Chris Christie stands alongside his wife, Mary Pat, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer as Donald Trump signs a bill in the Oval Office on Tuesday. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

 

With Breanne Deppisch

THE BIG IDEA: Donald Trump has an unending need to feel like he’s in total control of his surroundings. That helps explain why he’s felt so frustrated and lashed out so much over the past month. The president’s alpha male personality drives him to firmly assert himself whenever he can, whether in handshakes with foreign leaders or at lunch with friends.

It’s a little thing, but it’s telling: When Chris Christie came to the White House to discuss the opioid epidemic earlier this week, Trump made him order the meatloaf.

“This is what it's like to be with Trump," the governor of New Jersey recalled afterward. "He says, 'There's the menu, you guys order whatever you want.' And then he says, 'Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.… I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous.’”

When Christie told that story on a sports talk radio show yesterday, the host was incredulous: “It’s emasculating. Another man tells you what you’re eating and you eat it? Not acceptable! I don’t care who it is.”

“No, it’s not,” Christie replied sheepishly. “It is the president.… And the meatloaf is good.”

The meatloaf moment is just the latest, if smallest, indignity that Christie has suffered since he chose to endorse Trump one year ago.

  • Trump ribbed Christie during a joint appearance for spending so much time in New Hampshire instead of New Jersey, even as the governor was under fire back home for skipping a state trooper’s funeral.
  • “No more Oreos,” Trump told Christie during another fundraiser last March.
  • When Christie introduced Trump at a rally in Tennessee last spring, the candidate told him on a hot microphone: “Get on a plane and go home. It’s over there. You go home.” To which Christie replied, “You got it. Okay.”
  • The New Yorker reported last June that Christie had “transformed himself into a sort of manservant.” One Republican told the magazine that a friend of his on the Trump campaign used Snapchat to send him a video of Christie fetching Trump’s McDonald’s order. (Christie’s office categorically denied this.)

Christie’s reward for this level of fealty was to get narrowly passed over for vice president and then, after the election, purged as head of the transition team, possibly as part a revenge play by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner (whose father Christie sent to prison as a prosecutor).

Donald Trump poses with his then-wife, Ivana, outside the federal courthouse after she was sworn in as a United States citizen in 1988. (AP File)

-- Like father, like son: The president’s insistence that Christie eat meatloaf reminds me of an anecdote that was deep in a New York Times story last May about Trump’s relationship with women. Ivana Trump, his ex-wife, recalled an episode with his dad from when they were dating: “Fred would order steak. Then Donald would order steak. … I told the waiter, ‘I would like to have fish.’ … And Fred would say to the waiter: ‘No, Ivana is not going to have a fish. She is going to have a steak.’ I said, ‘No, I’m going to have my fish.’ And Donald would come home and say, ‘Ivana, why would you have a fish instead of a steak?’ I say, ‘Because I’m not going to be told by somebody to have something which I don’t want.’”

Ironically, Trump singled out that nine-month-old Times story during yesterday’s surreal press conference. At the time, Trump went on the record to defend his father telling his girlfriend that she couldn’t get the fish: “He would’ve said that out of love. He would have said that only on the basis that he thought, ‘That would be better for her.’”

Trump speaks beside Ben Carson during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room. (Michael Reynolds/EPA)

-- Feeling under siege, Trump has increasingly put a premium on loyalty. To wit:

A top aide to Ben Carson was fired and led out of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s headquarters by security on Wednesday because he wrote critically of Trump last fall, according to the New York Times. “Shermichael Singleton, who was one of the few black conservatives in the Trump administration, had been working at [HUD] since Jan. 23 as a senior adviser. He was preparing a cross-country tour for Mr. Carson,” Maggie Haberman and Yamiche Alcindor report. “But according to the two people briefed, Mr. Singleton’s background check had not been completed. As it was being finished this week, Mr. Trump’s advisers turned up public writings by Mr. Singleton that appeared during the later stages of the campaign in which he was deeply critical of the candidate.”

An initial vetting by HUD and White House personnel had come up with the critical op-ed he wrote for The Hill. “He answered a number of questions regarding the article and expressed remorse for the piece and support for Mr. Trump,” per Maggie and Yamiche. “But a second look may have done him in. On Wednesday, Mr. Singleton was presented again with the piece and told it was the reason for his termination.”

Recall that last week Trump blocked Rex Tillerson from hiring Elliott Abrams as his deputy at the State Department after someone brought to his attention critical comments he had made during the campaign. That happened despite a job interview that had gone well. (Anne Gearan has more of that backstory.)

Hours after being identified as the whistleblower in the David Petraeus scandal, Jill Kelley attended a birthday gathering with Vice Adm. Robert Harward and her husband at her home in Tampa. (Bill Serne/NY Daily News via Getty Images)

-- This style of micro-management is preventing Trump from being able to recruit and retain the most talented people for his administration.

Last night, Robert Harward turned down Trump’s offer to replace Michael Flynn as national security adviser. “The administration had hoped to name the retired vice admiral to the position this week,” Jenna Johnson and Adam Entous report. “Even before Flynn resigned, the administration was wooing Harward. The hard-charging former Navy SEAL was at the White House on Feb. 8 and then again this week. Harward commanded high-risk operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and later parachuted into his own retirement ceremony from high altitude.”

One key factor in Harward's decision to turn down the job was that he couldn't get a guarantee that he could select his own staff.

From CBS News: “Trump told Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland that she could retain her post, even after the ouster of [Flynn]. Harward refused to keep McFarland as his deputy, and after a day of negotiations over this and other staffing matters, Harward declined to serve as Flynn’s replacement.”

From Politico: “According to an individual familiar with Harward's thinking, the former Navy SEAL … turned down the Trump offer because he did not receive sufficient assurances about … autonomy. Specifically, the source said Harward wanted commitments that the National Security Council would be fully in charge of security matters, not Trump's political advisers. … Trump's decision last month to place his top strategist and former Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon on the [NSC] was roundly criticized as a departure from tradition. … The individual familiar with Harward's thinking, who asked that he not be identified, cited the ‘unwillingness of White House political team to be deferential to the White House national security team’ and ‘unwillingness of [the] White House political team to be malleable’ as driving factors in why Harward demurred.”

This morning Trump signaled who his third choice for the job will be:

-- Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has clashed with the Trump high command over who should get top jobs at the Pentagon, as well. Josh Rogin reported before the inauguration that Mattis had to learn from the press that Trump had selected Vincent Viola, a billionaire, to be secretary of the Army. “Mattis was furious,” a source said. Viola later withdrew his name from consideration.

Rex Tillerson arrives to board his plane for Germany at Joint Base Andrews. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

-- There was a great deal of speculation before Trump took office that he planned to delegate more authority to Cabinet heads than Barack Obama did because he was not as interested in the specifics of policy. But this missed the deeper truth that Trump wants to maintain maximum control. So it should come as no surprise that the White House continues moving aggressively to consolidate and seize as much decision-making authority as possible from as many places as possible, especially bureaucrats and diplomats who are not 100 percent loyal to Trump.

Just yesterday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s enforcers at the State Department laid off staff at Foggy Bottom while the secretary traveled in Europe. From CBS: “Much of seventh-floor staff, who work for the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources and the Counselor offices, were told today that their services were no longer needed. These staffers in particular are often the conduit between the secretary’s office to the country bureaus, where the regional expertise is centered. Inside the State Department, some officials fear that this is a politically-minded purge that cuts out much-needed expertise from the policy-making, rather than simply reorganizing the bureaucracy. … Two sources also told CBS News that Ambassador Kristie Kenney, the Counselor of the State Department and one of the last remaining senior officials, was informed that she will be let go. She is a career foreign service officer who had served as an ambassador under Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton.”

Also noteworthy: Not a single State Department official was included in the White House meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week. From the CBS story: “Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner — who has no regional expertise or diplomatic experience — had a greater role in the meeting than the Senate-confirmed secretary of State. Acting Deputy Secretary of State Tom Shannon was on the official schedule to take [Tillerson’s] place but was then shut out of the White House meeting.”

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Programming note: In observance of President’s Day, we won’t publish a 202 on Monday.

MORE WEST WING INTRIGUE:

Mike Pence and Michael Flynn shake hands one week ago today in the White House. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

-- Michael Flynn denied to FBI agents in an interview last month that he had discussed sanctions against Russia with the country’s ambassador, contradicting contents of intercepted communications collected by intelligence agencies. Sari Horwitz and Adam Entous scoop: “The Jan. 24 interview potentially puts Flynn in legal jeopardy. Lying to the FBI is a felony offense. Any decision to prosecute would ultimately lie with the Justice Department [now controlled by Jeff Sessions]. But several officials said it is unclear whether prosecutors would attempt to bring a case, in part because Flynn may parse the definition of the word ‘sanctions.’ He also followed his denial to the FBI by saying he couldn’t recall all of the conversation."

-- The House Intelligence Committee is potentially expanding the scope of its probe into Russian activities in the presidential election  with the GOP chairman saying he is open to looking at Flynn. Karoun Demirjian reports: “The statement [from Devin Nunes] suggests that the House is now open to investigating the full scope of the allegations swirling around the Trump team and Russia rather than focused squarely on how such charges ended up in the news media in recent weeks. House Democrats are concerned that their Republican colleagues are not following the bipartisan — at least for now — model being set by their Senate counterparts in vowing to fully and aggressively investigate both the idea that Russia sought to interfere in the election, and more recent reports that Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador. 'It makes us look bad,' said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee."

-- Six more White House staffers have been dismissed after failing FBI background checks, according to Politico’s Tara Palmeri. “Some of the aides were ‘walked out of the building by security’ on Wednesday after not passing the SF86, a Questionnaire for National Security Positions for security clearance. Among those who won't be working at the White House was Trump’s director of scheduling, Caroline Wiles, the daughter of Susan Wiles, Trump’s Florida campaign director and former chief of staff to Governor Rick Scott. Wiles, who resigned Friday before the background check was completed, was appointed deputy assistant secretary before the inauguration in January. Two sources close to Wiles said she will get another job in Treasury. She's among others who failed to pass the intensive background check, which includes questions on the applicant's credit score, substance use and other personal subjects.”

-- After struggling for nearly two months to find a communications director, the White House has finally found someone willing to take the job. Crossroads Media founder Mike Dubke could be announced as early as today. Several folks who would have been fantastic in the role, and jumped at the chance to work in any other administration, previously turned it down. Among those who passed: Brian Jones (a Mitt Romney and John McCain alumnus). They just couldn’t stomach the dysfunction. (John Wagner and Philip Rucker)

Robert H. Michel stands in his office after he was elected House minority leader in 1980. (James Thresher/The Washington Post)

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Robert Michel, the longest-serving minority leader in the U.S. House, has died at 93. The cause was pneumonia, said his former chief of staff. Bob Levy reports: “Mr. Michel served as minority leader for seven terms, longer than anyone in House history, aided in large part by his courtly, nonconfrontational leadership style. His amiable manner often led to his erroneous labeling as an ideological moderate, although by temperament he was pragmatic in a House that was Democratically controlled for the vast portion of his career. He developed clout as an expert on appropriations for health, education and welfare before rising to greater visibility in 1973, when President Richard M. Nixon named him chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Amid the fallout from the Watergate political scandal, the job proved a thankless task, and the GOP was clobbered in the 1974 elections. But Mr. Michel, regarded as a master of procedure, remained in the good graces of his colleagues … [and] set about rebuilding his party’s morale and unity.”

David Plouffe huddles with Barack Obama in 2012. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Former Uber executive and Obama campaign manager David Plouffe was fined $90,000 by the Chicago Board of Ethics after illegally lobbying Mayor Rahm Emanuel on behalf of the ride-sharing app. Officials said he breached city ethics rules by failing to register as a lobbyist before contacting Emanuel to help the company on certain regulations and problems at the airports. (Chicago Tribune)
  2. Nevada’s chief gaming regulator secretly recorded a conversation with state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who approached him about interceding in a lawsuit on behalf of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is also his biggest campaign donor, and Laxalt is considered the leading GOP candidate to run for governor next year. The gaming regulator turned the tape over to the FBI, which decided no crime was committed. (Jon Ralston/The Nevada Independent)
  3. D.C. health officials botched Zika testing for hundreds of residents in 2016, including two pregnant woman who were incorrectly told they did not have the virus when in fact they were infected. The mistakes were blamed on a mathematical error by lab workers and have prompted retesting for more than 400 people in the region. (Lena H Sun)
  4. A suicide bomber detonated a bomb inside a famed Sufi shrine in Pakistan, killing at least 73 people and leaving several hundred injured. The attack, which targeted devotees gathered for a weekly music and dance ritual, was claimed by the Islamic State. (Pamela Constable and Nisar Mehdi)
  5. Samsung’s heir-apparent, Lee Jae-yong, was arrested on charges of bribery, as South Korean officials continue to probe an explosive corruption scandal that has brought down  at least temporarily  both the head of Seoul’s largest conglomerate and the country’s president. (Anna Fifield)
  6. Malaysian authorities said they will not release the body of Kim Jong Un’s murdered half brother without a DNA sample from a family member — posing a unique obstacle for the dynastic and highly secretive Kim clan, and introducing yet another wrinkle into a sensational killing that, as Anna Fifield writes, “makes a James Bond plot look realistic.”
  7. A South Carolina man with white supremacist ties was arrested on accusations of plotting an attack “in the spirit of Dylann Roof,” citing admiration for the Charleston shooter who gunned down members of a historically black church. He was nabbed after speaking of his plans to an undercover FBI employee. (Matt Zapotosky)
  8. Two NASA-hired contractors that were tasked with helping astronauts get to the International Space Station could face further delays on their spacecraft  potentially pushing certification of the vehicles to 2019, two years behind schedule. If that happens, NASA might be stranded with no way to get its astronauts to the International Space Station. (Christian Davenport)
  9. It’s been some 4,000 years since woolly mammoths were wiped off the face of the Earth, but now Harvard scientists say they are on the brink of resurrecting them. They’re the brains behind a groundbreaking “de-extinction” project, seeking a hybrid embryo in which mammoth traits would be programmed into an Asian elephant. (The Guardian)
  10. Fourteen years after “Love Actually” hit theaters, the Christmas classic is getting a sequel (sort of). Members of the star-studded cast have agreed to return to their 2003 roles in a short film benefiting the poverty-fighting group Red Nose Day. It will be produced by original writer-director Richard Curtis and is slated to debut in March. (The New York Times)
  11. Texting an ex is rarely a good idea  and now, a handy new Internet spreadsheet is seeking to mitigate the temptation. Called “Things I Wanna Text My Ex,” the site is a repository of drafted thoughts people have wanted to send before thinking better of it — ranging from the bittersweet (“You’re still the first address that pops up on my Uber”) to slightly more savage (“I should have hit you harder with my car”). It was created on Valentine’s Day. (Time)
Yolanda Perez-Reyes, 32, dresses her 3-year-old son Brian in the bedroom of their family home in Falls Church, Va. Perez-Reyes, who came to the United States from Guatemala about 10 years ago, has a daughter and son who were born in the USA and are citizens by birth, but she isn't and could be separated from her children depending on what Trump decides to do about DAPA and DACA. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)

A DO-OVER ON IMMIGRATION:

-- Trump said he will issue a new executive order next week, and Justice Department lawyers requested that a federal appeals court hold off on taking action in the legal battle over his initial travel ban until then. Matt Zapotosky reports: “In a news conference at the White House, Trump said the new order would 'comprehensively protect our country,' and he hinted that it might contain new vetting measures for travelers. 'Extreme vetting will be put in place, and it already is in place in many places,' Trump said. He said the administration 'had to go quicker than we thought' because a federal appeals court refused to lift the suspension on his travel ban. The president’s comments and the Justice Department’s request to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit mean that the administration — at least for now — is pumping the brakes on the furious court battle to restore the travel ban. Instead, the administration indicated in its filing that it expects that a revamped executive order will eliminate judges’ concerns, even those the Justice Department views as unfounded."

-- The Los Angeles Times reports that the White House is zeroing in on some backdoor ways to end protection for “dreamers” in a way that they think will shield Trump from political blowback: “While Trump wavered Thursday on whether he will stop shielding from deportation people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, his aides have identified at least two ways to quietly end their protections without his fingerprints: a lawsuit brought by states, and new legal guidance that details who is a priority for deportation."

  • Option one: "Jeff Sessions, a vocal critic of deportation relief as a senator, would direct Department of Justice lawyers to review the program. ... If the Justice Department determines that DACA is not legal or is no longer a responsible use of prosecutorial discretion, the Department of Homeland Security would be instructed to stop awarding and renewing work permits."
  • Option two involves the courts: "A handful of governors are considering a challenge patterned on the 2014 lawsuit filed by several conservative state officials against the Obama administration’s expansion of deportation protections. If they sue, Sessions could instruct his lawyers not to defend the program in court, exposing it to indefinite suspension."

-- Reality check: If Sessions and Steve Bannon actually believe that either of these approaches will insulate the president, they are making another massive and breathtakingly naive miscalculation. Anything Sessions does that exposes kids to deportation would lead to the massive mobilization of Latinos in the streets and further undermine future GOP efforts to do outreach to the fastest-growing constituency in America for a generation or more. Deporting dreamers en masse could take Nevada, Colorado and maybe even Arizona off the map in 2020. A lot of Trump's own supporters want him to go after people who came here illegally and committed crimes, not children who did nothing wrong.

ICE ISN'T WAITING TO CRACK DOWN:

-- “Federal immigration raids net many without criminal records, sowing fear,” by Arelis R. Hernández, Wesley Lowery and Abigail Hauslohner: “Oscar Ramirez and Thermon Brewster walked out of the Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church just before 7 a.m. — when those who sleep at its homeless shelter must leave for the day. Outside the church in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, Va., U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were waiting. As the two men and others crossed the street toward a shopping center on Feb. 8, about a dozen ICE agents ordered them up against the wall of a grocery store, questioning them about their immigration status. According to Ramirez and Brewster, the ICE agents then indiscriminately arrested seven of the homeless men — all of them Hispanic — and packed them into a van full of other detainees…

“The U.S. government said the series of ICE raids last week netted at least 683 ‘criminal aliens,’ the first major immigration enforcement wave under President Trump. But a growing chorus of activists, lawyers and lawmakers have pointed to a sharp discrepancy between what ICE says it is doing and what immigrant families are seeing and reporting in cities across the nation:

  • In Chicago, a student called her high school teacher to tell him that ICE had raided her home the night before, arresting her father, an undocumented immigrant whose criminal record included only traffic violations, the teacher said.
  • In Centreville, Va., a woman told officials at London Towne Elementary School that a student’s father had been arrested after dropping their son off at school that morning.
  • In the Baltimore parking lot of a Walgreens, ICE agents arrested a barber and a local business owner who advocates said also had no criminal records.
  • ICE has arrested at least one DACA recipient during the raids. ICE says the man, Daniel Ramirez Medina, is a "gang member."

-- “ICE detains woman seeking domestic abuse protection at Texas courthouse,” by Katie Mettler: “A hearing in El Paso County in Texas went from ordinary to ‘unprecedented’ last week when half a dozen Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents showed up at a courthouse where an undocumented woman was seeking a protective order against the boyfriend she accused of abusing her. The woman, a citizen of Mexico who was living in El Paso had been driven to the courthouse by a victim’s advocate from the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, a shelter for victims of domestic abuse where she had been living. She left under arrest…

  • “‘This is really unprecedented,’ El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal told The Washington Post. It was the first time in her 23 years at the courthouse, Bernal said, that she can remember ICE agents making their presence known during a protective order hearing. The agents had come to stake out the woman, identified by her initials I.E.G., because, Bernal speculates, they likely received a tip from the only other person who knew the time and place of the hearing — the woman’s alleged abuser. ‘It really was a stunning event,’ Bernal said. ‘It has an incredible chilling effect for all undocumented victims of any crime in our community.’”
  • District Judge Yahara Lisa Gutierrez oversees the court that issued the woman’s protective order and told the El Paso Times that it isn’t uncommon for abusers to threaten to report their undocumented partners to immigration officials as a means of control. Gutierrez told the Times that ICE agents should not act on tips from abusers. “There’s no place for that,” Gutierrez said, “especially in family court.”

THE CABINET:

-- Trump named Alexander Acosta to replace the failed Andy Puzder as his next pick for labor secretary. Acosta was assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division under George W. Bush and is a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. He also previously served on the National Labor Relations Board and is now the dean of the law school at Florida International University. He went to Harvard for undergrad and law school and then clerked for Sam Alito when he was on the Third Circuit. Acosta, who is Cuban and friends with Marco Rubio, would be the only Hispanic in the cabinet.

-- His background is not without controversy:

1. Civil rights groups note that he came under a cloud during his tenure at DOJ in an era when the department was heavily politicized. From Jonnelle Marte: “An investigation from the department’s Office of Inspector General concluded that Acosta ‘did not sufficiently supervise’ a former senior division official who favored hiring people with ‘conservative political or ideological affiliations’ over those with more civil rights experience. ‘It is hard to believe that Mr. Acosta would now be nominated to lead a federal agency tasked with promoting lawful hiring practices and safe workplaces,’ said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law."

2. “Another pitfall could be a 2004 letter to a federal judge in Ohio that Mr. Acosta sent while he was at the Justice Department, justifying ‘vote caging’ in the presidential election,” the New York Times’ Alan Rappeport reports. “The practice, in which private citizens in Ohio challenged the eligibility of African-American voters, was widely seen as a Republican strategy to disenfranchise minorities.”

3. While a U.S. attorney in Miami, Acosta was accused of cutting a sweetheart plea deal in 2008 with a billionaire investor accused of having sex with dozens of underage girls (Trump has described the billionaire a “fun” and “terrific guy”). From Politico’s Josh Dawsey and Marianne Levine: “Acosta’s prosecutors agreed not to file any federal charges against Jeffrey Epstein if he pleaded guilty to state charges involving soliciting prostitution and soliciting a minor for prostitution. Epstein ultimately received an 18-month sentence in county jail and served about 13 months. Soon after the deal was cut in 2008, two women filed suit claiming that the decision to forgo federal prosecution violated a federal law — the Crime Victims Rights Act — because they and other teenagers Epstein paid for sex were never adequately consulted about the plea deal or given an opportunity to object to it. … In 2015, lawyers for the women demanded Acosta submit to a deposition in the case. The motion was withdrawn last year as settlement talks in the case went forward, but the case remains pending…

“Acosta’s involvement in the saga could be awkward for Trump, drawing fresh attention to his ties to Epstein — including the financier’s tenure as a member at Trump’s Palm Beach club, Mar-a-Lago. ‘I've known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy,’ Trump told New York Magazine back in 2002. ‘He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.’"

Scott Pruitt testifies during his confirmation hearing last month. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

-- On the eve of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s confirmation vote to run the EPA, a judge ruled that his office must release thousands of emails he exchanged with energy company executives who he is soon going to be charged with regulating by next Tuesday. Senate Democrats want to postpone his vote from this afternoon until after they get a chance to review these new messages, but GOP leadership has declined their request. ( Brady Dennis)

-- In a desperate last resort, EPA employees have been calling their senators to urge them to vote against confirming Pruitt -- a remarkable display of activism and defiance that presages tense times ahead for the federal agency. The New York Times’ Carol Davenport reports: “The campaign is not likely to succeed. Before Friday’s vote, two Democratic senators … announced that they would vote for Mr. Pruitt’s confirmation, and only one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, has said she will oppose him. But because Civil Service rules make it difficult to fire federal workers, the show of defiance indicates that Mr. Pruitt will face strong internal opposition to many of his promised efforts to curtail E.P.A. activities and influence. ‘What it means is that it’s going to be a blood bath when Pruitt gets in there,’” said Christine Todd Whitman, a Bush-era E.P.A. administrator.” Ms. Whitman predicted a standoff between career employees and their politically appointed bosses, noting that Mr. Pruitt would be blocked … from immediately firing longtime employees, but would probably be able to retaliate in other ways, such as shifting them to different jobs.

-- The Senate confirmed Mick Mulvaney to lead the Office of Management and Budget on a 51-49 vote, giving the South Carolina lawmaker one of the most powerful positions in Trump’s Cabinet and the responsibility of reconciling the administration's conflicting spending priorities. No Democrats voted for him, and John McCain – citing concerns about Mulvaney votes to slash military spending – broke with his party to join them. (Max Ehrenfreund)

Mitch McConnell answers questions from the media during a press conference. (Pete Marovich For The Washington Post)

CONGRESS:

-- Mitch McConnell weighed in on Trump’s first month in office in an interview with our Sean Sullivan and Paul Kane, outlining what he sees as “two versions” of Trump:  “McConnell sees … a combative figure whose trigger-happy social media strategy regularly hurls him into controversy, and a Republican leader committed to spearheading a staunchly conservative agenda. [He] prefers to judge the second version — and does so favorably.” “… I kind of draw a distinction between his desire to comment on a lot of things, seemingly on a daily basis, and what we’re actually trying to accomplish here,” he said. “McConnell offered two key examples to support his view[:] First, Trump nominated Circuit Court Judge Neil Gorsuch … to the Supreme Court. And second, even in areas where the president has veered away from conservative orthodoxy — notably in toying with the idea of lifting sanctions imposed on Russia — he has not taken any action, McConnell said.

“The senator’s comments offered insights into the complicated relationship between two of the country’s most powerful leaders — and into McConnell’s particular challenge: to hold the GOP together through the tumultuous early weeks of Trump’s presidency.  For McConnell, seeing Trump as a helpful partner in enacting a conservative agenda may be the only alternative. Yet it’s also an unproven position, given the enormous uncertainty that remains about how much the GOP can actually get done with Trump in charge.”

-- “House Republicans came out of a highly anticipated meeting on health care Thursday morning with some new details on the options GOP leaders are considering to replace the Affordable Care Act, but not with the fully formed plan that those leaders and [Trump] have promised.” Mike DeBonis and Kelsey Snell report: “The meeting in the Capitol basement … was intended to give lawmakers more details ahead of a week-long recess where many of them will be meeting constituents eager for details on what will replace the health-care law they have pledged to repeal. According to numerous lawmakers and aides in the room … the House leaders laid out elements of a repeal-and-replace plan — including long-standing Republican concepts like health savings accounts, tax credits and state high-risk pools for the chronically sick. But they did not detail how those elements would fit together or get passed into law.” “It’s sort of a smorgasbord right now,” said Rep. Daniel Webster.

“The problem for the president and Republicans is that the ideas presented to lawmakers Thursday are sparking major divisions among their party. Even some of the committee leaders who are crafting the health-care legislation acknowledged after the meeting that plenty remains unresolved.” “We’re talking different options,” said Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi, chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on health. “We are working together — this is not top-down; this is bottom-up.” Asked when legislative text would be released, Tiberi said, “To be determined.”

-- “As [Republicans] move from talking points to details of how to abolish the Affordable Care Act, behind-the-scenes jockeying over the future of Medicaid demonstrates the delicate trade-offs the GOP faces in trying to steer health policy in a more conservative direction.” Juliet Eilperin, Amy Goldstein and Kelsey Snell report: Some lawmakers want to preserve the federal money their states are getting under the expansion. Others argue that part of that money should be shifted to states that did not broaden their programs — or used for other purposes. Drew Altman, president and [CEO] of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, said Republicans are ‘between a rock and a hard place, unless they want to spend more money to preserve the expansion and pay off the non-expansion Republican states who feel like they have toed the party line.’ Some of that intraparty debate spilled into public view Thursday at a Senate confirmation hearing for health-care consultant Seema Verma to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an agency that oversees $1 trillion in federal spending …”

 Rex Tillerson listens as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks in Germany. (Reuters/Brendan Smialowski)

WILL STATE STAY SIDELINED?

-- As Tillerson makes his first official trip, he leaves behind a State Department that is severely weakened and cut out of key policy decisions. The Guardian’s Julian Borger reports: “Since starting the job two weeks ago, Tillerson … has soothed nerves at the State Department by consulting widely with regional and country experts, but it has been hard to disguise the gap between the department headquarters at Washington’s Foggy Bottom and the White House where far-reaching foreign policy decisions are being made. Senior State Department officials who would normally be called to the White House for their views on key policy issues, are not being asked their opinion. They have resorted to asking foreign diplomats, who now have better access to President Trump’s immediate circle of advisers, what new decisions are imminent. The public voice of the State Department has fallen silent. There has not been a daily press briefing, the customary channel for voicing US views and policy on world events, since January.” State Department staff were not consulted on Trump’s travel ban, nor were they present when Trump decided over dinner to approve a counter-terrorism raid in Yemen. (If present, they could have highlighted the dangers that potential civilian casualties would pose to wider U.S. interests in the region.)"

-- Tillerson traveled to the Group of 20 meeting in Germany this week for his first trip abroad as secretary of state -- but has been forced to stay in a sanitarium. Bloomberg’s Nick Wadhams and Patrick Donahue report: “On his first trip abroad as secretary of state, [Tillerson] was forced to stay at a sanitarium in a German village known for its hot springs, 30 minutes from where other world leaders gathered. Diplomatic security agents mingled in the parking lot with elderly people in wheelchairs arriving for spa treatments. Tillerson … was at the sanitarium because Bonn’s hotels were all booked by the time he confirmed his attendance at this week’s Group of 20 meeting. Counterparts including U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had to make a trek out to meet him. The unusual diplomatic debut continued during an awkward encounter with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. After Lavrov delivered some perfunctory opening remarks alongside Tillerson, U.S. aides quickly ushered reporters from the room. 'Why did they shush them out?' Lavrov asked."

-- John Kerry has landed a new gig at his alma mater, Yale, where he will teach a course and host presentations (called “Kerry Conversations”) in the school’s global affairs department. The New York Times’ Stephanie Saul reports: “[Director Jim Levinsohn] said Mr. Kerry’s class, a seminar open to students across the university, will start in the next academic year. The ‘Kerry Conversations’ will feature Mr. Kerry in discussions with world leaders … While Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, emphasized that the Kerry Initiative is ‘not a political platform — it’s a teaching platform,’ Mr. Kerry, who is also writing his memoirs, has not ruled out a run for president in 2020. ‘I haven’t been thinking about it or talking about it,’ he said. ‘I haven’t ruled anything in or anything out.’”

TRUMP’S WORLD:

-- “The rise of Trump has led to an unexpected twist in Germany’s election: A resurgent left,” by Anthony Faiola: “The unconventional administration of [Trump] may be causing consternation among American liberals. But here in Germany, the anchor of the European Union, Trump’s rise is helping fuel an unexpected surge of the left.  What is happening in Germany is the kind of Trump bump perhaps never foreseen by his supporters — a boost not for the German nationalists viewed as Trump’s natural allies but for his fiercest critics in the center left. The Social Democrats (SPD) have bounced back under the charismatic Martin Schulz, the former head of the European Parliament who … is now staging a surprisingly strong bid to unseat [Angela Merkel]. In a country that stands as a painful example of the disastrous effects of radical nationalism, Schulz is building a campaign in part around bold attacks on Trump. His anti-Trump platform comes as Germans are questioning American power more than at any point since the end of the Cold War, illustrating an erosion of allied faith in the new era of ‘America first.’”

-- Trump's nominee for ambassador to Israel sought to assure skeptical senators that he can be fair-minded despite his previous statements doubting a Palestinian state and supporting home-building in the West Bank. Anne Gearan and Karoun Demirjian report: “Some of the inflammatory language I used during the highly charged presidential campaign … has come in for criticism, and rightfully so,” said [New York lawyer David Friedman]. Asked about insults he lobbed at [Obama, Sen. Chuck Schumer], and others about support for the Iran nuclear deal that the Israeli government opposed, Friedman said he regrets them. ‘There is no excuse. If you want me to rationalize it or justify it, I cannot,” Friedman said. “These were hurtful words, and I deeply regret them.’” He was also asked to explain whether he supports an independent Palestinian state: Friedman had written that the goal of a sovereign Palestine is a “damaging anachronism,” but he suggested Thursday that the two-state idea could be viable if sought by both sides.

Jared Kushner listens to his father-in-law. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

THE FOURTH ESTATE:

-- Jared Kushner expressed “deep concerns” about CNN’s coverage of Trump in a recent meeting with an executive at parent company Time Warner Inc., criticizing what he said was “unfair coverage slanted against the president” and zeroing in on specific reporters whom he believes to be at fault. (Wall Street Journal)

-- Fox News anchor Heather Nauert is in talks to be the new State Department spokesperson. While nothing is final, the “Fox & Friends” anchor – who tweeted earlier this week that she's buying Ivanka Trump heels and wearing them on air – was spotted recently at the White House to discuss the position. (Politico)

-- HuffPost, “The Best Place For Democrats To Oppose Trump? Fox News.” Pablo Manriquez: “Fox News hates talking points … a dynamic I saw again live when Tucker Carlson had me by his new set last Tuesday night at the network’s Washington, D.C. bureau on Capitol Hill. The guest who impressed me was Eric Swalwell, Democratic congressman from California. His was a grueling fourteen-minute segment … [but] Swalwell ditched the talking points and did something Democrats on conservative media almost never do: he had a conversation. The lesson was simple: Swalwell survived by abandoning his talking points and having an honest conversation. The experience made Swalwell a noticeably better television spokesperson than media training sessions for sale anywhere in the Beltway. Let’s face it: Democrats are not winning. We need to stop thinking of conservative audiences as baskets of deplorables and engage them as frustrated Americans looking for a better deal. ‘Engagement,’ however, cannot be an empty pledge. We have to engage them where they are. And for TV, that means FOX News.”

-- The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik says the trouble with more benevolent coverage of Trump is that its “deliberately blind to the real nature of the man and the lies he tells”: “To tell these truths about these lies is not to assault or patronize Trump’s supporters; it is to remind his supporters that they are being deceived, and are complicit in their own deception,” he writes. “The boy who said that the emperor had no clothes was not an élitist insulting the plebeian parade spectators. He was a truth teller trying to awaken them to what was right in front of their eyes. It is not anyone’s job to pretend that Trump is anyone other than who he is in order to protect the feelings of the people he has duped. It is everyone’s job to tell the truth in order to protect the country. Élitist? Not a bit. The evangelist for evidence is the truest kind of egalitarian we have.”

Trump speaks during his White House press conference. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

MORE FROM TRUMP'S COMBATIVE, RAMBLING PRESSER:

-- The president stunned the world in a stream-of-consciousness news conference yesterday afternoon. Ostensibly billed as an event to introduce new labor secretary nominee Alexander Acosta, the president spent 75 minutes lashing out against the media, the intelligence community, and other detractors – alternating between claims that he had “inherited a mess” and asserting that his fledgling administration “is running like a fine-tuned machine.”

“With his young presidency besieged by disorder and discord, the commander in chief was at once angry and jovial,” Philip Rucker writes. “Trump chided perceived enemies. He indicted leakers. He absolved himself of blame. And he excoriated the media — once the ‘fake news,’ now the ‘very fake news.’ But the president also put on a show. He waved away tough questions … and cried out for ‘friendly’ ones … Journalists trying to probe for facts, hold the president to account and correct his grandiose exaggerations in real time became set pieces in the image Trump wanted to project to America during an afternoon of must-see television: The president is in charge.”

-- Some of the key moments, via Ashley Parker and John Wagner:

  • Trump defended Flynn as a “fine person,” saying that while he did not instruct him to discuss sanctions with Russian officials before the election, such behavior was “not wrong.” “No, I didn't direct him, but I would have directed him if he didn't do it,” he said. Flynn had erred, he said, by misleading Mike Pence and other government officials about his conversations. “He didn't tell the vice president of the United States the facts,” Trump said. “And then he didn't remember. And that just wasn't acceptable to me.”
  • POTUS lashed out after being pressed on reports that members of his campaign staff had been in contact with Moscow: "How many times do I have to answer this question? Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven't made a phone call to Russia in years," Trump said. "I own nothing in Russia, I have no loans in Russia, I don't have any deals in Russia. Russia is fake news."
  • He spent a large chunk of the presser attacking the “dishonest media,” vowing to circumvent them and speak directly to the American people about the “incredible progress” his administration has made. “The press, honestly, is out of control,” he said. “The level of dishonesty is out of control.”
  • Then he spouted “fake news” of his own, including an incorrect assertion that he had the largest margin of victory in the electoral college since Ronald Reagan. But when confronted on his misstatements, he refused to accept blame: “Well, I don’t know, I was given that information,” he said, by way of explanation. “Actually, I’ve seen that information around.”
  • Trump downplayed the possibility that he will tap New York financier Stephen Feinberg to lead a broad review of U.S. spy agencies, saying that while Feinberg has offered his services, such a move might not be necessary once his national intelligence director and other staffers are installed. “It’s something we may take advantage of, but I don’t think we’ll need that at all,” Trump said. (John Wagner and Renae Merle)

-- When asked by an African American reporter if he planned to include members of the Congressional Black Caucus in discussions about his urban policy agenda, Trump asked her to “set up a meeting”: “Tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting?” he asked, cutting off reporter April Ryan mid-question. “Are they friends of yours? Set up a meeting.” (Ryan then pointed out that she is a journalist and organizing such meetings is not her role. “I’m sure some of them are watching right now,” she added.)

  • Trump went on to say that he had been trying to set up a meeting with Rep. Elijah Cummings, a CBC member and ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, but claimed Cummings had refused to see him -- and speculated that Sen. Chuck Schumer may have dissuaded him.
  • His comments were swiftly rebutted by both Cummings and the CBC: “I have no idea why President Trump would make up a story about me like he did today. Of course, Senator Schumer never told me to skip a meeting with the President,” Cummings said in a statement. (The CBC tweeted: “Hi, @realDonaldTrump. We’re the CBC. We sent you a letter on January 19, but you never wrote us back. Sad!” They included a link to the letter.)
Reporters raise their hands for questions at Trump's press conference. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

ANALYSIS:

-- CNN’s Brian Stelter billed the event as a “stress conference.”

-- Jake Tapper called Trump’s performance “unhinged”: “If you are a soldier in harm's way right now, if you are a hungry child in Appalachia or the inner city, if you are an unemployed worker in a hollow shell of a steel town, that's not a president that seemed focused on your particular needs and wants. That's a President focused on his bad press."

-- “[Trump] understands something very important: For his supporters, the media represent everything they dislike about American society,” Chris Cillizza writes. “It's not surprising, then, that at the nadir of his early days as president, Trump is returning to [his] raw and uncut attacks. … Trump is like a comedian, forever refining his beats. He knows that if he picks on a certain guy in the audience, the rest of the crowd is going to go bananas cause they don't like the guy, either. The more personal he gets, the more they love it. I won't try to tackle whether that is a good or bad thing for democracy — or our culture — in this space today. But what I will say is that Trump's decision, amid turmoil inside and outside his White House, to turn his fire on the media was a deeply predictable move. It's also one that will almost certainly succeed in changing the subject from Russia and Mike Flynn. Trump knows all that. It's why he did it.”

-- “I still have trouble seeing how the Trump administration survives a full term,” says New York Times columnist David Brooks. “On the other hand, I have trouble seeing exactly how this administration ends. Many of the institutions that would normally ease out or remove a failing president no longer exist. There are no longer moral arbiters in Congress … to lead a resignation or impeachment process. There is no longer a single media establishment that shapes how the country sees the president. This is no longer a country in which everybody experiences the same reality. The likelihood is this: We’re going to have an administration that has morally and politically collapsed, without actually going away. What does that look like? First, it means an administration that is passive, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing.”

It also means we are about to enter a decentralized world: “The key currency is not power, it’s flattery. The corollary is that Trump is ripe to be played. Vladimir Putin was born for a moment such as this. After gifting Team Trump with a little campaign help, the Russian state media has suddenly turned on Trump and Russian planes are buzzing U.S. ships. The bear is going to grab what it can. … We’re about to enter a moment in which U.S. economic and military might is strong but U.S. political might is weak. Imagine the Roman Empire governed by Monaco. The only saving thought is this: The human imagination is vast, but it is not nearly vast enough to encompass the infinitely multitudinous ways [Trump] can find to get himself disgraced.”

-- Time Magazine cover story, “Inside Donald Trump's White House Chaos,” by Philip Elliott: “For two years, [Trump] mastered the art of disruption. Name a political precept and he probably broke it during his improbable march to the White House. But disruption in government--the rulemaker breaking the rules--turns out to be more costly. In the first month of his presidency, the New York billionaire has witnessed the lesson of Samson: toppling the temple can be painful if you try it from the inside. Ultimately, Trump is the only person who can calm the storm, fan it further or just let the show go on. Aides say he would like there to be less celebrity-like coverage of every staff skirmish, and he has become increasingly concerned about the leaking, from within both the White House and the intelligence community. But he has so far resisted many binding efforts to create a more conventional order around him, encouraging aides who color outside the lines on television … and starting each morning with a tweetstorm … Bottle up the disruptive methods and Trump fears he could lose the magic that made him President.”

-- HOW IT’S PLAYING IN RUSSIA --> The Kremlin ordered state media to scale back its fawning coverage of Trump, reflecting a growing concern among top officials in Moscow that the new administration will be “less friendly” than first thought. Bloomberg reports: “[Putin’s] administration justified the decision to curb coverage of Trump by saying that Russian viewers no longer find details of his transition to power interesting, according to one of the people. In reality, some of the most popular TV segments on Trump touched on ideas the Kremlin would rather not promote, such as his pledge to “drain the swamp,” the person said. “They won’t pour buckets of criticism on Trump, they just won’t talk about him much,” Konstantin von Eggert, a political commentator for TV Rain, Russia’s only independent channel, said by phone. “The fate of Russia-American relations is much less predictable than it was just a few weeks ago.”

A South Korean watches TV coverage about a female suspect allegedly involved in the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half-brother. (Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA)

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

-- “Kim Jong Un is a top suspect in his half brother’s death. But questions abound,” by Anna Fifield: “For South Korea’s often-unreliable intelligence service and some analysts in China, Kim Jong Un is suspect No. 1 in the apparent assassination this week of Kim Jong Nam, who was the oldest son of Kim Jong Il and had been living in a kind of exile for the past 15 years. But so many questions remain. Why would Kim Jong Un want to kill a half brother who … had shown no political ambitions? Why would he have him killed just days before an auspicious anniversary? And why would North Korea deviate from its practice of using elite agents for such tasks, instead allegedly sending foreign women so ill equipped for the task that they didn’t even know to flee? Some analysts, urging skepticism, say it is more likely that Kim Jong Nam ran afoul of the underworld in Southeast Asia than that Kim Jong Un ordered the hit. But in the absence of clear evidence either way, opinion is coalescing around that second idea. Because even if Kim Jong Nam didn’t have grand designs for his future, China did."

-- “The Pentagon said it wouldn’t use depleted uranium rounds against ISIS. Months later, it did — thousands of times,” by Thomas Gibbons-Neff: “Months after the Pentagon said it wouldn’t use a controversial type of armor-piercing ammunition that has been blamed for long-term health complications, U.S. aircraft fired thousands of the rounds during two high-profile air raids in Syria in November 2015, the Pentagon acknowledged Wednesday. The use of the ammunition … was first reported by a joint Air Wars-Foreign Policy investigation on Tuesday. The roughly 5,265 rounds of the munition were fired from multiple A-10 ground attack aircraft on Nov 16, 2015, and Nov. 22, 2015, in airstrikes in Syria’s eastern desert that targeted the Islamic State’s oil supply during Operation Tidal Wave II, said Maj. Josh Jacques, a U.S. Central Command spokesman. The strikes, which involved 30mm cannon fire, rockets and guided bombs, destroyed more than 300 vehicles, mostly civilian tanker trucks, the Pentagon said at the time. Before the November strikes, the Pentagon said it would not use depleted-uranium munitions in the campaign against the Islamic State.”

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner walk off Air Force One at Palm Beach Airport last week to spend the weekend at their Mar-a-Lago resort. (AFP/Getty Images)

-- “Trump family’s elaborate lifestyle is a ‘logistical nightmare’ — at taxpayer expense,” by Drew Harwell, Amy Brittain and Jonathan O'Connell: “On Friday, [Trump] … will jet for the third straight weekend to a working getaway at his oceanfront Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla. On Saturday, Trump’s sons Eric and Don Jr., with their Secret Service details in tow, will be nearly 8,000 miles away in the United Arab Emirates, attending the grand opening of a Trump-brand golf resort in the ‘Beverly Hills of Dubai.’ Meanwhile, New York police will keep watch outside Trump Tower in Manhattan … Barely a month into the Trump presidency, the unusually elaborate lifestyle of America’s new first family is straining the Secret Service and security officials, stirring financial and logistical concerns in several local communities, and costing far beyond what has been typical for past presidents — a price tag that, based on past assessments of presidential travel and security costs, could balloon into the hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of a four-year term.” As Trump readies to hit his one month mark as president, here’s a look at some of the costs the first family has accrued:

  • Trump’s three Mar-a-Lago trips in last month have likely cost the federal treasury about $10 million. And in Palm Beach, officials plan to seek reimbursement for tens of thousands of dollars a day to handle added security and traffic.
  • In New York, the city pays $500,000 a day to guard Trump Tower – an amount that some think could reach $183 million a year.
  • Earlier this month, reports surfaced that the Secret Service and U.S. embassy staffers paid nearly $100,000 in hotel-room bills to support Eric Trump’s trip to promote a Trump-brand condo tower in Uruguay.

-- The White House said that Trump does not plan to use the Air Force One as a backdrop for his political rally at a hangar in Florida this weekend, breaking from his theatrical campaign rallies in which his private plane was often parked behind him like a prop. (Jenna Johnson)  

-- Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and the two Roosevelts, Franklin and Theodore, have kept their lock on their positions as, respectively, the four best presidents in American history, according to a new ranking by 91 presidential historians. From Karen Tumulty: “Barack Obama took the No. 12 spot in his first time on the survey. The poll, released on the eve of Presidents’ Day weekend, is the third one conducted by the wonky public-affairs cable network C-SPAN over the past 17 years. The presidents in the bottom rankings were the same as in 2000 and in 2009. They were Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, who again comes in dead last. Buchanan, who served from 1857 to 1861, is regarded as having been an inept and indifferent leader as the nation was headed toward civil war.

Yet there was also some movement in the rankings: “Andrew Jackson — whose style of populism that Donald Trump’s advisers like to cite as a model for the current president — slipped five spots since 2009, coming in at the 18th best president. Dwight Eisenhower moved into the top five for the first time, moving up from No. 8 in 2009 and No. 9 in 2000. George W. Bush also gained slightly in the esteem of the historians, moving up to 33rd in 2017, from 36th in 2009. But he was bested by his father, George H.W. Bush, who ranked 20th. Bill Clinton, whose presidency was bookended by the two Bushes, remained in the 15th spot.”

Methodology: “The survey asks historians to rank the presidents on a 1-to-10 scale on 10 qualities of leadership: public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with Congress, vision/setting an agenda, pursued equal justice for all and performance within the context of his time.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Trump posted a picture of himself with loyalists in the House (note that there's only one woman):

Some online reactions to Trump's presser--

"Morning Joe's" Mika Brzezinski called Trump's presidency "fake":

The African-American female reporter called out at Trump's presser had this news:

And some reaction to Trump's question about whether she would set up a meeting with the CBC for him:

Ryan got some back up from CBC members regardless of whether she is "friends" with them:

CBC member Elijiah Cummings (D-Md.) said he had no idea why Trump falsely claimed he wouldn't meet with him:

Chelsea Clinton had some strong words for Trump:

On the Hill, Hispanic members complained about being barred from a meeting with ICE officials:

More lessons in How to be President 101:

Mitch McConnell posted a collage from the event:

Cory Gardner met some science geeks:

Ivanka took time out to visit the Smithsonian with her son:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- The Daily Pennsylvanian, “Was Trump really a top student at Wharton? His classmates say not so much,” by Alex Rabin and Rebecca Tan: “For years, [Trump] has said it’s clear that he is ‘a very smart guy’ since he attended Wharton — a school he describes as ‘super genius stuff.’ Trump, who graduated from Wharton in 1968, has also never challenged the fact that he "graduated first in his class," which various publishers and news agencies such as The New York Times have reported. Penn records and Trump’s classmates dispute this claim. In 1968, The Daily Pennsylvanian published a list of the 56 students who were on the Wharton Dean’s List that year — Trump’s name is not among them. ‘I recognize virtually all the names on that list,’ [said one 1968 graduate] ‘and Trump just wasn’t one of them.’ While some remember Trump as a studious and solitary figure, others remember an individual who was less invested in his formal education and more involved with his future in real estate.” “Don ... was loath to really study much,” recalled one of his former peers.

-- The Wall Street Journal, “FBI Searches for Possible Accomplices in Probe of Fallen K Street Lobbyist”: High-flying corporate lobbyist Evan Morris is suspected of embezzling millions of dollars in what is shaping up to be a “sprawling” Washington influence scandal. Brody Mullins and Devlin Barrett report: Few outside Washington had ever heard of Evan Morris. Yet in the capital of wheeling and dealing, he was one of its most gifted operators. A federal grand jury has obtained records from companies tied to a prominent Washington consultant in the government investigation involving [Morris], a former drug-industry lobbyist suspected of embezzling millions of dollars… The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Mr. Morris was suspected by authorities of siphoning money from his employers, Genentech Inc. and Roche Holding AG, to pay for real estate and a lavish lifestyle of food, wine and golf. [Now, the FBI] and Justice Department are looking at whether media strategist James Courtovich or any employee of National Media Inc., where he was formerly a consultant, had knowingly assisted Mr. Morris to hide unlawful payments or kickbacks …”

-- Time, “At Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump Blends Pleasure, Profit and Politics,” by Zeke J. Miller: “The lavish oceanfront estate, to which Trump traveled for two of his first four weekends as President, is as much a part of his identity as his golden tower on Fifth Avenue or his star turn on The Apprentice. But Mar-a-Lago is not just another asset on his balance sheet. It is a monument to his wealth and status, and a restorative distraction for a restless President. For Trump, who rarely socialized in New York City and is now cocooned inside the White House, the sun-swept grounds are a sanctuary where he can bask in the adulation of paying members, who pepper the President for favors and make policy suggestions to his senior staff. Trump doesn't hobnob out of duty. Aides say it gives him a sounding board outside the Washington bubble. During the presidential transition, Trump set up shop in the formal living room, near a 1927 Steinway baby grand. Sitting in an armchair, with aides perched on couches, he would interrupt meetings to quiz passing members about possible Cabinet appointments …” Said Newsmax CEO and longtime friend Christopher Ruddy: “He's in his own Shangri-la there."

-- Buzzfeed, “We Talked To Mark Zuckerberg About Globalism, Protecting Users, And Fixing News,” by Alex Kantrowitz and Mat Honan: “For years, Facebook has pursued the mission of making the world more open and connected in a largely value-neutral way. [But now,] in a sweeping and remarkable letter … Zuckerberg signaled that he intends to more actively use his platform’s power to intervene in people’s lives in real ways … Among the efforts he’s pushing: mitigating polarization by presenting a spectrum of viewpoints and down-ranking sensationalized news; fighting bullying; preventing people from harming themselves or others by creating systems to pick out signs of intent among users to harm themselves or others; building AI that can detect terrorist recruitment; and building ‘the long-term social infrastructure to bring humanity together’ in a world increasingly questioning the merits of globalization. Some of what’s in Zuckerberg’s letter will be viewed as too far-reaching, invasive, or even creepy. Some of it will be viewed as naïve … But both in the letter and in person, Zuckerberg makes clear that he intends to exercise the influence and scale of Facebook’s massive platform in ways that will reach far beyond the digital world.”

-- New York Times, “Bad Brides,” by Lena Dunham: “On July 22, 1912, a short but not so sweet wedding announcement appeared in The New York Times: ‘There was a double wedding last evening in the Oneida County Jail at Rome. The women are serving short sentences, and … will have to spend the first part of their honeymoon in jail. The husbands are not prisoners.’ We’ve all heard plenty of stories about women who marry male prisoners — wardens seduced by sweet-talking inmates, vulnerable housewives with multiple children who fall for convicted murderers they meet on special dating sites. Heck, even Charles Manson had a beautiful young bride-to-be (though reports said she was caught two-timing him with one of his disciples at a rock and gem show and had plans to display his corpse for profit after his death, so who knows where that’s at). You don’t have to have a doctorate in psychology to understand the narratives that might persuade a woman to marry a felon. But love is complex, love involves forgiveness, and so many women have been trained to forgive … Women have also been trained to be good.”

QUOTE DU JOUR: “For someone interested in history’s bravest revolutionaries and the power of art to disrupt the status quo, I sure am eager to pay for everyone’s lunch.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Karlie Kloss Appears As a Geisha in Vogue’s Diversity Issue,” from New York Magazine: “In the March issue of Vogue — the theme of which is allegedly ‘diversity’ — there seems to be an egregious misunderstanding of what that concept actually means. One thing’s for certain: Embracing diversity does not mean styling Karlie Kloss as a geisha. Kloss was shot in Japan by Mikael Jansson and styled by Phyllis Posnick for the spread. One photo features a sumo wrestler, another has Kloss with a long crown of black hair, and another has her walking down the stairs of a tea house, all while dressed as a geisha … Vogue has a history of publishing tone-deaf fashion editorials — remember the slave-earrings incident? Lara Stone in blackface for French Vogue? — but one would think that designing an entire issue around ‘diversity’ would have stopped this editorial before it even started. Apparently not.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Obama Appointees Preventing Mattis From Rebuilding The Military, Says Armed Services Chair,” from the Daily Caller: “Holdovers from the Obama administration in the Pentagon are hampering efforts to fix the military’s major readiness problem, leaving Secretary of Defense James Mattis alone in his efforts to properly equip U.S. forces, according to the chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services. ‘I am concerned that … to fix these problems [it] is going to take a lot more money, and yet a lot of the folks who are coming up with the budget to fix them are the same people who have been fighting every step of the way against our efforts to fix these problems,’ said Chairman Mac Thornberry during a Capitol Hill press gaggle Thursday. He added that there are some people, including “political appointees and others from the Obama administration,’ who have been ‘trying to deny there was a problem.’”

 

DAYBOOK:

At the White House: Trump will travel to North Charleston, South Carolina to meet with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg. He’ll tour the facility and deliver remarks at the unveiling of a new 787 Boeing Dreamliner before departing for Mar-a-Lago.

Pence is flying to Europe for meetings in Munich and Brussels.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Even Paul LePage, whose brash and combative persona has often prompted comparisons to Trump, says he is growing weary of the president’s shtick: "The thing I’m sensing is that there’s three or four chiefs at the top," the Maine governor told a local radio station. "I would say this: You’ve got to put someone somebody in charge!" (CNN

 

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

-- Mostly sunny and calm weather to kick off the weekend on a spring-like note! The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Winds calm to around 5 mph, luckily, as they blow in from the southwesterly direction. Periodic clouds can’t be ruled out, but sunshine should dominate the sky for most of the day. Many of us will enjoy temperatures getting into a fairly comfortable regime for this time of year. We’re talking near 50 to mid-50s. Enjoy!”

-- A bill to offer D.C. workers eight weeks of paid family leave is slated to become law. It still must clear Congress as a final step, though observers noted that Republican lawmakers – who have expressed interest in overturning Washington’s assisted suicide law and rolling back its gun laws – were unlikely to intervene. (Aaron C. Davis)

-- The Wizards beat the Pacers 111-98.

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

If you missed it, our video team summarized Trump's epic press conference in less than 5 minutes:

All the comedians went to town last night on Trump's performance. Emily Yahr has transcribed the best jokes from each of the shows here.

Seth Meyers spent 10 minutes taking a "closer look" at the press conference:

Stephen Colbert channels Keyser Söze to blast Trump’s Russia ties. Read a write-up. Watch the video:

Colbert also pretends Trump was at the Westminster dog show:

Trump is still obsessed with Hillary Clinton. In his press conference, he mentioned her by name 11 times. See them all in a 90-second video:

A jiu-jitsu academy offers a tutorial on how to defend oneself against a “Trump handshake" in a video that's gone viral. The lessons come after commentators took notice of the president’s extremely forceful grip during sit-downs with world leaders:

See this apparently un-ironic video about Julian Assange's cat, who is also trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy in London: