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First Lady’s new project has critics seeing red, she responds perfectly

You would think that the haters would have learned by now – First Lady Melania Trump can take care of herself in the midst of a storm of criticism. An example emerged Thursday when she tweeted about her latest project. She is supervising the construction of a tennis pavilion at the White House. It is being paid for with private funds, not taxpayer dollars.

Melanie Trump broke ground on the South Lawn last October and said at the time she hoped “this private space will function as a place to gather and spend leisure time for First Families.” Like the first ladies before her, she is making the White House a family-friendly home. For example, the Obamas built a play space for their then young daughters, complete with a large swing set. At the time of the groundbreaking for the new tennis pavilion, Melania took some heat for this because it was during Impeachmentpalooza. The plans are for the pavilion to unify the tennis court and two existing gardens.

According to CNN, a June building proposal from the National Park Service states the pavilion will “provide a unifying element for the tennis court, the Children’s Garden and the Kitchen Garden.” The Children’s Garden was installed in 1968 by former first lady Lady Bird Johnson, while the Kitchen Garden was created in 2009 by then-first lady Michelle Obama.

When she posted an update on the project Thursday the critics surfaced again. Melania was shown in a hard hat, as the others in the photo were wearing and she was looking at blueprints. That’s a pretty standard picture for a construction project, right? Well, in this case, apparently it was the worse possible thing the first lady could have done… because of the coronavirus outbreak.

As the Trump administration works to combat the outbreak of coronavirus, the first lady stuck to her agenda and checked in on the construction of the White House’s new tennis pavilion.

Donning a white hard hat, Trump fashionably overlooked blueprints with contractors at the construction site in a black turtleneck dress that featured flared sleeves.

“I am excited to share the progress of the Tennis Pavillion at @WhiteHouse,” Trump captioned a series of pictures on Instagram and Twitter Thursday. “Thank you to the talented team for their hard work and dedication.”

Her critics said she was being insensitive because of the COVID-19 outbreak the administration is dealing with and a recent tornado in Tennessee that resulted in lives lost. Both of those events, though, are being handled by President Trump and his administration, not the Office of the First Lady. Just as the administration is, she is going about doing her own work. What exactly did her critics expect her to be doing?

Wait till Mia Farrow and the other haters find out this pavilion is the first of two structures the first lady is planning. The second is a maintenance building that will be used by the National Parks Service. The National Parks Service is the official public steward of the White House. I’m sure something else horrible will be going on when the ground is broken for that project, too. It’s not like Melania is the Commander-in-Chief and flying off for a fundraiser in Las Vegas and partying with Jay-Z and Beyonce hours after the attack on an American embassy overseas. Just sayin’.

The design is a classic one and in line with the existing architecture of the White House.

The pavilion rises to a height of 18-feet and is designed as a rectangular structure topped by a copper hipped roof. The building is marked by a central arcade framed by four Doric columns. The arcade is sandwiched between two slightly protruding wings, each marked by a fan window-topped glass door. The entire structure is wrapped on four sides by a cornice and parapet wall, with the hipped roof rising beyond the parapet.

An architect for the project has not been named.

Text accompanying the proposal states that “the proposed designs are specifically informed by the existing architecture of the White House, including the East and West Colonnades, fan windows, columns, stonework, and cornices. Architectural inspiration is drawn from the symbolic images of the White House that are so recognizable to the American public.”

This project isn’t unusual, given others in past administrations. The White House putting green, for example, was first installed by President Eisenhower. The White House tennis court was installed during the Teddy Roosevelt administration. George H.W. Bush enlarged it during his time in the White House. Barack Obama had lines drawn and removable baskets added so he could play full-court basketball. The White House bowling alley was a birthday gift to President Truman.

Let the haters hate. Melania Trump responded perfectly. She told them to go out and do something positive for their own communities. #BeBest

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Donald Trump’s challenging week happens during one of Joe Biden’s best

When it comes to coronavirus, Trump has often seemed on a different page from health officials in his own government. He has been repeatedly corrected by top health officials on the speed of developing a vaccine, including during a meeting Monday and later after a visit to the National Institutes of Health.

Vice President Mike Pence, flanked by scientists and public health experts rather than political spinners, is frequently briefing lawmakers and the press, meeting with stakeholders and experts, and even privately admitting early missteps. Without proof, Trump blamed former President Barack Obama’s administration for slowing down diagnostic testing and dismissed death rate assessments from the World Health Organization based on his own “hunch.”

Confusion over the virus has created an unpredictable stock market, with two of the best days in the Dow’s history and one of its worst-ever point losses both this week.

New CDC guidance says older adults should 'stay at home as much as possible' due to coronavirus

But the Trump campaign maintains that the President’s pitch to voters is still on solid ground.

“The fundamentals of the American economy are so strong — exceedingly strong,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told CNN, citing market rebounds this week. Amid questions of how the outbreak could impact campaigning, Murtaugh insisted the President’s signature “Keep America Great” rallies will not be canceled.

