The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms




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The tenor of the Democratic primary race is growing increasingly nasty as candidates barnstorm Nevada, along with other upcoming primary states, and try to prevent Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSome Sanders top allies have urged him to withdraw from 2020 race: report We're at war and need wartime institutions to keep our economy producing what's necessary Larry David: Bernie Sanders should drop out of 2020 race MORE (I-Vt.) from taking home Saturday night’s caucuses. 


Four days out from the Nevada caucuses, Sanders has emerged as the favorite after two top-two performances in Iowa and New Hampshire as he consolidates progressive support behind his bid. Sanders leads in two polls taken over the past week — one showing him leading the field by 7 points, the other by 19 points — forcing his rivals to target his campaign in a bid to move up in the field. 


One opportunity will present itself on Wednesday night as candidates convene in Las Vegas for the eighth Democratic debate, which Niall Stanage writes about in his latest memo. With less than 24 hours until the participants are nailed down, six candidates are slated to be on the stage: Sanders, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSome Sanders top allies have urged him to withdraw from 2020 race: report Sunday shows preview: As coronavirus spreads in the U.S., officials from each sector of public life weigh in Trump defends firing of intel watchdog, calling him a 'disgrace' MORE, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg launches new PAC to aid down-ballot candidates HuffPost political reporter on why Bernie fell way behind Biden Economists fear slow pace of testing will prolong recession MORE, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog Biden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill MORE (D-Mass.), Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBiden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats Democrats fear coronavirus impact on November turnout Hillicon Valley: Zoom draws new scrutiny amid virus fallout | Dems step up push for mail-in voting | Google to lift ban on political ads referencing coronavirus MORE (D-Minn.) and former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergFormer Bloomberg staffer seeks class-action lawsuit over layoffs Bloomberg spent over 0M on presidential campaign The Hill's Campaign Report: Officials in spotlight over coronavirus response MORE, who will be making his first debate appearance of the 2020 cycle.  


The billionaire businessman nabbed his final qualifying poll on Tuesday morning -- 19 percent in an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll -- with his team confirming that he will be in Las Vegas on Wednesday night (NBC News). 


“Since Mike launched his campaign 13 weeks ago, he's met with voters in 25 states and 62 cities. Our crowds continue to grow, and our coalition continues to broaden. There’s a desire in every corner of this country for a proven leader, for someone who will stand up to bullies and special interests and get things done,” said campaign manager Kevin Sheekey in a statement. “That person is Mike Bloomberg, and we look forward to more Americans seeing that on Wednesday night.”


Bloomberg’s participation will mark a major turning point in the race as his chances and support levels continue to rise (along with the betting odds) ahead of Super Tuesday. 


Tomorrow’s debate will also mark his first real involvement in any part of the primary process since he launched his quixotic bid in November, having spent north of $300 million thus far. Additionally, while he’ll be on the debate stage, he is not competing in Nevada or any of the first four nominating contests. 


Outside of Sanders, no one else in the field has received more attacks in recent days than Bloomberg, who Sanders has accused of trying to buy the primary and will almost certainly be the focus of derision of many in the Democratic field on Wednesday. Bloomberg decided to return fire on Monday, hitting Sanders in a video showing threatening tweets aimed at the former mayor and others in the 2020 field.


“We need to unite to defeat Trump in November. This type of ‘energy’ is not going to get us there,” Bloomberg tweeted. His team added that Sanders is taking a page from President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report MORE’s playbook to take down the former mayor. 


The Hill: Sanders responds to Bloomberg criticism with photo of former mayor golfing with Trump.


The Associated Press: One thing unites establishment Democrats: Fear of Sanders. 


The Wall Street Journal: Democrats storm Nevada ahead of high-stakes caucuses.


Amie Parnes, The Hill: Candidates in Obama's orbit fail to capitalize on personal ties.


With Nevada the immediate prize, Democratic candidates have been forced to tailor messages to a more diverse electorate. As of Monday, four candidates had launched Spanish-language ads in Nevada, with Klobuchar the latest to do so. 


Meanwhile, the early voting period in the Battle Born State kicked off on Saturday. According to the Nevada Democratic Party, more than 26,000 individuals cast votes during the first two days, with more than half of those who voted on Saturday being first-time caucus-goers (The Associated Press).


The Associated Press: Pete Buttigieg’s next test: Winning over minority voters.


The Washington Post: The presidential contest turns to African American and Latino voters. For some candidates, that’s a problem.


The Hill: Tech for Nevada caucuses under scrutiny after Iowa debacle.


The field will also take part in CNN town halls tonight and Thursday. Sanders, Buttigieg and Klobuchar will appear tonight, while Biden and Warren will do so on night two.


On the other side of the aisle, the president is also spending much of his week out West for a number of political events. Along with a fundraising swing in Los Angeles today, he is slated to hold campaign rallies on Wednesday (Phoenix), Thursday (Colorado Springs) and Friday (Las Vegas). Additionally, Vice President Pence will campaign on Friday in Reno and Las Vegas.


The Hill: Democrats worried about Trump's growing strength.


The New York Times: Elizabeth Warren’s allies claim “erasure” as they seek to reignite campaign.





WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The Trump administration, eager to limit China’s access to chip technology and to thwart Chinese telecom giant Huawei, is considering trade restrictions on China to be issued through the Commerce Department that would limit the use of U.S. chip-making equipment (The Wall Street Journal). American chip-manufacturing tool makers, such as Applied Materials Inc. and Lam Research Corp., both in California, are among the largest equipment suppliers in the industry. 


Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor Pelosi, Democrats using coronavirus to push for big tax cuts for blue state residents US watchdog vows 'aggressive' oversight after intel official fired MORE (D-Calif.), speaking to NATO in Brussels on Monday, said no U.S. ally should allow Huawei into their next-generation cellular networks (The Associated Press).


> Justice Department: Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrDecentralized leadership raises questions about Trump coronavirus response Feds distributing masks, other gear seized in price-gouging investigation to NY, NJ health care workers The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - All eyes on today's unemployment numbers MORE, who has expressed sympathy and irritation with Trump’s ire over federal investigations that touched on his actions and those of many associates, surprised some in Washington with reports of his assignments to U.S. attorneys to investigate the investigators. Barr has ordered prosecutors around the country to quietly retrace threads of the government’s Russia probe, including indictments brought following the investigation of former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE and his team. 


Examples: Barr assigned Pittsburgh U.S. Attorney Scott Brady to serve as the intake portal for information funneled to the United States from sources in Ukraine, including information about Biden and his son Hunter Biden gathered by Trump attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiSunday shows preview: As coronavirus spreads in the U.S., officials from each sector of public life weigh in Biden campaign blasts Twitter for refusing to sanction retaliatory 'hoax' Trump ad Google to spend .5 million in fight against coronavirus misinformation MORE; U.S. Attorney John DurhamJohn DurhamTrump tweets test Attorney General Barr The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms A tale of two lies: Stone, McCabe and the danger of a double standard for justice MORE in Connecticut has been working since last year to review the U.S. Russia probe that began when Trump was a candidate up until the time of his inauguration; U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen in Missouri is tasked with reviewing the criminal case against Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, reportedly coordinating with the lead federal prosecutor in the case, Brandon Van Grack. Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his communications with a Russian ambassador (Fox News).


Former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Guidance on masks is coming The Hill's Campaign Report: Coronavirus forces Democrats to postpone convention Roy Moore to advise Louisiana pastor arrested for allegedly defying ban on large gatherings MORE, now a Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, in 2018 assigned U.S. Attorney John Huber in Utah to fully examine the concerns of GOP lawmakers about the government’s Russia probe (The Associated Press).


Since last week, following Barr’s involvement in his department’s sentencing disagreement with lead prosecutors in the case of Trump ally Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneJuan Williams: Mueller, one year on House Judiciary Committee postpones hearing with Barr amid coronavirus outbreak Trump 'strongly considering' full pardon for Flynn MORE, who was convicted on seven felony counts, more than 2,000 former Justice Department officials called for the attorney general’s resignation. They argue that Barr has eroded the independence of the department from political pressures, complicating the rendering of justice without fear or favor in America (ABC News). 


> U.S. Digital Service: The Trump administration embraces at least one innovation held over from the Obama era: a Peace Corps esque initiative that recruits private-sector tech experts to help the government solve thorny problems and projects. Recruiting is ongoing for two-year stints to find coders, programmers and software engineers who can make the government more user-friendly for a tech-savvy U.S. public. One influential backer behind the Digital Service is White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerPrivate equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report Decentralized leadership raises questions about Trump coronavirus response Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill MORE (The Associated Press). 


> Intelligence community: A CIA employee who was granted formal whistleblower status last year could be subpoenaed to testify by GOP senators who want to question him about his complaint that launched the House impeachment inquiry into Trump’s actions and helped trigger two impeachment charges. The simmering tensions about the anonymous whistleblower, whom the president says he’d like to punish, pose additional challenges for the executive branch and Congress (The Hill). 


> Beware the insiders (and authors): Former White House national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonChina sees chance to expand global influence amid pandemic Trump ignores science at our peril Bolton defends decision to shutter NSC pandemic office MORE, speaking Monday night at a public event at Duke University, promoted his pending book, which he said is still undergoing government scrutiny and contains revelations that go beyond Trump and Ukraine. “This is an effort to write history and I did it the best I can. We’ll have to see what comes out of the censorship,” Bolton said. “I hope it’s not suppressed” (The New York Times). The president’s former adviser will deliver a lecture on Wednesday at Vanderbilt University along with his Obama-era counterpart, Susan Rice. 





INTERNATIONAL: Confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States nearly doubled to 29 on Monday after the evacuation over the weekend of Americans from a cruise ship docked in viral limbo in Japan.


Fourteen of the 300 passengers flown by the U.S. government to military bases in California and on to Nebraska for two weeks of quarantine were discovered to be asymptomatic but infected with COVID-19. They will remain in isolation for monitoring and any necessary treatment (The New York Times). 


On the quarantined ship still stuck near Tokyo, 88 more cases of the virus were reported today, bringing the total cases aboard the Diamond Princess to 542. It’s the largest spread outside of China (The Associated Press).


As of this morning, there are at least 73,336 cases of the virus worldwide and 1,874 deaths, according to the latest data. Researchers, who remain vigilant about the advent of a pandemic involving spread on continents with less sophisticated medical systems, are watchful as Africa reported a confirmed case in Egypt. A new report published Saturday in The Lancet described preparations to combat the virus in Africa as of late January.


In China, Liu Zhiming, 51, the hospital director in Wuhan and a neurologist, is yet another fatality there (The Washington Post).


Due to coronavirus fears, China may postpone its annual congress in March, the largest political gathering of the year (The Associated Press). And with similar caution, Japanese organizers say the March 1 Tokyo marathon will shrink from 38,000 participants to just 176 elite runners (The Associated Press and The Guardian). 


Following weeks of official Japanese insistence that the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo beginning July 24 are not threatened by COVID-19, some international sports competitions are being moved and others canceled because of fears tied to the virus (International Business Times).


The Associated Press: Apple Inc. warned investors on Monday that the coronavirus will cut iPhone production and sales. China is Apple’s third largest retail market for iPhones, after the United States and Europe.





> Down Under & autos: General Motors is restructuring to emphasize profit-making over market expansion by shuttering operations in Australia and New Zealand and selling its Thai plant to a Chinese company. GM is now concentrating on markets in the United States, China, Latin America and South Korea (Reuters). 


> European Union & AI: Days before the 27-member bloc is expected to release tough new proposals on regulating artificial intelligence, Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Trump, telecom executives talk coronavirus response | Pelosi pushes funding for mail-in voting | New York AG wants probe into firing of Amazon worker | Marriott hit by another massive breach As misinformation surges, coronavirus poses AI challenge Zuckerberg, Gates team up to contribute M for research into coronavirus treatments MORE met top European Union officials on a visit to Brussels on Monday (The Associated Press). 


> Arab world & nuclear power: The United Arab Emirates on Monday issued a license for the first commercial nuclear power plant to be built in an Arab nation (The Hill).  

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


Why don’t we know which Democratic candidate can beat Trump? by Adam Jentleson, former deputy chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidGOP embraces big stimulus after years of decrying it Five Latinas who could be Biden's running mate Winners and losers from Super Tuesday MORE (D-Nev.), opinion contributor, The New York Times.


It’s Sanders versus Biden in Nevada, by Steve Sebelius, columnist, Las Vegas Review-Journal.


The House meets at 10:30 a.m. in a pro forma session and returns to legislative work on Feb. 25.


The Senate will convene for a pro forma session on Thursday at 2:30 p.m and return from recess on Feb. 24. 


The president will fly to Los Angeles to meet with the organizing committee for the 2028 Olympics in Beverly Hills and to participate in a roundtable with political supporters. Trump also will attend a joint fundraising committee dinner there as part of a three-day, four-state swing through Western states. He will fly to Las Vegas and remain overnight (KTLA5).


Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump says 40,000 Americans have been repatriated who were stranded abroad US should adopt a Marshall Plan for Ethiopia Tired of worrying about the pandemic? There's always Pyongyang MORE traveled this morning to meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew, followed by a meeting with Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde. Pompeo will meet with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and attend a working lunch with Ahmed. This afternoon, the secretary will meet with the Inter-Religious Council and then with U.S. embassy staff along with the U.S. Mission to the African Union. Later, Pompeo will meet with African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat and join Prime Minister Andargachew during a joint press conference. Pompeo will continue his travel this week with stops in Saudi Arabia, and Oman, returning to the United States on Saturday.


You’re invited to The Hill’s upcoming newsmaker events:

Building the Dream: Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, with Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, Rep. Alma AdamsAlma Shealey AdamsOvernight Health Care: Trump triggers emergency powers in coronavirus fight | McConnell sets first stimulus vote for Sunday | Five sticking points for stimulus talks | Treasury delays tax filing deadline | Dems push insurers to cover virus tests House chairman calls on Trump administration to appoint medical supply coordinator Biden cinches support from third NC House Democrat MORE (D-N.C.), state Sen. Paul Newton (R) and others to discuss financial hurdles to homeownership. Join live in Charlotte or join the livestream.


America's Opioid Epidemic: Lessons Learned & A Way Forward, Feb. 26, in Washington, exploring access to treatment for opioid addiction and recovery issues with Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Rep. David JoyceDavid Patrick JoyceBoeing suspends Washington production, GE Aviation lays off thousands Mnuchin details IRS challenges with cash-only marijuana businesses Democrat: Lawmakers need to approach opioid crisis as 'a chronic situation' MORE (R-Ohio) and Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoBottom Line Trump administration expected to roll back Obama-era mileage standards As we face coronavirus battle, we must ensure critical supplies of respirators for health care workers MORE (D-N.Y.). RSVP today


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State watch: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Monday lost his bid to ban the sale of assault weapons because some of his fellow Democrats shelved the idea for a year and opted to seek a study (The Associated Press). Separately, Northam released a plan last week to protect seabirds’ habitat along Virginia’s coast following the federal rollback of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and changes produced along the coast by transportation construction ( … In Florida, Miami’s City Commission voted unanimously last week to “humanely” remove wild peacocks in the Coconut Grove neighborhood to relocate them to a sanctuary. The birds’ shrieking and property destruction became too much for residents, especially during mating season (Miami Herald).


Tech: Redbox, the DVD rental service best known for its kiosks, has officially joined the party and launched a streaming service. The company added a “Free Live TV” tab to its website, including a tab featuring shows such as “Family Feud” and “Forensic Files,” among other items as it is rolled out to various streaming avenues such as Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast. The launch comes after attempts to launch a streaming service in 2013 (The Hill).


Fast laps around the track: NASCAR’s Daytona 500 — postponed from Sunday because of rain but accessorized by the vote-wooing presence of Trump, Air Force One and the president’s gleaming black limousine — was won on Monday by Denny Hamlin. NASCAR boasted a record of $23.6 million for the 40 drivers racing in this year’s Florida event (ESPN). A fiery crash on the last lap injured driver Ryan Newman, who is expected to recover (NBC News).





And finally … lost and found! “Portrait of a Young Woman,” painted in 1632, was bequeathed in 1961 to the Allentown Art Museum in Pennsylvania as a coveted Rembrandt. A decade later, experts downgraded the painting’s provenance to be the skilled work of one of the artist’s assistants. Buried for years under yellowing layers of varnish, the portrait underwent a recent two-year restoration and reexamination using the latest technology and experts reversed course and agreed the 400-year-old painting is the real thing. Rembrandt’s mastery, currently in the museum’s vault, will go on display on June 7 (The Associated Press).





And speaking of Rembrandt ... Washington’s National Gallery of Art has been reunited with “Philemon and Baucis,” which was painted in 1658 by the artist and loaned by the museum to the Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London. In November, an unidentified criminal stole the work by Rembrandt as well as another masterpiece that belonged to the Louvre in Paris and tried to make a midnight getaway. Chased by Dulwich security guards, the thief dumped the paintings on the museum grounds and escaped. Until a few weeks ago, no one revealed which two paintings had been snatched (Southwark News).