Ohio Gov. John Kasich, (R) “the two-term governor and possible 2020 presidential candidate, has checked off priorities such as lowering Ohio’s income tax and expanding Medicaid. He has moderated on conservative issues such as gun rights and labor unions. He has spoken out repeatedly against President Trump, losing allies among his fellow Republicans.
“So Tuesday night, in his last State of the State address, Kasich is likely to play the elder statesman passing on wisdom, not the hard-charging change-agent pushing through his agenda.
“Despite Kasich’s earlier focus on taxes and the economy, Ohio’s economic situation can best be described as ‘not great.’ … Only three states have a higher unemployment rate than Ohio’s 4.9 percent in December, compared with 4.1 percent nationally.” (Cincinnati.com)
TARIFFS. “House Republicans want President Donald Trump to scale back his plan to institute sweeping tariffs on steel and aluminum imports—apparently so they can avoid taking legislative action against him.” Speaker Paul Ryan “is urging the president not to move on the plan he announced Thursday to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports. … While congressional Republicans understand the president’s goal of trying to force better trade deals, most disagree with his approach. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) said he and … Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA), who chairs the Trade Subcommittee, are circulating a letter for signatures that will encourage Trump to ‘tailor his actions’ on the tariffs.” (Roll Call)
“Mr. Trump appeared little moved by the pushback. One of his all-important barometers—the stock market —rebounded on Monday after falling sharply immediately after the announcement of the tariffs last week as the Republican dissent fueled optimism that Mr. Trump would ultimately reverse course. Opponents of tariffs, including many economists, warn they could damage economic growth by igniting a ruinous trade war, a prospect that Mr. Trump has alternately welcomed or dismissed as unlikely.” (New York Times)
NUNBERG. “Sam Nunberg, a onetime Trump campaign aide who recently met with investigators for the special counsel, set cable news alight on Monday when he declared that he was subpoenaed to go before a grand jury on Friday, but that he was unlikely to appear or to provide documents he was ordered to hand over.” (New York Times)
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"White House chief of staff John Kelly has tapped Chris Liddell, a senior White House aide and former executive at Microsoft and General Motors, as his deputy." Prior to his appointment, Kelly had just one deputy: "Joe Hagin, who focuses on the day-to-day operations" in the White House. "Up until now, the White House had not named a deputy chief of staff for policy, though several aides, including [DHS Secretary Kirstjen] Nielsen, had informally played that role."
The Supreme Court on Monday "rejected a plea to undertake a historic reassessment of the constitutionality of the death penalty nationwide. The court denied certiorari in Hidalgo v. Arizona, which challenged the constitutionality of that state’s death penalty statute but also attacked capital punishment generally 'in light of contemporary standards of decency.'" The Court did not act on another case, Evans v. Mississippi, which would have prompted a broader review of the death penalty. "Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan issued a separate statement agreeing that the Hidalgo case should be denied because the record in the case was not fully developed, but hoping a future case would be a better platform for reviewing capital punishment."
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman begins his two-week visit to the U.S. this week, meeting with "political and business leaders in Washington, New York, Silicon Valley and elsewhere" in an effort to shore up financial support for his government and rehabilitate its image abroad. "The crown prince employed a similar public relations strategy on a three-day visit to the UK," where he met with "an array of British business and defense leaders." Bin Salman has been widely criticized for his alleged political chicanery in the Gulf, and for Saudi Arabia's devastating air campaign in neighboring Yemen.
A fourth package bomb injured two people in Austin on Sunday evening, "which the police chief says was caused by a tripwire and showed 'a different level of skill' than the package bombs used in the three prior attacks." The police are still searching for the perpetrator, and have warned residents to not pick up or approach suspicious packages. Previous explosions, which the police believe are connected, have killed two and wounded several others.
White House Lawyer Ty Cobb said that President Trump not considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller. Speculation swirled after Trump attacked the investigation on Twitter, and called out Mueller directly for the first time. “In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration," Cobb said, "...the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller." Several members of Congress, "including some top Republicans, warned Trump to not even think about terminating Mueller."