THE TICKER

Mark Zuckerberg claims he's willing to testify under the "right circumstances" before Congress about the mess engulfing his company's giveaway of private information to Cambridge Analytica.

And Washington's crisis management handlers have some advice for him.

Pros who specialize in helping embattled executives survive the crucible say it requires preparation and practice, a lot of quick thinking, some acting chops and, ultimately, endurance.  

First comes extensive prep work, says Ron Bonjean, a strategic communications adviser who helped shepherd President Trump's Cabinet nominees and Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch through their Senate confirmations last year. 

Zuckerberg will want to have his answers down cold on policy matters likely to come up. He opened one can of worms Wednesday, for example, by telling CNN that the company could embrace some forms of regulation. "I'm not sure we shouldn't be regulated," Zuckerberg told the network. "There are things like ad transparency regulation that I would love to see." 

That drew a surprised response from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), one of the senators who's called on Zuckerberg to testify:

Earlier, she reiterated her call for Zuckerberg to testify: 

It's still a very open question whether the 33-year-old Silicon Valley princeling will actually come before lawmakers  Even chief executives with considerable track records have wilted under the hot television lights and withering questioning from lawmakers who are either angry or pretending to be. And Zuckerberg has never testified before Congress.

But the multibillionaire technology whiz seemed to understand that he needs to start engaging in some serious damage control following revelations that his company gave troves of data to an analytics firm that helped President Trump win the 2016 election. The Facebook chief executive posted an extended mea culpa Wednesday afternoon, then took that apology on tour in interviews with CNN, the New York Times, Recode and Wired. The blitz by the publicity-shy executive followed five days of silence on his company’s role in the Cambridge Analytica mess

And he indicated he might be willing to go even further. “The short answer is I'm happy to if it's the right thing to do,” Zuckerberg told CNN about the prospect of testifying before Congress. "What we try to do is send the person at Facebook who will have the most knowledge … If that's me, then I am happy to go.”

To prepare for a Capitol Hill grilling, if he subjects himself to it, Bonjean says, Zuckerberg should borrow a page from nominees seeking Senate confirmation by running through a series of mock hearings, complete with stand-ins for congressional committee members impersonating their lines of questions.

Zuckerberg’s team should use the process to fine-tune his answers. “They should establish what type of tone and approach he’s going to use,” Bonjean said. “Any sign of irritation toward lawmakers — eye-rolling or changes in volume — can affect the outcome. This is going to be on live television, and this is a performance craft.

Zuckerberg will have two primary audiences — a viewing public anxious to be reassured that Facebook is taking the necessary steps to secure users' privacy; and the lawmakers in the room who want straight answers and, in some cases, the opportunity to lay into the executive without him pushing back too hard. “You’ve got to be able to take your lumps and not react,” says longtime Washington lawyer Stan Brand of Akin Gump

Brand tells the story of representing then-General Dynamics CEO David Lewis in 1985 as he testified before a House panel eager to rake him over the coals. At one point, Lewis leaned over to Brand and asked, “Do I have to sit here and take this s---?” Brand said he told the chief executive — “a distinguished man with a great record” — that indeed he did. “Absorb it,” Brand told him. 

An appearance by Zuckerberg wouldn’t be purely about the public spectacle. “The question in a question of congressional testimony is, ‘What is the goal?’ That’s not a media opportunity, right, or at least it's not supposed to be,” Zuckerberg told CNN. “The goal there I think is to get Congress all the information they need to do their extremely important job.”

But the Facebook founder will also need to tread a fine line in his answers, keeping in mind that the company faces a Federal Trade Commission investigation into whether with the Cambridge Analytica breach it violated the terms of a 2011 consent decree. 

“The FTC is who you’d worry about,” says Bill Taylor, a partner at Zuckerman Spaeder who has represented high-profile clients facing congressional scrutiny. “I would argue for going to the FTC right away and having a conversation to try to get some understanding of the disputed facts.”

And if Zuckerberg does come to the Hill, he'll also need to remember to pace himself. It's likely to go long — and will almost certainly be followed by appearances in front of other committees. Says Brand, "All the committees with jurisdiction are going to want a piece of him." 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this headline misspelled Mark Zuckerberg. It has been updated.

MARKET MOVERS

Interest rate hits decade high. The Post's Heather Long: "The Federal Reserve on Wednesday lifted its key interest rate from 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent, the highest level since 2008. The move, the central bank's first major decision under new Chairman Jerome H. Powell, was widely expected as the U.S. economy continues to strengthen and stock markets remain near record highs. The Fed also significantly boosted its forecast for U.S. growth this year and next. The U.S. economy is on track to expand 2.7 percent this year and 2.4 percent in 2019, Fed officials now say, a jump from their previous projection done before the Republican tax cuts were finalized. 'The economic outlook has strengthened in recent months,' the Fed said in its statement Wednesday."

Four hikes possible. More from Heather: "The Fed anticipates hiking rates three times in total in 2018, part of an ongoing move away from the extraordinary measures it took to stimulate the economy during and after the Great Recession. But the central bank opened the door to potentially doing four hikes. Higher rates are likely to be welcomed by savers but not by borrowers, who will face more expensive loan terms."

From Bloomberg's Matthew Boesler:

Unemployment to 3.8 percent. "Americans should expect even faster growth and lower unemployment ahead, Fed officials said. Unemployment is now expected to fall to 3.8 percent this year and 3.6 percent in 2019, which would be the lowest level since 1969. 'Fiscal policy has become more stimulative, ongoing job gains are boosting incomes and confidence, foreign growth is on a firm trajectory, and overall financial conditions remain accommodative,' Powell said in his first news conference, which was significantly shorter than those of his predecessor, Janet L. Yellen."

From WSJ's Greg Ip: 

Powell worried about trade. CNBC's Jeff Cox: "The threat of a global trade war, which has caught the attention of investors in a big way, is also a concern for the Federal Reserve. In his first news conference as central bank chairman, Jerome Powell said the battle over tariffs has not caused Fed officials to change their economic outlook yet, but future expectations will depend on how the situation unfolds. 'A number of participants in the [Federal Open Market Committee] did bring up the issue of tariffs,' Powell said. 'If I could summarize what came out of it was, first, there's no thought that changes in trade policy should have any effect on the current outlook.' However, 'a number of participants reported that about their conversations with business leaders around the country and reported that trade policy has come a concern going forward for that growth.'"

A shift away from theories and models. Bloomberg's Craig Torres and Christoper Condon: "Powell showed he will be guided by the U.S. economy’s performance rather than the theories and models relied upon by his predecessors to set monetary policy for the past three decades... Powell signaled he won’t try to guess the limits of the labor market or the growth-boosting effects of Republican tax cuts. His message: He’ll know the economy is changing when he sees it... [Powell] declined to be drawn deeply into professorial discussions about the economy."

From the New Yorker's John Cassidy: 

U.S. stocks erased gains and closed lower Wednesday after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates and reiterated plans for two more increases this year.
WSJ
“January was a strong month, February was strange and March is a bit all over the place.”
Bloomberg
A jittery overnight session for U.S. stock futures again turned volatile just before dawn in New York, as investors braced for an announcement from President Donald Trump that could levy tariffs on more than 100 types of Chinese goods.
Bloomberg
MONEY ON THE HILL

Spending deal reached. The Post's Mike DeBonis and Erica Werner: "Congressional leaders reached a $1.3 trillion spending deal Wednesday to keep government agencies operating through September, unveiling legislation that would make good on President Trump’s promises to increase military funding while blocking much of his immigration agenda. The release of the 2,000-plus-page bill Wednesday evening, after a two-day delay, touched off a legislative sprint as lawmakers try to pass it before Friday night, the deadline to avoid a government shutdown. And with a key senator unwilling to say whether he would agree to accelerate the deal’s consideration, it remained uncertain whether they would be able to meet the challenge...

"In the broadest strokes, the bill gives Republicans a major win by delivering a $78 billion increase in military spending over 2017 levels, while Democrats won a $52 billion increase for domestic programs. In many instances, large spending increases on the domestic side ignored budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration, allowing lawmakers of both parties to trumpet victories on programs from opioid prevention to cleanup of the Great Lakes."

The Post's Ed O'Keefe, Mike and Erica have a rundown of highlights in the bill here.

Trump had to be talked out of opposing the deal, The Post's Bob Costa and Josh Dawsey report: "Congressional Republicans were jolted Wednesday morning by phone calls from White House officials, who confided that... Trump was unhappy with the party’s nearly finalized spending deal... He complained that the $1.3 trillion proposal included just $1.6 billion for constructing a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — not the $25 billion his administration had sought... Trump also griped about a proposed tunnel heading into New York — a project beloved by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) — that he has ferociously tried to block as part of the negotiations. Veto threats were made amid grumbles over various aspects of the bill, even as Trump resisted tweeting about it." Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) convinced the president to get behind the package in a 45-minute meeting at the White House. 

From Trump:

Private equity's surprise win. Bloomberg's Elizabeth Dexheimer: "Private-equity titans including Apollo Global Management LLC and Ares Management LP are poised to score a big win after lawmakers attached a measure to the must-pass $1.3 trillion spending bill that could expand the companies’ businesses. In a last-minute addition to legislation that funds federal agencies, lawmakers included language Wednesday that would allow investment companies controlled by private-equity firms to borrow more money and increase their lending. Apollo, Ares and other firms have been aggressively lobbying over the issue, which eases rules for what are known as business development companies."

Grain glitch fixed. WSJ's Richard Rubin: "U.S. lawmakers reached a last-minute deal to reverse an error in December’s tax law that was helping farm cooperatives and hurting their corporate competitors. The agreement to alter the so-called grain glitch is attached to a must-pass spending bill slated to become law later this week, and the details were released late Wednesday. Democrats, who had been wary of helping Republicans change the tax law without extracting a concession, won an expansion of the low-income housing tax credit in exchange. Congress is now set to make the first significant change to the tax code overhaul Republicans muscled through Washington last year. The bill also includes $320 million for the Internal Revenue Service to implement the new law."

Hensarling enlists banks on bank bill talks. Reuters's Pete Schroeder: "A leading U.S. House of Representatives member has privately urged banks to push Senate Democrats to agree to further easing of financial rules in a bid to end a stalemate over the first rewrite of regulations since the 2007-2009 financial crisis, sources said on Tuesday. Representative Jeb Hensarling, who is leading House discussions on the first rewrite of the 2010 Dodd-Frank reform law, made his case to industry lobbyists at a private meeting on Monday... Hensarling’s strategy will likely increase pressure on moderate Democrats in the Senate, which is in a standoff with the House over the bipartisan legislation to ease rules on small lenders."

TRUMP TRACKER

$50 billion tariffs coming. Bloomberg's Andrew Mayeda and co.: "Trump is set to announce about $50 billion of tariffs against China over intellectual-property violations on Thursday, according a person familiar with the matter. The president is considering targeting more than 100 different types of Chinese goods, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The value of the tariffs was based on U.S. estimates of economic damage caused by intellectual-property theft by China, the person said. 'Tomorrow the president will announce the actions he has decided to take based on USTR’s 301 investigation into China’s state-led, market-distorting efforts to force, pressure, and steal U.S. technologies and intellectual property,' White House official Raj Shah said in an emailed statement on Wednesday."

(Bloomberg runs down possible targets of Chinese retaliation, from soybeans to student visas, here.)

From Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs:

Countries clueless on metal tariffs. The Post's David Lynch: "Just two days before tariffs on foreign-made steel and aluminum are scheduled to take effect, the Trump administration has yet to make public its plans for how the import levies will work in practice — creating confusion for its closest allies. In recent days, top steel suppliers such as Brazil, South Korea and Japan have complained that the office of the U.S. trade representative has yet to establish a process for countries to apply for tariff exemptions, leaving it unclear whether any will be granted in time to forestall billions of dollars in border charges."

Lobbyists leverage NAFTA. Bloomberg's Jennifer Dlouhy: "While officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico try to hammer out a new North American Free Trade Agreement, lobbyists in Washington are using the deal’s rewrite to advance a broad legislative agenda making it easier for U.S. companies to build factories, move cargo and export coal. The strategy exploits the fast-track authority that allows presidents to negotiate big trade deals without having to worry about Congress tinkering around the edges. Under that authority, legislation to implement a trade deal can pass the House and Senate on a simple majority vote, without amendments or filibusters. That means a Nafta bill could lead to the enactment of what is essentially a big business wishlist of regulatory reforms and other policies too ambitious or politically sensitive to clear Congress in a piecemeal fashion."

Wonkblog
Here are the ways Trump’s “invisible wall” hurts foreign workers and the companies that employ them.
Tracy Jan
Politics
In a series of tweets, the president asserted that the last Republican president, George W. Bush, lacked the “smarts” to get along with Russia’s leader.
John Wagner
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told confidants that Kushner discussed the names of royal family members opposed to his power grab.
The Intercept
New York City's buildings regulator launched investigations at more than a dozen Kushner Cos. properties Wednesday following an AP report that the real estate developer routinely filed false paperwork.
AP
POCKET CHANGE
Trump Bay Street, a New Jersey luxury apartment tower part-owned by Kushner Cos., received a $200 million loan from Citigroup, according to two people familiar with the deal.
Bloomberg
Elon Musk's incentive based pay package from Tesla could make him the wealthiest man on the planet — or, if he fails to reach certain milestones, it could leave him without a dime in compensation.
CNN Money

Mulvaney, Acosta bury tips rule data. Bloomberg Law: "Labor Department leadership convinced OMB Director Mick Mulvaney to overrule the White House regulatory affairs chief and release a controversial tip-sharing rule without data showing it could allow businesses to skim $640 million in gratuities. Mulvaney sided with Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta over the government’s rulemaking clearinghouse—a little-known but critical wing of the White House called the Office of Information and Regulatory Affair... That allowed the department to delete from the proposal internal estimates showing businesses could take hundreds of millions in gratuities from their workers. The proposed rule, which reverses a 2011 regulation, generally makes it easier for restaurants to implement tip-sharing arrangements among workers who directly earn gratuities and those who don’t."

DAYBOOK

Today

  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testifies before the House Ways an Means Committee.
  • USTR Robert Lighthizer will testify before the Senate Finance Committee on the president’s 2018 trade policy agenda.
  • The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the oversight of the Housing and Urban Development.
  • The National Economists Club holds an event.
  • The American Enterprise Institute holds an event on the future of infrastructure policy under the Trump administration with Transportation Department Under Secretary Derek Kan.

THE FUNNIES

From the New Yorker: 

A cartoon by @b_loper. #TNYcartoons

A post shared by The New Yorker Cartoons (@newyorkercartoons) on

BULL SESSION

The Fed is raising interest rates. How does this affect you?:

Fact Check: How high are California's taxes? 

Lawyers for adult film star Stormy Daniels and President Trump's lawyer traded barbs on CNN for nearly 30 minutes: