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The Daily 202: The wall has become the symbol of the Trump presidency — and his credibility gap

President Trump said Jan. 4 that he wants $5.6 billion to build the border wall, adding, "This should have been done by all the presidents that preceded me." (Video: Reuters)

with Joanie Greve

With Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: As he prepares to make the case for a wall during a televised speech from the Oval Office tonight and with a trip to Texas on Thursday, President Trump has already made more false or misleading claims about immigration than any other subject.

Through the end of 2018, The Washington Post Fact Checker team documented 7,645 false or misleading claims made by Trump since taking office. Of those, 1,130 were about immigration. Claims about foreign policy and trade tied for second, with 822 claims, followed by claims about the economy (768).

The last week has brought a stream of additional falsehoods on the topic that’s defined his term as much as any other — and prompted a partial government shutdown now in its 18th day. To wit:

-- All four living ex-presidents have now gone on the record to rebut Trump’s claim, made in the Rose Garden last Friday, that “some” of them have privately told him that they should have built the wall. “I have not discussed the border wall with President Trump, and do not support him on the issue,” Jimmy Carter said in a Monday statement, echoing earlier denials from spokesmen for Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

-- Leaks from inside the government continue to undercut the administration’s misleading spin on crime and terrorism vis-a-vis immigration:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered only six immigrants at ports of entry on the U.S-Mexico border in the first half of fiscal year 2018 whose names were on a federal government list of known or suspected terrorists, according to CBP data provided to Congress in May 2018,” NBC News’s Julia Ainsley reports. “The low number contradicts statements by Trump administration officials, including White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who said Friday that CBP stopped nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists from crossing the southern border in fiscal year 2018. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen told reporters on Monday the exact number … was classified but that she was working on making it public.”

“Despite their portrayal of Mexico as a teeming portal for terrorists,” the AP’s Calvin Woodward reports this morning, “the State Department issued a report in September finding ‘no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.’” (Read the State Department report for yourself.)

More than 200 times Trump promised Mexico would pay for the wall. Now he falsely says he's keeping his promise with the revised trade agreement with Mexico. (Video: Meg Kelly/The Washington Post)

-- Trump has publicly promised at least 212 times that Mexico would pay for the wall, and he’s now falsely insisted five times in just the past three weeks that Mexico will still pay because of the revisions to NAFTA.

“This is a nonsense claim,” Glenn Kessler, the director of The Post’s Fact Checker unit, writes in a fresh post this morning. “The president has already earned a Bottomless Pinocchio for claiming that the United States loses money on trade deficits. Now, he’s claiming that the ‘savings’ from his trade deal will pay for the border wall. … The trade deficit with Mexico climbed in 2018. It may climb again in 2019. But even if the trade deficit declined, that would not translate into government revenue that could be claimed for the wall. It’s hard for any politician to admit they broke a campaign promise. But no amount of spinning and fuzzy math will obscure the fact that Trump made a promise that he cannot deliver.”

-- Over the past three years, Trump promised the wall would be built from concrete. Now he claims he never said this, even though it’s on video and in tweets. He now says it will be a series of “steel slats.”

-- The president has also now falsely claimed at least 94 times that his wall is already being built. It’s not.

-- One reason this matters: Trump’s demonstrated willingness to play fast and loose with the truth could make it harder to move the needle of public opinion when he speaks to the country at 9 p.m. He can certainly mobilize his base, which could keep wavering congressional Republicans in line, but his credibility gap might limit how many independent-minded citizens he’s able to persuade. His reputation for stretching the facts has even prompted an unusual debate in media circles about whether it’s appropriate for the broadcast networks to air a presidential address.

For years, President Trump said he would build a wall out of concrete on the southern border. Now, he says it will be made of steel, not concrete. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

-- Inside the White House’s “crisis” strategy: “Our position is very simply this: There is a humanitarian and national security crisis at the southern border,” Vice President Pence said during a Monday afternoon briefing for reporters. That word was uttered 37 times during the briefing, which also included the DHS secretary and acting OMB director Russ Vought. “The crisis is getting worse,” Nielsen said. “The status quo laws are not able to address the crisis. ... It is a security and a humanitarian crisis.”

