“Democrats have found themselves racing to defend the FBI over the last month, proclaiming fury that a sharply critical Republican memo would undermine public faith in an essential American institution.” Since President Trump took office, “Democrats have become the unexpected allies of institutions and individuals who recently would have been considered anathema to everything the left—as self-described defenders of civil rights—represents. It’s not just the FBI.
“Democrats have become defenders of the CIA and other intelligence and security agencies, and even of former President George W. Bush—the same Bush many Democrats would not long ago have rated among the country’s worst-ever presidents.
“The change in attitude is at least partially driven by an unbridled animus toward Trump and a desire to take whatever position opposes his. Republicans engaged similarly during President Barack Obama’s administration, with the conservative base despising almost everything the Democratic leader touched.
“But to some progressives, Democrats’ new affinity for the FBI, CIA and Bush is a worrying development, one they say could compromise the party’s long-term vision, and certainly one that overlooks the past. This, those progressives say, is a party that historically has had a rocky relationship with the bureau, which infamously wiretapped the phones of Martin Luther King Jr. The FBI’s headquarters in Washington still bears the name of its founder who oversaw the wiretapping, J. Edgar Hoover.” (McClatchy)
DEM RETREAT. “House Democrats head to their annual retreat this week with one goal: Unite behind a winning election message that can at once counter and transcend … Trump’s divisive ‘America first’ politics.
“Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney from New York fired by Trump, and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez will join former Vice President Joe Biden and a slate of other speakers aimed at helping Democrats energize their base and woo the working class voters who swept Trump into the White House.” (Politico)
BULLOCK. “A political organization set up by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) to heighten his national stature raised almost a half-million dollars last year. Financial disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission show the Democratic governor’s Big Sky Values PAC raised $464,000 in 2017.”
“He’s said he wants to add his voice to debates over health care and public lands, from the perspective of a Democratic leader of a rural state that backed … Trump by a 20-point margin.” (AP)
CUOMO. New York Gov. Cuomo (D) continued “to call on Congress to fund a $94.4 billion disaster relief package for Puerto Rico at a rally in the Bronx on Saturday, more than four months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
“‘What we do today will determine the future of Puerto Rico—that is how serious this is,’ Cuomo declared at a South Bronx nonprofit center.” (New York Post)
Meanwhile, “Cuomo has called for the Department of Health to take a closer look at the possibility of legalizing recreational marijuana. In his State of the State address, the governor asked the department to conduct a study on the health, economic and criminal justice impact that New York state could face if marijuana was legalized. He also asked them to look into the impacts on New York state due to other states legalizing marijuana nearby and federal actions.” (Post-Journal)
GILLIBRAND. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) “on Saturday said Democrats must work to elect a ‘new president’ to pass the Equality Act, which would enshrine civil rights protections for the LGBTQ community into law.
“During a speech at the Human Rights Campaign, Gillibrand encouraged the crowd to ‘advocate, organize and vote.’ … ‘Because with a Democratic majority in the House and Senate, we can create the momentum that we need for a new president to sign that bipartisan bill in 2020,’ she said, referring to the civil rights legislation.” (The Hill)
MOULTON AND KENNEDY. Reps. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) and Seth Moulton (D-MA) “insist there is no rivalry, despite the media’s best efforts to concoct one, and that there is plenty of room for both of them in Massachusetts, a state with a history of producing an abundance of political talent (although no presidential winners since 1960). As for any future conflict, both men insist they are not thinking beyond their current jobs and are focused on fighting the Trump administration.” (Boston Globe)
SANDERS. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) “is revving the engines of his long-promised ‘political revolution.’” Sanders is “tapping back into his national network of supporters. He’s drawing millions of viewers for events he streams live on Facebook. And he’s delivering a series of speeches designed to counter … Trump and offer his own progressive vision.
“Taken together, his moves in 2018’s first weeks show that Sanders is road-testing ways to deliver a message tailored to the Trump era without filters, and to activate his supporters behind it—even as he insists publicly and privately that it’s too early to commit to a 2020 presidential run.
“There is ample reason to doubt a Sanders 2020 run: He’d be 79 years old on election day. His wife, Jane Sanders, is embroiled in a federal investigation into a land deal she made while president of Burlington College. And an awkward clash with a local newspaper reporter showed that Sanders may be uncomfortable entering the race as a front-runner, where the scrutiny is more intense and impossible to control.” (CNN)
DNC POST-DEAN. Under former DNC Chairman Howard Dean, “the DNC dispersed $10,000 to each state party per month.” Now, Perez “has uncorked the same cash flow to the states, which were receiving significantly less during the Obama years.
“But Dean, unlike DNC chairmen since then, put roughly three to five state party staffers on the DNC’s payroll. Those staffers were chosen by the party chairmen, but the DNC had oversight. The DNC also put state Democrats on the payroll through training sessions in Washington. … Dean inherited a limping DNC, like Perez. After taking over early last year, Perez became the favorite target for liberals angry over 2016 and frustrated by the party’s slow recovery.”
“Perez rebranded the 50-state strategy to ‘every zip code counts,’ reinstituted the $10,000 stipend Dean had in place, and added a $10 million competitive grant program. Still, one former DNC official who worked for Dean during the 2006 cycle said, ‘They’re not serious about doing a 50-state strategy. … It’s something that rings nicely,’ the official said, but added, ‘It’s empty rhetoric.’” (Washington Examiner)
FIRST 2020 AD. Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) ran the first 2020 campaign ad on Super Bowl Sunday in Iowa, roughly two years out from the caucuses in that state.
“The Super Bowl spots are the start of an ad blitz by the wealthy Delaney, who has already contributed $660,000 of his own money to his campaign, according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission last week. Delaney’s campaign said it will spend $1 million over the next month, though the Super Bowl ad will cost him in the mid-five-figures: A 30-second ad in the state’s largest media market, Des Moines, will run Delaney $20,000, public filings show.” (Politico)
NEWSOM. California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) “says he wants California’s top job, but that he would pass on running for president. ‘With all due respect, ex-president sounds like a great job,’ he said.” (KQED)
OBAMA. Obama “will finally go ahead with his promise to visit New Zealand on … March 21 arranged by Air New Zealand. … The reason for the visit is unknown.” (New Zealand Herald)
BUMP STOCKS. “In the immediate aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, there was a fevered pitch to ban bump stocks. … With that push stalled at the federal level, a handful of states and some cities are moving ahead with bans of their own.”
“Massachusetts and New Jersey—two states led by Republican governors—as well as the cities of Denver and Columbia, South Carolina, have enacted laws prohibiting the sale and possession of the devices.” (AP)
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"North Korea is moving ahead with its ballistic missile program at 16 hidden bases ... identified in new commercial satellite images." The images suggest that North Korea has "offered to dismantle a major launching site — a step it began, then halted — while continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others that would bolster launches of conventional and nuclear warheads."
"When the Democrats take control of the House in January and gain subpoena power, they plan to probe the president's role in payments to two women who alleged during the 2016 campaign that they had affairs with" the president. "Democratic members on the committee have already begun digging into the president's involvement, according to [an] aide. In September, the committee requested documents from the Trump organization."
Damon Nelson, the staff director for the House Intelligence Committee, died unexpectedly after a brief illness, according to a statement from Chairman Devin Nunes. Nelson and Nunes first met in high school, and Nelson worked for the congressmen since his freshmen term 15 years ago. He started "as his legislative director in 2003 before becoming his deputy chief of staff. When Nunes became chairman of the Intelligence Committee in 2015, Nelson went to work for him there, becoming staff director a year later."