With Breanne Deppisch

THE BIG IDEA: The devil is always in the details. After years of waiting on Republicans to outline how they will translate talking points into reality, two House committees last night posted the specific language of legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. (The Ways and Means draft is here. The Energy and Commerce draft is here.)

The proposals let people stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26 and forbid insurers from denying coverage or charging more to people with preexisting conditions. There would be no more individual mandate, but to prod people to pay for coverage insurers would be given permission to impose a surcharge of 30 percent on customers who have a gap between plans.

-- But here’s the rub: We don’t know how many people will lose coverage or how much this might blow up the deficit over time. What was released last night has not been scored by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. This is a big deal because both House committees with jurisdiction plan to take up the legislation tomorrow and advance the overhaul without this kind of formal analysis.

House GOP leadership created a “frequently asked questions” web site to accompany the draft legislation. One question is, “How are you paying for this plan? How much is it going to cost taxpayers?” This is the answer in full: “We are still discussing details, but we are committed to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with fiscally responsible policies that restore the free market and protect taxpayers.”

-- What we do know from the drafts is that there are huge tax breaks for some of the richest Americans:

“Households at the top of the U.S. income ladder would see taxes on their wages and investments drop under the House Republicans’ new health-care proposal,” the Wall Street Journal’s Richard Rubin notes. “As expected, the bill repeals a 3.8% tax on investment income and a 0.9% tax on wages. Both levies affect only the highest-earning households, those individuals making at least $200,000 and married couples making more than $250,000.”

“The Republican plan (also) includes a tax break for insurance company executives making over $500,000 per year,”  BuzzFeed’s Paul McLeod observes. “Companies can generally deduct employee salaries as a business expense but in 2013 the ACA capped the deductions on health insurance executive salaries at $500,000. The average compensation for top health insurance executives is in the millions. In 2014 the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies found that this cap generated $72 million in additional tax revenue.” The draft explicitly eliminates the cap, so the more insurance companies pay their executives the less they will pay in taxes.

-- Policy experts bemoan the lack of a CBO score.

From a health economist who teaches at Boston University and does work for the Department of Veterans Affairs:

After a first read, a health care expert linked to Brookings estimates that 15 million people could lose coverage:

-- Reconciliation is a hurdle. Normally, getting rid of Obamacare would require 60 votes in the Senate. Because Republicans only have 52 seats, they’re using the budget process known as reconciliation (which requires only a simple majority) to get this through. But the rules of the chamber require that any bill passed by reconciliation cannot increase the deficit after it first 10 years in effect. This may force some compromises. 

From a senior VP at the Kaiser Family Foundation:

-- House Republicans are defending the process, arguing that bills regularly go through the markup process without a formal CBO score. (Kevin Brady and Greg Walden, the committee chairmen who released the drafts, tout their proposal in an op-ed.)

-- Progressives are attacking Republicans for hypocrisy. They say we’re talking about an overhaul of a sector that accounts for one-fifth of the economy without a clear sense of the consequences.

From the head of the Center for American Progress (who would’ve been on the shortlist to be HHS secretary under Hillary Clinton):

A Tennessee congressman:

The Wall Street financier who ran Obama’s auto rescue task force:

A Democratic operative:

An editor at ThinkProgress:

Other key elements of the draft bill:

-- Individual tax credits, designed to replace the federal insurance subsidy, will be tied to age and income. “The tax credits outlined by the Ways and Means Committee’s portion of the legislation incorporate an approach that Republicans have long criticized: income-based aid to help Americans afford health coverage,” Amy Goldstein, Mike DeBonis and Kelsey Snell report. “Until now, the GOP had been intending to veer away from the ACA subsidies that help poor and middle-class people obtain insurance, insisting that the size of tax credits with which they planned to replace the subsidies should be based entirely on people’s ages and not their incomes. But the drafts propose refundable tax credits that would hinge on earnings as well as age — providing bigger credits for older and poorer Americans.”

Why conservatives didn’t want to take income into account: It requires getting the IRS involved to verify assets, which means more government employees are involved.

So why the change? The income-based phase-out of the credit allows the GOP plan to be funded without taxes on employer-provided insurance that had been considered earlier in the drafting process.

-- Medicaid costs will be pushed toward the states over time. The Medicaid expansion would stop in 2020, for all intents and purposes. The program would set a per capita cap on funding to states, depending on how many people are enrolled. This could potentially be a problem in the Senate, where four Republicans yesterday promised to oppose any bill that would hurt expansion states. “We will not support a plan that does not include stability for Medicaid expansion populations or flexibility for states,” Rob Portman (Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) wrote.

-- Planned Parenthood gets defunded. The bill makes the women’s health organization, which receives about $500 million annually in federal funding, ineligible for Medicaid reimbursements or federal family planning grants. This could prompt one or two female GOP senators to defect. Moderates note that there’s already a ban on using federal funds to pay for abortions. Planned Parenthood provides routine medical care to millions of women – care that is jeopardized under the House plan.

The White House recently offered Planned Parenthood a deal: Its funding can stay if it stops performing work related to abortions, Maggie Haberman scooped in the New York Times. The group firmly rejected this. “In private discussions with people close to Planned Parenthood, White House officials have suggested that there could even be an increase in federal earmarks,” Haberman reports.

Ivanka Trump has been trying to save the group’s funding stream from social conservatives, urging her father to go gently. The president took heat during the campaign for praising some of the work Planned Parenthood does, even as he opposed taxpayer funding for abortions. 

Donald Trump hosts Mick Mulvaney, Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and John Cornyn during a working lunch in the Roosevelt Room at the White House last week. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

More reaction—

Trump embraced the House bills, which his team consulted on, this morning:

From a CNBC reporter:

-- Prominent conservatives in the House panned the drafts:

The chairman of the Freedom Caucus:

-- In the Senate, where Republicans can only afford two defections, Rand Paul called the draft legislation “Obamacare Lite!”

From a Republican ad-maker and consultant:

John Kasich’s chief strategist replied:

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said in a television interview that DHS is considering separating undocumented children from their parents at the border: "We have tremendous experience of dealing with unaccompanied minors," he told host Wolf Blitzer on CNN. “We turn them over to (Health and Human Services) and they do a very, very good job of putting them in foster care or linking them up with parents or family members in the United States."

-- President Trump and congressional Republicans are poised to roll back a series of Obama-era worker safety regulations targeted by business groups, starting last night with a vote by the Senate to kill a rule that required federal contractors to disclose and correct serious safety violations. From Kimberly Kindy: “In a narrow result that divided along party lines, the Senate voted 49 to 48 to eliminate the regulation, dubbed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule. Finalized in August and blocked by a court order in October, the rule would limit the ability of companies with recent safety problems to complete for government contracts unless they agreed to remedies. The measure to abolish it had already cleared the House. Trump is expected to sign it. A half-dozen other worker safety regulations are in Republican crosshairs, with one headed to the Senate floor as soon as this week."

North Korea fires four ballistic missiles into the sea off of Japan's coast. (Ryan Brooks).

THE WORLD IS ON FIRE --

ESCALATION IN PYONGYANG:

-- “North Korea was practicing to strike United States military bases in Japan with its latest barrage of missiles, state media reported, and it appears to be trying to outsmart a new American antimissile battery being deployed to South Korea by firing multiple rockets at once," Anna Fifield reports: “Kim Jong Un presided over Monday’s launch of the four missiles …. in a statement that analysts called a ‘brazen declaration’ of the country’s intent to strike enemies with a nuclear weapon if it came under attack. North Korea has tested these types of missiles before, so the point of Monday’s launches was not to see if the rockets would fly, but to test how quickly the unit could set them up and deploy them — classic training for a wartime situation, said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program."

-- The U.S. military began deploying an advanced defensive missile system known as THAAD to South Korea yesterday, a long-awaited move that was first agreed upon in Seoul last summer. The deployment comes despite protests from Chinese officials, who have repeatedly said such deployments come as a threat to Chinese security. One drawback: THAAD would have a hard time intercepting four ballistic missiles that were launched simultaneously, which is one of the reasons it was so worrisome to Pentagon officials when the North Koreans tested multiple weapons at once. (Dan Lamothe)

-- In another subplot, Kim Jong Un has banned all Malaysian citizens from leaving North Korea to retaliate against that country for investigating the assassination of his half-brother (a hit that South Korean intelligence agencies allege he ordered). This led Malaysia's prime minister to accuse Pyongyang of “holding our citizens hostage." In response, the Malaysian government quickly moved to ban North Korean diplomats from leaving their country -- surrounding the embassy with tape and armed police to ensure the officials stay put. (Anna Fifield)

TEHRAN IS TAUNTING US:

-- Swift-moving Iranian vessels came dangerously close to a U.S. Navy surveillance ship in the Strait of Hormuz, U.S. officials disclosed last night. "The apparent harassment of the USS Invincible on two occasions, on Thursday and Saturday, came amid Iranian state media reports that Iran had tested its newly acquired S-300 missile air defense system that is designed to intercept incoming missiles," Carol Morello reports. "In addition, Fox News reported that Iran had itself test-fired a pair of ballistic missiles that destroyed a floating barge over the weekend, but that could not be independently confirmed. Iran fired a medium-range ballistic missile last month, apparently violating a U.N. Security Council Resolution. The administration responded with its first economic sanctions, when it placed 13 people and 12 businesses on a list that prohibits Americans from dealing with them."

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. U.S.-backed Iraqi troops dislodged ISIS forces from the main government building in Mosul, ousting the fighters from their last major city stronghold in Iraq. Recapturing the site will help Iraqi forces continue attacks against the militants in the nearby old city center. (Reuters)
  2. A U.S. air strike in Yemen killed a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed. A Yemeni national who had also gone by the name Mohamed Tahar was handed over to U.S. authorities by Pakistan in 2002. While U.S. officials suspected him of having ties to al-Qaeda plots, he was never charged with a crime. (Missy Ryan and Julie Tate)
  3. The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that racial bias in the jury room can violate a defendant’s right to a fair trial, agreeing that prejudice among jurors may require examining the usual secrecy surrounding deliberations. (Robert Barnes)
  4. South Korea’s embattled president Park Geun-hye colluded with a confidante to extract $37 million from Samsung in return for granting the company favorable treatment, prosecutors said Monday – effectively capping a 75-day investigation that has roiled the country and led to the indictment of at least 30 people. The scandal has ensnared some of the country’s top actors – including business chiefs, presidential aides and prosecutors – and brings to light extraordinary tales involving million-dollar horses allegedly given as bribes, and Botox injections doled out in the confines of the presidential Blue House. (Anna Fifield and Yoonjung Seo)
  5. Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he is considering launching a2018 bid for governor of Colorado, telling The Denver Post he will likely make a final decision by the end of the summer.
  6. Ex-U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton is planning to launch her gubernatorial bid in Ohio today, becoming the second Democrat to throw her hat in the ring in as many weeks. The list of prospective Democratic candidates still runs long. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  7. Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep are starring in a new drama called “The Post,” joining forces with director Steven Spielberg to chronicle this newspaper’s 1971 legal battle to publish the Pentagon Papers. Hanks will play Ben Bradlee, while Streep will play Katharine Graham. (Helena Andrews-Dyer)
  8. A former Trump University student is objecting to a proposed $25 million settlement that would put an end to a years-long legal battle with the president’s now-defunct real estate seminar, saying she would like the opportunity to opt out of the deal and sue Trump individually. (Politico)
  9. A disgraced ex-mayor in California who was accused of playing strip poker with teenagers and secretly recording them at a youth camp last summer has been hit with a slew of fresh charges, including embezzlement and money laundering. He was nabbed on his way back from a trip to Colombia. Bail has been set at $1 million. (Kristine Phillips)
  10. Desperate for ratings: Reza Aslan is under fire for eating cooked human brain tissue with a group of Indian cannibals for the premiere of a new CNN documentary series, which seeks to shed light on spirituality around the globe. Many accuse Aslan – a Muslim who teaches creative writing at the University of California at Riverside -- of “Hinduphobia” and for mischaracterizing Hindus. (Ben Guarino)
  11. We're number seven on the U.S. News annual ranking of the world’s “best countries," down three spots from last year. Switzerland netted the number one spot on their list, with Canada and Britain taking second and third. (Adam Taylor)
  12. A revered sea turtle near the Gulf of Thailand nearly died after eating 900 coins that people had thrown at her to bring themselves good luck over the past few years. Researchers say the reptile was suffering from a severe infection and bloated to the point of near-immobilization. (Avi Selk)
Sessions has a press conference in 2012 to attack Obama for growing the deficit. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Jeff Sessions doubled down on his dubious spin and insisted in a letter to Congress that his misleading testimony before the Judiciary Committee was technically “correct." He again insisted that his meetings with the Russian ambassador were not directly about the campaign, even though at one of them he was explicitly there as a Trump campaign surrogate and paid to attend using campaign funds. Matt Zapotosky reports: “In what he framed as a supplement to his testimony during his January confirmation hearing, Sessions acknowledged that he spoke briefly to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July and that he met with Kislyak in his Senate office in September. Sessions wrote that he did not disclose his meetings with Kislyak before The Post reported on them because he considered his previous answer to [Sen. Al] Franken 'responsive, and no one having suggested otherwise, there was no need for a supplemented answer.'" Reality check: No one "suggested otherwise" because no one knew about the meeting until The Post broke the story...

-- DRIVING THE DAY --> “Justice Department nominee at center of partisan battle over Russia allegations,” by Sean Sullivan, Karoun Demirjian and Tom Hamburger: “Democrats are poised to aggressively grill Rod J. Rosenstein, Trump’s nominee for deputy attorney general, over how the Justice Department will investigate Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election and suspected ties between Trump aides and Russia. As the second-in-command at the Justice Department, Rosenstein would assume responsibility for probes related to the Trump campaign now that Sessions has recused himself.”

  • “These latest bizarre claims about wiretapping raise the urgency and stakes for a special prosecutor,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in an interview Monday. “You know, whatever the motive, an effort to distract or to defer the ongoing investigative efforts — there is now unquestionably a need for impartial, objective aggressive leadership of a criminal investigation.”
  • Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor, “If he won’t appoint a special prosecutor, he’d need a darn good reason, and it’s hard for me to see one right now.”

-- Two-thirds of Americans now think there needs to be a special prosecutor to investigate contacts between Russia and Trump’s campaign associates, according to a new CNN/ORC poll:

  • 55 percent of all voters say they are “somewhat concerned” by reports that some connected to the Trump campaign had contact with suspected Russian operatives.
  • There's a clear partisan divide: 71 percent of Democrats are “very concerned," while 54 percent of Republicans say they have no concerns “at all” about the Trump-Russia connections.
  • Trump’s approval rating is 45 percent.

-- Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who served in Ronald Reagan’s State Department from 1984 to 1988, warns in today's Post that "Republicans are becoming Russia's accomplices." From his column: “When Republicans stand in the way of thorough, open and immediate investigations, they become Russia’s accomplices after the fact. This is undoubtedly not their intent. No one in the party wants to help Russia harm the United States and its democratic institutions. But Republicans need to face the fact that by slowing down, limiting or otherwise hampering the fullest possible investigation into what happened, that is what they are doing. It’s time for the party to put national security above partisan interest. Republican leaders need to name a bipartisan select committee or create an outside panel, and they need to do so immediately. They must give that committee the mission and all the necessary means for getting to the bottom of what happened last year."

-- Walter Pincus, one of the wisest men and most experienced journalists in Washington, puts this donnybrook in context: “I’ve covered many political scandals over the past 50 years, including Watergate, Iran-contra, and the Clinton impeachment, but the past few weeks have convinced me this country may be on the verge of one that may top them all,” Pincus writes on The Cipher Brief. “None of them involved a president as unprepared as Donald J. Trump. Nor did they cover the number of varied activities currently unfolding before us that involve him directly and indirectly. … Soon it will be apparent to enough Republicans in Congress that only a joint House-Senate committee, an independent special counsel, or bipartisan special commission can undertake investigating these many elements enveloping Trump’s White House.”

Sessions's letter to Congress came out after Walter filed his column. He wonders on Twitter:

Sean Spicer talks to reporters outside the West Wing yesterday. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

A WHITE HOUSE UNDER SIEGE:

-- Aides spent Monday contorting themselves as they attempted to defend Trump’s unfounded claims that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower at the end of the presidential campaign. Illustrating the uncomfortable situation the president’s tweets created for his aides, the normally media-hungry White House went largely dark. Though Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders took to the airwaves to defend Trump in a series of television interviews, Sean Spicer did not allow cameras into the briefing room for his new conference Monday and Trump signed an executive order for his revamped travel ban in private so that he would not need to answer shouted questions from the press. Speaking to reporters off-camera, Spicer refused to add clarity or context to Trump’s Twitter missives. "I’m just going to let the tweet speak for itself," the press secretary said. (Ashley Parker and Jenna Johnson)

-- Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, is trying to force James Comey’s hand by calling on him to put up or shut up in the Wall Street Journal: “If Director Comey has something to say about this perhaps he can just issue a statement or be more explicit,” she said. “We know he’s not shy. Did he actually ask the Department of Justice to do this, and what is he asking them? One assumes if he has something to say, he can just say it.” The FBI declined to comment on Conway’s call for a statement from Comey, and there appears to be no plans for him to speak out.

-- Other Republicans, meanwhile, expressed concern about revelations that the FBI considered paying a British spy as part of an inquiry into Russian interference: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Comey yesterday to provide details of such a plan, saying “it raises substantial questions about the bureau’s independence, as well as the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends.” (Tom Hamburger)

-- LAWYERING UP: The White House is bulking up the counsel's office, with 26 attorneys, as it girds for a complicated mix of ethical problems and other brewing fights that could imperil the president. For context, there are more than twice as many lawyers now as there were at this stage in George W. Bush's administration. The Associated Press’s Julie Bykowicz says Trump’s counsel office appears slightly larger than the 22 attorneys Obama had. Bush only had a dozen lawyers during the early years of his administration, but the office grew to 26 by the time he left office (remember the U.S. attorney scandal). The Trump team includes four attorneys who had been with Jones Day, the alma mater of White House Counsel Don McGahn. “This counsel’s office also includes a special ethics counselor, Stefan Passantino, and three other senior attorneys dedicated to that topic,” Julie notes. “Trump, who continues to profit from his global business empire, and his Cabinet … pose a bounty of ethics questions for McGahn’s team.”