The administration is laying the groundwork for Trump to possibly declare a “national emergency” that would empower him to construct a border wall without congressional approval. “Trump increasingly views a national emergency declaration as a viable, if risky, way for him to build a portion of his long-promised barrier, according to senior administration officials,” Bob Costa and Phil Rucker report. “Such a move would be a fraught act of brinkmanship at the dawn of a newly divided government. … But Trump believes forcing a drastic reckoning by executive action may be necessary given the Democratic resistance and the wall’s symbolic power for his core voters. ...

“Although Trump has made ‘no decision’ about a declaration, Pence said, lawyers in the White House Counsel’s Office are working to determine the president’s options and prepare for any possible legal obstacles. … Trump could theoretically use the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to declare an emergency, activating executive authorities including the reprogramming of some Defense Department funds.” (Paul Sonne explains how that would work.)

-- On Twitter yesterday, Trump sought to bolster his case that he could invoke emergency powers by selectively quoting a Democratic congressman who actually said that doing so would be a terrible use of resources.

Here's why it will be tough for a Democratic candidate to catch up with President Trump by the general election campaign. (Video: Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

--Democrats moved on two fronts Monday to goad Republicans into reopening the federal government, lining up House bills to fund shuttered agencies and preparing to block action in the Senate until the shutdown is resolved,” Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim and Jeff Stein report. “A growing coalition of Senate Democrats — primarily including those from states that have large populations of federal workers, as well as a contingent eyeing 2020 presidential bids — say the chamber should not vote on anything else until the shutdown ends. Those tactics were first proposed by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). The Democratic senators who have endorsed Van Hollen’s strategy include his fellow senator from Maryland, Benjamin L. Cardin, along with Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (Va.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Thomas R. Carper (Del.) and Bernie Sanders (Vt.).”

-- “Several dozen House Republicans might cross the aisle this week to vote for Democratic bills to reopen shuttered parts of the federal government, spurring the White House into a dramatic effort to stem potential GOP defections,” per Politico’s John Bresnahan and Sarah Ferris. “A senior House GOP aide said [House Majority Leader Kevin] McCarthy and his top lieutenants believe 15 to 25 Republicans will vote with Democrats this week, possibly even more.

-- Commentary on The Post’s opinion page:

  • The Editorial Board calls for a compromise that gives Trump a few billion for a wall in exchange for protecting the “dreamers” and recipients of temporary protected status.
  • Henry Olsen: “Trump is threatening to go around Congress to get his wall. History shows he’ll fail.”
  • Michael Gerson: “Trump’s ‘authenticity’ is merely moral laziness and cruelty.”
  • Dana Milbank: “Trump is entering his terrible twos.”
  • Richard Cohen: “Which side of the wall of decency are you on?”
  • Eugene Robinson: “This is what Congress must tell Trump.”

-- The ground truth: U.S. immigration authorities have been deporting thousands of Mexican immigrants each month to dangerous border cities like Reynosa, a practice that some have decried as a human rights violation. Kevin Sieff reports: “Many of the deportees, all Mexican, have been living illegally in the United States for years, and they don’t know Reynosa’s reputation. It is the least secure city in Mexico, according to a government survey. It is in a state, Tamaulipas, that is the only place along Mexico’s northern border to carry the State Department’s most severe travel warning, putting it in the same category as Afghanistan and North Korea. … Last year, a third of people deported from the United States to Mexico, about 60,000 as of October, were sent through Tamaulipas. About 16,500 of the deportees arrived in Reynosa. … Mexico's new administration says it plans to formally ask the United States to stop deportations to Reynosa and other dangerous, poorly resourced border cities, and instead concentrate on safer ports of entry.”

-- At the Vatican yesterday, Pope Francis invoked the Berlin Wall and “the painful division of Europe” during the Cold War as he pleaded with Christians around the world to stand unified against the “temptation to erect new curtains.”

“Waves of migration in recent years have caused diffidence and concern among peoples in many countries, particularly in Europe and North America, and this has led various governments to severely restrict the number of new entries, even of those in transit,” Francis told diplomats at the Holy See. “I do not believe that partial solutions can exist for so universal an issue.”

The pope then praised Colombia and other South American nations for accepting large numbers of Venezuelans fleeing food shortages and economic difficulties, per the Associated Press.

“All human beings long for a better and more prosperous life,” he said, “and the challenge of migration cannot be met with a mind-set of violence and indifference, nor by offering merely partial solutions.”

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-- Clemson defeated Alabama 44-16 in the College Football Playoff national championship game to capture its second title in three years, becoming the first program to go 15-0 since Penn in 1897. Chuck Culpepper and Des Bieler report: “Clemson, the program from northwest South Carolina that waited 35 years between very occasional national championships in 1981 and 2016, waited just two for its next and looked like it aims to make it habitual. By the time it opposed Alabama for the third time in the last four title games, and beat it for the second time in three, it had built itself into a harbor of gasp-wreaking football talent and airtight self-assurance. … Yet once thrown onto the rug with this newfangled dynasty in front of 74,814 spectators in good, 61-degree football weather, Alabama — Alabama — came to look as it had made so many others look: overrun.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg missed oral arguments for the first time Jan. 7 since joining the court in 1993, as she recovers from cancer surgery. (Video: Reuters)


  1. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg missed oral arguments for the first time in her career on the bench as she continues to recover from cancer surgery. Ginsburg has been working from home since she underwent surgery Dec. 21 to remove malignant nodules in one of her lungs. (Robert Barnes)

  2. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions rose by 3.4 percent last year, according to new research. The findings indicate the United States has an increasingly smaller window to meet its pledge from the Paris climate agreement to dramatically cut emissions by 2025 (though, of course, the Trump administration has bowed out of that accord). (Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis)

  3. Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell (R) has filed for divorce from his wife, Maureen, his onetime co-defendant in a tawdry corruption trial that exposed their marital woes and tarnished his political legacy before the Supreme Court tossed out his conviction. They married in 1976 and have five grown children. (Laura Vozzella)

  4. An attorney for a Russian company indicted in special counsel Bob Mueller’s probe accused a federal judge of bias. The judge had accused the attorney for Concord Management and Consulting of making “meritless” attacks on Mueller as the company’s defense team sought access to evidence turned over by prosecutors. (Spencer S. Hsu)

  5. A second man was found dead at the California home of longtime Democratic donor Ed Buck. The cause of the man’s death was not known, but another African American man, Gemmel Moore, died of an overdose at Buck’s home in 2017. Moore’s relatives speculated that Buck’s political ties and race played into prosecutor’s decision not to file charges against him. (LA Times)

  6. The Catholic organization Opus Dei paid $977,000 in 2005 to settle a sexual misconduct complaint against Father John McCloskey. The priest became well known among Catholics for preparing prominent conservatives such as Newt Gingrich for conversion. (Michelle Boorstein)

  7. Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn called the allegations that he underreported his income “meritless and unsubstantiated.” Ghosn’s comments in a Tokyo courtroom represent his first public statement since he was arrested in November. (Wall Street Journal)

  8. Kevin Spacey pleaded not guilty to groping a busboy in 2016. It is the first criminal case brought against Spacey after a series of sexual misconduct allegations and could result in a prison sentence of up to five years. (AP)

  9. Cyntoia Brown, who said she was a 16-year-old victim of sex trafficking when she killed a man in 2004, was granted clemency. Brown has been serving a life sentence for the murder of Johnny Allen, but Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was under increasing pressure to grant her clemency as his tenure neared an end. (Samantha Schmidt)

  10. Scientists in the country Georgia are researching how to produce wine on Mars. The research could also provide insights on how to overcome challenges such as radiation and dust while trying to grow agriculture on the Red Planet. (Amie Ferris-Rotman)

A group of federal employees in Maryland say the partial government shutdown has left them scrambling for money, and they blame President Trump. (Video: Lee Powell/The Washington Post)


-- Reversing legal precedent, the White House said the IRS would issue tax refunds during the shutdown. Damian Paletta, Jeff Stein and Juliet Eilperin report: “Last year, and during previous administrations, the IRS said it would not pay tax refunds during a government shutdown. But Trump administration lawyers ruled Monday that the refunds could be processed after all, a move that some Democrats called legally dubious. The decision could prove extremely consequential for U.S. households and the U.S. economy. Last year, between Jan. 29 and March 2, the IRS paid more than $147 billion in tax refunds to 48.5 million households. But it is also the latest in a string of sudden shifts and legal reversals that have seen the White House reverse precedent in the face of public pressure.”

