Monday's politics & policy stories

As 2020 Democrats launch ads for Nevada, Bloomberg homes in on Trump

Bloomberg rallies in Nashville, Tenn. on Feb. 12. Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg will release three nationwide TV ads on Tuesday morning that are laser-focused on one thing: beating President Trump, whom one ad describes as "the biggest bully of all."

The big picture: 2020 Democrats face their next electoral test on Saturday in Nevada, a state with a critical Hispanic constituency. Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar are releasing Spanish-language ads in the state, the New York Times and NBC News report.

America's dwindling executions

The Trump administration wants to reboot federal executions, pointing to a 16-year lapse, but Pew Research reports the government has only executed three people since 1963.

The big picture: Nearly all executions in the U.S. are done by states. Even those have been steadily dropping for two decades, per the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) — marking a downward trend for all executions in the country.

Top NSC official may be moved after "Anonymous" rumor fallout

President Trump at the Daytona 500. (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Top Trump administration officials are in discussions to reassign deputy national security adviser Victoria Coates to the Department of Energy from the National Security Council, per two sources familiar with the planning.

Why it matters: Coates' working relationship with National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, who elevated her to the deputy role only months ago, has strained amid an effort by some people inside the administration to tag her as "Anonymous" — a charge she has vehemently denied to colleagues.

Assault weapons ban dies in Virginia Senate despite Democratic control

Gun-rights ralliers at a protest outside the Virginia Capitol Building in January. Photo ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images.

An assault weapons ban died in the Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday despite a Democratic majority in the assembly, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Democrats flipped the Virginia House and Senate last year after campaigning hard on gun control. The assault weapons bill would have banned future transfers and sales of all assault weapons in the state.

The cost of going after Bloomberg

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Here's the growing dilemma for 2020 Democrats vying for a one-on-one showdown with frontrunner Bernie Sanders: Do they have the guts — and the money — to first stop Mike Bloomberg?

Why it matters: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren all must weigh the costs of punching Bloomberg where he looks most vulnerable: stop-and-frisk, charges of sexism, billionaire entitlement. The more zealous the attacks, the greater the risk he turns his campaign ATM against them.

Sanders accuses Bloomberg of trying to "buy" the 2020 election

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg. Photos: Drew Angerer; Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders tore into 2020 rival Michael Bloomberg at a Las Vegas campaign event Saturday, saying the billionaire and former New York mayor is trying to "buy the presidency" by paying millions of dollars in advertising.

Why it matters: Bloomberg has surged in national polling recently, having poured millions of dollars into campaign ads largely targeting Trump. His candidacy has become an obvious foil for Sanders, whose grassroots campaign railing against billionaires and the establishment has vaulted him to front-runner status.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Feb 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Inside the Trump campaign's big hedge on Facebook

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Trump campaign has invested most of its advertising budget to date on Facebook, testing thousands of versions of ads per day to maximize its spending.

But behind the scenes, a source familiar with the campaign tells Axios, the thinking has shifted: "As everyone can see, we still have strong spending on Facebook, but the percentage of our total media budget [on Facebook] is shrinking."

Trump's revenge tour has the House in its sights

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Saul Loeb/Getty Contributor

In the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections — buoyed by Republican control of both chambers — President Trump viewed campaigning for the House as a lower-tier priority and instead poured his energy into rallying for the Senate.

But after the GOP reckoning in 2018, and experiencing firsthand how damaging a Democratic-led House has been to him, Trump is now personally invested in helping Republicans regain the majority in November, several people familiar with his thinking tell Axios.

Trump takes presidential limousine for lap at Daytona 500

Photo: Saul Loeb/PoolL/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump took the presidential limo, also known as "The Beast," on a lap around the Daytona 500 track Sunday, drawing cheers from the crowd before announcing the start of the prestigious NASCAR race as the honorary "grand marshal."

Why it matters: Florida, a key swing state and home of the Daytona 500, has been a target of the Trump campaign as the president ramps up his re-election effort. Trump announced his 2020 campaign in Orlando last June and changed his voter registration to list his south Florida Mar-a-Lago resort as his primary residence.

Judge sets "scheduling" conference call ahead of Roger Stone sentencing

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson has requested a Feb. 18 "scheduling" conference call in the Roger Stone case, two days before the former Trump associate is set to be sentenced.

Why it matters: Stone's defense team on Friday filed a sealed motion for a new trial — the second time they've done so — amid allegations of juror bias and a growing controversy over Attorney General Bill Barr's intervention in the case.

Biden says Bloomberg's money can't "erase" his record

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that Michael Bloomberg's vast fortune cannot "erase" his record, and that scrutiny of Bloomberg's positions on things like race and policing will ramp up now that he's in the national spotlight.

Why it matters: Biden's polling free fall in the wake of poor performances in Iowa and New Hampshire has coincided with a surge for Bloomberg, who appeals to a similar moderate bloc of the Democratic Party. The billionaire's limitless spending capacity poses an especially stark threat to Biden, who has struggled with fundraising.

Experts raise concerns about new census tech in wake of Iowa

The Government Accountability Office, the Census Bureau's inspector general and some lawmakers doubt whether the U.S. census, which begins its every-10-year count next month, is ready for prime time, AP's Mike Schneider writes.

Why it matters: The Census Bureau plans to try out a lot of new technology, but some of it is not fully tested.

Donald Trump, the luckiest man

President Trump at a New Hampshire rally on Monday. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump is capitalizing on three years of political, economic and global trends that have exceeded forecasts. He has also benefited from a run of extraordinary good luck.

Why it matters: Trump’s top advisers privately marvel at how he flirts with disaster only to catch a big break, whether it's the Iranians botching their response to his military attack or Democrats embarrassing themselves in Iowa on impeachment eve.

Buttigieg: I'm not going to be "lectured on family values" by Rush Limbaugh

Pete Buttigieg responded on "Fox News Sunday" to comments by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who received bipartisan criticism last week for saying voters aren't going to elect the former mayor because he's a "37-year-old gay guy kissing his husband" on stage after debates.

Why it matters: Limbaugh’s comments came only days after President Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s top civilian honor, during the State of the Union address. Buttigieg is the first openly gay candidate to launch a major presidential campaign.

Klobuchar says she has raised $12 million since New Hampshire debate

Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced on ABC's "This Week" Sunday that her campaign has raised $12 million online in the nine days since the New Hampshire debate.

Why it matters: That's more than the Minnesota senator raised in the fourth quarter of 2019, which had been her strongest quarter yet. It follows a surprise third-place finish in the New Hampshire primary, where she trounced both Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren — once believed to be Democratic front-runners.

Over 1,100 former DOJ officials call for Barr's resignation

Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

More than 1,100 former Justice Department officials who have served both Republican and Democratic administrations have signed onto a statement condemning Attorney General Bill Barr's intervention in the sentencing of President Trump's associate Roger Stone, arguing that his actions "require" him to resign.

The big picture: Barr is facing widespread condemnation from Democrats for taking a hands-on role in a number of politically sensitive investigations, including the Stone case, a review of the origins of the Russia probe, and most recently the prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

How Joe Biden's free fall puts Bernie in command

Data: RealClearPolitics; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Bernie Sanders hasn't picked up the voters who are deserting Joe Biden, but he's the clear beneficiary of the former vice president's rapid collapse.

The big picture: Of the top six candidates in the race, Sanders' polling numbers have changed the least over the last few weeks — but Biden's fall has made Sanders the biggest winner, since the moderate vote is now splintered four ways.

Nancy Pelosi: I'm not counting Joe Biden out of the 2020 race

Nancy Pelosi speaks during the Munich Security Conference at Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Germany on Friday. Photo: Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN in an interview airing Monday that she's "not counting Joe Biden out" following the former vice president's disappointing finishes in the Iowa and New Hampshire Democratic primaries.

What she's saying: "There are still races ahead that are much more representative of the country," Pelosi told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an interview in Munich, Germany, Saturday. Pelosi also defended tearing up her copy of President Trump's State of the Union address on Feb. 4 amid criticism from Republicans, who said it was a '"breach of decorum." She said she only decided to do so after she read the speech and found its content "terrible."

Go deeper: Poll: Joe Biden loses status as most electable Democrat

Biden: Sanders must disassociate himself from attacks on union leaders

Joe Biden during a South Carolina campaign launch party, Feb. 11, Columbia, South Carolina. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden told NBC's "Meet the Press" in an interview airing Sunday his 2020 rival Sen. Bernie Sanders needs to do more to address "misogynistic" online threats to leaders of the Nevada Culinary Workers Union.

Why it matters: Biden's comments come ahead of Nevada's caucuses next Saturday. The union, representing some 60,000 workers, is the most influential in the state. Its leaders announced last Thursday it would not endorse any Democratic candidate.