GOP Candidate Sent Topless Selfie by Staffer

Arizona congressional candidate Steve Montenegro (R) is a married man and a church minister whose campaign emphasizes his “virtue, honor and integrity,” KPNX reports.

“A series of text messages between Montenegro and a female staff member at the Arizona Legislature may raise questions about that claim.”

“The staffer sent Montenegro a topless photo via text message, according to a series of messages between Montenegro and the staffer… Montenegro responded by encouraging her to use a messaging app where photos vanish after being viewed by the recipient.”

Kushner Resists Losing Access to Classified Info

Jared Kushner “is resisting giving up his access to highly classified information, prompting an internal struggle with John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, over who should be allowed to see some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Kushner, frustrated about the security clearance issue and concerned that Mr. Kelly has targeted him personally with the directive, has told colleagues at the White House that he is reluctant to give up his high-level access… In the talks, Mr. Kushner has insisted that he maintain his current level of access, including the ability to review the daily intelligence briefing when he sees fit.”

Democrats Flip a Legislative Seat In Kentucky

Linda Belcher (D) won the special election in Kentucky’s House District 49, a seat that Donald Trump carried by a stunning 72% to 23% margin in the 2016 presidential election, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports.

The seat was vacated after Rep. Dan Johnson (R) died by suicide two days after a story was published saying he had been accused of molesting a 17-year-old girl.

Bonus Quote of the Day

“I don’t want to be glib but you can see the poorest of the poor and there is still a smile on a face… I know some of the most successful businessmen in the world, and some of them are the most miserable people in the world.”

— Donald Trump Jr., in an interview on CNBC, during a visit to India to help sell luxury apartments featuring his family’s name.

Pence and North Koreans Were Set for Secret Meeting

Vice President Pence “departed for a five-day, two country swing through Asia earlier this month having agreed to a secret meeting with North Korean officials while in South Korea at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games,” the Washington Post reports.

“But on Saturday Feb. 10, less than two hours before Pence and his team were set to meet with Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and Kim Yong Nam, the regime’s nominal head of state, the North Koreans pulled out of the scheduled meeting, according to Pence’s office.”

Toomey Will Introduce Legislation on Background Checks

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who once spearheaded an unsuccessful bipartisan agreement to strengthen gun laws, told the Washington Post that “he plans to introduce legislation in the coming weeks that would expand background checks on firearm purchases, giving a jolt to gun-control efforts in the wake of last week’s mass shooting in Florida that killed 17 people and left scores injured.”

Said Toomey: “It does feel like we have a shot at getting a little bit of momentum on background checks. We’re going to take a swing at that and I’m hoping we’ll be able to do it.”

Trump Signs Memo to Create Regulations on Bump Stocks

President Trump said that he signed a memorandum directing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to craft regulations to ban “bump stocks” and other devices that turn semi-automatic firearms into automatic weapons, the Washington Post reports.

“The device was used by the shooter who opened fire on a country music festival in Las Vegas in October, immediately prompting calls for lawmakers to take action and ban such devices. At the time, the White House and the National Rifle Association made clear that they were open to the idea, but no action was taken.”

Big Majority Wants Stricter Gun Laws

A new Quinnipiac poll finds American voters support stricter gun laws, 66% to 31%, the highest level of support ever measured by the poll, with 50% to 44% support among gun owners and 62% to 35% support from white voters with no college degree and 58% to 38% support among white men.

In addition, Americans support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons, 67% to 29%, and a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases, 83% to 14%.

This is stunning: Support for universal background checks is itself almost universal, 97% to 2%, including 97% to 3% among gun owners.

I don’t recall seeing 97% support for anything.

Why Trump Endorsed Romney

Jonathan Swan: “He could either endorse Romney, stay silent, or oppose the man he likes to say ‘choked like a dog’ in the 2012 election. Either of the latter two options would have resulted in cable news blaring “Utah rejects Trump” headlines after an eventual Romney win. Now Trump can claim credit for Romney’s victory, and be on the side of a winner.”

Said a GOP source: “This was totally predictable.  The President who (usually) has good political instincts got ahead of any stories (which press is dying to write) about a Romney victory (primary) being a repudiation of Trump, by endorsing him so now Trump can take credit for win and say it’s because he endorsed!”

A new poll finds Romney leading likely challenger Jenny Wilson 60% to 14%.

General Was Not Consulted on Transgender Ban

Less than 24 hours after President Trump tweeted that “after consultation with my Generals and military experts” he would end transgender military service, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent emails to the country’s top generals saying Trump’s announcement “was unexpected” and that he intended to say he was “not consulted,” BuzzFeed News reports.

New Pennsylvania Map Is Not a Democratic Gerrymander

“Pennsylvania’s new congressional district map, released Monday by the state Supreme Court, is sure to improve Democrats’ electoral outlook in the state. Over the long term, Democrats can expect to occupy one to two additional seats compared with the current map,” according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis.

“Compared with the current map, the new one could easily be mistaken for a Democratic gerrymander. In reality, it gets much closer to matching the political makeup of Pennsylvania’s electorate,1 which is about evenly divided.”