-- Air travelers are starting to feel the impact of the funding lapse. The AP’s David Koenig reports: “Over the weekend, some airports had long lines at checkpoints, apparently caused by a rising number of security officers calling in sick while they are not getting paid. Safety inspectors aren’t even on the job. A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said Monday that inspectors are being called back to work on a case-by-case basis, with a priority put on inspecting airline fleets.”

-- For government employees who have already felt snubbed by the Trump administration, the shutdown is the latest indignity inflicted by the “drain the swamp” president. Avi Selk and Ellen McCarthy report: “Over two years, the Trump administration has dealt blow after blow to government employees — budget cuts, hiring freezes, inept Cabinet secretaries and, for some, open hostility to their fundamental mission. [Trump] promised to shake up Washington, and he has. But the country’s 2 million federal workers have mostly soldiered on, believing in the value of their work even if they question decisions coming out of the White House. Until now. In what some see as the ultimate insult, almost half of them were told to stay home. Do not pass ‘Go.’ Do not collect any dollars.”

-- Federal workers, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck, say they are already feeling the strain on the home front. Ovetta Wiggins reports: “Tyra McClelland has applied for free or reduced-price lunch for her child and contemplated whether to purchase allergy medicine or food. Johnny Zuagar knows he needs to sit his 6- and 8-year-old sons down for ‘the talk.’ But so far, he has avoided explaining to them why Daddy isn’t going to work in the morning. And Tryshanda Moton, who is supposed to close on the purchase of a new home at the end of the month, is unsure how she will deal with the bank’s request for two recent pay stubs.”

-- Some government employees have been forced to find “side hustles” to make ends meet, including one diplomat who has taken to reviewing cosmetics online. From Petula Dvorak: “The State Department officer … will continue working on the global balance of power without getting paid for it. But she will also continue writing paid product reviews and work as a pet sitter, bartender or, at $5 a pop, your notary public. It’s the only way she’ll be able to pay all her bills. … They’re hiring themselves out as dog walkers or editors. Some are offering cheap language lessons or working as babysitters. A gig here, a contract there. Like any good empire in its waning, sunset years, we’re on the road to becoming a nation of hustlers, scrappers and scavengers.”

-- The National Weather Service is open, but the shutdown has still affected employee morale and overall operations. Angela Fritz reports: “Forecasters and managers are not getting paid. Weather models are not being maintained, launched or improved. Emergency managers are not being trained. Effects could stretch well beyond when the government reopens. The National Weather Service is a 24-hour operation with often-grueling shift work. Not getting paid to do that job makes it even more stressful. One manager of a National Weather Service office, who wished to remain anonymous to speak openly, said the lack of empathy from the people in their community — and the government — is like a slap in the face.”

-- The shutdown has dealt another blow to a federal prison in Florida that was still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Michael. The New York Times’s Patricia Mazzei reports: The prison “lost much of its roof and fence during Hurricane Michael in October, forcing hundreds of inmates to relocate to a facility in Yazoo City, Miss., more than 400 miles away. Since then, corrections officers have had to commute there to work, a seven-hour drive, for two-week stints. As of this week, thanks to the partial federal government shutdown, they will be doing it without pay — no paychecks and no reimbursement for gas, meals and laundry, expenses that can run hundreds of dollars per trip.”

-- Trump’s stance on the border wall could jeopardize newly elected Republican Sen. Rick Scott’s relationship with Hispanic voters in Florida. Sean Sullivan reports: “For years, Scott sought to chart his own path with Hispanic voters. But soon, he will be at the epicenter of an explosive national fight over border security that could reshape their views of him. According to Scott’s own polling, about half of the Latino voters in Florida’s Senate election have an unfavorable view of Trump. Scott will join the Senate on Tuesday, after serving out his full term as governor. … During [an] interview Friday in a temporary office, Scott said the shutdown was regrettable. But he offered no specific solution for breaking the impasse and would not say whether he agreed with Trump’s position.”

-- More than a dozen freshman lawmakers are joining their colleagues in refusing to cash their paycheck during the shutdown. Mike DeBonis reports: “According to press statements and social media postings reviewed by The Washington Post, at least 48 members in the House and Senate — split about equally between both parties — have announced they plan to refuse or donate their pay for the duration of the shutdown. Thirteen of those are House freshmen serving for the first time in Congress.”

Democrat Gavin Newsom was sworn in as California's 40th governor on Jan. 7. (Video: Reuters)


-- Beto O’Rourke is pursuing plans for a solo road trip to meet voters outside Texas as he weighs a 2020 presidential bid. The Wall Street Journal’s Reid J. Epstein and Ken Thomas report: “Mr. O’Rourke’s trip would begin from his El Paso home and keep him away from Iowa and other early-voting states. Mr. O’Rourke doesn’t plan to be accompanied by staff or press, though he may document the trip on social media and allow people he meets to do so as well. He doesn’t plan to make a final decision on a presidential bid until at least February.”

-- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is on the morning-show circuit today, part of a flurry of television appearances preceding a likely 2020 announcement. Politico’s Christopher Cadelago reports: “One week after her Senate colleague Elizabeth Warren began formally exploring a run for the White House, the California senator is stepping onto the 2020 stage herself, beginning with a book tour and a flurry of largely friendly broadcast media appearances in advance of her own expected presidential announcement. It’s a chance for Harris to roll out her personal story while previewing the fundamental themes of her prospective campaign, drawn from her time as a career prosecutor and her ideas about reforming the criminal justice system.”

-- Joe Biden gave Democratic candidates only a fraction of the money he raised during the midterms. Politico’s Maggie Severns and Christopher Cadelago report: “Biden’s PAC gave Democratic candidates just a quarter of the more than $2 million he raised and spent during the midterms. At the same time, he spent half a million dollars on websites and digital ads that could help him bolster his online presence and raise money from small donors for a 2020 primary campaign, and more of his PAC funds went to travel and other expenses.”

-- Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) has seen some pushback from his Republican colleagues after he wrote a Post op-ed criticizing Trump. Politico’s Burgess Everett and James Arkin report: “‘It kind of felt like the same thing Trump does to everybody, Romney does to Trump. Smack you, and then want to negotiate,’ said [Sen. James] Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma. ‘It is funny to me that while he was complaining about President Trump’s personal attacks, he was personally attacking President Trump. I don’t know if he sees the irony in it.’ … [Some GOP senators] are scratching their heads about why Romney ripped Trump in a Washington Post op-ed; others are angry about reopening an intraparty divide. And it could color how Senate Republicans view Romney over the long term, raising questions about his effectiveness in the GOP conference.”

-- Gavin Newsom (D) was sworn in as California's governor — replacing Jerry Brown, the state’s longest-serving leader. The inauguration of the former San Francisco mayor, who campaigned on a liberal agenda and comes into office with a $30 billion budget surplus, pushes the blue state even further to the left. (Scott Wilson)

-- Scott Walker formally left the Wisconsin governor’s mansion yesterday, but he's keeping the door open to running for governor or Senate in 2022. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Patrick Marley reports: “He’s keeping his campaign accounts open and told The Associated Press on Friday that he wouldn’t rule out running for governor again in four years. He also said he would consider running for U.S. Senate in 2022 to replace Ron Johnson, who has said he would not seek a third term. ‘I think it’s very much in the mix,’ said one Walker ally familiar with his thinking. ‘From what I’ve heard, he and his close advisers are keeping all their options open at this point.’”

-- Newly sworn-in Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who defeated Walker in November, called for a rejection of “the tired politics of the past” in his inaugural address. “We've become paralyzed by polarity and we've become content with division,” Evers said. “We've been indifferent to resentment and governing by retribution.” This is the first time since 1986 that Democrats control all state constitutional offices, but Republicans maintain majorities in both chambers of the legislature. (Milwaukee’s Fox 6 affiliate)

-- Former Democratic congressman Tim Walz was also sworn in as the new governor of Minnesota, and Democrat Steve Sisolak took office in Nevada.


-- Trump is struggling to find a defense secretary after Jim Mattis’s resignation. Politico’s Eliana Johnson and Daniel Lippman report: “Jon Kyl, the retired Arizona Republican senator, became the second person to wave off Trump’s overtures last week, telling the White House he is not interested in the job. Ret. Gen. Jack Keane also turned down the job shortly after Mattis’ resignation ... The refusals are particularly striking given that the top Pentagon job is historically among the Cabinet’s most prestigious and powerful, and coveted by national security veterans. But Mattis’ resignation — announced in a letter indicating that Trump had disregarded his advice on fundamental issues — has reinforced the image of a commander in chief unafraid to buck his top military advisers.”

-- Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has explored the possibility of becoming the president of the University of South Carolina. The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin report: “Mr. Mulvaney, a congressman from South Carolina for six years before joining the Trump administration, initiated a discussion with a senior official at the university late last year about the position, which is going to become open this summer. By then, Mr. Mulvaney already had two other jobs — he led the federal Office of Management and Budget, as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But he was weeks away from getting a third job that he had lobbied President Trump for over several months: White House chief of staff. … As of last week, a person close to Mr. Mulvaney said he was still interested in the presidency of his home state university, which will become open this summer.”

-- A federal court ordered the EPA to release emails between the agency’s senior officials — including acting administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist — and outside industry groups. Dino Grandoni reports: “The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, in a Dec. 26 ruling, ordered the release of about 20,000 emails exchanged between industry groups and 25 Trump officials within the next 10 months. The timeline will start as soon as the federal government fully reopens.”

-- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wants to loosen rules so that more for-profit companies are eligible to take federal student aid dollars. Experts say the rules she's trying to roll back protect students. Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reports: “Under the proposals, the Education Department would give accreditors, and to a lesser extent colleges, more authority over how distance education, correspondence courses and credit hours are defined. The plan takes aim at Obama-era rules, including what counts as a credit hour.”


-- Trump continues backing away from his proposal to immediately withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, even as he denies it represents any kind of reversal. Missy Ryan and Karen DeYoung report: “‘We will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!’ Trump said in a morning tweet. That was ‘no different from my original statements,’ he said, accusing the news media of in­accurately reporting ‘my intentions on Syria.’ Last month, Trump declared the Islamic State defeated in Syria and said troops would be ‘coming back now.’ Since then, senior officials have issued a series of statements that have cast doubt on his promise of a quick departure.”

-- National security adviser John Bolton, who has been trying to clean up the fallout from Trump’s Syria order, has been responsible for scaling back much of the deliberative decision-making process that usually precedes such an announcement. The New York Times’s Mark Landler and Helene Cooper report: “As the president’s national security adviser, Mr. Bolton has largely eliminated the internal policy debates that could have fleshed out the troop decision with timetables, conditions and a counterterrorism strategy for after the troops leave. Under Mr. Bolton’s management, senior administration officials said, the National Security Council staff had ‘zero’ role in brokering a debate over America’s future in Syria. Mr. Bolton, officials said, was surprised by the timing of Mr. Trump’s announcement, which contradicted his own pledge in September to keep American troops in Syria. … Then Mr. Bolton had to cobble together a withdrawal strategy that would normally have taken shape over weeks or months and laid the groundwork for Mr. Trump’s decision — not hastily followed it.”

-- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to deliver a speech in Cairo later this week repudiating the Middle East vision that Obama laid out during his 2009 address in Egypt. Politico’s Nahal Toosi reports: “Pompeo will slam Obama’s engagement with Iran … while asserting that [Trump] has the region’s best interests at heart. ... Two people outside the administration who have been briefed on the speech, while noting that Pompeo could still change what he says up until the last minute, said the drafts so far had a distinctly anti-Obama flavor. Original drafts of the speech were heavily focused on trashing elements of Obama’s 2009 speech, in which the former president sought a ‘new beginning’ with Muslim-majority countries amid the fallout of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. …

The speech’s drafts also have Pompeo suggesting that Iran could learn from the Saudis about human rights and the rule of law, two people briefed said. Such assertions, should Pompeo ultimately make them, are sure to get pushback, not only from aides to Obama but also from experts on the region. … Pompeo is also due to applaud Saudi Arabia for bringing to justice the killers of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist, two people briefed said."


-- Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping held their fourth summit meeting. Simon Denyer reports: “State-run Korea Central Television reported that Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, are visiting China until Thursday, at Xi’s invitation. … It would be the fourth time [Kim] has traveled there to meet Xi in the past year, with each of his previous visits occurring before or after holding summits with Trump or South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Kim is also expected to meet Moon again soon, possibly in Seoul.”

-- In 2016, China offered to bail out a Malaysian government fund at the center of a corruption scandal in an attempt to increase the country’s global clout. The Wall Street Journal’s Tom Wright and Bradley Hope report: “Chinese officials told visiting Malaysians that China would use its influence to try to get the U.S. and other countries to drop their probes of allegations that allies of then-Prime Minister Najib Razak and others plundered the fund known as 1MDB, the minutes show. The Chinese also offered to bug the homes and offices of Journal reporters in Hong Kong who were investigating the fund, to learn who was leaking information to them, according to [minutes from meetings]. In return, Malaysia offered lucrative stakes in railway and pipeline projects for China’s One Belt, One Road program of building infrastructure abroad. … U.S. officials say China is using the program to increase its sway over developing nations and trap them in debt while advancing its military aims.

-- China’s state-owned rail car manufacturer is bidding on a big contract for D.C.'s Metro system, prompting fears  of possible foreign surveillance. Robert McCartney and Faiz Siddiqui report: “Congress, the Pentagon and industry experts have taken the warnings seriously, and now Metro will do the same. The transit agency recently decided to add cybersecurity safeguards to specifications for a contract it will award later this year for its next-generation rail cars following warnings that China’s state-owned rail car manufacturer could win the deal by undercutting other bidders. Metro’s move to modify its bid specifications after they had been issued comes amid China’s push to dominate the multibillion-dollar U.S. transit rail car market.”


Trump sent this ambiguous tweet about “Endless Wars” “eventually” coming to an end as he appeared to back off from his proposal to immediately withdraw U.S. troops from Syria:

The new House speaker demanded Democrats get some airtime after networks announced they would carry Trump's immigration address tonight:

The Post's Fact Checker columnist highlighted this about a 2014 address from Obama on immigration:

A Republican senator offered Trump this piece of advice before his speech:

The new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler (N.Y.), visited the border with some fellow Democrats:

A Cook Political Report editor drew attention to one Republican senator up for reelection next year who has largely escaped the spotlight during the shutdown:

A New Yorker writer made this argument about Trump's latest criticism of the media:

A Politico reporter summarized former Republican senator Jon Kyl's short-lived return to the Senate:

A Wall Street Journal reporter shared a picture from the Supreme Court:

Former California governors gathered for the inauguration of Gavin Newsom:

Meanwhile, Jerry Brown looked forward to a life away from the California governor's mansion:

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers's predecessors also helped welcome him into office:

A House Democrat had no warm words for his departing governor:

Two unique state legislators met in Wisconsin:

A former U.N. ambassador was seen cheering on her home state's team in the college football national championship:

And a presidential historian noted that this week is the 30th anniversary of Trump's first appearance on the cover of Time magazine:


-- New York Times, “Where 518 Inmates Sleep in Space for 170, and Gangs Hold It Together,” by Aurora Almendral: “For some inmates of the Manila City Jail, making the bed means mopping up sludgy puddles, unfolding a square of cardboard on the tile floor and lying down to sleep in a small, windowless bathroom, wedged in among six men and a toilet. On one recent night at the jail, in Dorm 5, the air was thick and putrid with the sweat of 518 men crowded into a space meant for 170. … Since President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent antidrug campaign began in 2016, Philippine jails have become increasingly more packed, propelling the overall prison system to the top of the World Prison Brief’s list of the most overcrowded incarceration systems in the world.”

