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Jan 28, 2019

Analysis | The Daily 202: The Koch network donor retreat turns touchy-feely

By James Hohmann





With Joanie Greve:
THE BIG IDEA:
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Liberal activist Van Jones protested the Koch brothers outside their donor meeting in 2011. Groups funded by the billionaire-backed network had successfully clamored for his ouster as President Barack Obama’s green jobs czar two years earlier, labeling him a dangerous radical.
At the 2019 Koch seminar, however, there is a giant banner with Jones’s smiling face hanging inside the lobby of the posh hotel that’s hosting the meeting. He’s literally become the poster child for how the network of conservative and libertarian donors hopes to seek out unlikely allies to advance its agenda. Jones, now a CNN talking head, recorded a video with Koch Industries general counsel Mark Holden about their partnership to pass the First Step Act, a sweeping overhaul of the criminal justice system that President Trump signed into law last month.
“The problem is there’s a lot of stuff we do agree on that we aren’t working on together,” Jones says in the video, which organizers played on Sunday for 634 donors who have each agreed to contribute at least $100,000 per year to Koch-sponsored groups. “You’ve got awesome people and beautiful people on both sides.”
You could be forgiven for thinking you accidentally showed up for a No Labels conference. That’s been the vibe here in the Coachella Valley all weekend as the network aggressively seeks to rebrand itself as kinder, gentler and less political.
Wearing purple, the color of bipartisanship, industrialist Charles Koch — who remains a boogeyman on the left — declared that his top goal is “uniting with people across the whole spectrum, including those who have been adversaries in the past,” to pursue shared priorities. “This attitude of holding things against others who have different beliefs is tearing our country apart,” the 83-year-old said during a cocktail reception on Saturday night. “What we need to do, and what we’re doing, is bringing people together.”
His brother David stepped away from the network last year, citing poor health. Charles has concluded that reaching across the aisle to build coalitions is the best way to maximize his network’s impact with a president in the White House he personally doesn’t like but whom many members of his network do. The network plans to stay out of the presidential race again in 2020, as it did in 2016.
-- Koch World believes the sentencing bill is its new recipe for success. In that video, Jones accuses what he calls the “liberal establishment” — naming groups such as the ACLU and NAACP — of playing politics during negotiations over the bill. “Publicly they were saying it doesn’t go far enough,” Jones said. “I think privately they just didn’t want Trump to have a victory.”
Americans for Prosperity chief executive Emily Seidel said many Republican lawmakers had the same mentality when they were in the wilderness. “Just a few years ago, Republican after Republican told us they didn’t want to give Obama a win on this issue,” she told donors.
Even though the president has attacked Koch personally, network officials were still able to work constructively with White House senior adviser Jared Kushner on criminal justice. “It shows how you can break though the partisan gridlock, and it’s the model for everything else we’ll do going forward,” Seidel said.
Indeed, the president’s son-in-law appeared in the same video as Jones. “One of the things that really surprised people, including myself, was how broad the coalition we were able to build was,” Kushner said.
Koch officials were back at the White House last week for a meeting on a potential immigration deal that could protect “dreamers” in exchange for wall money, and they’re scheduled to return later this week.

Brian Hooks and Charles Koch address donors during a cocktail reception on Saturday night. (Seminar Network)
-- In past years, network leaders announced how much money they planned to spend on politics and policy in the upcoming election cycle. This year, they’re not providing a target. Brian Hooks, the chairman of the Seminar Network, which includes the constellation of Koch groups, said they still plan to devote “significant resources” but that the opportunities will dictate the amount. “We see this as the next big step forward in the evolution of this network,” Hooks said.
The network continues to increase financial support for nonprofits focused on civil society. That’s how Koch wound up hugging Deion Sanders on Saturday night. The donors have invested heavily in Urban Specialists, which helps the disadvantaged in South Dallas, as well as other groups that the former Cowboys cornerback is involved with. “The Kochs make me smile,” Sanders said. “This is no sham. This is no gimmick. … I can see through the smoke at 51 years old. They are who they say they are and more.” Speaking before a dinner program on Saturday night, Sanders addressed the 181 first-time attendees: “To all the newcomers, I just challenge you to get in the game.” Koch got up from his seat, and the two embraced afterward.
The discussion that followed over dinner was about the Charles Koch Foundation’s Courageous Collaborations initiative, which was launched to support research on overcoming intolerance. One entity getting a big grant is StoryCorps and its One Small Step program, which brings together people who have opposing political views so they can have respectful conversations. (The StoryCorps van, which has a sound booth inside, was parked on the well-manicured lawn next to the swimming pool so that donors could record their personal stories of overcoming political differences.)
Dave Isay, the founder of StoryCorps, said his wife recently made him watch a documentary on Netflix about Roger Stone called “Get Me Roger Stone.” In the film, Stone says one of his “rules” is that hate is a more powerful motivator than love. “We have to prove Roger Stone wrong,” Isay declared. The crowd cheered.
“We’re in an existential crisis here,” Isay continued. “Democracy cannot survive in a swamp of mutual contempt. … I don’t know that this country can survive if we all despise each other. You don’t have to change your mind about something. You just have to realize the person you’re talking to is a human being. And we’re not doing that.”

The sun sets Saturday at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort, where the Koch network holds its seminar each winter. (James Hohmann/The Washington Post)
-- To be sure, the Koch network remains a potent political force on the right. Since Trump took office, Koch-linked groups have successfully pushed for deregulation, tax cuts and judicial appointments that will significantly benefit the bottom line of many network donors and the businesses they run. But they’ve been stymied in their demands for free trade, a more open immigration system and deficit reduction. It was opposition to President George W. Bush’s steel tariffs that inspired Koch to convene the first seminar of like-minded business types in 2003. The network has gathered twice a year ever since.
Network officials identified 10 “barriers” preventing people from realizing their full potential: bad fiscal policy, overregulation, cronyism, joblessness, a failing education system, persistent poverty, counterproductive immigration policy, free speech restrictions, a broken criminal justice system and tariffs. The sessions that were open to reporters focused primarily on the poor and the imprisoned.
-- One big change from past Koch donor seminars is the relative absence of politicians. This twice-annual retreat used to be one of the premier cattle calls for Republicans with presidential ambitions to cultivate the biggest donors on the right. But fewer and fewer have been invited, and others have chosen to stay away because of the optics — and the fear that their presence will be used against them in attack ads.
Only three elected officials are at this seminar, which continues through Monday night, and none are members of the House. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) touted his bipartisan work with potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including teaming up with Bernie Sanders to cut off U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen and with Cory Booker to allow a vegan company to sell “mayonnaise” without eggs. Over breakfast on Sunday, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) gave a talk about his book “Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal.” Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R), who has been an ally of the Koch network on criminal justice, also flew in.

Alice Marie Johnson, whose life sentence was commuted by President Trump, hugs Emily Seidel, the chief executive of Americans for Prosperity, at the Koch donor retreat on Sunday. (Seminar Network)
-- Instead of giving politicians a platform, organizers showcased several regular people with sympathetic personal stories in an effort to humanize the issues they’re focused on. Last June, for example, Trump commuted the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a grandmother in her 60s from Tennessee who has been serving a life term since 1996 for nonviolent, first-time drug offenses. The president acted after reality TV star Kim Kardashian West brought the case to his attention. The Koch network had been highlighting her case for some time, and she thanked the donors for their support in a speech. “I’m the living proof that second chances work,” Johnson said, fighting back tears. “One thing I know for sure is that people don’t remember statistics, but they remember a face.” The crowd responded with a standing ovation.
The Koch network also flew in Melony Armstrong, an African American woman from Mississippi who wanted to braid hair but didn’t have a cosmetology license. The Koch network has made her the face of its effort to relax occupational licensing laws across the country. Armstrong received training from the network, and it deployed significant resources to successfully change the laws in her home state in 2017. Nebraska last year and Ohio this month passed similar bills after Koch lobbying.
-- “We’re getting much better at storytelling,” Holden said in an interview. He’s been a top Koch lieutenant for more than two decades and is the network’s point man on criminal justice. “I’m by nature a litigator,” he said. “I like facts and figures. That’s okay. But that doesn’t move the needle. You tell the stories about people — human beings — that changes everything. … We know we have the facts and the figures … but when you get the emotion on your side, and the stories on your side, it’s over. You’re going to win.”
“It’s important to put human faces on problems,” added James Davis, who oversees communications for the Koch network. “Stats don’t convey empathy.”

Weldon Angelos poses for a portrait in July 2015 at a federal prison in California. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)
-- One major focus of this meeting has been encouraging attendees to hire more ex-cons to ease their reentry into society. The people attending the seminar collectively employ upward of 2 million people. (The Washington Post and a handful of other news outlets were invited to cover the gathering on the sole condition that they not identify participants in the crowd without their permission.)
Koch, worth somewhere around $50 billion, is one of the 10 richest men in the world. His company “banned the box,” which means that job applicants aren’t asked about prior criminal convictions anymore. “Whatever we’re doing in business, we haven’t scratched the surface,” Koch said in a speech Sunday. “If all of us join together, just think about the difference we can make.”
The head of the Society for Human Resource Management unveiled a new website at the meeting on Sunday, GettingTalentBacktoWork.com, for corporate leaders to sign a pledge that they will hire more formerly incarcerated people. Richard Branson recorded a video greeting touting his company Virgin’s efforts to hire former convicts. “Hello, Charles,” the billionaire said in the taped message. “Cheers.”
After lobbying by the Koch network, Weldon Angelos of Utah was released in 2015 after serving 11 years of a 55-year prison term in connection with selling marijuana. His case had become a symbol of excessive mandatory minimums. Once he got out, a Koch donor from Colorado hired him at his company. The two came onstage Sunday afternoon with their arms draped over each other’s shoulders. They departed to “Here Comes the Sun.” There have been many moments like this in the heavily choreographed program.
“It’s funny,” said Kevin Gentry, a top Koch aide who works on special projects and fundraising for the network. “A few minutes ago, one of our first-timers grabbed me and said, ‘I’ve got to tell you. This meeting is nothing like I thought it was going to be. When did you start this new thing?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve got to tell you, whenever it was we started it, we should have done it a long time ago.’”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

Zalmay Khalilzad, special adviser on reconciliation, speaks during a news conference in Kabul. (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)
-- The chief U.S. negotiator in Afghanistan said American and Taliban forces have agreed in principle to a peace framework that could lead to the full removal of U.S. troops. The New York Times’s Mujib Mashal reports: “‘We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement,’ the American envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, said in an interview with The New York Times in Kabul. ‘The Taliban have committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals.’ … After nine years of halting efforts to reach a peace deal with the Taliban, the draft framework, though preliminary, is the biggest tangible step toward ending a two-decade war that has cost tens of thousands of lives and profoundly changed American foreign policy.”

Trump gestures while speaking about tariffs in the Cabinet Room of the White House. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
-- A new Post-ABC poll found Trump is falling short of the modest expectations voters had when he assumed office two years ago. Dan Keating and Dan Balz report: At the time of his inauguration, “roughly 6 in 10 Americans expected him to perform well on [the economy]. Today, the public is divided evenly, with 49 percent giving him positive marks on his handling of the economy and 49 percent giving him negative marks. Even those most optimistic or pessimistic are split evenly, 27 percent saying his handling has been 'excellent' and 27 percent saying it’s been 'poor.' The starkest gap between Trump’s current ratings and Americans’ initially positive expectations is on the federal deficit. Two years ago, 50 percent of Americans thought Trump would do an excellent or good job handling the deficit. The new poll finds 33 percent saying he has done well so far, a 17-point drop that occurred across party lines. …
“Another issue where Trump has performed below initial expectations is on health care, where his positive ratings have fallen from 44 percent to 33 percent. The sharpest falloff came among independents, from 48 percent saying they expected him to do a good job with the issue to the current 22 percent. … Along with the deficit and healthcare, Americans grade Trump the worst on issues dealing with women and race relations, both areas in which Trump started with low expectations. Roughly one-third say Trump has done an excellent or good job on each in his first two years, with more than 6 in 10 adults calling his performance poor or not so good.”

Visitors walk near the Nissan logo at a showroom in Tokyo. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)
GET SMART FAST:
  1. The SEC is investigating Nissan over former chairman Carlos Ghosn’s pay disclosures. Ghosn is in jail in Japan for allegedly underreporting his income. (Wall Street Journal)
  2. A man went on a shooting rampage in Louisiana, killing five. Authorities say Dakota Theriot murdered the family who had taken him in after his parents kicked him out before he killed his parents as well. He then led authorities on a manhunt that ended in rural Virginia yesterday. (Kristine Phillips)
  3. Jim Mattis received a standing ovation at the Alfalfa Club dinner. The former defense secretary gave a speech at the annual black-tie dinner honoring the troops and emphasizing the importance of U.S. global standing. (CNN)
  4. Brazilian authorities are continuing rescue efforts after a dam collapse in Brumadinho left 58 dead and 300 missing. Another 350 people were evacuated from the region out of fear of another dam rupture. (Ellis Rua and Marina Lopes)
  5. Explosions at a Philippine cathedral killed at least 20. The attacks underscored the violence the country’s Muslim extremist groups continue to inflict upon Catholic citizens. (Regine Cabato and Shibani Mahtani)
  6. A father and son in Alaska pleaded guilty to illegally killing a female bear and her cubs after the crime was captured on a camera logging the bears’ activity. Andrew Renner and his son Owen falsely claimed the female bear had no cubs and disposed of the young animals’ remains to cover up the crime. (Alex Horton)
THE GOVERNMENT REOPENS — FOR NOW:
-- Federal employees will return to work today, but it could take months to sort through the backlog created by the longest shutdown in U.S. history. Lisa Rein, Juliet Eilperin and Sarah Kaplan report: “The National Park Service will need to restore basic amenities at hundreds of parks and monuments, removing accumulated trash and plowing multiple feet of snow. The Bureau of Indian Affairs must quickly issue grants to head off food shortages and a health-care crisis for Native American tribal members whose funding was cut off. Inspectors returning from furlough to the National Transportation Safety Board will have to decide which of the almost 100 rail, plane and highway crashes to investigate first. And the Internal Revenue Service will race to train employees to implement changes to the tax code and hire thousands of temporary workers for tax season. … But many workers say they’re still anxious. They won’t see the back pay they’re owed until later this week. And [Trump] has threatened another closure in three weeks if his demands for border wall funding aren’t met.”
-- With the government reopened, House Democrats and Senate Republicans plan to pivot toward other parts of their agenda. The New York Times’s Nicholas Fandos reports: “The House, which spent weeks passing futile bills to reopen the government, will turn to legislation higher on the Democrats’ priority list, including a bill to raise pay for civilian federal employees. Leading Democrats also plan to reintroduce a marquee bill to close the pay gap between men and women that they have fought to enact for years. In the Senate, Republicans will try to push through a bipartisan Middle East policy bill that includes a disputed provision targeting the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. … And in both chambers, lawmakers have teed up a high-impact lineup of hearings — effectively the first of the year.”
-- Federal contractors’ lost wages may never be reimbursed. Aaron C. Davis and Neena Satija report: “How the shutdown so quickly shredded the personal safety net of employees at [the contracting firm] Unispec reflects the razor-thin profit margin and unsettled nature of business for government contracting firms and their employees. … Unlike the 800,000 career federal employees who have been promised full back pay in coming days, government contractors — who are thought to number in the millions — have no legal claim to the five weeks of lost wages. And because Unispec cannot pay its employees until it has billed the government and received payment for their work, it will be another four full weeks, Feb. 28, before [its workers are] eligible to receive a complete paycheck ... And in the government’s temporary reopening, even that is no certainty.”
-- Many government workers are still relying on donations to cover basic necessities until they can collect their paychecks later this week. Katie Zezima reports: “At least 20 diaper banks across the country have provided diapers, feminine and incontinence products, formula and more to federal employees ... Diaper banks started to receive calls for help in mid-January, and the entreaties became more and more desperate the longer the shutdown went on ... The requests continue even though the government is set to reopen, and groups are planning to hand out diapers and other products this week.”
-- The bill that reopened the government also extended the Violence Against Women Act through Feb. 15. From Elise Viebeck: “The landmark 1994 law expired in late December after multiple short-term extensions, a blow to lawmakers and activists who have sought a long-term reauthorization. The government shutdown had also caused a delay in payments to VAWA-funded programs.”
-- Democratic legislators in Maryland are moving forward with a proposal to allow furloughed federal workers to collect state unemployment insurance. Arelis R. Hernández reports: “Although [the shutdown] ended Friday, state lawmakers say they are eager to correct what they call an anomaly in the law that disqualifies exempted workers from applying for benefits if another shutdown were to occur.”
-- Craft breweries are acutely feeling the reverberations of the shutdown. Jenna Portnoy reports: “They lost revenue they will never recoup and will continue to lose money while they wait for federal agencies that process labels, brewery permits and small-business loans to clear a backlog built up during the shutdown. During the closure, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau within the Treasury Department stopped approving new labels, hamstringing businesses that consistently churn out new products. … Wineries and small-batch distilleries don’t face the same conundrum because their products take longer to produce and are not released as often as craft beers.”
THE IMMIGRATION WARS CONTINUE:
-- Trump is again considering declaring a national emergency to get wall funding by Feb. 15, the next deadline by which the government must be funded. Robert Costa and Felicia Sonmez report: “‘The president’s commitment is to defend the nation, and he will do it either with or without Congress,’ acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on ‘Fox News Sunday.’ … Inside the West Wing over the weekend, Trump told advisers that declaring a national emergency may be his best option as he scrambles to assert himself in a divided government and secure wall funding, according to four people involved in the discussions … One White House official described Trump’s decision to reopen the government as ‘clearing the deck’ for executive action rather than a retreat. And a longtime confidant said Trump has grown increasingly frustrated by news coverage of his concession to Democrats and has been encouraged by conservative allies to escalate the fight.
“A bipartisan, bicameral congressional committee has been charged with brokering an agreement on border security ... In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Sunday, Trump said he thinks the committee’s chances of success are ‘less than 50-50,’ although there are ‘a lot of very good people’ on it. He also said that another shutdown is ‘certainly an option’ and voiced doubt that he would back any deal with less than $5.7 billion in border wall funding. … Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called the prospect of a national-emergency declaration a ‘terrible idea,’ reflecting widespread conservative unease about using executive powers in sweeping ways to achieve political ends, a tactic they have long criticized Democratic presidents of employing. … Still, other Republicans said the GOP appetite for using emergency powers was stronger than the remarks of lawmakers on television suggested because of the expectation that the party’s base would applaud Trump for being bold.
Several White House officials said privately Sunday that Trump has argued that a national-emergency declaration in the coming weeks could pressure Congress to include wall funding as part of a broader legislative package next month and could signal to the GOP’s core voters that the president is going to extremes to secure funding for his campaign’s biggest pledge. Mulvaney said that if the legislation Congress sends to the president’s desk is unsatisfactory, Trump could veto it. ‘Yeah. I think he actually is,’ Mulvaney said on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’ when asked whether Trump is prepared to bring about a shutdown next month.”
Behind the scenes: “The White House Counsel’s Office, led by Pat Cipollone, has prepared drafts of declarations, and Trump spent much of Thursday night reviewing them in the White House residence as he watched TV coverage of the shutdown ... Angry with Democrats’ refusal to bend to his demands, in particular with [Nancy Pelosi], Trump pressed Cipollone for guidance about the potential legal repercussions and called friends, such as Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, to hear their views about the negotiations.”
-- A senior Border Patrol official emailed agents asking for any information that might be used to back up Trump’s specious claims that human traffickers are gagging women with duct tape after a Post article raised questions about a story the president keeps telling. Vox’s Dara Lind reports: The email “was sent as a ‘request for information’ by an assistant Border Patrol chief, apparently on behalf of the office of Customs and Border Protection commissioner Kevin McAleenan (referred to internally as ‘C-1’). It asked agents to reply within less than two hours with ‘any information (in any format)’ regarding claims of tape-gagged women — and even linked to the Post article ‘for further info.’ Vox’s source indicated that they and others in their sector hadn’t heard anything that would back up Trump’s claims, but wasn’t sure if agents in other sectors had provided information. However, no one from the Trump administration has come forward to offer evidence for the claim, either before or after the internal Border Patrol email was sent.”
-- The administration is falling well short of Trump’s order to hire 15,000 new border and immigration officers. The LA Times’s Molly O'Toole reports: “In a sign of the difficulties, [CBP] allocated $60.7 million to Accenture Federal Services, a management consulting firm, as part of a $297-million contract to recruit, vet and hire 7,500 border officers over five years, but the company has produced only 33 new hires so far. … The Border Patrol gained a total of 120 agents in 2018, the first net gain in five years. But the agency has come nowhere close to adding more than 2,700 agents annually, the rate that [McAleenan] has said is necessary to meet Trump’s mandated 26,370 border agents by the end of 2021.”

Kamala Harris waves to the crowd as she formally launches her presidential campaign in Oakland, Calif. (Tony Avelar/AP)
2020 WATCH:
-- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) formally launched her presidential campaign on Sunday afternoon with a massive rally in her hometown. Matt Viser reports from Oakland, Calif.: “Against a backdrop of giant American flags and, off to the side, flags from every state and territory, Harris spoke to a crowd estimated at 20,000 people that flooded a downtown square and spread into surrounding streets. Against the pomp, her message was blunt. ‘Too many unarmed black men and women are killed in America. Too many black and brown Americans are being locked up,’ she said, in what was a recurring theme throughout her 35-minute speech. ‘Our criminal justice system needs drastic repair. Let’s speak that truth.’ …
Harris, 54, framed her campaign as a response to President Trump, highlighting how he has divided the country and attempting to make the case that she would unite it. ‘People in power are trying to convince us that the villain in our American story is each other,’ she said. ‘But that is not our story. That is not who we are. That’s not our America. You see, our United States of America is not about us versus them. It’s about ‘we, the people.’’ She mocked Trump’s foreign policy: ‘We have foreign powers infecting the White House like malware.’ She ridiculed his immigration stance: ‘When we have children in cages, crying for their mothers and fathers, don’t you dare call that border security — that’s a human rights abuse. And that’s not our America.’ In implicit rebukes to a president known for falsehoods, she repeatedly said she would be an honest broker. ‘Seek truth, speak truth and fight for the truth,’ she said. …
Harris infused her speech with her biography — the daughter of a mother who emigrated from India and a father who emigrated from Jamaica, the first to research breast cancer and the second an economics professor … Polls have found that many Democratic voters have no clear view of who Harris is or what she stands for. So in addition to delivering a serving of her biography, she also sought to outline some of her agenda. She advocated a Medicare-for-all plan, a tax proposal that would reverse the Republican-passed tax cuts and instead provide middle-class families with tax breaks of up to $500 a month, making pre-K access universal and making college debt-free.”
-- “Harris has stoked a perception that she is not just an elite candidate, but among the Democratic front-runners — a designation that is loaded with both upside and danger in this very early stage of presidential jockeying,” the Los Angeles Times’s Melanie Mason and Mark Z. Barabak report: “The California senator and her campaign strategists aren’t yet declaring her the favorite. But her days-long debut, crafted for maximum impact, showed a desire to make a big and early splash.”
-- Howard Schultz told “60 Minutes” he is “seriously thinking of running for president” as an independent, stoking Democratic fears the former Starbucks chief executive could inadvertently help reelect Trump. Michael Scherer reports: “Democrats fear a credible third-party candidacy could allow Trump to win states he otherwise would have lost or push a decision on the election to the U.S. House, where Republicans currently have an advantage in the number of state delegations they control … As [presidential candidate Julián Castro and other Democrats] suggested, their worry is that a three-way race would split Trump’s opposition, while the president’s support would remain intact.”
-- CNN’s Jeff Zeleny reports that Hillary Clinton has been telling friends she has not totally closed the door on a 2020 campaign. “I'm told by three people that as recently as this week, she was telling people that look, given all this news from the indictments, particularly the Roger Stone indictment, she talked to several people, saying 'look, I'm not closing the doors to this,'" Zeleny said. But he added, “it does not mean that there's a campaign-in-waiting, or a plan in the works.” Another close Clinton friend told Zeleny that “it would surprise me greatly if she actually did it.”
-- Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper (D) returned to Iowa as he nears a final decision on launching a presidential bid. The Denver Post’s Nic Garcia reports: “Hickenlooper, the two-term governor who finished his term earlier this month, articulated his vision of governing that is based more on consensus building and less on conflict. At a house party in this Des Moines suburb, he also shared his personal and political biography while answering questions about health care, immigration and abortion rights. ‘I’m not just frustrated — I’m over-the-top angry about what’s happened to the country in such a short period of time,’ he said, adding: ‘I don’t think there is anyone else that can reliably — as I can — beat Donald Trump. … My whole public life has been about bringing people together.’”
-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is relying on her policy expertise to set herself apart from other presidential candidates. The New York Times’s Astead W. Herndon reports: “While other Democrats have focused on sweeping themes of unity or change ... Ms. Warren is making a personal and political wager that audiences care more about policy savvy than captivating oration. It is a bet intended to draw contrasts with [Trump], who rarely delves into policy, but also to put pressure on Democratic rivals. In what promises to be a nomination contest featuring many candidates with broadly similar ideologies, a strategy of highlighting even the smallest differences in policy could pay off, especially with liberal voters who want firm and thorough positions rather than squishy generalities that could be setups for compromise.”
-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has bragged about his collaboration with Democratic legislators as he eyes a primary challenge against Trump, but his tenure has included moments of divisive partisanship. Ovetta Wiggins and Arelis R. Hernández report: “He called political opponents ‘thugs,’ barred more than 450 critics from his official Facebook page and sometimes took credit for Democratic legislation he had initially opposed. Leading Democrats in Annapolis say the governor was easier to work with in the second half of his term, an evolution that could reflect the divisiveness in Washington or his gubernatorial reelection campaign.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Roger Stone dodged a question about whether he would consider cooperating with special counsel Bob Mueller after his indictment. From Elise Viebeck: “‘That’s a question that I’d have to determine after my attorneys have some discussion,’ the longtime Republican operative and friend of [Trump] told ABC’s ‘This Week’ on Sunday. ‘If there’s wrongdoing by other people in the campaign that I didn’t know about — which I know of none — but if there is, I would certainly testify honestly.’ Stone added that he would ‘also testify honestly about any other matter, including any communications with the president,’ but he said their discussions were ‘political in nature’ and denied ‘categorically’ that they spoke about Russia or Mueller’s investigation during or after the 2016 campaign. …
“Trump on Saturday night seemed to distance himself from Stone, tweeting: ‘Roger Stone didn’t even work for me anywhere near the Election!’ ‘What about the Fake and Unverified “Dossier,” a total phony conjob, that was paid for by Crooked Hillary to damage me and the Trump Campaign?’ he tweeted.”
-- It remains unclear why several of Trump’s former advisers felt compelled to lie to investigators about their activities during the 2016 campaign, Rosalind S. Helderman, Josh Dawsey and Matt Zapotosky report. “Did the president’s men lie to protect a still-hidden dark secret about the campaign’s interaction with Russia, engaging in a broad effort to obstruct the probe — one that included perhaps even Trump? Did they lie to avoid diminishing Trump’s victory by acknowledging Russia played a role in his election? Did they each lie for their own reasons, taking their cue from the president — who has told many whoppers of his own, including about Russia? Trump’s former campaign chairman, deputy campaign manager, former national security adviser, personal lawyer and a campaign foreign policy adviser have all been accused of lying to investigators exploring Russia activity. … The deception by Trump advisers that has led to guilty pleas so far does have a common throughline: Much of it centers on their interactions about Russia.”
-- Chris Christie claims in his new book the president and Jared Kushner thought firing Michael Flynn would end the “Russia thing.” The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman reports: “On Feb. 14, 2017, Mr. Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, had lunch scheduled with the president. It happened to be the day after Mr. Flynn — whom Mr. Christie did not back for the national security adviser role — was dismissed for lying to the vice president about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition. Mr. Kushner decided to attend. As Mr. Kushner tucked into his ‘typical salad,’ Mr. Christie wrote, the president said to him, ‘This Russia thing is all over now, because I fired Flynn.’ Mr. Christie said that he started laughing, and the president asked why. ‘“Sir,” I said, “this Russia thing is far from over,”’ Mr. Christie wrote. Mr. Trump responded: ‘What do you mean? Flynn met with the Russians. That was the problem. I fired Flynn. It’s over.’ Mr. Kushner added, ‘That’s right, firing Flynn ends the whole Russia thing.’ Mr. Christie, who wrote that it all sounded ‘naïve,’ recalled Mr. Kushner telling him that he was ‘crazy’ when he said they would most likely still be discussing the Russia issue in February 2018.”
-- The Treasury Department officially lifted sanctions on three companies owned by Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch and ally of Vladimir Putin. Jeanne Whalen reports: “Sanctions imposed last year against Deripaska himself will remain in force, as punishment for what Treasury has called his support for ‘the Kremlin’s global malign activities, including its attempts to subvert Western democracy.’ Treasury said it agreed to lift the company sanctions because Deripaska has reduced his ‘direct and indirect shareholding stake in these companies and severed his control.’ Deripaska’s stake in the holding company that controls [the aluminum company] Rusal — En Group — has been cut from 70 percent to 44.95 percent, En Group said Sunday.”
-- “After the sanctions were officially lifted, EN announced the appointment of seven new directors under the deal, including Christopher Bancroft Burnham, a banker who served on Mr. Trump’s State Department transition team and worked in George W. Bush’s State Department,” the New York Times’s Kenneth P. Vogel notes.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself interim president of Venezuela, greets supporters as he leaves a church in Caracas. (Fernando Llano/AP)
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Juan Guaidó, Venezuela's self-declared interim president, said the opposition is in talks with military and civilian officials to force out President Nicolás Maduro. Andreina Aponte, Anthony Faiola and Rachelle Krygier report: “Backed by the United States and a host of Latin American countries, Guaidó also said the opposition will test the socialist government by bringing in food aid to ease a crippling humanitarian crisis. Guaidó and his opposition are locked in a high-stakes play to drive Maduro from power. In Caracas, Maduro’s top brass and defense minister have sworn their allegiance to him. … Guaidó told The Post that talks with the military were proceeding behind the scenes. He also hailed a move on Saturday by Maduro’s former military attache in Washington to switch allegiance to Guaidó.”
-- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he has recently heard Trump weigh military intervention in Venezuela, according to Axios’s Jonathan Swan. “Graham, recalling his conversation with Trump, said: ‘He [Trump] said, “What do you think about using military force?” and I said, “Well, you need to go slow on that, that could be problematic.” And he said, “Well, I'm surprised, you want to invade everybody.”’ Graham laughed. ‘And I said, “I don't want to invade everybody, I only want to use the military when our national security interests are threatened.”’ … Venezuela is another case study of the new speed of Trump's foreign policy.”
-- The British Parliament’s maneuvers in reaction to Brexit have been shaped by the unconventional speakership of John Bercow. William Booth and Karla Adam report: “Prime Minister Theresa May’s government on Tuesday will face debate and votes on a raft of amendments allowed by Bercow that could change the trajectory of Brexit. It is entirely possible the members will vote to delay the scheduled March 29 departure date or even stop Britain leaving the European Union without a deal. Such wily moves are prized by the lowly backbenchers, whom Bercow has showered with attention, and by those who want Parliament to be more assertive in dealing with Downing Street. But he has upset traditionalists and is loathed by Brexiteers who believe he is working to undermine Britain’s departure from the E.U.”
-- Thousands wearing red scarves took to the streets of Paris to protest the “yellow vest” demonstrators. James McAuley reports: “Approximately 10,500 people marched in Paris on Sunday, according to police figures. That was more than twice the number that donned yellow vests in the capital the day before, when about 4,000 marched in Paris and 69,000 marched nationwide, according to the Interior Ministry. … On Sunday, a diverse crowd — many in ‘foulards rouges,’ or red scarves, their own attempt at branding — gathered to decry the violent scenes the [yellow vest] movement has inspired, including anti-Semitic words and gestures, physical attacks on French journalists and even an attempt to break into a government building, which led to the evacuation of a government minister.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump insisted he would build the wall:
After all that I have done for the Military, our great Veterans, Judges (99), Justices (2), Tax & Regulation Cuts, the Economy, Energy, Trade & MUCH MORE, does anybody really think I won’t build the WALL? Done more in first two years than any President! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2019
Meanwhile, the Texas Tribune corrected one of Trump's tweets on immigration:
1/ You might be seeing headlines or tweets tonight that claim Texas says 58,000 non-citizens have voted in Texas.
That is not true.
That is not what the state has said.
Here is what we know. #txlege https://t.co/wyvcrEDkmD
— Texas Tribune (@TexasTribune) January 26, 2019
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee hammered Trump for his Russia connections:
Donald Trump wanted Russian help to build a lucrative Trump Tower in Moscow.
His campaign wanted Russian help in the form of stolen emails and dirt on Hilary Clinton.
And the Russians wanted Trump’s help in removing sanctions.
The convergence of interests is hard to ignore. pic.twitter.com/EfL48B3HNB
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) January 27, 2019
Kamala Harris's communications director loaned her boss something that once belonged to her grandmother Ann Richards, the former governor of Texas:
Loaned @KamalaHarris a speech box for today for good luck pic.twitter.com/YfcVzjMh9K
— Lily Adams (@adamslily) January 27, 2019
Harris's husband tweeted photos from the launch:
Wow. What an amazing day! pic.twitter.com/htd1Z6tHdN
— Douglas Emhoff (@douglasemhoff) January 27, 2019
An LA Times writer noted this of Harris's launch:
Fun fact: In Oakand, where @KamalaHarris is formally launching her presidential candidacy, Donald Trump received less than 5% of the vote. That's right, less than 5%.
— Mark Z. Barabak (@markzbarabak) January 27, 2019
Another 2020 candidate emphasized her consistent voting record against Trump:
I’ve voted against @realDonaldTrump more than anyone else. The reason is simple: When someone is clearly more interested in looking out for special interests than the American people, I vote no—and when their proposals would hurt people, I vote no. That’s it.
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) January 26, 2019
Howard Schultz looked ahead to 2020:
It feels good to be here. My hope is to share my truth, listen to yours, build trust, and focus on things that can make us better.
— Howard Schultz (@HowardSchultz) January 27, 2019
And many people asked him to reconsider. From a Democratic congressman:
Howard Schultz is Ralph Nader with money and coffee. If he ran it would be the best thing possible for Donald Trump. I urge him, for the good of the country, to reconsider this bad idea.
— US Rep Brendan Boyle (@RepBrendanBoyle) January 28, 2019
From an Obama-era NSC spokesman:
We wanted the Peet’s guy to help re-elect Trump
— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) January 27, 2019
From a columnist for Canada's Globe and Mail:
No one wants you. The only thing you will unite this country in is a mass boycott of Starbucks.
— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) January 28, 2019
Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw apologized after saying that Hispanics need to "work harder at assimilation" in the United States:
i feel terrible a part of my comments on Hispanics offended some members of that proud culture
— Tom Brokaw (@tombrokaw) January 27, 2019
He later expanded upon the apology:
my twitter acct failed me at the worst time.
i am sorry, truly sorry, my comments were offensive to
many. the great enduring american tradition of diversity is to be celebrated and cherished. yamiche, thank u for your comments.
let’s go forward together.
— Tom Brokaw (@tombrokaw) January 28, 2019
But the National Association of Hispanic Journalists found Brokaw's remorse to be lacking and applauded his colleague who challenged the remarks:
NAHJ applauds @NewsHour Correspondent @Yamiche & political contributor to @NBCNews/@MSNBC for fact checking the false remarks#MediaDiversity #MoreLatinosInNewshttps://t.co/gdbYA9QkiO
— NAHJ (@NAHJ) January 28, 2019
From the founder of the website Latino Rebels:
But with that said, what @tombrokaw said on national TV today was hard to watch and absorb. It really was a punch in the gut to a lot of people. It was not only factually incorrect, it was also xenophobia in action. Hope @MeetThePress addresses this.
— Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77) January 27, 2019
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) added this:
You know what was missing from these disappointing comments by @TomBrokaw? We all need to work on meeting each other halfway, learning to live together harmoniously, loving one another and weaving our beautiful American tapestry. Por eso estoy aprendiendo español! #EPluribusUnum https://t.co/SlnLUz17mU
— Debbie Wasserman Schultz (@DWStweets) January 28, 2019
Hillary Clinton appeared in Puerto Rico for a meeting on hurricane recovery efforts:
In Puerto Rico for CGI’s 5th Action Network meeting with @BillClinton. Kicked off the week by going to see @Lin_Manuel & the incredible cast of Hamilton perform to benefit the hurricane recovery efforts.
We. Had. The. Best. Time. pic.twitter.com/4A3waBYQlX
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 28, 2019
A presidential historian looked back on a White House birthday party:
FDR (born this week 1882) played Caesar at his private White House 52nd birthday toga party: #FDRL pic.twitter.com/1x36u9LBIg
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) January 27, 2019
And the pope reflected on social media influencers:
With her “yes”, Mary became the most influential woman in history. Without social networks, she became the first “influencer”: the “influencer” of God. #Panama2019
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) January 27, 2019
GOOD READS:
-- “‘Want to see the Lincoln bedroom?’: Trump relishes role as White House tour guide,” by Josh Dawsey: “When [Trump] brings senators, New York friends or other guests to the Oval Office, he occasionally opens a door near his desk summoning guests to follow. Flashing a grin, he wants his friends to see where Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton reportedly began their sexual encounters. … Three other people who have embarked on a tour with Trump say he has made similar comments regarding Clinton and Lewinsky, laughing and making facial expressions. The subject often leads to lengthy, sometimes crass conversations, aides say. Often spending days ensconced in the presidential residence, Trump relishes giving tours to acquaintances and strangers by the hundreds, bragging all the while about improving it while he lives there, according to nearly a dozen visitors and current and former White House aides.”
-- Vanity Fair, “‘Like an Alien Landed in the Middle of Los Angeles’: Hope Hicks, West Wing Alum, Begins her Second Act on the West Coast,” by Emily Jane Fox: “After years in the Trump orbit, Hicks has entered a brave new world of Murdochs, fussy trade reporters, and Los Angeles semiotics. Can she shed her Trump baggage? ‘People don’t stay in Hollywood jail forever,’ says one entertainment executive.”
-- New York Times, “Elite Law Firm’s All-White Partner Class Stirs Debate on Diversity,” by Noam Scheiber and John Eligon: “The post appeared on LinkedIn in early December: Paul, Weiss, one of the country’s most prominent and profitable law firms, said it was ‘pleased to announce’ its new partner class. In the image, 12 lawyers looked out at the world, grinning. What followed, however, was nothing to smile about. In short order, people across the industry began to comment that all of the faces were white, and only one was a woman’s. … Diversity remains an unfulfilled promised in a variety of elite industries, including tech and finance as well as at big media companies like The New York Times.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Duke professor warns Chinese students: Speak English on campus or face ‘unintended consequences,’” from Amy B Wang: “The sender was Megan Neely, an assistant professor at Duke and then-director of graduate studies in the biostatistics department. The message was addressed to all first- and second-year biostatistics graduate students at the North Carolina university. Neely said in the email that two faculty members had visited her office earlier that day, asking for pictures of biostatistics graduate students. She said she obliged, then asked why they wanted to know. According to Neely, her colleagues wanted to identify students they had observed ‘speaking Chinese (in their words, VERY LOUDLY)’ in the student lounge and study areas. … Neely underlined the next part of her email in bold: ‘They were disappointed that these students were not taking the opportunity to improve their English and were being so impolite as to have a conversation that not everyone on the floor could understand.’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Model Opens Up About Supporting Trump, Working on 2016 Campaign: 'He Made Me Feel Like I Had a Voice,’” from Fox News: “A model who has appeared in Maxim magazine is opening up about what she says was a secret from her fashion industry colleagues. Elizabeth Pipko told the New York Post she no longer wants to be silent about her support for [Trump] and working full-time on his 2016 campaign. ‘I was terrified they would find out that I was one of the so-called evil people,’ she told the outlet. Pipko, 23, said Sunday on Fox & Friends that she thought it was time to defend her support of Trump, along with his millions of supporters. ‘I think what was most important was that [Trump] was getting young people to vote. He made me feel like I had a voice,’ she said. … She also said she's received negative reaction to the article revealing her support, and that she is unsure if she'll ever model again. Working on Trump's presidential campaign, Pipko added, was one of the biggest honors and achievements of her life.”
DAYBOOK:
Trump will have lunch with Pence. He has no other events on his public schedule.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: 
“I will be happy to testify if — I would suspect to be subpoenaed. And I will let the testimony fall wherever it falls. I'm going to tell the truth, to the best of my ability.” — Conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi on testifying against Roger Stone. (Politico)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It will be cold today, but temperatures will drop further starting tomorrow with the arrival of an arctic front. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “No concerns about today — the quietest weather day of the workweek. We’ll have sunshine and seasonably cold temperatures — with highs near 40. Winds are variable and mostly light.”
-- The Wizards lost to the Spurs 132-119. Washington has lost 19 straight road games to San Antonio, a losing streak stretching back to 2001. (Candace Buckner)
-- Virginia teachers plan to march to the Capitol in Richmond today. Debbie Truong reports: “The rally, organized by the grass-roots group Virginia Educators United, is expected to mark the latest example of educators taking to the streets to protest a lack of money for public schools. The demands animating the Virginia march have been at the heart of teacher strikes and walkouts elsewhere, including Los Angeles, West Virginia, Oklahoma and North Carolina: boosting teacher pay, recruiting and retaining teachers, providing money for building needs and bolstering school support staff. Unlike in other states, the Virginia march is not expected to extend into a days-long walkout or strike.”
-- A D.C. man was charged with felony dog fighting after authorities discovered 12 dogs and an alligator in his Congress Heights home. Ann E. Marimow reports: “A total of 12 dogs — six adults and six puppies — were recovered. Four had scarring consistent with fighting, according to the warrant, and one was found with a canine tooth from another dog lodged in her leg.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Steve Martin appeared on SNL to impersonate Roger Stone:

"Weekend Update" mocked Trump's handling of the shutdown:

Kamala Harris released this video about her mother's influence as she launched her presidential campaign:
My mother was the greatest source of inspiration in my life. She taught me that I had a responsibility to fight for justice. pic.twitter.com/6hdOlziByF
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 26, 2019
Elizabeth Warren shared a clip from a town hall appearance in New Hampshire:
I’ve been in this fight for pretty much my whole life – not because it poll-tested well, but because it’s clear that we’ve got to level the playing field for working people. It’s going to take all of us to make real change. pic.twitter.com/vA0CVMcHVJ
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) January 27, 2019
And one freshman congressman asked for dancing tips from one of his freshman classmates:
I've been learning a lot in just three weeks on this job. Sadly dancing didn't make the list. ⁦@AOC⁩ got any tips? pic.twitter.com/rbcZZ1ADSD
— Rep. Max Rose (@RepMaxRose) January 26, 2019

 Source: The Washington Post

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