With Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand had some explaining to do. When the New York Democrat appeared on MSNBC on Wednesday night after announcing her candidacy for president, Rachel Maddow opened the interview by rattling off just a few of the many issues she’s reversed herself on since being appointed to replace Hillary Clinton in 2009. “She had an ‘A’ rating from the NRA,” Maddow told viewers. “She said she wanted to make English the official language of the United States. She opposed ‘amnesty’ for undocumented immigrants, but she used the phrase ‘illegal aliens’ when she talked about that issue. … She was a card-carrying member of the Blue Dog Democrats.”

The host pressed Gillibrand to answer for her “transformation” from a “conservative” congresswoman representing a rural district into an outspoken liberal senator. “So, 10 years ago, when I became senator … I recognized I didn’t know everything about the whole state, and one of the first things I did was I travel to Brooklyn,” she replied. “And I met with a family who had just lost their daughter, a teenage girl, who was shot with a stray bullet. … I just knew I was wrong, and I knew I had to do something to make sure that young beautiful girl did not die in vain. … And, now, I’ve been a leader on these issues.”

Maddow asked Gillibrand whether she’s “embarrassed” by her previous positions on immigration. Gillibrand said yes. “Well, I don`t think it was driven from my heart,” the senator said. “I was callous to the suffering of families who want to be with their loved ones, people who want to be reunited with their families. And so, looking back, I just really regretted that I didn’t look beyond my district.”

-- Immigration has become a third rail during the Trump era in a way it was not previously. Democrats increasingly oppose the president’s demand for a border wall as “immoral,” not just as an ineffective and wasteful idea. Even Bernie Sanders, perhaps the most ideologically consistent among the potential 2020 candidates, has vulnerabilities on this issue and has been trying to make amends since opposing the comprehensive overhaul package in 2006.

CNN published a rundown last night of Gillibrand’s reversals on immigration under the stinging headline “How Kirsten Gillibrand went from pushing for more deportations to wanting to abolish ICE.” The story points out that she even attacked the Republican congressman she defeated in 2006 from the right, blasting him as too soft on border security.

-- Gillibrand may be the starkest example, but this week has shown that she’s certainly not the only 2020 presidential candidate who is recalibrating in an effort to catch up with the party’s base. The center of gravity in the Democratic Party has undeniably moved further to the left since Sanders's unexpectedly strong performance against Hillary Clinton in 2016. Half of Democrats now embrace the label “liberal” in Pew’s polling, up 15 points from when Barack Obama won the nomination in 2008. Many of the party’s pickups in the 2006 midterms came from conservative rural areas, including Gillibrand, but the gains in 2018 were mostly thanks to moderates in the suburbs. Democratic voters have adopted more-liberal stances on a battery of social issues, health care, guns and more. And politicians who have been on the scene for a while find themselves trying to catch up with the times.

There is a long tradition of lawmakers “evolving” as they pursue higher office, to use the euphemism that’s been long favored by ambitious pols. After all, Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump were both registered Democrats a decade before they ran for president. And many pundits now assume flip-flops are less perilous than in the past, primarily because Trump has easily gotten away with so many. But that conventional wisdom will be tested as the Democratic nominating contest heats up over the coming months.

-- Since announcing her long-shot bid for the presidency last Friday night, for example, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has been unable to talk about anything other than her past hostility toward gay rights as a state legislator. Trying to jump-start her flailing campaign after its failure to launch, the 37-year-old recorded a four-minute apology video yesterday in which she insisted that her views “have changed significantly.”

“In my past, I said and believed things that were wrong, and worse, they were hurtful to people in the LGBTQ community and to their loved ones,” Gabbard says to the camera. “I’m deeply sorry for having said them. My views have changed significantly since then, and my record in Congress over the last six years reflects what is in my heart.”

In the mid-2000s, Gabbard said publicly that Democrats “should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists.” That view may be disqualifying in today’s Democratic Party. She also worked for an anti-gay-rights group led by her father. In the damage-control video, she defends herself by noting that she grew up in a “socially conservative household where I was raised to believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.”

-- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has taken to describing herself as “a progressive prosecutor” while rolling out her new memoir, “The Truths We Hold,” ahead of a forthcoming presidential announcement. “America has a deep and dark history of people using the power of the prosecutor as an instrument of injustice,” Harris writes in the book. “I know this history well — of innocent men framed, of charges brought against people without sufficient evidence, of prosecutors hiding information that would exonerate defendants, of the disproportionate application of the law.”

One of the most widely read, and shared, op-eds in the New York Times yesterday was a blistering rebuttal of this attempted rebranding by law professor Lara Bazelon, who formerly directed the Loyola Law School innocence project: “All too often, she was on the wrong side of that history. … Time after time, when progressives urged her to embrace criminal justice reforms as a district attorney and then the state’s attorney general, Ms. Harris opposed them or stayed silent. Most troubling, Ms. Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors. … If Kamala Harris wants people who care about dismantling mass incarceration and correcting miscarriages of justice to vote for her, she needs to radically break with her past. A good first step would be to apologize to the wrongfully convicted people she has fought to keep in prison. ...

