With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: President Trump thought the electoral college was “a disaster for democracy” — until he received 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton in 2016 but won the White House anyway.

After Barack Obama secured a second term in 2012, Trump tweeted:

Four Novembers later, after winning the electoral college 306 to 232, he changed his tune:

In tweets posted after 10 p.m. Tuesday, Trump expounded on the virtues of the system. “Campaigning for the Popular Vote is much easier & different than campaigning for the Electoral College,” he wrote. “It’s like training for the 100 yard dash vs. a marathon. The brilliance of the Electoral College is that you must go to many States to win. With the Popular Vote, you go to just the large States — the Cities would end up running the Country. Smaller States & the entire Midwest would end up losing all power — & we can’t let that happen. I used to like the idea of the Popular Vote, but now realize the Electoral College is far better for the U.S.A.”

-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) put this issue on the front-burner when she announced during a televised town hall on CNN Monday night that she wants to replace the system we’ve used to elect presidents since 1789. Her answer was clearly rehearsed, and she used a question about voting rights for the formerly incarcerated to call for the abolition of the electoral college. She’s made it a central theme of a three-day swing through the South.

“We get to a general election for the highest office in this land, and no presidential candidate comes to Alabama or to Mississippi,” Warren told a crowd of 500 at a rally last night in Birmingham, Ala. “Your vote just doesn’t count ... and that is wrong.”

Strikingly, Warren’s proposal to end the electoral college is now one of her biggest applause lines. The crowds love it. Democrats, after all, have now won the national popular vote but lost the presidency four times now: in 2016 and 2000, as well as 1888 and 1876. (To be fair, it was a very, very, very different party in the 19th century.)

-- Polling shows why it’s a sensible position to stake out in a Democratic primary. A Pew Research Center poll last year found a 55 percent majority support picking presidents by popular vote, compared to 41 percent who prefer keeping the electoral college. A solid 75 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents support amending the Constitution so the candidate who receives the most votes nationwide wins, compared with 32 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents. A majority of Republicans prefer the electoral college regardless of whether they live in a red state, a blue state or a battleground. And a majority of Democrats prefer the popular vote regardless of where they live, as well. Our in-house polling analyst Emily Guskin synthesized the results in an email: “Partisans are likely to prefer ways they think their parties could win!”

Other polls have found slightly different results, seemingly based on how the questions are worded:

-- The result is that the electoral college has emerged as this week’s new litmus test for the crowded field:

  • “There’s a lot of wisdom” in scrapping it, Beto O’Rourke said last night in Pennsylvania.
  • “It’s gotta go,” Pete Buttigieg said in a Q&A with liberal blogger Greg Sargent that published yesterday morning.
  • “To change the country, we need to fundamentally change how government works: We need to abolish the filibuster and the electoral college,” Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), who stumped in South Carolina last night, writes in an op-ed.

-- The Constitution has changed over time in important ways, of course. Warren, for example, came out for ending the electoral college while speaking to a primarily black audience at a historically black university in Jackson, Miss. Black Americans were counted as three-fifths of a person until the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868.

Speaking of Warren, the founders also didn’t imagine women voting — let alone running for president. The 19th Amendment didn’t guarantee suffrage until 1920.

-- But, but, but: There’s something discordant about this moment. It’s peculiar to watch Democratic candidates warn in apocalyptic terms that Trump is disregarding sacred norms and thereby destroying the republic in one breath while calling for radical steps like packing the Supreme Court, changing the way we pick presidents, ending private health insurance or paying out reparations in the next.

-- The president is functioning again as his own acting White House communications director since former Fox News executive Bill Shine abruptly resigned on March 8. He appears to have identified the electoral college as an opportunity to bolster a broader narrative. In a tweet just after midnight, Trump linked calls for abolishing the electoral college to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement last week of lowering the voting age to 16, along with Democratic calls to enlarge the Supreme Court to 15 justices. He said Democrats are “getting very ‘strange.’”

-- This is a message that conservative elites are thrilled to echo. They’d much rather tout the virtues of the electoral college than answer for Trump’s continuing insults toward the late John McCain, the military construction projects that won’t get funded because of the president’s “national emergency,” the White House’s refusal to comply with legitimate document requests from congressional investigators and the Senate GOP’s blockade of a resolution calling for the release of Bob Mueller’s report.

  • “The desire to abolish the Electoral College is driven by the idea Democrats want rural America to go away politically,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted yesterday.
  • An editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal decries Democrats for trying to put the electoral college “on the chopping block,” calling it more evidence of the party’s disdain for constitutional norms.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) described the electoral college as “a work of genius” by the founders. “It makes sure the interests of less populated areas aren’t ignored at the expense of densely populated areas,” he wrote.

-- The GOP’s relentless message discipline in characterizing Democrats as moving outside the mainstream has begun to pay tangible dividends. Attacking liberals for espousing ideas like reparations and the Green New Deal, often with over-the-top hyperbole, is activating Republican voters who were deeply ambivalent just a few month ago, despite whatever unease they may feel about Trump himself.

A CNN poll published last night included a red flag for Democrats in this area. Overall, enthusiasm about voting in the next election is higher than it’s been at any time since the start of the century. Four in 10 Americans said they are “extremely enthusiastic” about casting a ballot for president. “But unlike last year's midterm elections, when Democratic enthusiasm propelled the party to a majority in the House of Representatives, the energy now is higher among Republicans,” according to CNN polling director Jennifer Agiesta.Nearly 6 in 10 self-identified Republicans (57%) say they are extremely enthusiastic about voting for president, compared with 46% among Democrats and 26% among independents.”

-- Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law and a senior adviser on his reelection campaign, claimed on Fox News last night that Democrats are trying to get rid of the electoral college because they’ve concluded that it will be “almost impossible” to win in 2020 otherwise. “They want to find any way they can to beat Donald Trump because I think they know it’s going to be incredibly hard, almost impossible, to beat this president in the 2020 election,” Lara Trump said. “I think you’re seeing … panic mode now on the Democratic side.”

-- To be sure, getting rid of the electoral college is not a new idea. It’s been discussed to varying degrees for nearly two centuries, and many prominent Democrats endorsed it after Al Gore won the popular vote but lost after the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore. There’s also no way a constitutional amendment to abolish it would pass before the 2020 election.

Last night in Alabama, Warren acknowledged the difficulty of passing a constitutional amendment. She said maybe it will happen “someday,” but for now she supports the state-level efforts. This past Friday, Colorado became the 12th state to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. These states have agreed to deliver their electoral votes to whomever wins the national popular vote — even if that candidate loses their state. It will only take effect if states with a combined 270 electoral votes agree to participate. Colorado’s nine electoral votes put the collective total at 181. Clinton carried all dozen of the states that have signed on. Legislation is moving right now in New Mexico and Delaware. But getting past 270 will prove very difficult.

-- For Warren and Democrats, it comes down to a question of fairness. “Trump’s presidency is, in one sense, a function of random geographic lines,” Philip Bump observes. “Blue states that voted for Clinton tend to be home to large cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Clinton ran up the vote in Los Angeles — but it did no good, since California was always safe for her, anyway. In 2016, Democrats had more than 11 million wasted votes, votes above the margin needed in each state to carry it for Clinton. Republicans wasted about 8 million. Move 78,000 of those votes — 0.7 percent of them — to Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and Clinton is the president.”

Put another way, “Clinton ended up getting more votes overall than Obama did four years earlier. The problem was that those increases were often in states where she was already likely to win. In states that Clinton won by more than 20 percentage points, she got an average of 6,500 more votes per county than Obama did in 2012, while Trump improved on Mitt Romney by 679. In states that she carried by 10 points or less, Trump did better than Romney by 163 votes on average in every county — but she did worse than Obama by more than 650. … As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has pointed out, Republicans have won the popular vote only once in her lifetime [2004] but have held the White House for 10 years.”

MORE ON 2020:

-- Many lesser-known Democratic candidates are trying different ways to get 65,000 individual donors, the magic number needed to secure a spot on stage for the debates. Michael Scherer reports: “The latest turn … looks a bit like an infomercial for a food dehydrator or Ginsu knives. Former congressman John Delaney stands in front of a whiteboard in an online video, pitching voters on a new way to double their money. ‘It’s really simple, and it’s actually a pretty good deal,’ the Maryland Democrat says. ‘You give one, I give two to a charity of your choice.’ You heard that right, folks. A candidate for president wants your donation so badly that he is willing to pay twice as much out of pocket. Buttigieg reached his 65,000 goal last week after a successful CNN town hall. ... Businessman Andrew Yang put a counter on his homepage to drive the online energy past 65,000 donors. … Aides to Marianne Williamson, a self-help guru, and former housing secretary Julián Castro say their campaigns are also on track to qualify. Using polling alone to filter the field, especially this early in the process, would almost certainly have meant a far smaller group of candidates onstage. Recent national polls have shown no more than a dozen candidates with 1 percent support, the criteria used to qualify for the first Democratic debate in 2015.”

-- Joe Biden has told at least half a dozen supporters that he will run for president and asked for their help lining up major donors so he can raise $7 million quickly, the Wall Street Journal’s Emily Glazer and Ken Thomas report: “Biden has expressed concern to these people that he wouldn’t be able to raise millions of dollars in online donations immediately the way some other Democratic candidates have." World leaders have encouraged Biden to run, adds Politico’s Daniel Lippman.

-- A longtime top aide to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who was accused of mishandling a sexual harassment investigation, is leaving her office. Deputy chief of staff Anne Bradley was expected to retire later this year but pushed up her departure amid reports that a young female staffer quit Gillibrand’s office in protest of the investigation that Bradley helped lead. The woman had accused Gillibrand’s longtime driver, Abbas Malik, of sexual harassment, but Malik was not fired until after the recent reports on the matter started surfacing. (Politico)

-- Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are talking a lot about civil rights, but not many black voters are listening. Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reports from South Carolina and Annie Linskey reports from Alabama: “They share a liberal philosophy focused on helping those who’ve been hurt by the prevailing system, a message both say should resonate in black households. But both are older white candidates hailing from New England, and they often confront skepticism — if not ambivalence or indifference — from black voters, who have been notably absent from their campaign events. … A month before Sanders spoke at Royal Missionary Baptist Church, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) held a rally in the same room. Her crowd was much more racially varied, including a group of black women who showed up in church hats. The crowds showing up for Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) also have included far more voters of color.”

    -- Bernie hired David Sirota, one of his most notoriously aggressive online supporters to be a senior adviser and speechwriter. Since December, Sirota had been writing criticisms of Sanders’s Democratic opponents on Twitter and in columns published in the Guardian without disclosing that he unofficially worked for the senator, the Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere reports: “Sirota’s hiring as a senior adviser and speechwriter was announced by the Sanders campaign on Tuesday morning after The Atlantic contacted the campaign and inquired about the undisclosed role Sirota held while attacking other Democrats.” Before the announcement, he deleted critical thousands of problematic tweets.

    -- A new CNN-SSRS poll showed Harris has jumped in their poll by eight points since December. CNN’s Jennifer Agiesta reports: “Biden (28%) and Sanders (20%) continue to hold the top slots in the large Democratic field. Harris now stands at 12% support ... up from 4% in December, and [O'Rourke] stands at 11%."

    --Harris's political identity was shaped as an undergrad at Howard University, a historically black school. The Los Angeles Times’s Evan Halper reports: “The campus during her time was a cauldron of activism and black pride at a moment in history, like now, when most black Americans were feeling alienated and unrepresented by the White House. … Harris was known on campus, but she was not among the most prominent student leaders. … She was undeniably in the mix, however, when busloads of students went regularly to the South African embassy and the National Mall for protests demanding an end to apartheid.”

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    WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

    -- Prime Minister Theresa May conceded that she now must ask E.U. leaders to delay Brexit for three months — because the Parliament has failed to pass her unloved deal for departure. William Booth and Michael Birnbaum report: “Standing in Parliament on Wednesday, May blamed lawmakers for the impasse, acknowledging that the House of Commons has twice rejected the withdrawal agreement that May spent two years negotiating with her European counterparts. May said she would seek a short extension, just three months until June 30. If the delay were longer, Britain as a member of the European Union would have to participate in elections for the European parliament. Also, a longer delay, May warned, would provide ‘endless hours and days of this House carrying on, contemplating its navel on Europe.’”

    -- As the first victims of the Christchurch, New Zealand, massacre were laid to rest, police revealed that the gunman had planned a third attack. Anna Fifield reports: "Sixteen-year-old Hamza Mustafa and his father Khaled Mustafa, who had arrived in New Zealand only a few months ago after escaping the war in Syria, were laid to rest Wednesday, the first victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks to be buried. ... Police Commissioner Mike Bush said Wednesday that the alleged gunman, a 28-year-old Australian who is in custody in Christchurch, was on his way to attack another target when he was apprehended. Bush did not disclose the location of the next target, but the manifesto the alleged shooter posted online made reference to a mosque in Ashburton, about 55 miles south of Christchurch."

    -- European regulators fined Google nearly $1.7 billion for advertising practices that violated local antitrust laws. Tony Romm reports: “Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s top competition commissioner, announced the punishment at a news conference, accusing Google of engaging in “illegal practices” in a bid to “cement its dominant market position” in the search and advertising markets. The new penalty adds to Google’s costly headaches in Europe, where Vestager now has fined the tech giant more than $9 billion in total for a series of antitrust violations. … Vestager’s latest punishment targets Google’s relationships with third-party websites, from large retailers to small gossip blogs.” 

    -- In other tech news, Facebook agreed to overhaul its lucrative targeted ad system amid accusations of discrimination. The social media giant allowed advertisers to micro-target potential customers by using their personal data, but growing evidence indicates that landlords, lenders and employers have abused the information by ruling out candidates based on gender, age and race. (Tracy Jan and Elizabeth Dwoskin)

    -- And Apple revealed plans to support three media literacy programs in the United States and across Europe to combat fake news. The company announced the initiative days before it is set to unveil a new subscription news service. (9to5 Mac)

    -- An off-duty pilot who happened to be flying aboard the Lion Air 737 plane the day before it crashed in Indonesia last October helped regain control of the aircraft after correctly diagnosing that the flight control system was not working properly. The very next day, with a different set of pilots, the very same plane faced the identical malfunction — and the jet crashed, Bloomberg News reports.

    -- Trump nominated Delta Air Lines pilot turned executive Steve Dickson to lead the Federal Aviation Administration. (AP)

    GET SMART FAST:​​

    1. Florida prosecutors have offered to drop charges against Patriots owner Robert Kraft and other men accused of soliciting prostitution if they acknowledge they would have been found guilty at trial. It is unclear whether Kraft would accept such a deal, which would also require completing community service and a course on prostitution, given that he denied the charges when they were announced. (Wall Street Journal)

    2. West Virginia’s attorney general sued the Catholic diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, claiming that church leaders “knowingly employed pedophiles and failed to conduct adequate background checks” for employees. Patrick Morrisey’s lawsuit alleges the diocese and its former bishop Michael J. Bransfield advertised safe environments for children while choosing “to cover up and conceal arguably criminal behavior of child sexual abuse.” (Michelle Boorstein,  Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Tom Jackman)

    3. The first drug specifically made to treat postpartum depression was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The medication will cost, on average, $34,000 per patient for a course of treatment before discounts and must be taken intravenously over 60 hours. (Laurie McGinley and Lenny Bernstein)

    4. Bayer’s Roundup weedkiller caused a man’s cancer, a jury found. The San Francisco jury will decide next whether Bayer’s Monsanto unit should be held liable. (Wall Street Journal)

    5. Mozambique’s president said that the death toll in his country from Cyclone Idai could surpass 1,000. Officials in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique have already recorded hundreds of deaths from the devastating storm. (Max Bearak)

    6. A Danish lawmaker and her baby were ordered out of the parliamentary chamber by the house speaker. Member of Parliament Mette Abildgaard was told by Pia Kjaersgaard, the former leader of a far-right Danish party, that she and her 5-month-old baby were not welcome in the parliamentary chamber. Abildgaard was forced to pass her baby to an assistant while she returned to the chamber to vote. (DW.com)

    7. Early estimates indicate that damage to Nebraska farms from recent flooding could near $1 billion. The figure includes the loss of livestock and crops as well as cleanup costs, which could prove substantial. (Laura Reiley)

    8. Texas officials aren’t sure when a two-day-old fire at a petrochemical storage facility in Houston will end. Air quality, authorities said, is safe despite huge plumes of gray smoke. (Juan A. Lozano)

    9. The USDA is forcing cats to eat feline meat. An organization dedicated to eliminating wasteful spending in research said the government is feeding cat and dog organs to other cats to study the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. (Eli Rosenberg)

    10. A Mississippi police officer who left her daughter in a hot patrol car as she went to have sex in her supervisor’s home pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Officer Cassie Barker left her 3-year-old daughter in the car for four hours and found her unresponsive. Authorities said the girl’s body temperature reached 107 degrees before she died. (Alex Horton)

    11. The Los Angeles Angels are finalizing a record-breaking 12-year extension contract worth “roughly” $430 million with center fielder Mike Trout. The deal would dwarf the previous record set just weeks ago when free agent Bryce Harper signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for $330 million over 13 years. (Dave Sheinin)

    12. The University of Southern California was the most frequently targeted school in the admissions scheme. Six of the 50 alleged perpetrators are current or former employees of the university, which has been at the center of multiple controversies in the last two years. (Moriah Balingit, Susan Svrluga and Nick Anderson 

    13. A woman used a T-shirt cannon to launch contraband over a prison fence. The package, which was immediately noticed by prison staff in Sayre, Okla., contained tobacco, marijuana, cellphones and chargers, among other items. (Michael Brice-Saddler)

    MODERN POLITICAL MARRIAGES:

    -- Trump slammed George Conway as a “total loser,” ratcheting up a war of words that appears to have put serious strain on the marriage between the conservative power lawyer and his wife, senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. Josh Dawsey and John Wagner report on the family tension that keeps spilling into public view:

    • George said in an interview with The Washington Post that his tweeting helps him avoid “screaming” at his wife about her boss. “The tweeting is just the way to get it out of the way, so I can get it off my chest and move on with my life that day,” he said. “Frankly, it’s so I don’t end up screaming at her about it.”
    • Kellyanne “went on a lengthy rant about her husband to several guests at a British Embassy party for members of Congress last month. … Conway told the group that she and the president think her husband is jealous of her.”
    • I made it possible for her to be where she is today,” George replied. “So there’s that. It’s not about jealousy. It’s about reality. Who this man is, and whether he’s fit for public office. Which, as I’ve said, he isn’t.”
    • George also rebutted a dubious claim from Trump’s campaign manager, which the president retweeted, that the two men don’t know each other. In fact, he has had a number of notable interactions with Trump over the past decade, often concerning legal representation and sensitive legal matters since Trump became president.
    • Trump has wanted to attack George before, but he's been talked out of it by staff, who convinced him it would elevate Conway and cause drama in Kellyanne's home life, according to several current and former White House aides.

    -- The back-and-forth between the president and his aide's spouse continued on Twitter this morning:

    -- Ben Terris wrote a fantastic feature from El Paso on Beto O’Rourke's marriage to Amy Hoover Sanders: “In truth, even though Amy is fully on board, this isn’t the life she would have chosen. ... The first time Beto suggested to Amy that he’d like to run for Congress, she cried. She didn’t want him to become some kind of D.C. jerk. The morning after the most recent election, the one he lost to Sen. Ted Cruz (R), she cried. ... Whatever post-defeat sadness Amy felt, she was able to kick quickly; she’s always been the stable one. Beto, on the other hand, more prone to higher highs and lower lows, was in a ‘funk.’ In January, Beto hit the road … and drew energy from the people he met, and ... by eating New Mexican dirt said to have regenerative powers. (He brought some home for the family to eat, too.) ...

    “He proposed on April Fools’ Day, four months after they’d first met. It seemed appropriate. That’s how Amy knew him then and even now — impulsive and puckish. … And then there were the pranks: the remote-controlled cockroach in the kitchen, the ‘Psycho’-style scares in the shower. One time, according to a friend, Beto collected an especially verdant turd from one of their kids’ diapers and put it in a bowl, telling Amy it was avocado.”

    Amy is a moderate and has served as a moderating influence on Beto’s politics and life: “She’s quick to remind him how his casual profanity might rankle Texas conservatives, not least his in-laws. She’s the one who tells him to stop doing push-ups before bed because it’s keeping him awake at night. ... When Beto publicly suggested tearing down El Paso’s border wall, for example, she was the first to suggest he rein in the rhetoric.”

    Beto’s parents met while his mother was on a date with Amy’s dad. “It was 1970 when Bill Sanders picked up Melissa Martha Williams in his Porsche and sped 45 minutes from El Paso to Radium Springs, N.M., for a double date with one of his friends. Melissa can’t remember the second woman who joined them, but she remembers Bill’s friend clearly — his handsome face, large forehead and even larger personality; how he, too, drove a Porsche. His name was Patrick O’Rourke, and less than a year after that first meeting, Melissa would marry him, and the two would be on their way to having their first child, Robert Francis.”

    -- Related: Beto defeated a sitting congressman, Silvestre Reyes, in a 2012 Democratic primary by attacking him from the right. CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and Paul LeBlanc review the campaign: “O'Rourke at the time endorsed cuts to defense and domestic spending in the middle and long term, along with seriously considering changes to Social Security and tax laws that would do away with some tax breaks. … O'Rourke attacked Reyes for his failure to vote for the Budget Reform Act of 2011, which created a super committee to develop a deficit reduction plan. … Reyes subsequently ran ads criticizing O'Rourke, saying he wanted to cut Social Security.”

    -- The diversity of 2020 presidential candidates — from female lawmakers to a gay mayor and one bachelor senator dating an actress — could force a reconsideration of the “first lady” role, Karen Tumulty writes: “The traditional title of first lady comes with no job description beyond the presumption that she should take on an unobjectionable cause or two and enthusiastically offer her unpaid services as event planner, decorator and catering manager. … The true running mates in 2020 will be a diverse cast. They are male and female, straight and gay. What we can hope is that, at the end of it all, they will have at last written a new script — which is no script at all — for the most difficult supporting role in politics.”

    THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

    -- Citing the “press of other work,” special counsel Bob Mueller’s team requested a delay in responding to The Post’s request to unseal documents in Paul Manafort’s case. Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotosky report: “In a two-page filing, Deputy Solicitor General Michael R. Dreeben and prosecutor Adam C. Jed wrote, ‘Counsel responsible for preparing the response face the press of other work and require additional time to consult within the government.’ A response had been due March 21. … The Post has objected to the abundance of sealed and redacted records in Manafort’s Washington case and petitioned the judge in his case, Amy Berman Jackson, to open them to public view.”

    -- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is delaying his departure from the Justice Department. NBC News’s Julia Ainsley and Pete Williams report: “Rosenstein had previously said he would leave in mid-March, noting during a public appearance on March 7 that it would be one of his final speeches. Rosenstein recently discussed his upcoming planned departure with Attorney General William Barr, after which it was decided that he would stay on a little longer, [a senior Justice] official said. … Asked whether the delay in Rosenstein's departure means that Mueller is still not ready to deliver his report, the official declined to comment.”

    -- The White House has intentionally ignored document requests from House Democrats as part of their investigations, breaking with the practice of past administrations of both parties and teeing up a constitutional showdown. Rachael Bade and Josh Dawsey report: “The White House has refused to share emails and correspondence in about a dozen document requests from the House Oversight and Reform Committee as well as three additional inquiries from the House Judiciary Committee, which has impeachment jurisdiction. The move is intentional as the White House sees the requests from newly empowered Democrats as illegitimate, too expansive or infringing on presidential privilege, such as Trump’s communications with his senior advisers or another head of state, according to two senior administration officials. … Should the White House refuse to comply with subpoenas, Democrats could sue. But litigation could take years, delaying investigations of Trump indefinitely.”

    -- “The White House hasn’t turned over a single piece of paper to my committee,” House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) writes in an op-ed today for today's paper: “The White House is engaged in an unprecedented level of stonewalling, delay and obstruction. I have sent 12 letters to the White House on a half-dozen topics — some routine and some relating to our core national security interests. In response, the White House has refused to hand over any documents or produce any witnesses for interviews.”

    Cummings spotlights security clearances as one of several areas on which he cannot get answers: “The White House argues that Congress is not entitled to any information about individual employees, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying about his communications with the Russians; current national security adviser John Bolton, who worked directly with the gun rights group founded by now-convicted Russian spy Maria Butina; or the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who was reportedly given access to our nation’s most sensitive secrets over the objections of then-White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and others. Instead, the White House offered to let us read — but not keep — a few pages of policy documents that have nothing to do with the officials we are investigating, along with a general briefing on those policies during which they will answer no questions about specific employees.”

    -- House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said he is refocusing his panel’s investigation on whether the president or any of his advisers have been under the influence of a foreign government, an act that would not necessarily trigger criminal charges from the special counsel's investigation. NBC News’s Ken Dilanian reports: “In fact, most FBI counterintelligence investigations don't result in criminal charges, experts say, because they tend to involve secret intelligence that either can't be used in court or doesn't add up to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. If the FBI assesses that a government official is compromised by a foreign adversary, officials often will quietly remove that person from a sensitive role or wall him or her off from classified information. Obviously, none of that is an option for the president of the United States.”

    -- House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Trump and his family are the “greatest threats to democracy” he has seen in his lifetime. The third-ranking Democrat in the House, who was responding to Trump’s latest attacks on the late John McCain, went as far as comparing Trump to Adolf Hitler, saying “we had better be careful.” (NBC)

    ARTICLE III:

    -- The Trump administration’s agenda has suffered an unusually high number of defeats at the hands of federal judges, largely due to officials’ amateurish handling of cases. Fred Barbash and Deanna Paul report: “Federal judges have ruled against the Trump administration at least 63 times over the past two years … In case after case, judges have rebuked Trump officials for failing to follow the most basic rules of governance for shifting policy, including providing legitimate explanations supported by facts and, where required, public input. … [T]he rulings so far paint a remarkable portrait of a government rushing to implement sweeping changes in policy without regard for long-standing rules against arbitrary and capricious behavior. …

    Two-thirds of the cases accuse the Trump administration of violating the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), a nearly 73-year-old law that forms the primary bulwark against arbitrary rule. The normal 'win rate' for the government in such cases is about 70 percent, according to analysts and studies. But as of mid-January, a database maintained by the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law shows Trump’s win rate at about 6 percent.” (Here is a breakdown of the cases the Trump administration has lost.)

    -- A federal appeals court appeared skeptical of arguments that profits from Trump’s D.C. hotel violate the Constitution’s emoluments clause. Ann E. Marimow and Jonathan O'Connell report: “The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit was reviewing a novel case brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia … One judge, Dennis W. Shedd, suggested the president may actually be driving up business at other local hotels because of people who would be drawn to Washington to protest Trump’s policies and would not choose to stay at the president’s namesake hotel. Another, Paul V. Niemeyer, noted that the president had already stepped back from day-to-day management of Trump International Hotel.”

    All three of the judges were appointed by Republican presidents, a fluke that prompted jokes from the Democratic attorneys general arguing the case: “At the 4th Circuit, the names of the three judges randomly assigned to each panel are made public on the morning of an oral argument. … When the two Democratic attorneys general first greeted each other Tuesday in the ornate, wood-paneled courtroom, they joked about the luck of the draw. ‘Did you pick the panel?’ [Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D)] joked, slapping his palm to his forehead in mock disbelief.”

    -- Trump’s Supreme Court appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, took opposing sides on two out of three rulings made by the court on Tuesday. (Fox News)

    -- Three Native American inmates in a Texas prison won the right to let their hair grow long in a lawsuit over religious liberties. From the Houston Chronicle’s Keri Blakinger: “The prison system’s rules requiring men to keep short hair or face disciplinary consequences, the inmates and their attorneys argued, were an unfair violation of religious freedom … Even though female prisoners are allowed to have long hair, attorneys for the state claimed that letting men do the same would cost too much money to police, that prisoners would get too hot in uncooled facilities, that it would make identifying inmates harder and that it could increase the number of inmate suicides.”

    THE IMMIGRATION WARS:

    -- On a party-line vote, the Supreme Court decided that federal authorities have broad authority when imprisoning legal immigrants with criminal convictions who may be eligible for deportation. Robert Barnes reports: “It does not matter whether authorities pick up such noncitizens years after they have been released from criminal custody, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote for the majority in the 5-to-4 decision. Federal law mandates detention for certain immigrants while awaiting deportation proceedings. ‘As we have held time and again, an official’s crucial duties are better carried out late than never,’ wrote Alito, joined in the outcome by his fellow conservatives.”

    -- A Mexican migrant died Monday after being arrested by Customs and Border Protection agents. The 40-year-old man, immigrations officials said, died after receiving treatment for flulike symptoms and liver and kidney failure. CBP has not released the man’s name. In a statement, the ACLU’s Border Rights Center director said a “a transparent and independent investigation into the conditions at CBP detention facilities and its medical care practices is needed immediately.” (AP)

    -- For months, Olivia Cross and her husband, Yahya Abedi, an Iranian man, were kept away from each other due to Trump’s travel ban and were close to giving up hope on the right to a life together in the United States. Now they’ve been reunited, but others haven’t been so lucky, Kate Woodsome and Jason Rezaian write: “Cross and Abedi are experiencing a kind of survivors’ guilt, and Abedi is still counseling people stuck in administrative limbo. He is also taking in what it means to be a legal U.S. resident, with a clear path toward citizenship. ‘The media in Iran tells us a lot of terrible things about this country, but never any of the good ones,’ Abedi said. Asked what has surprised him most about the United States and how he has been treated by the Americans he’s met so far, he has only one word: ‘Respect.’ Abedi hopes other people such as him, waiting to reunite with their loved ones, will have the opportunity to experience it for themselves.”

    -- “Their ancestors fled U.S. slavery for Mexico. Now they’re looking north again,” by Kevin Sieff: “Their ancestors were African Americans who escaped from the United States to Mexico in the 19th century, fleeing the slave trade for a desert village at the base of the Sierra Madre mountains. They were called the Mascogos, roughly 60 black families who spoke and prayed in English as they hid from the white men who wanted to put them back in shackles. ... Now members of this community of 300 are heading back to the United States.”

    -- The New Zealand shooting has led to heightened scrutiny of European far-right parties from which the alleged perpetrator gleaned inspiration. James McAuley reports: “To many French Muslims, the Christchurch massacre was a tragic extension of normalized hatred that has also inspired anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant attacks — some of them foiled — in France and elsewhere in Europe. ... Muslim advocates and journalists across the continent have pointed to the massacre to increase pressure on right-wing leaders and pundits, insisting that openly Islamophobic rhetoric carries with it the potential for deadly violence.”

    TRUMP VS. THE GOP:

    -- Trump’s recent criticisms of Fox News could mark a turning point in his relationship with the network, which has generally showered him with praise. Sarah Ellison and Paul Farhi report: “The spat comes as Fox’s parent company is undergoing a generational change — one that produced another, perhaps more subtle sign of independence from the president. On Tuesday, Fox Corp. began public trading as the new parent of Fox News, Fox Entertainment and Fox Sports; the company is the result of 21st Century Fox’s sale of its film and television assets to Disney Corp. The new company is headed by Lachlan Murdoch, the eldest son of Rupert Murdoch, who co-founded Fox News with Roger Ailes and remains a controlling shareholder in Fox.

    Among Fox Corp.’s first acts in business: appointing former House speaker Paul D. Ryan to its board of directors. Ryan is, of course, an establishment conservative disliked by both Democrats and those who most strongly supported Trump. Although he advanced some of Trump’s agenda, particularly tax reform, as speaker, Ryan declined to defend Trump or campaign with him in the latter stages of the 2016 campaign. Trump’s [critical tweets about Fox] served as a reminder that he is known for turning on members of his inner circle. … It also raised the question: Is the president changing his tune on Fox News?

    “[Fox host Jeanine] Pirro and Trump speak regularly, and the two had a conversation before he tweeted, according to a person briefed on the call. The president’s relationship with Pirro dates back decades and is rooted in their common presence in a certain New York social circle. Trump has granted Pirro regular interviews, and he encourages his advisers to do the same. … A source familiar with the inner workings of Fox News said the president isn’t on the phone with producers or executives in charge of coverage. He calls opinion hosts with whom he has a preexisting relationship, this person said.”

    -- Trump once again lashed out against John McCain, saying he was “never a fan” of the senator who died last year of brain cancer. John Wagner reports: “Trump’s comments came during a meeting in the Oval Office with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in response to a reporter’s questions about his continuing disparagement of McCain, including in multiple tweets over the weekend. ‘I’m very unhappy that he didn’t repeal and replace Obamacare, as you know,’ Trump said, referring to McCain’s vote against overhauling the Affordable Care Act in July 2017. ‘He campaigned on repealing and replacing Obamacare for years, and then he got to a vote, and he said thumbs down.’ … ‘I think that’s a disgrace, plus there are other things,’ Trump said. ‘I was never a fan of John McCain, and I never will be.’”

    -- Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) has had harsh words for Trump's posthumous McCain criticism, saying on the Senate floor in August that “anybody who in any way tarnishes the reputation of John McCain deserves a whipping.” Isakson told the Bulwark he'll expand on his remarks later on the Senate floor and that Trump's comments on McCain “drive me crazy.” 

    -- A top pro-Trump group launched ads supporting two of the president’s top congressional allies, Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Mark Meadows (N.C.). CNN’s Betsy Klein reports: “The $100,000 ad buy is a sign that Trump-aligned groups are rewarding those loyal to the President. … In the past, America First Policies has hit members who did not support the administration's policy initiatives, including then-Sen. Dean Heller on health care and the late Rep. Walter Jones on the tax bill. … The ads feature video of Meadows and Jordan standing with Trump — literally — and urge supporters to call the Capitol switchboard and thank the congressmen ‘for protecting America.’”

    THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

    -- The president’s son Donald Trump Jr. published an op-ed in the Telegraph saying Theresa May should’ve taken his father’s advice on Brexit. “Since 2016, Prime Minister Theresa May has promised on more than 50 separate occasions that Britain would leave the EU on March 29 2019. She needs to honour that promise. But Mrs May ignored advice from my father, and ultimately, a process that should have taken only a few short months has become a years-long stalemate, leaving the British people in limbo. Now, the clock has virtually run out and almost all is lost … With the deadline fast approaching, it appears that democracy in the UK is all but dead.”

    -- In her new book “Kushner, Inc.” journalist Vicky Ward claims that Jared Kushner’s peace plan included “land swaps” with Saudi Arabia and an oil pipeline from that kingdom into Gaza. New York Magazine’s Matt Stieb writes: “According to Ward, who spoke with ‘multiple people who saw drafts of the plan,’ Kushner proposed a geopolitical version of the multi-destination NBA player swap, in which Jordan would give territory to the Palestinian authority, and ‘in return, Jordan would get land from Saudi Arabia, and that country would get back two Red Sea islands it gave Egypt to administer in 1950.’” In her book, Ward writes that Jared planned on having “the Saudis and Emiratis to provide economic assistance to the Palestinians. There were plans for an oil pipeline from Saudi Arabia to Gaza, where refineries and a shipping terminal could be built. The profits would create desalination plants, where Palestinians could find work, addressing the high unemployment rate.”  

    -- Trump met Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro at the White House, and he definitely liked what he saw in the South American nation’s far-right leader. Anne Gearan reports: “For Trump, the rise of a South American political admirer offers real economic and geopolitical advantages, and a measure of sweet revenge against critics who call both men crass race-baiters. Bolsonaro has embraced his nickname the ‘Trump of the Tropics.’ ‘We do have a great deal of shared values. I admire President Donald Trump,’ Bolsonaro said … Trump did not disagree as Bolsonaro said that ‘Brazil and the United States stand side-by-side in their efforts to ensure liberty and respect for traditional family lifestyles with respect to God.’ He added that they are also united ‘against politically correct attitudes and against fake news.'”

    -- Trump reportedly sidelined his top negotiator on North Korea and dismissed warnings from his top intelligence officials before meeting with Kim Jong Un in Vietnam last month. Time’s John Walcott reports: “In recent days, Trump shut down an effort by Stephen Biegun, nominally the Administration’s lead negotiator with Pyongyang, to reestablish a back channel through the North’s United Nations mission in New York, according to four U.S. and South Korean officials.”

    -- A new report alleges that U.S. airstrikes killed 14 civilians in Nairobi in five airstrikes between 2017 and 2018. Max Bearak reports: “The accuracy of the U.S. military’s drone strikes in Somalia has come under increased scrutiny since President Trump relaxed rules of engagement there in March 2017, when he declared the southern part of the country an 'area of active hostilities.' Since then, the number of strikes — carried out by Reaper drones and manned aircraft — has dramatically increased, as have worries about a possible civilian toll. ... In response to the report, U.S. Africa Command released its own assessments of the five highlighted strikes and maintained that they caused no civilian casualties, arguing that Amnesty’s capability to gather intelligence in a war zone couldn’t compare to the military’s. The report says the civilian casualties it documents resulted from strikes that 'may amount to war crimes.'”

    -- A report details the invasive and 'abusive' process transgender people must undergo in Japan to be legally recognized. Emily Tamkin reports: “Japanese transgender people need to be at least 20 years old, get a diagnosis for 'gender identity disorder,' undergo sex reassignment surgery, become irreversibly infertile through sterilization (characterized as 'abusive' by the United Nations), have no underage children, and, if they are married, get divorced.”

    -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev is leaving office after nearly three decades. Anton Troianovski reports: “Nazarbayev has ruled Kazakhstan, Central Asia’s largest country, since it became an independent state with the collapse of the Soviet Union. On Tuesday, he said in a nationally televised address that after nearly 30 years in power, it was time to leave the presidency. ... Senate Chairman Kassym-Jomart Tokayev will take over as president until the next election, currently scheduled for 2020.”

    SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

    Don Jr.'s op-ed raised a lot of eyebrows:

    Obama's former acting solicitor general pushed back against Trump's attack on George Conway:

    From a former chairwoman of the New Hampshire GOP:

    Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) also criticized the president's attacks: 

    The vice president visited those impacted by the flooding in Nebraska:

    A Democratic senator criticized Trump's foreign policy:

    A HuffPost contributor highlighted these divisive reactions to Rep. Ilhan Omar's op-ed on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

    A HuffPost reporter and polling editor reminded her Twitter followers of this:

    Beto O'Rourke carried on his campaign trip to Pennsylvania:

    A Post video reporter mocked O'Rourke's tendency to stand on coffee counters:

    The director of engagement for the conservative Blaze Media cast a spotlight on O'Rourke's dog:

    A Guardian reporter noted this tweet from one of Bernie Sanders's campaign aides:

    An Atlantic editor analyzed Glenn Beck for falling under the spell of Trumpism:

    A Roll Call columnist highlighted this statistic from the CNN poll:

    This pro-Trump vehicle captured Washington's attention. From Sen. Mitch McConnell's former chief of staff:

    Twitter mocked Bryce Harper's short-lived record:

    And police officers in New York pursued an unusual investigation tactic: 

    A Post reporter replied:

    GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

    -- CNN, “Her son died. And then anti-vaxers attacked her,” by Elizabeth Cohen and John Bonifield: “Interviews with mothers who've lost children and with those who spy on anti-vaccination groups, reveal a tactic employed by anti-vaxers: When a child dies, members of the group sometimes encourage each other to go on that parent's Facebook page. The anti-vaxers then post messages telling the parents they're lying and their child never existed, or that the parent murdered them, or that vaccines killed the child, or some combination of all of those. Nothing is considered too cruel. Just days after their children died, mothers say anti-vaxers on social media called them whores, the c-word and baby killers. … Jill Promoli, who lives outside Toronto, lost her son to flu. She believes the anti-vaxers are trying to silence the very people who can make the strongest argument for vaccinations: those whose children died of vaccine-preventable illnesses.”

    -- The Atlantic, “The Fertility Doctor's Secret,” by Sarah Zhang: “The first Facebook message arrived when Heather Woock was packing for vacation, in August 2017. It was from a stranger claiming to be her half sibling. She assumed the message was some kind of scam; her parents had never told her she might have siblings. But the message contained one detail that spooked her. The sender mentioned a doctor, Donald Cline. Woock knew that name; her mother had gone to Cline for fertility treatments before she was born. ... They had found her on Facebook, she realized, after searching for the username linked to her Ancestry.com account. ... Apparently she did have relatives on Ancestry.com ... They said their parents had also been treated by Cline. They said that decades ago, without ever telling his patients, Cline had used his own sperm to impregnate women who came to him for artificial insemination. According to her DNA, Woock, too, was one of his children.”

    HOT ON THE LEFT:

    “House committee passes Amendment 4 bill along party lines,” from the Tampa Bay Times: “A Florida House committee approved a bill addressing the rollout of Amendment 4 despite concerns that it would limit the number of former felons who could have their voting rights restored. Voting along party lines, Republicans advanced the measure, which would require felons pay back all court fees and costs before being eligible to vote, even if those costs are not handed down by a judge as part of the person’s sentence. That standard goes beyond the old system, which only required someone pay back restitution to a victim before applying to have their civil rights restored. And Democratic representatives and others blasted it. ‘It’s blatantly unconstitutional as a poll tax,’ said Rep. Adam Hattersley, D-Riverview.”

     

    HOT ON THE RIGHT:

    “Gun-toting GOP candidate vows to back Trump in first ad of US House special election,” from the Raleigh News & Observer: “One of 17 candidates vying for the Republican nomination in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District special election will begin airing television ads in the Greenville market … In the ad, Eric Rouse, a Lenoir County commissioner, is seen skeet shooting — hitting clays with Democratic priorities like the Green New Deal written on them in the 30-second ad. It closes with Rouse cocking a gun and vowing to have [Trump’s] back if elected. Rouse is among 26 candidates running to replace Republican Rep. Walter Jones, who died on Feb. 10. … The primary is April 30 in the district that includes parts or all of 17 counties in Eastern North Carolina.”

     

    DAYBOOK:

    Trump will receive his intelligence briefing before traveling to Ohio to speak at an Army tank plant and at a fundraising event.

    QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I have many, many millions of followers on Twitter and it's different than it used to be,” President Trump said. “Things are happening, names are taken off, people aren't getting through. ... It seems to be if they're conservative, if they're Republicans, if they're in a certain group, there's discrimination and big discrimination.” (CNN

     

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

    -- It will be a bit warmer today, but prepare for likely rain. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Spring officially arrives this evening, at 5:58 p.m. to be exact. But Mother Nature isn’t ready to bust out with the season quite yet, although today is a bit warmer than yesterday. It’s been a while since we’ve seen rain, so perhaps midweek isn’t the worst time, with rain likely tonight and tomorrow. Friday and Saturday stay cool with a gusty breeze, before what should be a splendid Sunday.”

    -- The Capitals beat the Devils 4-1. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)

    -- The D.C. Council voted to reprimand member Jack Evans over allegations that he used his government connections to try to solicit business from law firms that lobby the city. Fenit Nirappil reports: “Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) swatted away calls from activists, community groups and five of the council’s 13 members to strip Evans of his chairmanship of the finance and revenue committee. … Mendelson proposed to take away some of Evans’ responsibilities, shifting oversight of tax abatements, tax increment financing, the Washington Convention and Sports Authority/Events D.C. and Commission on the Arts and Humanities to committees led by other lawmakers. But Evans will retain oversight over other key agencies.”

    -- A new study found D.C. has the greatest “intensity of gentrification” of any city in the country. According to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, about 40 percent of the city’s lower-income neighborhoods experienced gentrification between 2000 and 2013. The group’s study also found that, during those years, more than 20,000 of the District’s African American residents — the most of any city — were displaced from their neighborhoods. (Katherine Shaver)

    VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

    Stephen Colbert joked about Trump's proposal to add Brazil, a South American nation, to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization:  

    Seth Meyers criticized Rep. Steve King's (R-Iowa) use of a problematic meme:

    He also asked Beto to stop standing on coffee shop tables: 

    Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) stopped by Jimmy Kimmel's show: 

    An NBC News reporter shared this vintage video with an old Tip O'Neill and a young Newt Gingrich. Congressional history buffs will enjoy it:

    Finally, a dad surprised his son after being stationed away for a year. Get some tissues before you watch this one: