WH exploring ‘every option’ to reclaim money from defunct California rail project; Trump to nominate Rosen

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Developing now, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019

TRUMP WH ‘EXPLORING EVERY LEGAL OPTION’ TO RECLAIM MONEY FROM DEFUNCT CALIFORNIA HIGH-SPEED RAIL PROJECT: The Trump administration announced Tuesday that it is exploring "every legal option" to reclaim $2.5 billion in federal funds spent by California on its now-defunct high-speed rail project, and also that it intends to cancel $928 million in federal grants not yet paid for the project to link Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

The move was a dramatic escalation in the ongoing war of words and policy between California and the White House. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, declared during his State of the State address last week that he was shelving plans for the $77 billion rail project that had been championed by environmental groups, admitting that "as currently planned, [it] would cost too much and take too long."

TRUMP TO NOMINATE JEFF ROSEN TO REPLACE ROD ROSENSTEIN AS DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: President Trump will nominate Jeff Rosen to replace outgoing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, White House officials announced Tuesday, confirming previous reports and seemingly cementing the ouster of the embattled No. 2 at the Justice Department.

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A graduate of Northwestern University and Harvard Law School, Rosen previously served as general counsel and senior policy adviser for the White House Office of Management and Budget (2006-2009) and as general counsel at the Department of Transportation (2003-2006), according to his online biography.

COVINGTON HIGH STUDENT'S LEGAL TEAM SUES WASHINGTON POST: Attorneys representing a Kentucky high school student involved in a confrontation that went viral on social media last month announced Tuesday that they were suing the Washington Post for $250 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Kentucky, accuses the Post of practicing "a modern-day form of McCarthyism" by targeting Nicholas Sandmann and "using its vast financial resources to enter the bully pulpit by publishing a series of false and defamatory print and online articles ... to smear a young boy who was in its view an acceptable casualty in their war against the president."

COOK COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY RECUSES HERSELF FROM JUSSIE SMOLLETT CASE: The Cook County state's attorney has recused herself from the investigation surrounding Jussie Smollett, as Chicago police continue to dig into the alleged hate crime attack the actor claims occurred last month.

State's Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself Tuesday, but it was not immediately clear why. First Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Magats will take over the case as acting state's attorney, Fox News has learned.

  • WATCH: Geraldo: Jussie Smollett 'played us'

THE SOUNDBITE

A NARRATIVE TO BE PROMOTED – "A lot of people bought into the Jussie Smollett narrative, which is that Trump supporters are stalking black people all around America seeking to beat them, seeking to harass them, and this was a perfect story. Now when a story is too perfect to be true, it usually is." – Ben Shapiro, host of the nationally syndicated radio program and podcast, “The Ben Shapiro Show,” appearing on "The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino," discussing the media's coverage of the alleged hate crime attack on actor Jussie Smollett. WATCH

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#OnThisDay

1987:  A bomb left by Unabomber Ted Kaczynski exploded behind a computer store in Salt Lake City, seriously injuring store owner Gary Wright.

1907: President Theodore Roosevelt signed an immigration act that excluded "idiots, imbeciles, feebleminded persons, epileptics, insane persons" from being admitted to the United States.

1792:  President George Washington signed an act creating the United States Post Office Department.

Fox News First is compiled by Fox News' Bryan Robinson. Fox News' Bradford Betz contributed to this edition. Thank you for joining us! Have a good day! We'll see you in your inbox first thing Thursday morning.