Murtaugh also suggested there is a value to voters in keeping a high-profile surrogate like Pence focused more on the administration’s response than campaigning. Pence, who traveled to Minnesota and Washington state with task force members on Thursday, postponed a political event scheduled in Wisconsin and sent the second lady to an event in Minnesota in his stead.

“Americans want to see their elected leaders doing their jobs,” Murtaugh said.

Biden’s ascendance

Biden’s climb back to the top of the Democratic field alongside Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders could also force a shift in strategy for the Trump campaign, which has cast the 2020 election as a choice between a roaring economy and socialism, though Trump’s aides have argued they can still make that argument if Biden is the nominee.

Biden “is not a moderate candidate,” Trump’s communications director told CNN, citing his positions on gun control, healthcare and the Green New Deal.

“We truly view it as a heads we win, tails they lose situation,” Murtaugh said of the consolidated Democratic field. “The President is itching for an opponent. We just want to know who it’s going to be.”

How Joe Biden's campaign is protecting itself from cyber attacks

Privately officials have remained most concerned about a Trump-Biden matchup. Those fears dwindled some as Biden’s campaign seemed to recede, but they have returned since his comeback last Saturday. The campaign has continued internal polls to give them an idea of how the President would perform against Biden in states they view as crucial to victory in November like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Officials believe Biden may get a boost in these states once the Democratic Party has coalesced around a candidate.

While there hasn’t been much public polling released since Biden’s Super Tuesday victories, there are some indications that Biden would present Trump with a stronger reelection challenge than Sanders.
A Quinnipiac poll of registered voters in swing states conducted last month shows Biden with slightly larger margins against Trump than Sanders in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Trump edges Sanders and Biden in head-to-head matchups in Wisconsin 50 to 43% and 49 to 42%, respectively.

There are questions as to what kind of a candidate Biden could be in a general election in light of his performance at the beginning of the Democratic primary season.

“He could be very formidable. He could also be a disaster,” a GOP strategist said, questioning Biden’s long record as a Washington insider.

When it comes to attacking potential rivals, the campaign is still taking cues from the candidate.

Biden and Sanders brace for one-on-one battle in new phase of Democratic race

“Ultimately we follow the President’s lead,” Murtaugh said. “He is the communications director and the campaign manager and all of those things rolled in. We’ll follow what the President does.”

As Biden surges, Senate Republicans are also sharpening their investigations involving Hunter Biden’s work at a Ukrainian energy company. While Republicans publicly insist their efforts have nothing to do with Biden’s campaign, they are using their powers in the Senate to look into a host of matters that they believe could shine negative light on the former vice president — and help Trump as the race heads into a crucial period.
Trump and his allies have repeatedly made unfounded and false claims to allege that the Bidens acted corruptly in Ukraine.

“That will be a major issue in the campaign,” Trump said during an interview on Fox News this week regarding Burisma. “I will bring it up all the time, because I don’t see any way out.”

Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, is leading the charge for an investigation into Hunter Biden’s work at the Ukrainian energy company.

The investigation has the support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who told Fox News Biden’s work is “worth taking a look at.”

The Bloomberg factor

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg dropped out of the race after a poor showing on Super Tuesday, but he could still remain a threat to the President his wealth of ads have irked. Bloomberg endorsed Biden shortly after bowing out of the race — which could be a significant boon to Biden, a candidate who has struggled with field organization and could eventually be the nominee for a party that has failed to keep up with the Trump campaign’s data juggernaut.

Bloomberg’s campaign has more than 2,400 staff in 43 states and territories and, now, those staffers will focus their efforts and millions of dollars on making Biden the Democratic nominee and eventual president. Bloomberg’s campaign says it will try to leverage his ground and data operations to help Biden through an existing super PAC.

There are practically no limits on what Bloomberg and his super PAC can do to aid Biden, whether that’s running pro-Biden ads or overseeing a field operation to assist the former vice president. The only restriction, experts say: Bloomberg and his aides cannot coordinate their spending decisions with Biden’s campaign.

Biden campaign launches its largest ad buy in 2020 election

“As long as Team Bloomberg doesn’t talk to Team Biden about what it’s doing — how it’s spending Bloomberg’s fortune to support Biden — it’s not subject to any limits at all,” said Paul Ryan, a veteran campaign-finance lawyer who is now vice president for policy and litigation at Common Cause.

A Bloomberg apparatus aimed at turning out low-propensity voters, the GOP strategist said, “will be huge.”

“All these states — Michigan was decided by 10,000 votes, and if they’re able to organize in Detroit and some of these communities and get people to vote or go vote early, that could make a huge difference.”

The campaign downplayed the impact Bloomberg could have.

“A super PAC does not have the same impact as direct spending by a candidate. President Trump is going to have every single resource he needs for his reelection. This campaign is not going to be about who has more resources. We will have every penny we need and then some,” Murtaugh said, adding that the election will be “about the President’s record” and the economy, “versus an extreme left opponent.”

CNN’s Cristina Alesci, Fredreka Schouten, Maegan Vazquez, Stephen Collinson and Manu Raju contributed to this report.

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Bernie Needs a Big Win, and He’s Betting It All on Michigan

WASHINGTON — Four years ago, Bernie Sanders pulled off a dramatic upset win in Michigan’s primary to revive his flagging presidential campaign. Now, he needs to recreate that magic.

After a brutal Super Tuesday where he lost 10 of 14 states and looks to have fallen behind Joe Biden in the delegate count, Sanders badly needs a major victory to show he can compete one-on-one with Biden. And Michigan looks like his best chance.

A win there on Tuesday could put him back on firm footing and set up a long, drawn-out delegate fight. But if he loses a state he carried in 2016 — and one where Biden’s record on trade, entitlements, and Iraq could be particularly problematic — it becomes much harder to see Sanders’ path to the Democratic nomination.

“It matters greatly,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.). “It would give Bernie a huge boost, people would say he’s still in the game. And if he loses what he [won] four years ago, that would be major. It’s important to both candidates.”

“It would give Bernie a huge boost. People would say he’s still in the game. “

Whoever wins the state will also secure bragging rights to argue they’re best-suited to win Michigan in the general election. Given the psychic trauma the state gave Democrats by going for President Trump and helping him to the White House, and how crucial it will be this fall, that’s particularly relevant.

“Michigan’s incredibly important, given the fact that it’s really the key battleground state for the general election,” said Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.). “Certainly I think it’ll be a good indication of who can pull together a broad coalition of support.”

Sanders’ team recognizes the state’s importance. The senator canceled a Mississippi rally to add stops to his swing through Michigan, and now has events there every day from Friday through Monday — a huge time investment since the state is just one of 10 which will vote in the next 10 days. Biden will be in the state Monday as well.

And Sanders has gone hard on the attack with a trio of ads ripping into Biden for his votes for free trade agreements and the war in Iraq as well as his flirtations with cutting Social Security.

Those blows could hit particularly hard in Michigan. NAFTA is a four-letter word in a state that has been devastated by globalization and free trade. Michigan also has one of the country’s oldest populations, with 2.2 million residents on Social Security — almost a quarter of the state population. And it has one of the country’s largest Arab American populations.

“Michigan will show how potent our contrast message is,” Sanders spokesman Bill Neidhardt said. “We’re going to see exactly how outraged voters are when they see Joe Biden has spent decades trying to cut Social Security and championing trade deals like NAFTA.”

But Biden might have the edge on another issue crucial to Michigan voters.. As vice president, he played a key role in the auto bailout that helped save Michigan’s economy from the brink in 2009. Sanders voted against the Wall Street bailout that included auto bailout funds (though he did vote to fund a bailout for the industry in a separate billy). Clinton slammed him for that move in 2016, and it’s likely to resurface before Tuesday.

“NAFTA is sort of a gut check-issue about how much you care about workers in the heartland, so I think that’s a tough, tough, a tough one for the vice president,” said Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) who had backed Elizabeth Warren in the primary.

“And Sen. Sanders voted against the auto bailout in the end. We wouldn’t be here without that, so that’s a problem for him,” Levin said in a subsequent conversation.

The two candidates have already traded Michigan-specific barbs.

“Michigan was decimated by terrible, terrible trade deals,” Sanders said on MSNBC Wednesday night. “I walked the picket lines against NAFTA. I went to Mexico to see what NAFTA would do. Joe voted for those terrible agreements.”

“Let’s go to Michigan, Bernie,” Biden shot back in a Today Show interview on Thursday. “I’m the guy that helped bail out the automobile industry. What’d you do, old buddy?”

Trump made a similar attack at a Thursday night event, calling NAFTA the “worst trade deal ever made” — a point Sanders was quick to highlight on Friday to argue he’d be the more electable candidate.

Biden’s campaign has made a show of strength in the state in recent days, with endorsements from popular Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) as well as from Michigan Reps. Haley Stevens, Elissa Slotkin — a pair of freshmen from swing districts — and from Brenda Lawrence, the state’s only black member of Congress.

Sanders has his own surrogate in the state — Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who could help him turn out Arab American voters in Greater Detroit, a community he won by a wide margin in 2016 and needs once again. A poll from the Council on American-Islamic Relations found that Muslims who voted on Super Tuesday backed Sanders by 58% to 27% over Biden, and the Arab American Political Action Committee and Michigan-based Arab American News both endorsed Sanders in recent days.

It’s unclear where things stand heading into Michigan’s primary. Biden led Sanders by 29% to 23% in a Detroit News poll conducted over the weekend — but that’s a political eternity ago. Michael Bloomberg, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar were all still in the race when that poll went into the field, and Bloomberg was at 11% in that poll, with Warren at 7%, Buttigieg at 6%, and Klobuchar at 3%.

