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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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Trump to install loyalist Ric Grenell as acting intelligence chief

Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

President Trump confirmed in a tweet Wednesday night that he will install Richard Grenell, the current U.S. ambassador to Germany and a staunch defender of the president, as the acting director of national intelligence.

Why it matters: The role, which was originally vacated by Dan Coats in August 2019, is one of grave responsibility. As acting DNI, Grenell will be charged with overseeing and integrating the U.S. intelligence community and will advise the president and the National Security Council on intelligence matters that concern national security.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 mins ago - Politics & Policy

What to watch in the Nevada debate

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Cengiz Yardages and Mario Tama/Getty Images

Michael Bloomberg's wealth will fuel rather than shield him from tests and attacks when he makes his Democratic primary debate debut on the stage tonight in Las Vegas.

The state of play: Bernie Sanders is still the front-runner. So the other candidates must weigh which of the two presents a bigger threat to their viability: Sanders, with his combined delegate, polling and grassroots momentum? Or Bloomberg, with his bottomless budget?

Go deeperArrowUpdated 10 mins ago - Politics & Policy

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Trump to install loyalist Ric Grenell as acting intelligence chief

Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

President Trump confirmed in a tweet Wednesday night that he will install Richard Grenell, the current U.S. ambassador to Germany and a staunch defender of the president, as the acting director of national intelligence.

Why it matters: The role, which was originally vacated by Dan Coats in August 2019, is one of grave responsibility. As acting DNI, Grenell will be charged with overseeing and integrating the U.S. intelligence community and will advise the president and the National Security Council on intelligence matters that concern national security.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 mins ago - Politics & Policy

What to know about the South Carolina Democratic debate

2020 candidates at the Nov. 20 Democratic debate in Atlanta. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

CBS anchors Gayle King and Norah O'Donnell will be the two main moderators for the upcoming Democratic debate in South Carolina, the network announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: The Feb. 25 debate in Charleston, South Carolina, is the final one before the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29 and Super Tuesday on March 3. The debate will run from 8-10 p.m. ET. It will air live on CBS, BET and Twitter, with the Congressional Black Caucus Institute joining CBS News as partners.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Situational awareness

Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images

Catch up on today's biggest news:

  1. Nikki Haley poaches top conservative from Heritage Action
  2. Pennsylvania diocese files for bankruptcy amid sexual abuse lawsuits
  3. Sanders and Bloomberg battle over heart health
  4. Warren supporters form super PAC
  5. National polls show Bernie in control ahead of Nevada
  6. How a Chinese think tank rates all 50 U.S. governors

Nikki Haley poaches top conservative from Heritage Action

Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images

Nikki Haley has hired Tim Chapman, the head of Heritage Action, to run her conservative policy group Stand for America, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the hire. Haley and Chapman confirmed the hire, which was first reported by RealClearPolitics' Philip Wegmann.

Why it matters: Chapman is among the most influential conservative policy leaders in the country. His hire is Haley's highest-profile outside recruitment since leaving her job as UN ambassador under President Trump.

Pennsylvania diocese files for bankruptcy amid sexual abuse lawsuits

Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

The Diocese of Harrisburg became the first in Pennsylvania to seek bankruptcy protection on Wednesday, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Pennsylvania influenced a series of investigations into Catholic dioceses across the country when state Attorney General Josh Shapiro released a grand jury inquiry into six dioceses, including Harrisburg, in mid-2018.

Trump has declared war on sanctuary cities

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Armed with subpoenas, lawsuits and immigration SWAT teams, the Trump administration has declared war on sanctuary cities.

The big picture: President Trump and his administration have used every available tool to try to crack down on local governments that refuse to hold immigrants in criminal custody, block immigration agents from working in county jails or deny federal authorities access to immigrants' records.

Sanders pondered a primary challenge against Obama in 2012

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders pondered a primary challenge against former President Obama in 2012, forcing then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to talk him down, reports The Atlantic.

Why it matters: While Obama hasn't endorsed a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, he cautioned last year that "the average American doesn't think that we have to completely tear down the system and remake it" β€” a veiled jab at the Vermont senator, the current front-runner.

WSJ: Bloomberg pays Californians to support him on social media

Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Michael Bloomberg's presidential campaign is paying hundreds of Californians to regularly post endorsements about the billionaire on their personal social media accounts and send positive text messages to friends about the candidate on a regular basis, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The effort, which could cost millions of dollars, comes just weeks before California's March 3 primary and is one more tactic in the campaign's broader social media strategy, which includes paying meme influencers on Instagram.

Sign of the times: A pro-Warren super PAC

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren at a rally in Nevada. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A group of women progressives who back Sen. Elizabeth Warren has formed Persist PAC, a super PAC airing pro-Warren ads starting Wednesday in an effort to boost her performance ahead of Saturday's crucial Nevada caucuses, a spokesman told Axios.

Why it matters: Warren has spoken adamantly against the influence of unlimited spending and dark money in politics. But these supporters have concluded that before Warren can reform the system, she must win under the rules that exist β€” and that whether she likes it or not, their uncoordinated help may be needed to keep her viable through this weekend's contest and into South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Hackers use Rudy Giuliani's Twitter typos to spread malware

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Hackers are using misspelled links in Rudy Giuliani's tweets to spread malware, CNET reports.

Why it matters: Giuliani, the former New York mayor and President Trump's personal lawyer, has more than 650,000 Twitter followers β€” including politicians, journalists and Trump Organization members β€” all of whom could unknowingly click an incorrect link that exposes them to malware.

Sanders and Bloomberg, both 78, battle over heart health

Photos: Alex Wong/Getty Images; Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Mike Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders' presidential campaigns sparred Wednesday over which 78-year-old is in better cardiac health.

The big picture: The line of attack comes as Sanders, the race's current frontrunner, is set to meet Bloomberg, who has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to make a splash in the race, face-to-face for the first time on the debate stage in Nevada.

CNN hires Andrew Yang as political commentator

Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Andrew Yang is joining CNN as a political commentator after ending his 2020 presidential campaign last week, the network announced Wednesday.

The big picture: The businessman β€” who has never held public office β€” gained national attention in the race through his emphasis on universal basic income, which he believes will alleviate social and economic ills stemming from technological change. He'll make his first CNN appearance to discuss Wednesday's Democratic debate in Nevada "to help shed light on the election and the candidates’ experiences."

Go deeper: Politicians ditch government for cable news

Medicare for All is dividing unions across the country

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Unions across the country are at odds over Medicare for All, with some saying it would free them up to focus on wages and working conditions, while others argue that the health benefits they've already won are better, Politico reports.

The big picture: The fight reflects the larger battle over Medicare for All, but is particularly acute in union-heavy states like California, New York and Michigan. This has all come to a head in Nevada, after the Culinary Workers Union slammed Medicare for All and didn't endorse any of the candidates, providing a portrait of how divisive the issue is within one of the Democratic party's most loyal institutions.

Go deeper ... Medicare for All: Where the Democratic candidates stand

Polls: Sanders in control over Biden, Bloomberg

Photos: Brett Carlsen/AFP via Getty Images; Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images; Sean Rayford/Getty Images

A group of top national polls released this week show Bernie Sanders in control of the 2020 Democratic race ahead of Wednesday's debate in Las Vegas.

The state of play: Joe Biden, who has been at the top of the polls for months, plunged after lackluster performances in Iowa and New Hampshire β€” allowing Sanders to surge ahead as billionaire Mike Bloomberg has cut into the former vice president's lead among moderate voters.

Bloomberg's baggage, and barrage

Illustration: AΓ―da Amer/Axios

Top 2020 Democrats, armed with decades of opposition research, plan to savage Mike Bloomberg as a Democratic Trump β€” an egomaniac New York billionaire who's stained by sexism and racial slights, and hell-bent on buying power and puppeteering mass media.

Why it matters: Bloomberg knows it's coming, has rehearsed his retorts, readied ads and policy plans to deflect, and will unleash $1.5 billion more on ads and staff to clean up any damage.

Bloomberg camp's "dire" warning: Sanders soon unstoppable

Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Mike Bloomberg's campaign is sounding the alarm that Bernie Sanders will soon amass an unsurmountable delegate lead if the Democratic field stays split β€” and took the extraordinary step of suggesting laggards should drop out.

What they're saying: Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg's top strategist, said: "The fact is if the state of this race remains status quo β€” with Biden, Pete and Amy in the race on Super Tuesday β€” Bernie is likely to open up a delegate lead that seems nearly impossible to overcome."

Mike Bloomberg's war on Wall Street

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Mike Bloomberg makes billions of dollars from Wall Street every year. But his plan to rein in the financial sector is very aggressive. If he were to become president, it would be fought vociferously by the biggest clients of Bloomberg LP, the financial-information company that's the source of the candidate's wealth.

Why it matters: Bloomberg's detailed financial reform policy, released Tuesday, could cost Wall Street trillions of dollars while significantly increasing regulatory scrutiny of financial activities. It's a vision that would not be at all surprising coming from Elizabeth Warren, but that was less expected from an avatar of red-blooded capitalism.

Buttigieg invokes Stormy Daniels in swipe at Limbaugh and Trump

Democratic presidential candidate and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a town hall event in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Pete Buttigieg addressed during a CNN town hall Tuesday conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh's claim that President Trump told him to "never apologize" for saying Americans wouldn't elect "a gay guy who kisses his husband on stage."

Details: Buttigieg, the first openly gay candidate to launch a major presidential campaign, defended himself following Limbaugh's remarks on his Monday show by reviving on stage in Las Vegas allegations by Trump's now-imprisoned former personal attorney Michael Cohen that the president directed him to pay hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Trump denies the claim.

Freed Blagojevich says he's "profoundly grateful" to Trump

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich arrives home in Chicago from prison after his sentence was commuted by President Trump on Tuesday. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich thanked President Trump from Denver International Airport Tuesday before catching a flight back to Chicago following his release from prison β€” hours after Trump commuted his 14-year prison sentence for extortion, bribery and corruption.

What he's saying: "I'm profoundly grateful to President Trump and it's a profound and everlasting gratitude," said the former contestant on Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice," who was eight years into his sentence for crimes including seeking to sell an appointment to former President Obama's old Senate seat, to WGN-TV. "He didn't have to do this, he's a Republican president and I was a Democratic governor."

Go deeper: Trump pardons the swamp

Freed Blagojevich says he's "profoundly grateful" to Trump

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich arrives home in Chicago from prison after his sentence was commuted by President Trump on Tuesday. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich thanked President Trump from Denver International Airport Tuesday before catching a flight back to Chicago following his release from prison β€” hours after Trump commuted his 14-year prison sentence for extortion, bribery and corruption.

What he's saying: "I'm profoundly grateful to President Trump and it's a profound and everlasting gratitude," said the former contestant on Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice," who was eight years into his sentence for crimes including seeking to sell an appointment to former President Obama's old Senate seat, to WGN-TV. "He didn't have to do this, he's a Republican president and I was a Democratic governor."

Go deeper: Trump pardons the swamp

Reports: Barr is considering leaving over Trump's tweets

Attorney General Bill Barr during a Detroit event in December. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Bill Barr's spokesperson tweeted Tuesday night the "Attorney General has no plans to resign" after multiple reports said he's considering leaving the administration over President Trump's tweets on the Justice Department.

Between the lines, per Axios' Jonathan Swan: Barr has made clear to Trump, both publicly and, repeatedly, in private conversations, that he can’t do his job if the president keeps publicly commenting on Justice Department criminal cases. Trump chose to ignore that warning on Tuesday, and a source familiar with the situation said it made a bad situation worse.

Flashback: Barr: Trump's Roger Stone tweets "make it impossible for me to do my job"

Sanders requests recount of Iowa recanvass after results show shrunken margin

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a statement Tuesday night that he will request a recount of the Iowa Democratic Party's recanvass results.

Where it stands: Both Pete Buttigieg and Sanders requested partial recanvasses in Iowa last week after results were delayed and showed several errors following a software malfunction on caucus night.

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