1/ Sean Spicer targets own staff in leak crackdown. After becoming aware that information had leaked out of a planning meeting, Spicer reconvened his staff and told them to dump their phones on a table for a “phone check," to prove they had nothing to hide. Spicer also warned the group of more problems if news of the phone checks and the meeting about leaks was leaked to the media. (Politico)
2/ White House: Too early to say whether a special prosecutor should look into apparent election meddling by Russia. The assessment comes as a growing number of Democrats are calling for Jeff Sessions, who was a key figure in Trump’s campaign, to step aside as the FBI and the Justice Department probe what happened. (Washington Post)
3/ Chris Christie tells GOP lawmakers to hold town halls: "You asked for the job. Go do it." Christie said that the Trump administration needs to be more mindful of their “perception” and urged GOP lawmakers not to shy away from holding town hall events, though they might be confronted by protesters. (Washington Post)
- Rubio on skipping town halls: Activists will "heckle and scream at me." Rubio won’t participate in town hall meetings because he says political activists will crash them to create a media spectacle. (Politico)
4/ Trump’s upcoming budget won’t touch entitlement programs such as Social Security or Medicare. The administration thinks tax cuts and regulatory relief will lead to a sharp increase in economic growth of 3% or higher. (Bloomberg)
5/ The New York Times will run its first-ever advertising during the Academy Awards tonight with a spot that appears to target the Trump administration titled "The Truth Is Hard." Trump has already lashed out at the new ad campaign on Twitter, hours before the spot runs. (The Hill)
For first time the failing @nytimes will take an ad (a bad one) to help save its failing reputation. Try reporting accurately & fairly!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 26, 2017
6/ Trump will be the first president in 36 years to skip the White House Correspondents Dinner. The last president to not attend the dinner was Ronald Reagan in 1981. But he had a pretty good reason — he was recovering from being shot in an assassination attempt. (NPR)
7/ France's Hollande fires back at Trump over comments that "Paris is no longer Paris" after attacks by Islamist militants. French President said Trump should show support for U.S. allies. (Reuters)
8/ Churches across the US are fighting back against Trump's mandate to ramp up deportations with new sanctuary practices of their own: They've created a modern-day underground railroad to ferry undocumented immigrants from house to house or into Canada using private homes in their congregations as shelter. (BuzzFeed News)
poll/ Trump's job approval rating stands at just 44% — a record low for a newly inaugurated commander-in-chief — and half of Americans say that his early challenges suggest unique and systemic problems with his administration. (NBC News)
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