If Sanders doesn’t win Michigan, things only get more daunting from there. The senator is facing down a primary map that looks particularly tough for him over the next few weeks.

Michigan is one of six states set to vote Tuesday, alongside Washington, Missouri, Mississippi, Idaho, and North Dakota. Sanders’ decision to skip his one scheduled Mississippi event signals he’s expecting to do as poorly there as he just did in other Deep South states, and he narrowly lost Missouri four years ago. He’d won big in Washington and Idaho in 2016, but both have switched from caucuses to primaries, and as Sanders’ surprisingly poor Super Tuesday showings in Minnesota and Maine, two states he’d won last time around, that’s a big problem for him.

Things get even harder the week after, with four big states Sanders lost in 2016 heading to the polls on March 17.

“If Sen. Sanders can win here, that’d change the dynamic a lot,” said Levin.”If Biden wins here, with Florida, Ohio, Arizona and Illinois a week later, it’s looking kind of like friendly territory for Vice President Biden ahead.”

Cover: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign rally Thursday, March 5, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

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The establishment “forced” Klobuchar and Buttigieg out of the race

Meh. If he wants to call Buttigieg and Klobuchar establishment shills, he should just do it. By claiming without evidence that they were “forced” out, he’s trying to walk a line between satisfying the populist impulse to blame all misfortunes on “the establishment” on the one hand while on the other staying on the good side of any Pete/Amy supporters who might momentarily be undecided between him and Biden. He needs Buttigieg and Klobuchar to be part of the great corporate/media/centrist conspiracy against him while also absolving them of blame for it. Hence the word “forced.” Watch, then read on.

If you’re looking for proof that anyone was “forced,” this is as close as it gets:

Mr. Buttigieg talked with Mr. Biden and former President Barack Obama on Sunday night, according to a Democratic official familiar with the conversations. Mr. Biden asked for Mr. Buttigieg’s support and the former mayor indicated he would consider the request. Mr. Buttigieg wants to sleep on the decision, he told aides, some of whom believe he should move quickly to endorse Mr. Biden.

Mr. Obama did not specifically encourage Mr. Buttigieg to endorse Mr. Biden, said the official, who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations. But Mr. Obama did note that Mr. Buttigieg has considerable leverage at the moment and should think about how best to use it.

A young Democratic politician with a promising national career wouldn’t want to disappoint the Obamas. But Buttigieg didn’t need O or anyone else to pitch him on endorsing Biden. He’s intelligent; he was perfectly capable of looking ahead a week and imagining the results on Super Tuesday if the “muddle in the middle” remained unresolved. He wasn’t going to win anywhere. His money was surely about to dry up. If he enabled Bernie’s march to the nomination by drawing votes from Biden, centrists would lambaste him for running a vanity candidacy that ended up damaging the party’s chances against Trump in November while progressives would continue to hate him for reasons various and sundry. Quitting in order to resolve the muddle in the middle expeditiously was the rational thing to do. Buttigieg is a highly rational character.

I can’t find any evidence of Obama leaning on Klobuchar, which is probably because there’s no way to lean on her effectively. She has a death grip on her Senate seat in Minnesota. Her enemies within the party wouldn’t dare primary her, partly due to the futility of the effort and party because Minnesota is trending purple and can’t be taken for granted. There would have been no repercussions for Klobuchar if she had stayed in despite the dismay of party leaders. She had the same rational calculation before her as Buttigieg did, not wanting to be the scapegoat if she inadvertently helped Bernie prevail on Super Tuesday and also well aware that her fundraising was headed down the tubes after a series of fourth- or fifth-place finishes.

Bernie should have just said what he meant: Pete and Amy are part of the establishment and they want Biden to win. It’s in their self-interest, ideologically and professionally, to help him. But picking a fight with Buttigieg and Klobuchar voters would be a dumb thing for him to do right now so this is what we get instead.

The hard fact for Sanders is that he wouldn’t have to worry about establishment candidates dropping out and endorsing Biden if the working class liked him more. Despite his overt message of class warfare, Bernie trailed Biden on Tuesday night across counties with higher unemployment. In places where the unemployment rate was below 4.0 percent, Biden led Sanders 33/29; in places where it was above 7.2 percent, he led 43/26. Biden also did much better in counties with fewer college grads. In places where 25.7 percent or more of residents hold bachelor’s degrees, Joe led by just four points; in counties where fewer than 14.9 percent of residents do, he led by 27. Obviously, race is mixed up to some degree in those numbers: Bernie finished a point ahead of Biden in counties where the population is 88.7 percent white or higher whereas Biden led in counties where it’s lower. The takeaway is that Sanders’s socialist agenda hasn’t made the kind of inroads it needed to make among poorer Americans, especially African-Americans, to give him an advantage over Joe.

Still, I don’t think he’s going to get blanked on Tuesday. Two recent polls of Washington state show him trailing Biden by one and three points, respectively, with Warren at 10 percent in the former and at five percent in the latter. I have to believe that the coronavirus epidemic in the state will also drive turnout sharply down, which probably favors the candidate with more enthusiastic supporters. That’s Bernie. So he’s likely to win Washington but he reeeeally wants to win Michigan in order to prove that he’s still a force in the midwest and isn’t losing ground since 2016 by dropping states now that he won then. Stay tuned.

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‘We’re Not Thinking About The Future’

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Donald Trump’s presidency is “actually worse” than she’d thought it would get in 2016, accusing the president of only seeking to enrich himself rather than make investments in the country’s future.

Clinton spoke at length Sunday with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria about the Trump presidency and the “right-wing echo chamber” she says supports his vindictive political narratives and re-election campaign. The 2016 Democratic presidential candidate expressed dire concern about Trump’s coronavirus “hoax” claims, which she said outlets such as Fox News and Breitbart are promoting because they, and Trump, only care about getting him re-elected. Clinton ridiculed Trump’s handling of the growing economy he inherited from President Barack Obama, and cited the current president’s failure to make “any investments in the future” in favor of payouts for his Republican cronies.

Clinton said the Trump administration’s attempts to contain the coronavirus are exposing his lack of investment in infrastructure.

“The economy he inherited was on the right track and it was important that it remain on the right track,” Clinton said in the CNN interview. “I’m worried that we’ve seen some unfortunate detours, for example, with the trade embargoes and the trade wars he’s engaged in. And the failure to make any investments for the future. The big tax cuts have not produced the kind of big investments that are going to make us richer and safer and stronger.

“We were talking about the virus, there’s a lot we could be doing to invest in infrastructure here and around the world to protect us against the spread of disease, with climate change, a lot of disease is going to to spread further and further north out of tropical climes and are going to be posing threats to us,” Clinton continued.

“We’re not thinking about the future, it’s all transactional and what’s in it for the president and his allies, his cronies and his re-election.”

The wide-ranging interview went on to include Clinton’s belief that Democrats are not able to launch nasty personal attacks in the same way as Trump, noting the president has “perfected the art of the smear.” She said Republicans reverting to shallow personal attacks is “just part of the landscape” among members of that party.

Clinton said Facebook has “aided and abetted” right-wing news outlets to work in tandem with the Trump administration and the social media platform’s powerful algorithms. She said Fox News and Breitbart are “feeding” coronavirus misinformation and Trump’s attacks against his critics directly to his base voters. She described it as “very diabolical and very destructive” to democracy.

“I’ll tell you what I make of it, is that Fox and the sort of right-wing echo chamber has mastered Facebook, added and abetted, I might say by Facebook,” Clinton said Sunday. “The coronavirus is spreading, we now have more and more reports from different places in the country, but led by Fox News and Breitbart and others, it’s going to be about my e-mails … they know how to deliver those stories through the algorithms into the feeds of millions and millions of people.”

Clinton joked she lives “rent free” in the heads of Trump’s surrogates.

She continued, “So I begrudgingly give them a lot of credit because they are shaping a narrative that is part of the messaging around Trump’s re-election, around people who challenge Trump, changing the subject all of the time…they’re not interested or even worried about Trump saying the coronavirus is a hoax.”

Newsweek reached out to the White House Sunday for comment.

Hillary Clinton said the Trump administration’s bungled attempts to contain the coronavirus are exposing his lack of investment in infrastructure or the country’s future.
ROBYN BECK / Staff/Getty Images
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Debbie Downer Tackled Coronavirus on Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live‘s latest episode tackled the new coronavirus throughout the show. The president’s bizarre press conference at the Centers for Disease Control provided Weekend Update fodder, while the cold open found Kate McKinnon and Jeanine Pirro mocking Fox News’ coverage of the outbreak as the network’s hosts Laura Ingraham and Jeanine Pirro. But SNL also called on one of its alums and brought back a recurring character who perfectly encapsulates the country’s COVID-19 anxieties: Debbie Downer.

The sketch begins with a group of cheery guests enjoying a wedding reception, when a newcomer joins their table wearing something akin to a riot gear mask. It’s Rachel Dratch as Debbie, of course, and though her table mates all reassure her that they’re feeling hale and hearty, she’s quick to point out that, “with COVID-19 you can display no symptoms and still be wildly contagious.”

SNL introduced Debbie Downer in 2004, when Dratch was part the cast, and the character became one of the show’s most famous creations. Dratch left the series in 2006, and though she frequently returns to Studio 6H, most recently to portray former presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar, she last played Debbie in 2015.

In the new sketch, Debbie interrupts the happy couple’s wedding meal to give them her gift—a $25 dollar donation made in their name to her preferred cat charity. Returning to the table, where the other guests are planning to start a line dance, Debbie breaks out the one line guaranteed to dampen any party: “How do you guys feel about Trump?” Check out the full sketch below.

