With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: The Justice Department warned the White House that the courts will probably block President Trump from declaring a national emergency to build a border wall that Congress will not fund.

The White House Counsel’s Office explained that disregarding the legislative branch’s power of the purse creates “high litigation risk.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) privately advised him two weeks ago that doing so would divide the GOP and could lead to a formal resolution of disapproval.

Nevertheless, Trump persisted.

“White House lawyers have told Trump he could reprogram money without calling an emergency,” Fred Barbash, Ellen Nakashima and Josh Dawsey report. “But Trump … has been determined to declare an emergency, partially for fear of looking weak.”

This is just the latest, and possibly starkest, illustration of Trump’s disdain for the rule of law, as well as the premium he places on political expediency over constitutional norms and legal guardrails.

That’s why the president’s looming announcement of an “emergency” in the Rose Garden this morning should be viewed in conjunction with Andy McCabe’s new book about the events that transpired when Trump fired McCabe’s boss, Jim Comey, as FBI director in 2017. McCabe says he opened a formal investigation into the president’s ties to Russia because he was “very concerned” that the probe would be shut down if he was quickly removed as acting director. Jeff Sessions later fired McCabe the day before he would have qualified for a full pension after Trump pilloried him on Twitter and attacked his wife over her unsuccessful Virginia state Senate campaign.

“Between the world of chaos and the world of order stands the rule of law. Yet now the rule of law is under attack, including from the president himself,” McCabe writes in “The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump,” which comes out Tuesday. “People do not appreciate how far we have fallen from normal standards of presidential accountability. Today we have a president who is willing not only to comment prejudicially on criminal prosecutions but to comment on ones that potentially affect him. He does both of these things almost daily. He is not just sounding a dog whistle. He is lobbying for a result. The president has stepped over bright ethical and moral lines wherever he has encountered them.”

-- It was overshadowed yesterday because Washington was so consumed with whether Trump would sign the bipartisan spending bill to avert another shutdown, but there was another story that also highlighted the Trump administration’s willingness to flout the rules: A Trump appointee in the Department of Homeland Security has declined to cooperate with an inspector general's investigation into allegations that career government staffers faced political retaliation, yet she’s faced no discipline for stonewalling.

Christine Ciccone, a former senior official at the State Department and now an assistant secretary of legislative affairs at DHS, has failed to agree to an interview with investigators ‘despite repeated requests made to both her and her attorney over many months,’ DHS Acting Inspector General John Kelly wrote to Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen,” per NBC’s Dan de Luce. “That office is looking into allegations of retribution against career State Department employees, and has tried to speak with Ciccone as a ‘key witness’ in that inquiry since September, Kelly wrote in a memo released by three Democratic lawmakers. … The appointee’s response ‘sets a dangerous precedent contrary to the fundamental tenants’ of the law establishing government inspector generals, and carries ‘the potential to undermine our critical oversight function,’ he wrote.

-- The biggest story of the day by far, however, is Trump’s planned emergency declaration. House Democrats say they plan to move in the coming days or possibly weeks to pass a resolution formally disapproving of the president’s gambit. They will do it in a way that forces McConnell to take up the measure, despite his resistance to doing so, within 18 days. Republicans have a 53-to-47 majority in the Senate, but all the resolution needs to pass is a simple majority, and several GOP lawmakers have suggested that they’d be amenable to voting for it. If that happened, Trump would then be forced to veto the resolution. It would be the first veto of his presidency. An override would be unlikely; it’s hard to imagine 20 GOP senators crossing over to break with the president. But the debate over the resolution ensures several news cycles of high political drama.

If their resolution fails to pass the Senate or is vetoed by Trump, the House would probably sue,” per Rachael Bade, Seung Min Kim, Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane. “Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), a House Judiciary Committee member, said his discussions with House lawyers had centered around a 1952 Supreme Court ruling, Youngstown Sheet and Tube v. Sawyer, in which the court rejected President Harry Truman’s attempt to seize and operate the nation’s steel mills to avert a strike. ‘They’re about to make the steel seizure decision the most famous Supreme Court case in Washington for the next couple months,’ Raskin said about House lawyers. ‘The Supreme Court said a red light from Congress is a red light from Congress, and you can’t run a red.’”

-- The spending deal almost fell apart, and McConnell had to talk with Trump by phone at least three times yesterday. To get his sign-off, the majority leader agreed to offer public support for the emergency declaration, despite his misgivings. “We thought he was good to go all morning, and then suddenly it’s like everything is off the rails,” said one senior Republican aide.

That staffer was one of more than two dozen key players who were interviewed for a ticktock by Robert Costa, Bade, Dawsey and Kim on how the last few weeks went down: “Privately, Trump complained vociferously about the final deal and said he felt Republican negotiators had failed him … But Trump did not have the stomach for another shutdown and told aides it had generated nonstop negative coverage. … Still, Trump can be combustible and sometimes acts rashly when he feels cornered, so some Republican senators spent recent days on the phone, soothing him and trying to persuade him to hold his fire. … Democrats decided in the final days they needed to be careful with their language, worried they could provoke Trump into another shutdown. … One conferee summarized the instructions from Democratic leaders: ‘Don’t poke the bear.’”

--While the move means the country will avoid another protracted shutdown, legal specialists warned that the long-term costs to American democracy could be steep,” Charlie Savage reports in the New York Times:

“It sets a precedent that a president can, without regard to an actual existence of an emergency, use this tool to evade the normal democratic process and fund projects on his own,” said Syracuse University law professor William Banks, who co-authored the book “National Security Law and the Power of the Purse.” “This is a real institutional threat to the separation of powers to use emergency powers to enable the president to bypass Congress to build a wall on his own initiative that our elected representatives have chosen not to fund.”

“Every time this president does something that would have been unthinkable under a previous administration, and every time he acts in a way we’re used to seeing in an authoritarian regime, a little piece of our democracy dies, and this is a pretty big piece,” said Elizabeth Goitein, who oversaw a study of presidential emergency powers for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. “I know what the potential is for these laws to be abused once that seal is broken.”

--There will be lawsuits. Lots of them,” Fred, Ellen and Josh report. “From California to Congress, the litigants will multiply. They will file suit in numerous jurisdictions — certainly within the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on the West Coast, in U.S. District Court in Washington and maybe even in New York. That’s been the pattern in the hundreds of lawsuits, many of them successful, brought against the Trump administration, the idea being that some judge somewhere will block the wall. …

Anyone who claims certainty about the ultimate legal outcome, which will most likely come from the Supreme Court, is playing in their own field of dreams. … In 1976, thinking it was cracking down on presidentially declared states of emergency, Congress passed a law, the National Emergencies Act, that actually enabled them. ‘When you and I think of an emergency, we think of the U.S. under attack.’ said Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston. ‘But the statute doesn’t have that sort of definition.’ Indeed, it has no definition.”

-- The Post’s Editorial Board explains that the president’s decision treats “the will of Congress, and the Constitution, with cavalier contempt”: “His fulminations about a border wall having failed to convince the legislative branch, which forged a deal that yielded less than a quarter of the funds the president demanded, he has decided by his planned emergency declaration simply to render the legislative branch irrelevant. That’s a tried-and-true technique for autocrats the world over; it’s not what the framers had in mind when they granted Congress the power of the purse. By his declaration, Mr. Trump will inaugurate a new, imperial phase of his presidency.”

-- Hypocrisy watch: Trump said on “Fox & Friends” in 2014 that Barack Obama could be impeached for taking executive action on immigration. Obama turned to what he liked to call his pen and his phone after House Republicans blocked an overhaul of the immigration system that had passed the Senate with bipartisan support. Months after expressing doubt about his legal authority to do so, Obama signed an executive order to protect the undocumented parents of children who were born in the United States, and thus American citizens, from being deported. “This is a very, very dangerous thing that should be overwritten easily by the Supreme Court,” Trump said at the time. “I think certainly he could be impeached ...”

Around that time, Trump also ripped Obama for using an executive order to shield “dreamers” from deportation. It’s become a cliche, but there really is a tweet for everything:

-- The last two years have offered a series of tests to reveal which Republican lawmakers were genuine when they criticized Obama for executive overreach. It has been especially fascinating to watch the divergent paths that Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, two of Trump’s main rivals for the GOP nomination, have taken since 2016. Both are Cuban Americans whose world views were deeply shaped by their fathers’ anti-communist opposition to Fidel Castro. Both are young and clearly hope to run for president again in 2024 or down the road.

Cruz was maybe the most outspoken Republican in the Senate when it came to attacking Obama for using executive power during the second term. He routinely threw around words like “king” and “emperor” to describe Obama. Before Obama issued that order to protect the dreamers, Cruz took to the floor of the U.S. Senate to read from the speech that Cicero delivered on the floor of the Roman Senate in 63 B.C. warning that Catiline was out to violently destroy their republic. Cruz replaced all the references to “Catiline” with “Obama” as he quoted Cicero: “When, President Obama, do you mean to cease abusing our patience? How long is that madness of yours still to mock us? When is there to be an end to that unbridled audacity of yours, swaggering about as it does now?”

That year, Cruz said at the Conservative Political Action Conference: “This president of the United States is the first president we've ever had who thinks he can choose which laws to enforce and which laws to ignore.” (PolitiFact rated this claim as false.)

In 2015, when Obama moved to rename Mount McKinley, Cruz called it “the latest manifestation of the megalomaniacal, imperial presidency that we have seen for six and a half years. This administration has been the most lawless administration we have ever seen. And this president routinely disregards the law, disregards the Constitution [and] disregards the Congress.”

Last night, though, Cruz defended Trump’s move: “Democrats’ intransigence has left the president with no other choice but to take executive action.” He added that he’ll wait to see where Trump takes the money from, giving him an opening to oppose the move if funds for Texas disaster relief are cannibalized.

On the other side, Rubio decried Trump’s decision to go the emergency route. “We have a crisis at our southern border, but no crisis justifies violating the Constitution,” the Florida Republican said in a statement. “Today’s national emergency is border security. But a future president may use this exact same tactic to impose the Green New Deal.”