Consider her record as San Francisco’s district attorney from 2004 to 2011. Ms. Harris was criticized in 2010 for withholding information about a police laboratory technician who had been accused of ‘intentionally sabotaging’ her work and stealing drugs from the lab. After a memo surfaced showing that Ms. Harris’s deputies knew about the technician’s wrongdoing and recent conviction, but failed to alert defense lawyers, a judge condemned Ms. Harris’s indifference to the systemic violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights. Ms. Harris contested the ruling by arguing that the judge, whose husband was a defense attorney and had spoken publicly about the importance of disclosing evidence, had a conflict of interest. Ms. Harris lost. More than 600 cases handled by the corrupt technician were dismissed. …

Ms. Harris was similarly regressive as the state’s attorney general. When a federal judge in Orange County ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional in 2014, Ms. Harris appealed. In a public statement, she made the bizarre argument that the decision ‘undermines important protections that our courts provide to defendants.’ In 2014, she declined to take a position on Proposition 47, a ballot initiative approved by voters, that reduced certain low-level felonies to misdemeanors. She laughed that year when a reporter asked if she would support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Ms. Harris finally reversed course in 2018, long after public opinion had shifted on the topic. In 2015, she opposed a bill requiring her office to investigate shootings involving officers. And she refused to support statewide standards regulating the use of body-worn cameras by police officers.”

Rival campaigns-in-waiting circulated this piece on background and promised it’s a taste of the attacks to come if Harris gets traction.

Underscoring the piece’s potency, the Harris operation forcefully pushed back in a statement to reporters that made no apologies: “Kamala Harris has spent her career fighting for reforms in the criminal justice system and pushing the envelope to keep everyone safer by bringing fairness and accountability," said Harris spokeswoman Lily Adams. “When most prosecutors were using a tough on crime approach, Senator Harris was starting Back on Track in 2004 which diverted young people charged with first time drug offenses into apprenticeship and training programs instead of decades long prison sentences. When she was Attorney General, she brought accountability to the system with the first statewide training on implicit bias and procedural justice in the country, body cameras to the agents at DOJ, launched multiple pattern and practice investigations and demanded data on in-custody deaths and police shooting be made available to the public.”

-- Here’s why these kinds of stories matter a great deal: Impressions of most Democratic candidates are both soft and fluid. An NPR-PBS-Marist poll released yesterday underscored just how unknown most of the 2020 candidates are at the grass-roots level. The national survey asked Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents if they have a favorable or unfavorable impression of 10 likely candidates. With the exceptions of Joe Biden, Sanders and, to a lesser extent, Elizabeth Warren, rank-and-file progressives don't have strong impressions of the people that Washington insiders are buzzing about. For example, 22 percent of those surveyed have a positive view of Gillibrand, 14 percent have a negative view, and 65 percent either have never heard of her or don’t know enough to offer an opinion. The never-heard-of, or unsure, number was 49 percent for Cory Booker, 52 percent for Beto O’Rourke, 54 percent for Harris, 71 percent for Amy Klobuchar and 72 percent for Julián Castro. The pollsters didn’t event test Gabbard.

-- Programming note: In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., we will not publish on Monday.

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- President Trump allegedly instructed his longtime fixer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and continued receiving updates about the project during the 2016 campaign, according to BuzzFeed News’s Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier. The story cites two unnamed federal law enforcement officials. “Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. ‘Make it happen,’ the sources said Trump told Cohen. And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project. …

“The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office. … It is the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia.”

-- Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani dismissed the report: “If you believe Cohen, I can get you a great deal on the Brooklyn Bridge.”

-- “Democrats said that if the report is accurate, Trump must quickly be held to account for his role in the perjury, with some raising the specter of impeachment,” Tim Elfrink reports.

-- Mitch McConnell is trying to recruit Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to run for the open Senate seat in Kansas. Sean Sullivan and Josh Dawsey report: “Senate GOP leaders have been so dedicated to recruiting Pompeo that McConnell directly urged him to consider it in a recent telephone call … By the time Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) announced this month that he was retiring, GOP leaders were eyeing Pompeo. In the hours ahead of Roberts’s announcement, their allies were talking up [the former Kansas congressman]. But Trump does not want to lose Pompeo and sees him as his favorite Cabinet member, according to two people familiar with his thinking. It was unclear whether he was aware of the conversation between McConnell and Pompeo. … Privately, Pompeo has left the door open, according to associates, although his attention is on his current job and he is not in a rush to reach a verdict, they said.”

-- In other significant Senate news, retired astronaut Mark Kelly — the husband of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D) — is actively considering challenging appointed Arizona Sen. Martha McSally (R) in 2020. The Arizona Republic’s Yvonne Wingett Sanchez reports: “A spokesperson for Kelly confirmed Kelly's interest in running in 2020. … 314 Action, a nonprofit political action committee that recruits, trains and bolsters the candidacies of scientists and candidates with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) backgrounds, is spending six figures on a social media campaign aimed at recruiting Kelly for the race and raising awareness about his biography.”

-- Two other top Democratic recruits to keep an eye on: Will Stacey Abrams take on David Perdue in Georgia? Does Tom Vilsack challenge Joni Ernst in Iowa? Both are keeping the door open.

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. The VA inspector general said former secretary David Shulkin misused security services available to him. The IG’s report noted that Shulkin allowed a VA employee to essentially act as his wife’s chauffeur. The report also accused the agency’s security staff of putting senior officials at risk with questionable safety procedures. (Katie Mettler and Lisa Rein)
  2. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s former acting chief of staff was forced to resign over sexual harassment complaints. City Hall officials did not announce Kevin O’Brien’s departure early last year, but de Blasio said he was unaware of the allegations when he praised O’Brien after his 2017 reelection victory. (New York Times)
  3. Three Chicago police officers accused of trying to cover up the 2014 police shooting of Laquan McDonald were acquitted. Critics of the judge’s decision said it was at odds with the conviction of former officer Jason Van Dyke, who shot McDonald and was found guilty of second-degree murder in October. (AP)
  4. The Pentagon identified three of the Americans killed in the Syria suicide bombing. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent and civilian operations support specialist Scott A. Wirtz of St. Louis were among the victims in the Manbij attack. (Post staff)
  5. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos attended her first public appearance since a recent bike accident in a wheelchair. DeVos said she broke her pelvis and hip socket in the accident, which she described as “very painful.” (Valerie Strauss)
  6. The African Union called on the Congolese government to delay announcing the final results of its presidential election amid mounting evidence of fraud. Congo’s election commission declared opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi the winner of the Dec. 30 election, but polling data indicates another opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu, actually won. (Max Bearak)
  7. The L.A. teachers union returned to the negotiating table with its school district. The L.A. Unified School District said it has already lost nearly $100 million from this week’s strike because funding is allocated based on student attendance, which has plunged as teachers protest. (CNN)
  8. Schools in Paradise, Calif., are still struggling to recover from the devastating Camp Fire. All but two buildings belonging to the school system have closed, and almost half of the students have left. (Moriah Balingit)
  9. Tesla plans to cut its workforce by 7 percent. CEO Elon Musk said the cuts would allow the company to sell its Model 3 sedan at a lower price. (Wall Street Journal)
  10. A powerful winter storm is expected to hit the Northeast this weekend. Winter storm watches have been issued from northern Illinois to New England, affecting more than 40 million people. (Greg Porter)

DAY 28 OF THE SHUTDOWN:

-- Bringing the government shutdown no closer to an end, Trump canceled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s planned trip to Afghanistan in retaliation for her suggestion that he postpone his State of the Union address. Erica Werner and John Wagner report: “Hours before Pelosi and top Democrats were set to depart for a visit to military leaders in Brussels and to see troops in Afghanistan, Trump released a letter canceling what he termed a ‘public relations event.’ ‘I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the Shutdown,’ he wrote. ‘We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over.’ …

Democrats responded furiously to Trump’s cancellation and accused the president of acting like a child. Lawmakers’ visits to war zones are typically kept secret for security reasons, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said Trump’s decision to disclose Pelosi’s travel plans was ‘completely and utterly irresponsible in every way.’ … Things could spiral further: Though Pelosi asked Trump to reschedule his State of the Union address, her office made clear that she was not, at this point, denying him an invitation. The House and Senate must pass a resolution to formally invite Trump to come to Congress, and if Pelosi blocks the measure this year, it would almost certainly deny Trump a traditional State of the Union platform. 

Trump himself visited Iraq after the partial government shutdown began Dec. 22, raising questions about his stated rationale for blocking Pelosi’s travel. But the president Thursday canceled a U.S. delegation’s trip to the annual economic conference in Davos, Switzerland. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top officials had been slated to attend.”

-- Just hours after Trump blocked Pelosi from using a military aircraft to visit the troops, first lady Melania Trump boarded a military plane for a flight to Palm Beach, Fla., so she could spend the weekend at Mar-a-Lago. (Miami Herald)

-- Congress has adopted a morose outlook on resolving the impasse after a bipartisan Senate proposal to reopen the government failed to gain steam a second time. Politico’s Burgess Everett and Heather Caygle report: “‘I feel like I’m going to strangle you,’ quipped one senator who's tried in vain to find a breakthrough when a reporter asked about their state of mind. That lawmaker was joking, probably, but the vibes in the Capitol are funereal at best. And with most members headed home for a long weekend, the partial shutdown is essentially guaranteed to enter into its second month. … Rank-and-file lawmakers can make noise and try to create momentum, but Trump has dismissed everything they’ve come up with — leading some members to wonder what they’re even doing.”

-- Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin refused a request to testify before Congress on how the shutdown will affect tax season. Reuters reports: “In a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, the Treasury Department offered to send senior officials ‘who are most knowledgeable’ about the department’s plans during the shutdown. … Neal responded sharply to Mnuchin’s refusal to appear. ‘With more than 70,000 Treasury employees furloughed and missing paychecks, I strongly believe Secretary Mnuchin himself should appear before our committee and answer members’ questions,’ Neal said in a statement after Mnuchin declined the invitation to appear on Jan. 24.”

-- Chaos erupted on the House floor after Democrats tried to pass a bill to reopen the government by voice vote. The Hill’s Juliegrace Brufke reports: “The vote will be postponed after Republicans called foul on their request for a roll call vote not being granted. The Democratic bill, which would fund the government through Feb. 28, was expected to be approved but will be dead on arrival in the Senate. Democrats will request to vacate the vote and take it up again next week, according to a Democratic leadership aide. … Republicans argued they had called for a roll call vote on the measure, with Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) having made the request, which was ignored or not heard by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), who was presiding over the floor during the vote. Sources on the floor said the request was made too late.”

-- Typifying the acrimony on Capitol Hill, a Republican lawmaker appeared to shout, “Go back to Puerto Rico,” at a Latino colleague on the House floor. But Rep. Jason T. Smith (R-Mo.) later said he was not specifically addressing Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.). Herman Wong reports: “It was initially unclear who made the remark … [Smith] later admitted making the statement. However, Smith’s communications director, Joey Brown, said in an email that the congressman was ‘speaking to all the Democrats who were down vacationing in Puerto Rico last weekend during the shutdown, not any individual.’ … Hours later, Smith called and ‘took responsibility for the comment and sincerely apologized,’ Cárdenas said.”

-- Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló lambasted the Trump administration amid escalating tensions over, among other things, the president’s desire to use the island’s disaster-relief funds for his border wall. Jeff Stein reports: “Rosselló ripped the Trump administration Thursday for rejecting food stamp funding for the island and reportedly plotting to cut its emergency aid … The feud comes amid the resignation of a top Housing and Urban Development official, widely regarded as one of the most capable administrators in the agency, after the White House’s attempt to block disaster recovery money for Puerto Rico. … In a Facebook video addressed to Trump, Rosselló attacked ‘unconscionable’ remarks and ‘completely false and inaccurate information’ tied to the Trump administration.”

-- A Democratic group aligned with Chuck Schumer, Majority Forward, is launching $600,000 in shutdown-based attack ads today against six Republican senators facing competitive 2020 elections. Sean Sullivan reports: “The ads target Sens. Martha McSally (Ariz.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), David Perdue (Ga.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Susan Collins (Maine) and Thom Tillis (N.C.). ... As ominous music plays, a narrator points out that this is ‘the longest government shutdown in history,’ and warns of the impact on food safety inspections and air travel security. The ads are tailored to raise state-specific concerns about the effects of the shutdown. The North Carolina ad underscores the strain on hurricane recovery efforts."

THE HUMAN IMPACT:

-- Many government agencies are scrambling to continue or resume basic operations to limit the shutdown’s fallout, even though that often means sending people to work without pay. Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey report: “The State Department ordered its employees to return to work next week, saying it has found money to cover a half-month in salary … The TSA acknowledged Thursday that the lengthy shutdown had affected its employees’ ability to come to work, with many calling in sick. … And some agencies have had to deal with small-scale rebellions among the employees they are requiring to continue showing up for work. These employees have recently refused to put any work-related travel expenses on their personal credit cards, unsure when they will be repaid. Other agencies are ordering employees to return to work, without pay, to minimize the shutdown’s impact on a variety of industries, including agriculture, ranching, logging, banking and fishing.”

-- States are reporting a sharp increase in the number of unemployment claims filed by federal workers. Tim Craig reports: “Under federal guidelines, furloughed federal workers and contractors who have been told not to report to work are generally eligible to apply for unemployment benefits, although many will have to repay the money if they receive back pay when they return to the job. But on Wednesday, in another blow to federal workers, the U.S. Labor Department sent guidance to states clarifying that hundreds of thousands of federal workers who are working without pay do not qualify for unemployment benefits.

-- Federal law enforcement agencies say the shutdown is harming ongoing investigations. Devlin Barrett and Mark Berman report: “Most travel and training among the law enforcement agencies has been canceled. Many law enforcement officials said some undercover cases, including corruption probes, have been stymied in recent weeks because supervisors feel they cannot approve travel or cash for those operations. … Senior law enforcement officials are increasingly concerned that the anger among the rank and file is growing exponentially and could skyrocket next week if a second straight paycheck is skipped. Those who are charged with protecting the nation from criminals and terrorists could be facing enormous external financial stressors as they try to stay focused on their work.

-- Federal courts could run out of money before the end of the month. The New York Times’s Thomas Kaplan reports: “Judges and court officials around the country are bracing for the likelihood that the federal judiciary will be unable to maintain its current operations within the next two weeks, once it exhausts the money it has been relying on since the shutdown began last month. Already, courts have been cutting down on expenses like travel and new hiring. Court-appointed private lawyers who represent indigent defendants have been working without pay since late December, according to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, which provides support for the court system.”

-- The FDA has decided to furlough more employees to focus its dwindling funds on drug reviews. Laurie McGinley reports: “With money for drug reviews rapidly diminishing as the government shutdown drags into its fourth week, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in an interview Thursday that he plans to curtail ‘discretionary activities’ and call for additional furloughs in areas in which workloads have been reduced due to the shutdown. ‘What we are trying to do is to keep the review process continuing because of important drugs in the pipeline,’ he said. Yet the cost-saving measures will buy just weeks, not months, of extended life for the FDA’s drug-review process, Gottlieb added.”

-- Metro said it is losing $400,000 a day from the shutdown. Faiz Siddiqui reports: “The transit agency, which has estimated federal workers make up 40 percent of its rush-hour ridership, says it is suffering steep losses amid the shutdown … In [a letter to the region’s senators], which was tweeted by Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld writes that the agency has suffered daily rail ridership losses averaging 16 percent; average daily ridership for Metrobus is down 8 percent.”

