Wednesday Morning Briefing: A more presidential president

Gone were the ad hominem attacks on his critics. The bellicose bravado was toned down. He shifted from his harsh rhetoric on immigration. At times, he even sounded like a Democrat (infrastructure, paid family leave, investment in women’s health). He didn’t even take pot shots at the media.

President Donald Trump addresses Joint Session of Congress. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

But while the tone in President Donald Trump's address to Congress was more measured, most of the policies were old favorites from President Donald Trump's campaign. He still wants to repeal Obamacare. He still wants a border wall, although conspicuously absent was his call for Mexico to pay for it. He still wants to slash corporate tax rates. He still doesn't think allies are shouldering enough of the cost of security alliances. He even made a crack about applause during a tribute to the American soldier killed in Yemen in January.

Quote of the day

“It was a softer tone and he gave a speech and not a tweet and that’s more suitable when you’re president of the United States. The challenges are going to be the details on his policies.” – Democratic Representative Peter Welch of Vermont

There weren't many of those details last night. But for the first time, Trump backed the use of tax credits to help people buy health insurance that would replace Obamacare. A draft Republican replacement for Obamacare would include an age-based monthly tax credit that Americans who do not get health insurance through their employer could use to buy coverage and take from job to job. Some Republicans are opposed to that plan.

Five things Trump did not mention:

- Russia

- North Korea

- Syria

- Border adjustment tax

- Delays on Cabinet confirmations

Feel that samba beat

Revellers from Portela samba school perform during the second night of the carnival parade at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

Revellers from Portela samba school perform during the second night of the carnival parade at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

Around Wall Street

- Markets were less focused on the speech than they were on chat from Federal Reserve officials that interest rate hikes could come sooner rather than later. Both the dollar and U.S. Treasury bond yields were higher. Dow Jones futures were up 83 points before the bell.

Digits of the Day: $19.5 billion to $22.3 billion

Snapchat parent Snap Inc is expected to price its IPO after the bell tonight. The social-media app is beloved by teenagers and 20-somethings, but it has yet to turn a profit. Snap is targeting a valuation of between $19.5 billion and $22.3 billion, the richest valuation in a U.S. tech IPO since Facebook in 2012. It's looking to price 200 million shares on Wednesday night at a range of $14 to $16 dollars a share.

- The Trump administration is preparing to ignore any rulings by the World Trade Organization that it sees as an affront to U.S. sovereignty, the Financial Times reported (subscription required). The draft document, due to be sent to the Congress today, marks the first time the new administration has laid out its trade plans in writing.

Around the country

- The National Security Agency risks a brain-drain of hackers and cyber spies due to a tumultuous reorganization and worries about the acrimonious relationship between the intelligence community and President Trump.

- Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez's tattoos and history of drug use could be among the evidence presented at the convicted killer's second murder trial, which gets under way in Boston today. Prosecutors charge that the 27-year-old former tight end gunned down two Cape Verdean men outside a Boston nightclub in May 2012 after one of them unwittingly spilled a drink on him. Those killings allegedly came a year before Hernandez shot dead an acquaintance at an industrial park near his North Attleborough, Massachusetts, home. Hernandez is currently serving a life sentence for that murder.

- An SUV driven by a 73-year-old man plowed into a Mardi Gras parade crowd in Alabama, injuring a dozen members of a high school marching band, but there was no sign the incident was intentional. The driver was not charged.

Around the world

- A former CIA officer convicted for involvement in the 2003 kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in Italy won a last-minute reprieve from deportation from Portugal on Wednesday and will be released, her lawyer said. Sabrina de Sousa, a dual U.S.-Portuguese citizen, was detained by Portuguese police last week.

South Korean and U.S. troops began their annual large-scale joint military exercise to test their defense readiness against the threat from North Korea. Pyongyang typically calls these exercises acts of war and threatens to retaliate.

- Malaysia charged two women, an Indonesian and a Vietnamese, with murdering the estranged half brother of North Korea's leader using a super-toxic nerve agent that killed him in minutes. The suspects were made to wear bullet-proof vests, reflecting Malaysian authorities' fears that others involved in the killing could want the women silenced.

Today’s reason to live

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