Politics & Policy

Why it matters: While Democrats fight to convince voters that they should be the ones tasked with taking down President Trump, the current administration is powering ahead on efforts to restrict immigration, unleash business and reshape the U.S. role in the world.

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McConnell-tied PAC funds ads to disrupt N.C. Democratic Senate primary

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The Senate Leadership Fund, a political action committee linked to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is funding ads aimed at disrupting North Carolina's Democratic Senate primary, AP reports.

Why it matters: The seat currently held by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) is a primary target for Democrats in 2020 as they aim to flip the Senate. The McConnell-backed ads are aimed to support state Sen. Erica Smith at the expense of former state Sen Cal Cunningham, who has the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Sanders takes aim at Bloomberg: "Trump will chew him up and spit him out"

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Bernie Sanders told CBS "60 Minutes" that he was surprised by Mike Bloomberg's lackluster performance at Wednesday's Democratic debate.

What he's saying: "If that's what happened in a Democratic debate, you know, I think it's quite likely that Trump will chew him up and spit him out."

Nearly half of Republicans support pardoning Roger Stone

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45% of Republicans — a plurality — support President Trump pardoning Roger Stone, who was sentenced this week to 40 months in prison for crimes unearthed by the Mueller investigation, according to a YouGov poll.

Why it matters: While it's still not clear whether Trump will actually move to pardon Stone, the fact that he has a plurality of his party on board regarding the issue should only serve to enforce the president's growing sense of self-confidence following his impeachment acquittal.

Trump misrepresents 2020 Russia briefing as Democratic "misinformation"

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President Trump said in a Friday tweet that a briefing by a top election-security official before the House Intelligence Committee last week on Russia's attempts to interfere in the 2020 election was a "misinformation campaign ... launched by Democrats in Congress."

Why it matters: Trump, who was reportedly infuriated by the event, has made moves in recent days to ensure that administration jobs are held by those loyal to him — notably at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which led the briefing despite Trump's assertion that it was headed by congressional Democrats.

AOC's PAC endorses slate of progressive female congressional candidates

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The political action committee led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) endorsed Friday a slate of female 2020 congressional candidates, including a number of women of color, in races across the country.

Why it matters: The endorsements, first reported by the New York Times, highlight that Ocasio-Cortez plans to use her fundraising ability and public profile to support candidates that back her progressive aims — and, in the case of the Texas Senate race, directly challenge the party establishment's preferred candidates.

Defense intelligence analyst pleads guilty for leaks on foreign weapons system

Photo: Terry Ashe/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

A Defense Intelligence Agency analyst pleaded guilty to leaking classified information on a foreign country's weapon system to a reporter he had a relationship with, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

The big picture: Henry Kyle Frese faces a maximum of 10 years in prison after he "alerted our country’s adversaries to sensitive national defense information, putting the nation’s security at risk," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers in a news release.

Scoop: New White House personnel chief tells Cabinet liaisons to target Never Trumpers

McEntee, shown with White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, walks on the South Lawn of the White House Jan. 9. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Johnny McEntee called in White House liaisons from cabinet agencies for an introductory meeting Thursday, in which he asked them to identify political appointees across the U.S. government who are believed to be anti-Trump, three sources familiar with the meeting tell Axios.

Behind the scenes: McEntee, a 29-year-old former body man to Trump who was fired in 2018 by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly but recently rehired — and promoted to head the presidential personnel office — foreshadowed sweeping personnel changes across government.

Rep. Doug Collins rebuffs Trump's consideration for DNI

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President Trump told reporters on Air Force One Thursday night that he was considering nominating Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) to be his next director of national intelligence, but Collins rebuffed that offer during an appearance on Fox Business' "Mornings with Maria" on Friday.

The state of play: Trump previously hinted he would intervene in the Senate race between Collins and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.). The heated primary race between Collins and Loeffler has raised concerns among Republicans that Democrats could potentially win the special election for the Senate seat, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.

Pro-Trump warrior takes the helm of U.S. intelligence

Richard Grenell in Berlin. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

By picking Ambassador Richard Grenell to be acting director of national intelligence, President Trump has slotted a pro-Trump warrior into the ultimate apolitical role.

What they're saying: James Clapper, the longest-serving DNI (2010-2017), tells Axios it's "very worrisome installing a partisan with no real intelligence experience in this position."

Trump pans "Parasite" during Colorado rally

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Ad-libbing at his rally in Colorado Springs, President Trump attacked "Parasite," which this month became the first non-English-language film to win the Best Picture Oscar, prompting Neon, the studio behind the film, to hit back that "he can't read."

What Trump said: "What the hell was that all about? We've got enough problems with South Korea with trade. On top of that, they give them best movie of the year. Was it good? I don't know. ... Can we get like 'Gone with the Wind' back, please? 'Sunset Boulevard' — so many great movies."

House warned of Russian effort to re-elect Trump

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Trump meet at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, last June. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

The nation's top election-security official warned the House Intelligence Committee last week that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election to help President Trump get re-elected, continuing to attempt to sow discord among the American electorate, the AP reports.

Why it matters: The warning raises questions about the integrity of the presidential campaign and whether Trump's administration is taking the proper steps to combat the kind of interference that the U.S. saw in 2016.

U.S. and Taliban announce first step in Afghanistan peace process

Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images

The State Department confirmed Friday morning the U.S. and Taliban have "reached an understanding" that starts a 7-day "reduction of violence" to be followed by a signed U.S.-Taliban agreement.

Why it matters: The Afghanistan war is the longest war in U.S. history. President Trump has previously pulled out of talks at the last minute, only to restart them.

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Bloomberg's debate backfire could seal it for Bernie

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Mike Bloomberg got into the 2020 race to stop Bernie Sanders and socialism. If he doesn't bounce back from this week's debate, he may seal the deal for both.

Why it matters: Bloomberg’s own campaign has warned that Sanders could lock up the nomination in mere weeks, thanks to rivals splitting the opposition vote. But Bloomberg’s own spending makes it harder for other rivals to cut through — and virtually assures he sucks up significant delegates.

Judge who presided over "stop-and-frisk" case says Bloomberg got it wrong on debate night

Bloomberg in Las Vegas on Feb. 19. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

Retired U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin, who ruled in 2013 that New York's stop-and-frisk policy violated the rights of people of color, told MSNBC that Michael Bloomberg was wrong about his involvement in the controversial program at Wednesday night's debate.

What she's saying: Scheindlin refuted Bloomberg's claim that as New York City mayor he chose to reduce how many people were stopped, saying instead that he was forced: "It wasn't because he realized, had an epiphany that it was wrong. It's because of the court rulings, that's what happened, I ruled."

Latino Victory Fund endorses Joe Biden ahead of Nevada caucuses

Joe Biden. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Latino Victory Fund on Thursday endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 Democratic race.

Why it matters: The group is the first national Latino organization to endorse Biden. The endorsement comes just days before Saturday's Nevada caucuses. Hispanics are a key voting demographic in the state and could sway the outcome of the caucuses.

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