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First Read's Morning Clips

A roundup of the most important news stories of the day

OBAMA AGENDA: Stressing unity over division

Obama and Merkel worked to stress unity on the West's overall Ukraine strategy even as Obama would not close the door on sending some lethal aid to the region.

From the AP: "President Barack Obama is expected — as early as Tuesday — to ask Congress for new war powers, sending Capitol Hill his blueprint for an updated authorization for the use of military force to fight the Islamic State group. Haggling then begins on writing a new authorization to battle the Sunni extremists, who have seized territory in Iraq and neighboring Syria and imposed a violent form of Sharia law."

The New York Times profiles Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who's fighting a federal judge's order to begin allowing same sex marriages.

China may be stepping up its role as a mediator in Afghanistan, something the Chinese have long resisted.

From the BBC: "Syria's President Bashar al-Assad says his government is receiving messages from the US-led coalition battling the jihadist group, Islamic State. Mr Assad told the BBC that there had been no direct co-operation since air strikes began in Syria in September. But third parties - among them Iraq - were conveying "information"."

The LA Times: "President Obama will soon roll out one of the most ambitious and controversial programs of his presidency, an effort to grant a reprieve from deportation to millions of adult immigrants living in the country illegally. With time short and stakes high, the Obama administration knows it cannot afford another debacle like 2013's botched introduction of the Affordable Care Act."

CONGRESS: It’s 4th and 10, and Senate Republicans are set to punt

NBC’s Frank Thorp: "Senate Republicans appear to be ready to punt the task of passing legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security back to the House after it became clear that Democrats would not allow the Senate to consider the House-passed funding bill."

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid will undergo a second surgery this week in the attempt to restore full vision to his right eye, NBC's Frank Thorp also reports.

Per a release: “The Convention of States Action announces that former Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) is joining the Convention of States Project as Senior Advisor. Since the 2015 legislative sessions began in January, 25 states have filed their Article V applications to call an amending convention of the states. Senator Coburn’s insight and legislative wisdom will be invaluable to the national effort.”

OFF TO THE RACES: Release the emails!

MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin looks at the Peter Kings, John Boltons, and Lindsey Grahams who might run for president, in part, to hammer Rand Paul on national security issues. “In interviews with msnbc, King and Bolton each made clear that Paul’s rise within the party loomed large in their thinking. ‘That really generated my concern,’ said King, who has likened Paul to infamous Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh. ‘What he was appealing to the Republican Party, to me, would be disastrous policy wise and also politically.’”

BUSH: Bloomberg asks how long Jeb Bush will decline to engage with rivals before he hits back.

Here's the Tampa Bay Times on Bush's email release today.

And speaking of technology strategy, being called out for deleting tweets about “sluts” is probably not the best way to start off in your new job working for a GOP frontrunner.

CHRISTIE: Chris Christie told Iowans that his time in blue New Jersey prepared him to work with Congress. ""I'm not too blunt, I'm not too direct to be in Iowa or any place else in this country," Christie said. "Because what we need now in my opinion in this country more than anything else, is some blunt, direct straight talk to fix problems that that we've been avoiding for too long because we care more about the comfort of people's feelings than about telling the truth and fixing the problems that need to be fixed. I'm not going to shrink away from that ever.""

We learned last night that Christie is planning on attending the March 7 Iowa Agriculture Summit.

CLINTON: From POLITICO, yesterday: "David Brock on Monday abruptly resigned from the board of the super PAC Priorities USA Action, revealing rifts that threaten the big-money juggernaut being built to support Hillary Clinton’s expected presidential campaign."

And/but: "A clash that threatened to fracture a network of independent groups mobilizing to back a Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential run was partially defused late Monday when liberal activist David Brock agreed to consider rejoining the board of a pro-Clinton super PAC," notes the Washington Post.

CRUZ: Ted Cruz has hired former Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler.

JINDAL: POLITICO writes that Jindal calls his critics on the right and the left "elitist hacks who can’t stand the idea of an Ivy League-educated, unapologetic conservative."

RUBIO: Jim Merrill, Mitt Romney’s New Hampshire guru in 2008 and 2012, is signing on with Marco Rubio, the New York Times first reported.

And around the country...

ILLINOIS: "Gov. Bruce Rauner, the newly elected Republican who has often criticized public sector unions, took his first step toward curbing their power on Monday by announcing an executive order that would bar unions from requiring all state workers to pay the equivalent of dues."

OREGON: The Oregonian: “Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced Monday that she has opened an investigation into the allegations of public corruption against Gov. John Kitzhaber and Cylvia Hayes. Through her investigation, launched Friday, Rosenblum has the power to request any records, subpoena witnesses and bring charges against the Democratic governor and his fiancée.”


*** Tuesday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall speaks with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dr. Lolita McDavid from UH Case University Hospitals regarding measles, Joe Hosey, author of Fatal Vows: The Tragic Wives of Sergeant Drew Peterson regarding Drew Peterson allegedly ordering a hit on the state prosecutor that put him away behind bars, and Fashion designer Cookie Johnson about her career and her message of empowering women through fashion.

*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews former Ambassador Nicholas Burns, French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, NBC’s Pete Williams and Charles Hadlock, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and USA Today’s Susan Page.