Vice President Pence addresses CPAC last night at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Md. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

With Breanne Deppisch

THE BIG IDEA: Ed Schultz speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference would have been inconceivable a year ago. But Donald Trump is president now, and his brand of protectionism is having its moment.

On his MSNBC show in 2009, Schultz said that “there are parallels” between “some of the things Hitler was saying and some of the things that were at the CPAC convention.” He added, “They are not Americans.” In 2011, per CNN, Schultz called Trump a racist and said “nobody” wanted him to become president.

Schultz now hosts a nightly show on RT, which is a propaganda arm of Russia and funded by the Kremlin. At what for decades has been the signature cattle call on the right, he praised Trump as someone who “is not bought and paid for by anyone.” Then he expounded on what he sees as the horrors of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and NAFTA.

Alluding to the intelligence community’s determination that his patrons in Moscow interfered with the presidential election in an effort to boost Trump, Schultz said during an afternoon panel: “Full disclosure: The Russians did not tell Hillary Clinton not to go to Wisconsin. They didn’t tell her not to go to Michigan, either.”

No one booed. Instead, heads nodded. The times, they are a changin'.

The Trumpists are triumphant at a conference where not long ago they were viewed as figures of the fringe. Stephen K. Bannon, as head of Breitbart News, hosted forums outside CPAC in 2013 and 2014 called “The Uninvited.” Intending the forums as counterprogramming, he brought in guests with very controversial views about Islam and immigration who could never get speaking slots at the main conference.

Now the White House chief strategist, and intellectual force behind Trump’s agenda, Bannon got a rock star’s reception when he arrived yesterday. “I think one of the most pivotal moments in modern American history was his immediate withdrawal from TPP,” Bannon said, referring to the president. “It got us out of a trade deal and let our sovereignty come back to ourselves!”

Bannon threw around terms like “globalist” and “corporatist” as he touted Trump’s “economic nationalist agenda.” Rolling back trade deals, he explained, is part of a broader push toward “the deconstruction of the administrative state.

Reince Priebus, who viewed Trump anxiously when he announced his candidacy two years ago but is now White House chief of staff, told the crowd that Trump will be “one of the greatest presidents that ever served this country.” Channeling his boss, he said the president has already “put in the best Cabinet in the history of Cabinets.” Then he led the crowd in chants of “Trump, Trump, Trump.”

They are all Trumpists now…

Ronald Reagan mingles with supporters in 1976. (Walter Zeboski/AP)

-- Forty years ago this month, speaking at the same conference, Ronald Reagan offered a searing critique of Marxist-Leninism that could be read today as an indictment of Trumpism. “All the facts of the real world have to be fitted to the Procrustean bed of Marx and Lenin,” he explained. “If the facts don’t happen to fit the ideology, the facts are chopped off and discarded. I consider this to be the complete opposite to principled conservatism. When a conservative states that the free market is the best mechanism ever devised by the mind of man to meet material needs, he is merely stating what a careful examination of the real world has told him is the truth. When a conservative says that totalitarian communism is an absolute enemy of human freedom, he is not theorizing. He is reporting the ugly reality captured so unforgettably in the writings of Alexander Solzhenitsyn.”

Reagan’s 1977 CPAC speech remains one of the most important political addresses he ever delivered. Fresh off his loss to Gerald Ford in the Republican primaries, and Jimmy Carter’s victory in the general election, the former California governor went on to presciently outline a vision for “A New Republican Party” that would unite fiscal, social and national security conservatives in common cause. His clarion call helped win him his party’s nomination in 1980, ushered in the first political realignment since Franklin Roosevelt and allowed the GOP to win five of the next seven presidential elections.

-- Alas, the Reagan era is over. And if you needed another data point that the Party of Reagan has been hijacked, this week’s “conservative” confab offers many. Needless to say, Trump will not quote Solzhenitsyn when he speaks here later this morning. Reagan embraced freedom in all of its forms — from the aspirations of Eastern Europeans looking to throw off the yoke of their Russian overlords to open markets and, to a lesser degree, open borders.

It’s always fraught to speculate on what a historical figure, who died 13 years ago, would say about current events. But based on a decade of closely studying the 40th president, including countless hours reviewing his archives, it seems safe to stipulate the following: Reagan would frown upon the dark portrait that Trump paints of his shining city upon a hill. He would be disturbed by his protectionist and isolationist rhetoric. And he would be aghast at the 45th president repeatedly drawing false moral equivalency between the United States and Russia.

Reagan would never have suggested that Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent who presides over an authoritarian regime, is a stronger leader than Barack Obama. Among the many words Trump says that would never have come out of Reagan’s mouth: “There are a lot of killers. We've got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?"

But it’s much more than that: The Reagan Revolution was always more about ideas than a cult of personality built around a single man.

-- Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, said during her appearance at CPAC yesterday that by the time Trump addresses the group, the conference will be known as “TPAC.” As in the Trump Political Action Conference.

Conway’s line “spoke volumes about the way that the Republican Party has been altered by the rise of Trump, and it sparked alarm even among attendees at the conference,” Yahoo’s Jon Ward reports. Two quotes from his piece:

  • “I think that’s dangerous,” said Sarah Markley, a student at Grove City College near Pittsburgh. “I think that we should first stick to our principles and look for somebody who embodies those.”
  • Conservative radio talk show host Mark Levin also bristled: “It’s conservative political action conference. That’s what it is. It’ll be that 10 years from now. When I worked for Reagan, we didn’t call it RPAC. So I would remind them about that.”

Indeed, if any of the top three aides who made up Reagan’s troika during his first year in office had made a comment like that, the president probably would have called them into the Oval and chastised them. But he never needed to. Because Jim Baker, Ed Meese and Mike Deaver each understood that the conservative movement was way bigger than Reagan.

-- Mike Pence, during a dinner speech last night, emphasized his personal relationship with the president. “He’s known for his charisma, and I’m, like, not,” the vice president quipped, going on to gush about their “historic victory.”

He likened Trump to a modern-day Reagan. “The media, the elites, the insiders, everybody else who profits off preserving the status quo, they dismissed our president,” said Pence. “They're still trying to dismiss all of us.”

FIVE MORE TAKEAWAYS FROM OUR TEAM COVERAGE:

-- During their joint appearance, Bannon and Priebus tried hard (maybe a little too hard) to rebut the conventional wisdom that they’re rivals who lead competing power centers. Philip Rucker and Robert Costa describe the 25-minute session as “a buddy routine that inspired flashbacks to Oscar and Felix in ‘The Odd Couple.’” “Reince has been unwavering since the very first moment I met him,” Bannon said. “I cherish his friendship,” Priebus responded. Reflecting how much times have changed: “Writers for Breitbart, a main sponsor of CPAC, were treated as if they were ESPN anchors at a major sports event. Washington editor Matthew Boyle, who has scored several Trump interviews and counts Bannon as a mentor, was trailed by a photographer from a magazine that is profiling him. … Bannon’s trusted inner circle, including his public relations adviser, Alexandra Preate, and GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, were followed by an entourage of aides and friends.”

-- A defiant Betsy DeVos promised to forge ahead with her planned overhaul of the U.S. education system, criticizing Obama-era efforts, which she contended have failed “miserably.” She also took a swipe at reporters and critics who have called her ill-prepared for the posting: “The media has had its fun with me, and that’s okay,” she said. “My job isn’t to win a popularity contest.” (Emma Brown)

-- Ted Cruz predicted that there will be a second vacancy on the Supreme Court this year. The Texas senator offered no explanation but appeared to suggest that one of the liberal justices will depart the court at the end of the term. (Sean Sulivan)

-- Amid the sea of red “Make America Great Again” hats and a parade of senior administration officials, one key group was in short supply: Republican members of Congress. Sullivan reports: “Just one current U.S. senator, [Cruz], spoke on Thursday at CPAC … with no others scheduled for the rest of the four-day gathering. Nine House members are on the roster of speakers. [Paul Ryan], who took the stage to AC/DC in 2016, is not here. Nor is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who famously presented a colleague with a gun at CPAC in 2014. And Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, who once sought to build buzz here for their budding presidential campaigns, are nowhere to be found.”

-- Richard Spencer, a founder of the alt-right movement that seeks a whites-only state and that strongly backed Trump for president, was expelled from the conference after being criticized from its main stage and then giving interviews to a growing crowd of reporters. “People want to talk to me,” Spencer told NBC News outside the Gaylord National Harbor complex. “They don’t want to talk to these boring conservatives. They want to learn about ideas whose time has come, not whose time has passed.” Spencer, who has frequently attended CPAC without incident, became a minor media sensation during and after the 2016 election. There was some irony that Spencer’s expulsion came on the same day that the conference featured Bannon, who as CEO of Breitbart News said last summer that his site is “the platform for the alt-right.”

Dan Schneider, executive director of the group that puts on the conference, said members of the alt-right are “anti-Semites, they are racists, they are sexists.” “There is a sinister organization that is trying to worm its way into our ranks,” he said. “We must not be deceived by [a] hateful, left-wing fascist group.” David Weigel and John Wagner report: “Inside the main ballroom of CPAC, the argument didn’t generate much applause. Some in the audience cheered the denunciation of ‘left-wing fascism,’ while a few listeners walked out.”

Scott Walker speaks at CPAC. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

-- Happening this morning — “The 202 Live” with Scott Walker: Watch a livestream of my conversation with the Wisconsin governor here at 9:45 a.m. ET. Tweet your questions using the #202Live hashtag.

Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter.

 

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

Malaysian cops stand guard outside the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur this morning. North Korea denies that its agents masterminded the assassination of the half brother of leader Kim Jong Un. (Vincent Thian/AP)

-- Malaysian police say that Kim Jong Un’s half brother was killed by VX, one of the most toxic and fastest-acting chemical warfare agents. It's considered to be “much more toxic” than sarin and is believed to have once been used by Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war. The identification of the chemical agent adds to a growing pile of evidence suggesting Pyongyang was responsible for the attack. (Anna Fifield)

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus speaks at CPAC yesterday. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

-- Did the White House pressure the FBI to dismiss media reports on Russia? CNN reports that the bureau rejected a recent request from the Trump team to knock down media reports about communications between the president's associates and Russians “known to U.S. intelligence” during the campaign. "The direct communications between the White House and the FBI were unusual because of decade-old restrictions on such contacts. Such a request from the White House is a violation of procedures that limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations," CNN notes.

  • The discussions reportedly began with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Reince Priebus on the sidelines of a separate White House meeting the day after the stories were published.
  • The White House initially disputed that account, saying that McCabe called Priebus early that morning and said “the New York Times story vastly overstates what the FBI knows about the contacts.”
  • But later, administration officials corrected their version of events to confirm what the law enforcement official described. The same White House official said that Priebus later reached out again to McCabe and to FBI Director James Comey asking for the FBI to at least talk to reporters on background to dispute the stories. A law enforcement official says McCabe didn't discuss aspects of the case but wouldn't say exactly what McCabe told Priebus.
  • Sean Spicer defended Priebus's decision to reach out to the FBI in a carefully worded statement late last night: "We didn't try to knock the story down. We asked them to tell the truth."

-- Trump said that he wants to build up the nuclear arsenal to ensure it is at the “top of the pack,” saying in an interview with Steve Holland of Reuters that the United States has fallen behind in its atomic weapons capacity. “It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack,” the president said. Trump also said China could solve the national security challenge posed by North Korea "very easily if they want to," ratcheting up pressure on Beijing to exert more influence to rein in Pyongyang’s increasingly bellicose actions.

Adam Purinton was arrested in connection with killing an immigrant at a bar. (Henry County (Mo.) Sheriff's Office via AP)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. A Kansas man is accused of fatally shooting an Indian immigrant/engineer he thought was Middle Eastern, and injuring another, after shouting “get out of my country” and opening fire at a local restaurant. News of the incident has quickly ricocheted across the globe and sent shockwaves throughout the Indian-American community. (New York Daily News)
  2. A veteran who left the U.S. Army in 2013 has been arrested and charged with plotting to help ISIS in what he believed was a strike on a military base or an attack on civilians. The FBI says it is unclear how he became radicalized in such a short period of time. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  3. European welfare programs have accidently handed out taxpayer-funded benefits — such as unemployment funds, disability pensions and housing allowances — to ISIS militants who have used the money to wage war. Authorities said several plotters in the Brussels and Paris terror attacks received some funding from Belgium’s welfare system while they planned their atrocities. Danish officials said this week that 29 citizens were given $100,000 in public benefits because they were considered “too ill or disabled” to work — then fled to Syria to fight with the militant group. (USA Today)
  4. Syrian rebels say they are at risk of losing their biggest stronghold to al-Qaeda-linked extremists, following a surge of infighting among their fractious rebel group, which led to a freeze in supplies from the U.S. and other countries. U.S. officials said the freeze does not signal the compete rupture of support for their cause, but that the Pentagon is trying to ensure that supplies do not fall into extremist hands. (Liz Sly and Zakaria Zakaria)
  5. A car bomb in Syria killed as many as 60 and left dozens of others wounded. Local reports say Islamic State militants are behind the attack. (CNN)
  6. Google is suing Uber, accusing a former executive of stealing a trove of trade secrets related to its self-driving car technology and then taking the information to his new employer. The lawsuit alleges that Uber benefited to the tune of $500 million or more as a result — allegations that the ride-hailing company said it is taking “very seriously.” (Brian Fung)
  7. A Philippine senator known for her outspoken criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte and his deadly anti-drug campaign was arrested on charges of taking bribes from drug traffickers. Leila de Lima has fiercely denied the charges, characterizing them as political persecution and vowing that “the truth will come out at the right time.” Party officials say they fear for her life. (New York Times)
  8. The Israeli government refused to allow a U.S investigator from Human Rights Watch to enter the country, saying the group is “systematically anti-Israel.” (William Booth)
  9. An American-made doll with curly blond hair, kicky Converse sneakers, and Siri-style functionality that allows it to answer questions from your toddler may SEEM like the perfect present  that is, until its bright blue eyes begin spying on your family. According to German officials, “Cayla” is a prime target for hackers, who can use the doll’s new technology to spy and collect private information. The threat is scary enough that the country has advised parents to “immediately” toss the doll and destroy its internal microphone. (Amanda Erickson)
  10. Virtual-reality goggles are wreaking havoc. Early adopters of the technology have raved about the new technology, using the immersive devices to help escape nerve-inducing or boring situations. But they are breaking TVs, spilling coffee and screaming, mid-flight, as they battle a made-up world. (WSJ A-hed)
  11. A prominent gamer who was live-streaming his attempt at a 24-hour “marathon gaming session” to raise money for the Make-a-Wish foundation died just two hours before it was slated to end. His death has shaken the online community and raised concerns about the health risks of playing video games. (Ben Guarino)
  12. A pastor who took his 11-year-old daughter to Trump’s campaign-style rally in Florida last weekend did not enjoy the experience at least, according to a Facebook post in which he claimed that “demonic activity was palpable” at the event. “I felt like people were here to worship an ideology along with the man who was leading it,” he wrote, saying the experience sent “shivers down his spine.” (Lindsey Bever)
  13. The owner of a Maryland tattoo parlor is covering up racist and gang-related tattoos for free  offering a lengthy and oftentimes expensive procedure at zero cost and “with no questions asked.” “Sometimes people make bad choices, and sometimes people change,” the owner said in a Facebook post. “We believe that there is enough hate in this world and we want to make a difference.” (Justin Wm. Moyer)
  14. Bumblebees can learn how to push a ball to the center of a platform in order to retrieve a sugary treat — a learned behavior that is helping scientists understand the complex workings of insect brains. (New York Times)

THE TRUMP TAKEOVER:

-- Sean Spicer hinted that Trump's DOJ will soon crack down on the use of recreational marijuana, telling reporters that he expects states to be subject to “greater enforcement” of federal laws against marijuana use. From John Wagner and Matt Zapotosky: “Spicer … said that President Trump sees ‘a big difference’ between use of marijuana for medical purposes and for recreational purposes. ‘The president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing, especially terminal diseases, and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them,’ he told reporters."

-- The Justice Department will also once again use private prisons, reversing an Obama-era directive to shutter the facilities after they were deemed less safe and less effective than their government-run counterparts. (Matt Zapotosky)

-- Attorneys for a transgender teen who sued his school board for barring him from the boys’ bathroom said they plan to continue to press his case before the Supreme Court, despite the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw federal guidelines that had buoyed his lawsuit. From Sandhya Somashekhar and Robert Barnes: "The guidelines had instructed schools to let students use the restroom that matched their gender identity, regardless of their anatomy. Now that they have been rescinded, it is even more important that the high court weigh in to eliminate confusion and ensure that children are protected, lawyers for 17-year-old Gavin Grimm said. The Supreme Court late Thursday afternoon asked attorneys for both sides to submit letters by next Wednesday addressing where the case should go from here. The decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit that favored Grimm was based primarily on the Obama administration’s guidance that was rescinded."

-- Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump pushed to remove words critical of a global climate deal from an executive order that Trump is planning to sign soon. The Wall Street Journal’s Amy Harder and Peter Nicholas report: “Mr. Trump is expected to sign within days at least two executive orders that will begin the process of trying to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s climate and environmental regulations. The executive order, which targets Mr. Obama’s broad climate agenda, now includes no mention of the climate deal, which nearly 200 nations struck in Paris in 2015, in large part due to a strong push by the Mr. Obama’s administration. One White House official said both Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump have been considered a moderating influence on the White House’s position on climate change and environmental issues. The move is the latest sign of influence Mr. Trump’s daughter and Mr. Kushner have in a White House that has seen internal divisions on a variety of issues, including foreign policy.”

-- Nepotism watch: Eric Trump’s brother-in-law Kyle Yunaska has landed a job on the “beachhead” team of temporary political appointees at the Energy Department – tasked with helping prepare the Trump administration’s overhaul of energy policy, Axios reports. His work at the department involves the Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis. 

-- A group of top law professors filed a professional misconduct complaint against Kellyanne Conway, who was admitted to the D.C. Bar in 1995, saying she should be sanctioned for violating government ethics rules and “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” “We do not file this complaint lightly,” the professors said in their filing. “We believe that, at one time, Ms. Conway, understood her ethical responsibilities as a lawyer and abided by them. But she is currently acting in a way that brings shame upon the legal profession.” Signatories include professors at top law schools around the country, including Georgetown University Law Center, Yale Law School, Fordham University and Duke University. (Sari Horwitz)

Tom Perez (C) speaks to Jaime Harrison (L), chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, and Jehmu Greene (R) during a Democratic National Committee forum in Baltimore on Feb. 11. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

THE DNC CHOOSES A NEW CHAIRMAN TOMORROW:

-- Tom Perez got a big break Thursday when third-place contender Jaime Harrison dropped out and threw his weight behind the former labor secretary. “Harrison’s exit leaves the DNC field without any current or former state party chairmen: New Hampshire party chairman Ray Buckley quit the race Saturday and endorsed Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota,” Dave Weigel writes. “The campaigns of Ellison and Perez each claim to be close to victory; Perez’s campaign believes that it might be just a few votes away. But Harrison’s failure to reach liftoff demonstrated the difference between the race as seen by DNC members and the race as sometimes seen by outside activists.”

Family members from Somalia are helped into Canada by police on the U.S.-Canada border. (Paul Chiasson/AP)

IMMIGRATION:

-- In Canada, stories of migrants hauling children and suitcases across frozen fields and snow-covered ditches have become headline news – but concern is starting to grow over how many more migrants the country can accommodate. Alan Freeman reports: “The asylum seekers, who are fleeing [Trump’s] travel and refugee bans as well as stepped-up arrests of undocumented immigrants, have received warm welcomes. But opposition politicians are criticizing the government of Justin Trudeau for being too harsh or too lax in its approach. In a recent survey from the [Vancouver-based] Angus Reid Institute … most Canadians were supportive of the government’s decision to maintain its target of accepting 40,000 refugees in 2017. But 25 percent wanted to see Ottawa enact a travel ban similar to the Trump order. And with so many migrants willing to traipse through the ice and snow to reach Canada, there are concerns that numbers could soar with the advent of spring. Angus Reid CEO Shachi Kurl wondered, “Will we be facing down our own mini-Greece or mini-Italy moment? What are we going to see when the snow melts?”

-- Trump touted his immigration policies in a White House meeting with manufacturing CEOs on Thursday, celebrating what he billed as a “MILITARY OPERATION" to round up and deport undocumented immigrants who committed crimes or violent acts. Philip Rucker reports: “Trump brought up immigration enforcement as he discussed the trip [Rex Tillerson and John Kelly] are taking to Mexico this week. Trump said he told Tillerson, ‘That’s going to be a tough trip, because we have to be treated fairly by Mexico.’ Trump then praised Kelly for the work his department is doing to secure the border with Mexico and deport illegal immigrants. ‘It’s a military operation,’ Trump said, attributing gang violence and illegal drug trade to undocumented immigrants. Trump's reference to a military operation could raise eyebrows among immigrant rights advocates and even within the [DHS]. ... Federal immigration policy is enforced by several divisions inside DHS, including Customs and Border Protection and ICE, and the military has no role.” Spicer later tried to walk back the president's comment.

-- Passengers deplaning a domestic flight at JFK airport were greeted by U.S. law enforcement officials, who requested to see passenger identification as they searched for an undocumented immigrant with a deportation order. It is unclear whether the search is related to new White House efforts to ramp up deportation efforts for undocumented immigrants. (Wesley Lowery)

-- In Los Angeles, an underground network is readying homes to hide undocumented immigrants from ICE officials. CNN reports: “A hammer pounds away in the living room of a middle class home. A sanding machine smoothes the grain of the wood floor … But this home Pastor Ada Valiente is showing off … is no ordinary home. The families staying here would be undocumented immigrants, fearing an ICE raid and possible deportation. The purchase of this home is part of a network formed by Los Angeles religious leaders across faiths in the wake of Donald Trump's election … [with the goal of offering] another sanctuary beyond religious buildings or schools, ones that require federal authorities to obtain warrants before entering the homes. [Rev. Zach] Hoover estimates the underground network could hide 100 undocumented people today. Soon, he believes, they could hide thousands. The strong current carrying the Rapid Response Team is the divergence of federal laws and the moral teachings of their religions.”

One Jewish man shows off the spare bedroom he’s prepared, picturing the undocumented family he may host someday – as well as the U.S. authorities who could come knocking. "I definitely won't let them in. That's our legal right," he told CNN. "If they have a warrant, then they can come in. I can imagine that could be scary, but I feel the consequences of being passive in this moment is a little scary."

Joe Biden and John Boehner share a laugh in Congress. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty) 

GOP GOING WOBBLY ON OBAMACARE?

-- Former House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans will not be successful in their efforts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, predicting at a Thursday conference in Orlando that lawmakers will instead just make some fixes to the law. “They’ll fix Obamacare, and I shouldn’t have called it repeal and replace because that’s not what’s going to happen. They’re basically going to fix the flaws and put a more conservative box around it,” Boehner said, noting that he “started laughing” when he heard of their lightning-fast plans to draft an alternative to the law. His frank comments come as Republicans struggle to reach a consensus on a law to replace Obama’s signature health care act. (Politico)

-- At crowded town halls across the country this week, Republican lawmakers sought to distance themselves from Trump’s agenda. David Weigel reports: “This week’s congressional town halls have repeatedly found Republicans hedging their support for the new president’s agenda — and in many cases contradicting their past statements. Hostile questions put them on record criticizing some of the fights Trump has picked or pledging to protect policies such as the more popular elements of Obamacare. And voters got it all on tape, promising to keep hounding their lawmakers if they falter. [Meanwhile], a number of Republicans have refused to hold town halls — and courted ridicule. In California, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, local Indivisible groups held 'empty-chair town halls' where activists could meet — and note the absence of their legislators. In Pennsylvania, activists propped up an empty suit to symbolize Sen. Patrick J. Toomey; in other states, following the guide, they posted dummy ‘Have You Seen Me?’ ads. In New York, they derided Rep. Elise Stefanik for canceling town halls just a week after publishing a report … urging more members of Congress to hold them.”

-- In his CPAC speech last night, Pence defended the Trump administration's plans to repeal and replace the law, calling Obamacare a “nightmare” and promising “an orderly transition” to a new health-care system. “America's Obamacare nightmare is about to end,” the V.P. said. “Despite the best efforts of liberal activists around the country, the American people know better. Obamacare has failed, and Obamacare must go.” Pence added that he and President Trump are committed to giving every American “access to quality, affordable health insurance,” and want to replace the current system with one that allows people to purchase health coverage across state lines as they would insurance for their automobiles. (Philip Rucker)

-- Support for the Affordable Care Act has spiked to a record high: A Pew Research Center survey finds that 54 percent of Americans now approve of Obamacare, while 43 disapprove. But even among those who disapprove of the law, more said they would rather see it modified than scrapped completely: Just 17 percent advocated for a full repeal, while one-in-four adults said they’d prefer certain aspects of the law to be changed.

--  Bloomberg reports that GOP lawmakers expect their Obamacare replacement plan to cover fewer Americans – which would likely increase blowback from the public.

-- “Cancer patients, survivors fear GOP efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act,” by Laurie McGinley: "As the battle over the law escalates, cancer patients and survivors are among the most vocal of groups raising alarms about the GOP’s repeal effort. They are calling congressional offices and showing up at their representatives’ town hall meetings with angst-filled stories about a pre-ACA world in which they couldn’t get individual health plans because of their medical histories. Lawmakers seem to be hearing the message … and they are reiterating promises to protect people with health problems in any replacement legislation. So far, though, Republicans have yet to identify a plan that would do that …The fate of patient protections in the fight over the health-care law looms especially large for the cancer community because of the disease’s prevalence and the enormous cost of treatment. ‘People are scared out of their minds,’ said 34-year-old [breast cancer survivor] Erin Price Schabert … Indeed, many people described a kind of existential dread that matches their fear of cancer.”

Vladimir Putin attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow yesterday. (Ivan Sekretarev/AP)

THERE IS A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- The cover story in next week’s New Yorker is a must read --> “Trump, Putin, and the new Cold War,” by Evan Osnos, David Remnick, and Joshua Yaffa: “Although the evidence for Russia’s interference appears convincing, it is too easy to allow such an account to become the master narrative of Trump’s ascent—a way to explain the presence of a man who is so alien and discomforting to so much of the population by rendering him in some way foreign. In truth, he is a phenomenon of America’s own making. The working theory among intelligence officials involved in the case is that the Russian approach—including hacking, propaganda, and contacts with Trump associates—was an improvisation rather than a long-standing plan. The official said, “After the election, there were a lot of Embassy communications”—to Moscow—‘saying, stunned, ‘What we do now?’’ ‘To me, the question might finally come down to this,’ Celeste Wallander, President Obama’s senior adviser on Russia, said. ‘Will Putin expose the failings of American democracy or will he inadvertently expose the strength of American democracy?’”

-- “One of the most startling allegations in a January report by U.S. intelligence agencies about Russian hacking was this sentence: ‘Russia has sought to influence elections across Europe,’” adds Post columnist David Ignatius. “This warning of a campaign far broader than the United States got little attention in America. We may be missing the forest for the trees in the Russia story: The Kremlin’s attempt to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is part of a much bigger tale of Russian covert action — in which Donald Trump’s campaign was perhaps a tool, witting or unwitting. This secret manipulation, if unchecked, could pose an ‘existential threat’ to Western democracy, argues Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to Washington. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last weekend in Munich that the world is entering the ‘post-West’ era. Unless the United States stands solidly with its allies, Lavrov’s claim may prove accurate. So pay attention: The hacking issue isn’t a ‘ruse,’ as Trump claimed last week. This is how the Russians try to subvert politics — boldly, secretly and often corruptly. They’re good at it. If the United States and its allies don’t resist, a post-West era may indeed be next.”

THE RESISTANCE:

-- “Russia is making an early debut on the 2018 campaign trail as a Democratic group targets two Senate Republicans up for reelection for their stance on investigating [Trump’s] alleged ties to the Kremlin," Karoun Demirjian reports: “American Bridge — a super PAC promoting Democrats — this week will release a series of advertisements targeting GOP Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada and Jeff Flake of Arizona. The ads blast the Republicans for failing to endorse calls for an independent commission to investigate what intelligence officials say are links between Russia and the Trump team. The ads accuse Heller and Flake of ‘turning a blind eye’ to ‘how deep [Trump’s] dangerous ties to Russia go,’ and encourage viewers to ‘tell him to put country ahead of politics and demand an independent investigation …’ While it’s unclear how much money will be invested in the ads, they do preview an early line of attack by Democrats against Republicans.

-- New York Times columnist Charles Blow argues in a scathing column that Trump has killed compassionate conservatism and waged a culture war “in which truth is the weapon, righteousness the flag and passion the fuel”: “Trump is rushing headlong into Muslim bans and mass deportations, wall building and Obamacare dismantling. Indeed, it feels like the campaign promises Trump is keeping have to do with cruelty and those he’s flip-flopping on have to do with character. This is why I have no patience for liberal talk of reaching out to Trump voters. There is no more a compromise point with those who accept, promote and defend bigotry, misogyny and xenophobia than there is a designation of ‘almost pregnant.’ Trump is a cancer on this country and resistance is the remedy. The Trump phenomenon is devoid of compassion, and we must be closed to compromise. … Fight, fight, fight. And when you are finished, fight some more. Victory is the only acceptable outcome when freedom, equality and inclusion are at stake.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

The news that the White House tried to get the FBI to dismiss reports of Trump's ties to Russia drew condemnation from both sides of the aisle:

Trump tweeted about the violence in Chicago:

Ex-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz) had this to say about Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) refusing to a hold a town hall for fear of violence:

GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) met with some different constituents:

Tom Cotton praised local officials for keeping order at his town hall Wednesday night:

A lot of people have been making this observation about Pence:

The House GOP Conference Leader said this about white nationalists in Spokane:

One memorable remark about the Trump decision to roll back protections for LGBT students at public schools:

Caitlin Jenner had a message for Trump on the issue:

More celeb reaction:

Some reaction to Trump's comment that the new DHS immigration order is part of a "military operation":

Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R) tweeted this picture:

Ann Coulter had this to say about the "Dreamers":

One conservative response:

Lawmakers shone a light on the "End it" movement's fight against slavery:

"Scandal" celebrated a birthday:

Finally, a warning from the TSA:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- The Atlantic, “The Bow-Tied Bard of Populism,” by McKay Coppins: “Tucker Carlson’s true talent is not for political philosophizing, it’s for televised partisan combat. His go-to weapons—the smirky sarcasm, the barbed comebacks, the vicious politeness—seem uniquely designed to drive his sparring partners nuts, frequently making for terrific television. Indeed, if cable news is ultimately theater, Carlson’s nightly performance is at once provocative, maddening, cringe-inducing, and compulsively watchable. When Carlson first joined primetime last year, he assigned his show a mission statement: 'The sworn enemy of lying, pomposity, smugness, and groupthink.' To his critics, the slogan is crazy-making for the brazen hypocrisy they believe it displays. But the potency of the host’s performance is not rooted in personal purity—it’s in his ability to capture the sentiment of a rapidly mutating conservative movement. And while he may have spent his life happily living among them, he’s clearly demonstrated he has no qualms about taking them on.”

-- Trump’s Israel ambassador nominee David Friedman delivered a “lengthy” speech on the eve of the 2016 election in which he bragged of removing two-state solution from the GOP platform. From CNN's Andrew Kaczynski: “In the speech delivered in his hometown of Woodmere, NY … Friedman boasted of removing references of the two-state solution and occupation of the West Bank from the Republican Party platform, called the Jewish group J-Street ‘a dangerous organization,’ and said the Anti-Defamation League had ‘lost all credibility.’ He said it would be ‘ludicrous’ to pressure Israel to make peace to create ‘another Arab dysfunctional state.’ Friedman also falsely asserted that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, a far-right conspiracy theory that has been debunked by several fact-checking organizations.”

-- Politico Magazine, “Rex Tillerson Is Already Underwater,” by Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky: “[Rex Tillerson] is winging his way to Mexico today carrying a load of troubles in his bag: His boss is in a long rhetorical war with our nearest neighbor; our next major trade deal appears to have blown up; and, from Mexico’s perspective, America’s new immigration policy appears to be dumping migrants back into Mexico without its consent. And perhaps the biggest challenge for a secretary of state: Nobody knows whether he really speaks for his boss. At ExxonMobil, he presided over operations in most of the world’s countries—a company so large it had, it was often noted, its own foreign policy. He offered the prospect of a strong, pragmatic counterweight to a president inexperienced in foreign policy with a highly politicized core of advisers. But that’s not how it has turned out so far. Trump’s operating style, which breaks diplomatic icons and conventional rules, would pose serious obstacles even for a seasoned diplomat. For a Washington neophyte, they’re turning out to be hobbling.”

-- Politico, "Trump's 'big fat bubble' trouble in the stock market," by Ben White and Mary Lee: "Seen from Wall Street, the Trump presidency is going perfectly. Travel ban troubles? Whatever. Russian revelations? Meh. Staffing woes? Who cares. Stocks continue to shrug it all off and rocket to new highs on the promise of big tax cuts, infrastructure spending and mass deregulation. But analysts now caution that Trumphoria in the stock market could soon crash into a harsh Washington reality. Before even getting to tax reform - where there is little agreement on the way forward - Republicans have to figure out how to repeal and replace Obamacare, win confirmation for a Supreme Court justice and deal with Democrats eager to slam the brakes on anything and everything President Donald Trump tries to do. The result could be that a frothy stock market Trump derided as a 'big fat bubble' before the election - but now takes credit for - suddenly plummets back to Earth."

-- Wall Street Journal, “‘You Have to Stop,’ Renaissance Executive Tells Boss About Trump Support,” by Gregory Zuckerman: “David Magerman says he was in his home office in suburban Philadelphia earlier this month when the phone rang. His boss, hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, was on the line. ‘I hear you’re going around saying I’m a white supremacist,’ Mr. Mercer said. ‘That’s ridiculous.’ ‘Those weren’t my exact words,’ Mr. Magerman said he told Mr. Mercer, stammering and then explaining his concerns … A presidential campaign that divided much of the country also has created tensions within companies. [Now], some senior employees, accustomed to settling grievances behind closed doors, are rebelling in unusually public ways, the polarization playing out for the world to see. … ‘His views show contempt for the social safety net that he doesn’t need, but many Americans do,’ [Magerman said during an interview] … ‘Now he’s using the money I helped him make to implement his worldview’ by supporting Mr. Trump and encouraging that ‘government be shrunk down to the size of a pinhead.’”

-- New York Times Magazine, “The future of not working,” by Annie Lowrey: “Silicon Valley has recently become obsessed with basic income for reasons simultaneously generous and self-interested, as a palliative for the societal turbulence its inventions might unleash. Many technologists believe we are living at the precipice of an artificial-intelligence revolution that could vault humanity into a postwork future. In the past few years, artificially intelligent systems have become proficient at a startling number of tasks, from reading cancer scans to piloting a car to summarizing a sports game to translating prose. Any job that can be broken down into discrete, repeatable tasks … could be automated out of existence. In this vision of the future, our economy could turn into a funhouse-mirror version of itself: extreme income and wealth inequality, rising poverty, mass unemployment, a shrinking prime-age labor force. It would be more George Saunders than George Jetson. But what does this all have to do with a small village in Kenya?”

-- New York Times, “What’s left of communism,” by David Priestland: “A hundred years after the Russian Revolution, can a phoenix rise from the ash heap of history?”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Caitlyn Jenner Says Trump’s Blow To Transgender Rights Is A ‘Disaster,’” from HuffPost: “Caitlyn Jenner broke her silence on President Donald Trump’s decision to reverse federal guidance on protections for transgender students against discrimination, calling the move a ‘disaster.’  Jenner, the Olympic gold medalist, tweeted a video Thursday evening in which she directly called out Trump and his team for rescinding the guidance issued by the Obama administration last year in which public schools were instructed to allow students to use the bathroom that matched their gender identity. The guidance was not legally binding. ‘From one Republican to another, this is a disaster,’ she said. “And you can still fix it. You made a promise to protect the LGBTQ community. Call me.”  She offered words of encouragement to young transgender people and touted the case of Gavin Grimm … ‘Mr. President, we’ll see you in court,’ Jenner said, referencing Grimm’s case.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“UMich Students Want No-Whites Space AND $10 Million Multicultural Center,” from the Daily Caller: “While the University of Michigan builds a $10 million multicultural center, a student group is demanding a space for black students only so that these students can do social justice work. The group, Students4Justice, issued demands for the no-whites space to the university earlier this month, as reported by The Michigan Review. Meanwhile, UMich is still in the process of building a $10 million multicultural center to replace an old multicultural center on the periphery of campus. We want a space solely dedicated to community organizing and social justice work specifically for people of color" ... Students4Justice has issued a petition in which the members state their outrage over UMich President Mark Schlissel’s disregarding of their demands.”

 

DAYBOOK:

At the White House: Trump will deliver remarks at CPAC. Following that, he will return to the White House to tape his weekly address, sign an executive order, and meet with Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Later in the afternoon, he will meet with President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Peru.

Pence is hosting the Governors Luncheon at the Vice President’s Residence this afternoon. Afterwards, he will travel to Las Vegas to deliver remarks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Shabbat Dinner.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

William H. McRaven, a retired four-star admiral and former Navy SEAL who organized and oversaw the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, slammed Trump’s characterization of the media as “the enemy of the American people.” “We must challenge this statement and this sentiment that the news media is the enemy of the American people,” he said in Austin, according to the Daily Texan. “This sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime. … To be a good leader, you have to be a good communicator. As a leader, you have to communicate your intent every chance you get, and if you fail to do that, you will pay the consequences.”

 

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

-- Another day to dress for spring warmth – yay! The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “More sunshine than clouds should help us burn off any morning fog and catapult us toward the mid-to-upper 70s by afternoon. This may challenge our daily record high temperatures, but we aren’t certain whether any or all airport records (78 at DCA; 79 at Dulles and BWI) will be broken.” TGIF.

-- Longtime law enforcement veteran Peter Newsham was announced as new police chief in D.C., staying onboard after serving as interim chief for Cathy Lanier. (Peter Hermann and Ann E. Marimow)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Seth Myers takes a closer look at the GOP town hall protests and Trump's golf habit:

Stephen Colbert wants everyone to know that bathroom signs have a message for Trump:

Chuck Schumer appeared on "The View":