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People look at U.S. border patrol guards through the U.S.-Mexico border fence. Photo: Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump has set a Feb. 15 deadline for a deal to get his wall money, and he's signaled he'll declare a national emergency or use other executive powers if he can't get the money through Congress.

The big picture: White House officials I've spoken to claim that House Democrats have privately signaled they're willing to fund a border barrier. (They won't say who.) But even these same White House officials aren't trying to spin that the "conference" to negotiate border security will yield a breakthrough. As the NYT's Jonathan Martin put it: "This is not, to put it mildly, a build-the-wall crew."

A congressional Republican aide, reflecting a widely shared view, texted this prediction: "Next three weeks will be just a messaging war. WH will use proxies to hammer why the border is a national emergency. Dems will use the time to take a victory lap. ... Most likely outcome — no wall money. POTUS uses it to justify a national emergency. Appropriations process blows up for many years."

Between the lines: By declaring a national emergency, Trump would trigger the ability for the White House to move money around that Congress controlled — including Army Corps civil works projects and military construction projects. Members regard these monies as lifelines for their districts or states; Congress protects them zealously.

Go deeper: Trump's self-inflicted slump

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.