 -- A former British legislator is at the heart of Trump's explosive allegations against Obama. But who exactly is Louise Mensch? Karla Adam reports from London: "For starters, the politician-turned-journalist is the writer behind an article published on the eve of the election titled: ‘EXCLUSIVE: FBI ‘Granted FISA Warrant’ Covering Trump Camp’s Ties To Russia.’ In tweets on Monday, Mensch emphasized that her reporting does not back up Trump’s wiretapping claim, even though the White House cited her article to justify the allegation. Mensch, who is based in New York, said her sources contacted her because of her outspoken backing for the intelligence community. Anyone who follows her on Twitter — and more than 170,000 people do — knows that she is not a Trump supporter and has been probing Trump-Russia links for some time. … In Britain, Mensch is best known for her stint as a Conservative lawmaker and for her work as a successful chick-lit novelist under her maiden name, Louise Bagshawe.”

TRUMP'S TRAVEL BAN, TAKE TWO:

-- The president signed a revised executive order on Monday that bans travelers from six Muslim-majority countries from getting new visas. It also suspends the U.S. refugee program for 120 days, and limits the number of refugees accepted into the U.S. to 50,000 a year, down from the 110,000 cap set by the Obama administration. Matt Zapotosky, David Nakamura and Abigail Hauslohner report: “The new guidelines mark a dramatic departure from Trump’s original ban … [laying] out a far more specific national security basis for the order, blocks the issuance only of new visas, and ... omitting Iraq. The order also details specific sets of people who would be able to apply for case-by-case waivers to the order, including those previously admitted to the United States for 'a continuous period of work, study, or other long-term activity'; those with 'significant business or professional obligations'; and those seeking to visit or live with family.” Democrats and civil liberties groups say the revised order is legally tainted in the same way as the first one: it is a thinly-disguised Muslim ban. Possibly because it was rolled out on a Monday, there were no huge protests yesterday. (Read the full text of the new order.)

-- Like the previous ban, this would not have kept out of the United States anyone responsible for a deadly terror attack since 2001. In fact, since 9/11, every deadly jihadist attack in the U.S. was carried out by a U.S. citizen or legal resident. (Mark Berman)

-- The softened ban also did little to tamp down concerns of Silicon Valley executives, who spoke out strongly:

  • "Our sentiment has not changed: President Trump's immigration ban is unjust and wrong," Uber said in a statement.
  • "Barring people from entering our country because of where they're from was wrong the first time around - still wrong," tweeted Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky. "

"Adding to tech companies' worries, the Trump administration announced Friday that it would temporarily stop allowing expedited applications for H-1B visas in a change that is seen as a prelude to a broader overhaul of a visa system widely used by tech companies to hire foreign workers," Todd C. Frankel and Tracy Jan report.

-- Universities responded with a mixture of “relief and deep concern”  – relief, they said, that some students and faculty members were not left unexpectedly stranded in airports and other countries around the world – but concern that its overall impact will damage America’s longtime status as a destination for the world’s top scholars. (Susan Svrluga)

-- DHS secretary Kelly said that, apart from the six countries affected by Monday’s ban, an additional “13 or 14” additional countries also have questionable vetting procedures “that will be looked at”: "There will probably be other countries we will look at," he said on CNN. "I don't believe the list will be expanded, but there are countries out there that we will ask, like Iraq has done ... to cooperate with us better, to get us the information we need to safeguard the country."

-- An Afghan family with special visas, earned for risking their lives working with U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was released from U.S. custody after being arrested and detained by immigration authorities at an airport for four days. Members of the five-person family – which included an infant and two young children – were held incommunicado and without legal access at LAX for more than 40 hours before being placed in deportation proceedings. On Monday, DHS officials agreed to release the family without charge, but provided no justification for their abrupt detention. (Abigail Hauslohner)

-- Iraqi officials praised the White House’s decision to remove them from the list of countries impacted. (Mustafa Salim and Kareem Fahim)

-- Gold Star father Khizr Khan, who Trump attacked after his speech at the Democratic convention, says he was forced to cancel a planned speaking engagement in Toronto after being told that his “travel privileges are being reviewed." In a statement, Khan said he was “confused” about the abrupt changing of his travel status but declined to offer further details. “This turn of events is not just of deep concern to me but to all my fellow Americans who cherish our freedom to travel abroad,” Khan said. “I have not been given any reason as to why." (Politico)

