BREAKING … NYT’S ADAM GOLDMAN: “Andrew McCabe, Ex-F.B.I. Official, Will Not Be Charged in Lying Case”: “The decision by prosecutors in Washington ends a case that had left Mr. McCabe in legal limbo for nearly two years. It also appears to be a sign that Attorney General William P. Barr wants to show that the Justice Department is independent from Mr. Trump … The president’s relentless criticism of the Justice Department likely complicated the prosecution of Mr. McCabe. …
“Hints of the case’s weakness had emerged. One prosecutor assigned to the case recently left, an unusual step so close to a potential indictment. Another departed for a private law firm and has expressed reservations about how the case was handled. A key witness testified that Mr. McCabe had no motive to lie because he was authorized as the F.B.I.’s deputy director to speak to the media.” NYT
A THOUGHT EXERCISE: Based on what we know about President DONALD TRUMP, does he seem like the sort of person who would be cool with his A.G. going on television and dumping on him? And with DOJ dropping the case against McCabe — whom Trump has called a “major sleazebag” — what’s the president going to say and do now?
ON THE OTHER HAND … “Barr Installs Outside Prosecutor to Review Case Against Michael Flynn, Ex-Trump Adviser,” by NYT’s Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo: “Attorney General William P. Barr has assigned an outside prosecutor to scrutinize the criminal case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, according to people familiar with the matter.
“The review is highly unusual and could trigger more accusations of political interference by top Justice Department officials into the work of career prosecutors.” NYT
THE ‘KEEP-QUIET-BARR-I’M-IN-CHARGE’ TWEET … @realDonaldTrump at 8:33 a.m.: “‘The President has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.’ A.G. Barr This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!”
— NOW OUT … TAKE THAT, HE SAYS: The full transcript of Barr’s interview with ABC’s Pierre Thomas. Noteworthy: “I thought that was a righteous prosecution,” Barr says of Roger Stone. “And I was happy that he was convicted.”
POPPING IN KYIV … REUTERS: “Let’s move on from impeachment, visiting U.S. Senators tell Ukraine’s leader”: “A group of three U.S. Senators visited Kiev on Friday to convey a message of continued bipartisan support for Ukraine after it got entangled last year in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. …
“‘I think we all are confident that President Zelenskiy does not want to be involved in U.S. politics, and we hope that any pressure (that) existed in the past to do so is over,’ Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said after meeting the Ukrainian leader. ‘Our message is we want to put this impeachment question behind us, and we want to be moving together, Republicans and Democrats, in supporting Ukraine.’”
— SPOTTED in the back of this U.S. Embassy Kyiv pic: State Department witness David Holmes of “he loves your ass” fame, sporting a post-impeachment beard.
IRAN FALLOUT — @AndrewDesiderio: “JUST IN: House Foreign Affairs Committee releases Trump admin’s legal and policy framework for the Soleimani strike. The report does not mention an ‘imminent threat’ against Americans, despite Trump and senior officials citing one after the strike.” The report … More from Connor O’Brien
NEWS OUT OF MUNICH — “Official says U.S., Taliban reach Afghan truce agreement,” by AP’s Matthew Lee and Robert Burns: “A senior U.S. official said Friday the United States and the Taliban have reached a truce agreement that will take effect ‘very soon’ and could lead to withdrawals of American troops from Afghanistan.
“The official said the agreement for a seven-day ‘reduction in violence’ to be followed by the start of all-Afghan peace talks within 10 days is ‘very specific’ and covers the entire country including Afghan forces.” AP
Happy Friday afternoon.
NEW NEVADA POLL … SANDERS OVER BIDEN BY 7 … AARP/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: “Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders leads the presidential field by a solid margin among likely Democratic caucusgoers heading into Nevada’s four-day early voting period, but all six of the candidates actively campaigning in the state this week earned double-digit support according to The Nevada Poll™.
“The telephone poll, conducted by WPA Intelligence on behalf of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and AARP Nevada, contacted 413 likely caucus attendees from Tuesday through Thursday. Sanders led the pack with 25 percent of respondents expressing support, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden (18 percent) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (13 percent).”
— THIS POLL was conducted, in part, before New Hampshire results were in. And MR. LAS VEGAS JON RALSTON has some doubts about it.
TRUMP will be in LAS VEGAS for three days next week, per the Review-Journal: “President Donald Trump will arrive in Las Vegas two days ahead of his remarks at a graduation for ex-offenders Thursday, the Review Journal has learned.
“Air Force One is expected to touch down Tuesday, according to a Republican official in Nevada. There will be no public events on Tuesday or Wednesday. Instead Trump will use the two days to meet with officials to strategize about his western campaign.” LVRJ
BLOOMBERG NO. 1 IN FLORIDA POLL … Fla Politics
FOR PROS … JAMES ARKIN: “Trump’s son headlining fundraiser for Minnesota Senate candidate Jason Lewis” … The invite
CORONAVIRUS LATEST — “Escaping the coronavirus ‘petri dish’: Doctor, lawmakers seek evacuations from quarantined cruise,” by Adam Cancryn and Dan Diamond: “A senior House Republican is pressuring the Trump administration to evacuate over 400 American citizens from a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan, after a friend stuck on the boat relayed concerns about the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
“Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe is leading a congressional letter calling on the federal government to bring those stranded on the ship back to the U.S. for testing. He also told POLITICO he lobbied for an evacuation during a Wednesday night call with health officials … The U.S. is sending a team to the ship to evaluate the situation. But federal health officials in charge of the coronavirus remain hesitant to go as far as evacuating Americans, Roe said.” POLITICO
— WAPO: “Inside a lab where scientists are working urgently to fight the coronavirus outbreak,” by Carolyn Johnson in Baltimore: “The novel coronavirus at the center of a widening global public health emergency arrived here last Friday in two thumb-size vials, nested in dry ice and multiple layers of protective packaging. …
“[I]t’s the scientific work in these laboratories that may lead the way to a therapy or vaccine that could help save lives and fight this outbreak — or the next one. … Wearing head-to-toe protective suits and breathing air pumped and purified by respirators mounted on their belts, [virologists] have already begun infecting monkey kidney cells with the new coronavirus in clear laboratory flasks and letting it do what viruses do best — replicate.” WaPo
FOR YOUR RADAR — “Appeals court rejects Trump-approved Medicaid work requirements,” by Rachana Pradhan and Susannah Luthi: “The decision, which upheld a lower court ruling against the work requirements, brings the Trump administration’s Medicaid overhaul closer to possible review from the Supreme Court.” POLITICO … The opinion
CENSUS WATCH — “‘We’re an Afterthought’: The Push to Get Asian-Americans to Complete the Census,” by NYT’s John Eligon in Austin, Texas: “Asian-Americans are the fastest growing population in the nation. But organizers and activists … worry that Asian-Americans remain largely misunderstood. The population includes people from places as different as Nepal, Iraq, Vietnam and Taiwan, in occupations ranging from store clerk and taxi driver to lawyer and banker. The census, the activists say, is one of the best tools available to help capture that multiplicity, secure better resources and funding and harness untapped political power. …
“In a survey, Asian-Americans reported a lower likelihood of filling out their census forms than any other demographic group. They are also the least familiar with the census, on average, and the most worried that their information will be used against them, according to a Census Bureau report. … Hundreds of civic organizations are sending volunteers to knock on doors, visit cultural fairs and host town halls in an effort to educate Asian-Americans about the existence of the census, and to allay fears about completing it.” NYT
MUCK READ — “The Benefits of Being Joe Biden’s Brother,” by ProPublica’s Daniel Golden, with Chuck Neubauer and Matthew Malone: “The Biden brothers … have pursued overlapping careers — one a presidential aspirant with an expansive network of well-heeled Democratic donors; the other an entrepreneur who helped his brother raise political money and cultivated the same network to help finance his own business deals.
“Jim Biden, 70, has cycled over the years from nightclub owner to insurance broker to political consultant and fundraiser to startup investor and construction company executive. But the through line of his resume was his bond with his brother, a Democratic Party stalwart in a position to push legislation or make government contracts happen.” ProPublica
CHASING AMY — “Klobuchar gets a grilling,” by David Siders: “There was the withering interview on ‘The View’ this week, in which the Minnesota senator was asked why she ‘failed to prosecute a single killing by the police’ during her time as a county prosecutor. Then came the circulation of video in which Klobuchar called for a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border during a Senate campaign debate in 2006. And touching down in Nevada late Thursday, Klobuchar wasn’t 20 minutes into a presidential campaign forum before a question about her record on race arose. …
“[T]he hostile questioning is a sign of her arrival as a serious contender. But it also comes at a precarious time, as she scrambles to make inroads in Nevada and South Carolina — two racially diverse states in which she has little demonstrated support.” POLITICO
DEEP DIVE — “What Being a Mayor Taught Pete Buttigieg,” by NYT’s Trip Gabriel in South Bend: “Serving as America’s youngest mayor of a city over 100,000, Mr. Buttigieg grew in office, becoming a more patient listener and more respectful of those with clashing views, supporters and critics agreed in interviews. For someone who by nature runs emotionally cool, given to detailed, clinical answers when challenged, Mr. Buttigieg came to embrace that a mayor’s primary job was not to always have the factually correct answer … but to empathize and provide inspiration.” NYT
VALLEY TALK — “Facebook to allow paid political messages that aren’t ads,” by AP’s Barbara Ortutay and Amanda Seitz in San Francisco: “Its policy change comes days after presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg exploited a loophole to run such humorous messages promoting his campaign on the accounts of popular Instagram personalities followed by millions of younger people.
“The change involves what Facebook calls ‘branded content’ — sponsored items posted by ordinary users who are typically paid by companies or organizations. Advertisers pay the influential users directly to post about their brand. Facebook makes no money from such posts and does not consider them advertising. … Friday’s rule change will now allow campaigns in the U.S. to use this tool, provided they’ve been authorized by Facebook to run political ads and disclose who paid for the sponsored posts.” AP
— “Google redraws the borders on maps depending on who’s looking,” by WaPo’s Greg Bensinger in San Francisco: “Google’s corporate mission is “to organize the world’s information,” but it also bends it to its will. From Argentina to the United Kingdom to Iran, the world’s borders look different depending on where you’re viewing them from. That’s because Google — and other online mapmakers — simply change them. …
“And while maps are meant to bring order to the world, the Silicon Valley firm’s decision-making on maps is often shrouded in secrecy, even to some of those who work to shape its digital atlases every day. It is influenced not just by history and local laws, but also the shifting whims of diplomats, policymakers and its own executives, say people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss internal processes.” WaPo
— “Zuckerberg to concede Facebook willing to pay more taxes overseas,” by Mark Scott in London: “Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, an annual event that attracts high-ranking officials and corporate leaders, the 35-year-old is expected to call [Saturday] for reforms of how Facebook and Google pay taxes for their digital empires and voice support for ongoing talks at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to create a new global tax regime.” POLITICO
HEADS UP — “Turkey-Syria clashes escalate as 800,000 displaced people battle bitter temperatures,” by NBC’s Saphora Smith in London and Aziz Akyavas in Istanbul: “President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have battled Turkish-backed fighters in the northwestern province of Idlib for years, but Damascus and Ankara in recent days have taken to directly targeting each other’s troops. Turkey said it had retaliated on Monday after Syrian forces killed five of its soldiers in Idlib, a week after a similarly deadly clash between the two sides. …
“Since Dec. 1, nearly 800,000 people have been forcibly displaced in Idlib, an area roughly the size of Delaware, according to the United Nations. The IRC estimates that another 500,000 people remain in the firing line and will be displaced if violence continues. And if the violence doesn’t kill them, now the weather might. Those on the move have been battling bitter temperatures that have dropped as low as -11 degrees Celsius (12 degrees Fahrenheit).” NBC
CLIMATE FILES — “Temperature in Antarctica soars to near 70 degrees, appearing to topple continental record set days earlier,” by WaPo’s Andrew Freedman
BEYOND THE BELTWAY — “Florida ‘red flag’ gun law used 3,500 times since Parkland,” by AP’s Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale: “The law, supported by legislators of both parties , has been applied more than 3,500 times since, with the pace accelerating during the last half of 2019. Even so, an Associated Press analysis of the law showed its use is inconsistent, with some counties and cities using it rarely and others not at all.
“Advocates of Florida’s red flag measure say before it existed, it was often difficult to remove firearms from those making threats or suffering severe mental breakdowns. … But the law also has vocal critics: those who say it violates the U.S. and state constitutions, including the right to bear arms, and others who argue that laws already on the books in Florida made it unnecessary. Still others say it discriminates against the poor.” AP
SPIES LIKE US — “CIA Programmers Describe Spy Agency Subculture of Nerf Guns, Office Drama,” by WSJ’s Rebecca Davis O’Brien
VALENTINE’S DAY CLICKER — “Sex, Lies and Prenups: Donald Trump’s Timeless Wisdom on Love,” by Michael Kruse and Jordan Muller: “To Trump, who presents himself as an expert on everything, love is just another deal—because love and business are basically the same thing. … His countless interviews are rife as well with aphorisms and accrued wisdom about the mysteries of love. Except, for him, it’s not actually that mysterious. It all comes down to money. Women are either helping him make it or trying to take it away.” Chock-full of quotes: POLITICO Magazine
MEDIAWATCH — “Google in Talks to Pay Publishers for Content in News Product,” by WSJ’s Benjamin Mullin: “Alphabet Inc.’s Google is in talks with publishers about paying a licensing fee for content that would be in a news product, according to people familiar with the matter, a move that would mark a shift in the search giant’s relationship with news organizations.
“Talks are early, and it is unclear if agreements will be reached, the people said. Most of the publishers in talks with Google are outside the U.S., including in France and Europe.” WSJ
— CNN’S OLIVER DARCY: “Inside the climate of ‘workplace terror and bullying’ at the Washington Examiner, a conservative media outlet on the rise”: “[F]or many current and former Examiner employees, the remarks [former managing editor Toby] Harnden made were not terribly surprising. These people described a toxic work environment in which Harnden would verbally abuse staff. And, according to these current and former Examiner employees, [EIC Hugo] Gurdon was aware of Harnden’s brutish managing style.” CNN
TV TONIGHT — Bob Costa sits down with Time’s Molly Ball, WaPo’s Josh Dawsey, NBC’s Josh Lederman and PBS NewsHour’s Amna Nawaz at 8 p.m. on PBS’ “Washington Week.”
SPOTTED: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) preparing to board a flight from DCA to Pittsburgh on Thursday. Pic … Jeb Bush waiting to board a flight from Nashville to Miami this morning. … Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on the 10 a.m. Acela Express toward New York this morning.
DOE ARRIVAL LOUNGE — Landon Derentz is now director for Middle Eastern and African Affairs in the Office of International Affairs at DOE. He previously was director for energy on the NSC and NEC.
NSC DEPARTURE LOUNGE — Josh Cartin has left the NSC, where he was deputy senior director for Asia. He has been named managing director for the Indo-Pacific and senior adviser to the CEO at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation.
BONUS BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Oscar Ramirez, co-founder and partner at Fulcrum Public Affairs. A trend that doesn’t get enough attention: “Animal rights. Future generations will not look back kindly on what society does today. And, yes, I am a vegetarian and occasional vegan.” Playbook Q&A