With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: Over the vocal objections of the Trump administration, the Senate voted 54 to 46 yesterday to cut off U.S. support for the vicious, Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. The invocation of the War Powers Act will soon be taken up in the House, where it has more than enough support to pass.

Later today, the Senate is poised to pass the resolution of disapproval that rebukes President Trump’s national emergency declaration at the U.S.-Mexico border. It has already advanced through the House.

Seven Senate Republicans broke ranks on Yemen, and the White House now expects between 10 to 12 GOP senators will defect on today’s wall vote, a senior administration official told my colleague Josh Dawsey last night.

Coming from a Senate that’s proved so pliant to Trump’s whims over the past two years, the back-to-back votes are significant and could foreshadow more resistance — or independence — to come.

Trump has promised he will veto both bills. These would be his first vetoes since taking office. Though neither the House nor the Senate has the two-thirds necessary to override him on either one, the resolution of disapproval will provide fodder for lawyers challenging the constitutionality of the emergency declaration in courts.

The one-two punch gets at the very heart of the separation of powers. Declaring war and spending money are bedrock powers assigned to Congress in the Constitution, but the legislative branch has abdicated both over time to what Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. called “the imperial presidency.”

Trump knows he’s going to lose on the floor today, aides say, but he’s trying to wrangle enough votes so that he’s not embarrassed by a lopsided final count. To lock down the support of Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), for example, the administration promised that money for the wall won’t be diverted from Arizona military construction projects.

-- Senate Republicans tried to give Trump an off-ramp to defuse what could be described as a constitutional crisis, but the president wouldn’t take it. The president rejected a compromise plan put forward by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), which would have allowed him to score a victory on the disapproval vote, because he did not want to foreclose the possibility of using emergency powers again in the future to advance policy objectives that Congress does not support. Indeed, if he gets away with this “emergency,” it seems like a pretty safe bet he’ll be emboldened to try it again — as will future Democratic presidents. We’re standing on a slippery slope.

“Trump called Lee to express his opposition as Lee lunched with fellow Republican senators at the Capitol. … Lee then relayed the information to his colleagues,” Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim and John Wagner report. “Many Senate Republicans had started to align behind Lee’s measure, which would amend the National Emergencies Act to say an emergency declaration would automatically expire after 30 days unless both chambers of Congress vote to keep it. The goal is to give Congress the authority to approve a national emergency declaration — not to disapprove it, as is currently the case in law. If it had become law, Lee’s bill could have affected Trump’s national border emergency in the future, since ongoing national emergency declarations must be reaffirmed annually. And it would have affected future national emergencies declared by Trump, as well as by other presidents.”

Lee also sponsored the Yemen resolution with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). His father, Rex Lee, was Ronald Reagan’s solicitor general, and he clerked for Sam Alito when the future justice sat on the Third Circuit. The 47-year-old defeated an incumbent GOP senator in 2010 by promising Utahans that he’d stand up to presidents in both parties. “Congress is supposed to be the first among the federal government’s three co-equal branches,” Lee said in a statement. “For decades, Congress has been giving far too much legislative power to the executive branch.”

-- On the national emergency vote, we’ve got a running whip count on our website. Kate Rabinowitz has compiled what every Republican senator has said about Trump’s declaration.

  • There are five hard “yes” votes on the resolution disapproval: Lee, Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Thom Tillis (N.C.). Tillis and Collins are considered two of the most vulnerable incumbents up for reelection next year.
  • Six senators have publicly expressed concerns about the declaration: Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Ted Cruz (Tex.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).
  • The other 42 either oppose the resolution or have declined to comment.

-- Twenty defections would be needed to override the veto, as Republicans have a 53-to-47 majority and Vice President Pence can cast a tiebreaking vote. No one thinks that will happen.

-- The failure to make a deal with conservatives who wanted to find a way out is another indication of Pence’s limited juice. He can’t effectively speak for Trump when he’s on the Hill, and he’s not empowered to negotiate the way Joe Biden was, partly because he’s been undercut so many times by POTUS.

“There was an effort, numerous efforts, to engage with the vice president and the president,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.). But “the president is not persuaded. I don’t know of any president that likes to give up power.”

-- Trump has tried to reframe his power grab not as a constitutional question, but as a matter of national security. “Republican Senators are overthinking [the] vote on National Emergency,” he tweeted yesterday. “It is very simply Border Security/No Crime — Should not be thought of any other way.”

-- But a lot of principled conservatives and libertarians don’t see it that way. Indeed, today’s vote will become a legacy-defining litmus test for many senators who fancy themselves as constitutionalists. “Through the legal fiction of an emergency, the old rules that governed America, and ensured some democratic check on executive power, are sidelined,” writes National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty. “I happen to think Congress should fund more-extensive border security, including fencing. But conservatives have to defend the constitutional order that gives government acts the savor of legitimacy. That means Congress must reassert itself.”

-- Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) is in that camp. “I would literally lose my political soul if I decided to treat President Trump different than President Obama,” the senator wrote in an op-ed for Fox News. “Every single Republican I know decried President Obama’s use of executive power to legislate. We were right then. But the only way to be an honest officeholder is to stand up for the same principles no matter who is in power.”

Paul predicts the Supreme Court will “likely” strike down the declaration. “In fact, I think the president’s own picks to the Supreme Court may rebuke him on this,” he said. “With regard to the Constitution, the Supreme Court made it very clear in Youngstown Steel in 1952 … that there are three kinds of executive orders: orders that carry out an expressly voiced congressional position, orders where Congress’ will is unclear, and, finally, orders clearly opposed to the will of Congress. … Without question, the president’s order for more wall money contradicts the will of Congress. … My oath is to the Constitution, not to any man or political party.”

-- In the Youngstown case that Paul refers to, the Supreme Court blocked Harry Truman from seizing steel mills during the Korean War. In a recent piece for the American Conservative magazine that decried Trump’s declaration, Republican lawyer Bruce Fein — a veteran of Reagan’s Justice Department — recalled Robert Jackson’s concurrence in the 1952 case. “With all its defects, delays and inconveniences, men have discovered no technique for long preserving free government except that the Executive be under the law, and that the law be made by parliamentary deliberations,” Jackson wrote.

“Only scrupulous adherence to constitutional processes will keep the law supreme in America,” Fein added.

-- James Madison, the architect of the Constitution, doesn’t get to vote in the Senate today. But he argued poignantly, and timelessly, in Federalist 58 that Congress having the power of the purse is one of the people’s most important checks on tyranny: “This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Beto O’Rourke is officially running for president. The former congressman and failed Senate candidate, who is in Iowa for the next few days, confirmed to the El Paso TV station KTSM that he's joining the crowded field. “I'm really proud of what El Paso did and what El Paso represents,” he texted the station last night. “It’s a big part of why I’m running.”

-- In his campaign announcement video, O'Rourke struck the same upbeat tone he used when he campaigned against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) last year. Jenna Johnson reports: “O’Rourke’s announcement came after months of public reflection that included a solo road trip through rural America, a heart-to-heart talk with Oprah Winfrey and rallying with supporters near the southern border. ... 'The challenges that we face right now, the interconnected crises in our economy, our democracy and our climate, have never been greater, and they will either consume us or they will afford us the greatest opportunity to unleash the genius of the United States of America,” he said. “In other words, this moment of peril produces perhaps the greatest moment of promise for this country and for everyone inside of it.'" 

-- Cover boy: O’Rourke gets star treatment in next month’s Vanity Fair -- with a photo spread by Annie Leibovitz. O’Rourke told writer Joe Hagan that he was “just born to do this”: “Skeptics question whether O’Rourke’s political transcendentalism can sustain the meat grinder of a national election. In a Democratic primary, he will not have the bogeyman of a Trump or a Ted Cruz from which to draw voter energy. He is decidedly not the street fighter many Democrats crave. And in a zero-sum world, his astounding run against Cruz in last year’s Texas Senate race, historic as it was, was still a loss. ...

O’Rourke is acutely aware, too, of perhaps his biggest vulnerability — being a white man in a Democratic Party yearning for a woman or a person of color. ... ‘The government at all levels is overly represented by white men,’ he says. ‘That’s part of the problem, and I’m a white man. So if I were to run, I think it’s just so important that those who would comprise my team looked like this country. ... I totally understand people who will make a decision based on the fact that almost every single one of our presidents has been a white man, and they want something different for this country. And I think that’s a very legitimate basis upon which to make a decision. Especially in the fact that there are some really great candidates out there right now.”

What do Beto’s kids think of him running?

  • Henry, 8: “Dad, if you run for president, I’m going to cry all day. … Every day.”
  • Molly, 10: “I want to live in the White House!”
  • Ulysses, 12: “I only want you to run if you’re gonna win.”

-- Facebook data deals with some of the world’s largest technology companies are now under federal investigation. From the New York Times’s Michael LaForgia, Matthew Rosenberg and Gabriel J.X. Dance: “A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed records from at least two prominent makers of smartphones and other devices, according to two people who were familiar with the requests and who insisted on anonymity to discuss confidential legal matters. Both companies had entered into partnerships with Facebook, gaining broad access to the personal information of hundreds of millions of its users.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Advertisers are ditching Tucker Carlson and Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News shows after the two hosts were accused of making bigoted statements. Carlson, who’s under fire for misogynistic, homophobic and racist remarks on a radio show, is trying to turn the conversation back on Media Matters, the liberal media watchdog group that first resurfaced the tapes. The person who found the tapes is a 24-year-old who works the night shift for the group. (Kayla Epstein)
  2. The FBI investigated the GOP political operative who allegedly committed fraud in the contested North Carolina congressional race but took no public action to stop him. New court documents showed that federal and state investigators observed Leslie McCrae Dowless meeting with people he hired to illegally collect ballots ahead of the 2018 primary election. (Amy Gardner)
  3. A historic “bomb cyclone” continued to unleash terrible weather over the Plains states and the Upper Midwest. A string of violent, tornadic thunderstorms and damaging winds, as well as severe blizzard conditions and some flooding, have pounded the center of the country. (Matthew Cappucci and Jason Samenow)
  4. Gunmen in Brazil killed at least seven at a school near Sao Paulo. Authorities believe the two assailants were former students. (Siobhán O’Grady and Marina Lopes)
  5. At least eight were killed after a school building collapsed in Nigeria, and authorities fear that at least 100 children remain trapped. Locals and passerby attempted to free people from the debris. So far, emergency workers have pulled 40 people alive from the rubble. (Al Jazeera)
  6. Lawmakers in Arkansas and Utah passed legislations that ban abortions 18 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. Under these bills, the two states would have some of the most strict abortion laws in the country. (AP)   

  7. A judge in Rockland County, N.Y., won’t allow 44 unvaccinated children back into school after a measles outbreak. Parents of the students have sued the county health department, saying none of the banned children have contracted measles amid the outbreak, which began in fall. (Reis Thebault)
  8. Fiat Chrysler recalled 862,500 cars that do not meet U.S. emissions standards. The company recently settled claims that some of its vehicles emitted more pollution than legally allowed. (the Verge)
  9. The deadly 2017 Thomas fire in California was sparked by Southern California Edison power lines. That's the conclusion of a 15-month probe by the Ventura County Fire Department, which found that the blaze began when two power lines slapped together during high winds. (Los Angeles Times)
  10. Li Yang, the former massage spa owner at the center of a human-trafficking investigation, attended a party honoring Trump at Mar-a-Lago. Yang bought tickets with access to an exclusive VIP reception. Trump’s son Eric and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross were there. (Palm Beach Post)
  11. A poster of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Brooklyn was vandalized with anti-Semitic profanity and a swastika. The vandalism covered an advertisement for a book about the Supreme Court justice. (Isaac Stanley-Becker)
  12. Aaron Hernandez’s first-degree murder conviction was reinstated by the highest court in Massachusetts, even though Hernandez killed himself before he could appeal the decision. The former New England Patriots star was serving a life sentence without parole when officials say he hanged himself days after his acquittal in a different double-murder trial. (Cindy Boren)

THE UNFRIENDLY SKIES:

-- Following days of resistance, the FAA issued an emergency order grounding Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 jets after the agency received new evidence pointing to similarities between the crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia. Luz Lazo, Michael Laris, Lori Aratani and Damian Paletta report: “Trump announced the abrupt about-face Wednesday, after U.S. officials found themselves nearly alone in allowing the planes to remain in the air. As recently as Wednesday morning, both Boeing and the FAA had continued to say it was safe for the planes to fly. ... The investigation into the causes of the Ethiopian Airlines crash is in the earliest stages, and it is not clear whether hardware problems, software problems or some combination of factors caused the crash.”

-- Here are the issues the Ethiopia and Indonesia crashes have in common, per Emily Rauhala: 

  • Both aircraft crashed just minutes after takeoff. Just 12 minutes into its journey to Pangkal Pinang, the Lion Air flight crashed into the sea off the coast of Java. The Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed roughly six minutes after leaving Addis Ababa. 
  • Both flights struggled to gain altitude. The Lion Air flight failed to gain a cruising altitude of 27,000 feet, limiting the crew's room to gain control before the plane plummeted. Though the investigation into the Ethiopian Airlines crash is pending, preliminary data shows that the aircraft struggled to climb at a steady speed. 
  • Both planes appeared to ascend and descend several times before crashing. The Lion Air plane pitched downward more than 24 times before its final plunge, all within its 12-minute journey. Though it is not yet clear what happened in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, the plane also appeared to ascend and descend while accelerating.

-- Trump privately disparaged the Boeing 737, which he said “sucked,” before he ordered the grounding. Toluse Olorunnipa and Josh Dawsey report: “The president said Boeing 737s paled in comparison to the Boeing 757 ... which he owns as a personal jet. ... He questioned why Boeing would keep building the model and opined that he never would have bought a 737 for the Trump Shuttle, the small airline he briefly ran three decades ago that relied on 727s before going bankrupt. ... Trump added to the confusion Wednesday by suggesting that the decision to ground the plane was 'psychologically' important but was neither urgent nor conclusive. ... The equivocation reflected an administration that was reluctant to take the step of imposing a nationwide suspension initially opposed by Boeing, the country’s second-largest federal contractor.” 

Trump should not have been the person making this decision, aviation experts said: “Trump was inclined to announce a grounding on Tuesday, but he received pushback from the FAA, which had not yet reached a decision, according to officials familiar with the deliberations. But Trump also equivocated himself, telling advisers that grounding planes would cause panic and could hurt the stock market, according to two people who spoke to him. Federal regulators usually take the lead on making decisions related to safety, said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with Teal Group. 'It’s not the president’s decision and it should never be the president’s decision,' he said, adding that he did not know whether Trump broke any protocols.”

-- Trump wanted his personal pilot, John Dunkin, to become the FAA administrator, a position that’s remained vacant since Barack Obama’s appointee finished his term in January 2018. The absence of an FAA leader has been noticeable amid the Boeing fallout. Following an inquiry from The Washington Post, the White House declined to say whether Trump is still considering Dunkin for the job, or whether he plans to nominate someone in light of the pressure facing the agency. (Isaac Stanley-Becker)

-- Wednesday's order grounds more than 70 U.S. aircraft. The Max 8 planes are used by American and Southwest airlines, which have a combined 58 of them in their fleets. United Airlines has 14 of the planes in its fleet.

-- In November, a group of pilots met with Boeing executives to raise concerns about the 737 jet and complain about being left in the dark on some of the plane's new software. The meeting happened shortly after the Lion Air flight crashed off the coast of Indonesia. Aaron Gregg, Jonathan O'Connell, Andrew Ba Tran and Faiz Siddiqui report: “After the crash, Boeing issued a bulletin disclosing that this line of planes, known as the 737 Max 8, was equipped with a new type of software as part of the plane’s automated functions. Some pilots were furious that they were not told about the new software when the plane was unveiled. Dennis Tajer, a 737 captain who attended the meeting with Boeing executives, recalled, 'They said, ‘Look, we didn’t include it because we have a lot of people flying on this and we didn’t want to inundate you with information.’ ... Tajer said that the 737 training Boeing offered before the Lion Air crash involved an iPad course that took less than an hour to complete. ...

The software, known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), can in some rare but dangerous situations override pilot control inputs unless it is switched off. This can interfere with pilots’ longtime training that pulling back on the control yoke raises a plane’s nose, putting the plane into a climb. That means that as a pilot tries to maneuver an airplane, the automated system may be counteracting that pilot’s inputs.”

-- After the Ethio­pian crash on Sunday, Boeing said it would update flight-control software, something it might have done sooner if not for the government shutdown. The company and the FAA had been working to hash out the update but it was delayed because of the longest shutdown in U.S. history and differences of opinion, per the Wall Street Journal's Andrew Tangel and Andy Pasztor: “U.S. aviation regulators are expected to mandate the change by the end of April.”

THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS: 

-- During a closed-door interview with the House Judiciary Committee, former acting attorney general Matt Whitaker “did not deny” that he and Trump personally discussed the government's case against his former lawyer Michael Cohen, according to Democratic chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.). Karoun Demirjian reports: “‘Unlike in the hearing room, Mr. Whitaker did not deny that the president called him to discuss the Michael Cohen case and personnel decisions in the Southern District,’ Nadler said following his meeting with Whitaker on Wednesday, referring to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, which brought the case against Cohen. …

According to Nadler, Whitaker did not deny that he had been 'directly involved in conversations about whether to fire one or more U.S. attorneys.' He also did not deny that he had been 'involved in conversations about the scope' of U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman’s recusal from the Cohen case, Nadler said, and whether subordinate prosecutors at the Southern District of New York 'went too far' pursuing the campaign finance case in which Cohen has implicated Trump.

The committee’s ranking Republican, Rep. Douglas A. Collins (Ga.), who was present for Wednesday’s interview with Whitaker, called Nadler’s summary an 'interpretation' and 'overreach,' while a Republican staff lawyer also present for the meeting said Whitaker simply could not remember ever conversing with Trump about Cohen’s case. … Wednesday’s meeting was not transcribed, complicating the matter of resolving Nadler’s and Collins’s diverging interpretations of Whitaker’s account. But Whitaker’s non-denials are raising questions among Trump’s critics about whether his public testimony was accurate.” 

-- Paul Manafort was sentenced to a total of nearly eight years in prison for conspiracy and fraud. Spencer S. Hsu, Rachel Weiner and Ann E. Marimow: “In federal court Wednesday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson criticized Manafort and his attorneys for repeatedly casting his hard fall from power as collateral damage from the special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. … For Manafort’s crimes of illegally lobbying in Ukraine and hiding the proceeds overseas, then encouraging witnesses to lie on his behalf, Jackson’s terms added 43 months to the 47 months he received in Alexandria federal court last week for bank and tax fraud. Her total sentence was 73 months in the D.C. case, but Jackson said 30 of those would overlap with the tally in Virginia. … Asked if he would pardon Manafort, Trump said, ‘I have not even given it a thought, as of this moment. It’s not something that’s right now on my mind.’”

-- Just minutes after Jackson handed down the sentence, a New York grand jury indicted Manafort on charges of residential mortgage fraud — charges that fall outside Trump’s pardon power. Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky report: “Under the Constitution, presidents have wide authority to pardon, but that power applies only to federal convictions, not state cases. … New York State Attorney General Letitia James has urged the legislature to fix what Democrats call a ‘double-jeopardy loophole’ in state law that could negate New York’s ability to prosecute anyone pardoned by the president. … New York lawmakers were working this week to undo the pardon loophole. … The state charges could be challenged in the courts as a violation of double jeopardy protections for defendants, an area in which current New York law may favor Manafort.”

  • All told, Manafort will probably wind up serving about 6.5 years. He gets credit for the nine months he's already spent in jail. (Tom Jackman)
  • Adding it up, Trump’s allies and advisers have — so far — racked up more than two-and-a-half-presidential terms in prison time. (Philip Bump)

-- A top prosecutor on Bob Mueller’s team is stepping down from the Justice Department, the latest and maybe biggest clue that the special counsel's investigation might soon wrap up. NPR’s Carrie Johnson reports: “Andrew Weissmann, the architect of the case against Manafort, will study and teach at New York University and work on a variety of public service projects, including his longstanding interest in preventing wrongful convictions by shoring up forensic science standards used in courts.” 

-- Introducing a new character in this saga: Robert Costello, a New York lawyer with connections to Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, told Michael Cohen in an April 2018 email that he could “sleep well tonight” because he had “friends in high places” — though he did not specifically mention a possible pardon from the president, CNN’s Gloria Borger and Jeremy Herb report: “Cohen, in his closed-door congressional testimony, has provided these emails in an effort to corroborate his claim that a pardon was dangled before he decided to cooperate with federal prosecutors, according to sources familiar with his testimony. … But the attorney who wrote those emails, Robert Costello, told CNN that Cohen's interpretation of events is ‘utter nonsense.’ Costello said that Cohen asked him to raise the issue of a pardon with Giuliani.”

-- Costello said he's preparing to deliver all the emails to federal prosecutors at the U.S. attorney's office, which requested them after CNN's story. Colby Itkowitz and Matt Zapotosky report: Costello “accused Cohen or his lawyer of having ‘selectively’ leaked copies of their email exchanges ‘to bolster the false narrative that they originally tried to peddle in the media last week.’ … ‘This statement: ‘Sleep Well tonight, you have friends in high places’ was a tongue-in-cheek reference to a Garth Brooks song, to a client whose state of mind was highly disturbed and had suggested to us that he was suicidal. We were simply trying to be decent human beings. There is no hidden message,’ Costello said. 

-- Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) rejected calls from House Republicans for an investigation into whether Cohen lied to Congress during his testimony two weeks ago. The Oversight chairman, however, left open the possibility of further action against Trump’s former lawyer if new evidence of perjury is uncovered. 

THE REST OF THE AGENDA: 

-- Immigration agents have been tapping into a vast and privately maintained database of license plate numbers gathered from vehicles across the nation to track immigrants who may be in the United States illegally. Drew Harwell and Tony Romm report: “The records the ACLU obtained from the Department of Homeland Security through a Freedom of Information Act request shed new light on a little-noticed and expanding network of surveillance that has developed over the years and for which there appear to be few legal limitations. … Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s use of some of the information in states including California also appears to skirt limitations that ‘sanctuary cities’ have placed on police cooperation with the immigration agency, the ACLU said. … ICE spokesman Matthew Bourke said that agents use the license-plate database as a tool to help in its immigration-enforcement investigations and that it does not use the information to track people ‘who have no connection to ICE investigatory or enforcement activities.’”

-- For its upcoming mission to the moon, NASA is considering using commercial alternatives instead of the long-delayed rocket it’s been working on for years. The possible shift reflects the White House's frustration with the slow pace of the mission. (Christian Davenport)

-- The National Institutes of Health and other top scientists from seven nations are calling for a moratorium on gene-edited babies, sounding an alarm on the genetic engineering technique known as CRISPR. The call came in direct response to actions of a Chinese researcher who altered embryos that were implanted and carried to term. (Joel Achenbach)

-- The Food and Drug Administration is rolling out a vaping policy that will make it harder for minors to buy flavored e-cigarette products. The initiative would limit the sales of fruity and kid-friendly vaping products in stores. (Laurie McGinley)

-- Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who revealed last week that she was raped by a superior office while in the Air Force, is now calling for an immediate summit on military sexual assault. She asked Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to convene policy experts and brass within the next month for the discussion. (Colby Itkowitz)

-- The Senate confirmed Neomi Rao, Trump’s nominee to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. She's Trump's 36th circuit court judge. (Seung Min Kim)

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- The British Parliament rejected a no-deal departure twice, signaling that lawmakers are likely to ask the other 27 members of the European Union for permission to delay Brexit. William Booth, Karla Adam and Michael Birnbaum report: “The no-deal votes were in many ways symbolic — taking the temperature of Parliament, rather than setting concrete policy. … [Prime Minister Theresa] May said her government could ask the E.U. for a short extension to implement a deal if it passed by next week. If no deal is passed, May said she would be forced to seek a much longer delay. … A longer delay would require Britain to participate in European Parliament elections in May.

-- The Pentagon is preparing to test missiles that have been banned by the INF Treaty. Paul Sonne reports: “The U.S. military plans to test a ground-launched cruise missile with a range of about 600 miles in August and a midrange ballistic missile with a range of about 1,800 to 2,500 miles in November … The testing, production and deployment of missiles with those ranges is prohibited by the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. But Trump withdrew from the treaty on Feb. 1 and triggered a formal six-month wait period before the final expiry of the agreement this summer. … Washington has said Moscow is already deploying a missile that violates the agreement and cited that weapon as a reason for its withdrawal from the pact. The Kremlin has denied that accusation.” 

-- The United States and the Taliban have drafted an agreement on the withdrawal of American troops and the Taliban’s pledge to cut ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. NBC News’s Dan De Luce reports: “The talks between the Taliban insurgents and U.S. diplomats have lasted longer than any previous American attempt at negotiation with the militants since American troops entered Afghanistan in 2001. But it's unclear if the Afghan government and other Afghan political leaders will be ready to embrace the tentative deal worked out by [U.S. presidential envoy] Zalmay Khalilzad. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has expressed concerns that the Kabul government could be left out in the cold unless the Taliban agrees to meet face-to-face with his government.” 

-- Power has been restored to Venezuela following nearly a week of darkness, according to the country’s information minister. At its worst, the power outage left 19 out of 23 states without energy. (CNN)

-- The outage left the country’s second-largest city, Maracaibo, devastated as looters broke into hundreds of businesses. The AP’s Sheyla Urdaneta reports.

-- Ten of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent women’s rights activists appeared in court in Riyadh for the start of a trial that could signal whether the government will roll back an aggressive crackdown on political activists. Kareem Fahim reports: “Many of the women have been tortured while in custody, according to relatives and human rights groups. Saudi officials deny those allegations. … ALQST, a Saudi rights group based in London, said Wednesday that the women are being charged under the country’s Cyber Crime law with offenses related to their activism, including contacting human rights groups. The charges carry sentences of up to five years in prison.” 

-- This “sham trial” exposes Saudi Arabia’s disrespect for its citizens, writes Hala Al-Dosari, a Saudi activist and scholar and The Washington Post’s first Jamal Khashoggi fellow: “The women have been subjected to horrific torture and sexual harassment, but in a statement the government claimed the accused were enjoying their full rights. Meanwhile, state-linked social media accounts have already virtually convicted the activists and are asking for the maximum punishment. ... Against this background, Saudi Arabia decided to appoint its first female ambassador to the United States, Princess Reema bint Bandar. It’s another opportunity to push an apologetic reform narrative amid U.S. congressional scrutiny and pressure. Many will take the bait, as they did when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman first came to power. In our collective conscience as a nation, these female activists facing trial — and the men who support them — were instrumental in influencing reforms.” 

-- Gary Cohn, Trump’s former economic adviser, said the president is “desperate” for a trade deal with China. David J. Lynch reports: “’The president needs a win,’ Cohn said in an interview with Freakonomics, a public radio show and podcast. … Cohn said he supported the president’s desire to crack down on unfair Chinese trade practices, but he said tariffs ‘don’t work.’ As evidence, he pointed to last year’s record $891 billion trade deficit in merchandise and the record $419 billion gap in trade with China. ‘So tariffs were used as the threat. Did it hurt the Chinese at all? We had record trade deficits,’ Cohn said.”

GET TO KNOW HOWARD SCHULTZ: 

-- Billionaire Howard Schultz often talks at length about his experience growing up as in a Brooklyn public housing building, describing it as “low-income” housing where fights “didn’t typically escalate to deadly violence, but they were tough in their own way.” But his description of Bayview as a rough, low-income community doesn’t match the city’s definition of the project. Marc Fisher reports: “‘It was a shiny, wonderful world,’ said former Bayview resident Elyse Maltz, one of many residents of the development who contend that Schultz, 65, has distorted the reality of the place where they grew up in the 1950s and ’60s. ‘Everything was brand spanking new.’ Maltz ... [said Bayview] ‘was middle-class, not lower middle. You were interviewed to get in. My family was pretty well off. I know Howard wants to look like he’s rags to riches, but we had a wonderful, plentiful life. I mean, my ma had a cleaning lady. We really didn’t lack for anything.’ … 

“In 1956, the New York City Housing Authority opened Bayview as a ‘moderate income’ development, built a block away from Jamaica Bay … Superficially, Bayview looked much like any city housing development, a collection of brick towers with balky stainless-steel elevators and hallways of green linoleum floors and glazed, aqua-tiled walls. But Bayview, which Schultz’s family moved into in its opening year, was built as a ‘no cash subsidy’ project, according to city records. That meant that unlike developments subsidized by the federal or state government, Bayview had minimum income requirements for tenants, charged higher rents intended to cover the entire cost of its mortgage, and was ‘built to high standards compared to [federal] projects,’ according to ‘Affordable Housing in New York,’ a history of public housing in the city.” 

-- In a speech to Miami Dade College detailing how he would run the government, Schultz vowed that he would not sign bills that aren’t passed with bipartisan support and said he will nominate only Supreme Court justices who could be confirmed by two-thirds of the Senate — a naive statement for anyone who has been watching the judicial wars. Michael Scherer reports: “‘The courts have become yet another battlefield in the ongoing war between Democratic and Republican leaders,’ Schultz said. ‘These battles have undermined our faith in the rule of law and the impartiality of the entire judicial system. All of this has to change.’ He said he would fill his cabinet with Democrats, Republicans and Independents, including ‘a greater share of women than any previous president.’ … He promised to work to end the practice of partisan gerrymandering, drawing legislative and congressional districts to preserve one party’s power. That process is controlled by the states, not Washington, but Schultz said he would push for independent commissions to draw those districts in the future.”

-- Big Democratic donors are sending their money to four key states: Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida and Pennsylvania. The Wall Street Journal’s Julie Bykowicz reports: “Two of the Democrats’ best-funded outside groups — both of which are backed in part by New York billionaire George Soros — are planning at least a $130 million campaign to attack President Trump and build support for Democrats in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida, where Mr. Trump narrowly prevailed over Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. A third group, an $80 million voter-engagement effort, is at work in these and three other battleground states. … The latest Democratic spending commitment comes from opposition research group American Bridge 21st Century, which plans to put at least $30 million largely into the four states.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Conservative lawyer George Conway, the husband of top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, called Trump a “pathological” liar after the president falsely insisted that the judge in Manafort’s case cleared him of collusion. “It’s not rational, because it’s a lie that no reasonable person would believe,” he tweeted. “It undermines his credibility. It’s self-defeating.”

Here's Conway's Twitter thread:

Paul Ryan walked back his comment that Trump could lose reelection:

There was a lot of conversation about the Vanity Fair profile of Beto:

Kyle Swenson breaks down O’Rourke’s cover photo and its uncanny resemblance to a 2007 magazine cover of John Edwards, another presidential hopeful.

A Post reporter made this observation:

Others decided to focus on O'Rourke's dog instead:

This writer made a note about the story's timing: 

Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Tex.) chief strategist shared his thoughts on O'Rourke's profile and campaign announcement: 

And the reporter behind the profile story explained how it came to be:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not want to talk about Manafort:

The son of a late Post columnist remembered his father on his birthday:

A woman in Florida celebrated her opportunity to vote again: 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called for raising congressional pay:

A congresswoman shared an insight into what her day was like: 

A famous stock image couple made an appearance in Hungary:

And Stephen Colbert responded to the president’s complaint that he doesn’t get fair coverage in late night shows: 

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- Washingtonian, “How lobbying has changed in Donald Trump’s Washington,” by Luke Mullins. “Trump’s arrival in the White House has had a profound impact on the way K Street operates, according to interviews with more than 30 lobbyists, consultants, former administration officials, and others. In prior years, lobbyists and consultants felt compelled to work officials in all corners of the federal bureaucracy when trying to shape policy. But now, with decision-making consolidated inside the Oval Office, they’ve had to rewrite their playbook. ‘It’s two different worlds,’ says Eric Bovim, a managing director of Signal Group, a public-affairs agency in Washington. ‘Under President Obama, the government was a finely tuned instrument, all the parts working together to produce a single note. You needed to work with everybody to calibrate the sound. Today, for the most part, it’s a one-man band, the President in a never-ending guitar solo on the White House lawn, overpowering all the other instruments.’”

-- New York Times, “Inside the Pricey, Totally Legal World of College Consultants,” by Dana Goldstein and Jack Healy: “The government’s indictments of dozens of parents, college administrators and coaches exposed an ugly array of corrupt and illegal admissions practices. But there is also a perfectly legal world of gaming the college admissions process by doing everything from picking advanced classes, choosing the right sport, giving donations and turning to the multibillion-dollar industry of test prep, college essay editing and advice on how to produce the perfect application. Every aspect of a teenager’s life can be managed and shaped into a persona catered to please the exacting eye of a college admissions officer. Parents might pay $300 for a standard, hourlong consultation with an admissions expert or donate tens of millions to schools, with the hope of winning special consideration for their child’s bid for a spot at a top school.” 

-- The Atlantic, “An Abandoned Baby’s DNA Condemns His Mother,” by Sarah Zhang: “Thirty-eight years ago, an infant boy — hours old, tears frozen on his face — was found dead in a ditch in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Last week, police arrested his mother and charged her with murder, after investigators uploaded the baby’s DNA to a genealogy website and matched her relatives. … Currently, no laws limit when police can use genealogy databases to catch criminals.” 

-- Cosmopolitan, “Inside Denver’s International Church of Cannabis,” by Jen Doll: “Today’s pot parishioners can already be found all over the country, at the Coachella Valley Church in San Jose, the First Cannabis Church of Florida, the First Cannabis Church of Logic and Reason in Michigan, Greenfaith Ministry in Nunn, Colorado, and the First Church of Cannabis in Indianapolis. Many of these groups meet online or on private property, rather than in actual churches, since they’re limited by local laws about public consumption. The International Church of Cannabis is the rare one where you can actually smoke in the church itself, provided you’re at least 21, show ID at the door, and have completed the aforementioned online questionnaire. (Becoming a ‘member’ is what makes consumption here legal, since the church is a private space.) And you can’t buy or sell on the premises; this is a strictly BYOC situation.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) asked Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan why his bank finances the “caging of children.” Hamza Shaban reports: During Sloan’s appearance before the House Financial Services Committee, which is examining the company’s “pattern of consumer abuses,” Ocasio-Cortez pressed the CEO to explain why his company was financially supporting detention facilities where migrant children were held. 'Why was the bank involved in the caging of children and financing the caging of children to begin with?' she asked, referring to the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border under President Trump’s controversial immigration policy. Sloan responded, 'I don’t know how to answer that question, because we weren’t.' ... Sloan acknowledged that Wells Fargo provided financing for two firms that run detention facilities used by the government, with one of those partnerships still active. However, he added, 'I’m not familiar with the specific assertion that you are making, but we weren’t involved with that.'”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

Jacob Wohl faked death threats against himself. From the Daily Beast's Will Sommer: “Wohl’s videos to his fans were premised on the idea that Minneapolis is an incredibly dangerous place ... . At one point in a new video about their trip, Wohl goes to a Minneapolis police station to report death threats he says he and his team have received since being in the city ... One of those threats came via direct message from a [fake] Twitter account ... one of the fake accounts Wohl created in the run-up to his Twitter ban. ... That means Wohl was sending himself fake death threats, presumably in an attempt to up the drama. ... Wohl submitted the faked messages to police as proof that he was facing “terroristic threats” via Twitter. The faked messages ... were included in a packet of police documents related to the case issued on Wednesday by the Minneapolis Police Department.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will meet with the prime minister of Ireland and later celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with him.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“I think we’re going to be moving this case along to a lengthy and unpleasant trial,” Judge Michael Katz, who is overseeing divorce proceedings between Rudy Giuliani and Judith Nathan, said during a contentious hearing. (New York Post)

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

-- Enjoy the warmth and prepare for showers on Friday. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Real honest-to-goodness spring weather is here the next two days, with highs approaching 70. A few showers should hardly mar the day Friday. Don’t get used to it, as much cooler air barrels in for the weekend, but the trade-off is sunny skies.” 

-- The Wizards beat the Magic 100-90. (Roman Stubbs)

-- The Maryland Senate advanced a bill that would increase minimum wage to $15 by 2025. Ovetta Wiggins reports: “A final vote is likely by the end of the week. The left wing of the Maryland Democratic Party has pushed for years to increase the hourly minimum wage across the state, but bills never made it out of committee. … The governor proposed raising the minimum wage, currently $10.10, to $12.10 an hour by 2022. He also asked the legislature not to increase it further unless surrounding states reach a combined average of 80 percent of Maryland’s wage.” 

-- Despite objections from state Republicans, Maryland lawmakers approve gender-neutral IDs. Erin Cox and Ovetta Wiggins report: “The bill, which was backed by the LGBT community, lets applicants select 'X' as their gender, rather than 'M' for male or 'F' for female. The District in 2017 became the first jurisdiction in the nation to begin issuing ­gender-neutral licenses. Since then, six states have followed suit. ... Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has not taken a position on whether he will sign the bill, which passed both chambers of the ­Democratic-majority legislature by veto-proof majorities.” 

-- Adrian Peterson re-signed with the Redskins for two more years with an $8 million contract. Les Carpenter reports: “Peterson, 33, was a desperation signing by Washington late last August after injuries left the team precariously thin at running back. Unwanted by other teams, he dazzled coaches and executives with a tryout that is still legend around the franchise and then proceeded to be the Redskins’ most productive offensive player, rushing for at least 96 yards in seven games. He also had seven touchdowns, including a 90-yard score at Philadelphia on 'Monday Night Football.'”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Samantha Bee wondered if Tucker Carlson is a white nationalist:

She also jumped into the Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) debate:

Seth Meyers took a deep dive into Manafort’s sentencing and the college admissions scandal:

And Trevor Noah also weighed in on the scandal, saying that parents should know that at some point, “people are going to figure out that your kid is stupid.”