TRUMP'S IMMIGRATION WAR:

-- The HHS inspector general issued a scathing report saying that the Trump administration separated thousands more migrant families than previously disclosed and that the policy existed for nearly a year before Trump appointees acknowledged it. They publicly insisted there was no family-separation policy even as they privately implemented it. Amy Goldstein reports: The report “says no one systematically kept count of separated children until a lawsuit last spring triggered by the Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy, under which the government tried to criminally prosecute all parents who crossed the border illegally, taking their children from them in the process. As a result of the lawsuit, the government identified about 2,700 separated children in federal custody as of June, some of them infants and toddlers. … Although previous administrations also separated minors at the border in some instances — usually when they suspected the child was smuggled, or if the parent appeared unfit — the report said the practice appears far more common under Trump and began nearly a year before administration officials publicly acknowledged it.”

-- A draft of the family-separation policy shows the Trump administration considered denying migrant children asylum hearings and specifically targeting their parents for prosecution. NBC News’s Julia Ainsley reports: “In one comment, a Justice Department official suggests that Customs and Border Protection could see that children who have been separated from their parents would be denied an asylum hearing before an immigration judge, which is typically awarded to children who arrive at the border alone. Instead, the entire family would be given an order of ‘expedited removal’ and then separated, placing the child in the care of HHS in U.S. Marshall's custody while both await deportation. … ‘It appears that they wanted to have it both ways — to separate children from their parents but deny them the full protections generally awarded to unaccompanied children,’ said Lee Gelernt, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union who led the class action suit on behalf of migrant parents who had been separated from their children.”

-- A Latino Marine veteran who was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., was detained by ICE for possible deportation. Eli Rosenberg reports: “Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, whose service as a lance corporal and tank crewman included time in Afghanistan, was born in the Michigan city of 200,000. … ‘I immediately called ICE and shouted at them,’ [immigration lawyer Richard Kessler] said. ‘And they called me back and said, kind of, “Oops, yeah, come and get him.” They didn’t say, “Our bad,” but kind of implied that.’ Ramos-Gomez’s story rocketed to national attention on Wednesday after the [ACLU] called for the county to investigate how an American citizen and decorated veteran was taken into ICE custody.”

-- The DOJ posted job listings for lawyers to handle property seizures related to the border wall. Politico’s Ted Hesson reports: “The two advertised jobs, based in McAllen and Brownsville [in South Texas], will pay between $53,062 and $138,790, according to a posting to a federal jobs website. … The attorneys likely will deal with eminent domain property seizures and quarrels with landowners over what their land is worth, according to Chris Rickerd, [ACLU’s] senior policy counsel on border and immigration issues.”

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- More than 130 House Republicans voted against the Treasury Department’s plan to lift sanctions against companies owned by a Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin. Karoun Demirjian and Jeanne Whalen report: “The overwhelming 362 to 53 vote will not prevent the Trump administration from easing sanctions on three companies connected to [Oleg Deripaska], as Senate Republicans narrowly blocked a similar measure on Wednesday. But the House vote does mean that a majority of Republicans on Capitol Hill oppose [Trump’s] efforts to soften punitive measures on a Russian oligarch — a rejection with potential implications for the administration’s continued stance on Russia, and for the GOP lawmakers who backed the plan to ease the sanctions. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) both broke with Trump to join Democrats to support the resolution, along with the rest of their leadership team — a particularly awkward rebellion for the White House and [Mitch McConnell].”

-- The DNC said it was among those targeted in a widespread cyberattack detected after the midterms. ABC News’s Maryalice Parks and Lee Ferran report: “‘On November 14, 2018, dozens of DNC email addresses were targeted in a spear-phishing campaign, although there is no evidence that the attack was successful,’ the DNC wrote in an amended complaint filed late Thursday, part of an ongoing lawsuit against the Russian government, the 2016 Donald Trump campaign and others. The DNC said that the content and the timing of the emails led the organization to believe it was targeted as part of a wider phishing campaign that cybersecurity firms had previously said appeared to use some of the same technical tricks as a Russian hacking group known as Cozy Bear, or APT 29.”

-- A Belarusian model who claims she has evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia was held in Moscow on prostitution charges. Anton Troianovski and Rosalind S. Helderman report: “The model, Anastasia Vashukevich, had been deported from Thailand earlier in the day after spending nine months in prison on charges of conspiracy and soliciting prostitution. She was booked to fly to Minsk, Belarus, but was detained along with three others traveling with her as she changed planes at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Inter­national Airport, according to her husband and another person traveling with her. … Her arrest in Moscow was unexpected and blocked her from possibly talking to dozens of journalists waiting for her in the airport’s arrivals zone.”

-- A recent court filing from special counsel Bob Mueller’s team suggests Paul Manafort continued working on a Russia-related issue after he was indicted. Rosalind S. Helderman reports: “The four words of unredacted text suggest that in February 2018 — four months after Manafort was first charged with crimes related to his work as a political consultant in Ukraine — he still appears to have been working on a peace initiative for Ukraine, a topic of intense interest to Russia. And it suggests he was doing so in concert with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian employee of his consulting firm who is alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence. The revelation, potentially inadvertent, comes as Manafort and Mueller’s legal team have been battling in court over whether Manafort lied to prosecutors after he pleaded guilty in September to conspiring against the United States with his Ukraine work and agreed to cooperate with the probe.”

-- A U.S. law firm briefly entangled in Mueller’s probe agreed to pay $4.6 million for failing to report its work for Ukraine. Matt Zapotosky and Tom Hamburger report: “The firm — Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom — conceded it should have registered as a foreign agent in 2012, when it was hired in a deal facilitated by [Manafort] to prepare a report about the prosecution of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.”

-- Trump was startled to hear his attorney general nominee William Barr describe Mueller as a close friend during his confirmation hearings. CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Kevin Liptak and Jeff Zeleny report: “While Barr said during his hearing that Trump ‘was interested’ in hearing about the friendship, the details that emerged this week caught the President off guard, [three] sources said. He bristled at Barr's description of the close relationship, complaining to aides he didn't realize how much their work overlapped or that they were so close. There is no indication Trump's surprise will jeopardize the nomination, however.”

-- Marci Whitaker, who is married to acting attorney general Matt Whitaker, sent an email to a Slate reporter who wrote a critical article about her husband. In her message, Marci Whitaker said her husband should not have to recuse himself from the Mueller probe, which she described as “wrapping up.” “It isn’t really or shouldn’t be that controversial to state that the Mueller investigation should stay within the parameters given. Particularly when that is said more than a year prior as the investigation is just beginning,” she wrote, apparently referring to her husband’s past criticism of the probe. “And by all means, assume that a person who speculated on a hypothetical scenario would then put some dark plan into motion, when by all accounts, the investigation is wrapping up and [the] eyes of the nation are upon them.”

-- Giuliani attempted to clean up his comments that he cannot say with certainty that people besides Trump on the 2016 campaign did not collude with Russia. He released a statement saying he has “no knowledge of any collusion by any of the thousands of people who worked on the campaign.” Trump’s attorney added in an interview with The Post: “With regard to the president, he was not involved in any collusion in any way, and he has no knowledge of any collusion. … The rest I can’t be responsible for, except I can tell you the state of my knowledge, which is that I have no knowledge that anyone on the campaign illegally colluded with the Russians.” (Philip Rucker)

-- But many interpreted Giuliani’s original comments as a warning: “It’s everyone for themselves,” as Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn writes. “‘Ya think!!!’ one former Trump campaign official wrote ... when asked if Giuliani was trying to protect the president at the expense of everyone who worked for him. … The sniping can have long-term legal consequences, and the president and his former aides have used press interviews, social media posts and court filings to take shots at each other in the interest of protecting themselves and their reputations.”

THE NEW CONGRESS:

-- Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), who has served in Congress since 2010, announced he would resign next week to take a job in the private sector. Mike DeBonis reports: “The former prosecutor was one of the first House Republicans to endorse Donald Trump for president and he was an informal adviser to the candidate. Marino has won handily in his heavily Republican district but faced a new reality as Democrats seized majority control of the House in November. [Trump] nominated Marino to be the nation’s drug czar in 2017, but Marino withdrew from consideration following a Washington Post/’60 Minutes’ investigation detailing how the lawmaker helped steer legislation through Congress that weakened the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to go after drug distributors, even as opioid-related deaths continue to rise.”

-- Given the conservative bent of Marino’s district, Democrats don’t expect to flip the seat in a special election. From David Weigel: “The words ‘special election’ and ‘Pennsylvania’ are enough to induce terror in Republicans after their disastrous 2018 performance in the state. The year began with them losing a once-safe district to Rep. Conor Lamb (D) and ended with them getting blown out statewide while dropping three more seats — and holding three more by single digits. But it would take a true political disaster for Marino’s 12th Congressional District to become competitive. As drawn by a panel of judges last year, it covers a large rural swath of north and central Pennsylvania that was never very friendly to Democrats and has grown downright inhospitable.”

-- Kevin McCarthy’s decision to strip Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) of his committee assignments could signal how the California Republican intends to assert himself as House minority leader. Robert Costa and Mike DeBonis have the behind-the-scenes details on the showdown between McCarthy and King: “When [King] was ushered into [McCarthy’s] office Monday night, after sparking outrage for questioning whether the term ‘white supremacist’ is offensive, he expected to be scolded. He did not expect his career in congressional politics to effectively end. But as the Iowa Republican sat on a couch beneath an eight-foot-tall portrait of Abraham Lincoln, it quickly became clear that ­McCarthy — whom King has long privately knocked as soft — was taking a hard line. King, an ally of [Trump’s] and a regular guest on conservative media programs, offered to ‘go quiet,’ according to three people familiar with the exchange who were not authorized to speak publicly. McCarthy dismissed the suggestion — and the nine-term Republican was soon stripped of all his committee assignments.

“For McCarthy, 53, the hour-long confrontation with King was a critical moment early in his tenure as the new leader of Republicans in the House, testing whether the easygoing Californian was willing to take on a popular conservative and assert himself in the wake of sweeping GOP defeats in the 2018 elections and the high-profile speakership of Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). It was also a reminder of how Republican leaders have done little to police their ranks on the charged issue of race in recent years, from their embrace of Trump despite him casting doubt on President Barack Obama’s U.S. citizenship to their support of the divisive King — making his punishment an outlier rather than the standard.”

-- King is raising money off his comments about white nationalism and white supremacy. The Des Moines Register’s Robin Opsahl reports: “‘The unhinged left has teamed up with Republican 'NeverTrumpers' and is pulling out all the stops to destroy me,’ King wrote in a campaign email to his supporters. In the email, King said the New York Times and ‘rabid leftist media’ are coming after him for supporting [Trump] and because of his views on immigration.”

-- Senate Republicans are weighing rules changes to accelerate confirmations of Trump’s nominees. Seung Min Kim and Paul Kane report: “Typically, a nomination can be debated for a maximum of 30 hours on the Senate floor after senators invoke cloture ... But Republicans are mulling cutting short those 30 hours to as brief as two hours for relatively noncontroversial nominees, such as candidates for the district court. … While GOP senators discussed wanting support from Democrats to revise the rules — a process that would take 67 votes — [Mitch McConnell] also raised the prospect of using the so-called ‘nuclear option’ to change the rules unilaterally.”

-- In a Post op-ed, McConnell slammed House Democrats’ proposed changes to the Federal Election Commission. He writes: “Since Watergate, the commission has been a six-member body so neither party can use it to punish political opponents. Apparently, Democrats have grown tired of playing fair. This bill would weaponize the FEC with a 3-to-2 partisan makeup. It would also empower that newly partisan FEC to track and catalogue more of what you say. It would broaden the type of speech the commission can define as ‘campaign-related’ and thus regulate. … Apparently the Democrats define ‘democracy’ as giving Washington a clearer view of whom to intimidate and leaving citizens more vulnerable to public harassment over private views.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Democratic lawmakers demanded an immediate investigation into the report that Trump allegedly told Cohen to lie to Congress. From the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee:

A Democratic senator asked that Mueller start presenting his findings to Congress:

And some House Democrats raised the possibility of impeachment:

Cohen also did not dispute a report that he tried to swing online polls for the 2016 election in Trump's favor:

The news forced the Drudge Report to engage in some self-examination:

Trump went on a tweetstorm this morning, attacking Pelosi and blaming Democrats for the shutdown while claiming a new caravan of migrants is on the way:

Pelosi's deputy chief of staff highlighted the itinerary for her canceled trip:

A House Democrat accused the White House of inaction amid the shutdown:

Politico's Capitol bureau chief noted the previously secretive nature of Pelosi's trip:

George W. Bush's former press secretary joked about the tit-for-tat maneuvering as 800,000 people go without pay:

The new cover of the New Yorker features Trump “walled in”:

Some local governments are trying to provide financial assistance to their furloughed residents:

One government employee expressed her frustration with Congress in writing, per a Post reporter:

The Israeli prime minister parodied a popular social media trend with photos of his country's border wall:

A New York Times reporter chronicled all of the false statements she was told about migrant family separations:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) held a training session on Twitter for her colleagues:

Barack Obama wished his wife, Michelle, a happy birthday:

And an additional birthday wish came from one American icon to another:

GOOD READS:

-- “‘Their job is to scare me’: Jason Rezaian describes first terrifying hours inside Iranian prison,” by Jason Rezaian, who was held inside an Iranian prison for 18 months: “‘Do you know why you are here, Mr. Jason?’ ‘No,’ I said, turning my head in the direction of his voice. ‘You’re the head of the American CIA station in Tehran,’ he said. He never raised his voice, but he was accusatory: ‘We know it. And you have a choice. Tell us everything, and you’ll go home. You’ll get on that flight to the United States on Friday as planned, but you’ll be starting a new life working for the Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic.’ The offer was absurd in its directness and so I didn’t think he was completely serious. ‘If not, you must change your clothes. When you put the prison clothes on it’s not clear how long you’re going to be here. The odds are you will spend the rest of your life as our guest. You’ll never get out of here. So tell us everything.’”

-- Politico Magazine, “How Jared Kushner Tried to Stop Me From Running the Trump Transition,” by Chris Christie: “I’d been around politics long enough to grasp what was happening. Jared was trying—and not so subtly—to derail my appointment as transition chairman. The issue wasn’t the rushing. The issue was the guy. Donald didn’t sound as convinced as Jared did. ‘Jared,’ he said, ‘why would we have to wait on this? It’s going to be a great announcement for him and a great announcement for us.’ Jared let a beat pass before he spoke up. But when he started talking, he sounded like a person who’d been holding poison inside himself for a very long time. ‘You really want to know why?’ Jared asked. ‘Yeah,’ Trump said. ‘Because I don’t trust him to have this, and you know why I don’t trust him to have it.’”

-- HuffPost, “Jack Dorsey Has No Clue What He Wants,” by Ashley Feinberg: “A conversation with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey can be incredibly disorienting. Not because he’s particularly clever or thought-provoking, but because he sounds like he should be. He takes long pauses before he speaks. He furrows his brow, setting you up for a considered response from the man many have called a genius. The words themselves sound like they should probably mean something, too. Dorsey is just hard enough to follow that it’s easy to assume that any confusion is your own fault, and that if you just listen a little more or think a little harder, whatever he’s saying will finally start to make sense. Whether Dorsey does this all deliberately or not, the reason his impassioned defenses of Twitter sound like gibberish is because they are.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Activist who met with congressmen about 'DNA' posted about black 'violence gene,’” from NBC News: “An alt-right activist who met with two Republican congressmen to discuss ‘DNA’ and ‘genetics’ posted on Facebook that he believes Muslims are ‘genetically different in their propensity for violence or rape’ and linked to stories about how African-Americans ‘possessed a 'violence' gene.’ Chuck Johnson met with Reps. Andy Harris of Maryland and Phil Roe of Tennessee on Thursday. After a Huffington Post reporter tweeted a photo of Johnson with the two congressmen, and the photo attracted media attention because of Johnson's far-right views, Roe released a statement saying he and Harris had met with Johnson because he was representing a company advocating for ‘increasing the number of sequenced genomes for research.’”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Women’s March setbacks reveal what can go wrong for progressive movements protesting Trump,” from Frances Stead Sellers and Emily Wax-Thibodeaux: “After a leader of Women’s March Inc. attended an event at which Nation of Islam firebrand Louis Farrakhan criticized “powerful Jews,” the public reaction was swift and fierce. … In the months since, a movement that once bragged about its inclusivity has been roiled by reports of battles over diversityhate speech and branding. The impact is not yet clear, but less than a week before the third-annual women’s march, some regional events have been canceled. … The women’s marches now loom as a lesson on what can go wrong when the decentralized grass-roots movements that gained traction after Donald Trump’s election adopt rhetoric and behavior that challenges public sympathy.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will meet with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. He has no other events on his public schedule.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“To see major news organizations attacking Christian education is deeply offensive to us. … We’ll let the other critics roll off our back. But this criticism of Christian education in America should stop.” — Vice President Pence on the backlash against the second lady’s decision to work at a school that requires job applicants to disavow same-sex marriage and transgender identity. (EWTN)

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- It will be fairly sunny in Washington before this weekend’s expected storm. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Clouds and fog slowly try to dissipate, and we begin to dry out with light westerly breezes. High temperatures should make it into mid-40s, with perhaps some upper 40s slightly possible, especially south of town. Clouds may increase a bit again late afternoon, but we should stay rain-free.” But some schools are operating on a delay this morning because of yesterday's snow.

-- The Wizards beat the Knicks 101-100 in London. (Candace Buckner)

-- Former Capitals coach Barry Trotz will be honored with a tribute video during the team’s game tonight against Trotz’s New York Islanders. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)

-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) unveiled a budget proposal that includes tax relief and raises for state employees. Ovetta Wiggins and Arelis R. Hernández report: “The $46.6 billion budget proposal — a 4 percent increase over last year’s fiscal plan — raises the pay of state employees by at least 3 percent, extends a tax relief to the retired military, police officers and fire and rescue workers, provides $57 million for businesses that locate in ‘opportunity zones,’ and sets aside $1.3 billion in reserves to guard against a potential economic downturn.”

-- Hogan’s anti-Trump speeches and planned trip to Iowa in March are fueling 2020 speculation. Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports: “Hogan used his inaugural address on Wednesday to repudiate the ‘debilitating politics’ of Washington — and to raise the specter of impeachment. … The White House is paying close attention. The president’s political aides have been monitoring the Maryland governor for months, and several said they regarded the inauguration speech as an unmistakable act of aggression. They noted that Trump 2016 primary rival Jeb Bush was a featured speaker at the ceremony, and that Mark Salter, a longtime Republican speechwriter and a fierce Trump critic, helped craft Hogan’s address.”

-- The third annual Women’s March on Saturday is expected to draw far fewer attendees than the past two years. Marissa J. Lang reports: “Allegations of anti-Semitism, secretive financial dealings, infighting and disputes over who gets to own and define the Women’s March have dogged organizers for months and led to calls for national co-chairs to resign. … Several high-profile supporters and progressive organizations declined to participate in the rally this year. Women who previously went out of their way to attend are opting to stay home and support independent groups. Jewish women remain torn about attending at all. Even the weather seems to be conspiring against the event.”

-- The antiabortion March for Life will be held today on the Mall. Julie Zauzmer reports: “The march, which draws thousands of people annually, many of them youthful participants bused in from Catholic and other religious schools across the country, will also feature Democrats this year. … But some liberal-leaning antiabortion activists criticize the March for Life for alienating Democrats by embracing polarizing figures, from the president and vice president to this year’s featured speaker, Ben Shapiro, a popular conservative commentator.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Stephen Colbert mocked Trump's suggestion that Pelosi take a commercial flight to Afghanistan after he canceled her trip:

Trevor Noah applauded Cardi B for calling for an end to the shutdown:

Death Valley National Park in California released a time-lapse video showing the hours it took two park rangers to prepare a restroom for reopening:

DEATH VALLEY, CA – Death Valley National Park announced today that some recently closed areas of the park will once...

Posted by Death Valley National Park on  Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Calls from the speaker of the House of Commons to regain order were repeatedly ignored:

And an Afghan singer has become famous thanks to his striking resemblence to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: