has resigned in protest over the DOJ’s decision. (Washington Post / NBC News / Associate Press / CNN)

  • A federal judge has denied Stone’s request for a new trial. The denial was decided last week – before the Justice Department’s revised sentencing recommendations. (CNN)

2/ Trump withdrew Jessie Liu’s nomination to become the Treasury Department’s terrorism and financial crimes undersecretary because of her office’s handling of the Roger Stone and Michael Flynn cases. While head of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, Liu supervised the court proceedings for Trump aides and Mueller defendants, including Rick Gates, Flynn, and Stone. Liu served in the role from September 2017 until Jan. 31, and coinciding with her departure, the U.S. attorney’s office changed its sentencing stances in both Flynn and Stone’s cases. Trump pulled Liu’s nomination two days before her scheduled confirmation hearing. (Axios / Washington Post / NBC News /CNN)

3/ Attorney General William Barr will testify to the House Judiciary Committee on March 31. Democrats signaled they plan to question Barr about three topics: overruling prosecutors on Stone’s recommended sentence, the arrangement for Rudy Giuliani to provide information on Ukraine, and the pulled nomination of Jessie Liu. (Politico / CNN)

  • Lindsey Graham told reporters that the Senate Judiciary Committee would not ask Barr to testify about the Justice Department’s decision to reduce Roger Stone’s sentencing recommendation. “He’ll come in as part of oversight, but we’re not going to call him based on this,” Graham told reporters. (Axios / Politico)

4/ Trump suggested that the military will likely look at disciplinary action against Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman after he was ousted from the White House for his testimony during the House impeachment hearings. “That’s going to be up to the military, we’ll have to see, but if you look at what happened, they’re going to certainly, I would imagine, take a look at that,” Trump said. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said he decided to remove Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his brother Yevgeny from the National Security Council – not Trump. However, Trump admitted the day after Vindman’s dismissal that he was removed because he was “insubordinate” and “reported the contents of my ‘perfect’ phone calls incorrectly.” A U.S. official, however, said that neither the Army nor the Defense Department is investigating Vindman. (Politico / ABC News / New York Times / Axios / Mother Jones)

5/ The House Oversight Committee asked the Secret Service to provide a full accounting of its payments to Trump’s private company after it was revealed that the Secret Service had been charged as much as $650 per night for rooms at Trump clubs. (Washington Post)

Day 1118: Excessive.

1/ Trump’s Justice Department will overrule its own prosecutors and reduce Roger Stone’s sentencing recommendation, calling it “extreme and excessive and disproportionate to Stone’s offenses.” Federal prosecutors initially recommended that Stone serve up to nine years in prison for obstruction of justice, lying to Congress, and witness tampering. The Justice Department’s reversal came hours after Trump tweeted that the recommended sentence was “horrible and very unfair” and a “disgraceful” “miscarriage of justice” that should not be allowed to happen. In the sentencing memo, federal prosecutors said Stone “obstructed Congress’ investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, lied under oath, and tampered with a witness,” and that Stone “displayed contempt for this Court and the rule of law” after he was indicted. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / Wall Street Journal / NPR / Politico / CNBC / ABC News / Axios / CNN / Reuters)

2/ Three career prosecutors handling the Roger Stone case resigned after the Justice Department said in a new sentencing memo that Stone’s sentence should be “far less” than the seven to nine years that they had recommended. The memo noted that DOJ still wanted Stone to be incarcerated but declined to say for how long. Prosecutors Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, and Jonathan Kravis told the judge they were withdrawing immediately as attorneys. (Washington Post / CNN / Daily Beast / NBC News)

3/ The Office of Management and Budget was fully aware of the Pentagon’s concerns about Trump’s hold on Ukraine funding and attempted to bury them, according to new, unredacted emails. OMB also appears to have mislead the Government Accountability Office about the circumstances surrounding the freeze. Pentagon officials were reportedly so concerned over the hold on aid by OMB that they noted the aid was at “serious risk” of not being used before the last day of the fiscal year and questioned if the move was illegal. (Just Security / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1092: The Trump administration violated the law when it froze military aid to Ukraine, according to a nonpartisan congressional watchdog. The Government Accountability Office said the White House budget office violated the Impoundment Control Act when it withheld funds that had been appropriated by Congress for a “policy reason.” The Office of Management and Budget claimed it “withheld the funds to ensure that they were not spent ‘in a manner that could conflict with the President’s foreign policy.’” The GAO, however, rejected the argument, saying “Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.” (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / NBC News / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 1112: Trump’s July 18 hold on Ukraine military aid stunned Pentagon officials working to expedite delivery of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, according to emails and internal Pentagon documents. In an email to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, a top Defense official communicated his concern about Trump’s “reported view that the US should cease providing security assistance” to Ukraine and its subsequent impact on national security in hopes that Esper could persuade Trump to drop the hold. (CNN)

4/ Trump’s budget proposal would reduce the number of repayment options for student loan borrowers and get rid of the public service loan forgiveness program. The program allow employees of a non-profit or public institutions to have their federal student loans canceled after making 10 years of on-time payments. Up to a quarter of American workers are estimated to be eligible for the program. (CNBC)

5/ Trump created 1.5 million fewer jobs in his first three years in office than Obama did in his final three. The figures from the Department of Labor show a 19% decline in job creation under Trump. (HuffPost)

6/ Senate Republicans blocked an effort by Democrats to unanimously pass three election security-related bills. The bills required campaigns to alert the FBI and Federal Election Commission about foreign offers of assistance, banned voting machines from being connected to the internet, and provided funding for the Election Assistance Commission. Under the Senate’s rules, any one senator can ask for unanimous consent to pass a bill, but any one senator can object and block their requests. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) opposed each of the requests. [Editor’s note: You can contact Blackburn’s office at (202) 224-3344]. (The Hill)

7/ A whistleblower complaints alleges that the Justice Department denied grants to two nonprofits in favor of less established groups whose applications were not recommended by career DOJ officials. An internal DOJ memo recommended that more than $1 million in anti-human trafficking grants go to the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach and Chicanos Por La Causa of Phoenix. Instead, the grants were awarded to Hookers for Jesus in Nevada and the Lincoln Tubman Foundation in South Carolina despite receiving lower rankings from outside reviewers. The task force said the Lincoln Tubman Foundation’s was still in its “infancy” with “little to no experience.” In 2017, Hookers for Jesus received $300,000 through the federal Victims of Crime Act, but the funding was not renewed in 2018 after the state obtained a program manual that said it was “mandatory” for guests of the shelter to attend and volunteer at a specific church. The training manual also called homosexuality immoral and drug abuse “witchcraft.” (Reuters)

poll/ 66% of voters believe Trump will be reelected in November compared to 28% who believe he’ll lose to a Democrat. 65% of voters say they are optimistic about the 2020 presidential election, while 30% are pessimistic. (Monmouth University Polling Institute)

Day 1117: Parasite.

1/ The Justice Department is reviewing information Rudy Giuliani gathered from Ukrainian sources claiming to have damaging information about the Bidens. Attorney General William Barr acknowledged that the Justice Department had established an “intake process” for evaluating the information, confirming an assertion made by Sen. Lindsey Graham that the department had “created a process that Rudy could give information and they would see if it’s verified.” Barr and other officials suggested that Giuliani was being treated no differently than any tipster. Meanwhile, a Justice Department official said Giuliani had “recently” shared information with federal law enforcement officials through the process. (Washington Post / NPR / New York Times)

2/ Trump recalled Gordon Sondland from his post as the ambassador to the European Union on the same day that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was “escorted” out of the White House by security guards. Sondland, a key witnesses in the House impeachment hearings, testified that “we followed the president’s orders” and that “everyone was in the loop.” State Department officials told Sondland that they wanted him to resign, but Sondland declined and said he would have to be fired. In response, State Department officials recalled him. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 1114: The White House fired a national security official who testified against Trump during the impeachment inquiry. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who reported his concerns over Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukraine’s leader to NSC officials, was “escorted out of the White House,” his lawyer said. Earlier in the day when asked whether he wanted Vindman to leave, Trump said: “Well, I’m not happy with him.” Trump also suggested that his impeachment should be “expunged […] because it was a hoax.” And, when asked if his Democratic political opponents “should be held accountable,” Trump replied: “You’ll see.” (Bloomberg / Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / Politico / CNN)

3/ Chuck Schumer called on all 74 inspectors general to investigate retaliation against whistleblowers who report presidential misconduct. Schumer requested investigations into “any and all instances of retaliation” against witnesses who have made “protected disclosures of presidential misconduct” after the firing of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from the National Security Council. Schumer said the firings were “part of a dangerous, growing pattern of retaliation against those who report wrongdoing only to find themselves targeted by the President and subject to his wrath and vindictiveness.” (Politico / Associated Press / CNN)

  • A handful of Republican senators tried to stop Trump from firing Gordon Sondland, but Trump did it anyway. The senators were concerned that it would look bad for Trump to fire him, especially since Sondland was already expected to leave after the impeachment trial was over. (New York Times)

  • Kellyanne Conway suggested that more officials could “maybe” be forced out of their roles. (Politico)

4/ The Trump administration released a $4.8 trillion budget proposal that would cut funding for domestic and safety net programs. The proposal would cut Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, despite Trump’s promises that he would protect both. The proposal would also cut spending for the EPA (26.5%), Health and Human Services (9%), Department of Education (8%), Interior Department (13.4%), and the Housing and Urban Development (15.2%). Meanwhile, spending for the military, national defense, and border enforcement would increase. The Pentagon’s budget would maintain current levels, but calls for a nearly 20% increase for “modernizing the nuclear stockpile.” Even if all the proposed cuts are approved by Congress, the $4.8 trillion budget proposal would fail to eliminate the federal deficit over the next 10 years, according to an internal summary of the plan. White House officials plan to promote the proposal as a way to reduce the deficit by 2035 – missing Trump’s initial promise to eliminate the deficit by 2028. (Washington Post / Associated Press / Axios / New York Times / Politico / Reuters / Vox / Wall Street Journal)

5/ New York state sued the Trump administration for its policy to exclude New Yorkers from enrolling in federal Trusted Traveler programs. The Trump administration “cut off” New Yorkers from joining or renewing their participation in the programs in response to New York’s passage of a law allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses while limiting immigration authorities from accessing the state’s DMV records. (Reuters)

  • 📌 Day 1113: The Department of Homeland Security temporarily blocked New York state residents from enrolling in the Trusted Traveler Programs, including Global Entry, in retaliation for a state law that limits immigration agents’ access to the state’s driver’s license data. The Trump administration expects to kick “roughly 175,000 New Yorkers” out of the programs by the end of this year. The administration also threatened to take action against other states that push to limit immigration agents’ access to state-level data. (CNN / Washington Post / New York Times)

✏️ Notables.

  1. Trump does not want another summit with Kim Jong Un before the presidential election. North Korea, meanwhile, has recently resumed missile testing. (CNN)

  2. More than 100 U.S. service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries following the January 8 Iranian missile attack in Iraq. Trump initially downplayed severity of injuries as just “headaches.” (CNN)

  3. Billionaire conservative casino owner Sheldon Adelson is planning to donate at least $100 million to Trump’s re-election campaign and Republican congressional election efforts in 2020. Adelson and his wife have donated more than $100 million to Super PACs and dark money groups in each of the last two presidential election cycles, and could end up donating more than $200 million in 2020. (The Guardian)

  4. Amazon wants to depose Trump over the Pentagon’s decision to award a $10 billion cloud computing project to Microsoft in October. In a federal court filing, Amazon noted that Trump has a “well-documented personal animus towards” Amazon, its CEO Jeff Bezos, and The Washington Post, which Bezos owns. Amazon said that Trump is the only who can testify about the “totality of his conversations and the overall message he conveyed” about the bidding process. Trump also reportedly told then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last year to “screw Amazon” out of the contract. (Associated Press / New York Times / CNBC)

Day 1114: "You'll see."

1/ The White House fired a national security official who testified against Trump during the impeachment inquiry. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who reported his concerns over Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukraine’s leader to NSC officials, was “escorted out of the White House,” his lawyer said. Earlier in the day when asked whether he wanted Vindman to leave, Trump said: “Well, I’m not happy with him.” Trump also suggested that his impeachment should be “expunged […] because it was a hoax.” And, when asked if his Democratic political opponents “should be held accountable,” Trump replied: “You’ll see.” (Bloomberg / Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / Politico / CNN)

  • Sen. Susan Collins said that she disapproves of retribution against anyone who came forward with evidence during the impeachment process. Collins also defended her vote to acquit Trump while acknowledging his conduct was wrong. (Portland Press Herald)

  • White House aides believe acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s job is in doubt. Trump reportedly lost confidence in Mulvaney months ago, but aides argued that a leadership change during impeachment would cause unnecessary chaos. Trump, instead, has frequently ignores Mulvaney’s input and has occasionally opted to do the opposite of whatever he’s suggested. (CNN)

2/ The Trump administration is delaying $30 million in arms transfers to Ukraine. At least six commercial sales of guns and ammunition have faced delays of at least a year and continue to remain frozen. Ukrainian officials said they haven’t been able to get answers from the Trump administration about why the deals haven’t been approved. (BuzzFeed News / The Hill)

3/ A federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit against Trump for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution by refusing to allow lawmakers to review and approve his financial interests. The ruling by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found the members of Congress lacked legal standing to bring suit against Trump for violating the clause, The court did not address the legality of Trump’s business dealings. (NBC News / Politico / CNN)

4/ The Trump Organization charged Trump’s Secret Service rates as high as $650 a night and $17,000 a month for a cottage at his properties to protect him. The disclosures contradict Eric Trump’s own statements that “If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free.” At Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, the Secret Service was charged the $650 rate dozens of times in 2017, and a different rate – $396.15 – dozens more times in 2018. At the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, the Secret Service was charged $17,000 a month to use a cottage in 2017. The Trump Organization also billed the government for days when Trump wasn’t there. The full extent of the Secret Service’s payments to Trump’s company is not known. (Washington Post)

5/ The Trump administration purchased access to location data on millions of cellphones in America for use on immigration and border enforcement. Customs and Border Protection uses the information to look for cellphone activity in unusual places, such as stretches of desert near the Mexican border. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has also used the data to identify immigrants who were later arrested. (Wall Street Journal)

6/ The White House announced that the U.S. killed an al-Qaeda leader in Yemen. The U.S. conducted an airstrike last week that killed Qassim al-Rimi, who has been a target of the U.S. since Trump took office. The U.S. previously offered a $10 million reward for information about Rimi. (CNN)

7/ The U.S. economy added 225,000 jobs in January while the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 3.6%. (CNBC / Washington Post)


Dept. of We’re all F*cked.

  1. Antarctica hit 65 degrees – its warmest temperature ever recorded. In the past 50 years, temperatures in the Antarctic Peninsula have surged 5 degrees and about 87% of the glaciers along the peninsula’s west coast have retreated. (Washington Post / NBC News)

  2. January 2020 was the warmest ever on record in Europe. January was 5.6 degrees above the 1981 to 2010 baseline of “average” January temperatures across the continent, with much of northeastern Europe surpassing the average by nearly 11 degrees. Europe also had its warmest year on record in 2019. (Washington Post / Time)

  3. Bumblebee populations declined by 46% in North America and by 17% across Europe when compared to a base period of 1901 to 1974. The biggest declines were in areas where temperatures spiked beyond the historical range. (New York Times / Science Magazine)

  • 📌 Day 979: A United Nations report warned that ocean warming is accelerating and sea levels are rising “more than twice as fast” than in the 20th century – and faster than previously estimated. While sea levels rose by about a half-inch in total during the 20th century, they are now rising about 0.14 inches per year, driven by the rapid melting of ice in Greenland, Antarctica, and the world’s smaller glaciers. The report predicts that sea levels will “continue to rise” – possibly reaching around 1-2 feet by 2100 – even if countries curb emissions and limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, which was the Paris Agreement’s goal. Temperatures are already 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels However, “if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase strongly,” then the world could see 3.6 feet in total sea level rise by 2100. The report concludes that the world’s oceans and ice sheets are under such severe stress that hotter ocean temperatures, combined with rising sea levels, threaten to create more destructive tropical cyclones and floods. (NPR / Politico / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 931: Climate change is putting pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself, according to a new United Nations report that was prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries and, unanimously approved. The report warns that the world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates” and “the cycle is accelerating.” Climate change has already degraded lands, caused deserts to expand, permafrost to thaw, and made forests more vulnerable to drought, fire, pests and disease. “The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases,” the report said. The report offered several proposals for addressing food supplies, including reducing red meat consumption, adopting plant-based diets, and eating more fruits, vegetables and seeds. As a result, the world could reduce carbon pollution up to 15% of current emissions levels by 2050. It would also make people healthier. (New York Times / Associated Press / Nature)

  • 📌 Day 627: A U.N. report on the effects of climate change predicts a strong risk of an environmental crisis much sooner than expected. The report finds that the atmosphere could warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, which would cause sea levels to rise, intensify droughts, wildfires, and poverty, and cause a mass die-off of coral reefs. To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and fully eliminated by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40% today to between 1% and 7% by 2050. Renewable energy would have to increase to about 67%. Trump has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, vowing to increase the burning of coal, and he intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement. The world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark and “there is no documented historic precedent” for the scale of changes required, the report said. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 676: The National Climate Assessment concludes that global warming is already “transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.” The findings from the landmark scientific report, issued by 13 federal agencies, are at odds with the Trump administration’s environmental deregulation agenda, which Trump claims will lead to economic growth, and its plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. The report predicts that the effects of global warming could eliminate as much as 10% of the U.S. economy by the end of the century, and warns that humans must act aggressively now “to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.” The first report, released in November 2017, concluded that there is “no convincing alternative explanation” for the changing climate other than “human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases.” Trump recently questioned the science of climate change, saying that “I don’t know that it’s man-made” and that the warming trend “could very well go back.” (New York Times / Associated Press / Washington Post / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 685: Global emissions of carbon dioxide have reached the highest levels on record. Global emissions grew 1.6% in 2017 with 2018 expected to increase 2.7%. The U.S. is the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon emissions, but that hasn’t stopped the Trump administration from moving to roll back regulations designed to limit those emissions from vehicle tailpipes and power-plant smokestacks. As United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said this week at the opening of the 24th annual U.N. climate conference: “We are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with climate change.” (Washington Post / New York Times)

Day 1113: "It was all bullshit."

1/ Trump celebrated his impeachment acquittal at the White House by denouncing his “vicious as hell” enemies one-by-one before pivoting to thank his allies, praising them as “great warriors.” Trump spent the 62-minute event in the East Room boasting of his acquittal by the Senate, criticizing the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election by Robert Mueller, and blaming “crooked politics,” “dirty cops,” “leakers,” “liars,” and “bad people” for his “very unfair” impeachment. “They’re vicious and mean,” Trump said. “Vicious. These people are vicious. Adam Schiff is a vicious, horrible person. Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person.” And, in a presidential use of profanity on camera, Trump added: “It was all bullshit.” (New York Times / Politico / NBC News)

2/ Earlier in the day, Trump spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast and accused his political opponents of being “very dishonest and corrupt people” who are trying to destroy him and the country. Trump – rejecting the keynote address for Americans to put aside hatred and “love your enemies” – attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Mitt Romney, complaining that they used “their faith as justification” for trying to remove him from office. “When they impeach you for nothing, then you’re supposed to like them? It’s not easy, folks. I do my best.” Trump went on to applaud “courageous Republican politicians and leaders” who he said “had the wisdom, fortitude and strength to do what everyone knows was right” throughout the impeachment fight. (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times) / CNN)

3/ Attorney General William Barr issued new restrictions on investigations into politically sensitive individuals or entities, including a requirement that he approve any inquiry into a presidential candidate or campaign. The memo said the Justice Department had a duty to ensure that elections are “free from improper activity or influences” and that investigations, including preliminary ones, into a presidential or vice presidential candidate, their campaigns or staff cannot be opened without the written approval of the attorney general. The new rules were issued on the same day that Trump was acquitted on charges that he had abused his office to push a foreign power to publicly announce investigations into his political rivals. (New York Times / NPR)

4/ The Department of Homeland Security temporarily blocked New York state residents from enrolling in the Trusted Traveler Programs, including Global Entry, in retaliation for a state law that limits immigration agents’ access to the state’s driver’s license data. The Trump administration expects to kick “roughly 175,000 New Yorkers” out of the programs by the end of this year. The administration also threatened to take action against other states that push to limit immigration agents’ access to state-level data. (CNN / Washington Post / New York Times)

5/ The White House threatened to veto a nearly $4.7 billion emergency aid package to Puerto Rico. The aid package passed by the House and includes $3.26 billion in community development block grants, $1.25 billion for repairs to roads, and tens of millions more for schools, energy, and nutrition assistance programs. The Office of Management and Budget called the bill “misguided” and warned that multiple “high-profile cases of corruption have marred distribution of aid already appropriated and have led to ongoing political instability on the island.” The bill is not expected to pass in the Senate in its current form. (Washington Post)

6/ The Interior Department finalized plans to permit drilling, mining, and grazing in areas of southern Utah that were previously protected as two national monuments. Two years ago, Trump dramatically cut the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, which contain significant amounts of oil, gas, and coal. (Washington Post / Associated Press)

7/ FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that Russia is still engaged in “information warfare” against the United States heading into the 2020 election. Wray says Russia is still relying on a covert social media disinformation campaign aimed at sowing division and fracturing American public opinion. Wray did conceded, however, that he hasn’t seen “any ongoing efforts to target election infrastructure like we did in 2016,” referring to the theft of DNC and Clinton campaign emails. (Associated Press)

poll/ In hypothetical match-ups, all five of the leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination would defeat Trump in 2020. Among registered voters, Trump hypothetically loses to Bloomberg (47% to 40%), Biden (46% to 42%), Sanders (46% to 42%), Warren (43% to 42%), and Buttigieg (42% to 41%). (Morning Consult)

Day 1112: A giant asterisk.

⚖️ Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial:

What happened today? The Senate voted to acquit Trump on both articles of impeachment, rejecting the House’s charges that he should be removed from office for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The vote on abuse of power failed 48-52. Sen. Mitt Romney was the lone Republican to vote in favor of the abuse of power charge. The second article, obstruction of Congress, also failed, 47-53 along party-lines. Ahead of the vote, Romney called Trump “guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust […] What the president did was wrong — grievously wrong.” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham claimed Trump’s acquittal was a “full vindication and exoneration” and that “only the president’s political opponents – all Democrats, and one failed Republican presidential candidate – voted for the manufactured impeachment articles.” The acquittal concludes five months of hearings and investigations into Trump’s withholding of U.S. military aid from Ukraine and pressuring of its leaders to investigate his Democratic rivals. A handful of Senate Republicans — Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski — argued that while the House had proven its case and that Trump’s actions were wrong, they ultimately concluded that the charges did not merit removing Trump from office. Collins said she thinks Trump learned a “pretty big lesson” from the impeachment process and said she believes he will be “much more cautious in the future.” Trump, however, has continued to insist that he did nothing wrong and that his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was a “perfect phone call.” He sent nearly 700 tweets or retweets about impeachment – an average of more than five per day – since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened the inquiry in September. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it “a sad moment for democracy,” but that there’s a “giant asterisk” next to Trump’s acquittal because “he was acquitted without facts, he was acquitted without a fair trial.”

What’s next? Register to vote, mark Tuesday, November 3, 2020, on your calendar, and then go out and make your voice heard.


1/ Trump’s July 18 hold on Ukraine military aid stunned Pentagon officials working to expedite delivery of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, according to emails and internal Pentagon documents. In an email to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, a top Defense official communicated his concern about Trump’s “reported view that the US should cease providing security assistance” to Ukraine and its subsequent impact on national security in hopes that Esper could persuade Trump to drop the hold. (CNN)

2/ The White House national security adviser claimed that Trump never sought Ukraine’s help investigating Biden, despite Trump explicitly asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “look into” Biden during the July 25 phone call. Robert O’Brien told an audience of ambassadors and reporters at the Meridian International Center that he’s “not aware of any request the president made to investigate the Bidens per se.” (Washington Post)

3/ Trump used his State of the Union address to claim credit for a “great American comeback,” contrasting his successes with the record of his predecessors, which he described three years ago as the “American carnage.” Trump refused to shake Nancy Pelosi’s hand after entering the House chamber. During an 80-minute, hyper-partisan speech, Trump declared that “we have shattered the mentality of American Decline,” using his State of the Union to award conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest honor awarded to U.S. civilians. Limbaugh is a former “birther” conspiracy theorist, accused of making racist, sexist, homophobic, and other offensive comments throughout his 31-year career in talk radio as the host of the “The Rush Limbaugh Show.” Trump also used the speech to engineer a surprise homecoming for a veteran and his family and to award a scholarship to a young girl. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Reuters / Associated Press / CNN / The Atlantic)

  • FACT CHECK: Trump’s State of the Union address. (NPR)

  • ANNOTATED: Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address. (Washington Post)

  • RATINGS: Trump’s address averaged 15.23 million viewers – down about 25% from last year. (Hollywood Reporter / The Wrap)

4/ Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up her copy of Trump’s speech after he concluded his annual address to Congress. In a private meeting with Democrats following Trump’s State of the Union address, Pelosi said “He shredded the truth, so I shredded his speech,” adding that “What we heard last night was a disgrace.” Pelosi told her colleagues that Trump “disrespected the chamber he was in […] to use it as a backdrop for a reality show […] to give a speech that had no connection with reality.” She called the speech “a pack of lies.” (Washington Post / Politico / CNN / The Hill)

poll/ 58% of American say they are better off financially than they were a year ago – up from 50% last year. 74% predict they will be better off financially a year from now. (Gallup)

Day 1111: An unmitigated disaster.

1/ Trump will deliver his State of the Union address tonight at 9 p.m. ET before a joint session of Congress. Trump is expected to talk about the stock market and the economy. It’s not clear if Trump plans to mention the impeachment trial or the upcoming 2020 election. The theme of Trump’s speech will be “the Great American Comeback.” (New York Times / USA Today / Associated Press / CBS News / Washington Post)

  • What to expect: New York Times / CNN

  • CNN anchors were excluded from the annual pre-State of the Union lunch with the president. The White House typically invites anchors from all the major broadcast news networks to a traditional lunch on the day of the SOTU speech, but the Trump administration revoked CNN’s invitations. (CNN)

2/ Results for the Iowa presidential caucuses were delayed after the state Democratic Party said it found “inconsistencies” in the reporting. The Iowa Democratic Party had opted to use an app this year to help calculate and share precinct results, but precinct captains experienced technical difficulties with reporting their results through the app due to a “coding issue in the reporting system.” The Iowa Democratic Party Chair added: “We have every indication that our systems were secure and there was not a cyber security intrusion.” The app was reportedly built in the past two months and not properly tested at a statewide scale. Nevada’s Democratic Party, meanwhile, said it will not use the app for their caucus on Feb. 22. [Editor’s note: Partial results were released as I published this. With 62% of precincts reporting, Buttigieg (26.9%) leads Sanders (25.1%) and Warren (18.3%).] (NBC News / CBS News / CNN / ABC News / NBC News / FiveThirtyEight / New York Times / HuffPost / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / Politico / Bloomberg)

  • Trump and his adult sons suggested that the Iowa Democratic caucuses were “rigged,” calling them an “unmitigated disaster.” While there has been no evidence to suggest that the caucuses were in fact “rigged,” the confusion stemming from the delay has produced a steady stream of conspiracy theories and wild speculation. (NBC News / MSN News)

3/ The Senate reconvened for floor speeches by members a day before a final vote in Trump’s impeachment trial. Mitch McConnell urged all senators to vote to acquit Trump, arguing that it was House Democrats who abused their power and not Trump. Republican Senator Susan Collins used her speech to announce that she plans to vote to acquit Trump, saying that although his conduct was “wrong,” House impeachment managers failed to show he committed a high crime or misdemeanor warranting removal from office. (CBS News / NBC News / CNN / Washington Post / New York Times)

4/ A new nuclear warhead requested, designed, and produced by the Trump administration has been deployed aboard a nuclear submarine. The Pentagon confirmed the deployment of the new W76-2 warhead – a low-yield variation of the warhead typically used on the Trident missile – aboard the USS Tennessee. (Defense News / CNN / New York Times)

poll/ 49% of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president – his highest job approval rating since taking office. 50% of Americans disapprove. (Gallup)

Day 1110: "History will not be kind to Donald Trump."

⚖️ Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial:

What happened today? House impeachment managers and Trump’s lawyers delivered their closing arguments in the Senate impeachment trial. Adam Schiff, the lead House manager, used his closing arguments to warn Republican senators that “It is midnight in Washington” and that “You can’t trust this president to do the right thing, not for one minute, not for one election, not for the sake of our country, you just can’t. He will not change and you know it. […] A man without character or ethical compass will never find his way.” Schiff added: “History will not be kind to Donald Trump.” Trump’s lawyers, meanwhile, urged senators to “stand firm” and “leave it to the voters.”

What’s next? The trial is adjourned until Wednesday, but senators are now giving speeches on the Senate floor to deliver remarks about whether they are for or against the articles of impeachment. Trump, meanwhile, will deliver his State of the Union Address Tuesday night in the House. The Senate will vote at 4 p.m. Wednesday on the two impeachment charges against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.


1/ Some Republican senators have acknowledged that Trump’s pressuring of Ukraine for political investigations was inappropriate – or wrong – but they say his actions, even if improper, do not meet the high bar for removing him from office. (New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ Sen. Joe Manchin called on the Senate to consider censuring Trump, saying that doing so “would allow a bipartisan statement condemning his unacceptable behavior in the strongest terms.” The moderate Democrat has prepared a censure resolution, which argues that Trump “used the office of the president of the United States to attempt to compel a foreign nation to interfere with domestic political affairs for his own personal benefit” and that “Trump hindered the thorough investigation of related documents and prohibited Congress and the American people from hearing testimony by first-hand witnesses with direct knowledge of his conduct.” (Washington Post)

3/ The Justice Department admitted that it is withholding 24 emails related to Trump’s involvement in withholding security aid to Ukraine. The emails were sent between June and September 2019. The court filing by the DOJ marks the first official acknowledgement that the emails containing Trump’s thinking regarding the hold on the aid exist, and that Trump was directly involved in asking for the hold as early as June. The Trump administration is still blocking the emails from the public and from Congress. (CNN / Washington Post)

poll/ 46% of voters say Trump should be removed from office as a result of the impeachment trial, versus 49% who say he should remain president. 52% say they believe Trump abused the power of his office by asking a foreign government to investigate a political opponent, compared with 41% who disagree. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration has been hiring immigration judges who have no experience in immigration law. The experience requirement for immigration judges doesn’t mention immigration law experience, but only that applicants must have seven years of “post-bar experience as a licensed attorney preparing for, participating in, and/or appealing formal hearings or trials.” Of the 28 new immigration judges recently sworn in by the Executive Office for Immigration Review, 17 of them had any immigration law experience. (The Hill)

  2. Officials at NOAA were “sick” and “flabbergasted” about Trump’s inaccurate statements, altered forecast map, and tweets about Hurricane Dorian in September, according to emails released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. The emails also show that the No. 2 official at the agency claimed that neither he nor the acting administrator approved the unsigned statement that a NOAA spokesperson issued on Sept. 6, which criticized the Birmingham National Weather Service forecast office for a tweet that contradicted Trump’s inaccurate assertion that Alabama “will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated” from the Category 5 storm. (BuzzFeed News / Washington Post / NBC News)

  3. The House Oversight Committee threatened Education Secretary Betsy DeVos with a subpoena, saying DeVos’ office “stonewalled and delayed” when the committee tried to confirm a date for her testimony. (Politico)

  4. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie fired his No. 2 at the VA. James Byrne was on the job less than five months. (Politico)

  5. Trump congratulated the “Great State of Kansas” on Twitter after the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl. The Chiefs are based in Missouri. Trump quickly deleted the tweet and posted a new one with the correct state. (Sports Illustrated)

Day 1107: "A grand tragedy."

⚖️ Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial:

What happened today? The Senate voted to block new new witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial. The 49 to 51 vote ensures the trial will be the first impeachment in U.S. history without witnesses. Two GOP lawmakers — Susan Collins and Mitt Romney — broke ranks and voted with Democrats on the motion to call new witnesses. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the failed motion “a grand tragedy.” Democrats attempted to force four amendments to Mitch McConnell’s organizing resolution, which outlines the rules for the rest of the trial. The Senate, however, voted down all four Democratic amendments to allow for the subpoenaing of documents and witnesses. Earlier in the day, Republicans and Trump’s legal team argued that new witnesses and documents were unnecessary and would only prolong the trial for weeks or months despite a Democratic proposal to limit depositions to one week. Immediately before the vote, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff warned Republican senators that “The facts will come out.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, called Republican senators who voted against witnesses and documents are “accomplices to the President’s cover-up.”

What’s next? Closing arguments will be held at 11 a.m. Eastern on Monday and last four hours. Senators are also expected to give speeches on the Senate floor on Tuesday – the same day Trump will deliver his State of the Union Address. The Senate will vote at 4 p.m. Wednesday on the two impeachment charges against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Senate is virtually certain to acquit Trump.

  • 📝 Articles: Politico / Politico / NBC News / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNBC / CNN / Axios

  • 💻 Live blogs: New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / CBS News / CNN / Bloomberg / ABC News / Axios

  • ⚡️ Impeachment.wtf — The internet’s most comprehensive guide to the impeachment of Donald J. Trump. Maintained by the WTF community. Updated daily.

  • EARLIER: Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she would oppose witnesses. Murkowski in a statement blamed the House for sending articles of impeachment “that are rushed and flawed.” (Politico / Washington Post / CNBC)

  • LAST NIGHT: Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said he would vote to dismiss a motion to summon witnesses and call for documents in the Senate impeachment trial. Alexander acknowledged that it was “inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation,” but says the Constitution doesn’t give the Senate the authority to “remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.” The announcement means Democrats’ bid to call new witnesses in the trial will likely fall short since Republicans now have the votes to block the motion. (Washington Post / Reuters / The Guardian / NBC News / New York Times / NPR)

  • Alexander: Convicting Trump would “pour gasoline on cultural fires.” (New York Times)


1/ Trump directed then national security adviser John Bolton in May to help with his efforts to pressure Ukraine for damaging information on Democrats. According to Bolton’s unpublished book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, Trump instructed Bolton during an Oval Office meeting to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and encourage him to meet with Rudy Giuliani to discuss the investigations into Trump’s political opponents. Bolton said he never made the call. Two months later, Trump asked Zelensky to investigate his political opponents. The Oval Office meeting was also attended by Giuliani, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is now leading Trump’s impeachment defense. (New York Times)

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to dispute Bolton’s allegations. (ABC News)

  • 📌 Day 1103: Trump told former national security adviser John Bolton in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until Ukrainian officials helped with investigations into Biden and other Democrats, according to an unpublished manuscript of Bolton’s forthcoming book, “The Room Where It Happened.” Bolton’s account directly contradicts one of Trump’s defense arguments, that there was no quid pro quo when he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son in the July phone call. Bolton’s account was included in drafts of a manuscript he circulated to close associates. A draft was also sent to the White House for a standard review process on Dec. 30 — 12 days after Trump was impeached. The White House ordered Bolton and other key officials with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s dealings not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 1104: John Bolton told Attorney General William Barr last year that he had concerns that Trump was granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China, according to Bolton’s unpublished manuscript. Barr responded by saying he was also concerned that Trump had “created the appearance that he had undue influence over what would typically be independent inquiries,” pointing to a pair of Justice Department investigations into Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE and Halkbank, Turkey’s second-largest state-owned bank. The former national security adviser submitted his book manuscript nearly a month ago to the White House for review. A Justice Department’s spokeswoman, meanwhile, said “There was no discussion of ‘personal favors’ or ‘undue influence’ on investigations, nor did Attorney General Barr state that the President’s conversations with foreign leaders was improper.” (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 1105: The White House moved to block publication of former national security adviser John Bolton’s book, claiming it contained “TOP SECRET” and “significant amounts of classified information” that could “cause exceptionally grave harm” to U.S. national security. The letter from the National Security Council’s senior director for records says “the manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information” and that the White House will be in touch with “additional, more detailed guidance regarding next steps” on how to move forward. Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, is currently scheduled for publication on March 17. (CNN / Axios)

  • 📚 The WTF Just Happened Today? Recommended Book List

2/ Former White House chief of staff John Kelly suggested that Trump’s Senate impeachment trial is “a job only half done” without witness testimonies. Kelly said Bolton was “a copious note taker” and “an honest guy and an honorable guy.” Kelly added that he believed Bolton’s assertion that Trump withheld congressionally approved aid to Ukraine in order to leverage investigations into Biden. (CNN / NJ.com)

3/ Marie Yovanovitch retired from State Department. Yovanovitch is the fourth top State Department official to depart in the wake of the Ukraine impeachment inquiry. The others are former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor, former Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker, and Michael McKinley, the former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (NPR / CNN / Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration declared the coronavirus a public health emergency in the United States, and announced that people who pose a risk of transmitting the disease will temporarily be suspended from entering the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said any U.S. citizens who have been in China’s Hubei province within the last 14 days “will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine to ensure they’re provided proper medical care and health screening.” (CNBC)

  2. The Trump administration restricted travel for immigrants from six additional countries that officials said failed to meet minimum security standards. Immigrants from Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania will face new restrictions in obtaining certain visas to come to the United States. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Associated Press)

  3. Trump’s border wall will likely require the installation of hundreds of storm gates so it won’t be knocked over during flash floods. The gates must be left open for months every year during “monsoon season” in the desert. (Washington Post)

Day 1106: Bogus claims.

⚖️ Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial:

What happened today? The Senate reconvened for the final day of written questions to House managers and Trump’s defense team in his impeachment trial. Mitch McConnell indicated to Republican senators he believes he has the votes to defeat any Democratic motion that the Senate consider new witnesses. However, three Republican senators — Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney — have indicated they’re open to voting to subpoena former Trump national security adviser John Bolton. Sen. Lamar Alexander has said he hasn’t made up his mind. While attention has focused on the Republicans, three Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin, Doug Jones, and Kyrsten Sinema — could also break ranks. Manchin has complained about what he has called the “hypocrisy” of both McConnell and Senator Chuck Schumer; Jones, facing a re-election in Alabama, has hinted he might vote to acquit Trump on obstruction of Congress; and, Kyrsten Sinema hasn’t said anything public since the start of the trial other than to say she was taking her obligation seriously. Adam Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager, offered to limit witness depositions to one week after Trump’s defense warned that calling witnesses could delay the trial. Democrats, meanwhile, are attempting to undermine an expected Trump acquittal, saying that Trump cannot be truly exonerated without a fair trial in the Senate. Schumer also suggested that Democrats would use parliamentary procedures to stall a quick acquittal, saying “The minority has rights, and we will exercise those rights.”

What’s next? There will be four hours of debate and then a vote on whether the Senate should seek witnesses and documents. If Democrats fail to convince at least four Republicans to join them in calling for witnesses, the Senate could move to a final vote on acquittal as soon as Friday.


1/ Trump’s legal team contradicted Trump’s Justice Department, making the opposite argument in court on the same day. In federal court, a Justice Department attorney argued that a possible remedy for an administration defying congressional subpoenas is impeachment. Meanwhile, during Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, his legal team argued that Trump was lawfully protecting the executive branch in a dispute with Congress over documents and testimony when he ordered his aides to defy subpoenas. House manager Adam Schiff later addressed the contradiction in the Senate, saying: “We’ve been debating whether a president can be impeached for essentially bogus claims of privilege for attempting to use the courts to cover up misconduct. [And] The judge says if the Congress can’t enforce its subpoenas in court, then what remedy is there? And the Justice Department lawyer’s response is impeachment. Impeachment.” Members of the Senate laughed. “You can’t make this up,” Schiff continued. “I mean, what more evidence do we need of the bad faith of this effort to cover up?” (CNN)

2/ Chief Justice John Roberts rejected Sen. Rand Paul’s question, which identified the alleged whistleblower. Roberts told Senators on Tuesday that he would not allow the whistleblower’s name to be mentioned or publicly relay any questions that might unmask the official during the question-and-answer session. Paul then held a news conference in which he read his question, naming the person referred to in conservative media as the possible whistleblower and an acquaintance who works for the House Intelligence Committee. [Editor’s note: Rand Paul is a dipshit.] (Politico / CNN)

3/ John Bolton’s lawyer contends his book does not contain classified material, pushing back against the White House’s assessment while asking for an expedited review of a chapter about Ukraine in case the former national security adviser is called to testify in the Senate impeachment trial. The National Security Council warned Jan. 23 that the manuscript contained “significant amounts” of classified material that could not be disclosed publicly. Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, claims that Trump told him in August that he was tying Ukrainian investigations of his political opponent to continuing foreign aid to that country. (Washington Post)

4/ A new recording shows Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman, and a small group of Republican Party donors meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago in April 2018 – ten days before they dined with Trump at his Washington hotel. During the dinner at Trump’s Washington hotel, Parnas told Trump that the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was agitating against him, prompting Trump to abruptly call for her firing. The Mar-a-Lago event was also attended by former Republican Rep. Pete Sessions, who has been subpoenaed as part of the ongoing criminal investigation involving Parnas and Fruman, and Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman. Trump’s has repeatedly claimed that he doesn’t know Parnas or Fruman. (Washington Post / Daily Beast)

  • 📌 Day 1103: A video made public captures Trump saying he wants to “get rid” of the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine during an April 2018 meeting that included Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The video, recorded on Fruman’s phone, contradicts Trump’s statements that he didn’t know Parnas or Fruman, who both worked with Rudy Giuliani to push for the ousting of Marie Yovanovitch, who was ultimately removed from her post in April 2019. Trump also asked how long Ukraine would be able to resist Russian aggression without U.S. assistance during the dinner. (New York Times / Associated Press / PBS NewsHour / CNN / BuzzFeed News)

5/ The Department of Energy released more than 100 pages of documents related to former Secretary Rick Perry and Ukraine. The documents show the Department of Energy pushing for energy reform and supporting Ukraine’s handling of corruption in May 2019, when Perry led a delegation to meet new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The new documents, however, don’t cover how Trump had Perry later work with Rudy Giuliani to supplant his work and pursue a different Ukrainian corruption crackdown. (CNN)

poll/ 66% of Democrats report being anxious about the 2020 election, compared with 46% of Republicans. (Associated Press)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration will allow states to cap Medicaid spending, which covers about 1 in 5 low-income Americans. The new block grant program – now called “Healthy Adult Opportunity” – was rejected by Congress three years ago and will effectively reduce health benefits for millions who gained coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Democrats, health care providers, and consumer groups warned that capping federal funding for adults on Medicaid and giving states more freedom to decide who and what the program covers would jeopardize medical access and care for some of the poorest Americans. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post)

  2. Trump’s commerce secretary said the Chinese coronavirus “will help to accelerate the return of jobs” to the U.S. and North America. Wilbur Ross said he didn’t want to “talk about a victory lap,” but there are “a confluence of factors that will make it very, very likely more reshoring to the U.S. and some reshoring to Mexico.” Meanwhile, the CDC confirmed the first case of person-to-person transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus in the U.S. (Washington Post / NBC News / Politico)

  3. A section of Trump’s new border wall in California fell over during high winds and landed on a row of trees on the Mexico side of the border. (KYMA / CNN)

  4. The U.S. economy missed Trump’s 3% growth target for the second year in a row. The economy grew by 2.3% last year. Annual growth in 2019 was the slowest it’s been in three years and the drop in business investment deepened amidst ongoing trade tensions. (Reuters / CNBC)

  5. Trump administration is expected to loosen restrictions on the military’s ability to use landmines, which have been banned by more than 160 countries due to their history of killing and wounding civilians. (CNN / The Guardian)

  6. The House approved two measures aimed at reigning in Trump’s war powers following recent aggression between Iran and the U.S. The White House opposed the measures, which limit Trump’s ability to use military force without congressional authorization. (Politico)

  7. Lawyers for a woman who accused Trump of raping her in the 1990s are asking for a DNA sample to determine whether his genetic material is on a dress she wore during the encounter. E. Jean Carroll accused Trump last summer of raping her in a Manhattan luxury department store dressing room in the mid-1990s. Carroll filed a defamation suit against Trump in November after he denied her allegation. (Associated Press)

Day 1105: Public interest.

⚖️ Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial:

What happened today? Trump’s impeachment trial moved to written questions. Senate Republicans opened the day with Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney – three Republicans who have hinted they could vote to hear from witnesses – asking Trump’s legal team how they should consider abuse of power if Trump had “had more than one motive for his alleged conduct.” Trump attorney Patrick Philbin argued that if there were a motive “of the public interest, but also some personal interest,” then it “cannot possibly be the basis for an impeachable offense.” Trump’s lawyer Alan Dershowitz also argued that because Trump’s re-election is in the public interest, if Trump “does something that he thinks will help him get elected” – and even if he had political motivations to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens – it “cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said it was unlikely that Democrats will be able to win over enough Republican votes to call witnesses and documents. Republican leaders, meanwhile, signaled that they were confident that they would be able to block new witnesses and documents and bring the trial to an acquittal verdict as soon as Friday.

What’s next? The Senate will return Thursday for another question-and-answer session, followed by four hours of debate, and then a vote on whether the Senate should seek witnesses and documents. If the Senate defeats that resolution, the trial is likely to head to a quick acquittal.


1/ The White House moved to block publication of former national security adviser John Bolton’s book, claiming it contained “TOP SECRET” and “significant amounts of classified information” that could “cause exceptionally grave harm” to U.S. national security. The letter from the National Security Council’s senior director for records says “the manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information” and that the White House will be in touch with “additional, more detailed guidance regarding next steps” on how to move forward. Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, is currently scheduled for publication on March 17. (CNN / Axios)

2/ Trump accused John Bolton of making false allegations, tweeting that he “NEVER” had a conversation with Bolton in August that he wanted to keep aid to Ukraine frozen until the country helped with investigations into Democrats, including Biden. Trump urged Republicans to reject calling witnesses and called Bolton’s unpublished book “nasty & untrue.” Trump also suggested that if Bolton were still in the White House, the U.S. “would be in World War Six by now.” (NBC News / Wall Street Journal / Associated Press)

  • 📌 Day 1103: Trump told former national security adviser John Bolton in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until Ukrainian officials helped with investigations into Biden and other Democrats, according to an unpublished manuscript of Bolton’s forthcoming book, “The Room Where It Happened.” Bolton’s account directly contradicts one of Trump’s defense arguments, that there was no quid pro quo when he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son in the July phone call. Bolton’s account was included in drafts of a manuscript he circulated to close associates. A draft was also sent to the White House for a standard review process on Dec. 30 — 12 days after Trump was impeached. The White House ordered Bolton and other key officials with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s dealings not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. (New York Times)

3/ The House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman said Bolton told him during a Sept. 23 phone call – shortly after Bolton left his post – to examine the ouster of the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Rep. Eliot Engel said Bolton “strongly implied that something improper had occurred” related to Marie Yovanovitch’s removal. Engel added: “Trump is wrong that John Bolton didn’t say anything about the Trump-Ukraine scandal at the time the President fired him. He said something to me.” (NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

4/ Rudy Giuliani claimed he “never ever” discussed Ukraine military aid with Trump, directly challenging former national security adviser John Bolton’s claims that Trump tied the hold on military aid to an investigation into Trump’s political rivals. Giuliani called Bolton “a backstabber,” adding that Bolton never told him “’‘I’ve got a problem with what you are doing in Ukraine.’” During congressional testimony, Fiona Hill, a former White House aide, said Bolton complained to colleagues about Giuliani’s work, which he called “a hand grenade that was going to blow everyone up.” (CBS News)

  • In late 2018, Rudy Giuliani said he delivered a letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham calling for sanctions on a host of Ukrainian government officials. The letters claim that several Ukrainian political figures and businesspeople were part of an alleged “organized crime syndicate” that was “actively involved in the siphoning of funds appropriated by the American government for aid to Ukraine.” (Daily Beast)

5/ Three moderate Senate Democrats are reportedly undecided on whether to vote to remove Trump from office and are “struggling” over the decision. In an interview, Joe Manchin said: “I know it’s hard to believe that. But I really am [undecided]. But I have not made a final decision. Every day, I hear something, I think ‘this is compelling, that’s compelling.’” Doug Jones has said he’s “troubled” that the House didn’t fight harder to hear from administration witnesses. Unlike Manchin and Jones, Kyrsten Sinema has made no comments since the trial began. (Politico)

  • Manchin said he believes Hunter Biden is a relevant witness in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial. Manchin called it an opportunity for Biden to clear himself. (Axios)

  • A growing number of GOP senators acknowledge that Trump may have leveraged military aid to Ukraine in exchange for an announcement of investigations that could help him politically, but they say that it’s not impeachable and doesn’t warrant the hearing from new witnesses. (CNN)

6/ Members of Trump’s legal defense team have made thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to GOP senators overseeing the impeachment trial. Ken Starr and Robert Ray gave thousands to Mitch McConnell last year before joining Trump’s team, months before McConnell announced that he would be working in “total coordination with the White House counsel’s office and the people who are representing the president in the well of the Senate” during the impeachment trial. Star gave $2,800 to McConnell in July 2019 and Ray gave the maximum $5,600 to McConnell in September 2019. (Center for Responsive Politics / Slate)

  • A 501(c)3 charitable organization allied with Trump has been holding cash giveaways in black communities to improve Trump’s image. The cash giveaways are organized by the Urban Revitalization Coalition charity, permitting donors to remain anonymous while making tax-deductible contributions. The group’s “Christmas Extravaganza” event last month featured a $25,000 giveaway and an appearance by Ja’Ron Smith, a deputy assistant to Trump. The coalition also advertised a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event that would honor Trump and Jared Kushner and featured a $30,000 cash giveaway. (Politico)

  • House Republican leaders are experiencing a fundraising crisis and are worried it could affect their ability to regain a majority in the 2020 election. “They are kicking our ass,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at a private GOP meeting on Tuesday. The DCCC out-raised the NRCC by $40 million in 2019, and individual Democratic candidates are continuing to out fundraising their Republican opponents. Democrats currently hold a 35-seat majority in the House, with five vacancies. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Trump signed the revised North American trade agreement. The trade deal, now called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, updates NAFTA, with stronger protections for workers and the digital economy, expanded markets for American farmers, and new rules to encourage auto manufacturing in North America. The USMCA must still be ratified by Canada before it can take effect. Trump excluded Democrats from the signing ceremony despite their role in securing the final version of the deal that passed with overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate. Trump also joked that he needs senators’ votes for acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial. (New York Times / Bloomberg / CNN / Politico / CBS News)

  2. The Federal Reserve kept its benchmark interest rate steady – the second straight time the Fed made no changes to rates following three consecutive reductions in 2019. (Bloomberg / CNBC)

  3. A total of 50 U.S. service members have now been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury as a result of the Iranian missile strikes earlier this month on Iraqi bases hosting U.S. troops. Last week, the Pentagon listed 34 service members who had been diagnosed with TBI, including concussions. Of the 50 current patients, 31 received treatment in Iraq and have returned to active duty. (NBC News)

  4. House Democrats plan to announce a five-year, $760 billion infrastructure framework for rebuilding the nation’s highways, airports, railways, and more. (New York Times)

Day 1104: A diversion.

⚖️ Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial:

What happened today? Trump’s legal team concluded its oral arguments after less than two hours in the chamber with White House counsel Pat Cipollone calling on the Senate to “end the era of impeachment” by declaring Trump not guilty. The White House team reiterated their arguments that the allegations by the House — that Trump abused his power in his dealings with Ukraine and obstructed Congress’ investigation into his actions — don’t rise to the level of impeachable offenses. Trump attorney Jay Sekulow claimed that the revelations from John Bolton’s manuscript – that Trump tied the withholding of military aid to Ukraine to investigations into his political rivals – were “inadmissible” and that “[Impeachment] is not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts.” Rep. Adam Schiff, the House’s lead impeachment manager, suggested that Trump’s own lawyers made an “effective” case for why the Senate should call Bolton as a witness. And, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump’s lawyers “showed how weak their case was” and that “Their whole argument is diversion.”

What’s next? The Senate will return Wednesday for eight hours of question-and-answers followed by another eight hours on Thursday. A vote on whether to hear witnesses is expected on Friday.

1/ John Bolton told Attorney General William Barr last year that he had concerns that Trump was granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China, according to Bolton’s unpublished manuscript. Barr responded by saying he was also concerned that Trump had “created the appearance that he had undue influence over what would typically be independent inquiries,” pointing to a pair of Justice Department investigations into Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE and Halkbank, Turkey’s second-largest state-owned bank. The former national security adviser submitted his book manuscript nearly a month ago to the White House for review. A Justice Department’s spokeswoman, meanwhile, said “There was no discussion of ‘personal favors’ or ‘undue influence’ on investigations, nor did Attorney General Barr state that the President’s conversations with foreign leaders was improper.” (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 1103: Trump told former national security adviser John Bolton in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until Ukrainian officials helped with investigations into Biden and other Democrats, according to an unpublished manuscript of Bolton’s forthcoming book,“The Room Where It Happened.”Bolton’s account directly contradicts one of Trump’s defense arguments, that there was no quid pro quo when he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son in the July phone call. Bolton’s account was included in drafts of a manuscript he circulated to close associates. A draft was also sent to the White House for a standard review process on Dec. 30 — 12 days after Trump was impeached. The White House ordered Bolton and other key officials with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s dealings not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. (New York Times)

  • Former White House chief of staff John Kelly believes John Bolton’s allegation that Trump told the former national security adviser that U.S. security aid to Ukraine was conditioned on an investigation of Trump’s political rivals. (CNN / Politico)

  • 🌶 Bolton bombshell sets off a whodunit frenzy

2/ Mitch McConnell told GOP senators a closed-door meeting that he doesn’t have enough votes to block witnesses in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial. After Trump’s defense team wrapped up arguments, Republican Senate leaders pressured the party’s senators to not call for witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial – i.e. “whipped the vote” – at a private GOP Senate meeting. McConnell had a card with “yes,” “no” and “maybes” marked on it. McConnell said the vote total wasn’t where it needed to be to block witnesses or documents. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / NBC News / CNN)

3/ Republican senators have discussed reviewing John Bolton’s unpublished manuscript in a classified setting to “see for ourselves if there is anything significant.” Sen. Lindsey Graham supported the proposal by Sen. James Lankford, tweeting that the move would allow “each senator the opportunity to review the manuscript and make their own determination.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, however, rejected the idea of reviewing the book behind closed doors, calling it “an absurd proposal.” (CBS News / Bloomberg / New York Times)

poll/ 75% of voters say witnesses should be allowed to testify in Trump’s impeachment trial. 48% say the Senate should not remove Trump from office, while 47% say the Senate should. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. Trump announced his plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which proposes a redrawn border while discarding the longtime American goal of granting the Palestinians a full-fledged state. Trump called the plan – nearly three years in the making – a “win-win” for both sides. Palestinian leaders rejected the plan before its release. (The Guardian / New York Times / Washington Post)

  2. The State Department blocked NPR’s reporter on Mike Pompeo’s government plane for an upcoming trip to Europe and Central Asia, which includes a stop in Ukraine. Michele Kelemen was removed from the list of reporters allowed to fly with Pompeo days after the secretary shouted and cursed at another NPR reporter for asking pertinent questions about Ukraine. (Politico / CBS News / CNN / New York Times)

  3. The U.S. budget deficit is projected to reach $1.02 trillion in 2020, according to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. (Washington Post / Associated Press / CNBC)

Day 1103: A colorful distraction.

⚖️ Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial:

What happened Saturday? Trump’s legal team began their opening arguments by seeking to cast doubt on Democrats’ case that Trump tried to pressure Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden. Over the course of a two-hour session, Trump’s lawyer Pat Cipollone and his deputy Michael Purpura argued that Trump had valid reasons for withholding military aid from Ukraine and that House prosecutors overlooked facts, noting that witnesses in the House’s impeachment hearings based their assessments on “presumptions” and “guesswork” rather than knowledge of Trump’s intentions. “We don’t believe that they have come anywhere close to meeting their burden for what they’re asking you to do,” Cipollone said. They also argued that the words Trump spoke on his July 25 call to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, conveyed no pressure — and that Ukrainians never publicly expressed any. Cipollone added that Democrats are “asking you to tear up all of the ballots all across the country” and “perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history.”

What happened today? Trump’s team continued with their opening statements, arguing about the basis of the House’s impeachment inquiry and the Trump’s rights of due process and executive privilege. Trump’s lawyers – ignoring John Bolton’s disclosure that Trump said he wanted to continue a freeze on military aid to Ukraine until officials helped with investigations into Trump’s political rivals – told senators that no evidence existed tying Trump’s decision to withhold security aid from Ukraine to his insistence on the investigations, arguing that Trump did nothing wrong and the impeachment inquiry was illegitimate from the start. Alan Dershowitz claimed that “Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power, or an impeachable offense.” A handful of Republicans, meanwhile, appeared to be moving closer to joining Democrats in a vote to subpoena Bolton. Pam Bondi, one of Trump’s lawyers, accused Democrats of denying the legitimacy of investigations into the Bidens because the House case depends on the premise that Trump was only interested in the negative political impact on his rival. Jane Raskin, a member of Trump’s defense team, also called Rudy Giuliani a “colorful distraction.”


1/ Trump told former national security adviser John Bolton in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until Ukrainian officials helped with investigations into Biden and other Democrats, according to an unpublished manuscript of Bolton’s forthcoming book, “The Room Where It Happened.” Bolton’s account directly contradicts one of Trump’s defense arguments, that there was no quid pro quo when he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son in the July phone call. Bolton’s account was included in drafts of a manuscript he circulated to close associates. A draft was also sent to the White House for a standard review process on Dec. 30 — 12 days after Trump was impeached. The White House ordered Bolton and other key officials with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s dealings not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. (New York Times)

  • Trump claimed that he “NEVER” told Bolton that military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on investigations into Biden and his son. Trump cited his first face-to-face meeting with Zelensky at the United Nations in September, and asserted that he “released the military aid to Ukraine without any conditions or investigations - and far ahead of schedule.” (Politico / New York Times / CNBC)

  • Mitch McConnell didn’t know that Trump’s administration had a copy of the Bolton manuscript. McConnell, who has said he’s in “total coordination” with the White House on the impeachment trial, reportedly isn’t happy. (Courier-Journal)

  • 💡 Takeaways from the John Bolton revelations. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • 📚 The WTF Just Happened Today? Recommended Book List

2/ Congressional Democrats called for Bolton to testify in Trump’s impeachment trial following the report that Trump told Bolton last August that he wanted to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless it aided investigations into the Bidens. In a joint statement, the seven House impeachment managers called the report “explosive” and urged Senate Republicans to agree to call Bolton as a witness in Trump’s trial. Bolton has said that he would testify before the Senate if subpoenaed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted that because of the report that Bolton had firsthand knowledge of Trump’s decision that ran counter to the White House’s account, the “refusal of the Senate to call for him, other relevant witnesses, and documents is now even more indefensible.” (Washington Post / NBC News / Axios / Wall Street Journal)

3/ Senate Republicans have privately discussed a “one-for-one” witness deal. Patrick Toomey has privately spoken with several colleagues – including Mitt Romney – about possibly summoning two witnesses to Trump’s impeachment trial. Romney, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski have previously said they’re open to hearing from Bolton. Following the revelations from Bolton’s unpublished manuscript, Romney and Collins said it’s “increasingly likely” other Republicans will vote to call witnesses. (Washington Post / NBC News / Politico / Bloomberg)

4/ A video made public captures Trump saying he wants to “get rid” of the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine during an April 2018 meeting that included Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The video, recorded on Fruman’s phone, contradicts Trump’s statements that he didn’t know Parnas or Fruman, who both worked with Rudy Giuliani to push for the ousting of Marie Yovanovitch, who was ultimately removed from her post in April 2019. Trump also asked how long Ukraine would be able to resist Russian aggression without U.S. assistance during the dinner. (New York Times / Associated Press / PBS NewsHour / CNN / BuzzFeed News)

  • 📌 Day 1100: Trump appeared to order two Rudy Giuliani associates to “get rid” of then-US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during a dinner in April 2018 at the Trump International Hotel, according to a recording made by Igor Fruman. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it,” Trump reportedly said of Yovanovitch after being told by Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman that the career foreign service officer was “badmouthing” him in Kiev. Parnas turned over the recording to the House Intelligence Committee. Trump claimed in November that didn’t “know much” about Yovanovitch when he signed off on recalling her from Kiev. Pence defended Trump after the 2018 recording emerged, saying “All of the ambassadors for the United States of America serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States.” (ABC News / New York Times / Daily Beast / Talking Points Memo)

  • 💡 Takeaways from the video of Trump’s private donor dinner. (New York Times)

5/ Trump tweeted that Rep. Adam Schiff has “has not paid the price, yet,” attacking Schiff as “a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man.” Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the lead impeachment manager in the Senate trial, responded by urging Republican senators to find the “moral courage to stand up” to a “wrathful and vindictive president.” (Washington Post / New York Times)

6/ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo abruptly ended an interview with NPR after the reporter asked about the Trump administration’s firing of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Immediately after the question on Ukraine, Pompeo glared at Mary Louise Kelly for several seconds before leaving the room. A few moments later, an aide asked Kelly to follow her into Pompeo’s private living room at the State Department without a recorder. Inside the room, Pompeo shouted his displeasure for being questioned about Ukraine, repeatedly used the “f-word,” and challenged Kelly to find Ukraine on an unlabeled map, which she did. Pompeo then said, “People will hear about this.” Pompeo later accused Kelly of lying and being part of an “unhinged” media conspiracy “in a quest to hurt President Trump and this administration.” Email records, however, show Pompeo’s staff was aware that Kelly would ask Pompeo about several topics during the interview – including about Ukraine – and raised no objections. Pompeo never said whether he owed Marie Yovanovitch an apology. (NPR / New York Times / Washington Post / The Guardian)

  • Trump questioned why NPR exists and appeared to threaten to cut off its federal funding. About 1% of NPR’s annual operating budget consists of “grants from Corporation for Public Broadcasting and federal agencies and departments.” (Mother Jones / The Hill)

  • Transcript: NPR’s Full Interview With Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo. (NPR)

poll/ 50% of Americans think the Senate should vote to convict and remove Trump, while 44% believe the Senate should not vote to remove Trump from office. (Fox News)


Notables.

  1. The Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to enforce its “public charge” rule, which makes it easier to deny immigrants residency or admission to the country because they have or might use public-assistance programs. (CBS News / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNN)

  2. The Trump administration is working to roll back Obama’s efforts to combat racial segregation. Housing secretary Ben Carson has moved to scrap a policy that withholds federal funds from cities if they don’t address segregation, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has proposed cutting back on collecting data that helps track discrimination in the mortgage market. (Politico)

  3. The Veterans of Foreign Wars demanded that Trump apologize for downplaying traumatic brain injuries sustained by U.S. service members in Iraq after Iranian missile strikes on American troops earlier this month. Trump previously said he doesn’t consider potential traumatic brain injuries to be as serious as physical combat wounds, saying some troops “had headaches, and a couple of other things, but I would say, and I can report, it’s not very serious.” (CNN)

  4. Trump’s spiritual adviser called for “all satanic pregnancies to miscarry.” Paula White said she was speaking in metaphor. White recently joined the White House Office of Public Liaison as a religious adviser. (Washington Post)

  5. Obama called Trump a “fascist” in a phone conversation during the 2016 presidential election. The clip of Sen. Tim Kaine recounting the call with Hillary Clinton was caught on camera and appears in an episode of “Hillary,” a four-part documentary series that will be available on Hulu on March 6. (NBC News)

Day 1100: "What our framers feared most."

⚖️ Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial:

tl;dr Today marks the last chance for the Democratic impeachment managers to make their pitch to GOP senators on whether to subpoena new witnesses and documents. Democrats need four Republicans to vote with them in order to call witnesses. Trump’s legal team will also have 24 hours over three days for its opening arguments – starting tomorrow, Monday, and Tuesday. Senators will then get to ask questions. Trump is reportedly “bored” by the impeachment proceedings.

1/ House managers used their final day of opening arguments to conclude their presentation on the first article of impeachment, abuse of power. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said Trump “did exactly what our framers feared most: He invited foreign interference in our elections and sold out our country’s security for his personal benefit, and betrayed the nation’s trust to a foreign power.” Impeachment manager Jason Crow added that the hold on the aid “wasn’t lifted for any legitimate reason. It was only lifted because President Trump had gotten caught.” Impeachment manager Hakeem Jeffries, using witness testimony from the House proceedings, detailed what he called a “failed” effort to “coverup” Trump’s attempt to “cheat” in the 2020 election. Jeffries said the White House “tried to bury” the summary of Trump’s July 25 call on a secure server because it was politically damaging, adding that the military aid was released only “after the House launched an investigation and after Congress learned about the existence of a whistleblower complaint.”

2/ House managers then moved on to the second article of impeachment, Trump’s alleged obstruction of Congress by directing witnesses not to testify and refusing to allow the release of documents. Impeachment manager Val Demings called Trump’s refusal to cooperate “categorical, indiscriminate and historically unprecedented.” She added that under “Trump’s orders, the Office of the Vice President, the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of State, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense all continued to refuse to produce a single document or record in response to 71 specific requests, including five subpoenas.” Further, Demings characterized “Trump’s attacks on whistleblowers and witnesses” who testified the House probe as “witness intimidation.” Impeachment manager Sylvia Garcia added that Trump had “orchestrated a cover-up” in “plain sight” and “should be removed.” Zoe Lofgren, another House impeachment managers, compared Trump to Nixon, saying “Not only did Nixon allow his staff to testify before Congress, he publicly directed them to testify without demanding a subpoena.” And, finally, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler called Trump “a dictator” during his presentation, arguing that Trump is “the first and only president ever to declare himself unaccountable.” In his closing remarks, Schiff warned that a failure to remove Trump for obstructing Congress would inflict “an unending injury to this country” because “the balance of power that our founders set out will never be the same.”

3/ Trump appeared to order two Rudy Giuliani associates to “get rid” of then-US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during a dinner in April 2018 at the Trump International Hotel, according to a recording made by Igor Fruman. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it,” Trump reportedly said of Yovanovitch after being told by Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman that the career foreign service officer was “badmouthing” him in Kiev. Parnas turned over the recording to the House Intelligence Committee. Trump claimed in November that didn’t “know much” about Yovanovitch when he signed off on recalling her from Kiev. Pence defended Trump after the 2018 recording emerged, saying “All of the ambassadors for the United States of America serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States.” (ABC News / New York Times / Daily Beast / Talking Points Memo)

  • 📌 Day 1092: Trump “knew exactly what was going on” in Ukraine, according to Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani. Parnas said Trump was “aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the President.” While Parnas never spoke with Trump directly about his efforts to push Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and the 2016 election, he met with Trump on several occasions, and was told by Giuliani that Trump was kept informed about his work. Parnas also said he warned an aide to then-Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky at the direction of Giuliani that the U.S. would halt aid to the country if it didn’t announce investigations that could benefit Trump politically. Parnas also implicated several senior officials in the scheme, including Mike Pence, John Bolton, Devin Nunes, and William Barr. Parnas claimed that Barr “had to have known everything” going on with Ukraine because “Barr was basically on the team.” Parnas also claimed that Pence’s planned trip to attend Zelensky’s inauguration was canceled because the Ukrainians did not agree to the demand for an investigation of the Bidens. (New York Times / NBC News / Politico / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)

4/ Trump complained that his impeachment defense “will be forced to start on Saturday,” which he called “Death Valley in T.V.” Saturday’s impeachment session will begin at 10 a.m. and will last for several hours. The White House wanted to present some arguments on Saturday to rebut three days of charges from Democrats and to provide fodder for Sunday shows. Trump’s defense team plans to save the bulk of its arguments for Monday and Tuesday, when viewers will be more tuned in. Trump also complained that it is “wrong” for House managers to use “ALL of their” allotted time for opening arguments. (Reuters / Politico / NBC News)

  • Witness testimony could hinge on Sen. Lamar Alexander, a retiring Republican senator who said it was “inappropriate” for Trump to ask foreign governments to investigate his political opponents. Three other GOP senators have expressed some level of support for calling witnesses, and if they joined all Democrats, the result would be a 50-50 tie. While Alexander has expressed no indication of how he will vote, both parties see him as a wild card and possible tie-breaker. (Politico)

  • Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said a so-called witness exchange with Republicans involving Hunter Biden is “off the table.” Schumer also criticized Republicans for not calling witnesses. (Reuters)

5/ Trump tweeted 54 times before noon, criticizing Democrats and the impeachment process. “The Do Nothing Democrats just keep repeating and repeating, over and over again, the same old ‘stuff’ on the Impeachment Hoax,” Trump tweeted at one point. (CNN)

poll/ 47% of Americans say the Senate should remove Trump from office and 49% saying they should not. 44% of Americans approve of Trump’s overall job performance and 51% disapprove. (Washington Post)

poll/ 66% of Americans say the Senate should call new witnesses to testify at the impeachment trial, while 27% say the Senate should not. (ABC News)


Notables.

  1. The Pentagon said 34 U.S. service members were diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries after the Iranian ballistic missile attack in Iraq this month. Trump previously claimed that no U.S. troops were harmed and later downplayed the significance of the brain injuries, saying “I heard that they had headaches.” (CNN / Bloomberg / Politico / Washington Post)

  2. The Trump administration threatened to cut off some federal funds to California unless it drops a state requirement that insurers cover abortion. The administration says the policy violates a federal law banning government entities that receive federal money from the Department of Health and Human Services from discriminating against healthcare organizations because they don’t provide abortion or abortion coverage. HHS is giving California 30 days to comply or face the loss of unspecified funds. (Politico / Wall Street Journal)

  3. Trump’s re-election campaign threatened the nonpartisan presidential debate commission that Trump may not participate if the process is not “fair.” Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, campaign operating officer, Michael Glassner, complained to Frank Fahrenkopf, the co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, that the board of directors and moderators were all against the president. Trump privately told advisers that because his television ratings are so high, he can exert more control over the debates. (Washington Post)

Day 1099: "No president has abused his power in this way."

Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial: Senators reconvened in the Capitol for the third day of Trump’s impeachment trial with House impeachment managers making their case to both senators and the American people that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine for his own personal gain while hurting the national interest. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said “The charges set forth in the first article of impeachment are firmly grounded in the Constitution of the United States,” and that “No president has ever used his office to compel a foreign nation to help him cheat in our elections.” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff added that Trump “is a president who truly feels that he can do whatever he wants.” Schiff concluded the day by urging senators to asked whether they believed that Trump would put the nation’s interests before his own, saying “If you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed. Because right matters. Because the truth matters. Otherwise, we are lost.” Democrats have used their 24 hours of opening arguments to target a small group of Senate Republicans they hope will cross the aisle and vote with them to issue subpoenas for documents and witnesses. Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney have hinted they could be open to the possibility of calling witnesses. Trump, meanwhile, is reportedly “very pleased” with how the trial is going and is eager to prove “he’s done nothing wrong.” (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / Politico / Bloomberg / CNN)

  • 👨‍💻 Live blogs: New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / The Guardian / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / CBS News

  • ⚡️ Impeachment.wtf – The internet’s most comprehensive guide to the impeachment of Donald J. Trump. Maintained by the WTF community. Updated daily.

  • Senate Democrats called on the White House to declassify a letter from a national security aide to Mike Pence related to Pence’s Sept. 18 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. House Democrats asked Pence to declassify the letter from Pence aide Jennifer Williams last month. He declined, claiming it “serves no purpose.” Schiff has indicated the letter “corroborates” other testimony in the impeachment inquiry. (Politico)

  • Senate Democrats believe acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney is the “most important” potential witness in Trump’s trial. A procedural vote on whether to subpoena new witnesses and documents is scheduled for next week. (Politico)

  • Republican Sen. Richard Burr handed out fidget spinners to his GOP colleagues. (NBC News)

  • Trump, comparing his impeachment to Clinton’s, said the difference is that “with me, there’s no lying” – and then he made at least 14 false claims related to impeachment and Ukraine. (CNN)

  • Three House impeachment managers said the American public will view it as a “rigged trial” if the Senate votes to acquit Trump. Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Sylvia Garcia, and Val Demings also spoke about the need for witnesses in the trial, adding that even an acquittal won’t amount to an exoneration of Trump. (NBC News)

  • Senators are considering a short, morning-only impeachment trial session on Saturday to hear the beginning of the opening arguments from Trump’s defense counsel and then allowing senators to leave town for the weekend.

  • The Senate impeachment trial could end by next Thursday or Friday if the White House decides not to use its full 24 hours for opening arguments.


💬 Impeachment Quotables:

  1. Trump floated a “very specific conspiracy theory” that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that hacked the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016. “This theory was brought to you by the Kremlin.” –House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff

  2. White House lawyers will not include “a refutation of the evidence,” but instead focus on complaints about process and the managers’ motives. –House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler

  3. “No president has abused his power in this way.”Nadler

  4. Trump’s conduct “puts even Nixon to shame.”Nadler

  5. “It wasn’t until Biden began beating him in polls that [Trump] called for the investigation,” adding that Trump “had the motive, he had the opportunity and the means to commit this abuse of power.” –Impeachment manager Rep. Sylvia Garcia

  6. “Acquittal will have zero value” for Trump without witnesses. –Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer

  7. Senators who don’t want to hear from witnesses are “afraid of the truth.”Schumer

  8. Trump wasn’t “bragging” about obstructing Congress when he told reporters “we have all the material. They don’t have the material.”White House spokesman Hogan Gidley


✏️ Notables.

1/ The Trump administration will strip federal pollution protections for rivers, streams, and wetlands. The new rule, which replaces the Obama administration’s “Waters of the United States” regulation, will remove protections from more than half the nation’s wetlands, as well as hundreds of thousands of small waterways. It also allows landowners and property developers to dump pollutants, such as pesticides and fertilizers directly into many of those waterways — or to destroy or fill in wetlands for construction projects. A government advisory board of scientists, many of whom were appointed by Trump, wrote last month that the new rule “neglects established science.” (New York Times / The Guardian / NPR / Axios)

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin criticized 17-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, saying that “After she goes and studies economics in college, she can come back and explain [her call for a complete divestment from the fossil fuel industry].” In response, Thunberg said that “it doesn’t take a college degree in economics” to understand ongoing fossil fuel subsidies and our remaining carbon budget “don’t add up.” (CNBC / The Guardian / New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ The Director of National Intelligence failed to turn over a report to Congress on the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In December, lawmakers passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which Trump signed into law on Dec. 20. The bill included a provision ordering Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, to send the unclassified report identifying those responsible for Khashoggi’s death at a Saudi Arabian consulate in 2018 to four congressional committees: the House Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees, and the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees. The legislation set the deadline for the report at 30 days, which passed earlier this week. (BuzzFeed News)

  • 📌 Day 1098: Jeff Bezos had his mobile phone “hacked” in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message from the personal account of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A digital forensic analysis found it “highly probable” that an unsolicited video sent on May 1 by Crown Prince Mohammed infected Bezos’s phone with spyware that enabled surveillance. United Nations human rights experts suggested the hack was an attempt to “influence, if not silence” news coverage of the kingdom by the Washington Post, which Bezos owns. Six months after the hack, Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, was murdered after criticizing the Saudi crown prince in his columns. The CIA concluded that MBS had personally ordered the assassination. Weeks after the murder, Bezos received a message from MBS that included a photo of a woman who strongly resembled Lauren Sanchez, who Bezos was having an affair that had not been made public. In Feb. 2019, the National Enquirer obtained and published private text messages and photos from Bezos’s phone showing that he was engaged in an extramarital relationship. The United Nations called on the U.S. and “other relevant authorities” to open an investigation into the hack of Bezos’s phone, citing a pattern of similar surveillance of perceived critics of the Saudi government. Trump and Jared Kushner have maintained close ties with the crown prince despite international outcry over Khashoggi’s death and the assessment by Trump’s own intelligence services that the crown prince was likely involved. (The Guardian / New York Times / TechCrunch / Wall Street Journal /Daily Beast / Washington Post / The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)

3/ Trump will become the first sitting president to attend and address the anti-abortion March for Life, an annual anti-abortion event in Washington. In 2017, Pence became the first sitting vice president to attend the event, and in 2018, Trump became the first president to address the rally by video. In his speech, Trump vowed that his administration would “always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life.” (Bloomberg / New York Times / CNN)

  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos compared the abortion rights debate to slavery, saying President Abraham Lincoln “contended with the ‘pro-choice’ arguments of his day. They suggested that a state’s ‘choice’ to be slave or to be free had no moral question in it.” (Politico)

4/ Trump said he doesn’t consider concussion symptoms reported by American troops to be “very serious injuries,” suggesting they were just “headaches.” Following the Iranian airstrikes on Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, the Pentagon put a number of service members through medical examinations for possible traumatic brain injuries. (New York Times)

5/ Room rates at the Trump National Doral more than doubled just before the White House announced that Trump would address the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting. The rates raised from from $254 to $539, which is slightly below the maximum per-night rate federal government rules permit for a hotel in South Florida, and is triple the normal “per diem” rate employees are supposed to follow. (HuffPost)

Day 1098: "Protect our democracy."

1/ House Democratic managers began formal arguments in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, presenting the case for convicting Trump and removing him from office on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. During opening arguments, House managers outlined how “Trump solicited foreign inference” to “cheat” by abusing “the powers of his office” and “seeking help from abroad to improve his reelection prospects at home.” And, when Trump “was caught, he used the powers of that office to obstruct the investigation into his own misconduct.” Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manager and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, called Trump’s efforts to get a foreign government to announce an investigation into his political rival “a gross abuse of power,” urging Republicans to “protect our democracy” by joining Democrats in voting to remove Trump from office. Throughout the day, Schiff and impeachment managers methodically outlined Trump’s “corrupt scheme and cover-up,” calling on Senators to “decide what kind of democracy […] we ought to be” and what Americans can expect “in the conduct of their president.” Schiff closed the day by rehashing the facts of the case as presented over the last eight hours, urging senators to learn the “full truth” and warning that the “truth is going to come out.” (Associated Press / New York Times / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Politico / Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / Politico / The Guardian)

  • WHAT’S NEXT: Starting at 1 p.m. on Thursday, the Senate will meet again to hear House managers present their arguments for why Trump should be removed from office. The managers will present their case for about eight hours.

  • READ: Adam Schiff’s opening argument at Senate impeachment trial. (Politico)

  • Trump tweeted more than 140 times as House managers presented their case in his impeachment trial, surpassing his mid-December record for the most daily tweets and retweets during his presidency. (Politico)

2/ Trump said he’s open to new witnesses at his impeachment trial, before immediately backtracking. At a news conference in Davos, Trump suggested he’d prefer his impeachment trial to go the “long way” with testimony from a “a lot of people,” including former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and his acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Trump then dismissed the idea, saying it could never happen because it would create “a national security problem” and that testimony by Bolton in particular could hurt his presidency, because “you don’t want someone testifying who didn’t leave on the best of terms.” The White House instructed many witnesses, including Bolton, not to testify in the House inquiry. (Politico / NPR / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal)

  • Trump “bragged” about withholding materials from Congress during a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, saying “we have all the material. They don’t have the material.” One of the articles of impeachment the House approved was obstruction of Congress, based partly on the administration’s refusal to provide documents or allow certain officials to testify. (Rolling Stone / CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / Vox)

  • Chuck Schumer said an impeachment witness trade is “off the table.” Some Senate Democrats had privately discussed trading the testimony of Hunter Biden for the testimony of John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser. (NBC News / New York Times)

3/ The Office of Management and Budget released 192 pages of documents related to the withholding of Ukraine military aid, “including records that have not been produced to Congress in its impeachment investigation.” The night before Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy, emails show that OMB officials shared a “Ukraine Prep Memo” with Michael Duffey, a political appointee who played a role in Trump’s move to freeze the aid. That same evening, it appears the general counsel’s office prepared a footnote for budget officials – a mechanism officials at the budget office used to pause the funding. The documents also detail communications between Duffey and other OMB aides, including Mark Sandy and Paul Denaro, discussing the details on the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative in the emails — dated from early August to Sept. 30. Emails from acting OMB Director Russell Vought are also included. (American Oversight / CNN / Axios / New York Times / NBC News / The Hill)

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Ukraine next week. Pompeo canceled a previously planned trip to Ukraine in early January amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. During the previous plan, Pompeo was scheduled to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy. (CNBC)

poll/ 68% of Americans think Trump should allow his top administration aides to appear as witnesses at the impeachment trial, while 30% think he shouldn’t allow his aides to appear witnesses. (Associated Press)

poll/ 51% of Americans want the Senate impeachment trial to result in Trump’s removal from office, while 46% say the result should lead to Trump remaining in office. (Pew Research Center)


Notables.

  1. The District of Columbia is suing Trump’s inaugural committee and business, alleging that the committee violated its nonprofit status by spending more than $1 million to book a ballroom at the the Trump International Hotel – over the objections of its event planner – that its staff knew was overpriced. (ABC News / Washington Post)

  2. Jeff Bezos had his mobile phone “hacked” in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message from the personal account of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A digital forensic analysis found it “highly probable” that an unsolicited video sent on May 1 by Crown Prince Mohammed infected Bezos’s phone with spyware that enabled surveillance. United Nations human rights experts suggested the hack was an attempt to “influence, if not silence” news coverage of the kingdom by the Washington Post, which Bezos owns. Six months after the hack, Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, was murdered after criticizing the Saudi crown prince in his columns. The CIA concluded that MBS had personally ordered the assassination. Weeks after the murder, Bezos received a message from MBS that included a photo of a woman who strongly resembled Lauren Sanchez, who Bezos was having an affair that had not been made public. In Feb. 2019, the National Enquirer obtained and published private text messages and photos from Bezos’s phone showing that he was engaged in an extramarital relationship. The United Nations called on the U.S. and “other relevant authorities” to open an investigation into the hack of Bezos’s phone, citing a pattern of similar surveillance of perceived critics of the Saudi government. Trump and Jared Kushner have maintained close ties with the crown prince despite international outcry over Khashoggi’s death and the assessment by Trump’s own intelligence services that the crown prince was likely involved. (The Guardian / New York Times / TechCrunch / Wall Street Journal / Daily Beast / Washington Post / The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)

  3. Trump demanded that Apple unlock iPhones for investigators in criminal cases, complaining that Apple has refused to build a “backdoor” that would give law enforcement access to the devices. Yesterday, the Department of Justice and Attorney General William Barr criticized Apple for a lack of “substantive help” in its investigation of a shooting at a Florida Naval base. In a statement, Apple said it provided information to law enforcement related to the Pensacola case but that it would not build a “backdoor” or specialized software. (CNBC / CNET / USA Today)

  4. Trump claimed that U.S. economic growth would be closer to 4% if it weren’t for the Federal Reserve. Trump called the rate hikes “a big blip that should not have taken place,” and said the stock market would be even higher — “I could see 5,000 to 10,000 points more on the Dow” — if the Fed hadn’t raised rates so quickly before cutting them three times in 2019. (CNBC)

  5. The State Department imposed visa restrictions for pregnant foreign women in an effort to restrict “birth tourism,” in which women travel to the U.S. to give birth so their children can have a U.S. passport. (NBC News / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal)

Day 1097: "Deliberately designed to hide the truth."

1/ The first day of Trump’s impeachment trial began with more than 12 hours of contentious debate over the procedural rules that will guide the proceedings as senators repeatedly voted along party lines to reject efforts to subpoena new witnesses. Senate Republicans rejected 11 Democratic amendments to subpoena records from the White House, State Department, Defense Department, and the Office of Management and Budget related to Ukraine, which the White House blocked during the House inquiry. Senate Republicans also blocked amendments to issue subpoenas for testimony from John Bolton, the former national security adviser, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, Michael Duffey, a White House budget office official, and Robert Blair, a Mulvaney adviser who was involved in the decision to freeze military aid to Ukraine. Even an attempt to make a deal to shorten debate was rejected. At one point, Chief Justice John Roberts admonished the prosecutors and the White House legal team for the quality of their discourse, warning them about using inappropriate language. The Senate adopted Mitch McConnell’s proposed rules for Trump’s impeachment trial after more than 12 hours of debate and discussion over the rules. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Politico / NBC News / The Guardian / Axios / CNN / CBS News / ABC News)

2/ Mitch McConnell made last-minute, handwritten changes to the proposed impeachment trial rules following criticism from Democrats and key Republicans. McConnell initially circulated the proposed organizing resolution late Monday night, which would have provided House impeachment managers and Trump’s legal team each 24 hours over two days to make their opening arguments. McConnell’s proposal would have also put the decision of whether to admit the House evidence to a Senate vote. Following complaints from lawmakers, however, McConnell revised the resolution, instead giving House prosecutors and White House lawyers each 24 hours over three days to present their opening arguments, as well as a provision to automatically enter evidence collected during the House impeachment inquiry. The change means the trial days, which start at 1 p.m., will likely now conclude daily around 9 p.m. – instead of after midnight. The condensed timeline also raises the prospect that the trial will conclude before Trump’s Feb. 4 State of the Union address. (CNN / NPR / NBC News / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / Associated Press)

3/ Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Mitch McConnell’s proposed rules for the impeachment trial a “sham” that is “deliberately designed to hide the truth,” saying McConnell “has chosen a cover-up” with a “dark of night impeachment trial.” McConnell initially pledged to conform to the same standard the Senate used during Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial. The impeachment managers, however, said McConnell’s proposal “deviates sharply from the Clinton precedent — and common sense — in an effort to prevent the full truth of the president’s misconduct from coming to light.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, called the proposal “appalling” and accused McConnell of seeking to turn the trial into “a farce” and a “national disgrace.” (NBC News / Axios / The Hill / Daily Beast / Washington Post / The Guardian)

  • READ: Pelosi’s statement on McConnell’s resolution (Speaker.gov)

4/ Trump’s defense team and Senate Republican allies plan to block witnesses from testifying in public if Democrats manage to persuade four GOP lawmakers to break ranks. One option being discussed would be to move witnesses testimony, including potential testimony by former national security adviser John Bolton, to a classified setting for national security reasons. Trump has also previously said he would assert executive privilege if Bolton were called to testify, and the White House has indicated that it could appeal to federal courts for an injunction to stop Bolton if he refuses to go along with their instructions. (Washington Post / NBC News)

  • The White House appointed several prominent House Republicans to advise Trump’s impeachment defense team ahead of the Senate trial, which begins today. Reps. Jim Jordan, John Ratcliffe, Mike Johnson, Mark Meadows, Debbie Lesko, Lee Zeldin, Elise Stefanik, and Doug Collins have been tapped to help Trump with the trial. Republicans in the Senate warned against the appointments, saying that it would cast the Senate trail in a partisan light. (The Hill)

poll/ 57% of Americans say House managers should be able to introduce new evidence in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial. Another 37% say that the managers should be limited to sharing only what was revealed during the initial impeachment inquiry. (Monmouth University Poll)

poll/ 51% of Americans say Trump has encouraged interference in U.S. elections. 41% say the U.S. is not prepared to keep the 2020 election safe and secure from outside interference. (NPR)

poll/ Eighty-two percentage points separated Republicans’ (89%) and Democrats’ (7%) average job approval ratings of Trump in 2019 – the largest degree of political polarization in any presidential year. (Gallup)

Where is Trump? At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, repeatedly calling the impeachment trial a “total hoax” and touting his economic achievements, which what he described as a “blue-collar boom.” Trump called the impeachment trial “disgraceful” before insisting “I’m sure it is going to work out fine.” (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration plans to add seven countries to its travel ban list – three years after its original order, which targeted several majority-Muslim nations. A draft being considered would place immigration restrictions on people from Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania, but not necessarily ban all citizens from entering the United States. Some countries could face bans only on some visa categories. (Politico / Wall Street Journal / Reuters)

  2. The Supreme Court declined to expedite a legal challenge that could kill the Affordable Care Act, likely pushing the issue until after the presidential election. A coalition of states and the House of Representatives had asked the court to fast-track their appeal after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ACA’s individual mandate is unconstitutional. (Politico / Wall Street Journal / The Hill)

  3. Lev Parnas asked Attorney General William Barr to recuse himself and appoint a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation. Parnas has been charged with federal campaign finance violations in New York and was also part of the team that helped Giuliani pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden. Parnas claimed Barr “had to have known everything” about the effort and that he was “basically on the team,” rendering Barr unable to fairly prosecute the case against Parnas. (NBC News)

  4. Trump – again – threatened to impose tariffs on European automobiles if he can’t strike what he called “a fair deal.” Trump, however, declined to set a public deadline, instead saying “They know what the deadline is.” A previous deadline for auto tariffs lapsed on Nov. 13, 2019. (Wall Street Journal / CNBC)

Day 1096: "The Framers' worst nightmare."

1/ Trump’s legal team called on the Senate to “swiftly reject” the “flimsy” impeachment charges against Trump and that he “should immediately be acquitted” because of a “rigged process” by House Democrats. In a 110-page brief submitted to the Senate the day before Trump’s trial begins, Trump’s lawyer dismissed the two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – against Trump as a “charade” that is “frivolous and dangerous,” claiming the charges are “constitutionally invalid” and “deficient on their face” because they don’t involve any violations of law. The legal team maintained that Trump did “absolutely nothing wrong” and is the victim of a “brazenly political act by House Democrats.” The brief came after the seven House managers argued that Trump’s behavior amounted to “the Framers’ worst nightmare” and that his actions present a “danger to our democratic processes.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Politico / Associated Press / Bloomberg / Axios / CNN)

  • 👉 The Senate impeachment trial is set to begin tomorrow with Republicans and Democrats setting the rules for the trial. The trial will start Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET, running six days a week, and ending daily between 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. ET. (CNN)

  • Mitch McConnell is preparing a resolution that would give Trump’s lawyers the option to move to dismiss the impeachment charges. However, Republican Senate leaders – including McConnell – have already said members aren’t interested in a vote to dismiss. (Axios)

  • READ: The 110-page legal brief outlining Trump’s defense ahead of his impeachment trial in the Senate. (NBC News)

2/ House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff accused the White House of pressuring the NSA and CIA of withholding documents about Ukraine from Congress. “The NSA in particular is withholding what are potentially relevant documents to our oversight responsibilities on Ukraine, but also withholding documents potentially relevant that the senators might want to see during the trial,” Schiff said, adding that there “are signs that the CIA may be on the same tragic course.” An Intelligence Committee official later confirmed that “Both the NSA and CIA initially pledged cooperation, and it appears now that the White House has interceded before production of documents could begin.” (Politico / New York Times / CNN)

3/ House Democrats released a third set of documents from Lev Parnas showing Devin Nunes was involved in efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine on Biden. The text messages between Parnas and Derek Harvey, an aide to Nunes, indicate Nunes’s office was aware of the months-long effort directed by Trump and Rudy Giuliani to obtain information from Ukrainian prosecutors that would be damaging to Biden. Nunes initially denied knowing Parnas but has since admitted that the two had spoken after phone records showed several calls between the two. The documents also included screenshots of text messages that appear to show Robert Hyde, a Republican congressional candidate in Connecticut, messaging with a number from Belgium, describing the apparent surveillance of former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. (Associated Press / Washington Post / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1091: Rudy Giuliani requested a private meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky – then the president-elect of Ukraine – with Trump’s “knowledge and consent,” according to new documents released by House Democrats. The documents contains several handwritten notes, emails, encrypted messages, and text messages that show how Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, tried to set up a meeting between Giuliani and Zelensky, as well as efforts to “Get Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated.” The documents also show that before Marie Yovanovitch, the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was removed from her post, a Parnas associate now running for Congress sent menacing text messages suggesting that he had Yovanovitch under surveillance in Ukraine. Democrats said the new records “demonstrate that there is more evidence relevant to the president’s scheme” that has “been concealed by the president himself.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN/NBC News / CNBC / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 1092: Ukraine opened a criminal investigation into alleged illegal surveillance of former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch by Parnas. Ukraine’s interior ministry announced the investigation citing the documents released by House Democrats, which included several WhatsApp messages between Parnas and Robert Hyde, a Connecticut Republican who is running for a seat in Congress, that discussed monitoring Yovanovitch’s physical movements and electronic devices. (Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg / Politico / BuzzFeed News)

poll/ 51% of Americans say the Senate should vote to convict Trump and remove him from office, while 45% say the Senate should vote against conviction and removal. 69% say that the trial should include testimony from new witnesses who did not testify in the House impeachment inquiry. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. Trump recounted the minute-by-minute details of the U.S. strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani during remarks to Republican donors at Mar-a-Lago. Trump claimed that Soleimani was “saying bad things about our country” before the strike, which led to his decision to authorize his killing. Trump didn’t, however, describe an “imminent threat” to U.S. interests or four U.S. embassies – the justifications used by administration officials following the attack. Instead, Trump described Soleimani as a “noted terrorist” who was “the father of the roadside bomb” responsible for “every young, beautiful man or woman who you see walking around with no legs, no arms.” (Washington Post / CNN)

  2. The U.S. intelligence community is trying to persuade House and Senate lawmakers to drop the public portion of a briefing on global security threats so agency chiefs aren’t on-camera disagreeing with Trump on Iran, Russia, or North Korea. Last year’s session provoked an angry outburst from Trump. (Politico)

  3. The White House official responsible for Russia and Europe policy was put on indefinite administrative leave pending a “security-related investigation.” Andrew Peek, the third person to occupy the job in the last year, was escorted off the White House grounds on Friday. (Axios / NBC News / CNN / Washington Post)

  4. Trump’s third homeland security and counter-terrorism adviser is expected to be reassigned after about six months in the job. Rear Admiral Peter Brown is likely to take on a new role overseeing Puerto Rico’s recovery from hurricane damage and recent earthquakes. (Bloomberg)

  5. Trump lashed out at Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar after polling showed the public trusts Democrats more than Republicans on health care and drug pricing. During a meeting with his political affairs team, Trump made an impromptu call to Azar, saying he regrets getting involved in that “fucking vaping thing” and that Azar is “not getting it done” and needs to “hurry up” on getting drug prices lowered. (Axios / Politico / Washington Post)

  6. The National Archives blurred signs held by protesters during the 2017 Women’s March that were critical of Trump. The Archives said the decision to obscure the words was “so as not to engage in current political controversy.” The photograph is part of an exhibit celebrating the centennial of women’s suffrage. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  7. Trump made 81 false claims last week and – three years after taking the oath of office – has made 16,241 false or misleading claims. In 2017, Trump made 1,999 false or misleading claims. In 2018, he made 5,689 more, for a total of 7,688. And in 2019, he made 8,155 false claims. (CNN / Washington Post)

👋 Today marks the start of Season Four of the Trump administration. I started this as a personal project to keep track of what was going on while becoming a better consumer of political news. It quickly turned into my full-time job, because, as it turns out, a lot of other people also wanted to be better news consumers. So this is my full-time job and I plan to keep doing this for as long as you keep supporting me. So, if you find my work valuable, please consider becoming a supporting member so I can continue to tell you wtf just happened today. –MATT

Day 1093: "Dopes and babies."

1/ Trump added celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz and former independent counsel Ken Starr to his Senate impeachment trial defense team. Starr investigated Bill Clinton, and Dershowitz’s past clients include Jeffrey Epstein and O.J. Simpson. The team will be led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, and Starr’s successor at the Office of Independent Counsel during the Clinton administration, Robert Ray. Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Trump’s longtime personal counsel Jane Raskin will also supplement the impeachment team. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Politico / NBC News / Axios)

2/ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly committed to investigate allegations of surveillance of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, saying he believed the allegations would “ultimately prove wrong” but that he had an obligation to investigate the matter. Pompeo’s comments came more than 48 hours after evidence emerged that Yovanovitch was under surveillance and possibly threatened by associates of Lev Parnas – and more than 24 hours after Ukraine announced its own investigation into the matter. Pompeo added that “to the best of my recollection” he “had never heard of this at all.” (Associated Press / New York Times / CNN / Bloomberg)

  • 📌 Day 1091: Rudy Giuliani requested a private meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky – then the president-elect of Ukraine – with Trump’s “knowledge and consent,” according to new documents released by House Democrats. The documents contains several handwritten notes, emails, encrypted messages, and text messages that show how Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, tried to set up a meeting between Giuliani and Zelensky, as well as efforts to “Get Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated.” The documents also show that before Marie Yovanovitch, the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was removed from her post, a Parnas associate now running for Congress sent menacing text messages suggesting that he had Yovanovitch under surveillance in Ukraine. Democrats said the new records “demonstrate that there is more evidence relevant to the president’s scheme” that has “been concealed by the president himself.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN/NBC News / CNBC / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 1092: Ukraine opened a criminal investigation into alleged illegal surveillance of former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch by Parnas. Ukraine’s interior ministry announced the investigation citing the documents released by House Democrats, which included several WhatsApp messages between Parnas and Robert Hyde, a Connecticut Republican who is running for a seat in Congress, that discussed monitoring Yovanovitch’s physical movements and electronic devices. (Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg / Politico / BuzzFeed News)

  • Lev Parnas claimed that Trump ordered the firing of U.S. ambassador to Ukraine “at least four or five times” before her recall was publicly announced in April. Parnas also said Trump once tried to fire Yovanovitch at a dinner in a private area of a Trump hotel. (NBC News)

3/ The Trump administration proposed rolling back school nutrition standards, allowing schools to cut the amount of vegetables and fruits required at lunch and breakfasts while giving them the ability to sell more pizza, burgers, and fries to students. The stricter nutritional standards for school meals were former first lady Michelle Obama’s signature achievement. The proposal was announced on her birthday. (New York Times / Washington Post)

4/ The Trump administration is exploring making changes to an anti-bribery law. Trump has reportedly complained about a 1977 law that makes it illegal for U.S. companies to bribe foreign officials. “It’s just so unfair that American companies aren’t allowed to pay bribes to get business overseas,” Trump said. “We’re going to change that.” (Bloomberg / The Hill)

5/ Eleven U.S. military service members were treated for concussions as a result of the Iranian missile strikes against the Iraqi bases where they were stationed. The report from U.S. Central Command contradicts earlier statements by Trump that there were no American casualties in the Jan. 8 attack. The injured troops were taken to military sites in Germany and Kuwait to undergo screening and treatment. They’re expected to return to Iraq once they are “deemed fit for duty.” (New York Times / NBC News / CNN)

6/ Trump reportedly called his top military officials “losers” and “a bunch of dopes and babies” during a July 2017 meeting at the Pentagon, according to the new book A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America. Trump told the assembled brass he “wouldn’t go to war with you people” because “You don’t know how to win anymore.” After Trump walked out, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “fucking moron.” (Washington Post / Military Times)

poll/ 83% of black Americans describe Trump as a racist. 65% of African Americans say it’s a “bad time” to be a black person in America. (Washington Post)

Day 1092: "Do impartial justice."

1/ The Senate opened the impeachment trial of Trump – the third presidential impeachment trial in history – with the swearing in of senators and the presentation of the two charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Chief Justice John Roberts, who will preside over the trial, administered the oath to “do impartial justice” to all senators in the chamber. The Senate also issued a formal summons for Trump, informing him of the charges and inviting him to respond by Saturday evening. The Senate will now recess the trial until Tuesday, Jan. 21. A two-thirds vote is required to remove Trump from office, meaning 20 Republican senators would need to break ranks. Trump, meanwhile, tweeted: “I JUST GOT IMPEACHED FOR MAKING A PERFECT PHONE CALL!” (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post / CNN / Wall Street Journal / The Guardian)

  • Chuck Schumer said he will try to force a vote on whether to call witnesses in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial. Democrats want to call acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former National Security Advisor John Bolton and two other White House officials, and also are seeking documents the White House has withheld. Schumer added that the disclosures by Lev Parnas raised “serious questions.” (Bloomberg)

2/ Trump “knew exactly what was going on” in Ukraine, according to Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani. Parnas said Trump was “aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the President.” While Parnas never spoke with Trump directly about his efforts to push Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and the 2016 election, he met with Trump on several occasions, and was told by Giuliani that Trump was kept informed about his work. Parnas also said he warned an aide to then-Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky at the direction of Giuliani that the U.S. would halt aid to the country if it didn’t announce investigations that could benefit Trump politically. Parnas also implicated several senior officials in the scheme, including Mike Pence, John Bolton, Devin Nunes, and William Barr. Parnas claimed that Barr “had to have known everything” going on with Ukraine because “Barr was basically on the team.” Parnas also claimed that Pence’s planned trip to attend Zelensky’s inauguration was canceled because the Ukrainians did not agree to the demand for an investigation of the Bidens. (New York Times / NBC News / Politico / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)

  • Democrats released more evidence obtained from Parnas, including voicemails, photos, and text messages between him and high-level Trump associates, including a top official at the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action. The previously undisclosed documents, released by the House Intelligence Committee, show Parnas directly involved with efforts to get the Ukrainian president to announce investigations related to Biden. (Politico / Washington Post)

  • Ukraine opened a criminal investigation into alleged illegal surveillance of former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch by Parnas. Ukraine’s interior ministry announced the investigation citing the documents released by House Democrats, which included several WhatsApp messages between Parnas and Robert Hyde, a Connecticut Republican who is running for a seat in Congress, that discussed monitoring Yovanovitch’s physical movements and electronic devices. (Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg / Politico / BuzzFeed News)

  • FBI investigators visited both the home and business of Robert Hyde. The visit comes days after the House Intelligence Committee released texts Hyde sent Parnas suggesting he was surveilling then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. (NBC News / CNN)

  • Trump threatened to withhold more than just military aid from Ukraine if Zelesnky refused to announce investigations into the Bidens. “The message was: It wasn’t just military aid,” Parnas said. “It was all aid.” Parnas also said that Trump’s efforts in Ukraine were “never about corruption,” they were “strictly about Burisma, which included Hunter Biden and Joe Biden.” (MSNBC / NBC News / The Hill)

  • Takeaways from Parnas’ interview with Rachel Maddow. A day after the House published evidence provided by Parnas for the Senate impeachment trial, Parnas unveiled his take on what has been going on behind the scenes with the White House’s Ukraine policy. (The Hill / Washington Post)

3/ Trump denied knowing Parnas while also dismissing a photo of himself with the Giuliani associate as just one of “thousands” he’s taken with his supporters. Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Trump said: “I don’t know him at all, don’t know what he’s about, don’t know where he comes from, know nothing about him.” Trump added: “Perhaps he’s a fine man. Perhaps he’s not.” Trump also claimed he knew nothing about a letter in which Giuliani told Zelensky he was seeking a meeting with the Ukranian president with Trump’s “knowledge and consent.” (Washington Post / Bloomberg)

  • 📌 Day 1091: Rudy Giuliani requested a private meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky – then the president-elect of Ukraine – with Trump’s “knowledge and consent,” according to new documents released by House Democrats. The documents contains several handwritten notes, emails, encrypted messages, and text messages that show how Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, tried to set up a meeting between Giuliani and Zelensky, as well as efforts to “Get Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated.” The documents also show that before Marie Yovanovitch, the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was removed from her post, a Parnas associate now running for Congress sent menacing text messages suggesting that he had Yovanovitch under surveillance in Ukraine. Democrats said the new records “demonstrate that there is more evidence relevant to the president’s scheme” that has “been concealed by the president himself.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / NBC News / CNBC / Wall Street Journal)

4/ The Trump administration violated the law when it froze military aid to Ukraine, according to a nonpartisan congressional watchdog. The Government Accountability Office said the White House budget office violated the Impoundment Control Act when it withheld funds that had been appropriated by Congress for a “policy reason.” The Office of Management and Budget claimed it “withheld the funds to ensure that they were not spent ‘in a manner that could conflict with the President’s foreign policy.’” The GAO, however, rejected the argument, saying “Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.” (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / NBC News / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal)

  • READ: GAO concludes OMB violated law in withholding Ukraine aid. (CNN)

5/ The Senate passed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Trump’s signature trade deal designed to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. The deal now heads to Trump’s desk for his signature. (Politico / Axios / NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

6/ Trump’s 2017 tax cuts are being investigated by the Treasury Department. The Opportunity Zone tax break was meant to help poor communities by encouraging investment in new housing, businesses, and jobs. Instead, money that was eligible for the tax break has been used to fund luxury development projects in wealthy neighborhoods, including projects by friends of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and members of the Kushner family. (NBC News / New York Times)

Day 1091: Con job.

1/ The House of Representatives voted to send the Senate two articles of impeachment against Trump, initiating the third presidential impeachment trial in American history. The measure passed 228-to-193 with one Democrat – Collin Peterson of Minnesota – joining every Republican in voting “no.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi also announced the seven House Democrats who will serve as the “managers” in the trial, saying “The emphasis is on making the strongest possible case to protect and defend our Constitution to seek the truth for the American people.” The two articles, charging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, will be hand-delivered to the Senate with the trial expected to begin on Tuesday. It remains undecided if witnesses will be called to testify. Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that his impeachment is a “Con Job.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / Politico / CNN / CNBC / NBC News)

  • A step-by-step guide to what happens when the House sends the impeachment articles to the Senate. (CNN / Washington Post)

  • Who are the impeachment managers prosecuting the case against Trump in the Senate trial? House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler will lead the House team, joined by Jason Crow, Val Demings, Sylvia Garcia, Hakeem Jeffries, and Zoe Lofgren (Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / Bloomberg / CNBC / Wall Street Journal)

2/ Rudy Giuliani requested a private meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky – then the president-elect of Ukraine – with Trump’s “knowledge and consent,” according to new documents released by House Democrats. The documents contains several handwritten notes, emails, encrypted messages, and text messages that show how Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, tried to set up a meeting between Giuliani and Zelensky, as well as efforts to “Get Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated.” The documents also show that before Marie Yovanovitch, the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was removed from her post, a Parnas associate now running for Congress sent menacing text messages suggesting that he had Yovanovitch under surveillance in Ukraine. Democrats said the new records “demonstrate that there is more evidence relevant to the president’s scheme” that has “been concealed by the president himself.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / NBC News / CNBC / Wall Street Journal)

3/ Four Republicans will vote with Democrats to invoke Congress’ war powers and limit Trump’s ability to conduct further military actions against Iran. Republican Sens. Susan Collins, Todd Young, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul have joined 47 Democrats in support of the resolution, which was introduced the day after the Trump administration carried out the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani without seeking Congressional approval. (Washington Post)

  • Security footage shows that the Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 was taken down by two missiles, fired roughly 30 seconds apart. The missiles were launched from an Iranian military base approximately eight miles from where the plane was hit. Flight 752 was one of 19 planes that took off from Tehran in the hours after Iran launched missiles against military bases in Iraq that were housing U.S. troops in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Soleimani. (New York Times)

poll/ 49% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the situation with Iran, while 42% approve. 88% of Republicans approve of Trump’s actions, as do 44% of Independents and 10% of Democrats. (NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist)

poll/ 71% of voters support Trump’s decision not to pursue military action against Iran after Tehran targeted two air bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops. 14% disapproved of Trump’s decision, and 15% said they did not know or had no opinion. 58% approved of Trump’s decision to level the new sanctions against Iran, while 22% disapproved. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn moved to withdraw his two-year-old guilty plea for lying to the FBI during the Russia probe due to “bad faith” actions by the Justice Department. Flynn asked a judge to withdraw his plea and to delay his sentencing by 30 days. Flynn’s defense team cited his cooperation with the Mueller probe and said the government’s “stunning and vindictive reversal of its earlier representations to this Court are incredible, vindictive, in bad faith, and breach the plea agreement.” (NPR / New York Times / NBC News)

  2. Putin replaced his prime minister and proposed constitutional changes, which would limit the power of a successor after 2024, when Putin is required by law to step down. As head of the State Council, Putin could also remain in control and guide policy after his presidential term expires. (Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / CNBC)

  3. The Trump administration released its hold on $8.2 billion in disaster aid to Puerto Rico. The Department of Housing and Urban Development failed to release the funding in September, saying it needed to ensure financial safeguards were put in place in light of recent political unrest on the island. (Politico)

  4. Trump signed the “phase one” trade deal with China, which includes Chinese commitments to purchase an additional $200 billion worth of American goods and services by 2021. The initial trade agreement also includes new protections for trade secrets and intellectual property. (CNBC / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / New York Times)

Day 1090: "Deserve the truth."

1/ The House will vote on Wednesday to transmit articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate. “The American people deserve the truth, and the Constitution demands a trial,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. Before the vote, Pelosi will appoint the team of impeachment managers who will prosecute the trial against Trump. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler are expected to be two of the impeachment managers. Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, said Trump’s impeachment trial will begin next Tuesday – the start of Season Four of the Trump presidency. (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / Politico / Reuters / ABC News)

  • Rudy Giuliani asked Trump if he could join the White House impeachment team. White House counsel Pat Cipollone and outside lawyer Jay Sekulow are expected to lead the Trump’s defense. The White House declined to comment. (HuffPost / CNN)

2/ Senior Senate Republicans rejected Trump’s call to dismiss impeachment charges against him, saying “There is almost no interest” for a motion to dismiss the House charges. Republicans hold a 53-seat majority in the Senate and dismissing the articles of impeachment would require 51 votes. Multiple Republicans, however, have indicated they would oppose a motion to dismiss, arguing that both Trump’s legal team and the House impeachment managers should be able to present their case. (Washington Post / Associated Press / Reuters / The Hill / Politico)

3/ The Russian military hacked into the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the Trump impeachment inquiry. Using similar tactics to those used to obtain emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC, Russian hackers employed phishing emails to steal usernames and passwords from Burisma employees. It is still unclear what the hackers found or what they were looking for, but experts say the timing and scale of the attack suggest that they could be searching for information about the Bidens. The hacking attempts began in early November while reports about the Bidens, Ukraine, and impeachment were leading the news in the U.S. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)

4/ Trump is preparing to divert another $7.2 billion in Pentagon funding to pay for his border wall construction this year — five times the amount that Congress authorized for the project in the 2020 budget. The Pentagon funds – enough to fund about 885 miles of new fencing by 2022 – would come from military construction projects and counter-narcotics programs. The diversion would bring the total amount of federal funding allocated for border fencing to $18.4 billion. (Washington Post)

5/ A former Trump campaign adviser and key witness in the Mueller investigation pleaded guilty to charges of child sex trafficking and possessing child pornography. George Nader admitted in court that he brought an underage boy to the U.S. for sex and that he possessed child pornography that depicted the sexual abuse of toddlers. Both crimes occurred before his time with the 2016 Trump campaign, where he worked as an informal foreign policy adviser and attended high-level meetings. The Justice Department has recommended that he receive the minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. (Courthouse News Service / Washington Post / CNN / Rolling Stone / Yahoo News)

📺 What to watch for during tonight’s Democratic debate. (New York Times / CNN)

Day 1089: Interpretations.

1/ Defense Secretary Mark Esper “didn’t see” intelligence backing up Trump’s claim that Iran was planning to strike four U.S. embassies. Trump previously told Fox News that Iranian General Qasem Soleimani was “probably” going to attack “four embassies,” including the “embassy in Baghdad.” While Esper agreed with Trump that additional attacks against U.S. embassies were likely, he said Trump’s comments were not based on any specific evidence. Esper also confirmed that he sent “thousands of American paratroopers to the Middle East to reinforce our embassy in Baghdad and other sites” based on Trump’s evidence-free assertion. (Reuters / NBC News / New York Times / CNN / CNBC)

  • 📌 Day 1086: Trump claimed Iran had targeted four American embassies before he ordered the killing of Soleimani. Yesterday, Trump claimed that Iran was “looking to blow up” the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, but did not mention the three other embassies under “imminent” threat. (Bloomberg / Washington Post)

  • U.S. Embassy security officials at the State Department were not made aware of any imminent threats to four U.S. embassies, contradicting Trump’s claim that assassinating Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani was an act of self-defense. The State Department sent a global warning before the strike occurred, but no warnings were issued to any individual U.S. embassy and the global warning did not mention any imminent attack. One Senior State Department official said he was “blindsided” when the Trump administration attempted to justify the killing by saying Soleimani was behind an imminent threat to blow us U.S. embassies. (CNN)

2/ Senior administration officials declined to confirm Trump’s assertion that Iran was “looking to blow up” four U.S. embassies. Officials instead suggested that Trump’s “interpretation” of the threat was consistent with overall intelligence that justified the killing of Soleimani. Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that “it doesn’t really matter” whether Soleimani posed an “imminent” threat to the United States. (Washington Post)

3/ Trump authorized the assassination of Soleimani seven months ago. Trump issued a presidential directive in June that the killing of Soleimani was “only on the table if they hit Americans,” referring to Iranian actions in the region. The directive also came with the condition that Trump would have the final say on any specific operation to kill the Iranian general. The Trump administration’s justification for ordering the drone strike, however, was that Soleimani was planning “imminent” attacks on Americans and had to be stopped. (NBC News)

  • The Trump administration’s shifting explanations for the Soleimani strike. (New York Times)

4/ The Trump administration warned Iraq that it could lose access to its central bank account held at the Federal Reserve Bank if Baghdad kicks out American forces. In response to airstrike that killed Soleimani at Baghdad International Airport, the Iraqi parliament voted to urge Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi to work toward the expulsion of the approximately 5,300 U.S. troops. (Wall Street Journal / CNBC)

  • 📌 Day 1086: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi told the U.S. to come up with a mechanism for getting U.S. troops out of Iraq. During a phone call with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Mahdi said Iraq rejects all violations of its sovereignty, including the assassination of Soleimani on Iraqi soil by the U.S. and the ballistic missiles fired at Iraqi bases by Iranians in retaliation for Soleimani’s killing. Mahdi asked Pompeo to “send delegates to Iraq to prepare a mechanism to carry out the parliament’s resolution regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq,” according to a statement. The U.S. currently has more than 5,000 troops stationed in Iraq. (Associated Press / CNBC / Washington Post)

5/ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not rule out the possibility of a House subpoena for testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton, depending on whether the Senate seeks testimony in Trump’s impeachment trial. Pelosi called Trump “too afraid to let any of his top aides testify,” saying he’s been “impeached for life” regardless of “any gamesmanship” by Mitch McConnell, whom she accused of orchestrating a “coverup” of Trump’s behavior. Pelsoi also didn’t rule out the possibility of additional articles of impeachment against Trump in the future, saying “Let’s just see what the Senate does.” (ABC News) / Washington Post / NBC News)

  • The White House expects some Republican senators to join Democrats in voting to call witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial. Senior White House officials increasingly believe that at least four Republicans will vote to call witnesses. Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, Cory Gardner, Rand Paul, and Lamar Alexander are all considered possibilities. (CBS News)

  • A Rudy Giuliani associate turned over thousands of pages of documents to House impeachment investigators. Lev Parnas provided investigators with documents, recordings, photos, text messages from his iPhone, a Samsung phon, and his What’s App account. (CNN)

poll/ 66% of Americans would like to see John Bolton testify in the Senate impeachment trial, including 39% of Republicans, 71% of independents, and 91% of Democrats. (Quinnipiac)

poll/ 56% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of Iran, while 43% approve. 52% of Americans think the airstrike against Soleimani made the United States less safe, while 25% said they felt more safe. (ABC News / CNN)


Notables.

  1. The Department of Homeland Security placed a group of non-violent climate activists on a list of “extremists” alongside white supremacists and mass killers. Members of Climate Direct Action are known for acts of civil disobedience, like closing the valves on oil pipelines in four states. DHS described the group as “suspected environmental rights extremists” and listed them alongside people like Dylann Roof, who killed nine black churchgoers during a 2015 racist attack in Charleston, SC. (The Guardian)

  2. More than a dozen Saudi servicemen training at U.S. military installations will be expelled from the United States after an FBI investigation found connections to extremist rhetoric, possession of child pornography, and a failure to report behavior by the gunman who killed three people last month at a Pensacola, Fla., military base. (CNN / Washington Post / New York Times)

  3. Attorney General William Barr called the December shooting by a Saudi national at the Pensacola Naval Air Station “an act of terrorism” that was “motivated by jihadist ideology.” (CBS News / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / USA Today)

  4. The official White House Twitter account tweeted a picture of snow falling around the White House with the caption, “First snow of the year!” even though it was 70 degrees in Washington, DC. The low was 49 degrees. The photo in the tweet was actually taken on Jan. 7 – the last time it snowed in DC. (Fox News / HuffPost)

Day 1086: Destabilizing activities.

1/ Nancy Pelosi will transmit articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate next week. The trial could begin as soon as next week. The House will also consider a resolution next week to appoint impeachment managers. Trump, meanwhile, said he would “have to” block his former national security adviser John Bolton from testifying in the Senate trial, “for the sake of the office.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNBC)

  • READ: Pelosi’s letter saying she is preparing for a vote next week to send articles of impeachment to Senate. (CNN)

  • Sen. Susan Collins said she’s been working with “a fairly small group” of Republican senators to ensure witnesses can be called in Trump’s impeachment trial. (NBC News / Bangor Daily News)

2/ The operation that killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad was more ambitious and multifaceted than the Trump administration has disclosed. The U.S. military targeted but failed to kill Abdul Reza Shahlai in Yemen, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force. A senior official said the two strikes were authorized around the same time and that the U.S. did not disclose the Shahlai mission because it did not go according to plan. Defense and State Department officials claimed the strike against Soleimani saved “dozens” if not “hundreds” of American lives from an imminent threat. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / CNN / ABC News)

  • Trump claimed Iran had targeted four American embassies before he ordered the killing of Soleimani. Yesterday, Trump claimed that Iran was “looking to blow up” the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, but did not mention the three other embassies under “imminent” threat. (Bloomberg / Washington Post)

3/ The Trump administration announced new economic sanctions on Iran for “destabilizing activities.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions would target eight individuals involved in Iran’s construction, manufacturing, textile and mining sectors. The Treasury also designated 17 Iranian metals producers and mining companies, along with entities based in China and the Seychelles, for other penalties. (CNBC / NBC News / CNN / Washington Post / New York Times)

4/ Iran accused western governments of “psychological warfare” for all claiming to have intelligence showing the Boeing jet that crashed near Tehran was shot down. Officials familiar with the intelligence said the aircraft was downed by two Russian-made SA-15 surface-to-air missiles that were detected soon after the Ukrainian jet took off. A spokesperson for the Iranian government, however, denied reports that Iran shot down the airliner, calling it “a big lie.” (Bloomberg / CNN)

5/ Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi told the U.S. to come up with a mechanism for getting U.S. troops out of Iraq. During a phone call with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Mahdi said Iraq rejects all violations of its sovereignty, including the assassination of Soleimani on Iraqi soil by the U.S. and the ballistic missiles fired at Iraqi bases by Iranians in retaliation for Soleimani’s killing. Mahdi asked Pompeo to “send delegates to Iraq to prepare a mechanism to carry out the parliament’s resolution regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq,” according to a statement. The U.S. currently has more than 5,000 troops stationed in Iraq. (Associated Press / CNBC / Washington Post)

  • The State Department said any delegation the U.S. sends to Iraq would not discuss the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country. In a statement, department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said the U.S. presence in Iraq was “appropriate,” but added that there does “need to be a conversation between the U.S. and Iraqi governments not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership.” (Reuters / New York Times)

6/ A New York judge rejected Trump’s effort to throw out a defamation lawsuit filed against him by E. Jean Carroll, who claims he raped her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s. Carroll sued Trump in November, claiming he defamed her by saying she lied about the rape and that she was motivated by money and a political agenda to make up the allegation. Trump argued that because he made those statements while in Washington, D.C. – and not in New York – he could not be sued for them in a New York court. Justice Doris Ling-Cohan, however, rejected the argument. (New York Times / Bloomberg / CNBC)

  • 📌 Day 883: Trump rejected an allegation by journalist E. Jean Carroll that he sexually assaulted her in a Manhattan department store dressing room in the 1990s, saying that he has “never met this person in my life.” According to Carroll, she met Trump inside Bergdorf Goodman when he told her he was buying a gift for “a girl” and needed help. While in the lingerie section, Carroll said Trump suggested a lace bodysuit, and encouraged her to try it on. “The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and puts his mouth against my lips,” Carroll writes. “He seizes both my arms and pushes me up against the wall a second time, and, as I become aware of how large he is, he holds me against the wall with his shoulder and jams his hand under my coat dress and pulls down my tights.” More than a dozen women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Trump, meanwhile, said: “Shame on those who make up false stories of assault to try to get publicity for themselves, or sell a book, or carry out a political agenda.” (New York Magazine / Politico / Daily Beast)

7/ A Justice Department inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s business dealings has effectively ended with no criminal charges. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed John Huber to look into Republican allegations that donors to the Clinton Foundation had been given special treatment by Clinton when she served as secretary of state. Huber has largely finished and found nothing worth pursuing. (Washington Post / Reuters / CNN)

8/ The Trump administration is preparing to expand its travel ban. Draft documents of the plan – timed to coincide with the third anniversary of Trump’s January 2017 executive order – suggest the administration has been actively preparing media talking points, as well as a draft presidential proclamation. It’s unclear how many countries would be included in the expansion, but the proclamation includes seven slots that contain descriptors for each nation and varied restrictions. (Associated Press / BuzzFeed News)

poll/ 55% of U.S. adults support a full impeachment trial of Trump. 45% said they preferred to let voters decide Trump’s fate in the November election. (LX/Morning Consult)

Day 1085: Reckless.

1/ Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would send the articles of impeachment to the Senate “when I’m ready – and that will probably be soon.” Pelosi’s comments came after Democrats started pushing to end the holdout, believing that Mitch McConnell will never relent on the rules for the trial. Pelosi, however, reiterated her demand to McConnell that he first detail the rules for a Senate trial so she could choose a team of “impeachment managers,” who will prosecute the House’s abuse of power and obstruction of Congress case, saying “Is that too much to ask?” McConnell, meanwhile, has signed onto a resolution seeking to change the rules of the Senate to dismiss articles of impeachment if they are not transmitted within 25 days of their approval – in this case, Jan. 12. (New York Times / Politico / Axios / CNN / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News)

  • McConnell told Republican senators that he expects Pelosi to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate as soon as Friday, setting up an impeachment trial that begins early next week. (Politico)

  • Trump met privately with McConnell at the White House to discuss the impeachment trial. McConnell’s office has been in discussion with the White House for weeks regarding the trial, working together on various ideas and proposals for how the trial should be set up. “We want this to start as quickly as possible,” said the White House legislative director. “We want the President to be acquitted as quickly as possible.” (CNN)

  • Trump said he doesn’t plan to block John Bolton from testifying at a Senate impeachment trial, but that he would need to protect his executive privilege. “When we start allowing national security advisers to just go up and say whatever they want to say, we can’t do that,” Trump said. (Bloomberg)

2/ Two Senate Republicans called the Trump administration’s classified briefing on the strike that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani “insulting and demeaning,” and that Trump’s national security team failed to justify claims of an “imminent” attack. Mike Lee called it “worst briefing I’ve had on a military issue” while Rand Paul said “There was no specific information given to us of a specific attack […] I didn’t learn anything in the hearing that I hadn’t seen in a newspaper already.” During the briefing, which was led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and CIA Director Gina Haspel, lawmakers were urged not to question Trump’s war powers and to stand down on attempting to provide a constitutional check to the executive branch. Trump, defending his national security team, told reporters at the White House that he’s “never seen [Mike Lee] like that,” before claiming that “numerous” lawmakers called it “the greatest presentation they’ve ever had.” Mike Pence, meanwhile, claimed that the administration could not provide Congress – in closed-door, classified setting – with the “most compelling” intelligence because doing so “could compromise” sources and methods. (CNN / New York Times / NBC News / ABC News / Politico)

  • Trump suggested that he ordered the killing of Soleimani to disrupt a previously undisclosed plot to “blow up our embassy” in Baghdad. Trump declined to share details of the alleged plot and instead focused on how the administration had “caught a total monster. We took him out,” referring to Soleimani. (Politico)

3/ The House adopted a war powers resolution that forces Trump to go to Congress for authorization before taking further military action against Iran. The measure directs Trump to “terminate the use of United States Armed Forces” against Iran without congressional authorization under a section of the War Powers Resolution of 1973, except when necessary to “defend against an imminent armed attack.” The Senate is also expected to take up war powers resolutions related to Iran. (New York Times / NBC News / CBS News / Politico / CNN)

4/ U.S. officials have “high confidence” that an Iranian anti-aircraft missile downed a Ukrainian jetliner shortly after takeoff, killing all 176 passengers and crew members on board. One U.S. official said Iran may have shot down the aircraft by mistake. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada had “intelligence from multiple sources” that an Iranian surface-to-air missile brought down the jetliner, adding that “This may well have been unintentional.” The Boeing 737-800 crashed outside Tehran, Iran, shortly after take-off Wednesday morning. Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization said it wouldn’t provide Boeing or the U.S. access to the recovered black box flight recorders. Trump, meanwhile, mused that the plane was flying in a “pretty rough neighborhood” and “Somebody could have made a mistake on the other side.” (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Associated Press / Bloomberg / CNBC / CNN / Yahoo News)

  • WATCH: Video appears to show an Iranian missile hitting a plane near Tehran’s airport – the area where a Ukrainian airliner stopped transmitting its signal before it crashed on Wednesday. (New York Times)

poll/ 52% of American called Trump’s behavior with Iran “reckless.” Separately, 69% agreed that the attack made it more likely Iran would strike American interests in the Middle East, 63% agreed that there would be a terrorist attacks on the American homeland, and 62% agreed that the U.S. and Iran would go to war. (USA Today / CNN)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration proposed changes to environmental rules that would make it easier to build pipelines, mines, and other industrial projects. The move would narrow the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act, reduce federal oversight, and exempt projects without significant federal funding from environmental reviews. The proposed regulations would also redefine “major federal action” to exclude privately financed projects with minimal government funding or involvement. (Washington Post / NPR / Politico / Associated Press)

  2. China’s chief trade negotiator will travel to the U.S. next week to sign the phase-one trade deal with the U.S. China’s Commerce Ministry confirmed the visit, marking the first official acknowledgment by the Chinese government that they plan to sign the agreement to help ease bilateral tensions between the world’s two largest economies. (Wall Street Journal)

  3. The New York City Bar Association asked Congress to investigate Attorney General William Barr for bias, saying his actions and statements have positioned the Justice Department as “political partisans willing to use the levers of government to empower certain groups over others.” The group said Barr has “disregarded” his fundamental obligations” as a government lawyer to “to act impartially, to avoid even the appearance of partiality and impropriety, and to avoid manifesting bias, prejudice or partisanship in the exercise of official responsibilities.” (Bloomberg)

  4. A federal appeals court lifted an order blocking $3.6 billion in military funds for construction of Trump’s border wall. Last month, a U.S. District Court judge blocked Trump from unilaterally increasing funding for his wall to a level above what he had first requested in his budget. Congress had authorized Trump to spend $1.375 billion for border wall improvements. (Politico)

Day 1084: Standing down.

1/ Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops Tuesday night in retaliation for the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani. No U.S. or Iraqi casualties have been reported. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the strikes a “slap in the face” to the U.S. and not sufficient retaliation for the killing of Soleimani. (Washington Post / NBC News / NPR / New York Times / CNN / ABC News)

  • Trump met with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the Iranian missile attack, tweeting “All is well! […] So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far!” (NBC News)

  • Satellite photos of the Iranian missile strike. (NPR)

2/ The U.S. military had advance warning of Iran’s attack on the two American locations in Iraq. “We had intelligence reports several hours in advance that the Iranians were seeking to strike the bases,” a senior administration official said, giving military commanders time to move U.S. troops into safe, fortified positions. Meanwhile, some Trump administration officials believe that Iran’s missiles intentionally missed areas populated by Americans, suggesting that Iran chose to send a message rather than provoke a substantial U.S. military response. (Washington Post / USA Today / CNN)

3/ Trump said Iran appears “to be standing down” after the missile attack and signaled that no further U.S. military strikes were planned, because “The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.” Trump, in a nationally televised address from the White House, announced a new round of what he termed “punishing economic sanctions” against Iran, while calling on NATO to become “much more involved in the Middle East process.” Trump also called on world powers to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear deal so a new pact could be negotiated. (New York Times / NPR / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNN / USA Today / New York Times)

4/ The House will vote Thursday on a resolution to limit Trump’s military options for action against Iran, unless explicitly authorized by Congress. The war powers resolution says that without further congressional approval, Trump would have to end all military action against Iran within 30 days. The House could also consider repealing the 2002 authorization for the use of military force for the Iraq War, as well as blocking funding for military action against Iran not approved by Congress. (New York Times / Bloomberg / CNBC)

  • The House Foreign Affairs Committee called for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to testify in a hearing on Iran next week. Members of Congress want to know more about the decision to assassinate Iran’s top military commander. The hearing will take place on Jan. 14 and will include a panel of Iran policy experts. The State Department has not responded to the request or indicated whether Pompeo will agree to testify. (Reuters)

5/ Several Democratic senators want House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to submit the articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate, saying the party has little to gain from further delay. Pelosi called on McConnell to publish a resolution outlining rules for the impeachment trial before the House sends over the articles. McConnell, however, declined, saying “There will be no haggling” and that the House had no choice but to end “shameless game-playing” and transmit the two articles of impeachment. (Bloomberg / NBC News / Wall Street Journal / Politico / New York Times / Washington Post)

poll/ Across 32 countries surveyed, 64% say they do not have confidence in Trump to do the right thing in world affairs, while 29% express confidence. (Pew Research Center / NPR / Politico)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration wants to delay disclosing what the Secret Service spends on protection for Trump and his family when they travel until after the 2020 election. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been negotiating draft legislation with several senators to move the Secret Service back to his department - its historic home. Democrats, however, want the Secret Service to disclose the costs related to Trump’s travel and his adult children within 120 days. Mnuchin, however, wants such disclosures to begin next year. (Washington Post)

  2. New York state’s Court of Appeals will decide whether Trump must face a defamation case by former contestant on “The Apprentice.” Summer Zervos said Trump kissed her against her will at a meeting in 2007 and later groped her at a Beverly Hills hotel. Trump denied the claims, calling Zervos a liar. Trump has argued that he is immune from lawsuits, investigations, and criminal proceedings while he remains in office. (Reuters)

  3. The Trump Organization set a Jan. 23 deadline for bids on the Trump International Hotel in Washington. The company hopes to get more than $500 million for the lease rights to the historic Old Post Office building. (Wall Street Journal)

  4. Trump’s reelection campaign plans to spend $10 million to advertise during the Super Bowl. The campaign has purchased 60 seconds of commercial time during the Feb. 2 game. It is unclear whether the campaign will run a single minute-long ad or split the time between multiple, shorter ads. (Politico)

Day 1083: "Historic nightmare."

1/ Mitch McConnell told Republicans he has the votes needed to begin Trump’s impeachment trial without committing to calling new witnesses or admitting new evidence, rebuffing demands from Democrats. McConnell believes he has at least 51 votes from his 53-member Republican conference to start the trial, offering no guarantee that the Senate will issue subpoenas for witnesses and documents beyond what the House’s inquiry gathered. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has withheld the articles of impeachment since the House voted in December to charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, in an effort to push Republicans to agree to fair rules for the trial. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / Politico / NBC News / CNN)

  • Minority Leader Charles Schumer said Senate Democrats will force votes on witnesses and documents at the start of the impeachment trial, putting Republicans on record about “a fair trial.” (Washington Post / The Hill)

  • 📌 Day 1082: Former national security adviser John Bolton said he is “prepared to testify” in Trump’s impeachment trial if subpoenaed by the Senate. Bolton, who so far has complied with a White House directive to not cooperate in the inquiry, has direct knowledge of Trump’s actions and conversations regarding Ukraine that could fill in blanks in the impeachment case. A Senate subpoena requires at least 51 votes, which means four Republicans would need to vote with Democrats to call a witness. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / CNN / ABC News / Axios / Associated Press)

2/ Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Trump’s threat to bomb Iranian cultural sites would constitute a war crime, which the U.S. has no intention of doing so. Trump twice threatened on Twitter he would strike Iranian cultural sites that were “very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture,” warning that Iran “WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD” if it follows through with its threats of retaliation in the wake of Gen. Qasem Soleimani’s assassination. Esper added that the U.S. is “not looking to start a war with Iran, but we are prepared to finish one.” (New York Times / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1081: Trump threatened – twice – to target Iranian cultural sites if Iran retaliated. Trump tweeted a day earlier that the U.S. was prepared to strike 52 Iranian assets, including some “at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.” Two senior U.S. officials, meanwhile, described widespread opposition within the administration to targeting cultural sites in Iran. “They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people,” Trump said. “And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.” Destroying cultural sites could be considered a war crime under international agreements, such as the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. (Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Associated Press)

3/ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called killing Iranian General Qasem Soleimani “the right decision, we got it right,” claiming there was intelligence showing an “imminent attack” on Americans and U.S. interests across the Middle East. Pompeo, however, failed to provide any evidence to show what might have been targeted, or how soon an attack was expected, which is required to legally justify the strike. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, called on Trump to declassify the White House notification to Congress of the drone strike, saying “It is critical that national security matters of such import be shared with the American people in a timely manner.” Pompeo also insisted that any retaliatory measures by U.S. forces against Iran would abide by the laws of war, contradicting Trump’s previous suggestion that he might target Iran’s cultural sites. Later, Trump told reporters he would avoid targeting cultural sites in any future military attacks, walking back his earlier threats. (New York Times / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Washington Post)

  • Pompeo ordered U.S. diplomats to limit any contact with Iranian opposition groups, saying meetings with the groups could jeopardize U.S. diplomacy with Iran. (Bloomberg)

4/ Iran is considering 13 scenarios to inflict a “historic nightmare” on the U.S. for killing Soleimani. The Iranian parliament also designated the Pentagon and affiliated companies as terrorists. Iran’s foreign minister, meanwhile, accused the U.S. of engaging in “state terrorism” by assassinating Soleimani. Javad Zarif said Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and adopt a hardline approach toward Iran has “destroyed stability” in the Middle East, warning that things would get worse if the U.S. doesn’t change its approach. Zarif also said Iran plans to “respond proportionally not disproportionally” and “lawfully, we are not lawless people like President Trump.” (Bloomberg / Reuters / CNN / Wall Street Journal)

5/ The Pentagon mistakenly released a memo that said the U.S. would pull troops out of Iraq. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley told reporters that the letter was a draft and that its release was an “honest mistake.” The document was an unsigned draft memo from the U.S. Command in Baghdad notifying the Iraqi government that the U.S. planned to reposition some of its troops and suggested the removal of troops from the country. When asked about the memo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said it was “inconsistent of where we are right now.” (Washington Post / CNN / The Guardian / Reuters)

  • 📌 Day 1082: The U.S. military will reposition troops within Iraq in preparation for a possible withdrawal. In a draft letter to Iraqi military officials, U.S. forces will be relocated “to prepare for onward movement” and says that “we respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper, meanwhile, said the U.S. has not made any decision to leave Iraq. The letter was released a day after Iraqi lawmakers passed a nonbinding resolution calling for all foreign troops to leave the country. (Washington Post)

  • Russia offered Iraq an air defense system to “ensure the country’s sovereignty and reliable protection of airspace,” according to the Russian Ministry of Defense. (Al-Masdar News)

  • The Trump administration has begun drafting sanctions against Iraq after Trump threatened the country with economic penalties if it expelled U.S. troops. Iraq is an ally that the United States has spent almost two decades and hundreds of billions of dollars supporting. (Washington Post / New York Times)


Notables.

  1. A captain at a for-profit immigrant detention center in Nevada is a neo-Nazi. Travis Frey is currently employed at the Nevada Southern Detention Center, which is run by private prison giant CoreCivic and is contracted with ICE. Frey posted at least a dozen times on a neo-Nazi while serving as head of security at a different for-profit ICE detention center in Indianapolis. Using the screen name “In Hoc Signo Vinces,” Frey self-identified as a “fascist” in his profile and started putting out feelers in 2017 in an attempt to establish a white nationalist chapter in Nevada. (Vice)

  2. Mike Pompeo informed Mitch McConnell that he will not run for Senate in Kansas. Senate Republicans believed Pompeo would be the strongest candidate to win the seat being vacated by Pat Roberts, a Republican who is retiring at the end of the year after four terms. The filing deadline for the primary is in June. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)

  3. The Justice Department – in a reversal – no longer supports a lenient sentence for Michael Flynn. Instead, prosecutors recommend that Trump’s former national security adviser be sentenced for up to six months in prison for lying to investigators in the Russia inquiry, saying Flynn failed to accept responsibility for his actions and undermined a separate criminal case. A year ago, the government said Flynn deserved credit for admitting his misconduct and for cooperating with prosecutors in investigating his former business partner. (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / CNN)

Day 1082: Get this done.

1/ Former national security adviser John Bolton said he is “prepared to testify” in Trump’s impeachment trial if subpoenaed by the Senate. Bolton, who so far has complied with a White House directive to not cooperate in the inquiry, has direct knowledge of Trump’s actions and conversations regarding Ukraine that could fill in blanks in the impeachment case. A Senate subpoena requires at least 51 votes, which means four Republicans would need to vote with Democrats to call a witness. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / CNN / ABC News / Axios / Associated Press)

  • Rudy Giuliani also said he is willing testify at the Senate trial, but that he “would do demonstrations. I’d give lectures. I’d give summations.” Giuliani said that while “I don’t know if anybody would have the courage to give me the case,” he would lead Trump’s defense and “prosecute it as a racketeering case, which I kind of invented anyway.” (ABC News / NBC News)

2/ Trump called for a quick end to the impeachment process, tweeting to “get this done.” Trump’s tweet came shortly before Bolton’s announcement. The House passed two articles of impeachment against Trump last month, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has yet to formally transmit the charges to Senate – a requirement before the Senate can hold a trial. Pelosi has been holding the documents as Democrats seek guarantees about the scope of a Senate trial, including witnesses. (ABC News / Washington Post)

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested that Republicans should change the Senate rules so they can hold a Senate impeachment trial within days if Nancy Pelosi refuses to submit the articles of impeachment against Trump. Graham said he would work with Mitch McConnell on a unilateral Republican move that would allow the Senate to proceed without the articles, which charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. A 51-vote majority is required to change the rules for the impeachment trial. (Washington Post / Reuters / NBC News)

3/ Leaked emails from the Pentagon show that Trump personally directed the hold military aide to Ukraine. An Aug. 30 email from Michael Duffey, associate director of national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget to Elaine McCusker, the acting Pentagon comptroller, stating “Clear direction from POTUS to hold” aid from Ukraine. Earlier the same day, Trump met with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the hold on $391 million in military assistance for Ukraine. (Just Security / CNN / Talking Points Memo)

4/ The Trump administration is withholding 20 emails between a Mick Mulvaney aide and an Office of Management and Budget official discussing the freeze of military aid to Ukraine. In response to a court-ordered Freedom of Information Act request, the Office of Management and Budget said it would defy the order not turn over any of the 40 pages of emails, suggesting that the disclosure would “inhibit the frank and candid exchange of views that is necessary for effective government decision-making.” The FOIA request sought emails exchanged between Robert Blair, a top aide to Mulvaney, and Michael Duffey, an official at the Office of Management and Budget, who was in charge of handling the process for releasing the security assistance to Ukraine. (New York Times)

  • Chuck Schumer demanded that the Senate call Mick Mulvaney and White House aide Robert Blair to testify about their roles in blocking aid to Ukraine, as well as insight into the effort by Trump’s national security team to get the hold lifted. Schumer’s comments came after previously undisclosed emails were released. He added: “these new revelations are a game changer.” Mulvaney and Blair, as well as John Bolton, the national security adviser at the time, have been blocked by the White House from testifying despite subpoenas having been issued. Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, has said he does not want any witnesses called. (New York Times)

  • Mitch McConnell defended his coordination with the White House over the Senate impeachment trial, calling it a “fantasy that the speaker of the House will get to hand design the trial proceedings.” McConnell added: “That’s obviously a non-starter.” (CNN)

  • Bill Taylor, who led the U.S. embassy in Ukraine and served as a key witness in the House impeachment inquiry, has left his post. Taylor twice testified as part of the House probe into Trump, providing testimony about an alleged quid pro quo with Ukraine. (CNN)

5/ House Democrats will vote this week on a resolution to restrain Trump’s military actions. In a letter to House Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s airstrike “provocative and disproportionate” and that it had “endangered our servicemembers, diplomats and others by risking a serious escalation of tensions with Iran.” The war powers resolution would essentially end additional military operations in Iran unless there is the threat of an imminent attack. Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that this tweets are sufficient “notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner.” The resolution is expected to pass the House as early as Wednesday, which would force a vote on the Senate floor soon after. (Politico / Washington Post / CNN / Associated Press)

  • 📌 Day 1081: Trump authorized a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that killed Iran’s top security and intelligence commander late Thursday.

6/ The Trump administration blocked Iran’s top diplomat from entering the U.S. to address the United Nations Security Council about the assassination of Iran’s top military official in Baghdad. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reportedly requested a visa a “few weeks ago” to enter the U.S. to attend a Jan. 9 Security Council meeting. A Trump administration official, however, informed U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres today that U.S. would not allow Zarif into the country. (Foreign Policy)

  • More than 60 Iranians and Iranian-Americans were stopped and held for additional questioning at the U.S.-Canadian border. Some were held for up to 10 hours and asked about their political views and allegiances before being released, while others were denied entry. Customs and Border Protection denied the claims that travelers were stopped or referred to “secondary screening” because of their country of origin. (New York Times / BuzzFeed News)

7/ The U.S. military will reposition troops within Iraq in preparation for a possible withdrawal. In a draft letter to Iraqi military officials, U.S. forces will be relocated “to prepare for onward movement” and says that “we respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper, meanwhile, said the U.S. has not made any decision to leave Iraq. The letter was released a day after Iraqi lawmakers passed a nonbinding resolution calling for all foreign troops to leave the country. (Washington Post)

poll/ 29% of Republican voters want Trump Jr. to be the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, while 16% support Ivanka Trump. (Axios / The Guardian)

poll/ 57% of Americans think Trump committed an impeachable offense, and 52% said they think Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine and his refusal to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry are enough evidence to remove him from office. (FiveThirtyEight)


Notables.

  1. A Trump administration plan would no longer require federal agencies to consider the environmental consequences of new infrastructure projects, weakening the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act. The proposed changes would also limit the range of projects that require environmental review. (New York Times)

  2. The Trump administration will now deport asylum-seeking Mexican nationals – including families – to Guatemala. The program was implemented in late November and guidance was sent to asylum officials in recent days detailing how Mexicans were now to be included in the process. (BuzzFeed News)

  3. Paul Manafort said he used Sean Hannity to receive backchannel messages from Trump while prosecutors investigated him for financial crimes, according to a 2018 interview summary. Manafort told the Robert Mueller’s office that after FBI agents raided his home in July 2017, he spoke with Hannity, whom he understood to be passing along messages from Trump. (BuzzFeed News / Daily Beast)

  4. Trump asked a New York judge to throw out an advice columnist’s lawsuit accusing him of defamation after he denied her claim that he raped her in a department store dressing room two decades ago. Trump’s lawyer claimed that E. Jean Carroll can’t sue Trump in New York because the statements were made in Washington. Carroll, however, said in an earlier filing that Secret Service agents blocked her attempts to serve the complaint, prompting a judge to rule that she could serve it by mail to the White House. (Bloomberg)

  5. A former Fox News reporter claimed that Trump told her she was “the hottest one at Fox News” and urged her to come to his office “so we can kiss” before he became president. Courtney Friel said Trump called her after she expressed an interest in working on his Miss USA beauty pageant. (New York Daily News / The Guardian / Daily Beast)

  6. Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has been referred to the U.S. Treasury Department for possible sanctions violations related to a trip to Venezuela for a meeting with a top aide of President Nicolas Maduro. (Associated Press)

  7. Trump spent at least 86 days at a golf club in 2019. Since 2017, Trump has spent at least 252 days at a Trump golf club and 333 days at a Trump property as president. By comparison, Obama played 333 rounds of golf during his eight years in office. (CNN)

Day 1081: "Reign of terror."

1/ Trump authorized a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that killed Iran’s top security and intelligence commander late Thursday. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon had taken “decisive defensive action” and killed Qasem Soleimani, who led the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, because he “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” Soleimani was the architect of nearly every significant operation by Iranian intelligence and military forces over the past two decades.Esper also accused Soleimani of approving the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad earlier this week. Speaking to reporters while on vacation at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday – hours after the attack on the American Embassy in Baghdad – Trump insisted that he did not want war, saying “I want to have peace. I like peace.” (Washington Post / New York Times / Associated Press / NBC News /

  • How Trump decided to kill Iran’s Soleimani. (Politico)

  • How Trump planned the drone strike with a tight circle of aides. (Bloomberg)

  • Soleimani posted memes antagonizing Trump on social media. (Washington Post)

  • Killing Soleimani was worse than a crime. (The Atlantic)

  • After killing Soleimani, Trump confronts a credibility gap: “The administration’s track record doesn’t inspire confidence.” (Vanity Fair)

  • The dangers posed by the killing of Qassem Suleimani. (New Yorker)

2/ Trump claimed he ordered the killing of Soleimani “to stop a war” – not start one – and that Soleimani’s “reign of terror is over.” In brief remarks from Mar-a-Lago, Trump said Soleimani had been caught “in the act” planning “imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, argued that the drone strike was a necessary act of self defense. (Associated Press / NBC News / ABC News)

  • Trump repeatedly claimed in 2011 and 2012 that Obama would start a war with Iran to win reelection. (CNN)

3/ Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowed “severe revenge” and “harsh retaliation” in response to the U.S. drone strike that killed Soleimani. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the killing a “heinous crime” and said his country would “take revenge.” Trump, meanwhile, warned that he was “prepared to take whatever action is necessary” if Iran threatened Americans, despite insisting that he took action to avoid a war with Iran. Trump also defended killing the Iranian general, tweeting he “should have been taken out” years ago and that “Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!” (Associated Press / New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / NBC News)

  • Security experts warned that Tehran’s retaliation options includes direct attacks on U.S. embassies, military facilities, and bases overseas, and cyberattacks against domestic or allied interests. (Wall Street Journal / The Guardian)

4/ Trump threatened – twice – to target Iranian cultural sites if Iran retaliated. Trump tweeted a day earlier that the U.S. was prepared to strike 52 Iranian assets, including some “at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.” Two senior U.S. officials, meanwhile, described widespread opposition within the administration to targeting cultural sites in Iran. “They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people,” Trump said. “And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.” Destroying cultural sites could be considered a war crime under international agreements, such as the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. (Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Associated Press)

5/ Trump ordered the strike killing Soleimani without the consultation of Congress. The Trump administration still hasn’t explained the legal justification for the strike, prompting Democrats and some Republican lawmakers to question whether Trump had the authority to order the strike without Congressional approval. Trump, meanwhile, claimed that his tweets are sufficient notice to Congress of any possible U.S. military strike on Iran. Also at question is whether the Trump administration has international legal authority for the strikes. The U.S. is in Iraq with consent from the Iraqi government, but the attack was outside the scope of the U.S. mandate. (Wall Street Journal / CNN / Washington Post)

  • Israel had advance notice of the U.S. plan to kill Suleimani. (Los Angeles Times)

  • Trump told Mar-a-Lago associates and club-goers that he was working on a “big” response to the Iranian regime they would hear about very “soon.” Trump started telling people five days before launching the strike that killed Iran’s most important military leader. (Daily Beast)

6/ The Iraqi parliament passed a resolution calling on the Iraqi government to expel U.S. troops from Iraq following the U.S drone attack that killed Soleimani. Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi told lawmakers that the U.S. drone attack was a “political assassination” and that it was “time for American troops to leave” “for the sake of our national sovereignty.” About 5,000 American troops are in Iraq. The Trump administration tried to persuade Iraqi officials to stop the parliamentary vote to force the U.S. military out of Iraq. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, dismissed calls by Mahdi for a timetable for all foreign troops to exit the country. (USA Today / Axios / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

7/ Iran will no longer will comply with limits on uranium enrichment under its 2015 nuclear pact. “Iran’s nuclear program will have no limitations in production, including enrichment capacity,” the Iranian government said in an announcement, signaling the de facto collapse of the landmark agreement. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

8/ Trump threatened to put sanctions on Iraq “like they’ve never seen before ever” after its parliament passed a resolution calling for the government to expel foreign troops from the country. Trump told reporters that “If they do ask us to leave […] we will charge them sanctions” that will “make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.” (CNBC)

9/ The U.S. is sending approximately 3,000 soldiers to the Middle East in response to threats from the Iranian government of a “harsh revenge” for the killing of Soleimani. The additional troops – about 2,800 soldiers – are from the Immediate Response Force of the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (Military.com / NBC News / CNN)

Day 1075: Admired.

1/ Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was warned by a senior adviser last summer that he should “expect Congress to become unhinged” if the White House withheld security aid to Ukraine. In a June 27 email, Mulvaney wrote Robert Blair: “Did we ever find out about the money for Ukraine and whether we can hold it back?” Blair replied that it was possible, but to “Expect Congress to become unhinged” if the White House tried to rescind spending passed by the House and Senate. Blair also warned that withholding the aid could add to the narrative that Trump was pro-Russia. Mulvaney’s email came a week after Trump initially asked about holding back the Ukraine assistance and around the same time Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukraine to conduct internal investigations into Joe Biden and his son. (New York Times / CNN)

2/ Rudy Giuliani held a backchannel call in 2018 as part of a shadow diplomatic effort aimed at removing President Nicolas Maduro from power. Giuliani and then-Rep. Pete Sessions participated in the Sept. 2018 phone call with Maduro to negotiate his exit and reopen Venezuela to business. Giuliani also met then-national security adviser John Bolton around the time of the call to discuss a plan to ease Maduro from power. White House officials said they did not know why Giuliani was involved. (Washington Post / CNN)

3/ Trump’s tariffs backfired and led to job losses and higher prices, according to a Federal Reserve study. While the tariffs did reduce competition for some U.S. industries, the tariffs more than offset the effects of rising costs and retaliatory tariffs, the study found. (MarketWatch)

4/ The White House warned that it would “take action” if North Korea tests another long-range or nuclear missile, according to national security adviser Robert O’Brien. North Korea recently warned that failure to offer a new initiative regarding Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program could result in an unwanted “Christmas gift” from Kim Jong Un. (Reuters)

5/ The Taliban agreed to a temporary ceasefire in Afghanistan in hopes of reaching a peace agreement with the United States, which has demanded a ceasefire before any peace negotiations can begin. Taliban officials did not say when the ceasefire would begin and there has been no immediate response from Washington. (The Guardian)

  • 📌 Day 1047: Trump called for a cease-fire between the Taliban and U.S. forces in Afghanistan during an unannounced Thanksgiving visit with U.S. troops overseas. Trump told troops that the Taliban “wants to make a deal” and that “we’re saying it has to be a cease-fire.” Trump claimed that he has made “tremendous progress” since he abruptly canceled his previous peace talks with the Taliban in September. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, however, indicated that a cease-fire wasn’t in progress or even part of the discussion with U.S. negotiators. Western diplomats and Taliban leaders were also confused by Trump’s remarks, since demanding a cease-fire would constitute a shift in the U.S. position and would require additional concessions from the Taliban. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / Associated Press)

6/ Putin thanked Trump for helping to prevent a possible terrorist attack in Russia on New Year’s Eve. American intelligence agencies reportedly provided Russia’s Federal Security Service with information that led to the arrest of two suspects who were allegedly planning to carry out an attack on a crowd in St. Petersburg. Moscow’s version of the readout stated that Trump and Putin “discussed a range of issues of mutual interest” along with continued cooperation combating terrorism. No additional information about the planned attack was made public. This is the second time that Putin has called to thank Trump for helping to prevent an attack in St. Petersburg. (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post / Bloomberg)

poll/ Trump and Barack Obama tied for America’s most admired man in 2019. Both earned 18% of support among Americans as the man “living today in any part of the world” they admired most. It’s Obama’s 12th time in the top spot versus the first for Trump. (Gallup / ABC News / Politico)

  • Republican Sen. James Lankford doesn’t think Trump “as a person is a role model for a lot of different youth.” Lankford cited Trump’s tweets and “some of the things he says” as reasons why he doesn’t think Trump is someone who young people can look up to. Lankford, however, says he continues to support Trump because of his positions on abortion and religious liberty for Christians. (CBS News)

👋 Programming note: WTF Just Happened Today will be on holiday break Dec. 31st through Jan. 2nd. We’ll return on Jan. 3rd, unless there’s a reason to return sooner. Special note: In the event there is no news between now and then (ha ha ha), WTFJHT won’t waste your time and fill space. Instead, we’ll return Jan. 6th.

Day 1072: Below average.

1/ Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she is “disturbed” by the coordination between Mitch McConnell and the White House for the Senate impeachment trial. Murkowski said McConnell has “confused the process” by declaring that he is acting in “total coordination” with Trump to set the parameters of the trial. “To me,” she continued, “it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense.” Murkowski, a moderate Republican, did not say how she will vote in the upcoming trial. (CNN / New York Times / ABC News / KTUU)

  • 📌 Day 1058: Mitch McConnell: There’s “no chance” that Trump will be removed from office as a result of the impeachment trial in the Senate. McConnell added that it “wouldn’t surprise” him if some Democrats broke ranks to vote in favor of Trump, calling the case “so darn weak.” McConnell and the White House have agreed to coordinate their plans for the trial, which McConnell has said he will end as soon as he has 51 GOP votes in place for a final vote. “We know how it’s going to end.” (NBC News / CNN / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 1064: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t commit to sending the articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate until she sees “the process that is set forth” to ensure a “fair” trial. Democrats have questioned the impartiality of the Senate trial after Mitch McConnell said he’s coordinating with the White House to quickly acquit Trump. Senior Democratic aides suggested it was “very unlikely” that the House will send the articles to the Senate before January, effectively delaying the impeachment trial well into the new year, in order to pressure Republicans to allow new witnesses and evidence in the proceeding. “We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side,” Pelosi said. “So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us.” (New York Times / ABC News / Politico / CNN / NBC News / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

2/ Trump retweeted an article that contained the name of the alleged whistleblower at the center of his impeachment. Trump, using his personal Twitter account, retweeted his reelection account, which had posted a link to a Washington Examiner story from Dec. 3 that named the alleged whistleblower in the headline. Several people close to Trump, including Ivanka and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, cautioned Trump against saying or posting the name in public. (Mediaite / Daily Beast)

3/ 45 immigration judges have left their positions, moved into new roles in the immigration court system, or died over the last year — nearly double the number who departed their posts in 2017 and 2018. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is facing a backlog of more than 1 million cases, pushing many immigration cases years into the future. (CNN)

poll/ 41% of Germans consider Trump more of a threat to world peace than Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, or Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Kim came in second with 17%, followed by Putin and Khamenei with 8%, and Xi at 7%. (Axios)

poll/ 55% of Americans support Trump’s conviction by the Senate, while 40%, are opposed. (Yahoo News)

poll/ 49% of Americans approve of the decision to impeach Trump with 42% disapproving, and 9% unsure. (HuffPost)

poll / 49% of Americans said Trump will be remembered as a “poor” or “below average” president. 21% of those polled said Trump would be described as an “outstanding” leader, and another 12% said Trump was an “above average” president. (Newsweek / YouGov)


👋 Programming note: WTF Just Happened Today will be on holiday break Dec. 31st through Jan. 2nd. We’ll return on Jan. 3rd, unless there’s a reason to return sooner (or no reason to return at all).

Day 1068: Hold off.

1/ A White House budget official directed the Defense Department to “hold off” on sending military aid to Ukraine less than two hours after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to newly released emails. Roughly 90 minutes after Trump’s call with Zelensky, Michael Duffey, a senior budget official, told Pentagon officials that Trump was personally interested in the Ukraine aid and had ordered the hold himself. Duffey also told the Pentagon to keep the information “closely held to those who need to know to execute the direction” due to “the sensitive nature of the request.” The emails show Trump first became interested in the aid to Ukraine after seeing an article in the Washington Examiner on June 19 titled, “Pentagon to send $250M in weapons to Ukraine,” and that some officials were concerned that withholding the aid could be a violation of the Impoundment Control Act of 1974. Democrats are citing the emails to fuel renewed calls for witnesses to testify in the Senate impeachment trial. (Washington Post / NBC News / New York Times / CNN / Reuters / CBS News)

2/ Mitch McConnell suggested that Republicans had not ruled out hearing witnesses at Trump’s impeachment trial, but wouldn’t agree in advance to the Democrat’s request for witness testimony. In a bid to pressure Senate Republicans to reach an agreement with Chuck Schumer on trial rules, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hasn’t transmitted the Senate the impeachment articles necessary to begin the trial, saying Democrats need to know “what sort of trial the Senate will conduct.” McConnell, meanwhile, called Pelosi’s position “absurd,” adding that he’s at an “impasse” with Schumer on the rules of the trial. (Reuters / CNN / Washington Post)

  • The White House is considering making the argument that Trump has not officially been impeached because Pelosi has not transmitted the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Officials plan to use the delay to argue that the Democrats have little faith in their own case for impeachment and are scared to trigger a trial they know they will lose. Officials also say Trump, while “angry” about what he views as an unfair process, is actually in a “very good mood,” and feels confident he can win the messaging war via Twitter. (CBS News)

  • The House Judiciary Committee said it could draft and recommend “new articles of impeachment” against Trump if additional evidence is revealed by former White House counsel Don McGahn. The committee wants a federal appeals court to order McGahn to testify as it examines potential obstruction of justice by Trump during Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. McGahn’s testimony is “relevant to the Committee’s ongoing investigations into Presidential misconduct and consideration of whether to recommend additional articles of impeachment,” the panel’s lawyers said, arguing that McGahn’s testimony is a “central” part of the impeachment investigation into Trump. Democrats have been trying for months to enforce a subpoena for McGahn to testify as part of the impeachment proceedings in Congress. (Politico / Associated Press / CNBC / Axios / CBS News / NBC News / CNN)

3/ U.S. military and intelligence officials are concerned that North Korea is poised to test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching American shores in the next few days or weeks. Satellite photos indicate that North Korea has expanded a factory linked to the production of long-range nuclear missiles. Pyongyang, meanwhile, has promised a “Christmas gift” if no progress had been made on lifting sanctions. North Korea suspended its nuclear and long-range missiles tests in 2017 following diplomatic talks and two summit meetings between Kim and Trump. (New York Times / NBC News)

  • Trump’s former national security adviser suggested that Trump is bluffing about stopping North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. John Bolton said he doesn’t think the administration “really means it” when Trump and top officials vow to stop North Korea from having deliverable nuclear weapons — “or it would be pursuing a different course.” (Axios)

4/ Trump complained that windmills are “very expensive” and claimed they “kill many bald eagles” during a speech to a group of young conservative supporters. “I never understood wind,” Trump told the crowd, claiming that the manufacturing process leads to “Gases […] spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe […] fumes are spewing into the air. […] it’s going into the air. It’s our air, their air, everything – right?” (Mediaite / The Hill / Politico / CNN / The Independent)

  • 📌 Day 804: Trump claimed that “the noise” from windmills “causes cancer.” Wind turbines do not cause cancer. (Esquire / New York Magazine / CNN / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 905: Trump said he refuses to jeopardize the wealth of the U.S. over climate “dreams” and “windmills” after skipping a G7 session on climate change. The Trump administration has rolled back several U.S. environmental protection policies put in place by the Obama administration, including weakening the Endangered Species Act. (Reuters)

poll/ 52% of voters approve of the House’s vote to impeach Trump, while 43% disapprove, and 5% have no opinion. 85% of Democrats support impeachment, while 12% disapprove. 16% of Republicans are in favor of impeachment, compared with 81% who are not. (Politico/Morning Consult)


Programming note: WTF Just Happened Today will be on holiday break Dec. 24th and 25th (and possibly the 26th), depending on whether North Korea delivers its promised “Christmas gift.”

Day 1065: "A near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused."

1/ Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is expected to leave his position after the Senate impeachment trial. Trump aides have been circulating a list of replacements and trying to nudge Trump to choose Mulvaney’s successor. Rep. Mark Meadows, who announced his retirement this week, is believed to be in the running to replace Mulvaney. Despite holding what has historically been one of the most powerful jobs in the White House, Mulvaney has largely been excluded from major personnel and policy decisions and he no longer holds much control over White House staff. (Politico / Talking Points Memo)

2/ Trump once told White House officials that he believed Ukraine — not Russia — interfered in the 2016 election because “Putin told me.” Trump, following a private meeting with Putin in 2017 at the G20 summit, repeatedly insisted that Ukraine tried to stop him from winning the election and that he believed Putin that Russia had not interfered in the 2016 campaign. As many as 15 former Trump and government officials said they’re confounded by Trump’s fixation on Ukraine despite the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. This fall, intelligence officials concluded that Russian propagandists spread the Ukraine theory on social media. (Washington Post / CNN / MSNBC)

3/ The federal prosecutor scrutinizing the Russia investigation is examining former CIA director John Brennan’s role surrounding the intelligence community’s assessment that Russian interfered in the 2016 election. U.S. Attorney John Durham requested Brennan’s emails, call logs, and other documents from the CIA, and wants to know what Brennan told other intelligence officials, including James Comey, about the Steele dossier and the relationships between Russia and Trump associates. Durham is also looking into whether Brennan privately contradicted his public statements and his 2017 testimony to Congress about the dossier and the debate within the intelligence community over their conclusions regarding Russian election interference. Attorney General William Barr appointed Durham to re-examine the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation. (New York Times)

  • Facebook removed more than 600 accounts tied to the pro-Trump conspiracy website that programmatically created false accounts to spread disinformation. (NBC News)

4/ A prominent evangelical Christian magazine called Trump “a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused” and that he “should be removed from office.” In an editorial, Christianity Today called Trump’s actions “not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.” Trump responded by lashing out on Twitter, calling it a “far left” magazine that “knows nothing about reading a perfect transcript of a routine phone call and would rather have a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President.” Trump added – without evidence – that “No President has done more for the Evangelical community, and it’s not even close. You’ll not get anything from those Dems on stage.” (Christianity Today / New York Times / Washington Post / Vox / NPR)

5/ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited Trump to deliver the State of the Union on Feb. 4 – less than 48 hours after she gaveled in the votes making him the third president to be impeached in United States history. (NBC News / Politico)

6/ The Trump administration threatened to veto the spending legislation that passed the House and Senate Democrats unless Democrats stripped language requiring the prompt release of future military aid for Ukraine. The language was ultimately left out and the White House said Trump would sign the $1.4 trillion package before midnight to avert a shutdown. (Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 1064: The Senate passed a $1.4 trillion spending package to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year. The House has already cleared the legislation. Trump needs to sign the bills by Friday to avert a government shutdown, which his advisors have said he will approve. (Wall Street Journal / CNBC / Politico)

poll/ 76% of Americans say the U.S. economy is very or somewhat good – the highest since Feb. 2001 when it was 80%. Among Republicans, 97% feel good about the economy, as do 75% of Independents, and 62% of Democrats. 68% expect the economy to be in good shape a year from now. 9% say the economy is good now but will get worse in 2020. (CNN)

Day 1064: Counterpunch.

1/ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t commit to sending the articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate until she sees “the process that is set forth” to ensure a “fair” trial. Democrats have questioned the impartiality of the Senate trial after Mitch McConnell said he’s coordinating with the White House to quickly acquit Trump. Senior Democratic aides suggested it was “very unlikely” that the House will send the articles to the Senate before January, effectively delaying the impeachment trial well into the new year, in order to pressure Republicans to allow new witnesses and evidence in the proceeding. “We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side,” Pelosi said. “So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us.” (New York Times / ABC News / Politico / CNN / NBC News / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

2/ Mitch McConnell mocked Pelosi’s threat to withhold the articles of impeachment, criticizing her as “too afraid” to transmit “their shoddy work product.” McConnell then called the impeachment inquiry “the most rushed, least thorough, and most unfair” in modern history. (Politico / CNN)

  • Putin said Trump was impeached on “trumped-up charges” for reasons “far-fetched” and doesn’t believe the Senate will “vote him out of power.” Putin also likened Trump’s impeachment to the probe into collusion with Russia, which Putin played down as groundless. (Politico / Associated Press)

3/ A top State Department aide told the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine to step down from his post and leave Kyiv before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits in January. Bill Taylor, a key witness in the Trump impeachment inquiry, has not had any direct contact with Pompeo since his testimony before Congress last month and will leave his post on January 2. The timing means that Pompeo will not have to meet, be seen or photographed with Taylor. (CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1062: The top U.S. diplomat for Ukraine will leave his post at the end of the year. Bill Taylor was a key witness in the congressional impeachment inquiry into Trump and described for Congress what he saw as Trump’s efforts to pressure Kyiv to go after political rivals. (New York Times / NBC News)

4/ The House passed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement – Trump’s replacement for NAFTA. The trade pact now heads to the Senate, which is expected to ratify it next year after Trump’s impeachment trial. Trump is expected to sign the legislation. (Politico / CNBC / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / New York Times)

5/ The Senate passed a $1.4 trillion spending package to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year. The House has already cleared the legislation. Trump needs to sign the bills by Friday to avert a government shutdown, which his advisors have said he will approve. (Wall Street Journal / CNBC / Politico)

6/ Rep. Mark Meadows will not seek re-election to Congress in 2020. Meadows has been contemplating leaving office for months, but he finalized his decision this week. Meadows is a long-time Trump ally who says he will continue to work with the Trump administration. He is also being considered to join Trump’s impeachment defense team in preparation for the trial in the Senate. (Associated Press / Washington Post / NBC News / Reuters / Axios / The Hill / Bloomberg / Politico / Wall Street Journal)

7/ The Senate confirmed 12 more of Trump’s judicial nominees. The confirmations bring the total number of judicial confirmations for 2019 to 20 circuit judges and 67 district judges. (Politico)

8/ Trump implied that the late Rep. John Dingell is “looking up” from hell while also mocking his widow, Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell. At a rally in Michigan, Trump said he gave John an “A-plus” funeral and that Debbie, whom he called “a real beauty,” called to thank him, saying “John would be so thrilled. He’s looking down. He’d be so thrilled.” Trump then told the crowd: “Maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe. But let’s assume he’s looking down.” Dingell was the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history. (NBC News / CNN / Axios / Washington Post / New York Times /Reuters / Bloomberg)

  • White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham defended Trump’s attack on Rep. John Dingell, saying Trump was a “counter-puncher” who was “under attack.” (ABC News)

Day 1063: "He gave us no choice."

1/ The House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump for abusing his power and obstructing congressional investigations, labeling him a threat to national security, recommending his removal from office, and marking him as only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. After six hours of debate, the chamber passed both articles of impeachment against Trump. Article I, Abuse of Power, was adopted 230-197, with one member voting present and three not voting. Article II, Obstruction of Congress, was adopted 229-198, with one member voting present and three not voting. The Constitution requires the Senate to now hold a trial, where a two-thirds vote would remove Trump from office. The House alleges that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation into Joe Biden and his son, as well as a probe of a debunked theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened debate on the articles of impeachment against Trump, declaring that lawmakers are “custodians of the Constitution” and “If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty.” She added that Trump’s “reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / CNN / ABC News)

  • ANALYSIS: The case for and against impeachment. (Washington Post)

  • LIVE BLOGS: New York Times / Washington Post / The Guardian / Bloomberg / CNN / ABC News / NBC News

  • Adam Schiff accused Mike Pence of refusing to declassify testimony that is “directly relevant” to the impeachment debate. Schiff sent a letter to Pence arguing that classified witness testimony from Jennifer Williams, Pence’s Russia adviser, “raises profound questions about your knowledge of the President’s scheme to solicit Ukraine’s interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.” Williams’ testimony was provided to the Intelligence Committee on Nov. 26 and Schiff asked Pence to declassify it ten days later, but Pence’s office refused. (Washington Post)

2/ Trump sent 45 tweets before noon – hours before the House formally voted to impeach him – calling impeachment “a terrible Thing” and telling his 67 million Twitter followers “Can you believe that I will be impeached today […] I DID NOTHING WRONG!” At one point Trump urged his followers to “Say a PRAYER!” Meanwhile, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told reporters that Trump “will be working all day” and that he “could catch some of the proceedings between meetings.” Less than 10 minutes later, Trump tweeted: “SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!” Trump ignored reporters’ questions about impeachment as he left the White House for a campaign rally in Michigan. (NBC News / Associated Press / Politico / The Guardian)

3/ The White House is exploring a way to feature Trump’s top House allies in the Senate impeachment trial. During the trial, only Trump’s defense team and the House Democrats’ impeachment managers will be allowed to debate on the floor. One idea being explored is to have House Republicans present a report on the Ukraine affair. Reps. Jim Jordan, John Ratcliffe, and Mike Johnson met with White House counsel Pat Cipollone yesterday to discuss joining Trump’s Senate defense team. Mark Meadows is also being considered to join the team, but wasn’t present for the meeting. (Politico / CNN)

4/ A group of House Democrats want to hold the articles of impeachment and delay sending them to the Senate to prevent the case against Trump from being discarded. Some legal scholars have suggested that Pelosi could delay sending impeachment articles to the Senate until Mitch McConnell agrees to a fairer process. The trial would effectively be delayed indefinitely and deny Trump his expected acquittal. McConnell has announced that he is coordinating the Senate trial with the White House. (Politico / Washington Post)

5/ The Trump administration is fighting a new package of sanctions on Russia, which is designed to punish Russian individuals and companies over the Kremlin’s targeting of Ukraine, 2016 election interference, its activities in Syria, and its attacks on dissidents. A State Department official sent a 22-page letter to a top Senate chairman, saying the administration “strongly opposes” the bill, because the legislation is unnecessary, would harm America’s European allies, and “risks crippling the global energy, commodities, financial, and other markets.” Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced the bill earlier this year, which passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this week. (Daily Beast)

6/ A New York judge dismissed state mortgage fraud charges against Paul Manafort, ruling that the criminal case amounted to a double-jeopardy violation. Manafort was previously convicted in a pair of federal cases related to Robert Mueller’s investigation of election interference in 2016. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office brought its case in an effort to ensure that Manafort would remain in custody should Trump pardon him for the federal convictions. (Washington Post / New York Times / ABC News / CNBC / NBC News)

7/ A federal appeals court ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, but did not invalidate the entire law. The court ordered a lower court judge to evaluate whether other provisions of the law can survive without the mandate. (Politico / Axios / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)

poll/ 50% of active duty military personnel have an unfavorable or very unfavorable view of Trump. 41% said they have a favorable or very favorable view of Trump. Nearly 48% of the troops surveyed said they held an unfavorable view of the way Trump has handled military issues. (Military Times)

poll/ 45% approve of Trump’s job performance – up six percentage points since the impeachment inquiry was launched. (Gallup)

poll/ 47% of Americans say they support impeachment and 47% are opposed. 57% of Americans now think Trump committed an impeachable offense, compared with 56% in mid-November. (FiveThirtyEight / Politico)

poll/ 48% of Americans support Trump’s impeachment and removal from office, while 48% disagree. (NBC News)

Day 1062: An open war on American Democracy.

1/ Mitch McConnell rejected Democrats requests to have four White House witnesses testify during Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate. McConnell called the request to have Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, and two others to testify a “strange request” and said the Senate will not volunteer its time for a “fishing expedition.” McConnell’s remarks came in response to a letter from Chuck Schumer, who outlined several procedural requests that he said would make an impeachment trial more fair. McConnell later said he’s “not an impartial juror […] I’m not impartial about this at all.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Axios / Bloomberg)

  • 👀 Impeachment Watch:

  • Tuesday: The House Rules Committee will set the terms for the debate on the House floor over the articles of impeachment.

  • Wednesday: The House is expected to vote to affirm the rules and then vote on the two articles of impeachment in the late afternoon. The House is also expected to vote to empower Nancy Pelosi to name impeachment managers.

  • Thursday: Your last chance to order gifts that will arrive by Christmas.

2/ Trump denounced what he called a “partisan impeachment crusade,” accusing Democrats of “perversion of justice” for their handling of impeachment. In a six-page letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Trump accused Pelosi of having “cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment” and that she was “declaring open war on American Democracy” by pursuing his impeachment. He called it an “unprecedented and unconstitutional abuse of power” and a “spiteful” “election-nullification scheme.” Trump also claimed that “more due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials.” Trump later told reporters in the Oval Office that he takes “zero” responsibility for the fact that he is about to be impeached. (NBC News / CNN / New York Times / Axios / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

  • READ: Trump’s letter to Pelosi. (Washington Post)

  • ANNOTATED: Trump’s letter to Pelosi. (Washington Post)

  • More than 700 historians and legal scholars published an open letter urging the House to impeach Trump, denouncing his conduct as “a clear and present danger to the Constitution.” (Washington Post)

3/ Rudy Giuliani confirmed that he needed the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine to get “out of the way,” because she “was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody.” Giuliani said he told Trump “a couple of times” that Marie Yovanovitch was impeding efforts that could benefit Trump politically. Trump then put Giuliani in touch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. On March 28, Giuliani provided Pompeo with a dossier of evidence he had collected on the Bidens and Yovanovitch. Trump fired Yovanovitch in April. (New York Times / New Yorker)

  • Giuliani backtracked on his Yovanovitch assertion, instead claiming that she “needed to be removed for many reasons.” Giuliani – without evidence – accused Yovanovitch of “OBSTRUCTING JUSTICE” and for having “enabled Ukrainian collusion.” (NBC News)

  • A Russian disinformation campaign circulated false claims about Yovanovitch that led to her recall from the U.S. embassy in Kyiv. The disinformation campaign purported that Yovanovitch had given a “list of people whom we should not prosecute” to Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko. The State Department has denied that such a list existed. (Washington Post)

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham invited Giuliani to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his recent trip to Ukraine. Giuliani traveled to Ukraine earlier this month to gather information intended to discredit the House’s impeachment probe. Giuliani was spotted at the White House last week. (Politico)

  • Russian state media called Trump their “Agent” after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Trump in the Oval Office. The network aired a segment called “Puppet Master and ‘Agent,’” which sought to explain “How to Understand Lavrov’s Meeting With Trump.” (Daily Beast)

  • A convicted Russian agent will become the host of an online video program for Russia’s state owned network RT. Maria Butina was released from a U.S. prison and deported to Russia in October. The U.S. intelligence community has called RT part of Russia’s “state-run propaganda machine.” (CNN)

4/ Giuliani claimed that Trump has been “very supportive” of his continued efforts to dig up dirt on Democrats in Ukraine. Giuliani suggested that Trump is aware of everything he has done in Ukraine, adding: “We’re on the same page.” Giuliani, however, declined to say if Trump directed him to go to Ukraine earlier this month. (CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1049: Rudy Giuliani traveled to Europe to meet with several former Ukrainian prosecutors in an effort to defend Trump against the impeachment inquiry. Giuliani traveled to Budapest to meet with former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, before going to Ukraine to meet with a number of other former prosecutors, including Viktor Shokin and Kostiantyn H. Kulyk. It was Giuliani’s earlier interactions with some of the same Ukrainians that setup the impeachment inquiry in the first place and led to an investigation by federal prosecutors into whether Giuliani violated federal lobbying laws. (New York Times / CNN)

  • A Giuliani associate will be allowed to remain free on bail despite allegedly concealing a $1 million payment from Russia. Lev Parnas was charged with violating campaign finance laws and has been living under house arrest in Florida since October. Prosecutors said Parnas and Igor Fruman illegally funneled money into a pro-Trump election committee and to other politician. Parnas denied hiding the payment and both have pleaded not guilty. (NBC News / Reuters)

5/ The top U.S. diplomat for Ukraine will leave his post at the end of the year. Bill Taylor was a key witness in the congressional impeachment inquiry into Trump and described for Congress what he saw as Trump’s efforts to pressure Kyiv to go after political rivals. (New York Times / NBC News)

6/ Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates was sentenced to 45 days in jail – to be served on weekends – and a $20,000 fine for conspiracy against the U.S. and lying to the FBI and Robert Mueller. Gates was also sentenced to three years of probation and 300 hours of community service. Gates cooperated extensively with the government after pleading guilty in February 2018. Federal sentencing guidelines recommend that Gates serve 46 to 57 months in prison. (Washington Post / Politico / CNN / NBC News / Axios / New York Times)

  • Paul Manafort was hospitalized for a “cardiac event” while serving his seven-year sentence stemming from Robert Mueller’s investigation. Manafort is slated to be released from prison Christmas Day 2024. (ABC News / NBC News)

  • 📌 Day 819: Paul Manafort told Rick Gates to “sit tight” and not plead guilty because Trump is “going to take care of us.” Mueller’s report says “evidence […] indicates that the President intended to encourage Manafort to not cooperate with the government.” Gates ended up cooperating with Mueller.

7/ The House approved a $1.4 trillion spending package to avert a government shutdown and fund the federal government through September. The spending legislation will now move to the Senate, which must act before midnight on Friday, when existing funding for government agencies expires. Trump has not said whether he would support the packages. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

8/ Trump now claims he doesn’t consider the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 to be a genocide after Turkey’s authoritarian president threatened to close an air base in Turkey that hosts U.S. nuclear warheads. In April, Trump called the genocide where 1.5 million Armenians were killed “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.” (BBC)

9/ A group of Republican Trump critics launched a super PAC to oppose Trump’s reelection. The Lincoln Project has reportedly raised more than $1 million so far to support their official mission, which is to “Defeat President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box.” (CNBC / Associated Press)

poll/ 45% of Americans support impeaching Trump and removing him from office – down from 50% in November. 51% say Trump used the presidency improperly in his interactions with the President of Ukraine by attempting to gain political advantage against a possible 2020 rival. (CNN)

poll/ 49% of Americans say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 46% say he should not. 49% say Trump improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, regardless of whether Trump committed an impeachable offense — 39% say Trump’s actions were not improper. (Washington Post)

poll/ 71% of Americans say Trump should allow his top aides to testify in the Senate trial, including 64% of Republicans, 72% of independents, and 79% of Democrats. 55% say Trump was treated fairly in the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committee hearings that led to the articles of impeachment against him. (ABC News)

Day 1061: "Betrayed the nation."

1/ The House Judiciary Committee accused Trump of “multiple federal crimes” and argued that Trump “betrayed the nation by abusing his high office.” The 658-page report labels Trump’s behavior “both constitutional and criminal in character” and recommends two articles of impeachment: abuse of power for holding up nearly $400 million worth of security aid and a White House meeting until Ukraine agreed to announce investigations into Biden and 2016 election interference, and obstruction of Congress, saying “Trump’s obstruction of Congress does not befit the leader of a democratic society. It calls to mind the very claims of royal privilege against which our founders rebelled.” The House is expected to vote Wednesday on whether to impeach Trump. (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / Politico)

  • READ: House Judiciary Committee report on impeachment. (Washington Post)

  • Trump suggested that Nancy Pelosi’s teeth were falling out while she was answering a question about why