with Tobi Raji

Good Tuesday morning. Join us today for a conversation with Evan McMullin on his potential plans to start a center-right party – and check out the rest of the The Post Live show lineup this week with Andra Day, Ava DuVernay, Lori Lightfoot and more. Tips, comments, recipes? Reach out and sign up. This is the Power Up newsletter. Thanks for waking up with us. 

🚨: “Some of the leaders of the embattled Lincoln Project knew about sexual harassment allegations against co-founder John Weaver as early as March, multiple sources, including the group’s former executive director, told The 19th late Monday,” The 19th*'s Amanda Becker reports. 

At the White House

LET THEM EAT CAKE OR WEAR SCRUNCHIES: Former first lady Melania Trump once made headlines for wearing a $51,000 Dolce & Gabbana multicolored floral jacket. 

The new first lady, Jill Biden, made news last week … for wearing a scrunchie. Biden stopped at the Black-owned bakery The Sweet Lobby on Friday to “pick up some Valentine's treats for the weekend,” she tweeted. Sporting floral earrings, a pink coat, a black mask and carrying her own bags of treats and baked goods, it was Biden's scrunchie that really lit up the Internet. 

Leave it to a scrunchie to capture the zeitgeist of President Biden's promise to “return to normalcy,”  a stark departure from the “I don't really care” message sent by Trump. After four highly choreographed and manicured years, Jill Biden's laissez-faire approach to her public image and affectionate relationship with her husband may foreshadow a different approach to the traditionally staid and formal office of the first lady. 

  • “Dr. Biden has already been out and about in Washington more publicly than her predecessor was in four years,” Kate Andersen Brower, author of several books about White House traditions, told Power Up. “There’s a stark difference between [Donald] Trump and [Joe] Biden, the presidents, and an equally stark difference between their wives. Biden has had decades of experience being herself in public and she’s obviously much more comfortable holding her husband’s hand and being a demonstrably loving mother and grandmother when the world is watching. 
  • “I think we need that right now,” Brower added. 

♥️: Biden kicked off the long weekend on Friday with a morning walk with the president and their dogs, Major and Champ, to tour the Valentine's Day decorations made by the White House carpenters that FLOTUS had installed overnight — a surprise for America and for her husband, according to a White House aide. 

  • “Valentine’s Day is a big day, the president told reporters as they walked the front lawn, Jill’s favorite day.” 
  • “I just wanted some joy and I think just, with the pandemic, everybody’s feeling a little down, so it’s just a little joy, a little hope,” Biden said of the surprise. “That’s all.”

‘Relatable in a way Melania never was’: Twitter promptly noticed Biden's successful attempt at putting on gloves while holding her coffee cup, while  the president chatted with White House reporters nearby in the driveway. The otherwise mundane morning stroll felt almost avant-garde compared to the inscrutable relationship between Melania and Donald Trump.   

  • “Melania Trump was the most put together person and Jill comes across as a relatable mom, teacher, wife and woman she's relatable in a way that Melania never was,” our colleague Mary Jordan — and resident FLOTUS expert — told Power Up.

Love in the Trump White House was seldom publicly expressed:  Trump was more likely to swat away her husband's hand than display any public affection. 

  • “Right from the start, we saw that the Trumps are not a cuddly couple. Melania doesn't even like to hold her hand in public. On their first Valentine's day as president and first lady, Melania stayed in New York and didn't even come down to see her husband at the White House and Donald Trump was tweeting about everything except for his wife,” added Jordan, who penned “The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump.”

Is that Chanel?: Much like her husband, Biden has spent the majority of her adult life as the partner of a politician after she started dating the then-Delaware senator in 1975. Biden comfort in the public eye is something that Trump, a former model, never seemed to adopt.

Trump, who left office with “the lowest favorability rating of her tenure as first lady,” according to a CNN poll, was also famously formal. She'd be unlikely to ever be caught dead in a scrunchie “unless it was Chanel,” Jordan joked. 

  • Jordan reported that when the former first lady was 26-years-old and living in New York City, former bookers from her modeling agency noted that Trump's formality was a hallmark of her flashy but distant public — and private — persona.
  • When they'd pick models up in the morning for early call times, Melania Trump was always fully dressed — and if she was in her pajamas, even those were “perfectly ironed,” Jordan told us.

Biden, known for her love of pranks and comfortable with planting a kiss on her husband in public, is decidedly less formal and unscripted: Liza Bray, a Democratic operative, relayed a story from her mother Susan about her experience sitting in front of Biden on a flight to Iowa in 2012. She was second lady at the time and was flying economy to speak at a community college graduation in Creston, Iowa. 

  • After Bray's mother asked Biden why she wasn't sitting in first class, the now FLOTUS replied: “Nope, I’m right where I’m supposed to be. 

During the social media frenzy over Biden's radical normalcy, Trump has been sequestered at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. with her husband since departing the White House.

  • “Disappointed by the way she left Washington, she has been ‘bitter and chilly’ at times toward her husband, upset that her image became collateral damage in his quest to denounce the election and procure a peaceful transfer of power,” two of the people familiar with her thinking told CNN's Kate Bennett. 

As Biden, who will keep teaching at Northern Virginia Community College, maps out her agenda for the next four years, Trump is planning her comeback. Jordan has been told by sources in the former first lady's orbit that Trump fully plans on continuing with “philanthropic work with children.” But she's also “aware of damage that Donald Trump did at the end of his term to the Trump image.”  

  • “But the Trumps — both Melania and Donald are all about the comeback and I don't think you've seen the last of her She doesn't give up,” Jordan added, noting that Melania Trump is only 50-years-old.

On the Hill

ALL EYES ON STIMULUS TALKS: “Unemployment benefits will begin to lapse for millions of Americans in less than a month, putting the pressure squarely on Congress — and Democratic leaders — to usher through a $1.9 trillion covid relief bill,” CNN’s Lauren Fox reports

  • Happening this week: “The House Budget Committee will put together the final bill based [on] sections committees passed last week.”
  • The House is on track to pass its portion of the bill by the end of February. But the vetting process will likely be more intense. Here’s why:

One: The fight over minimum wage. “Democratic leaders are digging in on their party’s push to pass a $15-per-hour minimum wage in their coronavirus relief package,” Politico's Sarah Ferris and Marianne Levine report.

  • But “chances are clouded by the objections of two key Democrats: Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.),” the New York Times’s Sydney Ember reports.
  • Without their support, Senate Democrats will not have enough votes to pass the bill.
  • This is why “Biden has said that increasing the minimum wage might turn into a ‘separate negotiation’ from the relief package,” Politico’s Laura Barrón-López and Natasha Korecki report.
  • Much to think about: Raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 will lift 900,000 people out of poverty but decrease employment by 1.4 million, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

Two: The push for state and local aid. “Rescuing struggling state and local governments has been at the center of Congress’s months-long debate over how to address the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic,” our colleagues Alyssa Fowers and Rachel Siegel report

  • Why it matters: “State and local governments have shed 1.3 million jobs since the pandemic began last year — a loss of more than 1 in 20 government jobs.”
  • State Republicans are split: “Republican mayors and governors say they [need] federal aid to keep police on the beat, to prevent battered Main Street businesses from going under and to help care for the growing ranks of the homeless and the hungry,” our colleague Griff Witte reports.
  • However, “Republicans in Congress overwhelmingly oppose the relief bill, casting it as bloated and budget-busting.”

Cities that need the greatest relief include Fresno, Calif. and Dayton, Ohio. States include New Hampshire, Ohio and Hawaii.

  • More on Hawaii: “Tourism is Hawaii’s largest industry and employer, with visitors spending about $18 billion in 2019. In 2020, that figure fell to an estimated $5 billion,” our colleagues Alyssa Fowers and Rachel Siegel report.
  • As tourism vanished, the strain on Hawaii’s budget spilled over into the state’s education department.”
  • The impact: “In January 2020, Hawaii’s state government had 72,300 payroll jobs. By April, that number fell by 8,600 jobs. All of the cuts occurred in public education, including jobs for after-school programs.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announces the formation of a 9/11-type commission to probe Capitol attack: Read her Dear Colleague.

  • Why it matters: “Such a commission offers the last major opportunity to hold Trump accountable,” the Times’s Emily Cochrane reports.
  • It has bipartisan support: “Head Republicans on the House Administration, Homeland Security and Oversight committees — Reps. Rodney Davis (Ill.), John Katko (N.Y.) and James Comer (Ky.) — have proposed a bill that would create a bipartisan commission,” The Hill’s Justine Coleman reports.
  • The takeaway: “House Democrats [will] offer a supplemental spending measure ‘to provide for the safety of members and the security of the Capitol,’” Politico’s Kyle Cheney reports.

In the media

HAPPENING TODAY: “Biden will be fielding questions from Wisconsinites at a CNN town hall [today] at 9 p.m. eastern, 8 p.m. local time,” CNN's Brian Stelter reports

  • The broadcast will give Biden a global forum to set the post-Trump agenda and promote his covid-19 relief proposal.”
  • CNN's Anderson Cooper will moderate the town hall but “expect the audience to dominate the questioning.”

The campaign

SHE'S RUNNING?: Trump's acquittal in his Senate impeachment trial may have set the stage for a Trump family comeback. That may or may not include daughter-in-law Lara Trump running for office in her home state of North Carolina: 

  • “Senator Richard M. Burr’s decision to vote for the conviction of Mr. Trump incensed many Republicans in his home state of North Carolina, and in doing so reignited talk that Ms. Trump, a native of Wilmington, N.C., would seek the Senate seat Mr. Burr will vacate in 2022,” the Times's Annie Karni and Jonathan Martin report. 
  • “My friend Richard Burr just made Lara Trump almost the certain nominee for the senate seat in North Carolina to replace him if she runs,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Fox News Sunday. 
  • Ms. Trump did not respond to a request for comment. One senior Republican official with knowledge of her plans said that the Jan. 6 riot soured her desire to seek office, but that she would decide over the next few months whether to run as part of a coordinated Trump family comeback.” 

The Trumps are not the only ones weighing their future in Republican politics: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who is under scrutiny for “racking up huge bills” to use a state airplane to attend GOP events, is making moves to boost her national profile:

He's definitely running again – in six years?: 

Outside the Beltway

THE UNITED STATES OF ANTARCTICA: “Americans from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border were pummeled by a historic winter storm on Monday as heavy snow, freezing rain and Arctic temperatures made highways impassable, closed airports and crippled the electricity supply in Texas on one of its coldest days in decades,” our colleagues Tim Craig and Kim Bellware report.

  • More than 4 million Texas households have lost power, preventing residents from heating their homes, cooking meals or working remotely
  • A Texas utility service implemented rolling blackouts throughout the state to prevent the state’s power grid from collapsing
  • 4,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine were rushed from a Houston warehouse after it lost power
  • Temperatures have dipped as low as minus-50 in 30 states, including Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado

The bottom line: “Roughly 150 million Americans were under some form of winter storm warning,” the New York Times reports.

CUOMO BREAKS SILENCE ON NURSING HOME SCANDAL:Admitting a degree of fault for the first time, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Monday that his administration’s lack of transparency about the scope of coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes in New York was a mistake, the New York Times's Jesse McKinley reports

  • Lawmakers from both parties have called for the governor to be stripped of his emergency powers and for an investigation into his administration.
  • When asked if he would apologize, he said “Apologize? Look, I have said repeatedly we made a mistake in creating the void. We should have provided more information faster. We should have done a better job. Total death counts were always accurate, nothing was hidden from anyone, but we did create the void. And that created pain. And I feel very badly about that.”

Viral

A ROYAL PANDEMIC BABY: “Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are expecting their second baby,” our colleagues Jennifer Hassan and Karla Adam report

  • “The couple, who married in May 2018, have a son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, born May 2019.”
  • Their second child will not be born a prince or princess, as he or she will be too far down the line of succession to assume the title automatically.”