With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross

Tonight, VP Kamala Harris will board Air Force Two for the Munich Security Conference, the annual confab of global political, defense and intelligence leaders. | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo



HAPPENING TODAY (OFFICIALLY OFFICIALLY) Haley enters the fray, a female candidate against a man known for mocking them, by Natalie Allison in Charleston, S.C.: Stepping out ahead of a field of men who spent the better part of two years mulling and flirting with a 2024 run, NIKKI HALEY marked her entrance into the Republican presidential primary with an announcement video and a formal event on Wednesday.

It is a direct bet by the former South Carolina governor that a party that has never nominated a woman as its standard bearer, let alone seen a woman candidate win a single primary state, is ready to do just that. Its also a gamble that she can merge various threads of Republicanism that at times seem at odds.

Clicker: 55 Things You Need to Know About Nikki Haley, by Michael Kruse and Sydney Gold

HARRIS IN MUNICH Tonight, VP KAMALA HARRIS will board Air Force Two for the Munich Security Conference, the annual confab of global political, defense and intelligence leaders. It stands to be the most critical foreign trip of her vice presidency at least since last years trip to Bavaria.

That visit came just days before Russia invaded Ukraine, and Harris delivered a sobering in-person message there to Ukrainian President VOLODOMYR ZELENSKYY, encouraging him to prepare for an imminent, full-scale attack and pledging full support from the United States.

This year, she returns to brace the Western alliance for a sustained and costly conflict, arguing that the need to counter Russian aggression outweighs the dire impact the invasion has had on the world economy and energy security in Europe.

There is an enduring commitment on behalf of the alliance, but it’s not without sacrifice that each country is doing that, Harris said in an exclusive interview with Eugene on Tuesday. And that’s to be applauded a nation standing in defense of certain foundational principles when the going gets tough.

Her schedule, which were told is still being finalized, includes:

  • A speech to the conference on Saturday;
  • Meetings with U.K. Prime Minister RISHI SUNAK, German Chancellor OLAF SCHOLZ, Finnish Prime Minister SANNA MARIN and Swedish Prime Minister ULF KRISTERSSON; and
  • Meetings with bipartisan delegations of U.S. lawmakers.

Harris said she will be reassuring both Ukraine and its allies of the ongoing U.S. commitment as the conflict next week enters its second year.

Her trip comes as questions continue to swirl on Capitol Hill about whether the Biden administrations push for continued defense and humanitarian aid for Ukraine will hit a House GOP roadblock. Congressional Republicans, led by new House Speaker KEVIN McCARTHY, are demanding that any future aid to Ukraine be accompanied by new layers of stringent oversight.

Harris told Eugene she is divorcing the GOPs bluster from its actions.

One thing is rhetoric at the press conference, she said. But the other thing is how they’ve been voting, and they’ve been voting to support the assistance that we have been as a nation giving the Ukrainian people.

Harris also delved into other foreign policy questions: 

On China  

Harris said that the recent U.S. downing of a Chinese surveillance balloon over American waters should NOT have an impact on diplomatic relations between the two global superpowers. Her blunt reply: I dont think so, no.

Everything that has happened in the last week-and-a-half is, we believe, very consistent with our stated approach to China, she added, which has been about competition but not conflict or confrontation.

On Israel

Among the litany of other international issues happening in Munichs backdrop is Israeli PM BENJAMIN NETANYAHUs planned overhaul of his countrys judicial system to shift power away from its supreme court a move that has posed particular headaches for U.S.-Israel relations.

Thousands have taken to the streets in protest. Israeli President ISAAC HERZOG this week publicly pleaded with Netanyahus government to change course: Im telling you loud and clear: This powder keg is about to explode. This is an emergency.

Harris offered a measured critique of the proposal, placing it much as Biden has in the context of respect for democratic institutions: As the president has said, an independent judiciary is foundational for a democracy, she said. And I think that there is no question that we need to make sure that that is supported in terms of what we talk about [and] in terms of our values.

On 2024

Theres been Democratic hand-wringing galore over the prospect of another Biden-Harris ticket, despite firm signals from the president and his political brain trust that a reshuffle is not in the cards.

With Biden said to be close to a campaign announcement, Harris shrugged off the concerns: We were in Philadelphia recently and hundreds of people were shouting their support of the work that our administration has had and the success that our administration has accomplished and their desire to see it keep going, Harris said. When I look at the midterms and how people voted, that gives me further objective and empirical evidence of this point.

Good Wednesday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK Weve got an exclusive look at new polling from The Partnership for Public Service, and the topline finding offers a warning sign for both parties from the White House to Congress: many Americans remain deeply skeptical about a core institution of our democracy: the federal government.

Just 42% of respondents said the U.S. government has a positive impact, slightly up from a 38% mark last year. Meanwhile, 53% said the government has a negative impact, a figure thats unchanged from the prior years survey.

Asked whether the government listens to the public, only 22% of this years respondents agreed, compared to 27% from last year. Yet, when asked about their own personal interactions with the federal government, Americans say they are mostly satisfied including 74% of those filing taxes, 77% of those voting in a federal election and 88% of those applying for a passport.

The poll was conducted in December among 800 respondents and carries a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.5 percentage points. See more from the polling


10:15 a.m.: The president and VP will receive the Presidents Daily Brief.

1:25 p.m.: Biden will depart the White House en route to Lanham, Md.

2:30 p.m.: Biden will deliver remarks on the economy.


8:30 p.m.: The VP will depart D.C. en route to Munich, Germany.

THE HOUSE is out.

THE SENATE will meet at 10 a.m. to resume consideration of ADRIENNE NELSONs judicial nomination, and will vote on it at 11:30 a.m. followed by a vote on a motion to invoke cloture on ANA REYES judicial nomination and another cloture vote on DANIEL CALABRETTAs judicial nomination at 1:50 p.m.

At 4:30 p.m., if cloture is invoked on the Reyes or Calabretta nominations, the Senate will vote on confirmation, followed by a vote on a motion to invoke cloture on the nomination of LESTER MARTINEZ-LOPEZ to be assistant Defense secretary for health affairs. DANIEL WERFEL will testify before the Senate Finance Committee on his nomination to be IRS commissioner. Acting FAA Administrator BILLY NOLEN will testify before the Commerce Committee at 10 a.m. on the failure of the FAA’s Notice To Air Mission system.

Were spilling the tea (and drinking tons of it in our newsroom) in U.K. politics with our latest newsletter, London Playbook PM. Get to know all the movers and shakers in Westminster and never miss a beat of British politics with a free subscription. Dont miss out, weve got some exciting moves coming. Sign up today.


Mariana Rocha and her son Jackson Laparl, 6, visit a portrait of Rocha’s cousin Joaquin Oliver, right, part of a display of portraits of the 17 students and staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who were killed, during a community commemoration on the five-year anniversary of the shooting, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, Fla. | Rebecca Blackwell/AP Photo



HAPPENING AFTER RECESS Biden Administration to Brief Gang of Eight on Mishandled Classified Files, by NYTs Charlie Savage

INSIDE STORY McConnell vs. Scott: The Senate beef that won’t die, by Burgess Everett: In addition to policy disputes, the clash stems in part from the two Republicans divergent views of modern politics. [Florida Sen. RICK] SCOTT views the attention he gets from Democrats as valuable increased name recognition, and hes raised money off of the loss of his committee assignment.

But [Minority Leader MITCH] McCONNELL sees things very differently, according to allies. Hes studiously avoided releasing any agenda that can be easily pilloried, instead trying to run as a check on Democrats a strategy thats had mixed results in his 16 years as Senate GOP leader. With the party gearing up for another bid to take back the White House and Senate, that means some Republicans are cringing every time Biden brings up Scott.

Related read:Club for Growth endorses Scott and dings McConnell, by Natalie Allison

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) departs a vote at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 14. | Francis Chung/POLITICO

FEINSTEIN SETS AN EXIT Sen. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-Calif.), the oldest sitting senator at age 89, announced yesterday that she would retire at the end of her term in 2024. Back in the Golden State, the news was met with something like yawns among California politicos, David Siders and Chris Cadelago write, with Democratic Reps. KATIE PORTER and ADAM SCHIFF already in the race. Her official retirement wont do much to fundamentally alter the dynamics of the campaign.

How she got here:Dianne Feinsteins legacy will be defined by these moments, by Jeremy White The shocking San Francisco assassinations that forged Feinsteins political path, L.A. Times

LAT column:Dianne Feinstein is one of Californias greats. Lets remember her that way, by Mark Z. Barabak

Money quote, via the Daily Kos Jeff Singer: Prominent gay activist JAMES HAAS memorably said of San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein: I honestly think she couldnt care less what we do in bed. Its just that she wants everybody in bed by 11 p.m.

THE TALENTED MR. SANTOS The time George Santos tried to raise crazy money to host a simple rally for Trump, by Jacqueline Sweet: In 2019 Santos led United for Trump. Fellow Trump supporters questioned his exorbitant spending plans.

TOP-ED Sens. JEFF MERKLEY (D-Ore.) and TIM KAINE (D-Va.) write in WaPo: Mitch McConnell offered a debt-ceiling fix in 2011. We should do it now.

SMART LOOKAHEAD Congress has had a hands-off approach to Big Tech. Will the AI arms race be any different? by NBCs Scott Wong, Julie Tsirkin and Kate Santaliz


ROAD TRIPPIN Iowa in Winter: Is the Caucus Dead or Hibernating? by David Siders

JUSTICE IS SERVED Justice strongest candidate against Manchin, GOP poll says, by Burgess Everett: Republicans are coming to an increasingly popular consensus: Gov. JIM JUSTICE is by far the best candidate to take on JOE MANCHIN. In fact, the two-term governor and Democrat-turned-Republican is the only potential challenger who would currently beat the centrist Democratic senator, according to a new GOP poll gaming out the race.

While Justice leads Manchin handily, according to the survey, Manchin has big leads over Rep. ALEX MOONEY (R-W.Va.) the only Republican officially in the race and Attorney General PATRICK MORRISEY, who ran against Manchin in 2018 and is mulling another bid. Read the polling memo

DeSANTIS VS. TRUMP DeSantis got a glowing reception during a secretive, high-profile conservative summit at Trump Doral then the ex-president called in, by Insiders Kimberly Leonard: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis brought a large crowd to its feet during a speech over the weekend to an exclusive, powerful club of conservatives all on a South Florida Trump property. Trump himself didnt speak in person at the [Council for National Policy] event, but he surprised the crowd by calling roughly an hour after DeSantis left the stage, five people who attended confirmed to Insider.

Related read: Theyre Trying to Topple Trump. But They Barely Utter His Name, by NYTs Jonathan Weisman and Maggie Haberman

FOLLOWING THE MONEY S.B.F.s Unsolved Dark-Money Mysteries, by Pucks Teddy Schleifer: A Taldmudic reading of exclusively obtained FTX filings suggests the next steps in this unfolding drama: finding out what GABE BANKMAN-FRIED knew about [RYAN] SALAMEs dark money machine, [SAM BANKMAN-FRIEDs] ties to DAVID McCORMICK, and more.

POWER COUPLE Anita Dunn and Bob Bauer: The Couple at the Center of Bidens Inner Circle, by NYTs Katie Rogers and Glenn Thrush: Both Ms. Dunn and Mr. Bauer have established themselves over the past decade as two of Mr. Bidens most leaned-upon advisers. To their allies, the two are loyal and steely under fire. To their critics, the couple and Ms. Dunn in particular are the embodiment of Mr. Bidens affinity for revolving-door Washington operatives who move back and forth between high-powered political jobs and lucrative corporate clients.


INSIDE 1600 PENN White House officials are currently debating whether to have Biden break his conspicuous silence and formally address the unidentified flying objects that were shot down in the past week, NBCs Peter Nicholas, Courtney Kube, Carol Lee and Mike Memoli report: An opportune moment for Biden to make a fuller statement about the shootdowns could come by the end of the week, when the government is expected to announce the development of new protocols to deal with unidentified aircraft like the ones destroyed in the past week.

HOW THE SHAKE-UP WILL SHAKE OUT Biden faces looming economic threats with staff shake-up, by Ben White and Victoria Guida: With the new team, the president is opting for deep Washington experience and knowledge of how to pull the levers inside the executive branch to boost the economy, with a hostile GOP House poised to block major legislation. Biden is also getting an NEC director [in LAEL BRAINARD] with broader international experience than her predecessor, BRIAN DEESE, who could help keep trade disputes with China and the European Union from blowing up.

Related read:Lael Brainards Fed Departure Could Leave Immediate Imprint on Monetary Policy, by WSJs Nick Timiraos


TRUMPS LEGAL TROUBLES GROW Prosecutors Seek Trump Lawyers Testimony, Suggesting Evidence of Crime, by NYTs Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman and Ben Protess: The prosecutors have sought approval from a federal judge to invoke what is known as the crime-fraud exception, which allows them to work around attorney-client privilege when they have reason to believe that legal advice or legal services have been used in furthering a crime. The fact that prosecutors invoked the exception in a sealed motion to compel the testimony of the lawyer, M. EVAN CORCORAN, suggests that they believe Mr. Trump or his allies might have used Mr. Corcorans services in that way.


WASTE NOT, WANT NOT U.S. focuses on training Ukrainian troops to use less ammo, by Paul McLeary

VISUAL INVESTIGATION Guided Missile Killed U.S. Aid Worker in Ukraine, Video Shows, by NYTs Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Malachy Browne

ARMS ON THE WAY Suspected Iranian Weapons Seized by U.S. Navy May Go to Ukraine, by WSJs Dion Nissenbaum, Gordon Lubold and Benoit Faucon


JUST POSTED Scotlands Nicola Sturgeon to resign, by Andrew McDonald

BALLOON BUSINESS U.S. tracked China spy balloon from launch on Hainan Island along unusual path, by WaPos Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris and Jason Samenow: By the time a Chinese spy balloon crossed into American airspace late last month, U.S. military and intelligence agencies had been tracking it for nearly a week, watching as it lifted off from its home base on Hainan Island near Chinas south coast.

U.S. monitors watched as the balloon settled into a flight path that would appear to have taken it over the U.S. territory of Guam. But somewhere along that easterly route, the craft took an unexpected northern turn, according to several U.S. officials, who said that analysts are now examining the possibility that China didnt intend to penetrate the American heartland with their airborne surveillance device.

Happening today:John Bolton wants all the details in briefing on Trump-era balloons, by Alexander Ward

And then theres this:Romania, Moldova both report strange objects in their skies, AP

RETURN OF THE STRONGMAN Bolsonaro Says He Will Return to Brazil in March to Lead Opposition, by WSJs Luciana Magalhaes and Samantha Pearson in Orlando, Fla.: The right-wing movement is not dead and will live on, [former Brazilian President JAIR] BOLSONARO said in his first interview since leaving Brazil for Florida late last year.

CHECKING IN Italys Hard-Right Leader Vexes Europe by Playing Nice, Mostly, by NYTs Jason Horowitz in Rome


MO MONEY, NO PROBLEMS Mo money, no problems: New governors start off with a financial bang, by Liz Crampton: All nine new governors inaugurated were welcomed with massive budget surpluses, many in the billions of dollars, boosted by an influx of federal funds and inflation-juiced tax revenues. Some are inheriting the largest financial windfall their states have seen in decades and the chance to cement an early legacy.

MSU SHOOTING LATEST Police seek motive of gunman who killed 3 at Michigan State, by APs Joey Cappelletti and Mike Householder

Related reads:Michigan Dems consider faster push on gun laws after MSU shooting, by Elena Schneider and Zach Montellaro MSU victims described as innocent, quiet go-getters, by The Detroit News Kim Kozlowski, Sarah Rahal, Hayley Harding and Francis Donnelly Michigan State University gunman turned evil and mean after his mother died, his father says, by NBCs Melissa Chan

EAST PALESTINE INFERNO Health and Environmental Fears Remain After Ohio Derailment and Inferno, by NYTs Raymond Zhong and Catrin Einhorn: Experts say more work could be needed to determine the consequences after a release of toxic chemicals from a Feb. 3 train crash.

DeSANTIS DOWNLOAD Why Does Ron DeSantis Want to Fix a High-Ranking College? by Washington Monthlys Aalia Thomas: New College is an odd choice for DeSantiss ire in one crucial respect: On most measures of actual outcomes, the school performs at a remarkably high level.


FOX SUIT WILL GO ON Court nixes Fox News bid to end voting tech firms suit, by APs Jennifer Peltz

ONLINE ABUSE BY THE NUMBERS These women journalists were doing their jobs. That made them targets, by WaPos Taylor Lorenz

IN CASE YOUVE BEEN WONDERING Yes, Elon Musk created a special system for showing you all his tweets first, by Platformers Zoë Schiffer and Casey Newton: After his Super Bowl tweet did worse numbers than President Bidens, Twitters CEO ordered major changes to the algorithm.

DOWNLOAD THE POLITICO MOBILE APP: Stay up to speed with the newly updated POLITICO mobile app, featuring timely political news, insights and analysis from the best journalists in the business. The sleek and navigable design offers a convenient way to access POLITICO’s scoops and groundbreaking reporting. Dont miss out on the app you can rely on for the news you need, reimagined. DOWNLOAD FOR iOSDOWNLOAD FOR ANDROID.


Jen Psaki will talk with Chelsea Handlerat SXSW.

Bob Caseyunderwent successful surgery for his prostate cancer yesterday.

Cyrus Huncharek our newly engaged friend who popped the question at Dans Cafe has no regrets about his venue decision.

Jill Biden shared some special V-Day White House window decorations.

Mary Peltola, Cynthia Lummis, Andy Kim and Kat Cammack were among the many members of Congress who made their own Valentines cards.

SPOTTED: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) dining at Cafe Milano last night. PicStacy Lewis, the newly named captain of the USAs 2024 Solheim Cup team, spoke to the Congressional Golf Association yesterday. Pic

OUT AND ABOUT SPOTTED at a dinner hosted by British Ambassador Karen Pierce and Charles Roxburgh last night: Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, Italian Ambassador Mariangela Zappia, Susan Rice, David Ignatius, Francesca Craig, Kevin Sullivan, Mary Jordan, Ian Cameron, David Frum, Sally Quinn and Margaret Carlson.

SPOTTED at a Fox Sports/CBCPAC Super Bowl reception honoring members of the Congressional Black Caucus: Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), Ruben Gallego, (D-Ariz.), Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.), Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-Fla.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, Daniel OBrien, Jamie Gillespie, Jevin Hodge, Brandon Garrett, Dede Lea, Alafia Long, Emmanuel Acho, Joy Taylor, Stephanie Lovingood, Lyndon Boozer, Erik Moses and Freddy Mitchel.

MEDIA MOVE Maria Zito is now chief of staff to POLITICO CEO Goli Sheikholeslami. She most recently was special adviser in the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the Treasury Department, where she spent more than 13 years.

TRANSITIONS Erica Handloff is now comms director at the Senate Budget Committee for Chair Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). She previously was comms director for the Joint Economic Committee Dems. Benjamin Mossberg is now deputy director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council. He previously was senior policy adviser for Africa at Treasury and is a State department alum. Harshitha Teppala is joining Rep. Jared Moskowitzs (D-Fla.) office as a legislative assistant. She previously was a legislative correspondent for Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)

Allison Mayer is now senior adviser at Womble Bond Dickinson LLPs Baltimore office. She previously was deputy chief of staff and infrastructure director for former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. Amelia Chassé Alcivar is now EVP of corporate affairs at Hilco Redevelopment Partners. She most recently was chief of staff for Hogan. Mason Champion is now a tax legislative assistant for Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). He most recently was legislative director for Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Texas).

ENGAGED Kyley Schultz, an assignment editor for social at WaPo, and Will Sitton, a policy adviser for Rep. Scott Franklin (R-Fla.), got engaged on Saturday in New York City at the Bow Bridge in Central Park. They even ran into singer, songwriter and producer Jack Antonoff after the engagement. PicAnother pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Former Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) retired Adm. Jim Stavridis White Houses Anne Neuberger and Chad MaiselJonathan Salant States Francisco Bencosme Treasurys Sourav BhowmickCarrie Sheffield TPMs Josh Marshall Bobby Panzenbeck Fox Business David Asman Jason ThielmanLinda Kramer Jenning Republican Jewish Coalitions Alex Siegel Clare FlanneryValentina Pereda CAREs Beth Solomon and Paige Moody Erickson Kerry Feehery S-3 Groups Sarah Dolan SchneiderJanie Kim National Association of Realtors Sydney Barron Gallego George Bamford POLITICOs Sienna Brown, Jonathan Miller and Lawrence Ukenye Linda RothAllie DavisArt Spiegelman Sherman Patrick (4-0)

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