February 14, 2020

The campaign organizations for House Democrats and Republicans — the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) — agree on the facts of what happened Wednesday night, Politico reported Friday morning: NRCC staffers walked across the street to the DCCC's headquarters to stake out some Democratic candidates, saw the blinds open on a DCCC polling meeting, and snapped some photos, nabbing pricy and potentially useful proprietary polling data on races Democrats are focusing on in November.

Republicans think they hit the jackpot, Democrats found the tactics "totally out of bounds, and downright creepy," Politico reports. "The NRCC and DCCC have disagreed on where to draw the line when it comes to opposition research. The Republican committee, for example, has declined to sign an agreement to not use hacked information in its campaigns."

Still, the DCCC didn't exactly take the high road. "When you have no ideas or accomplishments to run on, you creep in the bushes, take pictures through people's windows, and invade their privacy," communications director Cole Leiter told Politico. "The next time the NRCC is looking for tips on running winning campaigns, all they have to do is call us — we'll be more than happy to explain why Kevin McCarthy is the minority leader." If the DCCC doesn't start closing its blinds, a phone call might be superfluous. Peter Weber

1:40 p.m.

Roger Stone will be sentenced on Thursday and President Trump can do nothing about it.

That's the message U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who's overseeing the criminal case against Trump's longtime adviser, sent Tuesday when she confirmed the date of Stone's sentencing hearing. Despite receiving threats from Trump to delay the sentencing for a second time, that "would not be a prudent thing to do under all the circumstances," Jackson said.

Uproar surrounding Stone's upcoming sentencing arose last week when prosecutors in the case recommended a 7–9 year prison term for Stone's crimes of lying to Congress and witness tampering. Trump tweeted to complain about the suggestion, and Attorney General William Barr intervened, with the DOJ eventually recommending a lighter sentence for Stone. Trump then repeatedly attacked Jackson's handling of the case, including in Twitter threads Tuesday morning where he cited Fox & Friends to call for her to delay Stone's sentencing.

Despite the presidential controversy, "I'm willing to make sure there are no consequences that flow from the announcement of the sentence at the sentencing hearing," Jackson said in a Tuesday scheduling call. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:30 p.m.

President Trump on Tuesday issued an executive order pardoning Eddie DeBartolo Jr.

That name might ring a bell for NFL fans — DeBartolo used to own the San Francisco 49ers, overseeing the franchise during its heyday in the 1980s and '90s when the team won five Super Bowls. He eventually passed ownership on to his sister, Denise York, when he pleaded guilty to a felony in 1998.

DeBartolo was involved in the gambling fraud case of former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, who was eventually sent to prison on racketeering, conspiracy, and extortion charges. DeBartolo testified that he paid Edwards $400,000 to secure a riverboat casino license. DeBartolo himself was charged with failing to report a bribery. He didn't go to prison, but was suspended from the NFL in 1997 and fined $1 million in addition to giving up his ownership. Still, he found his way to Canton, Ohio, when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

Some of DeBartolo's former players, including legendary 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice, were at the White House on Tuesday. Rice said "I take my hat off" to Trump for the decision. Read more at USA Today and CNN. Tim O'Donnell

12:15 p.m.

Expect former President Barack Obama's radio silence on the 2020 Democratic primary to continue in the coming months. After all, he's reportedly got a very specific reason for staying out of it.

Obama has intentionally remained on the sidelines throughout the primary so far, not throwing his support behind any candidate, including former Vice President Joe Biden. This, New York Magazine reports, is part of a "choreographed strategy" on the part of Obama, who is "increasingly sure he will need to play a prominent role in bringing the party back together and calming its tensions later this summer."

Between now and then, Obama is "committed to not allowing his personal thoughts to dribble out" into the open, the report says, since this might make it more challenging for him to serve as an "honest broker." Apparently, this effort could be going better considering this very same report features a few of Obama's personal thoughts, including that he's supposedly "unimpressed" with Biden's campaign.

A Fox Business report recently suggested Obama was considering speaking out about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as he becomes nervous that he'll secure the Democratic nomination. But there's reportedly not much truth to that, and a source told New York Magazine, "there is no way Barack Obama is intervening, unless something very strange happens."

In fact, Obama reportedly isn't paying a whole lot of attention to the "day-to-day dynamics" of the race, following it through newspaper reports but not even watching all of the Democratic debates. But Obama is reportedly "sure that he'll have to catch up" on these dynamics he's been missing out on later, meaning some binge-watching of the Democratic primary may soon be in the cards. Read the full report at New York Magazine. Brendan Morrow

11:53 a.m.

The campaign team for Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) believes the Democratic presidential candidate is surging after a strong showing in the New Hampshire primary last week, but they're also acknowledging they face an uphill battle because of a lack of resources.

For example, per The Washington Post, the campaign had to drive the New Hampshire bus to Nevada because they didn't have one there, and Klobuchar's Iowa caucus specialist is handling the same task in the Silver State. "We're putting the airplane together as we're flying," an anonymous Klobuchar campaign adviser told the Post.

One of the key issues outside of Nevada the Klobuchar campaign faces is what to do about Super Tuesday in March, when 14 states will vote for the Democratic nominee, providing one-third of all delegates selected. The Klobuchar team reportedly spent hours this past weekend debating whether it's worth it to even really compete in some of the more delegate-rich Super Tuesday states like Texas and California given the amount of cash it could require to make a dent. As one Klobuchar adviser said, "it's a little bit more difficult" in those situations given "the sheer dollars" necessary. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

11:09 a.m.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has been re-elected to a second term with 50.64 percent of the vote, results released Tuesday reveal.

It's been five months since Afghans voted in that election, with concerns of fraud and mechanical error forcing recounts. Yet supporters of Ghani's rival Abdullah Abdullah have so far refused to accept the results and have even proposed creating an alternative government, putting a peace deal between the Taliban and the U.S. in question, The Washington Post reports.

Ghani received a majority of the vote, meaning there won't be a runoff in the election. Abdullah meanwhile earned 39.5 percent of the vote, according to Afghanistan’s election commission. Abdullah's backers say that commission was biased in favor of Ghani, and former vice president of Ghani turned top Abdullah supporter Abdul Rashid Dostum said last week that "if they announce a government based on fraud, we will announce a parallel government," per The New York Times.

The September vote was marred by Taliban attacks aimed at destabilizing the election, though President Trump's refusal to hold peace talks scheduled for that time eventually allowed the vote to proceed. U.S.-Taliban negotiations have since continued, and both sides said a few days ago they agreed to a conditional deal. But uncertainty in the government could jeopardize the next step after a U.S.-Taliban agreement, which involved negotiations between Afghanistan's government and Taliban leaders. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:17 a.m.

President Trump may have received the impeachment acquittal he hoped for, but that doesn't mean he's satisfied. Indeed, Politico reports, he now appears to be testing the limits of executive power through methods like firing White House staffers who testified against him during House proceedings or weighing in on active Justice Department cases over Twitter.

Per Politico, Trump has received little resistance from his attorneys — including White House Counsel Pat Cipollone who led Trump's defense during the Senate trial — or congressional Republicans. That means, in the eyes of some analysts, the presidency may continue to grow more powerful.

"It is beyond anything the presidency has achieved yet and beyond anything Nixon could have imagined," Michael Gerhardt, a professor of jurisprudence at the University of North Carolina School of Law, told Politico, referring to the 36th president of the United States. "There is literally no way to hold the president accountable in Pat Cipollone's worldview."

Cipollone's allies, on the other hand, reportedly believe the arguments Cipollone made during the trial simply sought to maintain and protect Trump's ability to exercise the same amount of executive authority as former President Barack Obama did during his tenure in the Oval Office. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

9:54 a.m.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is apparently letting the progressives get to him.

The billionaire and 2020 candidate is set to unveil his plan for regulating the financial industry on Tuesday, and as The New York Times reports, it "features ideas that wouldn't be out of place" for 2020 candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Diverging from his past criticism of Wall Street regulation, Bloomberg will propose tighter oversight rules that touch on hot-button topics such as student loans, per the Times.

In his Tuesday announcement, Bloomberg will propose a financial transactions tax of 0.1 percent, as well as create a Justice Department team devoted to corporate crime, the Times reports. That tax plan is "remarkable similar" to one that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has co-sponsored, the Times writes. Bloomberg also calls for strengthening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Warren established during former President Barack Obama's administration, by "expanding its jurisdiction to include auto lending and credit reporting."

Bloomberg's plan stops far short of Sanders and Warren's pledges to cancel student loan debt, but does suggest putting student loan borrowers "into income-based repayment schemes and capping payments," per the Times. There's no sign of Sanders and Warren's pledges to break up big banks, or Warren's call for totally "transforming the private equity industry."

Read more about the plan at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

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