Let’s begin like this crazy day began: With an indictment of President Trump’s longtime political adviser Roger Stone for allegedly lying about his efforts to obtain information about the DNC email hack from WikiLeaks. Stone is maintaining his innocence and says he won’t testify against his longtime friend Donald Trump.
Now, it’s important to note here that Stone’s indictment does not mention collusion of any kind. And WikiLeaks isn’t Russia, though U.S. intelligence sees them as linked in the scheme to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. But there are some dots to be connected from the indictment that could hint at a possible collusion case in the making. The indictment shows that Stone spoke many times with Trump campaign officials about WikiLeaks and that Trump aides wanted to know about the group’s activities. The indictment also mentioned a “senior Trump Campaign official” who “was directed” to contact Stone about WikiLeaks' plans. Though the person who did the directing isn’t named, there is speculation that that person could have been Trump himself.
So what does this all mean for the president? Right now, it’s hard to know anything for sure, but what we do know is that Stone is the sixth person connected to the Trump campaign who has been indicted in the Robert S. Mueller III investigation.
And on the 35th day there was a deal. Well, less of a “deal” and more of a massive concession from a president who spent more than a month saying he’d never concede. What we know today is that all the anxiety and pain experienced by so many Americans was absolutely senseless. One could even call it cruel. Because the “deal” Trump agreed to today is almost identical to what the Senate passed unanimously BEFORE the shutdown started.
For weeks, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been urging the White House to accept a short-term continuing resolution so that people can get back to work and use that intervening time to negotiate a border security deal. Today, Trump announced that’s exactly what he’s doing. The shuttered agencies will reopen until Feb. 15. In that time, a conference committee of Democrats and Republicans will work on an immigration-related proposal. Trump, in a defiant Rose Garden speech, said that if he doesn’t think the end product is “fair,” he’ll either shut down the government again or declare a national emergency so he can use other government funds to build his wall along the southern border.
A strange silver lining to this whole pointless debacle is that it’s forced Democrats and Republicans into a room to have a real conversation about immigration. No one should set their hopes too high when it comes to Congress, but there is a real opportunity here for them to actually address some of the real flaws in the nation’s immigration system. And Democrats are prepared to offer Trump even more than his requested $5.7 billion for enhanced border security — just not for a physical barrier.
And so, if Democrats stay firm against the wall and Trump continues to demand one, will we be back in the same position in a few weeks? Is it going to be Valentine’s Day and we’re talking about another looming shutdown? Let’s hope not.
Here’s why I’m optimistic that won’t happen. There’s a reason Trump caved today, and that’s because shutdowns are terribly unpopular. And despite his efforts to displace blame, the person who makes the demands is the one who owns it, and the public knew it. The president’s already weak approval ratings were suffering with each passing day.
But a few other things happened in the past 48 hours that forced Trump’s hand. One, he rolled over on Pelosi’s State of the Union delay. After sending her a letter saying he was going to give his address in the House chamber anyway, she said, oh no you’re not, and he said I’ll give it somewhere else . . . and then shortly after relented and said that he’d wait until the shutdown ended.
In the Senate, a vote on two competing proposals to reopen the government — one Trump’s and one the Democrats' — both failed to get the 60 procedural votes needed to move to final debate. Because six Republican senators voted for the Democrats' version, it actually got more votes despite their being in the minority. Then my colleagues reported that a Senate GOP meeting after the vote was complete chaos, with senators yelling at Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for letting this go on as long as it had. That kind of fracturing can only last so long before things completely come apart.
Then there were the growing economic impacts beyond the 800,000 unpaid federal employees and the 1 million or more out-of-work contractors. Flights were delayed this morning, IRS workers weren’t coming in, and on and on.
Earlier in the week, I spoke to a former Republican congressman who was among those who stood up to then-Speaker John A. Boehner to end the shutdown in 2013. “I know how they always end, they always end the same way, with a clean continuing resolution. We can save people a lot of time and aggravation,” he told me.
So let’s recap. The Senate voted Dec. 20 to keep the government open until Feb. 8. The president said not without wall funding and the government shutdown Dec. 21. Then 35 days later, the president agreed to reopen the government until Feb. 15 without wall funding.
Now that’s some dealmaking.