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February 14, 2018

President Trump has gone from scrapping the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program to promising, on camera, to sign any "bill of love" to protect DACA recipients that Congress sends him to, last weekend, accusing Democrats of not being serious about negotiating a bipartisan DACA replacement. Now, a senior administration official tells Axios that Trump "will veto any bill that doesn't advance his common-sense immigration reforms," severely undermining the immigration legislation being forged in the Senate this week.

One of the proposals before the Senate does roughly match the four pillars Trump wants to see in an immigration bill, but the three parts not dealing with DACA focus on long-term curtailing of legal immigration and funding Trump's border wall. "There's almost zero chance the Senate approves a bill Trump will like," Axios notes. The senior White House official, who may or may not be Stephen Miller, told Axios' Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan that Democrats who oppose Trump's approach will "be walking into a political suicide march," but Democrats don't seem to be too concerned.

"Their spin is laughably bad," a Senate Democratic official tells Axios. Trump "ended the [DACA] program. He would be deporting them. Who in their right mind would blame Democrats?" Trump is "using DREAMers as leverage to achieve immigration policies that are broadly unpopular," the Democrat added. Polls show broad support for giving DREAMers — young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children — legal status or citizenship. Two federal judges have ordered the Trump administration to continue the DACA program, at least temporarily, making Trump's March 5 deadline more or less moot. Peter Weber

6:55 a.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron will make his first public comments on a month of "yellow vest" protests in Paris and other cities in a nationally televised address Monday night. The protests started in opposition to a fuel tax Macron's government had scheduled, but they've since transformed into a movement mobilized against his economic policies, many viewed as tilted toward the wealthy. Macron's decision to scrap the fuel tax did not dampen a fourth weekend protest on Saturday, where about 1,000 of the 136,000 yellow vest protesters were arrested and 71 people injured in Paris. Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said Sunday that Macron "will know how to find the path to the hearts of the French," but there is no "magic wand" to resolve the growing list of yellow vest demands. Peter Weber

6:22 a.m.

Lawmakers are considering a wide range of legislation in the final days of the current Congress, but the only bills they need to pass are the seven remaining spending measures to keep the federal government running past a current deadline of Dec. 21. The most contentious of the remaining spending bills is for the Department of Homeland Security, with President Trump demanding $5 billion for his proposed border wall and Democrats saying no. Trump is set to meet with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — likely the incoming House speaker — and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday to discuss the impasse. Democrats say that, based on Trump's past reneging on legislative deals, they have low expectations for the talks. Peter Weber

5:47 a.m.

Former FBI Director James Comes told House investigators on Friday that the bureau's counterintelligence investigation of possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia began with four unidentified Americans starting in July 2016, "weeks or months" before the FBI learned of "the so-called Steele dossier" compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele for Trump's political rivals. But now, thanks to recent disclosures by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, we know of at least 14 Trump associates and family members — including children Don. Jr. and Ivanka Trump — who were contacted by Russian nationals during President Trump's 2016 campaign, according to The Washington Post's tally.

Some of the Russians circling Trump's world "offered to help his campaign and his real estate business, and "some offered dirt on his Democratic opponent," the Post reports. As Mueller "slowly unveils the evidence that he has gathered since his appointment as special counsel in May 2017, he has not yet shown that any of the dozens of interactions between people in Trump's orbit and Russians resulted in any specific coordination between his presidential campaign and Russia. But the mounting number of communications that have been revealed occurred against the backdrop of 'sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election,' as Mueller's prosecutors wrote in a court filing last week."

Russia experts and former presidential campaign officials say that the number and nature of such contacts with a foreign power, much less a hostile power, is highly unusual during a presidential campaign. You can read more about the 14 Trump associates and their Russian contacts at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

4:37 a.m.

On Tuesday, Britain's House of Commons is scheduled to vote on, and expected to reject, Prime Minister Theresa May's negotiated Brexit plan, throwing Britain's exit from the European Union into further uncharted waters. On Monday morning, the European Court of Justice, the EU's top court, answered one unresolved Brexit question, ruling that if Britain so desires, it can unilaterally cancel its divorce any time before it becomes final on March 29, 2019 — or during any extension to that exit date. Revoking the Article 50 exit clause would have to "follow a democratic process," the court ruled, meaning that in Britain, Parliament would have to approve calling off Brexit.

The ECJ issued its ruling in response to a question from a group of anti-Brexit U.K. politicians, and the court said Monday that its aim is to "clarify the options open to MPs" before they vote on Tuesday. The upshot is that staying in the EU is now "a real, viable option," BBC Brussels correspondent Adam Fleming notes, cautioning that "a lot would have to change in British politics" for Brexit to be actually called off.

Assuming lawmakers rejected May's proposal, Parliament could "follow a number of different courses of action, including backing a Norway-type deal or amendments that make significant changes made to the backstop agreement — the insurance policy that prevents a hard border in Ireland," Laura Silver says at BuzzFeed News. "The defeat would also pave the way to a second referendum on leaving the EU, which has already been discussed in Downing Street. It is unclear whether or not remaining in the EU entirely would be an option on the ballot paper." Peter Weber

3:49 a.m.

The low-level U.S. delegation to global climate talks in Katowice, Poland, made waves Saturday night, joining with Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Kuwait in an attempt to weaken support for a United Nations report warning of catastrophic consequences if the world fails to combat rising global temperatures, The Washington Post reports. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report on climate change to coincide with the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), a two-week conference to create rules for implementing the 2015 Paris climate accord.

"The United States was willing to note the report and express appreciation to the scientists who developed it, but not to welcome it, as that would denote endorsement of the report," a State Department spokesman said. "The United States has not endorsed the findings of the report." President Trump, who also downplayed similar dire warnings from a report issued last month by 13 U.S. federal agencies, started withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris accord in 2017, but the U.S. still has a seat at the table until it can formally withdraw in November 2020.

The Natural Resources Defense Council's Jack Schmitdt told the Post that before the U.S. moved "to 'note'" the U.N. report at Saturday night's meeting, "there was going to be an agreement to welcome" it. On Monday, the U.S. is hosting a show in Poland promoting coal and other fossil fuels.

Since the U.S. government released its National Climate Assessment the day after Thanksgiving, the Trump administration has cleared a path for coal-fired plants to evade previous rules to capture pollution and authorized gas drilling on once-protected federal lands. Global carbon-dioxide emissions rose last year, after staying flat since 2014, and U.S. emissions are projected to rise 2.5 percent in 2018, after falling in 2017 and six other years in the past decade, according federal figures. Peter Weber

2:22 a.m.

In court filings Friday, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York linked President Trump to two crimes his former lawyer Michael Cohen admitted to committing on his behalf in 2016. "What the prosecutors did not say in Mr. Cohen's sentencing memorandum," The New York Times reported Sunday, "is that they have continued to scrutinize what other executives in the president's family business may have known about those crimes, which involved hush-money payments to two women who had said they had affairs with Mr. Trump," porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

The federal prosecutors did not directly accuse Trump of committing a crime, but they said Friday that "with respect to both payments, [Cohen] acted in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump. Cohen has said he believed Trump personally approved the Trump Organization's decision to reimburse him for the hush payments, and he told prosecutors that the company's chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, was involved in discussions about the payments, the Times reports.

"While the prevailing view at the Justice Department is that a sitting president cannot be indicted, the prosecutors in Manhattan could consider charging him after leaving office," the Times notes. Trump still owns the Trump Organization through a trust, and the company and its executives — including Trump's children — are not protected by the Justice Department opinion against prosecuting Trump in office.

"There's a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him, that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the House intelligence committee, said on CBS's Face The Nation. "The bigger pardon question may come down the road as the next president has to determine whether to pardon Donald Trump." Schiff has previously said the intelligence committee will examine Trump's family business. Peter Weber

12:55 a.m.

With Nick Ayers unexpectedly taking himself out of the running to be President Trump's next chief of staff, Trump "finds himself in the unaccustomed position of having no obvious second option," The New York Times reports. Several names are being floated to replace Chief of Staff John Kelly, including White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), and former Trump campaign official David Bossie.

But unusually, it's not clear who's even interested in the job. Meadows, a far-right Trump loyalist, wants the position but Trump isn't sure, Politico reports, and Mnuchin "isn't eager to take the post." Mulvaney also is "not interested in becoming chief of staff," The Associated Press reports, and The Washington Post says the White House is reluctant to move Lighthizer because of his key role in trade negotiations with China.

White House chief of staff has traditionally been a stepping stone to greater power, but Trump's first two chiefs of staff, "Kelly and Reince Priebus before him, have left as diminished and arguably humiliated figures, unable to control the wild chaos of this president's White House," Politico notes. "Priebus was marginalized and mocked before he was abandoned on an airport tarmac," and "Trump had recently stopped speaking to Kelly," who "wasn't even allowed to announce his own resignation despite a reported agreement with Trump that he could do so."

"You really do have to wonder why anybody would want to be Donald Trump's White House chief of staff given that so far it's been mission impossible," Chris Whipple, the author of a history of White House chiefs of staff, tells Politico. And Kelly's successor will also have to deal with a tough re-election campaign, an incoming Democratic House majoriy, and a special counsel investigation that is circling ever closer to the White House. Peter Weber

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