Washington Brief: Ossoff, Handel Advance to June Runoff in Georgia Special Election

Washington Brief

  • Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel will compete in a June runoff after emerging from an 18-candidate race in Georgia for the House seat formerly held by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. After no candidate secured the 50 percent needed for outright victory, President Donald Trump declared the impending runoff a win for Republicans. (Morning Consult)
  • The United States extended sanctions relief for Iran after inspectors found the country had complied with the terms of its nuclear agreement forged during the Obama administration. Trump was a critic of the Iran deal on the campaign trail and his administration is reviewing the agreement. (The Associated Press)
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) downplayed the chance of a government shutdown next week, but soon-to-expire health benefits for coal miners are still a potential sticking point that could cause problems for congressional negotiators. (The Huffington Post)
  • As Fox News is reportedly preparing to cut ties with embattled host Bill O’Reilly, public support for his ouster has risen in recent weeks, according to a new poll. (Morning Consult)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Heritage Foundation event on U.S.-U.K. trade after Brexit 10 a.m.
Brookings Institution event on carbon pricing and climate cooperation 2 p.m.
No events scheduled
No events scheduled



Aircraft Carrier Wasn’t Sailing to Deter North Korea, as U.S. Suggested
Marc Landler and Eric Schmitt, The New York Times 

As worries deepened last week about whether North Korea would conduct a missile test, the White House declared that ordering an American aircraft carrier into the Sea of Japan would send a powerful deterrent signal and give President Trump more options in responding to the North’s provocative behavior. The problem was, the carrier, the Carl Vinson, and the four other warships in its strike force were at that very moment sailing in the opposite direction, to take part in joint exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean, 3,500 miles southwest of the Korean Peninsula.

FBI used dossier allegations to bolster Trump-Russia investigation
Evan Perez et al., CNN

The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump’s campaign as part of the justification to win approval to secretly monitor a Trump associate, according to US officials briefed on the investigation. The dossier has also been cited by FBI Director James Comey in some of his briefings to members of Congress in recent weeks, as one of the sources of information the bureau has used to bolster its investigation, according to US officials briefed on the probe.

Fox Is Preparing to Cut Ties with Bill O’Reilly
Joe Flint, The Wall Street Journal 

Fox News is preparing to cut ties with its biggest star, Bill O’Reilly, according to people close to the situation. A final decision on Mr. O’Reilly’s fate could come as early as the next several days, the people said. Mr. O’Reilly, host of “The O’Reilly Factor,” has been ensnared in a sexual-harassment scandal related to previously undisclosed settlements he and Fox News paid to women who worked on or appeared on his program.

Falling Tree Kills AOC Employee Near Capitol
Alex Gangitano, Roll Call

A falling tree killed an Architect of the Capitol employee working on a project Tuesday near the Cannon House Office Building. “It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing of Architect of the Capitol employee Matthew McClanahan following an accident on the U.S. Capitol Grounds,” architect Stephen T. Ayers said in a statement.


Trump administration says Iran complying with nuclear deal
Matthew Lee, ABC News 

The Trump administration has notified Congress that Iran is complying with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama, and says the U.S. has extended the sanctions relief given to the Islamic republic in exchange for curbs on its atomic program. However, in a letter sent late Tuesday to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the administration has undertaken a full review of the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

A month after dismissing federal prosecutors, Justice Department does not have any U.S. attorneys in place
Sari Horwitz, The Washington Post  

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is making aggressive law enforcement a top priority, directing his federal prosecutors across the country to crack down on illegal immigrants and “use every tool” they have to go after violent criminals and drug traffickers. But the attorney general does not have a single U.S. attorney in place to lead his tough-on-crime efforts across the country.

This Beltway insider is in charge of hiring for the Trump administration. It’s taking a while.
Lisa Rein, The Washington Post 

If Johnny DeStefano applied for a job in the Trump administration, chances are pretty good that Johnny DeStefano wouldn’t hire him. DeStefano is the president’s official headhunter, responsible for filling up to 4,000 political jobs — about 500 of which are really important jobs — in a government that his boss promised to clear of the permanent class of capital insiders to drain the Washington swamp.

Trump Raised $107 Million for Inauguration, Doubling Record
Nicholas Fandos, The New York Times 

President Trump raised twice as much money for his inauguration festivities as any previous president-elect in history, pulling in tens of millions of dollars from wealthy donors and large corporations eager to woo the nation’s new chief executive in the days after his unexpected victory. Disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday showed the contributions from corporate executives, lobbyists and businesses, as well as small donors, totaled $107 million.

First protected DREAMer is deported under Trump
Alan Gomez and David Agren, USA Today

Federal agents ignored President Trump’s pledge to protect from deportation undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children by sending a young man back to his native Mexico, the first such documented case, a USA TODAY examination of the new administration’s immigration policies shows. After spending an evening with his girlfriend in Calexico, Calif., on Feb. 17, Juan Manuel Montes, 23, who has lived in the U.S. since age 9, grabbed a bite and was waiting for a ride when a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer approached and started asking questions.


This Little Detail Could Cause a Government Shutdown
Laura Barrón-López, The Huffington Post

A permanent funding fix for retired coal miners’ health benefits may be in trouble. And so could the federal government’s operation after the end of next week.

Adviser: Carly Fiorina ‘strongly considering’ Virginia Senate run
Miranda Green, CNN

Former Presidential Republican candidate Carly Fiorina is “strongly considering” a run to unseat Hillary Clinton’s former running mate Tim Kaine for Virginia senator in 2018, an adviser to the former Hewlett-Packard CEO told CNN. Fiorina, who bowed out of the presidential race in February 2016 before a short stint as Ted Cruz’s running mate, has been considering a run against Kaine in Virginia since November, said Frank Sadler, former campaign manager for her presidential run and the former executive director to her PAC.

Senate Democratic outside group launches radio ads defending McCaskill
Kevin Robillard, Politico 

A nonprofit controlled by allies of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is spending $500,000 on radio ads backing Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, an early cash injection bucking up one of the most vulnerable Democrats facing reelection in 2018. Majority Forward is paying for the ads, which will air statewide over the next four weeks. Majority Forward is affiliated with Senate Majority PAC, the main super PAC that supports Senate Democrats.

Sen. James Lankford experiences little of the rancor aimed at other members of Congress
Randy Krehbiel, Tulsa World 

U.S. Sen. James Lankford likes to describe his constituent meetings as community conversations. For some of Lankford’s colleagues, these meetings have been more like community arguments.

Can Sherrod Brown Make Democrats Working Class Again?
John Stanton, BuzzFeed News

With his high-and-tight haircut and stylishly shaggy beard, the “tracker” outside the Richland County Democrats annual dinner in Mansfield, Ohio, was impossible to miss, even if you didn’t see his camcorder. Pacing between the bright sunshine and cool shade outside the Kingwood Center Gardens banquet hall, he had the look of a vaguely bored, caged animal who knows there’s no delicious treat awaiting him.


Ossoff, Handel Headed to Runoff in Georgia’s 6th District
Eli Yokley, Morning Consult 

Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel will compete in a runoff after finishing Tuesday as the top two candidates in an 18-way race for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s old House seat representing suburban Atlanta. Ossoff, who rode a wave of national enthusiasm among Democrats and raised millions over the first quarter of the year, had hoped to avoid a runoff, scheduled for June 20.

Democrats begin to wonder: When do we win?
Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico 

As it became clear late Tuesday evening that Jon Ossoff would fall just short of the 50-percent mark in the first round of voting in a suburban Atlanta special election, Democrats back in Washington started leafing through their calendars and asking: When does the winning start? Ossoff’s moral victory — capturing 48 percent of the vote in a conservative-oriented district — was welcome, but after two successive close-but-no-cigar finishes in House special elections in Georgia and Kansas, a new worry is beginning to set in.

BunnyPAC Hopes to Thump Duncan Hunter on Rabbitgate
Eric Garcia, Roll Call 

A political action committee is relying on a rabbit to help California Rep. Duncan Hunter hop out of Congress. BunnyPAC was started by Shawn VanDiver, a Navy veteran who runs his own consulting firm in San Diego.


Strange Challenger For Senate? Roy Moore To Make “Announcement” Wednesday, Sources Say
J.B. Blunno and Debbie Williams, WKRG 

News 5 has learned that suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has scheduled a press conference Tuesday to make an “announcement.” The specifics of the announcement are unknown at this time, but the press conference was called just a few hours after Governor Kay Ivey said she was moving up the election for the Senate seat left vacant by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to later this year.

Reports: Florida senator used racial slurs to colleagues
The Associated Press 

News reports say a Florida state senator used racial slurs and insults in a private after-hours conversation with African-American colleagues. The reports Tuesday said Miami-area Republican Sen. Frank Artiles used a variation of the “n-word” in the conversation at Tallahassee’s Governor’s Club with Democratic Sens. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville and Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale.

Arizona Attorney General Reaches Settlement With Theranos
Christopher Weaver, The Wall Street Journal 

More than 175,000 Arizona residents who received Theranos Inc.’s blood tests will receive a full refund under a pact reached between the embattled laboratory firm and the Arizona attorney general. The settlement, which requires Theranos to pay $4.65 million into a state reimbursement fund, resolves another outstanding legal challenge for the Silicon Valley firm.


Trump’s billionaire adviser stands to gain from policies he helped shape
Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey, Politico 

Billionaire investor Steve Schwarzman’s newfound status as a trusted outside adviser for President Donald Trump has created blurred lines in which the Blackstone CEO is offering guidance on policies that could boost the fortunes of his company and his personal wealth. The starkest example was Trump’s reversal last week on labeling China a currency manipulator — a central campaign pledge that could have dealt a major blow to U.S.-China relations.

Facebook Gives Staff Green Light to Join May 1 Political Protests
Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg News 

Facebook Inc. said it won’t punish employees who take time off to join pro-immigrant protests on May 1. And, in a nod to security staff, janitors, shuttle-bus drivers and others who work for Facebook contractors on campus, the company also said it will investigate if any of its vendors illegally crack down on their employees’ protest rights. “At Facebook, we’re committed to fostering an inclusive workplace where employees feel comfortable expressing their opinions and speaking up,” a spokesman wrote in an emailed statement.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

NEW REPORT: 66% of small merchants are satisfied with what they pay for debit card acceptance. When it comes to interchange, small merchants want value, not price caps. So who is putting small merchants’ choice and flexibility at risk? Get the facts from EPC.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Mr. Trump Plays by His Own Rules (or No Rules)
The Editorial Board, The New York Times 

Anyone who has been paying the slightest attention knows by now that this president and this White House intend to play by their own set of rules — rules that in some cases come close to breaking the law and, at the very least, defy traditions of conduct and transparency Americans have come to expect from their public servants. We know that Donald Trump has refused, unlike other presidents, to release his tax returns; that his trust agreement allows him undisclosed access to profits from his businesses; and even that he clings to a profitable lease on a hotel only a stone’s throw from the White House when divesting himself of that lease is not only the obvious but the right thing to do.

Trump’s Flip-Flops Don’t Signify Maturity
Albert R. Hunt, Bloomberg View 

President Donald Trump’s abrupt changes of heart and mind were appraised at length on this weekend’s public-affairs TV interview shows. The conventional wisdom that emerged was that Trump is turning toward responsible positions on domestic and foreign policy.

Gorsuch Lessons for Trump’s Next Nominee
Fred Barnes, The Wall Street Journal

Republicans have created a political machine for confirming conservative nominees to the Supreme Court. It functioned like a well-run presidential campaign after President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to succeed the late Antonin Scalia. And it needed to perform, despite Justice Gorsuch’s impressive credentials.

Ted Cruz Takes on White House Critics of the House Freedom Caucus
Erick Erickson, The Resurgent 

Speaking in Texas tonight, Senator Ted Cruz came out swinging for the House Freedom Caucus, noting that the critics of the conservatives who are in the White House are “profoundly damaging our prospects of success.” He also noted, “If we screw all this up, you better believe the American people could elect President Warren.”

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Don’t be fooled by big box retailers’ claims about the Durbin amendment. A new Javelin study found small merchants choose their card processor based on value, not cost. In fact, despite price controls applying only to debit transactions, more merchants prefer credit card payments than debit card payments. Learn the truth about the interchange system from the Electronic Payments Coalition.

Research Reports and Polling

As Controversy Around O’Reilly Builds, So Does Support for Axing His Show
Laura Nichols, Morning Consult 

Americans are becoming increasingly critical of Bill O’Reilly and less inclined to watch his show on Fox News amid claims he sexually harassed at least half a dozen women. As controversy builds around O’Reilly, who has faced a growing number of accusers, fewer people say they watch his show and an increasing plurality are in favor of axing “The O’Reilly Factor” altogether, according to a recent Morning Consult poll.

Buy, Hire American Practices Generally Supported by U.S. Voters
Ryan Rainey, Morning Consult 

President Donald Trump on Tuesday signs an executive order that changes visa and government procurement policies to place a greater emphasis on “Buy American” and “Hire American” practices — two principles that have bipartisan support among U.S. voters, according to recent polling. Sixty-one percent of registered voters in a Morning Consult poll conducted Jan. 20 through Jan. 22 said the federal government should follow Buy American and Hire American rules, while 22 percent didn’t support that approach.