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Op-Ed: How Democrats dealt with the Bernie Sanders of 1944

As mainstream Democrats ponder the real possibility that Bernie Sanders will be their presidential nominee, it is worth considering how the party handled a similar challenge in 1944.

The renomination of President Franklin Roosevelt for a fourth term was a foregone conclusion, but that of his vice president — the staunchly liberal and fiercely pro-Soviet Henry A. Wallace — was not. Though vice presidents have little official power beyond resolving tie votes in the Senate, they reside a heartbeat from the presidency. And though Roosevelt’s medical diagnosis was a well-kept secret (even from him), his advanced congestive heart failure was, by the spring of 1944, visible in his pallor, trembling hands and declining weight.

Party leaders were alarmed and determined to act. They considered Wallace to be both an electoral liability and a man whose views and judgment rendered him incapable of filling Roosevelt’s shoes should his health fail entirely. They couldn’t persuade the president to ditch his friend outright and anoint another running mate, but Roosevelt agreed to give Wallace the weakest of endorsements and to allow an open convention in July.

Henry Wallace had name recognition and a passionate liberal base, yet his detractors well outnumbered his supporters. But anti-Wallace Democrats weren’t able to coalesce around any one of the obvious candidates. House Speaker Sam Rayburn, Director of the Office of War Mobilization Jimmy Byrnes and Senate Majority Leader Alben Barkley were the best-known alternatives. The president liked Supreme Court Justice William Douglas. But all these men had their own electoral drawbacks.

Determined not to let the vice presidential nomination fall to a man who had, just before the convention, spent four weeks traveling around Siberia lavishing praise on Stalin, top Democratic Party officials settled on a lesser-known but electorally sound figure who had demonstrated keen political skills and policy sense: Missouri Sen. Harry S. Truman.

The case for Truman was straightforward. He was an experienced 10-year senator; respected, personable, centrist. He was a loyal New Dealer, but no radical. A border-state man, he was in the South, but not of it. He could win Dixie votes yet not lose Northern ones. Labor liked him. Black leaders liked him. Colleagues like him. Nobody loved him, but that was not in the job specs.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Bob Hannegan persuaded Roosevelt to put his willingness to run with Truman in writing. Together with DNC Treasurer Edwin Pauley, DNC Secretary George Allen and Postmaster General Frank Walker, he then set out to sell the leadership’s choice to the convention in Chicago. It was a masterful effort.

Initially, they encouraged delegates who had qualms about the Missourian as vice president to vote for their local “favorite sons.” This produced the desired result. After the first round of voting, Wallace led, but with just 37% of the 1,176 delegates. Truman garnered 27%, and the remaining votes were scattered among candidates to the right of Wallace. These votes now needed to be shepherded toward Truman.

Legend has it — a legend nurtured by serious historians (David McCullough) and fantasists (Oliver Stone) alike — that the leaders offered delegates ambassadorshipsor postmasterships in return for Truman votes. Yet there is no basis for it. Unbeknownst to either McCullough or Stone, the claim, I found, originated with a Wallace-supporting union lobbyist, Calvin “Beanie” Baldwin, seven years after the fact, together with the caveat that he had no evidence to back it.

In fact, the claim makes little sense. Roosevelt would never have turned over control of ambassadorial posts to party functionaries for the sake of nominating Truman, a man he barely knew. As for postmasterships, the post office had been part of the civil service since 1883; its jobs were unavailable for patronage. Instead, the Democratic leadership simply made its watertight case: The battle was now between Wallace, a man who wanted to import “economic democracy” from Russia, and Truman, a man who could help the ticket and run the country if necessary. The choice was therefore obvious.

That logic did the trick. Truman romped to the VP nomination on the second ballot, with 88% of the vote. The rest, as they say, is history. FDR won, and the Missourian became president on Roosevelt’s death the following April. Among many other great accomplishments, Truman would preside over the creation of the Marshall Plan and NATO — historic and crucial initiatives that Wallace would openly and bitterly oppose.

As for the party leaders who had orchestrated Truman’s rise in 1944, they were wholly unapologetic about their intervention.

“When I die,” Hannegan would tell a journalist a few years later, “I would like to have one thing on my headstone — that I was the man who kept Henry Wallace from becoming president of the United States.”

“It is the people who elect presidents,” Pauley reflected, “but it is the politicians who try and give them the best field to select from.” Having “become convinced that Wallace could only bring disaster to the nation and our party, [we did] our job both as citizens and practical politicians.”

In 2020, the parallels are compelling. Although democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, like Wallace in 1944, has substantial and impassioned left-wing support, a majority of Democrats appear to prefer a more moderate candidate. It is uncertain, however, that the primaries will give the one moderate remaining, Joe Biden, the 1,991 delegates required to win the nomination on the first ballot at the July convention. Delegates will then become “unbound,” and 775 superdelegates will come into play, with many Sanders supporters ready to fight.