-- A parade of conservative intellectuals also lamented Trump’s move and warned the president’s supporters on the right that Republicans will come to rue this day. Here are six takes in that vein:

  • National Review’s Jonah Goldberg: “We’ll Regret This.”
  • The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board calls it a “political emergency” that creates “an unfortunate precedent” and will almost certainly be tied up “for years” in the courts.
  • The Bulwark’s Tim Miller: “The President Is Hallucinating and I Think We Should Be Concerned. Trump is declaring a fictional emergency to complete a wall he hasn't started in response to an incursion that doesn't exist. It's Wayne Hays in the White House.”
  • The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein: “Trump declaring a national emergency to build border wall with McConnell's support will come back to haunt conservatives.”
  • The Post’s Henry Olsen, a fellow at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center: “It will surely delight his base, but risks reinforcing negative views of him among the voters he needs to win reelection. … You can’t claim to want bipartisan negotiation if you act alone — and on dubious legal authority — if you don’t like the best deal you can get. You can’t persuade people that you want to govern on behalf of all people if you contemptuously disregard the elected representatives that half the country put into office.”
  • Matt Latimer, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, writes for Politico Magazine: “Trump’s National Emergency Is Great News for Future President Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The president’s latest decision will backfire on conservatives.”

MORE ON THE SPENDING DEAL:

-- The $333 billion package, which keeps the government open through the end of September, passed 83 to 16 in the Senate and 300 to 128 in the House. Mike DeBonis breaks down key items in the 1,169-page legislation:

  • The administration will be able to hire as many as 1,200 new Border Patrol officers.

  • The bill provides $100 million in technology funds for ports of entry and $112 million for aircraft and sensor systems.

  • The administration secured $564 million to beef up scanning capability at these ports, where most drug smuggling and human trafficking happens.

  • Democrats got a “soft cap” on the number of immigrants detained at Immigrations and Customs Enforcement facilities. The bill lowers the detainee cap from 49,000 to 40,000. But Republicans believe ICE will have the flexibility it needs to do its job.

  • The Census Bureau will receive a $1 billion increase in funding, which was a Democratic demand.

-- The legislation does not offer back pay to low-wage federal contractors who lost a month’s worth of wages because of the last shutdown, but it does provide a 1.9 percent pay raise for federal employees, applying retroactively to Jan. 6. Eric Yoder reports: “Under the bill, senior political appointees would see their first raise since 2010, although not the large jump they otherwise would have received under the complex federal pay law. … The raise is further to be divided: 1.4 percent across the board and the remainder paid in amounts varying by city area, based on pay comparisons reported last fall by an advisory council. The Washington-Baltimore metro zone is among the areas where federal pay is deemed to be the furthest behind, meaning it would receive one of the larger raises.”

MORE ON MCCABE’S BOOK

-- Andy McCabe portrays Jeff Sessions in an especially negative light in his memoir. Greg Miller reports: “The attorney general’s views on race and religion are described as reprehensible. … The FBI was better off when ‘you all only hired Irishmen,’ Sessions said in one diatribe about the bureau’s workforce. ‘They were drunks but they could be trusted. Not like all those new people with nose rings and tattoos — who knows what they’re doing?’ … Sessions ‘believed that Islam — inherently — advocated extremism’ and ceaselessly sought to draw connections between crime and immigration. ‘Where’s he from?’ was his first question about a suspect. The next: ‘Where are his parents from?’ …

Inevitably, the book includes disturbing new detail about Trump’s subservience to Russian President Vladimir Putin. During an Oval Office briefing in July 2017, Trump refused to believe U.S. intelligence reports that North Korea had test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile — a test that Kim Jong Un had called a Fourth of July ‘gift’ to ‘the arrogant Americans.’ Trump dismissed the missile launch as a ‘hoax,’ McCabe writes. ‘He thought that North Korea did not have the capability to launch such missiles. He said he knew this because Vladimir Putin had told him so.’”

-- CBS's Scott Pelley, who interviewed McCabe for a "60 Minutes” segment to air Sunday, says he described conversations that officials had about using the 25th Amendment to oust the president. Matt Zapotosky and John Wagner report: Pelley “described the discussions of the 25th Amendment as ‘counting noses’ — or speculating on where various Cabinet members might stand on the question. Pelley said McCabe disputes the assertion, advanced by defenders of [Rod] Rosenstein, that the deputy attorney general was not serious about wearing a wire. Pelley said McCabe took the idea to FBI lawyers for a discussion afterward. ... About two hours after the clip aired, Trump blasted McCabe on Twitter, calling him ‘a disgrace to the FBI and a disgrace to our Country.’ The Justice Department also disputed some of what McCabe contended.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld told an audience in New Hampshire this morning that he will try to take on Trump in the 2020 Republican presidential primary. Annie Linskey and Dave Weigel report: “Weld, 73, said he would seek to determine over the coming months if he can raise enough money to continue his challenge of the president. He said he would run on a traditional Republican agenda of fiscal responsibility and provide a stylistic contrast to Trump. ‘It is time for all people of good will — and our country is filled with people of good will — to take a stand and plant a flag,’ Weld said during a speech Friday at a Politics & Eggs breakfast in Bedford, N.H. … Weld opened his remarks in the first primary state with an unflinching denunciation of the president — ‘he acts like a schoolyard bully’ — and Republicans in Washington who ‘exhibit all the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome.’”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. A massive car bomb killed at least 33 paramilitary police officers in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The violence marked the region’s deadliest attack on security forces in 30 years and will almost certainly inflame tensions between India and Pakistan, which both claim Kashmir. (Joanna Slater, Niha Masih and Ishfaq Naseem)
  2. An armed man who hijacked a UPS truck and held its driver hostage was killed overnight in San Jose. The man was shot following a car chase. A female suspect was taken into custody. (CBS)
  3. NASA intends to partner with the private sector to send a U.S. spacecraft to the moon as early as this year. Jim Bridenstine, the space agency’s administrator, said the U.S. is trying to get there “as fast as possible” because India and China are planning their own moon missions. (Christian Davenport)
  4. The FTC is negotiating a multibillion-dollar fine with Facebook over its privacy practices. The fine would be the largest the agency has ever imposed on a technology company, but the two sides have not agreed on an exact amount. If talks break down, the FTC could take the matter to court in what would probably be a bruising legal fight. (Tony Romm)
  5. Amazon scrapped plans to build a second headquarters in New York City following local protests. Opponents of the proposal, which would have brought 25,000 high-paying jobs to Queens, said it would cause housing prices to rise and worsen congestion. Amazon has said it will not restart a search for another headquarters location at this time. (Robert McCartney and Jonathan O'Connell)
  6. Illinois prosecutors are reportedly expected to indict R. Kelly after receiving a videotape allegedly showing the rapper sexually assaulting an underage girl. Lawyer Michael Avenatti said that he is representing “multiple clients” who have accused Kelly of sexual assault and provided a videotape to the Cook County state’s attorney. (New Yorker)
  7. The National Weather Service will soon launch a new weather prediction model that has been heavily criticized by meteorologists as unreliable. The Weather Service says the new system is tentatively set to become the primary U.S. forecasting model on March 20, but experts note that this model has incorrectly predicted heavy snowfall in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast multiple times this year. (Jason Samenow)
  8. Cancer disparities between African Americans and whites have narrowed significantly. African Americans have historically had a much higher cancer death rate, but that number is sharply falling because of decreases in lung, prostate and colorectal cancers among black Americans. (Laurie McGinley)
  9. The American Heart Association wants women after menopause to consider downing fewer diet drinks. Consuming more than one artificially sweetened drink a day increases the chances of a stroke, a heart attack and an early death in women over 50, according to a new study. (USA Today)

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN:

-- Bill Barr was confirmed by the Senate and quickly sworn in as the next attorney general. Matt Zapotosky and Karoun Demirjian report: “Senators voted 54 to 45, mostly along party lines, to confirm Barr, who will now supervise [Mueller’s probe]. Among Barr’s first major decisions will be what to tell the public about the results of that investigation. ... People familiar with the matter said Barr has all but settled on a new second-in-command, with Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mueller, expected to leave soon. Barr has not disclosed any names publicly.”

-- What does he know? Matt Schlapp, chairman of the organization that hosts the Conservative Political Action Conference, and whose wife, Mercedes, works in the White House as a strategic communications adviser, tweeted after Barr was confirmed that Mueller will be gone soon. “Tomorrow will be the first day that President Trump will have a fully operational confirmed Attorney General,” Schlapp wrote. “Let that sink in. Mueller will be gone soon.” Politico reports that the White House didn’t respond to a request for comment. (Politico)

-- Trump is using a charm offensive to coax Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to retire. The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin reports: “Trump has shown unusual solicitude for Justice Thomas and his wife, Ginni, a hard-right political activist. The President and the First Lady had the Thomases to dinner, and then Trump welcomed Ginni and some of her movement colleagues to the White House for an hour-long discussion. … Trump rarely engages in this kind of cultivation, and it’s reasonable to speculate that he’s trying to persuade the Justice that his seat would be in good hands if he decided to leave. … There seems little doubt, however, about what would happen if either [Thomas or Ruth Bader Ginsburg] leaves in the next year or two. The President would likely nominate as a replacement Amy Coney Barrett, a forty-seven-year-old judge on the Seventh Circuit. A former professor at Notre Dame Law School, Barrett was nominated to the appeals court by Trump, in 2017, and she has already been considered for a Supreme Court seat—the one that went to [Brett] Kavanaugh.”

-- The Trump Organization gave up on its plan to roll out two new hotel lines in dozens of cities across the country. Jonathan O'Connell and David A. Fahrenthold report: “The president’s eldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, who took over the company when Trump entered the White House, cited political attacks and negative media coverage in announcing the decision. The brothers announced plans for the two lower-cost chains in a reception at Trump Tower shortly after Trump took office. Since then, the company has come under near-constant scrutiny from ethics officials and congressional Democrats over its business practices. After initially saying the company had dozens of deals in the works, no hotels, under the chain names of Scion and American Idea, have opened.”

-- “After gaining four pounds over the past year, Trump is officially considered obese,” Toluse Olorunnipa and Carolyn Y. Johnson report. He “remains in ‘good health’ ... according to a memorandum signed by his doctor and released Thursday by the White House. Sean P. Conley, the physician to the president, said in the memorandum that 'there were no findings of significance or changes to report' after Trump underwent a four-hour physical exam that included 11 specialists last week. The White House released the memorandum, which included basic details about Trump’s health, including his heart rate (70 beats per minute) and his blood pressure (118/80 mmHg). ... Trump, 72, stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 243 pounds, according to the memorandum.”

-- Fishing expedition: A U.S. attorney appointed by Trump demanded millions of North Carolina voter records from the state for an investigation into noncitizen voting. But state elections officials refused to comply with his subpoenas and will provide fewer than 800 voter files. Amy Gardner reports: “The board filed motions in federal court last month seeking to block the subpoenas. … The subpoenas issued last summer sought all North Carolina voter registration records for eight years and actual ballots cast for five years in counties in the eastern half of the state. A separate subpoena to the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles demanded voter registration applications submitted by those born outside the United States. … State officials objected strenuously … [calling] the subpoenas a fishing expedition primarily targeting those born in other countries and accused Higdon of wasting resources in search of a type of election fraud that is exceedingly rare.”

-- Putting a bull in a china shop: Trump’s nominee to lead the World Bank once said that it should be “thrown away and started over,” along with similar institutions. CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reports: “David Malpass made the comments while speaking to a local Republican gathering in Albertson, New York, in May 2011. … Although Malpass has been an outspoken critic of the World Bank, his 2011 comments feature his sharpest attacks on the organization and its mission. ‘For 25 years, literally, I've been an opponent of the IMF and the World Bank and of the global — the system of trying to globalize US foreign policy and defer to foreign authorities in setting our policy,’ Malpass said in his 2011 remarks.”

-- At least 33 former Trump administration officials have found ways around an ethics pledge requiring them to avoid “lobbying activities” for five years after leaving their government jobs. ProPublica’s Derek Kravitz reports: “Among the 33 former officials, at least 18 have recently registered as lobbyists. The rest work at firms in jobs that closely resemble federal lobbying. Almost all work on issues they oversaw or helped shape when they were in government. … Some former officials are tiptoeing around the rules by engaging in ‘shadow lobbying,’ which typically entails functions such as ‘strategic consulting’ that don’t require registering as a lobbyist. Others obtained special waivers allowing them to go back to lobbying. In a few cases, they avoided signing the pledge altogether.”

-- Defying the president’s request, the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority voted to close down two aging coal plants, one of which buys most of its coal from a major Trump donor. Steven Mufson reports: “The TVA directors voted overwhelmingly to close the Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky and the Bull Run plant in Tennessee. Three of the four people appointed by Trump to the TVA board joined the 6-1 majority voting to close down the Paradise coal unit and all four joined the unanimous vote to retire Bull Run. ... Trump, who vowed during his campaign to help the coal industry, set up a clash with the TVA with his call to keep open the Paradise 3 unit, which buys much of its coal from a mining company chaired by Robert E. Murray, one of the president’s major donors and supporters. ... The board decided that it would be too costly to sustain the 49-year-old plant.”

-- White House communications director Bill Shine's wife continues to peddle false anti-vaccination conspiracy theories, saying diseases such as measles "keep you healthy & fight cancer.” In tweets, Darla Shine said she was sorry her children were vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella, adding that baby boomers are “alive today” because they suffered through measles in their childhoods. (CNN)

2020 WATCH:

-- The DNC announced qualification requirements for the presidential debates that include metrics related to grass-roots support. Michael Scherer reports: “The expansive new qualification requirements are designed to allow a historically large group of candidates to make the stage at events that are likely to be split over two consecutive nights to accommodate the crowded field. Candidates can qualify either by attracting campaign donations from at least 65,000 people, including at least 200 people from at least 20 states, or by registering at least 1 percent in three state or national polls from a list of surveys approved by the party. The only way to qualify for early Democratic debates in 2015 was to register at least 1 percent in three national polls. … The first set of debates will be broadcast in June by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, followed by CNN-sponsored debates in July.”

-- Howard Schultz said he will drop his independent campaign if Democrats nominate a centrist. Michael Scherer and Tracy Jan report: The former Starbucks chief executive “has premised his exploration of a presidential campaign on the assumption that Democrats are likely to nominate a candidate that embraces what he calls ‘far-left’ ideas that will turn off enough moderate voters to open space for an independent candidate … A more moderate Democratic nominee, such as former vice president Joe Biden or former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, could complicate Schultz’s perceived path to victory.”

-- Schultz's presidential bid is already angering some Democrats, brewing some trouble for Starbucks. From Bloomberg News's John McCormick and Leslie Patton: “Almost 7 of 10 Starbucks stores are in the roughly 500 counties Democrat Hillary Clinton won in the 2016 presidential election, a Bloomberg analysis of data from location intelligence firm Esri shows. The potential for Starbucks to get hit by protests or an organized boycott has triggered some investors to boost bets against the company in recent weeks.”

-- A unanimously passed Senate bill to make lynching a federal hate crime was co-sponsored by two 2020 rivals, Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Cory Booker (N.J.). Elise Viebeck and Donna Cassata report: “The legislation, approved on a voice vote, would ensure that lynching triggers an enhanced sentence under federal law, like other hate crimes. The measure was sponsored by the Senate’s three African American members: [Harris], [Booker] and Tim Scott (R-S.C.). [Harris and Booker] spoke graciously about their joint effort Thursday morning on the Senate floor. Booker had introduced the bill with Harris and Scott after what Harris described as 200 previous attempts by Congress to pass similar legislation. Proponents of the measure expect the Democratic-led House to pass the legislation and send it to [Trump] for his signature.”

-- In a snub of Elizabeth Warren, former Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley is hosting a fundraiser for Harris in Boston. The Boston Globe’s Matt Stout and Victoria McGrane say it's “a sign that Warren cannot count on home state loyalty to bring prominent Massachusetts players to her side.” Warren, though, is holding a fundraiser Monday night in Los Angeles, in Harris's state. In case you forgot, Coakley is the Democrat who blew what should have been an easily winnable 2011 special election to Scott Brown for Ted Kennedy's seat. Warren won the seat back for Democrats the next year. 

-- Trump’s reelection campaign has started compiling opposition research on Harris, Booker and Warren. Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports: “Trump has told allies he sees [Joe] Biden, who remains undecided on a 2020 bid, as the most formidable potential general election rival. The president has said privately that Biden would appeal to a wider swath of voters than other Democratic hopefuls. Yet among the president’s inner circle, there’s widespread doubt that Biden could survive a primary, after a three-decade political career and positions on issues such as the Iraq war and crime that are anathema to liberals. Many are convinced that whoever emerges from the Democratic primary will be an out-of-the-mainstream liberal — someone who either hails from that wing of the party or has taken pains to align themselves with it.”

-- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) offered his support to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) amid accusations of anti-Semitism. Omar’s office confirmed that Sanders, who is Jewish, made an off-the-record call to the congresswoman. The senator later said he stands by “our Muslim brothers and sisters.” (Daily Beast)

-- Texas Republicans are requesting more assistance from the national party for 2020 after several House incumbents lost or had closer-than-expected reelection races. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Andrea Drusch reports: “The 2018 cycle scared many Republicans, who lost two congressional seats, and offered the first real evidence that the state might move from red to purple. … So acute is that concern, that members of the Texas delegation sat down last week with leaders from the House GOP campaign arm — which typically assists with polling, opposition research and negative advertising — to request more help with their races. … This cycle, Democrats are targeting six more seats representing Texas suburbs — the districts held by Reps. McCaul, Chip Roy, Pete Olson, Will Hurd, Kenny Marchant and John Carter.”

-- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Democratic primary victory over former congressman Joe Crowley appears to be inspiring other primary challenges in New York. The New York Times’s Shane Goldmacher reports: “Party insurgents are plotting and preparing to battle with the entrenched establishment — targeting as many as a half-dozen Congress members in and around New York City — over what it means to be a Democrat and a progressive in the age of [Trump]. … In Manhattan, Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, could be challenged … And in the Bronx and Westchester, some progressives are pushing to unseat Eliot L. Engel, a white congressman who represents a diversifying district where white residents are now in the minority — just like where Ms. Ocasio-Cortez won.” (Jeff Stein profiles Ocasio-Cortez's staffers on Capitol Hill.)

-- Beto O’Rourke is visiting Wisconsin and Illinois with his 2020 decision pending. O’Rourke is stopping by the University of Wisconsin at Madison before heading to Chicago, where he will speak at a conference held by the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute. (Politico)

-- Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg won’t make a 2020 decision until at least March. Bloomberg’s advisers have told him it’s best to put some distance between his and his potential opponents’ announcements. (CNN)

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Trump might be asking Chinese President Xi Jinping to do the unthinkable by making a sweeping overhaul of China’s economy a key condition to ending trade hostilities. Anna Fifield and David J. Lynch report: “Securing Xi’s assent to abandon the economic model that lifted China from Maoist impoverishment to become the world’s fastest-growing major economy would crown Trump’s confrontational diplomacy with success. … But few analysts anticipate such an outcome. … Policies of the kind that Xi envisaged in 2013 — and that Trump wants now — are hard for the party to push through as the economy slows. Growth decelerated to 6.4 percent last year, and a state-run paper this week warned it could sink to 6 percent in 2019.”

-- Meanwhile, two competing proposals from Congress would curb the president’s authority over trade policy, and Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) is considering both of them. Wall Street Journal’s Joshua Jamerson reports: The proposals “would increase congressional oversight on executive-branch actions under Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act. … Grassley told reporters he had instructed his staff to seek measures that could gain broad bipartisan support rather than pursue any one proposal. … Free-trade proponents in Congress have long felt uneasy about President Trump’s steel tariffs … But a House of Representatives under Democratic control—and Mr. Grassley’s ascent on the Finance Committee—is breathing new life into GOP-led efforts to check Mr. Trump and future presidents.”

  • A bill by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) "would require the Defense Department, rather than the Commerce Department, to justify the national-security basis for new tariffs … The bill, which is co-sponsored by four other Republicans and three Democrats, would also expand the situations in which Congress could scuttle an administration’s plans for new tariffs.”
  • A bill by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) "would require Congress to pass a resolution of approval before future Section 232 tariffs could take effect. That goes a step further than Mr. Portman’s bill, which would let tariffs take effect if Congress couldn’t pass a resolution of disapproval. Mr. Toomey’s bill would also require congressional signoff on any Section 232 measures implemented in the past four years—which would include the metals tariffs.”

-- The U.S. commander leading the war against the Islamic State warned that the terrorist group is far from being defeated and said he disagrees with Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria. From CNN’s Barbara Starr: “Joseph Votel, the top American general in the Middle East, also said that the US-backed forces on the ground in Syria were not ready to handle the threat of ISIS on their own. … ‘It would not have been my military advice at that particular time ... I would not have made that suggestion, frankly,’ Votel said of the troop withdrawal. ‘(The caliphate) still has leaders, still has fighters, it still has facilitators, it still has resources, so our continued military pressure is necessary to continue to go after that network.’ Votel … revealed he would only have declared that ISIS had been defeated, as Trump did in December, if he was sure they no longer posed a threat.”

-- Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro revealed secret meetings between a Venezuelan government official and U.S. envoy Elliott Abrams. From the AP's Ian Phillips and Joshua Goodman: “Maduro said that while in New York, his foreign minister invited the Washington, D.C.-based envoy, Elliott Abrams, to come to Venezuela 'privately, publicly or secretly.' 'If he wants to meet, just tell me when, where and how and I’ll be there,' Maduro said without providing more details. He said both New York meetings lasted several hours. A senior administration official in Washington who was not authorized to speak publicly said U.S. officials were willing to meet with 'former Venezuela officials, including Maduro himself, to discuss their exit plans.'”

-- Acting defense secretary Pat Shanahan pledged that any U.S. troop reductions in Afghanistan would occur in coordination with regional allies. The AP’s Lorne Cook and Robert Burns report: “Shanahan made clear that if U.S. troop cuts are made, either in connection with peace negotiations with the Taliban or in other circumstances, Washington will consult with NATO to ensure coordination.”

-- British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan suffered another parliamentary defeat. Karla Adam reports: “The House of Commons voted 303 to 258 to reject a motion that would have endorsed May’s Brexit strategy. Many of the hard-line Brexiteers in May’s own Conservative Party didn’t back the government. … The hard-line Brexiteers [were] concerned that the motion, in effect, would mean endorsing the view that Parliament was against leaving without a deal, which they think should be an option. The defeat is symbolic, but it raises the question about what kind of deal — if any — could command the support of the House of Commons as Britain hurtles toward its departure from the E.U.”

-- Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, a chief adviser to Pope Francis, warned him that reducing the punishments of clergy members found guilty of abusing minors would cause a scandal. Wall Street Journal's Francis X. Rocca reports: “Cardinal O’Malley used his role in the new pontificate to push for stronger Vatican leadership on sex abuse. He persuaded the pope to create an advisory panel on child protection, led by himself, tasked with proposing changes to church policies and procedures. In 2015, the panel recommended a special tribunal to try bishops who ignore or cover up abuse. At a Council of Cardinals meeting, Cardinal O’Malley won the pope’s agreement. The following year, the pope changed his mind.”

-- Russian leader Vladimir Putin showed off his judo moves with his country's Olympic team. Putin is a black belt. (Euronews)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Trump recognized the first anniversary of the Parkland shooting and mourned all victims of “school violence.” The original White House statement used the phrase “gun violence,” Colby Itkowitz notes.

A Parkland father remembered his daughter on the anniversary of her death:

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidates decried Trump’s move:

A writer for “The Daily Show” joked about Amazon canceling plans for its New York headquarters:

A New York Times columnist cleared up a key detail in the New York-Amazon deal:

The Post's Beijing bureau chief made this observation:

Ivanka Trump shared this photo from the Munich Security Conference:

The new governor of Michigan reacted to a report criticizing her wardrobe choice:

The governor of North Carolina celebrated this achievement: 

And the Pences celebrated Valentine's Day: 

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- Wall Street Journal, “Pro-Israel Group Lobbies for U.S. Aid, Funds Congressional Trips,” by Julie Bykowicz and Natalie Andrews: “The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has drawn criticism from several progressive new lawmakers … Aipac spends $3.5 million a year to lobby federal lawmakers, according to Senate and House lobbying records. It has advocated for billions in U.S. aid to Israel and opposed a deal between then-President Obama and U.S. allies to ease sanctions against Iran in exchange for stronger oversight of its nuclear activities. President Trump pulled out of the accord last May. … Through its ‘Congressional Club,’ some of Aipac’s 100,000 members commit to giving at least $2,500 a year to House or Senate candidates while ensuring the donations are made ‘in a clearly pro-Israel context,’ according to Aipac’s website. Aipac spokesman Marshall Wittmann declined to disclose how many of its members are part of the Congressional Club.”

-- New York Times, “A Locked Door, a Fire and 41 Girls Killed as Police Stood By,” by Azam Ahmed: “As fire swept through the classroom, the pleas from the 56 girls locked inside began to fade. Most were unconscious or worse by then, as an eerie silence replaced their panic-stricken shouts. … Inside, dozens of girls placed in the care of the Guatemalan state lay sprawled on the blackened floor. Forty-one of them died. … Now, nearly two years later, the trials against public officials accused of failing to prevent the deaths have all begun. But a review of more than two dozen case files of victims and survivors — along with interviews of family members, group home employees and public officials — reveals a pattern of physical, psychological and sexual abuse allegations at the facility stretching back for years.”

-- Wall Street Journal, “In Need of Workers, the Midwest Recruits From Puerto Rico,” by Erin Ailworth and Arian Campo-Flores: “The Instagram pitch to job seekers in Puerto Rico was tempting. The details even more so: A factory in Sidney, Ohio, was offering full-time employment at $12 an hour, with benefits. When Wilmarys Andino Avila and Luis Vázquez Martínez got an official offer, they packed their bags. … Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans have fled the U.S. territory’s struggling economy in recent years. While they mostly concentrate in traditional landing spots like New York and Florida, a number are venturing to the Midwest, where jobs in many places are more plentiful than people.”

-- Politico, “The Most Important New Woman in Congress Is Not Who You Think,” by Michael Kruse: “The best-known new member of Congress is obviously the ubiquitous and magnetic Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the unreserved used-to-be bartender and millennial social media savant who has parlayed her outer-borough seat into a vanguard position at the head of a surging left. But she is not the reason Democrats are wielding a reclaimed wedge of power in the nation’s capital. [Mikie] Sherrill is. If there’s a Venn diagram of how Democrats wrested control of the House from Republicans —women, veterans, flipped districts in more affluent, more educated suburban terrain—smack at the center is Rebecca Michelle Sherrill. … ‘Mikie,’ not ‘AOC,’ is actually more materially the face of the Democrats’ fresh capacity to push legislation and check the agenda of a newly vexed President Donald Trump.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“He stopped selling Nike products because of Colin Kaepernick. Now his store is closing,” from Jacob Bogage: Stephen Martin, “who owns a sports merchandise store in Colorado Springs called Prime Time Sports, couldn’t wrap his head around players kneeling during the national anthem. So he threw himself into the debate. Three years ago, he canceled an autograph signing with Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall after Marshall joined the ranks of protesting players. … And after Nike made quarterback Colin Kaepernick the face of a prominent ad campaign last year, Martin stopped selling the company’s merchandise, a radical step for a sports store in a mall. Now Prime Time Sports is closing, Martin announced Monday, a victim of both the culture wars surrounding the Kaepernick debate and the broader pains afflicting brick-and-mortar retailers.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“Cuomo slams Ocasio-Cortez, others, as Amazon ditches New York,” from Fox News: “New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo lambasted politicians such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others over Amazon's decision to leave New York City. Opponents of the deal with the tech giant had ‘put their own narrow political interests above their community,’ he said. ‘[A] small group [of] politicians put their own narrow political interests above their community -- which poll after poll showed overwhelmingly supported bringing Amazon to Long Island City -- the state's economic future and the best interests of the people of this state,’ Cuomo said in the statement, which did not mention Ocasio-Cortez or other lawmakers by name. ‘The New York State Senate has done tremendous damage. They should be held accountable for this lost economic opportunity.’”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will give a Rose Garden speech on border security and receive his intelligence briefing before flying to Mar-a-Lago.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“Let's all pray that the president will have wisdom to sign the bill so government doesn't shut down.” — Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on the funding agreement. (Colby Itkowitz)

 

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

-- Enjoy the warmth today, because it may snow tomorrow. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Get ready for a temperature roller coaster, and lots of grayness, plus some dampness. Clouds dominate this forecast, along with intermittent precipitation chances. Saturday’s snow may be our only accumulating chance, and it’s not that high, but stay tuned.”

-- The Capitals beat the Sharks 5-1. (Isabelle Khurshudyan

-- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) held a budget meeting in which he tried to convey his commitment to racial equality after his blackface controversy. Gregory S. Schneider reports: “Over a breakfast of bacon, eggs, waffles and fruit in the Executive Mansion, Northam told a group of conferees from the House of Delegates and the state Senate that he wants them to add money to several programs aimed at helping minorities and the disadvantaged. Northam did not apologize or directly address the swirl of controversy in the executive branch, and the attendees were cordial and businesslike, according to two people familiar with the meeting.”

-- The FTA has threatened to withhold $1.6 billion from Metro if it restores late-night service. Faiz Siddiqui reports: “The FTA said its federal funding for the region hinges on an approval process for the Metrorail Safety Commission, which must be federally certified by April 15. Metro’s potential decision to revert to its old hours could hobble that process, FTA said, because its staff would need to review its budget allotments to Metro to ensure they properly align with the transit agency’s safety needs under the new hours.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Stephen Colbert thinks it “would be insane” for Trump to declare a national emergency: 

Conservative Bill Kristol posted a minute-long clip of Vice President Pence attacking Obama for using executive power in 2014:

Dorothy Butler Gilliam, the first black female reporter at The Post, spoke to Trevor Noah about her coverage of the civil rights movement:

Parkland students and families paused for a moment of silence for those who were killed a year ago:

Thousands of teenagers across Europe are skipping school to demand global action against climate change:

Hundreds descended upon Greenville, N.C., for Rep. Walter Jones's funeral. 

Former president Bill Clinton eulogized Rep. John Dingell. 

The first lady visited a children's hospital for Valentine's Day:

And Beto O'Rourke had some strong words for the border wall: