Good morning and welcome back, Power people. The deep freeze over D.C. continues as we head into the 32nd day of the government shutdown. Stories, tips, ideas? Reach out, sign up and stay warm.
At the White House
WE'RE HALFWAY THERE
('I ALONE CAN FIX IT'): The longest running government shutdown, a crumbling base, multiple investigations, a slowing economy, leaked outbursts and a dearth of dealmaking. These are the things that define President's Trump's halfway mark in the White House, casting a shadow over a nascent presidential campaign and threatening to imperil any semblance of legislative normalcy in the two years ahead.
- “People saw him as some sort of business wizard. That’s all disintegrating. It’s like McDonald’s not being able to make a hamburger,” Republican strategist Mike Murphy told our Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker.
- “The shutdown also has accentuated several fundamental traits of Trump’s presidency: his apparent shortage of empathy, in this case for furloughed workers; his difficulty accepting responsibility, this time for a crisis he had said he would be proud to instigate; his tendency for revenge when it comes to one-upping political foes; and his seeming misunderstanding of Democrats’ motivations,” Rucker and Dawsey report.
- These setbacks are “lifelong patterns” evidenced throughout Trump's career business, the New York Times's Russ Buettner and Maggie Haberman report. From his “lack of public empathy for unpaid federal workers” echoing his treatment of workers on his real estate projects to his “ever-changing positions.”
“If you don’t care what the collateral damage you create is, then you have a potential advantage,” Tony Schwartz, Trump's “The Art of the Deal” co-author told the Times. “He used a hammer, deceit, relentlessness and an absence of conscience as a formula for getting what he wanted.”
On the Record: Two books being released by Trump allies in the coming weeks — Chris Christie's “Let Me Finish,” and Cliff Sims's “Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House” — detail the chaotic White House on the record, a result of a president unfamiliar with legislating, exacerbated by Trump's preoccupation with settling scores — a quality that trickled down to the rest of Trump's staff (see Christie's account of Jared Kushner's maneuverings to oust him from the transition). “Riffraff,” Christie calls Trump's surrounding staffers, according to Axios's Mike Allen.
Our Phil Rucker reviewed Sims's book: In it, the former aide depicts “Trump as deeply suspicious of his own staff. He recalls a private huddle in which he and Keith Schiller, the president’s longtime bodyguard and confidant, helped Trump draw up an enemies list with a Sharpie on White House stationary. 'We’re going to get rid of all the snakes, even the bottom-feeders,' Trump told them.”
- “Sims recounts that [then-Chief of Staff John] Kelly once confided to him in a moment of exasperation: 'This is the worst [expletive] job I’ve ever had. People apparently think that I care when they write that I might be fired. If that ever happened, it would be the best day I’ve had since I walked into this place,'" per Rucker.
- “At times, Trump evinced less rage than disinterest. Sims recounts one time when [then-House Speaker Paul] Ryan was in the Oval Office explaining the ins and outs of the Republican health-care bill to the president. As Ryan droned on for 15 minutes, Trump sipped on a glass of Diet Coke, peered out at the Rose Garden, stared aimlessly at the walls and, finally, walked out,” Rucker writes of Trump's apparent lack of interest in policy details.
No solution in sight: As for a plan to end the government shutdown, Trump's speech proposing “three years of deportation protections for some immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion in border wall funding” was a non-starter rejected by Democrats before he even delivered the speech from the White House on Saturday afternoon, The Post reports.
- Despite Democraic opposition, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced he would put the legislation on the floor this week for a vote.
- “In a briefing for reporters after Trump’s remarks, the aides acknowledged that the bill faces a difficult path in the Senate, where it would require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. But they predicted that ordinary Americans would view the plan as a compromise and pressure lawmakers to make the deal,” The Post reports.
Overseas: Despite Trump's absence, his domestic problems were top of mind for executives and attendees of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, who “expressed worry that the United States was undermining its economy, and the rest of the world’s, via a trade war and the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history,” according to The Post's Heather Long and Anna Fifield.
Per Long and Fifield: " . . . the shutdown has already cut into growth, according to numerous economists. Even U.S. consumers, who have remained resilient for months, have been shaken. Early this month, consumer confidence slumped to the lowest level of Trump’s presidency . . . While few see a recession as imminent, the high-level officials and executives at Davos catalogue a growing series of risks, including the trade war, the potential of Britain leaving the European Union without a final agreement with the E.U., rising interest rates, high global debt levels, and more polarized politics around the world.”
Good reminder from Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) about this week: “As awful as this shutdown has been so far, it’s going to get exponentially worse next week. Next Thursday will be the second paycheck that people miss. And the first of the month is when mortgages are due, electric bills are due,” he said at a food bank in Virginia as he handed out bags of potatoes and apples. “One of the things I’ve been concerned about is how the administration is picking and choosing who they call back [to work]. And those folks have got to get paid.”
WHAT IS RUDY DOING?: The president's personal lawyer walked back comments he made on Sunday that discussions about a Trump Tower deal in Moscow lasted “from the day I announced to the day I won,” Giuliani said, paraphrasing President Trump. “In a statement Monday, Giuliani said his comments were purely hypothetical and not based on any conversations with the president,” The Post's Seung Min Kim reports.
- Tapes?! In an interview with the New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner, responding to the BuzzFeed report that the president told longtime fixer Michael Cohen to lie about that timeline, Giuliani claims that Trump never talked to Cohen, nor directed him to lie and said, "There are no tapes, there are no texts, there is no corroboration that the President told him to lie. That’s why the special counsel said that the story was inaccurate."
- What tapes?! Rudy referred to "tapes" he had listened to during before quickly correcting himself: “I shouldn’t have said tapes. They alleged there were texts and emails that corroborated that Cohen was saying the President told him to lie. There were no texts, there were no emails, and the President never told him to lie,” Giuliani said.
- Is Giuliani concerned about his legacy?: “Absolutely. I am afraid it will be on my gravestone: “Rudy Giuliani: He lied for Trump.” Somehow, I don’t think that will be it. But if it is, so what do I care? I’ll be dead. I figure I can explain it to St. Peter. He will be on my side, because I am, so far . . . I don’t think, as a lawyer, I ever said anything that’s untruthful. I have a sense of ethics that is as high as anybody you can imagine. I’ve been doing this forever. I am doing what I believe in. I may not always be right, but I am doing what I believe. And I believe this man has been treated horribly. Including this BuzzFeed thing.”
A number of people in Trump world are genuinely perplexed/befuddled/frustrated by Rudy Giuliani’s statements. Don’t understand what he is trying to accomplish and what he’s doing.— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) January 21, 2019
“WHAT THE [EXPLETIVE] WERE WE THINKING?": GOP senators maintain that they are “facing equal — if not more — insistence to stand behind Trump” on his push for the wall during the shutdown, as 800,000 affected federal workers are going without paychecks. But there are signs that some folks, even those who voted for Trump, are becoming frustrated with him because of the shutdown — with some regretting their support for the president.
- Our colleague Matt Viser's dispatch from Michigan: “Two years ago, Jeff Daudert was fed up with politics. He wanted to shake up the status quo. He didn’t mind sending a message to the establishment — and, frankly, he liked the idea of a disruptive president. But the 49-year-old retired Navy reservist has had some second thoughts. 'What the [expletive] were we thinking?' he asked the other night inside a Walmart here, in an area of blue-collar suburban Detroit that helped deliver the presidency to Trump,” Viser writes.
More from Viser in Macomb County, Mich.: “Here, far from the nation’s capital and in an area not dominated by federal workers, the government shutdown is resonating in an unusual way. A trampoline park is giving government employees and their families an hour of free jumping. A local credit union is offering low-interest loans for furloughed employees who need to replace lost salaries. Some local governments in the area are beginning to allow federal workers to defer payments on property taxes, utility bills and parking tickets. Food drives are being discussed to help Transportation Security Administration workers at Detroit’s airport, and a yoga studio is offering free classes for federal employees.”
One of the president's only bipartisan achievements has also been stymied due to the shutdown: The Times's Farah Stockman reports the shutdown has delayed the implementation of criminal justice reform, specifically with regards to “establishing “a system for evaluating inmates to determine which ones could be released early without threatening public safety . . . Empty offices and unanswered messages have compounded the confusion over the new law, which is called the First Step Act, as thousands of inmates, and their families, seek information about whether they will be set free.”
TSA Update: “The number of Transportation Security Administration agents who failed to show up for duty Sunday hit a record 10 percent, meaning long waits for travelers at checkpoints at several airports, including Minneapolis and New Orleans,” The Post's Ashley Halsey III and Michael Laris report.
Living on a Prayer: Jon Bon Jovi is the latest celebrity to throw his efforts behind feeding furloughed workers, announcing in a post on Facebook that federal employees are welcome to a free meal at the Bon Jovi's foundation's nonprofit restaurant, JBJ Soul Kitchen.
NEW: President Trump's approval rating has slipped to 39 percent, and he's lost some approval among key portions of his base, including white evangelicals and suburban men, according to a new NPR/@NewsHour /Marist poll. https://t.co/XEDElknOWI pic.twitter.com/Yx6jlg7pMK— NPR Politics (@nprpolitics) January 17, 2019
On The Hill
ANOTHER CANDIDATE JUMPS IN: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) dropped her hat into the ring for 2020 yesterday on Martin Luther King's birthday, making her the fourth female candidate to make it official in what is shaping up to be the most diverse Democratic presidential field in history.
- “The core of my campaign is the people,” Harris told reporters yesterday at Howard University, the historically black college she attended. “Nobody is living their life through the lens of one issue. And I think what people want is leadership that sees them through the complexity of their lives and pays equal attention to their needs. Let’s not put people in a box.”
- Programming note, per The Times's Astead Herndon: “Harris will hold her first campaign event on Friday in South Carolina, where black voters are the dominant force in the Democratic primary, rather than start off by visiting Iowa and New Hampshire, the two predominantly white states that hold their nomination contests first. She will hold a kickoff rally Sunday in Oakland, Calif., her hometown, and a town hall in Iowa later next week,” Herndon reports.
- A handful of potential presidential hopefuls who have yet to declare their candidacy also commemorated King's birthday with public speeches reflecting “the political imperative of reaching out to black voters, who are a crucial part of the Democratic coalition and are increasingly demanding accountability on race from their own leaders,” Herndon and Jonathan Martin report.
- Tea leaves: Joe Biden, speaking at an event in Washington at which Mike Bloomberg also appeared, said he regretted tough-on-crime legislation he supported in the 1980s and '90s, "expressing remorse in particular over a bill that created different legal standards for powdered cocaine and street crack cocaine": “It was a big mistake that was made...We were told by the experts that ‘crack, you never go back,’ that the two were somehow fundamentally different. It’s not. But it’s trapped an entire generation,” Biden said.
This photo of MLK's widow, Coretta Scott King, and his daughter Bernice, won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography:
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Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his family, including widow Coretta Scott King and daughter Bernice. Photo: Moneta Sleet in @ebonymagazine. 1969 #Pulitzer Prize winner in Feature Photography. #Pulitzer #PulitzerPrize #journalism #photography #photo #MartinLutherKingJr #MLK #MLKDay
Did you miss the "super wolf blood moon"?! More beautiful pictures of the only total lunar eclipse of the year here.