What to Know in Washington: Sanders Joins Growing 2020 Field

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Bernie Sanders, the runner up to Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, announced today he will seek the nomination again in 2020.

“I think the current occupant of the White House is an embarrassment to our country. I think he is a pathological liar,” Sanders said in an interview with Vermont Public Radio. “I also think he is a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, somebody who is gaining cheap political points by trying to pick on minorities, often undocumented immigrants.”

“What I promise to do is, as I go around the country, is to take the values that all of us in Vermont are proud of — a belief in justice, in community, in grassroots politics, in town meetings — that’s what I’m going to carry all over this country,” he said.

The independent Vermont senator is set for a nationally televised interview this morning, with “CBS This Morning” teasing what it calls a “revealing interview” with Sanders.

Sanders starts a presidential bid with a long list of potential advantages, not least of which include a massive email list of supporters, a proven track record of small-dollar fundraising, and veteran aides who three years ago helped chart a path to victory in key states like New Hampshire, Derek Wallbank reports.

For all his successes three years ago, 2020 will be a very different campaign cycle. Many former Sanders supporters and aides are looking at other options in a diverse field of Democrats that could top 20 well-known names, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Read more from Kathleen Hunter and Derek Wallbank.


Photographer: Bridget Bennett/Bloomberg
Sanders at a campaign rally for then-Rep. Jacky Rosen in Nevada in October.

Warren’s Child Care Plan: Warren will unveil a universal child care plan today aimed at limiting American families’ expenses to 7 percent of income regardless of how many children they have in care. The Massachusetts senator’s plan would make child care free for families under 200 percent of the poverty level, according to a person familiar with the plan. Other families would pay between nothing and 7 percent of income, depending on how much they earn.

The proposal marks the latest policy entry into a 2020 contest that features scores of progressive Democrats competing over how best to mitigate income inequality and expand the economic safety net for working families. Americans pay nearly as much for child care as they do for rent, with the average cost of child care in the U.S. approaching $1,400 a month, according to a 2018 HotPads analysis of a Care.com state and metro area pricing index. Read more from Sahil Kapur.

Brown Pushes Medicare at 50: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), another potential 2020 contender, defended his push to allow Americans over 50 years old to buy into Medicare, rather than seeking universal government coverage as some progressive Democrats advocate, and said the odds of him running for president are about 50-50. “Probably, more or less,” Brown said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “I don’t know, 50-50, 51-49.”

Brown and other Democratic senators introduced a bill last week that would allow Americans over 50 years old to buy into Medicare, the federal health insurance program that currently provides coverage for those 65 and older. While some other leading Democrats are pushing for a “Medicare-for-all” plan with government coverage for all Americans, Brown said on CNN that’s difficult to achieve, and would take a while. “I support universal coverage,” Brown said. “But I want to help people now.” Read more from Hailey Waller.

Gillibrand Knocks Amazon: Another Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), said Amazon “never intended to invest in New York” and declined to distance herself from progressives who have expressed satisfaction that the company canceled plans to build a massive corporate campus there. “All they were looking for were massive tax break to continue to have record profits,” she told reporters after a campaign event last night in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “The fact that Jeff Bezos wanted our taxpayers to pay for his helicopter landing pad just shows how disingenuous he w as from the beginning.” Read more from John McCormick.

States, Lawmakers Push Back on Trump Emergency Order

California sued to block President Donald Trump from diverting funds to pay for the wall, joined by more than a dozen states who say the move exceeds the power of his office.

Trump on Friday issued the emergency to divert certain military funding for wall construction, after Congress approved only $1.375 billion of the $5.7 billion he sought in a bipartisan budget bill to avoid a second partial government shutdown.

The group of 16 states allege the president’s declaration violates the Constitution’s separation of powers doctrine by ignoring Congress’s decision not to authorize more than $1.35 billion for border security. The Constitution gives Congress the right to allocate or not allocate money for certain discretionary programs.

The states are asking a judge to impede Trump’s emergency declaration and prohibit the administration from diverting funds toward building a border wall and from constructing a border wall without funds from Congress for that purpose. The suit follows at least two complaints filed on Friday by Texas landowners along the border and in El Paso County, citing similar constitutional violations. Read more from Kartikay Mehrotra.

Lawmakers React: Meanwhile, Congress is still mulling its own legal and legislative options to challenge the president. House Democrats could pass a resolution opposing the declaration as soon as they return next week, and Democrats in the Senate, while in the minority, could force a vote on it.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) both said on ABC’s “This Week” that they expect a resolution in Congress opposing Trump’s order to have enough votes to pass their respective chambers by simple majorities.

Jordan said that while he thinks the resolutions will pass, “when the president will veto them, I don’t think there’s any chance that the veto will be overridden.” Duckworth also questioned whether a Trump veto could be challenged.

“Now, whether we have enough for an override and veto, that’s a different story,” Duckworth said. “But frankly, I think there’s enough people in the Senate who are concerned that what he’s doing is robbing from the military.” Read more from Mark Niquette and Christopher Condon.

Russia Probe

Trump wanted the Russia investigation cited in the memo firing FBI Director James Comey, and believed Russia’s president over his own intelligence agencies about North Korea’s missile capability, former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said.

McCabe said in a pre-recorded interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” broadcast on Sunday that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein didn’t want to include a reference to the Russia investigation in the memo he wrote citing reasons why Comey should be fired, but that Trump insisted.

Rosenstein “explained to the president that he did not need Russia in his memo. And the president responded, ‘I understand that, I am asking you to put Russia in the memo anyway,’ ” McCabe said. In the end, Rosenstein didn’t mention Russia in the memo, but Trump made the connection anyway, in a subsequent interview with NBC’s Lester Holt.

The network had previously released parts of the interview, including an excerpt in which McCabe said Rosenstein discussed how many members of Trump’s Cabinet might support removing the president as being unfit under the U.S. Constitution’s 25th Amendment, Rosenstein offering to wear a “wire” to talk to Trump, and McCabe’s immediate actions to protect the Russia probe after Trump fired Comey. Read more from Tom Schoenberg.

Graham Promises Hearings: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he could subpoena Rosenstein and McCabe for a hearing to explore allegations they discussed whether Trump should be removed. “There’s an allegation by the acting FBI director at the time that the deputy attorney general was basically trying to do an administrative coup, take the president down,” Graham, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in an interview broadcast on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday.

“We will have a hearing about who’s telling the truth, what actually happened,” he said. Asked whether he would subpoena McCabe and Rosenstein to appear if necessary, Graham said, “How can I not, if that’s what it takes?” Read more from Mark Niquette.

Movers & Shakeups

Rosenstein’s Replacement: Rosenstein has told colleagues he plans to leave his position in mid-March, ABC News reported, citing a department official familiar with the matter. Deputy Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Rosen is Attorney General William Barr’s top pick to become deputy attorney general, replacing Rosenstein, The Washington Post reports. An official nomination could come as early as this week.

UN Job Contenders: Trump is considering four people to be his next UN ambassador: Goldman Sachs partner Dina Powell; the current ambassadors to Canada and Germany, Kelly Craft and Richard Grenell; and John James, a former Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Michigan, according to people familiar with the matter. Top White House aides have also discussed nominating Trump’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump if no front-runner emerges.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert withdrew her nomination to replace former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in the job, partly due to issues that arose around a nanny Nauert once employed. The nanny was a legal U.S. immigrant but wasn’t authorized to work, according to two people familiar with the matter. Read more from Jennifer Jacobs.

What Else to Know Today

Space Policy: Trump plans to sign a space policy directive at the White House today, according to White House guidance. Trump will also meet today with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, according to the White House.

Trump Calls for End to Maduro Regime: Trump called on the Venezuelan military to drop its support for Nicolas Maduro in a Miami speech yesterday critical of socialism, previewing attacks he may deploy against Democrats in his re-election campaign. “The twilight hour of socialism has arrived in our hemisphere and frankly in many, many places around the world,” Trump said to an audience at Florida International University. “The days of socialism and communism are numbered, not only in Venezuela but in Nicaragua and in Cuba as well.”

Republicans have portrayed Democratic proposals to expand government-run health insurance programs and combat climate change as socialist, and Trump used Maduro’s example in his State of the Union speech earlier this month to caution against the perils of socialism and the policies of U.S. liberals. In his speech yesterday, Trump didn’t directly link socialism to the Democratic party or any of its politicians, but he repeatedly vowed to keep the ideology from taking hold.

“This will never happen to us,” Trump said. “Socialism is a sad and discredited ideology, rooted in the total ignorance of history and human nature, which is why socialism eventually must always give rise to tyranny, which it does.” Read more from Margaret Talev.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said Trump is out of touch with most U.S. citizens when it comes to democratic standards and values. “While this administration hasn’t prioritized support for democracy and human rights, we must not lose heart and we must not lose focus,” Menendez said during a speech to the German Marshall Fund in Brussels. “On this issue the administration does not speak for and does not represent all Americans, or even most Americans.” Read more from Richard Bravo.

Ginsburg to Return to Bench: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is expected to sit for a U.S. Supreme Court argument today for the first time since she underwent surgery in December to remove cancerous masses from one of her lungs. Ginsburg’s presence will be a relief to liberals worried about any prospect that the 85-year-old justice might have to step down and give President Donald Trump a third Supreme Court vacancy to fill.

Ginsburg has been working from home while recovering from the operation. She missed two weeks of arguments in January — a first for her — but is taking part in those cases by using the briefs and transcripts, court officials have said. She attended a private conference at the court with her fellow justices on Friday, the same day that the court agreed to decide whether the Trump administration can ask about citizenship on the 2020 census. Read more from Greg Stohr.

U.S.-China Trade Talks: Chinese and U.S. trade negotiators will start the next round of talks this week in Washington, after discussions in Beijing last week that Trump called “very productive.” The talks will begin today, White House Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, with Vice Premier Liu He then meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday and Friday, according to a statement from China’s Commerce Ministry.

The talks are picking up pace as a March 1 deadline approaches, Steve Censky, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s deputy secretary said, “but we still have ways to go.” Read more.

Car Tariffs Report: Trump has received the findings of a probe into whether imported vehicles pose a national security threat, which could lead the U.S. to impose tariffs. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has submitted his recommendations to Trump, the department said in a statement on Sunday in Washington, without offering any insights into the findings. Trump has 90 days to decide whether to act on the findings. Read more from Andrew Mayeda and Jenny Leonard.

China Abandons Cybersecurity Truce With U.S.: China largely abandoned a hacking truce negotiated by Barack Obama as Trump embarked on a trade war with Beijing last year, according to the cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike. A slowdown in Chinese hacking following the cybersecurity agreement Obama’s administration secured in 2015 appears to have been reversed, the firm said in a report released today that reviewed cyber activity by U.S. adversaries in 2018. Read more from Alyza Sebenius.

Japan and North Korea: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will press Trump to raise the issue of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea when the U.S. president meets leader Kim Jong Un next week for nuclear talks. Japan has been pushing to have its position heard on the emotive domestic issue of abductees during Trump’s summit with Kim, planned for Feb. 27-28 in Hanoi. Abe said he would bring up the matter in a telephone call with Trump that could come as soon as tomorrow, the two leaders’ first conversation in more than two months.

While Abe has tried to build a personal rapport with Trump, he has found himself on the outside looking in before the second U.S.-North Korea summit. The Japanese leader yesterday praised Trump’s diplomacy with Kim, but declined to say whether he nominated the U.S. leader for a Nobel Peace Prize. Read more from Isabel Reynolds and Emi Nobuhiro.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Brandon Lee at blee@bgov.com

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