-- The new ban could reduce tourism to the U.S. Tourism accounted for a $200 billion boon to the U.S. economy in 2015, for example, and the country trailed only France in its number of international arrivals (an estimated 78 million people came from overseas). Now, predictions have understandably shifted – one expert figured that by 2018, the number of tourists will drop by over 6 million people – potentially accounting for a $15 billion drop in revenue. (Philip Bump)

TRUMP'S AGENDA:

-- “The White House was on the same page as ExxonMobil on Monday. Literally,” by Chris Mooney and Steven Mufson: “The White House and ExxonMobil were in sync Monday. Some might even call it a mind meld. In a news release, ExxonMobil highlighted the oil giant’s plan to spend $20 billion over 10 years, build 11 chemical and natural-gas projects and create 45,000 jobs. Within the same hour, the White House put out its own statement claiming credit for the expansion and adding, ‘The spirit of optimism sweeping the country is already boosting job growth, and it is only the beginning.’ One full paragraph appeared nearly identically word for word in each release. Another sentence appeared almost verbatim elsewhere. ExxonMobil spokesman Alan T. Jeffers said that the company had supplied the information to the White House.”

Check out the similarities:

-- Trump’s new oil and gas drilling proposal ALSO looks a lot like Obama’s. Darryl Fears reports: “The Trump administration on Monday announced an offshore oil and gas drilling proposal in the Gulf of Mexico that appears to mirror a plan offered by his predecessor a few months ago. In one of his first acts after last week’s Senate confirmation, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed leasing 73 million acres off Florida, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi over five years starting in August. The offer includes more than 13,700 lease blocks extending three miles to 230 miles offshore … But the plan is similar to a five-year proposal by the Obama administration to lease 66 million acres in the same location … [Then-interior secretary] Sally Jewell, said the proposal’s leases were focused ‘in the best places — those with the highest resource potential, lowest conflict and established infrastructure — and removes regions that are simply not right to lease.’”

-- Trump’s first budget proposal this month will not include any specific changes to the tax code or big programs like Medicare and Social Security, a White House official said this week, and will focus instead on a “piecemeal” system that aims to boost defense spending and slash other programs annually authorized by Congress. The proposal is slated for release around March 16, an OMB spokesperson said. (Damian Paletta)

-- Congressional Republicans are poised to overturn as early as this week Obama-era education regulations outlining how states must carry out a U.S. law holding public schools accountable for serving all students. GOP lawmakers claim the so-called accountability laws are an executive overreach, while Democrats argue that doing away with such regulations could open “loopholes” to hide or otherwise ignore schools that fail to adequately serve poor children, minorities, and students with disabilities. (Emma Brown)

-- NEPOTISM WATCH: Trump has hired Rudy Giuliani’s son for a White House job. Andrew Giuliani, who has known the Trump family for years and once dreamed of being a professional golfer, will work in the Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs. (Politico)

-- TRANSPARENCY WATCH: Democratic lawmakers are urging the president to release the logs of visitors to the White House and his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. So far, Trump has not continued an Obama-era policy that made public the names of his nearly six million White House visitors. Reuters reports: “The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A page on the White House website's 'Disclosures' section entitled 'Visitor Access Records' says the page will post records of White House visitors on an ongoing basis, once they become available. It does not mention Mar-a-Lago. [Meanwhile a group of] senators sent a similar letter on Monday to William Callahan, deputy director of the U.S. Secret Service, asking how the agency will conduct background checks on people who will be present during Trump's trips to Mar-a-Lago, Trump Tower in New York City, Trump's golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, or other Trump properties where he may conduct official business.”

GAFFE OF THE DAY:

-- Ben Carson, in his first official remarks as HUD secretary, described slaves as "immigrants." Continuing an embarrassing pattern of missteps on race for the Trump administration, Carson told a room packed with hundreds of federal workers that the Africans captured, sold and transported to America against their will had the same hopes and dreams as early immigrants. "That's what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less," said Carson, speaking extemporaneously as he paced the room with a microphone. "But they, too, had a dream." His comments were broadcast live to all of HUD’s regional field offices, as well as the public.(Tracy Jan and Jose A. DelReal)

Twitter had a field day:

From this pundit and journalism professor:

The swimming center at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

-- “Documents: USOC alerted to sex abuse problems long before taking action,” by Will Hobson and Steven Rich: “In October 1999, the former chief executive of USA Gymnastics told the U.S. Olympic Committee it had a problem. Other Olympic sport governing bodies lacked basic sex abuse prevention measures that were commonplace at the time, former USA Gymnastics CEO Bob Colarossi wrote in a letter, and child athletes were at risk as a result. Colarossi’s letter, part of court documents and testimony unsealed Friday, is evidence that sex abuse of child athletes in Olympic sports was a well-known issue long before the USOC first required all Olympic sport organizations to implement preventive measures such as criminal background checks, abuse education programs, and policies for how to handle sexual misconduct allegations in 2014. ‘This is not an issue that can be wished away,’ Colarossi wrote more than 14 years earlier to three USOC executives, including current CEO Scott Blackmun. Colarossi’s letter, and associated testimony …. also shows how enduring confusion over the federal law that governs Olympic sports organizations has hampered child protection efforts.”

-- “GOPers say they want to punish alleged sexual predators in government. Ryan Zinke has a test case,” by Lisa Rein: “On his first day as Interior Secretary last week, Ryan Zinke sent his 70,000 employees a stern email on ethics, warning them, ‘I expect us to do better’ after a pattern of ‘lapses in judgment by a few employees.’ Days before his swearing-in, the agency’s watchdog published an investigation that disclosed a pattern of sexual harassment by a senior law enforcement official. How the alleged misconduct is addressed will test just how committed Zinke, the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress are to holding accountable employees who break the rules. The law enforcement official, Tim K. Lynn … acted inappropriately toward six women, touching, hugging, text-messaging and flirting with them at the office and discussing ‘inappropriate’ subjects …  Lynn, a former law enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service and Secret Service, was recently promoted to senior executive in his current job … An agency spokeswoman said the department is reviewing Lynn’s case in order to decide what action should be taken.” Meanwhile, Rep. Jason Chaffetz says such a decision should have already been made: “This person should be fired and should have been some time ago,” he said.

-- “A warning, a gun sale and tragic consequences,” by Ann E. Marimow: “She called the police. Then ATF. After that, the FBI. Janet Delana was desperate to stop her mentally ill adult daughter from buying another handgun. Finally, Delana called the gun shop a few miles from her home, the one that had sold her daughter a black Hi-Point pistol a month earlier … Her daughter had been in and out of mental hospitals, she told the store manager, and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She had tried to kill herself … [and now] Delana worried that her daughter would go back. ‘I’m begging you as a mother, if she comes in, please don’t sell her a gun,’ Delana said through tears. … At the Odessa Gun & Pawn shop, Weathers approached a manager: ‘Something like what I bought last time.’ An hour after leaving the gun store, Weathers was back home where her father sat at a computer with his back to her. She shot. Delana lost Tex, her husband of nearly 40 years, and her daughter, who was charged with murder. And beneath her anguish, Delana seethed.”

-- “The organizers of the massive post-inauguration women’s marches have called on female workers to stay home Wednesday, raising concerns among some supporters of the burgeoning feminist movement that the burden of the protest will fall too heavily on the poor,” Sandhya Somashekhar and Michael Alison Chandler report: “The debate over ‘A Day Without a Woman’ has been simmering on social media and flared in North Carolina last week, when [a superintendent] decided to cancel classes March 8 because so many staff members plan to participate. While some applauded the school district’s decision … others criticized it for suddenly forcing many parents to either stay home to care for their children or find — and pay for — back-up care. ‘The idea of the strike — it’s another strategy,’ [said] Linda Sarsour, co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington …  Historically, the people at the forefront of labor strikes have not been from among the most privileged, she said, citing hourly-pay workers who have fought to raise the minimum wage and farmworkers who [advocated] for worker protections. … ‘They risked their jobs, and they had big wins,’ Sarsour said.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

In the random department (and is that a Trump tie he's wearing?):

From two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, starting with the ranking member:

And a California Democrat on House Judiciary:

Reporters were deeply critical of Spicer for refusing to hold an on-camera breifing:

Instead of letting the press in to see him sign the order, the White House tweeted out a photo. CNN refused to air it:

Trump is also trying to raise money off his travel ban:

Trump defended the poor rollout of the last ban by saying that it would have been reckless to give notice ahead of time:

But...

The NPR national security editor's take on the U.S. joint exercises in Korea:

If you travel in and out of D.C. much, this will probably be the best news you'll hear all day:

Figures of former French Prim Minister Francois Fillon, French National Front leader Marine Le Pen, and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy (R) are paraded through the crowd during the Carnival parade in Nice. 

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- Vanity Fair, “Inside France’s Trumpian Nightmare,” by Bernard-Henri Lévy: The most extraordinary thing regarding the affair swirling around conservative French presidential candidate François Fillon … is the non-affair surrounding Marine Le Pen. … [If] you are looking for a corrupt party, rife with nepotism, recipient of criminal sanctions for race-baiting, misappropriation of funds, and so on—[well], the National Front has done it all. But when you take into account the many French voters who are saying, ‘We’ve tried everything else; why not this?’—voters who, consciously or not, would appear to prefer a tempest to boredom and who advocate ‘stirring things up’ … when you consider the volatile combination of our national anxieties and the ambient nihilism; when you behold the seemingly irresistible temptation to rouse a sluggish patient even by drastic means … well, all of that may indeed make up an explosive cocktail. And it does indeed seem to suggest a series of imperceptible shifts that add up to this: for the first time, the irresponsible, xenophobic, and crypto-fascist Marine Le Pen has the wind behind her and could, in fact, become France’s next president.”

-- Politico Magazine, “Manchin in the Middle,” by Michael Kruse and Burgess Everett: “Joe Manchin’s ascent as a Democrat in West Virginia is remarkable given that it has coincided with his state’s lurch from being one of the most resolutely blue to one of the most reliably red. Since 2000, West Virginia has voted for only Republicans for president, its congressional delegation has turned from all Democrats to all Republicans except Manchin, and the state legislature in 2014 flipped to GOP control for the first time in 83 years. And during this transformative span, exactly one statewide Democrat won again and again. Manchin gauged the political makeup of the state and chose pragmatism over ideological purity. His calculus paid off. By 2005, he was the governor, a tax-cutting, anti-abortion, pro-gun Democrat—an overall political portrait that hasn’t changed. His many supporters say it’s because Manchin, 69, is skilled and shrewd and pragmatic. His many critics say it’s because he’s politically pliable and driven by instincts of self-preservation. All of them are right.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Russia May Ban ‘Beauty And The Beast’ Over ‘Exclusively Gay’ Moment,” from HuffPost: “The backlash over the inclusion of an ‘exclusively gay moment’ in Disney’s live action ‘Beauty and the Beast’ reboot has gone international. On Saturday, Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky vowed to take action against the movie if it was found to be in violation of the country’s controversial ‘gay propaganda’ law. ‘As soon as we get a copy of the film with relevant paperwork for distribution,’ Medinsky told the BBC, ‘we will consider it according to the law.’ Medinsky’s pledge was supported by Vitaly Milonov, an MP of the governing United Russia party, who urged the minister to … ‘take measures to totally ban’ the film if ‘elements of propaganda of homosexuality’ were found. … [The movie] has been mired in controversy since last week, when director Bill Condon revealed that Josh Gad’s LeFou would be shown questioning his feelings for antagonist Gaston … Conservative reaction to Condon’s remarks was swift.” Evangelical pastor Franklin Graham urged his followers to “say no to Disney.” The company, he said, is “trying to push the LGBT agenda into the hearts and minds of your children — watch out!”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“University Language Guide Deems ‘Homosexual’ and ‘Housewife’ to Be Offensive Terms,” from National Review:  “Cardiff Metropolitan University in Wales is instructing its students and teachers to not use “potentially discriminatory” words like “homosexual” and “housewife.” There are a total of 34 no-no words listed on the school’s “Code of Practice on Using Inclusive Language” list, which aims to promote ‘fairness and equality through raising awareness about the effects of potentially discriminatory vocabulary …’ Other forbidden words include ‘mankind,’ ‘forefathers,” and ‘Miss/Mrs.’ The code also suggests some replacements. For example: The guide deems the words ‘homosexual’ and “heterosexual” to be ‘laden with the values of a previous time,’ and so it recommends ‘referring to ‘same-sex’ and ‘other-sex’ relationships” instead. Other suggested swaps include using ‘Ms.’ instead of ‘Miss/Mrs.’ (‘unless a specific preference has been stated’), ‘humanity, humankind, human race, people’ instead of ‘mankind,’ ‘and “shopper, consumer, homemaker (depends on context)’ instead of ‘housewife.’”

 

DAYBOOK:

At the White House: Trump will speak by phone with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. Later, he’ll be joined by Sen. Lindsey Graham for lunch and will lead a policy discussion alongside Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue. Trump will then hold a meeting with the U.S. House Deputy Whip team, and meet with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. In the evening, Trump will visit with the Boy Scouts of America.

Meanwhile, Pence will spend the morning participating in a series of local radio interviews before he travels to the Capitol for the Senate Republican Policy Lunch and to meet with lawmakers. In the evening, Pence will hold a bilateral meeting with Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“If we start down the rabbit hole of discussing this stuff, we end up in a very difficult place." -- Sean Spicer explains why he won’t defend Trump’s claims

 

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

-- A mostly-warm day – offset by some potential sprinkles and afternoon wind. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Mostly cloudy with showers and warmer highs in the middle to upper 60s. Showers should be scattered in the morning and more common in the afternoon into the evening rush hour. Expect about a tenth to a quarter-inch of rain in most places.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Watch Conan talk about Trump's new travel ban:

Stephen Colbert says Trump had a bad (or sick) weekend in Mar-a-Lago:

And he explains Trump's relationship with Putin: