With Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: President Trump showed last night why he waited two years to address the country from the Oval Office in prime time. The format doesn’t suit him. He feeds off the energy of crowds and excels at being improvisational. He sounded stilted as he squinted to read unmemorable remarks from a teleprompter. Sitting behind the Resolute Desk, boxed in by a tight camera shot, made him look smaller than he does when he stands behind a podium with the presidential seal, recorded by a wide-angle lens.
The former reality TV star, a consummate showman, didn’t convey his usual passion. This might be why he just didn’t seem that into it: “In an off-the-record lunch with television anchors hours before the address, he made clear in blunt terms that he was not inclined to give the speech or go to Texas [tomorrow], but was talked into it by advisers,” the New York Times’s Peter Baker reports. “‘It’s not going to change a damn thing, but I’m still doing it,’ Mr. Trump said of the border visit. … The trip was merely a photo opportunity, he said. ‘But,’ he added, gesturing at his communications aides Bill Shine, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway, ‘these people behind you say it’s worth it.’”
Moreover, Trump made no real news from the bully pulpit. He did not declare a “national emergency,” something he continues to seriously consider, and he didn’t dangle any kind of deal that could get him his border wall in exchange for, say, protecting the “dreamers.” If anything, the Kabuki theater only pushed the two parties further apart.
-- The more consequential story coming out of Tuesday was the result of a flub by Paul Manafort’s defense team. It accidentally revealed, because of botched redactions, that the former Trump campaign chairman allegedly shared 2016 presidential campaign polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate the FBI has said has ties to Russian intelligence. Manafort’s attorneys were responding to allegations by special counsel Bob Mueller that the former Trump campaign chairman lied repeatedly to prosecutors after agreeing to cooperate.
The filing indicates “a pathway by which the Russians could have had access to Trump campaign data,” Rachel Weiner, Spencer Hsu and Rosalind Helderman report. “The Russian citizen, who began working for Manafort’s consulting firm starting in 2005, has been charged with helping his former boss to obstruct Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference into the 2016 election. He is believed to be in Moscow. …
“According to the filing, Mueller also accused Manafort of lying about discussing a Ukrainian peace plan with Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign. ‘Manafort “conceded” that he discussed or may have discussed a Ukraine peace plan with Mr. Kilimnik on more than one occasion,’ his attorneys quote the special counsel as saying, and ‘“acknowledged” that he and Mr. Kilimnik met while they were both in Madrid,’ without giving a date. Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, said the Madrid meeting took place in January or February 2017, after the presidential campaign was completed. He declined to comment on other pieces of the filing.”
-- “A person knowledgeable about the situation” tells the Times that both Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Trump clinched the Republican nomination: “Most of the data was public, but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign, according to the person. Mr. Manafort asked Mr. Gates to tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to the Kremlin and who has claimed that Mr. Manafort owed him money from a failed business venture, the person said,” per Sharon LaFraniere, Ken Vogel and Maggie Haberman.
-- Several experts said the Deripaska connection makes this news a huge deal:
“Remember, the polling info Manafort passed to Kilimnik was headed to Deripaska, who is close to Putin,” said Steven Hall, the former chief of Russia operations at the CIA. “The margins the Russians needed to change in key states during the 2016 elections [were] pretty small. Now we know how they were able to be so precise: Paul Manafort was providing polling data to Russia.”
“Manafort, who knows Deripaska very well and isn't a total idiot, thought internal campaign data was worth real money to the oligarch (i.e., to count against Manafort's debt). That only makes sense if Deripaska was passing on to others -- and that Manafort KNEW he was,” said David Burbach, who teaches national security and international relations at the Naval War College. “Deripaska himself would have more use for Arby's BBQ sauce recipe.”
“Big story. New info,” said former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, a central figure in the Watergate scandal. “It’s called COLLUSION!”
“If proven, then call it by whatever c word that you want -- collusion, cooperation, conspiracy -- but this is serious,” said former U.S. ambassador to Russia Mike McFaul, a professor at Stanford University.
“This is potentially very significant evidence of collusion,” said Post columnist Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who advised the John McCain and Mitt Romney presidential campaigns on foreign policy but who has emerged as a Trump critic. “Why would Manafort share polling data with the Russians unless it was to help them target their pro-Trump social media campaign?”
Atlantic writer David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, posed another question: “Did the flow of data to the Russians from the Trump campaign halt when Manafort was fired August 19, 2016? Or not?”
-- “Internal polling data is precious. It reveals your strengths—and your weaknesses,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “Why share such valuable information with a foreign adversary—unless that adversary was really a friend?”
-- “It also bears asking, yet again, why someone like Manafort felt the need to allegedly lie about this stuff — especially at the expense of his cooperation agreement and further legal jeopardy he was well familiar with,” writes Aaron Blake.
-- Philip Bump argues that the revelation Manafort allegedly passed along polling is “more evocative than definitive”: “Perhaps there was a conduit for collusion that went from Trump to Manafort to Kilimnik to Russian intelligence. Or perhaps Manafort, ever the hustler, was working a hustle.”
-- Last night, the Democratic leaders of seven House panels called on Steven Mnuchin to delay implementing a planned easing of sanctions on businesses tied to Deripaska until the Treasury Department briefs committee members. From Karoun Demirjian: “The committee chairs told Mnuchin they want the briefing to take place before Friday, as they are working against the clock if they want to stop the administration from acting on its mid-December announcement that it would roll back sanctions. … The Democratic leaders expressed particular alarm … about Deripaska, who ‘has abetted the Putin Regime’s malign activity against the United States,’ the lawmakers wrote.”
House Democrats believe that the Trump administration intentionally announced the relaxation of sanctions against Deripaska right before the Christmas holidays and the government shutdown to make the move harder to overturn. A law in 2017 allows Congress to block the president from reducing Russia-related sanctions, but they must act within 30 days of the announcement. Treasury made its announcement on Dec. 19.
-- In related oversight news, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler is preparing to subpoena acting attorney general Matt Whitaker to testify about whether his relationship with Trump has influenced his oversight of Mueller’s probe. Nadler told Demirjian that the panel has been working since late November to set an interview date with Whitaker, and he’s been trying to stall. “If we don’t reach a date in the next day or two, we will subpoena him,” said the New York Democrat.
-- Breaking this morning: ABC, CNN — and, now, The Post — are reporting that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is expected to leave the Justice Department in the coming weeks. From ABC: “Rosenstein has communicated to [Trump] and White House officials his plan to depart the administration around the time William Barr, Trump's nominee for attorney general, would take office following a Senate confirmation. ... In May 2017, shortly after Trump fired James Comey as FBI Director, Rosenstein made the call to appoint Mueller.”
-- Separately, four senators plan to reintroduce their bill to protect the special counsel that Mitch McConnell blocked from getting a vote on the floor during the last Congress. “Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Chris Coons, D-Del.; Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; and Cory Booker, D-N.J., will soon reintroduce the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, which was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last April,” the Washington Examiner reports. “McConnell may face new pressure to bring the legislation to the floor this year since Democrats control the House and [Nadler] introduced a companion bill in the House last week.”
-- There were two other significant developments in L'Affaire Russe on Tuesday:
1. The Supreme Court left in place a lower-court order requiring an unnamed foreign-owned corporation to comply with a subpoena said to be part of Mueller’s investigation. From Bob Barnes, Devlin Barrett and Carol Leonnig: “The court dissolved a temporary stay that had been put in place by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. In a short order, it did not give a reason for the decision or note any dissents. The entity that is the subject of the cloaked legal battle — known in court papers simply as a ‘Corporation’ from ‘Country A’ — is a foreign financial institution that was issued a subpoena by a grand jury hearing evidence in the special counsel investigation …
“It is thought to be the first time that an aspect of Mueller’s wide-ranging probe … has reached the Supreme Court. Last year, a federal court in Washington ordered the corporation to pay a daily fine of $50,000 until it complied with the subpoena, according to court records. An appeals court panel upheld that decision last month. … In a separate redacted opinion published Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit reiterated its reasoning … The appeals court concluded that the foreign company is not immune from the reach of a U.S. grand jury.”
2. A Russian lawyer whose role in the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower has come under scrutiny from Mueller was charged Tuesday with obstructing justice in a separate money-laundering investigation. From Devin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky: “The indictment unsealed Tuesday relates to a different legal fight involving the Russian and U.S. governments and charges that [Natalia] Veselnitskaya made a ‘misleading declaration’ to the court in 2015, as part of a civil case arising from an investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan into suspected Russian money laundering and tax fraud. While Veselnitskaya has long proclaimed she is innocent and not a representative of the Russian government, the indictment argues she has worked closely with senior Russian officials for years. … She is not in custody and is unlikely to be brought to a U.S. courtroom to face the charge, because Russia does not extradite its citizens to foreign countries.”
-- Looking ahead, Mueller biographer Garrett Graff outlines nine questions he has about the probe in a new piece for Wired magazine: “Last Friday, just like Punxsutawney Phil, DC District Court judge Beryl Howell emerged from her chambers, saw her shadow, and announced six more months of Bob Mueller. Judge Howell’s extension of Mueller’s grand jury, which was set to expire over the weekend, was widely expected—the special counsel’s office has made clear in recent weeks that it has plenty of unfinished business—but the extension underscores just how much work is still left in Mueller’s probe. Here are some of the loose threads and unanswered questions that seem most likely to be topping Mueller’s to-do list as January begins.”
- What happens to Jerome Corsi?
- Will there be a big Middle East report or indictment(s)?
- What was Manafort doing meeting with the grand jury?
- What happens to Michael Flynn?
- What, if anything, does Maria Butina’s cooperation get Mueller?
- What are Kilimnik’s ties to Russian intelligence?
- Who else lied to Congress?
- What happens with obstruction of justice?
- Why didn’t Mueller prosecute anyone for violating the Logan Act?
-- In case you were wondering: Mueller’s team is not affected by the shutdown because it’s funded through a special source. “That doesn’t mean everyone on the team will get paid on time,” Fox News notes. “Those employees ‘directly hired’ by the office will get paychecks. But those on detail to the office from other places will see a lapse in pay, and ‘will be paid once government operations resume,’” a Mueller spokesman said.
-- Finally, Blackwater founder Erik Prince tells CNBC that he would have preferred getting a "proctology exam" to being interviewed by Mueller's team about his meeting with a Russian investor linked to Putin. “Look, anytime you sit down for an interview like that,” he said, “I think you probably would rather go to a proctology exam.” Mueller was exploring whether Prince's meeting with Putin ally Kirill Dmitriev was part of an effort to establish a secret line of communication between the Kremlin and the incoming Trump administration. But Prince, whose sister is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, said Monday on “Squawk Box” that it was “much ado about nothing.” “I answered their questions, and they haven't talked to me since,” he said.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced stop in Iraq during his Middle East trip. The AP’s Philip Issa reports: “In Baghdad, Pompeo met with Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, President Barham Salih, Foreign Minister Mohamed Alhakim and Parliament Speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi. … Pompeo’s visit is the third high-profile visit by an American official to Iraq in the last month. Iraqi politicians were incensed when Trump last month made an unscheduled visit to a U.S. base in western Iraq without also meeting Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, as his predecessors Obama and George W. Bush had done.”
-- The U.S. military’s plans to withdraw some U.S. troops from Afghanistan appear to fall well short of Trump’s aim to remove half of those deployed there. Dan Lamothe and Josh Dawsey report: “Trump still wants to remove troops from Afghanistan — eventually all of them — but the current withdrawal probably will be far fewer than 7,000, two senior White House officials said. Military advisers have convinced him that a smaller, and slower, withdrawal is best for now — although officials cautioned that a final decision had not been reached and that the president could order a full pullout at any moment. … Several officials who described the plan were hesitant to name a specific number, citing the evolving nature of the discussions. But some said it could be about half of what Trump was initially seeking.”
-- Democrat Jennifer Boysko won a special election for the Virginia state Senate seat previously held by Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D). Patricia Sullivan reports: “Boysko easily defeated [Republican Joe] May, 81, a moderate who served 20 years in the House of Delegates but lost his Loudoun County seat in 2013 after conservative Republicans said the $3.5 billion transportation funding law he wrote was out of step with their agenda. Boysko, 52, declared victory 45 minutes after the polls closed, based on returns in the Loudoun County majority of Senate District 33. She did even better in Fairfax County, ending up with an unofficial margin of about 70 percent to 30 percent. … May was considered the best hope for the Republican Party to win a seat in increasingly blue Northern Virginia, after a decade of statewide losses and a 2017 blue wave that nearly wiped out the GOP majority in the legislature.”
Why it matters: While a Democratic victory was expected, Boysko's margin reflects the Trump-era GOP's continuing problems in the suburbs and NoVa's evolution into a solidly blue bastion: In 2011, Democrats won this district by eight points. In 2015, they won the seat by 13 points. Last night, she won by 40 points. One factor: It's a district with a lot of federal workers, and we're now in the 19th day of the partial shutdown.
GET SMART FAST:
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to provide affordable health care for every resident, including undocumented immigrants. The Democrat committed $100 million to secure coverage for the city’s 600,000 uninsured residents. (Amy Goldstein)
Florida residents previously convicted of a felony formally reclaimed the right to vote and began applying to register. In November, voters approved a change to the state constitution allowing such residents to regain their rights. (Lori Rozsa)
Republican Rick Scott was officially sworn in as Florida’s junior senator. Scott’s arrival to the Senate was delayed as he completed his term as Florida’s governor. (Felicia Sonmez)
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told his staff he is expecting to be suspended for his handling of the shooting in Parkland, Fla. Israel said he would be removed from office by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was sworn in yesterday. But Israel’s attorney said he would request a trial before the Florida Senate to fight the suspension if it occurs. (Miami Herald)
A retired four-star general who has been working as an envoy to settle a dispute with Qatar resigned from the State Department. Anthony Zinni, who previously ran U.S. Central Command, became the latest four-star general to leave the Trump administration. He said he resigned because of his inability to resolve the dispute, which he blamed on the intransigence of regional leaders. (CBS News)
Australia will consider the asylum application of Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun. The Saudi teenager, who remains in Bangkok as her case is considered, has said she fled from her family because she feared for her life. (Rick Noack, Shibani Mahtani and Paul Schemm)
Post journalist Jason Rezaian is seeking $1 billion in damages from the Iranian government in the hopes of deterring the future taking of U.S. hostages. Rezaian was held in captivity for 544 days as Iran used him as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the United States. (Spencer S. Hsu)
Facebook and Twitter are increasingly calling on right-leaning groups for input on monitoring political speech. Facebook has sought advice from the Christian public policy group the Family Research Council, and Twitter’s CEO has hosted dinners with conservatives such as Grover Norquist. The meetings have frustrated those demanding more clarity about how social media giants make decisions on banning users and removing hateful content. (Wall Street Journal)
Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued his first Supreme Court opinion in a unanimous, noncontroversial decision. The narrow case, which centered on contracts calling for arbitration to settle disputes, was typical for first-time opinions. (Robert Barnes)
Police in Arizona are seeking DNA samples from male employees at a private care facility where a woman in a vegetative state gave birth to a child. The CEO of Hacienda HealthCare has already resigned over the controversy as investigators search for clues about the sexual assault that must have preceded the child’s birth. (Herman Wong and Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
MORE ON THE SPEECH:
-- Trump declared a “growing humanitarian and security crisis” at the southern border to justify his proposed wall in a televised address riddled with falsehoods. Philip Rucker and Felicia Sonmez have the mainbar: “Trump painted a harrowing picture of danger and death along the U.S.-Mexico border, describing undocumented immigrants as murderers, rapists and drug smugglers and arguing that a steel barrier — for which he is demanding that Congress appropriate $5.7 billion — is the only solution. ‘This is a humanitarian crisis — a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,’ Trump said in his nine-minute speech from the Oval Office. ‘Democrats in Congress have refused to acknowledge the crisis, and they have refused to provide our brave border agents with the tools they desperately need to protect our families and our nation.’ …
“But Trump’s scripted remarks contained little that was new. And although he promised to continue negotiating with Democrats to end the budget impasse, he did not detail any fresh offers in his speech. He suggested that constructing the wall out of steel rather than concrete was a concession to Democrats. Reading from a teleprompter, Trump was relatively sedate as he repeated past talking points and told familiar anecdotes, leaving out the rhetorical flourish he displays on the campaign trail or in extemporaneous remarks before reporters.” (Read our annotated transcript.)
-- “The first misleading statement … came in the first sentence,” Fact Checker Salvador Rizzo reports: “Trump warned of a ‘security crisis at the southern border’ — even though the number of people caught trying to cross illegally is near 20-year lows. Another false claim came moments later, when Trump said border agents ‘encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country’ every day, though his administration puts the daily average for 2018 in the hundreds. … Trump painted a misleading and bleak picture of the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border. He pumped up some numbers, exaggerated the public safety risks of immigration and repeated false claims regarding how to fund a border wall.”
-- Trump also drew an incomplete picture of America’s immigrant population that failed to account for the vast majority of those living in the United States without documentation. From David Nakamura: “Trump on Tuesday made no mention of the vast number of immigrants who have lived in the United States illegally for years. He did not speak of the estimated 1.8 million or more who were brought to the country as minors, a group known as ‘dreamers.’ He ignored the 4 million immigrant parents living here with at least one child who is an American citizen or lawful permanent resident. And he said nothing of the 8 million undocumented people who have lived in the United States at least five years and, according to a government study, would likely have earned citizenship under a comprehensive immigration bill proposed in 2013.”
-- Dan Balz writes that Trump used his first Oval Office address “to create a sense of crisis in pursuit of an elusive campaign promise”: “As skillful as he is at dominating the national conversation, he has been singularly ineffective in this battle to change public minds or weaken the will of his Democratic opponents. … Trump has struggled to change public opinion in part because this is not a new fight. Immigration worked for him in the 2016 campaign, and there are still elements of the issue that put Democrats on the defensive. But in the most recent test, it did not work.”
-- Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer accused Trump of fearmongering in their joint response. Seung Min Kim reports: “Pelosi and Schumer took turns chastising Trump for spreading misinformation in arguing for a border wall while insisting that the federal government should not be used as leverage for a wall that remains unpopular with the broader public. ‘President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis and must reopen the government,’ Pelosi said. Schumer added: ‘There is an obvious solution: separate the shutdown from the arguments over border security. There is bipartisan legislation — supported by Democrats and Republicans — to reopen government while allowing debate over border security to continue.’”
The tag-team rebuttal was the latest sign of how closely the two are working together to oppose Trump’s demands: “No two principals in the shutdown fight have presented a more united front than ‘Chuck and Nancy,’ as Trump has dubbed them. The two leaders have refused to make any key strategic moves in the shutdown fight without consulting each other and have become so simpatico that their staffs regularly joke that the two finish each other’s sentences. … The two have talked several times a day since the shutdown battle began, aides say, mostly from their cellphones and so frequently that they are often relaying updates to their staff, not the other way around. Schumer, who is famous for having memorized the cellphone numbers for every member of the Senate Democratic caucus, has also committed Pelosi’s digits to memory.”
-- Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are starting to voice more criticism of Trump’s strict stance. Erica Werner and Mike DeBonis report: “Vice President Pence lobbied House Republicans behind closed doors to stand with the president, reminding them that Trump would not sign any spending bills passed by Democrats unless he gets the wall funding he wants and urging them to reject the Democratic strategy. But in a potentially perilous sign for Trump ... cracks were multiplying within GOP ranks even before Pence ventured to Capitol Hill late Tuesday. The dissension was especially evident over whether Trump should declare a national emergency that would allow him to circumvent Congress and draw on military construction funds to build his wall, with some normally reliable supporters voicing concerns over the approach. … Opposition also came from members of the House Armed Services Committee, who voiced concerns over cannibalizing the military budget to pay for the wall. ‘I think border security is very important. It is not a responsibility of the Department of Defense,’ said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.), the top committee Republican. ‘In short, I’m opposed to using defense dollars for nondefense purposes.’ …
“In the Senate, Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, noted that lawmakers remained far apart on the Homeland Security spending bill that funds the wall, so ‘Eventually maybe we go to the ones that are already settled, pass those,’ while continuing to negotiate on the Homeland Security bill. … Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), whose state has many federal workers and vast stretches of federal land, called for Congress to pass bipartisan bills that would reopen much of the unfunded parts of the federal government, separating their funding from the debate over the border.”
-- A new HuffPost-YouGov poll shows a majority of Americans believe Trump deserves at least partial blame for the shutdown. HuffPost’s Ariel Edwards-Levy reports: “Seventy-one percent of Americans now say they see the partial government shutdown as at least somewhat serious, a modest uptick from 62 percent last week and 61 percent at the beginning of the shutdown. The share who consider it very serious now stands at 42 percent, up from one-third last week. … A 51 percent majority of Americans say Trump deserves at least partial responsibility for the shutdown, with 41 percent naming Democrats in Congress, and 35 percent putting at least some responsibility on Republicans in Congress. Those numbers are largely similar to where they stood last week.”
-- The bipartisan National Governors Association wrote an open letter urging Trump to end the shutdown. John Wagner and Lisa Rein report: The letter “cited negative effects on federal workers and state economies and decried the use of a government shutdown to gain leverage in unresolved policy disagreements. ‘It is imperative that you reopen the government now and, then, reach across the aisle to find a solution that will end the current impasse,’ said the letter, signed by the National Governors Association chair and vice chair, Govs. Steve Bullock (D-Mont.) and Larry Hogan (R-Md.).”
-- Historical perspective: Harry Truman was rebuffed by the Supreme Court when he declared a national emergency as he tried to nationalize U.S. steel mills during the Korean War. From Steve Hendrix: “The government argued that even though the Constitution did not explicitly empower the president to seize private property, his role as commander in chief gave him authority to do so in times of national emergency. … By a vote of 6 to 3, the justices sided with the steel companies. The ‘President’s power, if any, to issue the order must stem either from an act of Congress or from the Constitution itself,’ Justice Hugo Black wrote in the majority opinion.”
THE HUMAN TOLL:
-- A lawsuit over government employees working without pay is ironically being held up because of furloughed Justice Department attorneys. Deanna Paul reports: “The Dec. 31 lawsuit, filed by a federal employee’s union, alleged that the shutdown illegally forced more than 400,000 federal employees to work without pay. The court had previously held that employees needed to know when they would receive their paychecks. But after more than [a] week had passed, [employee attorney Heidi Burakiewicz] was still waiting for a lawyer to be assigned the case. ‘I don’t know if the Department of Justice attorneys are working,’ Burakiewicz quipped during an interview ... Many aren’t, with many federal attorneys and judges likely to remain out until the end of the impasse, leaving their cases waiting.”
-- Delayed federal funding has halted highway construction projects across the country. Ashley Halsey III reports: “Normally, federal money for highway projects becomes available when the fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. But the government was running on a continuing resolution, rather than a normal appropriation, and that ran out Dec. 21, ending the flow of highway money to state governments. That means that only a quarter of the $44 billion for highway projects and $11 billion in federal transit programs was paid at the outset of the fiscal year.”
-- The Trump administration vowed that food stamp payments would continue at least through February even if the shutdown drags on. Jeff Stein reports: “Congress has only approved funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program through January, fueling concern food benefits used by 38 million Americans would expire amid the budget stalemate in Washington. In a call with reporters on Tuesday, Agriculture Department officials said that they will give states the money for February’s food stamps ahead of time — by Jan. 20 — to circumvent the expiration of federal appropriations. States, which administer the SNAP program, will have to ask for the money to be allocated earlier than they normally would.”
-- The Agriculture Department also extended the deadline for farmers to apply for bailout payments in connection with Trump’s trade war with China. Jeff Stein reports: “The Agriculture Department office responsible for administering the payouts is closed for lack of funding. On Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the department has extended the deadline for farmers to apply for bailout payments. The application window was slated to close Jan. 15, but Perdue said Tuesday that the deadline will be extended, at minimum, weeks after the shutdown ends.”
-- Man in the news: Russ Vought, a conservative firebrand who took over the Office of Management and Budget a little over a week ago, is directing the administration’s attempts to mitigate shutdown pain. Damian Paletta, Robert Costa and Josh Dawsey report: “It was Vought who led the decision to allow the Internal Revenue Service to pay tax refunds during the shutdown, something that hadn’t been previously allowed and that some Democrats called legally dubious. He was also involved in the effort to find money to pay food stamps in February ... Vought briefed House Republicans on both decisions Tuesday night, in an attempt to encourage nervous lawmakers to stand by Trump’s request for border wall funding.”
-- Federal employees, many of whom would normally be paid Friday, are turning to every last resort to make ends meet. The New York Times’s Jack Healy, Kirk Johnson and Kate Taylor report: “They are now in shutdown survival mode: opening new credit card accounts to pay off their bills, borrowing from relatives and eating the dregs of their pantries. … Financial fears that once seemed implausible — overdraft fees, missed mortgage payments, lowered credit ratings — are now consuming many. Food pantries in Maine, in Colorado, on Long Island and elsewhere are offering help to federal workers. Thousands of federal workers have applied for unemployment benefits.”
-- A union representing TSA agents said its members are starting to quit in frustration from working without pay. The Daily Beast reports: “‘Some of them have already quit and many are considering quitting the federal workforce because of this shutdown,’ Hydrick Thomas, head of the American Federation of Government Employees' TSA Council, said in a statement. ‘The loss of officers, while we're already shorthanded, will create a massive security risk for American travelers since we don't have enough trainees in the pipeline or the ability to process new hires. Our TSOs already do an amazing job without the proper staffing levels, but if this keeps up there are problems that will arise — least of which would be increased wait times for travelers.’”
-- Some government workers and others impacted by the shutdown are turning to crowdfunding sites. Colby Itkowitz reports: “Search ‘government shutdown’ on GoFundMe and you’ll find dozens and dozens of campaigns for federal workers and contractors who are seeking help from strangers to pay their bills while agencies remain shuttered … In one fundraising campaign, for Anna Dravland, 34, of Marquette, Mich., friends write that she recently had a stroke and is waiting to get on disability. The already long process is stalled now because of the government shutdown, they write.”
-- Few Americans living along the border appear to agree with Trump’s view on the necessity of a wall. The New York Times’s Simon Romero, Manny Fernandez, Jose A. Del Real and Azam Ahmed report: “Many said there was indeed a humanitarian crisis unfolding, but they blamed the Trump administration for worsening it with a series of policies aimed at deterring Central American migrants from making the journey. Those policies, many of which have been blocked by legal challenges, have failed to stop the flood of migrants. But they have succeeded in escalating tensions, overwhelming volunteer shelters and putting those seeking asylum from violence at renewed risk of health threats and other problems once they arrive in the United States.”
-- Experienced Democratic strategists are joining an effort to persuade Beto O’Rourke to run for president. Michael Scherer reports: “An effort to encourage [O’Rourke] into the race, DraftBeto.org, has distinguished itself from similarly named efforts by attracting sought-after talent to its ranks, including two leaders of former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley’s 2016 presidential campaign. O’Malley, who wrote last week in the Des Moines Register that he sees O’Rourke as ‘the new leader who can bring us together,’ has been encouraging the effort behind the scenes, after meeting privately in December with O’Rourke in Washington. That enthusiasm helped push former O’Malley advisers in South Carolina, consultant Tyler Jones and former legislator Boyd Brown, to volunteer for the group. They were joined by Michael Soneff, a former communications adviser to the Nevada Democratic Party, who has taken on the task of organizing Nevada and California.”
-- O’Rourke is leaning toward entering the Democratic primary, even as he maintains radio silence about the possibility, according to Politico’s David Siders: “In Iowa and New Hampshire ... calls from Democratic Party organizers to O’Rourke’s advisers go unreturned. And a report in the Wall Street Journal on Monday that O’Rourke won’t make any decision before February and is preparing for a solo road trip — but avoiding early nominating states — bewildered even his supporters. … O’Rourke himself spoke with [O’Malley] before O’Malley endorsed him last week, according to two sources familiar with the conversation. … Following their discussion, O’Malley suggested to a former adviser that O’Rourke appeared to be leaning toward running.”
-- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), another potential 2020 contender, promoted her new book. From John Wagner: “During [her ‘Good Morning America’] interview, Harris relayed that she was ‘raised by a very strong mother,’ whom she called ‘mommy.’ In her book, Harris wrote that when faced with hard decisions, she has always asked herself, ‘What would mommy think?’ That prompted host George Stephanopoulos to ask what Harris’s mother would think of what’s happening. ‘I think she would say, ‘What is going on down there? It is a hot mess,’ ’ Harris said, laughing. ‘And Kamala has to fix it?’ Stephanopoulos asked. ‘Well, yeah,’ Harris replied. ‘I was raised that when you see a problem, you don’t complain about it; you go and you do something about it.’”
-- In a possible signal of her preparation for a 2020 announcement, Harris has closed her state campaign committee. Politico’s Christopher Cadelago reports: “The decision to close down the nascent ‘Harris for Governor 2026’ committee — which essentially served as an account to park money she raised while serving as the state attorney general, before she was elected senator in 2016 — represents the latest sign that she’s gearing up for a White House run. [Harris] will donate the leftover balance to 19 organizations … Harris was not expected to run for governor in 2026, but by releasing the money she is ending speculation about electoral plans in her state.”
-- Harris is among a group of Democrats considering presidential bids who have spoken to Wall Street executives about their possible campaigns. CNBC’s Brian Schwartz reports: “The revelation of communication between Wall Street donors and possible Democratic candidates threatens to exacerbate tension between the liberal wing of the party, which is increasingly outspoken against the influence of corporate money in politics, and moderates who are seen as more business-friendly. A CNBC report last week about New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's outreach to Wall Street triggered outrage on the left. Billionaire and Blackstone Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Gray; Robert Wolf, CEO and founder of economic advisory firm 32 Advisors, and Mark Gallogly, a founder of private investment firm Centerbridge Partners, are just a few of the Democratic financiers who have spoken with 2020 hopefuls about a wide range of topics, including the upcoming campaign, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. … People familiar with the talks say Wolf's contact list has included Gillibrand, along with New Jersey's [Sen. Cory] Booker and California's Harris.”
-- Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said she would make a decision by the end of March on whether to challenge Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) in 2020. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein reports: “In a Monday interview with WABE’s Rose Scott, the Democrat said she intends to take the next three months to ‘really think about the role that I should play’ in politics. … A half-dozen prominent Democrats are also considering a bid against Perdue, but the field is essentially frozen as Abrams makes up her mind. No high-profile Democrat wants to step on her toes, and several potential contenders have openly called for her to run for the seat.”
THE NEW CONGRESS:
-- A bipartisan group of House members introduced legislation to require background checks for all gun sales. Katie Zezima reports: “Federally licensed gun sellers are required to run background checks on people who buy guns, but private sellers who are not federally licensed do not. The House measure is among the first actions taken by the newly elected Democratic majority, which pledged to make gun control a top priority. … It is also a bill that garnered the support of five House Republicans, a rare feat on an issue that has cleaved along party lines. … Joining some of the bill’s proponents was [former congresswoman Gabrielle] Giffords, who was shot in the head eight years ago Tuesday at a constituent event in Tucson.”
-- The bill’s introduction, timed so shortly after the Democrats won House control, demonstrated how radically the political calculus around gun control has changed. Paul Kane explains: “In 2007, when [Pelosi] first claimed the speaker’s gavel, her majority was built from several dozen Democrats from rural areas who courted the endorsement of the National Rifle Association — and whose ranks swelled a couple of years later to give Democrats the largest congressional majorities of this century. In the four years Democrats held the House majority, they never advanced a single significant gun-control measure. And in the eight years they controlled the Senate, Democrats held just one meaningful debate on reining in gun laws, in spring 2013. It ended amid a Republican filibuster.”
-- The North Carolina county at the center of a contested congressional election has been fielding complaints of voter fraud for almost a decade. The AP’s Michael Biesecker and Emery P. Dalesio report: “Long before accusations of absentee ballot fraud in a small North Carolina county cast doubt on the results of a heated 2018 congressional race, a state elections investigator spent weeks probing whether the man at the center of the current scandal was among a group buying votes. That 2010 investigation was one of at least a half dozen instances over the last nine years that prosecutors and elections officials received complaints of serious elections irregularities in Bladen County, a rural locale of 35,000 people that has long had a statewide reputation for political chicanery by both Republicans and Democrats.”
-- Mark Harris, the Republican congressional candidate facing election fraud allegations in North Carolina, triggered a fire alarm as he tried to escape reporters' questions:
To avoid the media, Mark Harris ran down a fire exit staircase. A man tried to prevent us from following but we still did. The alarm went off as he ran out. When media caught up he sprinted across the street to the First Baptist Church of Charlotte's parking lot #NC09 @wsoctv pic.twitter.com/vDFca16EYx— Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) January 8, 2019
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump celebrated his Oval Office address, even though it did not appear to move the needle:
Thank you for soooo many nice comments regarding my Oval Office speech. A very interesting experience!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2019
Trump's social media director tweeted this photo after the speech:
A Republican senator offered an emphatic endorsement of Trump's speech:
I just finished watching @POTUS address the nation and I couldn't agree more. We MUST secure our southern border. I stand with our border patrol agents, which is why I’ve asked that my pay be withheld until we we reach a deal. 🇺🇸— Steve Daines (@SteveDaines) January 9, 2019
My full response: pic.twitter.com/Sl3HDRyCA3
One of Daines's GOP colleagues added this:
Tonight @POTUS showed leadership by speaking directly to the American people. The situation at our southern border is a national security crisis. We need a solution now. #TrumpAddress #SecureOurBorder— David Perdue (@sendavidperdue) January 9, 2019
The House minority leader also affirmed Trump's opinion on the situation at the border:
There is a humanitarian crisis happening along our Southern border. It’s long past time we do something about it.— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) January 8, 2019
But the House Intelligence Committee chairman noted this:
I’ve been on the Intelligence Committee for over 10 years. On terrorism and other threats, I’ve received more briefings from FBI, CIA, and DHS than I could count.— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) January 8, 2019
How many times have any of them said we need a wall across the southern border?
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) compared Trump's proposal to the racist nativism of the 1920s:
“Build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven” against immigrants.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 9, 2019
- 1924 Ku Klux Klan convention
We know our history, and we are determined not to repeat its darkest hour.
America is a nation of immigrants. Without immigrants, we are not America. https://t.co/3dePiGFQAL
Meanwhile, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) refrained from watching Trump's speech:
Instead of listening to Trump’s rant which will most likely include many falsehoods, I think I’ll take some time to read this. #EndTheShutdown #BoycottTrumpPrimeTime #unapologeticallyMe pic.twitter.com/jg661bgnXD— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) January 9, 2019
Trump probably won't be pleased with his hometown paper's take on the speech:
A New York Times reporter argued the speech reflected the style of one of Trump's top advisers:
I see the president’s face but I hear Stephen Miller’s voice.— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) January 9, 2019
A Post reporter noted this irony:
As President Trump speaks from the Oval Office, photos of his mother (who immigrated from Scotland) and father (whose family immigrated from Germany) are in the background.— Matt Viser (@mviser) January 9, 2019
A Time editor mocked Pelosi and Schumer's response to Trump:
"Your mother and I want to talk about your flag addiction. It's out of control." pic.twitter.com/z8eJdfitkG— ryan teague beckwith (@ryanbeckwith) January 9, 2019
A HuffPost reporter used a reference from "The Shining" to convey her opinion on the speeches:
tonight was a waste of time for everyone but especially me since i just spent ten minutes doing this pic.twitter.com/vDPEHBeXjX— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) January 9, 2019
C-SPAN's communications director remembered the first time Pelosi and Schumer shared a stage:
First time Schumer and Pelosi shared a public/media speaking venue from the U.S. Capitol (beyond the House floor) -- as archived in C-SPAN Video Library?— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) January 8, 2019
Aug. 18, 1994 -- crime billhttps://t.co/AJut5gQE6d pic.twitter.com/R7zEu53bpi
George Conway, who is married to senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, noted Trump was using the address as a fundraising appeal:
The creator of “Family Guy” mocked Trump’s performance:
This entire Trump speech has the cadence of a Wheel Of Fortune contestant solving the puzzle.— Seth MacFarlane (@SethMacFarlane) January 9, 2019
Stormy Daniels offered competing content during Trump's address:
If you're looking for anything even remotely worth watching tonight at 9pm EST, I will be folding laundry in my underwear for 8 minutes on Instagram live. https://t.co/GhMowscZMP— Stormy Daniels (@StormyDaniels) January 8, 2019
A Post reporter marveled at Daniels's video and song choice:
So Stormy Daniels is in fact folding laundry live on Instagram in her underwear -- as Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" plays. What a country— Emily Heil (@emilyaheil) January 9, 2019
A HuffPost reporter highlighted the digital ads Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is running as she contemplates a 2020 bid:
.@KamalaHarris is running a ton of different Medicare-for-All ads on Facebook right now, trying to build up her e-mail list.— Kevin Robillard (@Robillard) January 8, 2019
Interestingly, she’s not running any ads tied to the release of her new book. pic.twitter.com/pHUPvOoXk0
And the new Democratic governor of Colorado tweeted a selfie from his inauguration:
A quick selfie as I become Governor pic.twitter.com/Kb7vtoYurl— Jared Polis (@jaredpolis) January 8, 2019
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- “How a little-known Democratic firm cashed in on the wave of midterm money,” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy: “The catastrophic language [contained in its fundraising appeals] yielded a fundraising bonanza for clients of Mothership Strategies, a little-known and relatively new digital consulting firm that raked in tens of millions of dollars from a tide of small donations that flowed to Democrats during the 2018 midterm elections. The firm’s ascendancy as one of the highest-paid vendors of the election since its launch four years ago speaks to how lucrative the explosion of small-dollar donations has been for a group of savvy political consultants who saw the wave of cash coming — and built a business model to capitalize off it. But its lightning-quick rise also has sparked consternation in Democratic circles, where Mothership is sometimes derided as the ‘M-word’ because of its aggressive and sometimes misleading tactics, such as claiming in fundraising appeals that President Trump is preparing to fire the special counsel. Some critics call its approach unethical, saying the company profits off stoking fear of Trump and making the sort of exaggerated claims they associate with the president.”
-- CNBC, “Inside Facebook's 'cult-like' workplace, where dissent is discouraged and employees pretend to be happy all the time,” by Salvador Rodriguez: Facebook “employees feel pressure to place the company above all else in their lives, fall in line with their manager's orders and force cordiality with their colleagues so they can advance. Several former employees likened the culture to a ‘cult.’ This culture has contributed to the company's well-publicized wave of scandals over the last two years, such as governments spreading misinformation to try to influence elections and the misuse of private user data, according to many people who worked there during this period. They say Facebook might have caught some of these problems sooner if employees were encouraged to deliver honest feedback.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Gavin McInnes’ Wife Threatens Neighbors Over ‘Hate Has No Home Here’ Signs,” from HuffPost: “Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes usually fights his own battles, by way of inciting his membership to commit acts of violence. But now that his ritzy community in Westchester County, New York, has begun to take a stand against him, he has apparently employed a new enforcer to do his dirty work: his wife, Emily McInnes, who has been privately intimidating her neighbors and threatening them with lawsuits … Before Monday night, neighbors said they had given Emily McInnes the benefit of the doubt, considering her someone caught in the middle of drama her husband created with the community. But HuffPost has reviewed evidence that she has intimidated and harassed several neighbors in response to their anti-hate signs, threatening legal action or accusing them in private messages of coming after her family."
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Lawmaker who profanely called for impeaching Trump says she’s sorry for the distraction — but not for her passion,” from John Wagner: “Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich), who made national headlines for profanely promising to impeach [Trump], said Tuesday that she was sorry to have created a distraction but would never apologize for being ‘passionate and upset.’ ‘The use of that language was a teachable moment for me,’ the freshman lawmaker said during an appearance in her Detroit-area district. ‘I understand I am a member of Congress. And I don’t want anything that I do or say to distract us. That is the only thing I apologize for, is that it was a distraction.’ … Asked by a reporter Tuesday if she was apologizing for her language or just for being a distraction, Tlaib shook her head and said: ‘I want you to know that I will never apologize for being me, and for being passionate and upset. Period.’”
Trump will participate in a signing ceremony this morning for an anti-human-trafficking bill. He will attend the Senate Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill and later meet with congressional leadership at the White House.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Lloyd Gardner, a unit counselor at a Pennsylvania prison who voted for Trump in 2016, said he may not support him again after the shutdown: “This has been the breaking point. He’s saying the government workers are OK with this? I haven’t met one who say they are OK with it, and I know plenty that voted for him.” (Wall Street Journal)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It will be a sunny but chilly day in the District. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Skies become mostly sunny, windy and colder. Afternoon highs will peak in the low-to-mid 40s, but wind chill values will make it feel like temperatures are in the 30s thanks to some hefty gusts. Winds blow from the northwest at 15 to 20 mph, with gusts up to 35-plus mph at times.”
-- The Capitals beat the Flyers 5-3. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)
-- The Wizards lost to the 76ers 132-115. (Candace Buckner)
-- The Supreme Court rejected Virginia Republicans’ bid to delay redrawing districts for 11 statehouse seats. Gregory S. Schneider reports: “A panel of judges from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled last June that the districts had been racially gerrymandered to concentrate black voters and ordered a new map. … A hearing is scheduled for Thursday in the Eastern District court. In the meantime, House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) appealed the redistricting to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to take the case. That hearing will take place sometime in the spring, with the court first considering whether the House Republicans have standing to file the challenge. Cox had hoped to put the redistricting effort on hold while the appeal is being considered, but the high court denied that Tuesday without comment.”
-- Republican firebrand Corey Stewart will leave politics this December. Antonio Olivo and Patricia Sullivan report: “Stewart, 50, formally announced his plans Tuesday at the State of the County address, saying he would not seek a fourth term as board chairman or launch a run for any other office. … Citing his 16-point loss to Sen. Tim Kaine (D) in November, when Virginia Republicans also lost three U.S. House seats, Stewart said his departure from politics will last ‘until and unless the Commonwealth is ready for my views on things, and that’s not right now, clearly.’”
-- Virginia regulators approved a permit for a natural gas compressor station in a historic black community, angering local activists. Gregory S. Schneider reports: “Opponents have called the decision to locate the compressor in Union Hill a matter of environmental racism, and in recent weeks prominent figures — including former vice president Al Gore and actor Don Cheadle — have signed on to letters urging the state to oppose it.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Late-night hosts fretted over the possibility of Trump declaring a national emergency to fund his border wall:
Fox News hosts have largely downplayed the effects of the shutdown:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) delivered an impassioned response to Trump's immigration address:
And a rare snowfall was seen in Greece: