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Stacey Abrams threatens presidential run

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Stacey Abrams threatens presidential run

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On the roster: Stacey Abrams threatens presidential run – Hogan checks the temperature in Iowa – Ocasio-Cortez denies campaign cash allegations – McConnell can’t protect Trump emergency – Florida man + Molotov cocktails = Kicker

STACEY ABRAMS THREATENS PRESIDENTIAL RUN 
NYT: “Pick a strategy Democrats are considering ahead of 2020, and Stacey Abrams’s narrow loss in the Georgia governor’s race serves either as a blueprint or a warning sign. … For Ms. Abrams, the answer is unequivocal: Her campaign turned out record numbers of black, Latino and Asian voters, and she also won a larger share of the white vote than President Barack Obama or scions of Georgia political royalty like Jason Carter and Michelle Nunn. … This, she argues, is a playbook Democrats should follow for 2020, whether or not she runs for president – a choice she is actively considering. ‘I need women of color, particularly black women, to understand that our achievements should not be diminished,’ she said, particularly that she came so close in a red state. She added, ‘Now I’m not saying I would be the best candidate, but I’m not going to dismiss it out of hand the way others do.’”

Bloomberg pens op-ed, will not run in 2020 – Bloomberg: “I know what it takes to run a winning campaign, and every day when I read the news, I grow more frustrated by the incompetence in the Oval Office. I know we can do better as a country. And I believe I would defeat Donald Trump in a general election. But I am clear-eyed about the difficulty of winning the Democratic nomination in such a crowded field. There is another factor that has weighed heavily on my mind: the likelihood that our biggest national problems will worsen over the next two years. With a leader in the White House who refuses to bring the parties together, it will be nearly impossible for Congress to address the major challenges we face… I love our country too much to sit back and hope for the best as national problems get worse.”

Harris, Sanders got the best bounces – FiveThirtyEight: “When candidates run for president, they want to make a good first impression. … And so far, some candidates have had more successful kickoffs than others. … Out of the six candidates for whom we have both before and after data, Sen. Kamala Harris appears to have had the best campaign launch so far. Harris gained 8 percentage points between the poll the week before her Jan. 21 announcement and the poll the week after. And horse-race polling wasn’t the only indicator that Harris had an effective kickoff. Harris’s announcement also succeeded at getting more voters to see her in a positive light. … Sen. Bernie Sanders … had nearly as big of a bump as Harris. Sanders gained 6 points between the Feb. 11-17 poll and last week’s poll (he announced on Feb. 19). That’s especially impressive considering that he was already a well-known commodity.”

Hillary finally gets Shermanesque – USA Today: “Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton definitively declared on Monday ‘I’m not running’ in the 2020 presidential election, again throwing cold water on the still smoldering rumors that she might go for a 2016 rematch against President Donald Trump. ‘I’m not running, but I’m going to keep working and speaking and standing up for what I believe,’ she said in an interview with News 12, a regional cable news network in New York. ‘I’m not going anywhere.’ Clinton has been an outspoken critic of her 2016 opponent and his administration’s policies since her defeat.”

Bernie signs Democratic loyalty pledge – WaPo: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), a longtime independent, signed a pledge Tuesday saying he would seek the presidency as a Democrat and govern as a Democrat if elected. The move comes in response to a new rule from the Democratic National Committee that requires all candidates for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination to sign such a pledge — a change that some Sanders allies considered a swipe at the senator. Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate and has said he will support the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020 no matter how the nominating contests go, has frustrated some in the party by remaining politically independent. He ran for president as a Democrat in 2016 but then sought reelection to his Senate seat from Vermont last year as an independent.”

Merkley’s message for Dems: There’s more at stake than the presidency – AP: “U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon has decided not to enter the increasingly crowded race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination after months of consideration. Merkley told The Associated Press the large field of Democratic contenders for the White House was not a major factor in his decision, nor was an Oregon law that prevents him from being on the ballot for more than one elected office in any given year. ‘I’ve never shied from a fight, and there’s nothing about the field that would make me reluctant to be there,’ Merkley said. Merkley, who planned to formally announce his intentions on Tuesday, said in a telephone interview that he decided he would be more effective running for his third term in the Senate than being a candidate for the presidency.”

Beto the blank slate – Politico: “It might be the biggest question lingering over [Beto] O’Rourke as he prepares for a likely run for the Democratic presidential nomination: Just what does he believe, actually? O’Rourke seems unwilling to place himself on his party’s conventional political spectrum. At the final town hall of his congressional career, the last of more than 100 such gatherings he held, O’Rourke was greeted in December at a local high school by cheerleaders, a mariachi band and supporters wearing T-shirts reading ‘Beto for President.’ In response to a question from POLITICO after the event, O’Rourke would not—or could not—answer if he considers himself a progressive Democrat. ‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘I’m just, as you may have seen and heard over the course of the campaign, I’m not big on labels. I don’t get all fired up about party or classifying or defining people based on a label or a group. I’m for everyone.’”

Caitlin Flanagan: ‘The anger of Amy Klobuchar’ – The Atlantic: “What a disappointment all of this has been to those of us who had been so excited by [Amy] Klobuchar when we were introduced to her during the sudden-death round of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. You can be forgiven for not remembering those hearings, as they took place several years ago, before (inter alia) the Cohen testimony, the government shutdown, Caravans I, II, and III, Jussie Smollett, the state of emergency, people ‘unwilling to work,’ Virginia Is for Racists, Donald Trump breaking his 40-year winning streak of staying out of Vietnam, and the Oscars’ celebration of diversity coming to an abrupt halt when the wrong diversity picture got celebrated.”

HOGAN CHECKS THE TEMPERATURE IN IOWA 
WaPo: “Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, one of the highest-profile Republicans open to running against President Trump, sounded notes Monday that candidates-in-waiting have long tried to hit in this first-caucus state. But he also signaled that he is in no rush to make up his mind about 2020. He said he was here to attend to National Governors Association business, not lay the groundwork for a campaign. ‘It currently makes no sense, with a president that has the kind of approval rating that he does in his own party,’ Hogan said in an interview. ‘Having said that, I’ve said things can change, and we don’t know what it might look like a few months from now.’ Variables such as the outcome of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe, Democratic talk of impeachment and the president’s fluctuating political standing are all potential factors in his decision, Hogan acknowledged. In the meantime, he’s taking things slowly.”

Mark Cuban keeping his 2020 options open – Fox News: “Mark Cuban won’t rule out taking a shot in 2020. The billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner told Fox News it isn’t a slam dunk that he will get in the race, but it is something he is considering. ‘I said I’m not ruling it out,’ Cuban said via email. ‘But the tea leaves would have to align perfectly.’ The comments came after the ‘Shark Tank’ star spoke to the New York Daily News following the Mavs game against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night. When asked if he was going to get off the bench and enter the political game, Cuban said: ‘I haven’t decided anything yet. We’ll see what happens. It all comes down to how things play out. There’s a lot of uncertainty with what’s going on with the Mueller report, there’s a lot of things that have to be figured out before we know how 2020 is going to play out.’”

THE RULEBOOK: STILL TRUE TODAY
“No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 10

TIME OUT: FASTELAVNBOLLERS FOR EVERYBODY!
Smithsonian: “Fat Tuesday, Carnaval, Shrove Tuesday, FaschingFastelavn—for as many different names there are for Mardi Gras, there’s just as many food-related traditions. Famous in the United States, of course, are king cake and beignets in New Orleans. Shrove Tuesday in Great Britain consists of a pancake feast. Fat Tuesday is on a Thursday in Poland, but their deep-fried treasure pączki is so renowned some just call it Pączki Day. Topped with powdered sugar, pączki are crispy on the outside and soft and thick in the middle with delicious jelly filling. Other countries have similar treats by different names. Lithuanians have spurgos, which are pretty similar—with the exception that they’re sometimes made with rum and raisins, or other times with cottage cheese. The Portuguese have malasadas, typically unfilled, but very sugary, balls sometimes formed into a unique triangular shape. Scandinavians, meanwhile, enjoy semla, or fastelavnboller, which are cream-filled baked buns.”

Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval:
 42.8 percent
Average disapproval: 53.2 percent
Net Score: -10.4 points
Change from one week ago: up 2.4 points 
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 38% approve – 55% disapprove; Gallup: 43% approve – 54% unapproved; IBD: 41% approve – 53% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 46% approve – 52% disapprove; Fox News: 46% approve – 52% disapprove.]

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OCASIO-CORTEZ DENIES CAMPAIGN CASH ALLEGATIONS
Fox News: “New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday denied violating federal campaign law after a conservative government watchdog filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing the Democratic lawmaker and her chief of staff of being part of an ‘off-the-books operation’ to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on candidates last year. ‘There is no violation,’ Ocasio-Cortez exclusively told Fox News after landing Tuesday at Ronald Reagan National Airport. … The complaint was drafted by the Virginia-based National Legal and Policy Center. It accuses Ocasio-Cortez and Saikat Chakrabarti, her chief of staff, of funneling nearly $1 million in contributions from political action committees Chakrabarti established to private companies that he also controlled. The funds, the NLPC writes, were likely spent on campaign events for Ocasio-Cortez and other far-left Democratic candidates favored by Chakrabarti, who made his fortune in Silicon Valley and previously worked on Bernie Sanders‘ 2016 presidential campaign. … Chakrabarti did not return a request for comment.” 

Ocasio-Cortez says critics stoking violence against her – New Yorker: “‘It feels like an extra job,’ [Ocasio-Cortez] said of the attacks. ‘I’ve got a full-time job in Congress and then I moonlight as America’s greatest villain, or as the new hope. And it’s pretty tiring. I’m just a normal person. I knew that I was not going to be liked. I’m a Democrat. I’m a woman. I’m a young woman. A Latina. And I’m a liberal, a D.S.A. member,’ she said, referring to the Democratic Socialists of America. ‘I believe health care is a right and people should be paid enough to live. Those are offensive values to them. But this ravenous hysteria—it’s really getting to a level that is kind of out of control. It’s dangerous and even scary. I have days when it seems some people want to stoke just enough of it to have just enough plausible deniability if something happens to me.’”

House Dem in row over anti-Semitism resolution – NYT: “The decision by House Democratic leaders to put a resolution condemning anti-Semitism on the House floor Wednesday has touched off a furious debate between older House Democrats and a new breed of young liberal activists over whether Representative Ilhan Omar is being singled out for disparate treatment. The issue is pitting veteran Democrats like Representatives Eliot L. EngelNita M. Lowey and Jerrold Nadler — all of whom lead major House committees, and all of whom are Jewish — against Ms. Omar and left-leaning groups like Justice Democrats and IfNotNow, a movement led by young Jews to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. It was prompted by comments and tweets from Ms. Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, that were characterized as anti-Semitic. A draft of the resolution being circulated on Capitol Hill does not name Ms. Omar. But there is little question it is aimed at her.”

Jonathan Chait: ‘Can anti-Semitism split Democrats like it split Labour?’ – Intelligencer: “Last week, Rachel Shabi, a left-of-center British journalist, warned American progressives that anti-Semitism could one day tear apart Democrats just as it is now doing to the Labour Party. When I read her essay, just ten days ago, it seemed fantastical. Today, after watching progressives floundering about in the wake of Ilhan Omar’s smearing of pro-Israel activism as a form of dual loyalty, Shabi’s diagnosis looks prescient. It can happen here.”

MCCONNELL CAN’T PROTECT TRUMP EMERGENCY 
NYT: “Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, conceded on Monday that he could not stave off final passage of a resolution overturning President Trump’s national emergency declaration, setting up a rebuke to Mr. Trump amid signs that the president’s grip even on his own party in Congress may be slipping. With Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky joining three other Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Thom Tillis of North Carolina — in announcing he would support the measure, Democrats now have the 51 votes they need to secure passage and to force Mr. Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency. Mr. McConnell is exploring whether he can amend the House-passed resolution of disapproval, to send it back to the House and slow its trip to the president’s desk. Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski are both sponsors of a separate resolution, virtually identical to the House resolution, introduced in the Senate last week.”

Bon voyage, Stew – Politico:Don Stewart, who was for more than a dozen years a top communications adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), is leaving the Hill after 22 years – all spent in the Senate. Stew, as he was known on the Hill, spent 13 years with McConnell, including his entire run as leader. He also worked for Georgia Sen. Paul Coverdell and Texas Sens. Phil Gramm and John Cornyn. Stew was also a bouncer, and he was in the Army – two jobs that might actually prepare you to work on the Hill. His last day is next Friday.”

[Ed. note: Stew, as he is known on the Hill, is fairly well the ideal flack. He never lies, he tells you the facts in the light most favorable to his team but doesn’t offer fanciful spin, he is well informed and has a presumption toward press access. He’s been great to work with over the years. I wish him every success and happiness outside of the institution.]  

Feud between Scott and Gaetz gets ugly – Politico: “A feud between Rep. Matt Gaetz and Sen. Rick Scott has broken into the open, putting two of Donald Trump’s closest Florida allies at war with each other in a state that’s pivotal to the president’s reelection campaign. After simmering behind the scenes for months, the conflict came to a boil when Scott accused Gaetz of witness intimidation for threatening Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer-turned-congressional-informant, via Twitter. … The roots of the strife stretch back more than five years, to Tallahassee, when Scott served as governor. Back then, Gaetz was a state representative and Gaetz’s father, Don Gaetz, was the president of the Florida Senate who clashed with Scott. Two years later, in 2016, Don Gaetz was passed over to become president of the University of West Florida after Scott lobbied the selection committee in favor of another applicant.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
FDA commissioner said to be resigning – WSJ

Arthur Brooks: ‘Our culture of contempt’ – NYT

Cohen attorneys reportedly sought pardon from Trump last spring – WSJ

In letter to Congress, Trump now says he “100 percent” favors keeping troops in Syria – NBC News

T-Mobile has racked up a big bill at Trump Washington hotel since merger with Sprint – WaPo

John Bolton is a man in a hurry – The Atlantic

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announces resignation WaPo

AUDIBLE: DON’T LET THEM STUFF YOU IN A LOCKER 
“It is like high school – I just hope I’m better at it.” – Freshman Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., told Politico for an article about the House’s freshman cliques. 

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I must admit to being conflicted. I want the wall built…national emergency, crisis, disaster…call it what you will, our southern border must be secured. Pelosi and crew absolutely disgust me with the political games they play with our national security and have forced President Trump to declare this national emergency to do what must be done.  But…I’m a strong believer in our Constitution and the arguments I’ve heard that this declaration is a constitutional power overreach by the President are troubling. Also, if granted, it would set a precedent that could be abused in the future. Can you enlighten me as to what should be done and/or what you think will happen?” – Neil Klapthor, Evans, Ga.

[Ed. note: In arguing against the resolution of disapproval now headed for passage in the Senate, President Trump said that Republicans should be unconcerned about the precedent it would set for future abuses of power by Democratic presidents since “they’re going to do it anyway.” But if that were so, it would be even more imperative for Republicans in Congress to hold the line now. The less this issue is about the specific policy and partisan self-interest, the better the legal argument Congress will have. There’s a case to be made that the president’s declaration is legal but not constitutional. And since there’s never been a declaration like this one to repurpose domestic funds specifically, expressly denied by Congress on multiple occasions, there’s a chance that the courts may consider the larger question of the law’s validity. Either way, this is an important legal fight to have. And I think it’s even more important that our impossibly weak Congress find ways to push back against the decades-long slouch toward executive power. That has nothing to do with my feelings about the issue of a couple of extra billion for border security, but rather about the deeper consideration of a system that’s gotten out of whack.]     

“Most interesting report. My wife and I have paw paw most days as a lunchtime dessert… delicious! My doctor father told me that paw paw seeds contained pepsin. It remains very popular here in The West Indies and is widely available in supermarkets. Not generally known is that the paw paw tree may be ‘male’ or ‘female’ … the male tree will never produce fruit.” – Eric de Verteuil, West Moorings, Trinidad

[Ed. note: My jealousy knows no bounds, Mr. de Verteuil! Not only do you live in a riotously, astonishingly beautiful place (current temperature, 88 degrees, steady breeze, low humidity) but you get to eat one of my favorite things in the world each and every day. Though as a West Virginian, perhaps I love paw paws so much because they are available so briefly. You have to wait until summer, when hot nights have finally crept into the mountains. And before the first frost they are already gone. Maybe the waiting and the short season makes them taste sweeter. But if I had such easy access to ripe paw paws, I promise that I would keep my ice cream maker in overdrive churning out pints!]    

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

FLORIDA MAN + MOLOTOV COCKTAILS = KICKER
WFTV: “An Orange County [Fla.] man is under arrest after allegedly throwing Molotov cocktails at his own vehicle inside of an impound lot, according to an arrest report. ‘He came back and started throwing gas cocktail bombs over the fence on his own car,’ said car lot owner Darnell Adams. An arrest report says the suspect, Ayub Abdulrahman, came to get his car back after it was impounded and set it on fire instead. … Adams said he was going to hand over the keys because Abdulrahman had already paid almost $300 to get this car out of the impound lot, but instead of it going home the burned-out car was stuck behind crime scene tape. … ‘I didn’t even own it anymore. He was getting it out,’ Adams said. ‘20 minutes. If he had waited twenty minutes, he would’ve been able to drive away in his car.’ …  Adams said his mechanic was able to put the fire out with an extinguisher.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Some will protest that in a world with so much human suffering, it is something between eccentric and obscene to mourn a dog. I think not. After all, it is perfectly normal, indeed, deeply human to be moved when nature presents us with a vision of great beauty.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing for Time Magazine on June 10, 2003.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Politics

Trump says he does not mind if public sees Mueller’s Russia probe report

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Trump says he does not mind if public sees Mueller's Russia probe report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he does not mind if the public is allowed to see the report that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is preparing about his investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and any possible links to the Trump campaign.

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs on travel to Ohio at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

“Let it come out, let people see it, that’s up to the attorney general … and we’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

“We’ll see if it’s fair,” he added.

Mueller is preparing to submit a report to U.S. Attorney General William Barr on his findings, including Russia’s role in the election and whether Trump unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe. Trump has denied collusion and obstruction. Russia has denied interfering in the election.

Barr already is coming under pressure from lawmakers to make the entire document public quickly, though he has wide latitude in what to release.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 420-0 last week on a non-binding resolution calling for Mueller’s report to be released both to Congress and to the public, but it is not clear how the measure will fare in the Senate.

Asked if the public should be allowed to see the report, Trump said: “I don’t mind.” He said he had no idea when it would be released.

As he has before, Trump questioned the legitimacy of Mueller’s investigation.

“I had the greatest electoral victory – one of them – in the history of our country, tremendous success, tens of millions of voters and now somebody’s going to write a report who never got a vote,” he said.

Mueller was appointed to handle the Russia investigation in May 2017 after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who had been overseeing the effort. Mueller has previously held several senior positions in the Justice Department, including FBI Director.

Reporting by Steve Holland; writing by David Alexander and Andy Sullivan; editing by Tim Ahmann and Jonathan Oatis

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Clarence Thomas makes rare intervention during Supreme Court arguments

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Clarence Thomas makes rare intervention during Supreme Court arguments

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas surprised court watchers on Wednesday when he made a rare intervention in court arguments — asking a question in a case where a death row inmate is challenging his conviction and sentence.

Thomas, who is the only African-American and the only Southerner on the court, asked his rare question toward the end of arguments in a case involving a black Mississippi death row inmate, Curtis Flowers, who was tried six different times for the 1996 murders of four people in a furniture store.

CLARENCE THOMAS BACKS TRUMP’S CALL FOR CHANGING DEFAMATION LAW TO EASE SUITS AGAINST MEDIA

Flowers’ lawyers claims a white prosecutor had a history of impermissibly using jury strikes to exclude African-Americans from the jury.

The Associated Press reported that a clear majority of the court appeared “troubled” by the actions of the prosecutor — District Attorney Doug Evans — in the prosecution of Flowers.

Thomas asked if Flowers’ lawyers in the case had made similar decisions, and the race of any struck jurors. Lawyer Sheri Lynn Johnson said three white jurors were excused by Flowers’ lawyer.

According to The Washington Post, two of Flowers’ trials were hung, and convictions in three others were overturned because of misconduct by Evans.

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But the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld his 2010 conviction, despite Evans striking five of six black jurors, arguing that Evans had race-neutral reasons for the strikes.

Thomas’ last questions in a case  were in 2016, and that was his first intervention in a decade. He has said previously that he relies on the written briefs and believes his colleagues interrupt too much.

Fox News’ Bill Mears and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Trump says he doesn’t mind if public sees Mueller’s Russia probe report

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Trump says he doesn't mind if public sees Mueller's Russia probe report

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs on travel to Ohio at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he does not mind if the public is allowed to see the report that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is preparing about his investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and any possible links to the Trump campaign.

Mueller is expected to send his report to Attorney General William Barr soon.

Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Tim Ahmann

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