The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: At His Whitaker’s End

Tensions ran high during Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

Andrew Harnik / AP

What We’re Following Today

It’s Friday, February 8.

Testy Testimony: Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker testified before the House Judiciary Committee that he has not discussed the special counsel’s investigation with President Donald Trump, nor denied funding for it. Tensions ran high: At one point, Whitaker reminded committee Chairman Jerry Nadler that his allotted time was up. This is likely Whitaker’s last testimony before the committee, because the Senate is set to confirm Trump’s nominee, William Barr, to take over the department.

Bernie 2020 Is a Go: Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is about to jump into the Democratic primary pool, reports Edward-Isaac Dovere. He’s confident that he can successfully take on Trump in the general elections—and he’s already got a big campaign network ready to push him through the primaries. But the Sanders team is keeping tabs on potential Democratic competitors who haven’t yet formally entered the race, including former Vice President Joe Biden. They’re also watching Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is expected to formally announce her campaign tomorrow, and will likely be Sanders’s closest ideological competitor.

A Tenuous Agreement: The United States and South Korea have quietly resolved a months-long disagreement over how to pay for the American troops currently based in Korea. But the deal is only a temporary one—and it’s a sign of how the Trump administration’s treatment of United States allies is making its alliances more and more fragile. A second summit between Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is looming; North Korea has made it clear that it’s not a fan of the presence of American troops so close to its borders.

A Lion of the People’s House: Representative John Dingell of Michigan, the longest-serving member of Congress in United States history, died last night at the age of 92. The congressman, who served in the House from 1955 to 2015, lived long enough to see his brand of politics come back into style.

In one of Dingell’s last acts as a public figure, he wrote in The Atlantic about how to improve America’s system of governance. Among his recommendations: abolishing the Senate and instituting automatic voter registration.

Meanwhile, in Virginia: Governor Ralph Northam reportedly told staffers that he isn’t planning to resign amid the controversy surrounding a racist photo in his medical-school yearbook. And Northam’s No. 2, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, was accused by a second woman of sexual assault.


Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker arrives to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

Ideas From The Atlantic

Why the Wall Will Never Happen (Richard Parker)
“There will be no ‘concrete structure from sea to sea,’ as the president once pledged. Taking this land would constitute an assault on private property and require a veritable army of lawyers, who, I can assure you, are no match for the state’s powerful border barons.” → Read on.

How the “U-S-A” Chant Became a Political Weapon (Ben Zimmer)
“Why did members of Congress sound like a rowdy crowd at a national sporting event?” → Read on.

The State of the Union Was Political Malpractice (Rahm Emanuel)
“Using the past as a guide, Trump could have set the stage for future wins, reset his presidency heading into reelection, and proved he has grown and matured in office. Instead, at the State of the Union, he came up short as he has done time and again throughout his presidency.” → Read on.

When a Yearbook Is a Current Event (Megan Garber)
“There has been a remarkable amount of receipt sharing this week in the state of Virginia ... It was telling that yearbooks would be such a common factor in the revelations.” → Read on.

What Else We’re Reading

The Story Behind the Green New Deal’s Meteoric Rise (Sam Adler-Bell, The New Republic)
Democrats Need an Ambitious Climate Plan. The Green New Deal Isn’t It. (Jonathan Chait, New York)
Trump Cornered on Border Wall (Eliana Johnson, Burgess Everett, and Gabby Orr, Politico)
An Ominous Moment for the Pro-Life Movement (David French, National Review)

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