-- BuzzFeed News, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is A Perfect Foil For The Pro-Trump Media,” by Charlie Warzel: “There’s something familiar about Ocasio-Cortez’s extremely online persona that goes well beyond entertainment. It appears to be immediate, organic, and unfiltered. Her feeds are equal parts proactive and reactive. And, crucially, they are relentless, keeping Ocasio-Cortez in the news cycle. She’s an insurgent, internet-native political force. Which makes her a perfect foil for a different, oxygen-sucking brand of political warfare: the pro-Trump media.”

-- “What’s behind the confidence of the incompetent? This suddenly popular psychological phenomenon,” by Angela Fritz: “In their 1999 paper, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, David Dunning and Justin Kruger put data to what has been known by philosophers since Socrates, who supposedly said something along the lines of ‘the only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.’ Charles Darwin followed that up in 1871 with ‘ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.’ Put simply, incompetent people think they know more than they really do, and they tend to be more boastful about it. … During the election and in the months after the presidential inauguration, interest in the Dunning-Kruger effect surged.”


“Arizona GOP committeeman: Kyrsten Sinema elected because of 'dumb --- people,’” from the Arizona Republic: “A prominent Arizona Republican official wrote a Facebook post Saturday that said ‘dumb --- people’ helped U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema get elected. Bruce Ash, a Tucson resident and national GOP committeeman, said Sinema looked more like ‘Senator Madonna’ than the ‘Senator Barbie Doll’ she projected when she ran for election in 2018. He also commented that her politics and positions will ‘lean further left than the dumb --- people on our side ever imagined,’ when they left their ballots blank in the race between Sinema and Republican candidate Martha McSally, ‘which led the way to her being seated in the U.S. Senate this past week,’ Ash wrote.”



“Rashida Tlaib accused of anti-Semitic slur, days after profane anti-Trump tirade,” from Fox News: Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), “responding to a post by [Bernie Sanders] on Monday, suggested that Senate Republicans were more loyal to Israel than the U.S., amid a report that GOP leaders were planning to introduce a bill that would punish companies that participate in the so-called ‘Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions’ (BDS) global movement against Israel. … Marco Rubio, one of the Republican senators to introduce the anti-BDS bill, immediately called Tlaib's post an ‘anti-Semitic line’ that perpetuates a longstanding ‘dual loyalty’ conspiracy that holds that Israel effectively controls Washington politicians.”



Trump will address the nation at 9 p.m. EST. He has no other events on his public schedule.


“Let's polka tonight and get to work tomorrow.” — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D), delivering his inaugural address in Madison. (WBAY)



-- It will be warmer in Washington today before cold weather returns for the rest of the week. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Some mainly early morning into rush hour light showers under cloudy skies with partial clearing toward midday and partly sunny skies this afternoon. Temperatures escalate into the warmer middle to upper 50s and even low 60s in spots as winds blow from the southwest direction at 5 to 10 mph.”

-- An unusually violent start to the year in Washington has left six people dead. Peter Hermann reports: “The latest homicide occurred about 10:55 p.m. Sunday in the 800 block of Varnum Street NW, in Petworth. Police said James Lamont Stewart, 28, of Capitol Heights, Md., was shot and later died at a hospital. No other details were made public. About three hours earlier, police said, Damon Dukes, 25, of Northwest Washington, was fatally shot in the 200 block of V Street NW. In other incidents, two people were found dead in a burning home, and police said they had been killed; a man was stabbed in a domestic dispute; and another man was shot.”

-- D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced she would reappoint Police Chief Peter Newsham and State Superintendent of Education Hanseul Kang. From Fenit Nirappil: “At a news conference to kick off the new year, Bowser displayed confidence in her administration’s approach to crime and education despite recent struggles.”


Stephen Colbert compared his show's "shutdown" to the federal government's:

California's new governor shared the stage with his infant son during his inauguration:

This year's Consumer Electronics Show has been dominated by artificial intelligence:

Startups are turning heads with their artificial intelligence-embedded gadgets now on display at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Video: Reuters)

And Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey reacted with disbelief to his missed field goal against the Philadelphia Eagles, which ended his team's postseason:

Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey struggled to describe his missed field goal in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Chicago on Jan. 6. (Video: Reuters)