President Trump and Vice President Pence meet with Harley Davidson executives on the South Lawn of the White House yesterday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

THE BIG IDEA: Companies are caught between a rock and a hard place, with President Trump on one side and their customers on the other.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick quit President Trump’s 15-member council of business leaders yesterday, and Disney CEO Bob Iger let it be known that he won’t attend a meeting at the White House today because of a scheduling conflict.

Nordstrom announced last night that it will stop selling Ivanka Trump’s name-branded line of clothing and shoes after an extended boycott by an anti-Trump activist group called “Grab Your Wallet."

The retailer said the first daughter’s products are being dropped because of poor sales. In early December, Nordstrom had 71 Ivanka items for sale on its web site. Right now, just four are left. And they’re all being sold at a clearance discount.

We’ve obviously written a lot about companies bending to pressure from Trump, especially defense contractors like United Technologies, Boeing and Lockheed. But firms that depend on retail sales will perhaps care more about pressure from their customers than from White House heavies.

Customers complained so loudly after Kawasaki USA – a distributor of motorcycle, ATVs and personal watercraft – sponsored an episode of “The Celebrity Apprentice” that the company said it will not sponsor the show again, so long as the president is credited as an executive producer.

The “Grab Your Wallet” campaign has targeted more than 60 companies, including Trump’s golf courses and hotels, those that sell Trump-branded goods and other businesses whose leaders endorsed Trump or donated to his campaign. “The people who voted against Donald Trump may have lost at the ballot box, but they can win at the cash register,” Shannon Coulter, who helps lead the effort, told David Fahrenthold and Sarah Halzack.

“Grab Your Wallet” has taken five companies off its boycott list since November, after they stopped selling Ivanka merchandise: Shoes.com, Bellacor, Wayfair, Zulily and RueLaLa.

Another retailer that distanced itself from Trump is L.L. Bean. The maker of outdoor apparel and footwear became a boycott target last month after news reports that heiress Linda Bean gave $55,000 more than legally allowed to a PAC set up to help the president win Maine. In response, Trump urged his Twitter followers to shop there. That prompted the executive chairman of the company to put out a statement distancing L.L. Bean from Mrs. Bean and insisting that the business was totally apolitical. “We fully acknowledge and respect that some may disagree with the political views of a single member of our 10-person board of directors,” Shawn Gorman wrote.

-- Grassroots pressure has proven effective at several other moments since Trump became president two weeks ago today. The two Republican senators who came out against Betsy DeVos, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, cited constituent phone calls as a key factor in their decision. The administration watered down (aka “clarified”) its refugee ban to exempt green-card holders after the massive protests at airports.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and PayPal founder Peter Thiel listen as Trump speaks during a meeting with technology industry leaders at Trump Tower on Dec. 14. (Evan Vucci/AP)

-- The pressure to take an anti-Trump stand is especially acute in the left-leaning technology world. After attempting to reach out to Trump by attending a meeting with him in New York, CEOs are girding for a high-stakes confrontation with the sitting president. “Silicon Valley is littered with immigrant success stories: Satya Nadella, the chief executive of Microsoft, is an immigrant from India; Google co-founder Sergey Brin is a refugee from the former Soviet Union; and Omid Kordestani, Twitter’s executive chairman, was born in Iran. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian immigrant, leading Cook to say, in a letter denouncing Trump’s travel ban, that the company ‘wouldn’t exist’ if such a ban had been in place,” Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg report from San Francisco. Five nuggets from their story:

  • A little more than half of U.S. start-ups that are estimated to be worth more than $1 billion were founded by immigrants, according to the National Foundation for American Policy, an Arlington think tank.
  • In a new open letter, more than 115 Silicon Valley start-up founders and venture capitalists plead with the administration to cancel the immigration ban.
  • Another letter from executives at Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple and others is also being drafted.
  • Amazon and Expedia have joined a lawsuit brought by the state of Washington against the immigration ban.
  • Some tech companies are now considering whether to move jobs out of the United States to places with more relaxed immigration policies, such as Vancouver and Dublin.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has been under fire for weeks. (File)

-- Uber was particularly susceptible to a customer boycott because it is most popular in urban areas, where Democrats are strongest. Kalanick, the CEO, claimed yesterday that he made his decision to drop out of Trump’s business council after hearing the stories of Uber drivers, specifically refugees from Egypt and Vietnam. But it probably had more to do with 200,000-plus customers deleting their accounts in response to a campaign called #deleteUber.

Lyft rode a wave of frustration with its arch-rival to become the most downloaded program on Apple’s AppStore over the past few days. Lyft announced that it will also no longer allow ads for its service to run on Breitbart, formerly run by White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, and announced it will donate $1 million to the ACLU, which is fighting the Trump refugee ban in court.

Earlier in the week Uber said it would put up $3 million to help its drivers with immigration legal costs, but that did almost nothing to squelch the blowback. “The implicit assumption that Uber (or I) was somehow endorsing the Administration’s agenda has created a perception-reality gap between who people think we are, and who we actually are,” Kalanick said yesterday.

The ride-sharing service has faced multiple protests in front of its San Francisco headquarters:

An employee revolt from within Uber was another major factor driving Kalanick’s decision. The CEO faced an onslaught of questions from upset staff earlier this week. “According to nearly a dozen current and former Uber engineers and product managers who attended or were briefed on the Tuesday all-hands meeting, employees said they were concerned that Mr. Kalanick’s willingness to work with Mr. Trump after the immigration order would color Uber as a soulless company that cared only about its bottom line,” Mike Isaac reports on the front page of today’s New York Times. “Some told Mr. Kalanick that they had suffered a personal cost — a stigma, they said — of working at Uber. One staff member asked him to present the benefits of working at Uber that could outweigh that personal cost. … Outside of the internal pressure, Uber faced other fallout from Mr. Kalanick’s stance.”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk departs Trump Tower last month. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

-- After Uber’s CEO pulled out, other members of Trump’s business council said they’ll keep their commitments to attend today’s meeting. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in a statement that he’s going to express his objections to the recent executive order on immigration “and offer suggestions for changes to the policy.”

The CEO of the Cleveland Clinic promised to object to the travel ban directly to Trump’s face. A Sudanese citizen who is a first-year resident in one of his hospitals is stuck in Sudan and unable to return, for example. “He has an opportunity to talk directly to the president, and that is a good opportunity,” Toby Cosgrove’s spokeswoman told the AP’s Julie Bykowicz. (The meeting in the State Dining Room will be closed press, except for a photo spray at the top.)

-- And the Trump team is making an effort to entice and reward companies for cooperating. Last night, Ivanka invited several business leaders over to her new house in Kalorama for a dinner party. Attendees included: Walmart CEO Doug McMillon; General Motors CEO Mary Barra; Ernst & Young CEO Mark Weinberger; Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky; and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Politico reports that the stated purpose was to solicit ideas on how to promote women in the workforce and fight for issues like paid maternity leave.

-- The saga surrounding the president’s decision not to visit the Harley-Davidson plant in Wisconsin yesterday offers another case study of how pressure from customers and employees may change corporate behavior in the Trump era. Danielle Paquette has a great read about how the motorcycle manufacturer, the Secret Service and administration officials were actively preparing for the president to travel Thursday afternoon until liberals in the Milwaukee area began to organize what might have become a massive protest. The trip got called off, and Harley executives came to see Trump at the White House yesterday instead. (Sean Spicer claims that the trip plan was never finalized, but there are a lot of details that cast doubt upon the credibility of his denial.)

“On Monday afternoon, a second-shift worker at Harley-Davidson’s powertrain factory … learned that Trump was slated to visit ... Feeling sick to his stomach, he wrote a private Facebook message to a local protest group,” Danielle reports. “The demonstrators … contacted Harley-Davidson through Facebook, telling the company that they would gather outside the factory to protest the president's immigration policies. The group organized a call-in campaign, urging activists to flood Harley-Davison and chief executive Matt Levatich with messages, emails and phone calls condemning Trump's appearance.”

Trump shakes hands with Casey Patten, the co-founder of Taylor Gourmet, during a meeting with small business leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Monday. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

-- To be sure, boycotting anyone who has anything to do with Trump diminishes in effectiveness at some point. The anti-Trump resistance movement risks overplaying its hand, galvanizing recalcitrant Republicans to reluctantly rally behind the new leader of their party. Trump would love nothing more than to resurrect the Nixon-era trope that he speaks for a “silent majority” amidst protests and disorder. When liberals look unreasonable and unhinged, they unwittingly play into his hands like silly putty. The idea that people shouldn’t even speak to the president of the United States if he asks for their advice on something, as if that automatically compromises them, surely seems silly to most Americans. Imagine how outraged some of the progressives involved in the anti-Trump boycotts would have been if conservatives had refused to talk with Barack Obama when he asked for a meeting.

Consider the example of Taylor Gourmet, a popular D.C. sandwich chain. Co-founder Casey Patten received an invitation to attend a Monday ceremony on small business at the White House. He’d gone twice to the Obama White House for similar events. He spent the weekend writing out talking points, including that more than half of his 300-plus employees are immigrants or the children of immigrants. At the meeting, he says he told Trump that his immigrant employees are “nervous.”

After he appeared at the meeting, food bloggers and liberal activists began attacking him online. Patten wound up visiting all of his stories this week to calm his frustrated employees. He even started crying in his car as he drove between locations. Distraught, he decided to call The Post’s Tim Carman to tell his side of the story. “My political views don’t lean to one side or another,” he said.

But attacks, which some might say bordered on harassment, continued:

Jose Andres, who nixed plans to open a restaurant in Trump’s D.C. hotel and has been enmeshed in protracted litigation with the billionaire since then, came to Taylor Gourmet’s defense:

Notably, one woman replied on Twitter that she’d now boycott Andres’s restaurants as well! To which the legendary chef replied:

-- Trump supporters, to a much lesser degree, are also boycotting companies that are not supportive of the president’s agenda. Howard Schultz, chief executive of the Starbucks coffee chain, responded to the president’s immigration order by announcing plans to hire thousands of refugees in dozens of countries around the world over the next five years. That led to a #BoycottStarbucks campaign. As our Cleve Wootson quipped, “Critics erupted with a Trenta-size helping of vitriol.”

-- Even big media companies are now responding to pressure from the left: The New Yorker just canceled the posh party that it holds at the W Hotel before the White House Correspondents Dinner, and Vanity Fair is pulling out of co-sponsoring the dinner’s most exclusive after-party (at the French ambassador’s residence). Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, told the New York Times that he will spend the weekend fishing in Connecticut instead. And comedian Samantha Bee plans to hold an alternative event on the night of the April 29 dinner.

Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning newsletter.
With contributions from Elise Viebeck (@eliseviebeck).

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

French police secure the Louvre Pyramid in Paris. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

-- A French soldier shot and seriously wounded a man outside the Louvre Museum a few hours ago, after he tried to attack them and shouted "Allahu akbar." The AP reports from Paris: “The man was carrying two backpacks, and he had two machetes, and when soldiers and police officers on patrol told the man that he could not come in with his bags, he attacked. ... 'That's when he got the knife out and that's when he tried to stab the soldier,' said a police union official. Anti-terrorism prosecutors have been called to investigate the case and are working to identify the identity of the attacker. Police said the backpacks did not contain any explosives."

-- The momentum in the U.S. labor market picked up in January, with companies adding 227,000 jobs in the month, according to government data released at 8:30 a.m. “The pace of hiring surpassed the expectations of economists,” Ana Swanson reports.The unemployment rate ticked up to 4.8 percent, as more workers joined the workforce to look for jobs. Wages rose by 3 cents to $26, following a 6-cent increase in December. The retail, construction and financial industries accounted for much of the hiring last month. The Labor Department also revised its estimates for job creation in November and December, reducing the total number of jobs in those months by 39,000. … The first employment report since Trump began his presidency showed the economy chugging along at a relatively healthy pace.”

Barack Obama points to Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) after signing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act during a ceremony in 2010. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

-- President Trump will sign an executive order today designed to undercut enforcement of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, part of a sweeping plan to dismantle much of the regulatory system that was put in place after the 2008 financial crisis. The Wall Street Journal’s Michael C. Bender and Damian Paletta report: “Trump also plans another executive action aimed at rolling back a controversial regulation scheduled to take effect in April that critics have said would upend the retirement-account advisory business. ‘Americans are going to have better choices and Americans are going to have better products because we’re not going to burden the banks with literally hundreds of billions of dollars of regulatory costs every year,’ White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said in an interview ... ‘The banks are going to be able to price product more efficiently and more effectively to consumers.’" Bloomberg notes that many of the protections Trump is undoing were created to protect average investors from being taken advantage of by Wall Street.

Reminder: Cohn, who previewed the order for the WSJ, was until last month the president of Goldman Sachs. Trump may be speaking the language of a populist, but it's worth remembering that a lot to his early policy moves directly benefit the very corporate interests he spoke out against most loudly on the campaign trail...

-- The Treasury Department will also announce sanctions against Iran in the next few hours. From CNN: “The additional sanctions are expected to be in response to Iran's ballistic missile test Sunday. They are similar to actions taken by Obama after Iran's previous ballistic missile tests.”

Lisa Murkowski leaves the Senate chamber this morning. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

-- Betsy DeVos cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate early this morning, with lawmakers voting 52-48 along party lines to end debate on her cabinet nomination. The move sets up the education secretary nominee for a nail-biter of a final showdown next week, with all 48 Democrats – and two Republicans – pledging to vote against the billionaire donor (who married into the Amway fortune). Mike Pence would then cast the tie-breaking vote. (Emma Brown)

Fun fact:

-- Including DeVos, 11 Trump nominees are waiting for up-or-down votes on the Senate floor, per Elise Viebeck. Three other nominees are waiting for hearings, while one is waiting for a committee vote. (Check out the Post’s confirmation guide here.)

-- Senate Republicans once again used their majority yesterday to suspend committee rules so they could ram through a nominee in the face of a Democratic boycott. Republicans voted 11-0 to advance EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to the floor. Democrats had refused for a second day to show up for a vote. (Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney)

Israeli settlers scuffle with security forces northeast of Ramallah on Wednesday as they are evicted from a wildcat settlement outpost in line with a High Court ruling that determined the homes were built on private Palestinian land. (Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

IS TRUMP BEING TOUGHER ON OUR ALLIES THAN OUR ADVERSARIES?

-- The White House warned ISRAEL that new or expanded settlements in the West Bank “may not be helpful” in achieving peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It’s an unusual, albeit gentle, suggestion that the new administration could seek continuity with the policies of past presidents. In a Thursday statement, press secretary Sean Spicer said that while the White House does not believe settlements are “an impediment to peace,” the construction or expansion of settlements “may not be helpful in achieving that goal.” “While the statement carefully parsed its words,” Abby Phillip and Karen DeYoung report, “it marked a step away from what some Trump officials — and the president’s designated new ambassador to Israel — have said in favor of settlements. Trump’s first foreign call as president was to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he has been sharply critical of former president Barack Obama, whom he characterized as weak on Israel.”

-- The carefully-worded statement came after an unnamed "senior administration official" was quoted in the Jerusalem Post telling Israel to stop the “spree” of housing construction, lest it interfere with White House plans to work toward a peace plan. Trump officials thought that rebuke went too far, however, and ordered Spicer’s statement as an attempt to dial it back.

-- Meanwhile, the White House also pulled back slightly on a pledge to quickly move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem: “Middle Eastern diplomats who have been in contact with the administration have said they believe it will not take that step immediately, perhaps waiting at least until June, when an Obama-issued waiver of a congressional mandate to make the move will expire."

-- Scoop: “Obama’s White House worked for months on a plan to seize Raqqa. Trump’s team took a brief look and decided not to pull the trigger,” by Adam Entous, Greg Jaffe and Missy Ryan: “Planning for the final assault on Raqqa, the capital of the [ISIS] caliphate, had been grinding on for more than seven months. There had been dozens of meetings … scores of draft battle plans and hundreds of hours of anguished, late-night debates. There were no good options, but Obama’s top foreign policy advisers were convinced that they had finally settled on an approach. … There was just one problem: The Obama team had deliberated for so long that there was little time left to pull the trigger.  So on Jan. 17, just three days before the transfer of power, Obama directed his national security adviser to hand over to the Trump team a paper detailing the plan … [But] instead of running with the plan, Trump’s national security team deemed it wholly insufficient and swiftly tossed it. The troubled handoff of one of the United States’ most vexing national security problems shows how far the pendulum has swung between two presidents who in many ways are opposites."

-- A former national security official in the Obama administration also blasted officials at the Trump White House and Pentagon for saying that the U.S. Special Operations raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL had been bolstered by “sufficient intelligence” and was planned “for months.” “In a nutshell, Trump and his team owns the process and the ultimate decision — and the consequences,” Colin Kahl said in a tweet. Contrary to White House claims, he said, Obama did not make any decisions because he “thought it represented an expansion of the war in Yemen” and believed the Trump administration should assess how to proceed. (Dan Lamothe)

Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassely during a committee hearing on Tuesday. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

KEY SENATE REPUBLICANS GOING WOBBLY ON OBAMACARE:

-- The new buzzword among establishment Republicans on the Hill is “REPAIR,” instead of “REPLACE.”

-- Two top Republicans long expected to lead the Senate in repealing the Affordable Care Act said publicly this week that they are open to fixing the 2010 law. From Kelsey Snell and Mike DeBonis:

  • Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Thursday that he “could stand either” repealing or repairing the law. “I’m saying I’m open to anything. Anything that will improve the system, I’m for,” he said.
  • Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, used this analogy at a hearing on Wednesday: “I think of it as a collapsing bridge. . . . You send in a rescue team and you go to work to repair it so that nobody else is hurt by it and you start to build a new bridge, and only when that new bridge is complete, people can drive safely across it, do you close the old bridge. When it’s complete, we can close the old bridge, but in the meantime, we repair it. No one is talking about repealing anything until there is a concrete practical alternative to offer Americans in its place.”

-- At the congressional retreat in Philadelphia last week, a number of Republicans worried that they would be blamed if the health-care system implodes in the wake of their repeal plans. Among those most concerned was Alexander, who said: “The word ‘repair’ is a lot better than the word ‘repeal.’ . . . Saying we’re going to repair the damage is more accurate.”

Stephen K. Bannon sits in the Roosevelt Room. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

FOLLOW THE MONEY:

-- Escalating the GOP civil war: A group of key Trump loyalists, led by Steve Bannon, is seeking to build out their own constellation of outside groups for the midterms. Buzzfeed’s Tarini Parti and Alexis Levinson report: “The message (at a private meeting with donors), according to two sources … was that Bannon wants to use the 2018 midterm elections as the arena to test the political clout of Trump’s populist message. The pro-Trump group, a nonprofit called America First, officially launched this week. America First will focus on issue advocacy, but could eventually direct fire on congressional Republicans who defy Trump’s agenda. ... While the group plans to focus primarily on Democratic senators, a high-level official said they will “absolutely” target Republicans if any prove unsupportive of the president’s agenda. And, should Trump decide to 'personally put his finger on the scale' in any race, the official said, the group will follow his lead. The unpredictability of Trump and those in his orbit has left operatives and candidates alike in a state of uncertainty, able only to guess at what might await them in a primary."

FIGHTING WORDS: “The days of (Mitch) McConnell picking Republican nominees in Senate races are over,” Bannon reportedly told donors.

-- On the establishment side of the party, Paul Ryan is already knee-deep in a GOP fundraising blitz to ensure Republicans keep the House. The Speaker, a prodigious fundraiser, reeled in $3.4 million haul during the month of January alone, Mike DeBonis reports, as he scrambles to pad NRCC coffers. (So ambitious are his efforts, in fact, that he has already eclipsed his previous January record of $2.5 million -- which is no small feat in a non-election year.)

Omarosa Manigault (R), director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison, talks with Kellyanne Conway (L) at the White House. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

MEET THREE OF THE PEOPLE WHO NOW RUN OUR GOVERNMENT:

-- Omarosa tried to steal a colleague’s West Wing office when he was in NYC because she liked his view of the Washington Monument better. From Politico: “Anthony Scaramucci, a Trump fundraiser who was expected to join the White House … has aligned himself with Bannon. People close to Scaramucci say the Wall Street executive believes Reince Priebus or his allies are trying to damage him with bad stories in the news media, including about the ethics around the divestitures of his vast wealth. Priebus allies say that isn't true, but the stories have continued to come out with leaks about his controversial business transaction. Scaramucci has told people this is "a tough town" … While he was in New York, Omarosa Manigault, another Trump aide, sought to take his office with a better view of the Washington Monument, according to people familiar with her move. Manigault now may get the office, since Scaramucci is now not expected to join the administration.”

-- Trump tapped Gina Haspel, who formerly ran a “black site” prison, to be deputy CIA director. Mike Pompeo praised the veteran officer as a “proven leader with an uncanny ability to get things done and inspire those around her.” Still, her history at one of the first black site compounds, coupled with Trump’s recent rhetoric on bringing back waterboarding and other forms of interrogation, will set off alarm bells in some corners of the intelligence community. (Greg Miller)

-- “The Anonymous Pro-Trump 'Decius' Now Works Inside The White House.” The Weekly Standard’s Michael Warren unmasks Michael Anton as the author of some of the buzziest and most impactful essays on the right during 2016. Anton is now the senior director of strategic communications at the National Security Council, the job that Monica Crowley was going to get until she was felled by a plagiarism scandal. Two highlights from Mike’s fascinating piece:

“In ‘The Flight 93 Election’ (an essay he wrote last September), Decius considered the 2016 election as a game of Russian roulette for conservatives. A President Clinton would all but assure annihilation of everything they hold dear. ‘With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances,’ he wrote… At the center of Anton's argument was the belief that the decline of the United States under the direction of the progressive left has been abetted by a bloated and lethargic conservative movement of ‘think-tanks, magazines, conferences, and fellowships’ that exists to perpetuate the status quo. Conservative intellectuals had been living a contradiction, wrote Decius, decrying the decay of America's social, economic, and political traditions while offering nothing but tired ideas that tinkered on the margins of public policy—if they did anything at all. More nefariously, Decius suggested, professional conservative intellectuals were more motivated to preserve their own status (and steady stream of paychecks) than to reconsider their positions and ideological priors…

“After working as a speechwriter and press secretary for New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, he entered Bush's White House in 2001 as a communications aide for the National Security Council—a job that took on greater weight after 9/11. Anton was part of the team that made the case within the administration and to the public for invading Iraq—and he was enthusiastic about the war. That team helped craft one of the more infamous sentences in a State of the Union address, from Bush's in 2003: ‘The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.’ … After leaving the Bush administration in 2005, Anton was a speechwriter for Rupert Murdoch at the media conglomerate News Corporation, then the director of communications at megabank Citigroup. For the last year and a half, he's been a managing director at the investment firm BlackRock.”

Paul Ryan speaks during his weekly news conference. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

TRUMP DIPLOMACY, TAKE TWO:

-- On Capitol Hill, top House and Senate Republicans quickly went into damage control mode, scrambling to reassure Australia after Trump's tense phone call with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Mike DeBonis reports:

  • Paul Ryan called Australia a “very essential” U.S. ally after being pressed in a morning news conference by reporters on the call. “I don’t think Australia should be worried about its relationship with our new president, or with our country, for that matter,” Ryan said.  “Australia is a very important and central ally. It’s going to continue to be.”
  • Sen. John McCain quickly dialed Australia’s ambassador to the U.S. on Thursday morning to express his “unwavering support” for the U.S.-Australia alliance, his office said in a statement. “In short, Australia is one of America’s oldest friends and staunchest allies,” McCain said. “We are united by ties of family and friendship, mutual interests and common values, and shared sacrifice in wartime.
  • Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, who also called the ambassador with words of reassurance, said he has spoken to Trump about his style while engaging with foreign leaders, to no avail so far: “The president’s a business guy, and we’ve had this conversation,” the Republican said. “You know, business guys kind of go straight to the issue, and I think it’s something that probably will continue for some time.”

-- On Capitol Hill, Republicans now have a new role – playing “cleanup for the world” for President Trump. Paul Kane reports: “It remains to be seen whether this will become a regular practice. But just two weeks into the new administration, relations with allies such as Australia and Mexico have been strained, while rivals such as China and Iran have been outright enraged by Trump’s seemingly impulsive moves and statements made by Trump. Some lawmakers pledged to continue their work back-channeling with these nations, particularly allies, to help soothe tensions sparked by Trump’s words and actions … Still, it’s a sign of where things are that members of the president’s own party aren’t sure how often they will have to serve as diplomatic repairmen for Trump’s own impolitic way of speaking.”

-- At the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley declared that the United States would not lift sanctions against Russia until it stopped destabilizing Ukraine and pulled troops out of Crimea. “We do want to better our relations with Russia,” she said in her first remarks to an open session of the United Nations Security Council. “However, the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.” (New York Times)

-- The Atlantic, “It’s Putin’s World: How the Russian president became the ideological hero of nationalists everywhere,” by Franklin Foer: “The specter of decline has haunted the West ever since its rise. But the recent spate of jeremiads is different. They have an unusually large constituency, and revisit some of the most dangerous strains of apocalyptic thinking from the last century—the fear of cultural degeneration, the anxiety that civilization has grown unmanly, the sense that liberal democracy has failed to safeguard civilization from its enemies. Trump doesn’t think as rigorously or as broadly as Putin, but his campaign was shot through with similar elements. If he carries this sort of talk into office, he will be joining a chorus of like-minded allies across the world. There is little empirical basis for the charge of civilizational rot. It speaks to an emotional state, one we should do our best to understand and even empathize with. But we know from history that premonitions of imminent barbarism serve to justify extreme countermeasures. These are the anxieties from which dictators rise. Admiring strongmen from a distance is the window-shopping that can end in the purchase of authoritarianism."

-- The State Department drafted its own statement marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day last month that explicitly included mention of the Jewish victims, but the Trump White House BLOCKED its release. Politico reports: “The existence of the draft statement adds another dimension to the controversy around the White House’s own statement that was released on Friday and set off a furor because it excluded any mention of Jews." Meanwhile, Trump officials continue to defend their own statement, with Reince Priebus said he “did not regret” the wording, and Sean Spicer accusing critics of “nitpicking.” The White House statement has been cheered by the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer.

-- Democrats on the Hill are pushing to change the law so that Bannon can’t sit on the National Security Council, but Republicans won’t go along. Via Sean Sullivan, Karoun Demirjian and Phil Rucker: “Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) is hoping to turn bipartisan frustration at Bannon joining the (NSC) into support for legislation to restrict the body’s membership. … Trump’s open invitation to Bannon to attend all NSC meetings, and his addition of Bannon as a permanent member of the Principals Committee — where he was seemingly given a more integral role than even the director of national intelligence or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — has struck many lawmakers as an inappropriate. … Last year, the Senate Armed Services Committees decided to shrink the size of the NSC from 400 to 200 members. The committee’s ranking Democrat, Jack Reed (R.I.), said that sets a precedent for the committee to get involved in dictating the NSC’s members. ‘It’s within the purview of the defense committee,’ said Reed, who is alarmed that Trump’s changes effectively ‘lose the military nonpartisan professionals, and you’re gaining someone who’s more of a political operative.’ But so far, Republicans disagree. ‘That’s executive-branch business,’ said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.).”

Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai (R) shakes hands with former Norwegian prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik during her visit to the Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights in 2014. (Lise Aserud/EPA)

MORE FALLOUT FROM TRUMP'S REFUGEE BAN:

-- The former prime minister of Norway, Kjell Magne Bondevik, was detained and questioned at Dulles airport for an hour this week because of a passport stamp. His passport — which clearly stated he is the former prime minister of one of our best allies -- indicated he had taken a 2014 trip to Iran. He had attended a human rights conference in the country, he explained. (Samantha Schmidt)

-- U.S. officials are working to reinstate the visas of two Yemeni brothers who were deported from Dulles last weekend, according to the attorney general of Virginia. The two boys were en route to visit their father, a U.S. citizen, when they were reportedly detained and coerced into renouncing their claims to legal permanent residence in the United States – and were sent on to Ethiopia and eventually Djibouti. Now, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring says they probably will be allowed into the country. (Rachel Weiner and Gregory S. Schneider)

-- As the “Muslim ban” approaches its one-week mark, its reception from lawmakers on Capitol Hill has become largely partisan. “While a number of Republicans in both houses criticized the executive order, none have endorsed Democratic legislation to roll it back,” Dave Weigel notes. “Despite — or because of — greater media focus on how paranoid sentiments about Islam have come from Bannon, criticism of the administration’s approach has become largely limited to the opposition. That opposition has linked arms with Muslim and human rights groups in a way that syncs with the critique of Islamic political influence seen on sites such as Breitbart News ... Twice this week, Democrats gathered near the Capitol to give speeches promising to undo the ban. Twice, they praised witnesses and activists including from the ACLU and Amnesty International for helping to fight the executive order. What was striking about the Democrats’ solidarity with ‘Muslim ban’ opponents was not that it was driven by the grass roots … It was the lack of clear evidence that digging in on the executive order fight was a political winner.”

-- Gold Star father Khizr Khan appeared on Capitol Hill to denounce Trump’s ban and join Democrats in introducing a religious freedom bill: “The malice of Donald Trump is evident,” said Khan, whose son was killed in combat in Iraq. (Patricia Sullivan)

-- Angelina Jolie blasts the ban in a New York Times op-ed, saying Trump’s policy is driven by fear rather than facts: “The lesson of the years we have spent fighting terrorism since Sept. 11 is that every time we depart from our values we worsen the very problem we are trying to contain,” the actress wrote, adding that the closed-door policy could also backfire on the U.S.: “If we send a message that it is acceptable to close the door to refugees, or to discriminate among them on the basis of religion, we are playing with fire. We are lighting a fuse that will burn across continents, inviting the very instability we seek to protect ourselves against.” 

-- A CBS News poll out this morning shows that 51 percent of American voters disapprove of the way Trump handled his travel ban on refugees and immigrants from majority-Muslim countries, while 45 percent said they approve. Meanwhile, just four in 10 voters said they approve of the job Trump is doing as president – the lowest of any U.S. president in modern memory at this stage.

-- As Trump wraps up his second full week in office, he’s done little to inspire the country’s confidence. A new PPP poll found that a full 40 percent of voters say they support impeaching the newly-minted president – up from 35 percent last week. Meanwhile, pollsters found that a 52 percent majority would prefer Obama to be back in his White House role. (43 percent prefer Trump and 5 percent are uncertain.)

Trump and John Boozman bow their heads during the National Prayer Breakfast. (Win McNamee/Pool via Bloomberg)

MORE TRUMP MOVES:

-- POTUS vowed Thursday to "TOTALLY DESTROY" a law passed more than 60 years ago that bans tax-exempt churches from actively supporting political candidates. John Wagner and Julie Zauzmer report: “Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Trump said he would seek to overturn the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt nonprofits — including churches and other houses of worship — from ‘directly or indirectly’ participating in a political candidate’s campaign. Repeal of the amendment — which is part of the tax code and would require action by Congress — has been sought primarily by conservative Christian leaders, who argue that it is used selectively to keep them for speaking out freely. But several experts said Thursday that the effect of a repeal could be far broader, allowing churches of any political leaning to pour their financial resources into campaigns of like-minded candidates."

-- A full week has passed since Trump vowed to sign a directive ordering the Justice Department to investigate his completely unsubstantiated claims that three million to five million people voted illegally in the election. Trump had planned to sign the order at an Oval Office meeting last Thursday, but he abruptly cancelled the event. White House officials insisted it is “not off the table” – but said it is not expected anytime soon. (CNN)

GET SMART FAST:​​

-- Five House employees are under criminal investigation amid allegations that they stole equipment from more than 20 member offices and accessed House IT systems without lawmakers' knowledge. “Access to the House network was terminated for the five employees — four men and a woman — on Thursday afternoon, but it’s up to individual lawmakers to fire the staffers in question,” per Politico’s Heather Caygle. “A senior House official said most members are proceeding with termination. All lawmakers targeted by the alleged scam were victims and had no idea what crimes might have been committed by their employees … The identities of the staffers are still unknown, but the official said they are shared House employees, meaning they work for multiple members, not contractors.”

-- Breitbart columnist and conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos says he is attending a White House press briefing today. The news comes just one day after his scheduled speaking appearance at University of California at Berkeley was cancelled amid a wave of violent protests – prompting Trump to weigh in by threatening to cut off the school’s federal funding. (Yahoo News)

-- Lockheed Martin has turned to Trump’s ex-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and his lobbying firm to help navigate a dispute with the president over costs of its F-35 fighter plane. Bloomberg’s Kevin Cirilli reports: News of the hire comes after Trump bashed the defense contractor online, criticizing the company for “out of control costs” in a series of December tweets.  Lockheed first engaged Lewandowski and his firm, Avenue Strategies, after Lockheed CEO Marilyn Hewson’s first meeting with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, the people said. A Lockheed spokesman, Dan Nelson, declined to comment when asked if the company had engaged Lewandowski or his firm in any capacity to help with the F-35 dispute.

-- A Maryland boy who has never attended a day of “real” school in his life is being hailed as our generation’s next Einstein. He’s already lectured to groups of college students, has a near-flawless ear for musical notes and pitches, and was recently invited to Switzerland by one of the world’s leading experimental physicists. Oh, and he’s seven! (Anthony J. Rivera)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

-- “Alternative fact” of the day – Kellyanne Conway cited a “Bowling Green massacre” that never happened to justify the travel ban during an interview on MSNBC last night. From Samantha Schmidt: “At one point, Conway made a reference to two Iraqi refugees whom she described as the masterminds behind ‘the Bowling Green Massacre.’ ‘Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered,’ Conway said. The Bowling Green Massacre didn’t get covered because it didn’t happen. There has never been a terrorist attack in Bowling Green, Ky., carried out by Iraqi refugees or anyone else. … Conway was likely referring to two Iraqi citizens living in Bowling Green who were arrested in 2011 and eventually sentenced to federal prison for attempting to send weapons and money to al-Qaeda in Iraq for the purpose of killing U.S. soldiers… Conway also reiterated claims from Trump that his refugee policy is similar to ‘what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months.’ … As The Post Fact Checker has reported, this was not the case.”

“Bowling Green Massacre,” naturally, became the top trending topic on Twitter. Here are just five choice examples of the mockery Conway is facing for her latest gaffe:

Even Chelsea Clinton chimed in:

A theme for this year?

Your Frederick Douglass joke of the day:

A joke about the National Prayer Breakfast:

Senate Democrats encouraged callers to continue flooding the switchboard:

Scott Walker and Tammy Baldwin are in a spat:

Cornyn got a special birthday present:

Opponents of Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) are trolling him over his town halls -- or lack thereof:

Including with a fake Twitter account:

Kevin Brady (R-Texas) did an interview in front of the White House:

Rep. Paul Cook (R-Calif.) posted this great shot of the Washington Monument:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- The New Yorker previewed its chilling Anniversary Edition cover, “Liberty’s Flameout”: “It used to be that the Statue of Liberty, and her shining torch, was the vision that welcomed new immigrants. And, at the same time, it was the symbol of American values,” says John W. Tomac, the artist behind next week’s cover. “Now it seems that we are turning off the light.”

-- “Trump’s Enemies Within: The president has awakened the slumbering beast that felled presidents before him: the federal bureaucracy,” by John F. Harris and Daniel Lippman in Politico Magazine: “How on earth is all this stuff getting in the newspapers? Bob Haldeman told Richard Nixon that he had uncovered the culprit: Mark Felt, a top official at the FBI. ‘Now why the hell would he do that?’ asked Nixon, who was secretly recording the exchange. Cracking down on Felt directly was out of the question, the two men agreed. … Trump, a self-professed Nixon admirer, is learning this history lesson about the presidency in real time: His most dangerous enemies are people who ostensibly work for him. Modern presidents always feel hectored by the news media and harried by opposition legislators. But mortal threats to their power typically come from hostile forces inside the executive branch. The phenomenon has rarely been on more vivid display, with Trump buffeted by an unprecedented barrage of leaks about his decision-making and direct challenges to the decisions themselves—a new example coming almost daily—from within the permanent bureaucracy of government.”

-- IF YOU READ ONE THING ABOUT THE FUTURE OF POPULISM --> Buzzfeed, “How France’s Nationalist Party Is Winning Gay Support,” by J. Lester Feder and Pierre Buet: “The race is the next key test of the nationalist wave that led the UK to leave the EU and to the election of Donald Trump in the US. Some on the right have predicted — and some progressive LGBT activists are worried — that LGBT voters could help put politicians like Le Pen into office because they increasingly fear Muslim immigrants … Left-wing parties have been responsible for nearly every LGBT rights advance on the continent, and if their supporters were to defect to nationalist parties it would suggest the political crisis in the continent is even deeper than many on the left have feared. Courting LGBT voters remains a high-wire act, because beneath Le Pen’s march to victory is a simmering internal battle that could build into a true revolt from within … If she does pull it off and win the presidency, Marine Le Pen would upend not just French politics, but potentially the politics of all of Western Europe. A victory could offer a radical new template for nationalist parties and demonstrate that even the most reliable of left-wing voters may be up for grabs.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“The Navy wants to know who flew a Trump flag on a military convoy,” from CNN: “Drivers fly all sorts of flags from their vehicles, but it's not every day you see a military convoy sporting something other than the US flag. A Trump flag was spotted on a military convoy driving outside Louisville, Kentucky, on Sunday. The US Navy confirmed to CNN that the Humvees were being driven by an East Coast Naval Special Warfare unit -- also known as a Navy SEALs unit. Flying certain flags from military vehicles is allowed, but a blue Trump flag waving in the wind is not one of them. The Navy has started a command inquiry on this incident. [A] Facebook video showing the convoy had been viewed almost 80,000 times before it was removed Thursday afternoon. ‘Good lord, get over it already, he's the president and it will be that way for 4 years!!’ said one Facebook commenter.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“NYT snubs top-selling book on abortionist Gosnell,” from Washington Examiner: “It sold out in three days on Amazon and is the fourth bestselling hardcover nonfiction title in the country, but the New York Times did not include a new book about Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell on its best seller list to be published Sunday. According to Regnery Publishing, Gosnell: The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer, should be on the nonfiction list behind The Magnolia Story, which sold 10,000. Gosnell sold 7,644. The snub prompted the authors to claim that the story continues to be ignored by the mainstream media despite the public's hunger for it. Ann McElhinney, co-author of Gosnell, said, ‘This is shocking that the cover-up of the Gosnell story is continuing even after the mainstream media were so criticized for failing to cover the trial.’”

 

DAYBOOK:

At the White House: Trump signs executive orders, participates in a strategy and policy forum and has lunch with national security adviser Michael Flynn. Later, he departs for West Palm Beach, Fla. for the weekend.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate meets at 6:30 a.m. to consider H.J.Res.41, SEC Resource Extraction Resolution of Disapproval, and vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the nomination of Betsy DeVos for secretary of education. The House meets at 9 a.m. for legislative business, with first and last votes taking place between 10 and 11 a.m.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

"I personally wish that he had never run, I told him that, because I actually think this is something that is gonna be detrimental to his mental health. … He wants to be liked, he wants to be loved. He wants people to cheer for him."Howard Stern, on his radio program Wednesday, saying why he thinks Trump will hate being president. (And the reason he thinks Trump wanted to run in the first place? "I think it started out as like a kinda cool, fun thing to do in order to get a couple more bucks out of NBC for The Apprentice, I actually do believe that," he said.)

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- “Keep handy those coats and that basic warm winter gear!” Today’s Capital Weather Gang forecasts a chilly weekend ahead: “Clouds may dominate — especially midday — but we should see some peeks of sunshine, and maybe even patches of blue later in the afternoon. Moderate northwesterly breezes around 10 mph keep us happy that we wore our heavier coats. Temperatures may struggle to get above the upper 30s in some spots, to perhaps mid-40s south of town.”

-- The Wizards beat the Lakers 116-108.

-- A Maryland judge dismissed Melania Trump’s defamation claims against a tabloid that once said she worked as an escort, saying the first lady should have filed her case elsewhere. Meanwhile, the ruling does not appear to affect proceedings against a Maryland-based blogger who was accused of making similar claims, which she vigorously denies. (Dan Morse)

-- Democratic state senators in Maryland voted 32 to 13 on Thursday to override GOP Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill to boost statewide use of renewable energy, Josh Hicks reports. “That means the measure — which requires Maryland to obtain 25 percent of its energy from wind, solar and other renewable sources by 2020, instead of ­20 percent by 2022 — will become law.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Trump opened his first appearance at the National Prayer Breakfast with a prayer for the television ratings of the man who succeeded him as host of “The Apprentice.” "They hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to take my place. And we know how that turned out. The ratings went down the tubes," Trump joked, prompting laughter from the audience. "I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings." Abby Phillip notes that the ad-libbed monologue came minutes after he was introduced by television and movie producer Mark Burnett, who helped Trump create the show. "When I really fired him after it became the number one show, it became so successful and he wanted a commission and he didn't want to this," Trump said of the agent. The comments were an unusual start to the bipartisan breakfast. Watch:

-- Not to be outdone, Schwarzenegger fired back at the president – blasting out a video response on Twitter replying directly to Trump’s comments. “Hey Donald, I have a great idea. Why don't we switch jobs,” he said. “You take over TV, because you're such an expert in ratings and I take over your job and Then people can finally sleep comfortably again.”

In Kentucky, a military convoy flew a Trump flag, prompting an investigation:

Here's a clip of Nancy Pelosi calling Steve Bannon a white supremacist:

Seth Meyers took a closer look at Trump's second week in office:

And he ran through some facts about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch:

And poked fun at Trump's speech for Black History Month:

Stephen Colbert also looked at how Trump celebrated Black History Month, contrasting him with Beyonce:

And said Trump treated the SCOTUS announcement like a reality show:

Lady Gaga previewed her Super Bowl halftime show:

The Post visited Punxsutawney Phil's hometown to quiz revelers on how much they know about groundhogs: