1/ Trump campaign aides had repeated contact with Russian intelligence during the 2016 campaign according to four current and former American officials. Phone records and intercepted calls show that the communications happened around the same time evidence was discovered that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee. U.S. intelligence agencies sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election. They have seen no evidence of such cooperation, so far. (New York Times)

  • It’s bigger than Flynn. New Russia revelations widen Trump’s credibility gap. Trump’s long-term fixation on and admiration for Vladimir Putin as well as Flynn’s departure has lent new gravity and intensity to long-simmering questions about Trump and Russia. (Washington Post)
  • Trump aides were in constant touch with senior Russian officials during campaign. The communications stood out to investigators due to the frequency and the level of the Trump advisers involved. Investigators have not reached a judgment on the intent of those conversations. (CNN)

2/ Andrew Puzder withdraws from consideration as labor secretary. The Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. CEO came under intense fire from Democrats and liberal groups who accused him of mistreating his workers, opposing the minimum wage and supporting automation in the workplace. The attacks on his policy views were compounded by intense scrutiny of his personal life, including allegations that he abused his ex-wife in the 1980s. (New York Times)

  • McConnell to White House: Andrew Puzder lacks the votes to win confirmation. At least seven Republican senators said they planned to withhold support for Puzder, saying that they wanted to see how the political novice fares at his confirmation hearing. (Washington Post)

3/ Senators from both parties pledge to deepen probe of Russia and the 2016 election. Mitch McConnell said an investigation is “highly likely,” and the top two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee announced that the committee’s ongoing probe must include an examination of any contacts between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government. (Washington Post)

  • Senator Lindsey Graham: Any Trump ally working inappropriately with Russia “needs to pay a price”. If the reports are true about communication between Trump’s aides and Russia during the campaign, Graham said Congress needs a joint select committee to examine Trump’s business ties to Russia. Trump called recent news stories reporting that his aides had contact with Russian intelligence officials during the 2016 elections “fake news” Wednesday morning and said the “Russian connection non-sense” was an attempt to “cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign.” (Politico)

4/ Jeff Sessions resists pressure to remove himself from his role in investigating Trump’s aides and their relationship with Russia. Democrats and outside groups say Sessions lacks the independence to oversee criminal investigations that might lead back to the White House. Sessions and Flynn were both early, influential advisers in Trump’s presidential campaign. (New York Times)

5/ Flynn’s departure erupts into a full-blown crisis for the Trump White House. The circumstances leading up to Flynn’s departure have quickly become a major crisis for the fledgling administration, forcing the White House on the defensive and precipitating the first significant breach in relations between Trump and an increasingly restive Republican Congress. (Washington Post)

  • Mike Pence told about Flynn warning two weeks after Trump. The White House kept Pence in the dark for weeks about the warning it had gotten about national security adviser Michael Flynn from the Justice Department. (NBC News)

  • Trump lashed out at the nation’s intelligence agencies again, accusing them on Twitter of illegally leaking information to the news media. The flurry on tweets come as new disclosures about his dealings with Russia during and after the presidential campaign surfaced. (New York Times)

6/ House panel votes against requesting Trump’s tax returns. Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday argued that requesting Trump’s tax returns is important to get more information about Trump’s potential conflicts of interest. (The Hill)

7/ Republican congressman reveals bill to abolish the EPA. The freshman congressman from Florida has finally released a summary of the agency-killing bill. It tops out at just more than 40 words. This news item is 37 words. (CNBC)

  • Trump aims to sign executive orders cutting into the EPA’s climate work shortly after his nominee to lead the agency is confirmed by the Senate. Trump has vowed to roll back Obama-era EPA actions, including major climate change regulations like the Clean Power Plan and a water jurisdiction rule opposed by many conservatives. (The Hill)
  • This is the entire bill to terminate the EPA (Congress.gov)

8/ A DREAMer was arrested during a raid and now a federal magistrate judge has ordered officials to defend the arrest of an undocumented immigrant who has protection from deportation. Attorneys filed a lawsuit accusing federal authorities of unlawfully arresting a Mexican immigrant in Seattle despite him having protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (BuzzFeed News)

9/ Trump to welcome Netanyahu for talks that could shape the contours of future Middle East policy. Palestinians fear the U.S. will abandon its two-state solution for the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Palestine living peacefully alongside Israel has been the bedrock U.S. position for decades. Negotiations broke down in 2014. Under a two-state solution, Israel would end its military occupation of Palestinian areas and allow the Palestinians to form their own self-governing state. (Reuters)

  • Trump said that the U.S. would no longer insist on a Palestinian state as part of a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, backing away from a policy that has underpinned America’s role in Middle East peacemaking since the Clinton administration. The comments are a striking departure from two decades of diplomatic orthodoxy. The Palestinians are highly unlikely to accept anything short of a sovereign state. (New York Times)

10/ Trump skirts tough questions again. In a joint appearance with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump only called on reporters from conservative news outlets, or at least outlets likely to be favorable to him. This is now the third bilateral appearance in which Trump appeared to skirt questions about controversial issues by not taking questions from the traditional stable of the press corps. (CNN)

11/ Doubts grow that GOP can repeal Obamacare. Republicans are sniping over how much of the law to scrap, what to replace it with and when. At this moment, it’s far from a sure thing any plan could get through Congress. (Politico)

12/ Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued an ultimatum to NATO allies, warning that if they do not boost their defense spending to goals set by the alliance, the United States may alter its relationship with them. It marks an escalation in Washington’s long-running frustration that many NATO countries do not spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product as they have pledged. (Washington Post)

13/ Trump will not fill out an NCAA tournament bracket. Fun sponge. (Washington Post)

poll/ Trump trails generic Democrat in 2020. In a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll. roughly a quarter of voters think Trump is the worst president in the last century. 43% percent of voters are ready to vote for a nameless Democrat in 2020. Just over a third say they’ll vote for Trump in 2020. In a hypothetical matchup, he beats Sen. Elizabeth Warren 42% to 36%. (Politico)

survey/ Americans are seriously stressed out about the future of the country. No shit. 66% of Americans reported stress about the future of the country, 57% about the current political climate and 49% about the election outcome. The survey was conducted by Harris Poll. (Washington Post)