New York Times: “There are few things that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia desires more than the weakening of NATO, the military alliance among the United States, Europe and Canada that has deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years. Last year, President Trump suggested a move tantamount to destroying NATO: the withdrawal of the United States. Senior administration officials told The New York Times that several times over the course of 2018, Mr. Trump privately said he wanted to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.”
“Current and former officials who support the alliance said they feared Mr. Trump could return to his threat as allied military spending continued to lag behind the goals the president had set. In the days around a tumultuous NATO summit meeting last summer, they said, Mr. Trump told his top national security officials that he did not see the point of the military alliance, which he presented as a drain on the United States.”
“President Trump’s attempt to bypass Democratic congressional leaders to break open negotiations on the government shutdown fell flat as he failed to persuade any of the party’s rank-and-file members to attend a hastily arranged White House meeting Tuesday,” Bloomberg reports.
“Trump was seeking to begin peeling away some Democrats representing competitive districts from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The failed gambit underscored the distance between congressional Democrats and the president as the longest U.S. government shutdown in modern history stretched into its 25th day.”
Playbook: “The president said yesterday that many Democrats are calling, indicating that they agree with the White House’s position on the shutdown and border wall. Yet not one single Democrat showed up for lunch.”
The British Parliament rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan overwhelmingly. New York Times: “The 432-to-202 vote to reject her plan was one of the biggest defeats in the House of Commons for a prime minister in recent British history, and it underscores how under Ms. May, the prime minister’s office has lost ground in shaping important policy. Now factions in Parliament will seek to seize the initiative, an unpredictable new stage in the process of withdrawing from Europe, known as Brexit.”
BBC: “Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has now tabled a vote of no confidence in the government, which could trigger a general election.”
In a back-and-forth with Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Attorney General nominee William Barr “threw cold water on the notion that special Robert Mueller’s report might be made public,” the Washington Post reports.
Said Barr: “As the rules stand now, the rules I think say the special counsel will prepare a summary report on any prosecutive or declination decisions, and that shall be confidential and be treated as any other declination or prosecutive material within the department.”
“Declination memos are written by Justice Department officials when they decline to file charges against individuals, essentially ending an investigation. Those memos are held very closely inside the government and not released to the public. By comparing any Mueller report to a declination memo or a prosecution memo, Barr’s answer suggested the long-awaited report from the special counsel may not see the light of day.”
The special counsel’s office has released an affidavit by FBI agents detailing Paul Manafort’s lies to federal prosecutors since he agreed to cooperate with the government.
CBS News: “Manafort lied about several things in breach of his plea deal, including his contact with Konstantin Kilimnik, who ran Manafort’s office in Kiev. Kilimnik, who has ties to Russian intelligence, was indicted in June. Much of the information about Kilimnik was redacted in the filing, although Manafort admitted he conspired with Kilimnik to obstruct justice.”
“The affidavit also addressed another allegation in the special counsel’s December memo: while Manafort said he had no ‘direct or indirect communications’ with anyone in the Trump administration and never ‘asked anyone to try to communicate a message to anyone in the Administration,’ the special counsel says he was lying about this, too.”
“The testimony of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, before the House Oversight Committee next month is expected to be highly restricted to avoid interfering with the special counsel’s Russia investigation, suggesting the hearing may be less revelatory on certain subjects than anticipated,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Mr. Cohen, who is scheduled to speak in an open hearing on Capitol Hill for the first time Feb. 7, won’t be able to talk about topics that he has discussed with special counsel Robert Mueller.” That said, Cohen “is expected to give an explosive recounting of his experience working for Mr. Trump.” Said one person close to Cohen: “He’s going to tell the story of what it’s like to work for a madman, and why he did it for so long. He’s going to say things that will give you chills.”
“Former Trump campaign aide Richard Gates is still cooperating with federal prosecutors on ‘several ongoing investigations,’ according to a status report filed by special counsel Robert Mueller and Gates’ defense attorneys on Tuesday,” The Hill reports.
“The parties are asking a federal judge to again delay Gates’ sentencing, nearly a year after he pleaded guilty in connection with Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.”
President Trump’s team “rebuffed special counsel Robert Mueller’s request in recent weeks for an in-person session with Trump to ask follow-up questions,” CNN reports. “The request was made after Trump’s team submitted written answers to a limited number of questions from Mueller’s team focusing on before Trump was in office.”
“President Trump professed ignorance Monday about recent remarks from Rep. Steve King regarding white supremacy, while the storm around the Iowa Republican’s inflammatory comments continued to grow and senior GOP officials moved to strip him of valuable committee assignments,” the Washington Post reports. “Yet Trump had no qualms about engaging in racially offensive comments of his own over the weekend…”
“The fresh controversies underscored the GOP’s ongoing struggles over the issue of race, even as condemnations from senior Republicans of King’s remarks grew louder on Monday and lawmakers argued that his voice didn’t represent the party.”
“The Trump administration now estimates that the cost of the government shutdown will be twice as steep as originally forecast,” CNBC reports. “The original estimate that the partial shutdown would subtract 0.1 percentage point from growth every two weeks has now been doubled to a 0.1 percentage point subtraction every week.”
“Chris Christie, who was ousted as chairman of Donald Trump’s White House transition team in 2016, has written a blistering attack on Jared Kushner, whom he accuses of having carried out a political ‘hit job’ on him as an act of revenge for prosecuting his father, Charles Kushner, a decade ago,” the Guardian reports.
“In his soon to be published book, Let Me Finish, Christie unleashes both barrels on Trump’s son-in-law… Christie blames this key player in the president’s inner circle for his ignominious dismissal shortly after Trump’s election victory in November 2016.”
As Steve Bannon confessed to Christie: “The kid’s been taking an ax to your head with the boss ever since I got here.”
“Even for a White House that has generated an extraordinary cornucopia of hypercritical kiss-and-tell books, Christie’s is exceptional for its excoriating description of events at which he was present… It is also exceptional as a chronicle of the score-settling and animosity that drove key decision-making in Trump’s nascent presidency.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in Manhattan “are scrutinizing a meeting involving former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, one-time National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and dozens of foreign officials,” the Daily Beast reports. “The breakfast has come under scrutiny by federal prosecutors in Manhattan as part of their probe into whether the Trump inaugural committee misspent funds and if donors tried to buy influence in the White House.”
Boston Globe: “Yes, supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders are hosting house parties and signing petitions this month to show the Vermont independent that his loyal followers are still feeling the Bern and want him to run for president again in 2020.”
“But as Sanders weighs another campaign, some say that even as he has moved the Democratic Party ideologically — pushing issues such as Medicare for all, free college tuition, and a $15 minimum wage into the mainstream — the party has moved past him personally.”
Paul Kane: “McConnell’s absence is completely misunderstood. Many think that there is no deal because he is on the sideline, but in fact it’s the opposite: He is on the sidelines because there is no deal to be had, at least not yet.”
“There is a fundamental divide that cannot be bridged by a mathematical slight of hand the way McConnell helped resolve other impasses — move a little money from this account into that one, cut taxes from these workers but increase them on a few others. No, this is fundamental: Trump wants a border wall, Pelosi is morally opposed to that. There’s no old-school-appropriator resolution.”
Politico: “A handful of Senate Republicans are expressing frustration with their party’s handling of the ongoing government shutdown. But Mitch McConnell is a long way from facing any sort of rebellion.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is expected to enter the 2020 presidential race on Tuesday, launching an exploratory committee just days before she heads to the critical state of Iowa, CBS News reports. She will make the announcement on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
“Only one American was a firsthand witness to President Trump’s summit last summer with Russian President Vladimir Putin: veteran State Department translator Marina Gross,” ABC News reports.
“Gross’ job is to blend into the background and seamlessly help two leaders communicate. But now there is mounting interest in seeing Gross step into the spotlight, as Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs and Intelligence Committees seek an explanation for what exactly transpired behind closed doors in Helsinki.”
Said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ): “It may be unprecedented to subpoena a translator to reveal the details of a private meeting between the president and another world leader. But Trump’s actions are unprecedented in a way that harms our national security.”
“The Kremlin has long denied that it had anything to do with the infiltration of the NRA and the broader American conservative movement. A U.S. intelligence report reviewed by the Daily Beast tells a different story.”
“Alexander Torshin, the Russian central bank official who spent years aggressively courting NRA leaders, briefed the Kremlin on his efforts and recommended they participate, according to the report. Its existence and contents have not previously been reported.”
A federal judge ruled against the Trump administration’s push for citizenship question on 2020 Census, the Washington Post reports.
“The trial in New York was the first of three challenging the government’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. Opponents of the question called it a partisan move that would reduce the response rate and harm the count.”
New York Times: “The ruling marks the opening round in a legal battle with potentially profound ramifications for federal policy and for politics at all levels, one that seems certain to reach the Supreme Court before the printing of census forms begins this summer.”