The difference between 2020 and 1944 is the power of the party leadership, which is much reduced today. And unlike Bob Hannegan in 1944, today’s DNC chair, Tom Perez, cannot claim to speak for a sitting Democratic president. Interventions by Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi on behalf of Biden will no doubt anger Sanders supporters, but there is neither a case based on precedent nor one in principle for a hands-off approach by the so-called establishment.

Fielding a far-left candidate, Democrats are likely to hand Donald Trump, enabled by an obeisant Republican Congress, another four years to undermine America’s cohesion at home and its standing abroad. The country needs an alternative to Donald Trump, and the Democratic Party needs firm, competent, and — yes — moderate leadership to deliver it.

Benn Steil is director of international economics and the historian in residence at the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as the author, most recently, of “The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War.”

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Harris endorses Biden; Jesse Jackson backs Sanders – Boston Herald

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kamala Harris endorsed Joe Biden on Sunday and said she would “do everything in my power” to help elect him, becoming the latest dropout from the Democratic race for president to line up behind the former vice president in his battle with Bernie Sanders for the nomination.

The decision by the California senator who was one of three black candidates seeking to challenge President Donald Trump further solidifies the Democratic establishment’s move to close circles around Biden after his Super Tuesday success. Her endorsements comes before the next round of primaries, with six states voting Tuesday, including Michigan and Mississippi.

Sanders, a Vermont senator, countered with his own major endorsement on Sunday, announcing that civil rights icon Jesse Jackson was formally backing him.

Jackson appeared with Sanders during a campaign stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In a statement released by Sanders’ campaign, Jackson said Biden had not reached out to him for endorsement and Sanders had. He also said he chose Sanders after the senator’s campaign offered responses on 13 issues Jackson raised, including protecting voting rights, increasing funding for historically black colleges and universities and committing to putting African Americans on the Supreme Court.

In a statement on Biden, meanwhile, Harris said, “There is no one better prepared than Joe to steer our nation through these turbulent times, and restore truth, honor, and decency to the Oval Office.”

“He is kind and endlessly caring, and he truly listens to the American people,” her statement added.

Harris said the United States “is at an inflection point. And the decision voters make this November will shape the country and the world our children and grandchildren will grow up in. I believe in Joe Biden.”

Among Biden’s former rivals, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Mike Bloomberg, Tim Ryan, Deval Patrick and John Delaney have endorsed him. Sanders has gotten the endorsement of Marianne Williamson and Bill de Blasio.

Also coming out for Biden on Sunday were two prominent Mississippi Democrats, former Gov. Ray Mabus and Mike Espy, agriculture secretary under President Bill Clinton. Espy is also on the ballot Tuesday as he seeks the party’s Senate nomination for the chance to face the Republican incumbent, Cindy Hyde-Smith, in November.

Harris withdrew from the race in December, ending a candidacy with the historic potential of becoming the first black woman elected president. The former California attorney general was seen as a candidate poised to attract the multiracial coalition of voters that sent Barack Obama to the White House. But she ultimately could not craft a message that resonated with voters or secure the money to continue her run.

Biden and Sanders, two white men in their 70s, are now the front-runners for the nomination in what was once a field of candidates that included several woman and much younger politicians.

Harris said in her statement that “like many women, I watched with sadness as women exited the race one by one.” Four years after Hillary Clinton was the party’s nominee, “we find ourselves without any woman on a path to be the Democratic nominee for president.”

“This is something we must reckon with and it is something I will have more to say about in the future,” she said. “But we must rise to unite the party and country behind a candidate who reflects the decency and dignity of the American people and who can ultimately defeat Donald Trump.”

Biden on Friday won the endorsement of former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who was one of the black candidates for the nomination. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker hasn’t made a public endorsement yet.

Black voters have anchored Biden’s comeback since disappointing finishes in overwhelmingly white Iowa and New Hampshire in early contests that put his campaign on the brink of collapse.


Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

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Christopher Steele Refuses To Cooperate With US Prosecutor Looking Into Origins Of Trump-Russia Probe

Dossier author Christopher Steele will not cooperate with U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, telling an audience at Oxford University that he believes U.S. investigators have acted in “bad faith.”

Steele, a former British spy, said at the Oxford event on Friday that he and his firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, had already “done our duty” by cooperating with a Justice Department inspector general’s (IG) investigation of the FBI’s surveillance of Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

According to The Daily Beast, which attended the Oxford event, Steele also criticized the IG, saying that he cooperated with the probe for “four or five months,” and observed “very bad qualities” on the part of government officials. He said some acted in “bad faith.” (RELATED: AG Barr: Durham Is ‘Looking Act’ Activities Of ‘Private Actors’)

Reuters reported on Friday that Durham’s team has recently approached Steele seeking an interview. The former MI6 officer rejected the request because he believes that he would not be treated fairly, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Numerous questions remain unanswered about how Steele collected information for his dossier, and how many of his allegations about Trump associates turned out to be inaccurate.

Steele alleged that the Trump campaign, including Page, took part in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election.

The special counsel found no evidence that any Trump associates conspired with Russians, or took part in the hacking or dissemination of Democrats’ emails in 2016.

Steele also wrote in the dossier that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen visited Prague in August 2016 to meet with Kremlin insiders. Both the special counsel’s report and the IG report debunked that claim, saying that Cohen never visited the Czech Republic’s capital city.

William Barr testifies at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The IG’s report provided a particularly harsh assessment of the FBI as well as of Steele. It said that the FBI failed to disclose information about Steele and the sourcing for his dossier that would have called the reliability of the document into question. The report said that Steele’s primary source of information for his investigation of Donald Trump met with FBI investigators in January 2017 and disputed much of what was in the dossier.

Steele himself told his FBI contacts in an Oct. 3, 2016 meeting that he believed that a key sub-source for the dossier was a “boaster” and “egotist.”

Despite those red flags, the FBI relied heavily on Steele’s information to assert that Carter Page was a Russian agent. And despite the apparent problems with the dossier, Steele defiantly defended his infamous report during his remarks at Oxford on Friday.

“I stand by the integrity of our work, our sources and what we did,” he said.

Steele issued a statement through his lawyers following the release of the IG report, asserting that the document had “several serious errors and misstatements.”

Little is known about what exactly Durham is investigating.

Attorney General William Barr did provide one clue in an interview on Dec. 18, saying that the prosecutor is conducting a broad investigation that extends beyond government agencies.

“He’s not just looking at the FBI,” Barr said. “He’s looking at other agencies … and also private actors, so it’s a much broader investigation.”

Durham has reportedly sought records related to former CIA Director John Brennan. Michael Rogers, the former director of the National Security Agency, has also reportedly cooperated with Durham’s review.

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Kamala Harris endorses Joe Biden for president

“When I started my run for president, I said America needs a president who reflects the decency and dignity of the American people; a president who speaks the truth; and a president who fights for those whose voices are too often overlooked or ignored. I still believe that to this day. That is why I am proud to announce I am endorsing my friend, Vice President Joe Biden, for President of the United States,” Harris said in a statement on Sunday.

The California Democrat, who ended her 2020 presidential campaign in December 2019, also posted the announcement in a video on her Twitter account Sunday. She added that she would be in Detroit Monday to campaign with Biden. CNN previously reported that Harris was considering endorsing Biden.

Biden on Sunday morning thanked Harris for the endorsement, saying “from our family: thank you.”

“Kamala — You’ve spent your whole career fighting for folks who’ve been written off and left behind — and no small part of that alongside Beau. From our family: thank you,” the former Vice President said in a retweet of her endorsement.
The long-anticipated endorsement from Harris comes as a string of former 2020 presidential contenders have thrown their support behind Biden, including Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

And on Saturday afternoon at a rally in St. Louis, Missouri, it seemed like Biden may have gotten ahead of himself in announcing the news. As he was thanking all of his endorsers’ supporters’ for coalescing around him, he also mentioned Harris’ name. “And by the way, to all of Amy’s folks, to all of Pete’s folks, to all of Kamala’s folks, to all of the folks, to Beto’s folks, I tell you what, what a gigantic difference it’s made. We’re going to unite this party and unite this country.”

Harris came to her final decision to endorse Biden on Saturday, a source with knowledge of the situation told CNN. Biden and Harris have been in touch in recent days, but Harris officially decided to move forward with backing Biden after Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the race on Thursday, the source said. Harris waited to endorse because she did not want to go against Warren or Klobuchar, the source added.

Harris and Biden’s past

Harris had a relationship with the Biden family before the 2020 presidential campaign. She served as California attorney general at the same time that Biden’s late son, Beau Biden, was attorney general of Delaware. Joe Biden has publicly and privately encouraged Harris to stay involved in politics.

But during the first Democratic primary debate, the California senator confronted Biden on race issues, specifically about the time he spent in the Senate fighting against federally-mandated busing to desegregate schools and his comments on working with segregationist senators. While the viral moment helped Harris in the immediate post-debate polls, she later dropped significantly.

Once seen as a leading contender for the Democratic nomination, Harris ultimately ended her campaign in December after struggling for months to move her low poll numbers. She said in an announcement at the time that financial pressures had led her to end her bid.

The next day, Biden, when asked by reporters if he would consider Harris as a vice presidential pick said “of course.”

“Of course I would,” said Biden, turning around to answer the question as he walked onto his campaign bus. “Look, Senator Harris has the capacity to be anything she wants to be. I mean it sincerely. I talked to her yesterday. She’s solid, she can be president someday herself, she can be vice president, she could go on to be a Supreme Court justice, she could be attorney general. I mean she has enormous capability.”

This story has been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Dan Merica, Kyung Lah, Chandelis Duster, Abby Phillip, Jasmine Wright and Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.