1/ The first of Trump’s four criminal trials will start March 25. Justice Juan Merchan set the trial date after denying Trump’s attempt to dismiss the 34 felony charges, which center on allegations that Trump falsified business records to cover up hush money payments to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential election. Trump’s lawyer, meanwhile, “strenuously” objected to the trial date, claiming the decision is “election interference” because “Trump is going to now spend the next two months working on this trial instead of out on the campaign trail running for president.” The trial is expected to last six weeks and Trump will be required to attend his Manhattan criminal trial in person. (Politico / New York Times / NBC News / NPR / CNBC / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Axios / Associated Press)

2/ The district attorney overseeing Trump’s election interference case in Georgia took the stand to defend her romantic relationship with the top special prosecutor in the case. Trump claimed that Fani Willis’s relationship with Nathan Wade created a conflict of interest that warrants removing her from the proceedings. Both Willis and Wade acknowledged that they had a personal relationship, but denied any wrongdoing. Wade testified that their relationship began in early 2022 — after he was hired for the case in Nov. 2021 — and ended in summer 2023. A former friend of Willis’s, however, testified that the relationship began in 2019. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / NBC News)

3/ Israel Defense Forces raided the main hospital in southern Gaza – a site where thousands of Palestinians have been using as a shelter. The IDF said it was conducting an operation to recover the bodies of hostages at Nasser Hospital, the largest functioning hospital in the enclave. Elsewhere, the Biden Administration and “a small group of Middle East partners” have been working on a “comprehensive plan” for durable peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which would include a pathway to a Palestinian state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, nevertheless, warned the U.S. against recognizing a Palestinian state – whether directly or indirectly – saying it “would be a prize for those who planned and orchestrated the Oct. 7 massacre.” The State Department is currently reviewing policy options on possible U.S. and international recognition of a Palestinian state after the war in Gaza. Netanyahu, meanwhile, vowed to forge ahead with a “powerful” operation in Rafah where 1.1 million Palestinians currently reside, which the the Biden administration said it wouldn’t support under any circumstances. (CNN / NBC News / Axios / Washington Post / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)

4/ Joe Manchin – who still hasn’t said whether he’ll launch a third party bid for president – suggested Mitt Romney would be his hypothetical running mate. Manchin also said he would consider Rob Portman, the moderate former Republican senator from Ohio, as a running mate. Manchin made the comment as part of his “listening tour.” When asked if he’s ruled out running for president, Manchin replied: “Third party run, everything is on the table. Nothing’s off the table. I’m still evaluating all that. Super Tuesday [March 5] pretty much would be a deadline that tells you where you are.” (NBC News / Politico)

5/ Up to half of the Amazon rainforest may cross a tipping point as soon as 2050 as “unprecedented stress” from climate change, deforestation, drought, fire, and rising temperatures threaten the ecosystem. While a catastrophic collapse of the entire forest is unlikely this century, by mid-century 10% to 47% of the Amazon will be exposed to stressors that could lead to a rapid transition from a rainforest to a savannah. The Amazon is home to more than 10% of Earth’s biodiversity and holds up to 20 years’ worth of global carbon dioxide emissions. The collapse of part or all of the rainforest would release the decades worth of global emissions into the atmosphere. Further, those same trees pump huge amounts of water into the atmosphere, which contributes up to 50% of rainfall and moisture supply in the region. (Axios / New York Times / The Guardian / Earth.org / Nature)