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Wake Up To Politics - January 10, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, January 10, 2019. 389 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 663 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

DAY 20: Shutdown talks break down; House continues passing spending bills as Trump heads to border

President Donald Trump walked out of a White House meeting with congressional leaders on Wednesday, calling the talks a "total waste of time" after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told him that she would not agree to fund a border wall even if he consented to reopen the government.

"Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time," Trump tweeted after the negotiations, referring to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker Pelosi. "I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works."

According to the Wall Street Journal, the president actually "put his hands in the air...and said 'bye-bye,'" before walking out of the room. The meeting lasted 30 minutes, and brought the two sides no closer to a deal to end the partial government shutdown, now in its 20th day. After the meeting, Pelosi called Trump "petulant" and Schumer said he threw a "temper tantrum." But Vice President Mike Pence told reporters that the meeting ended because the Democrats were "unwilling to even negotiate," refusing to consider any funding for the president's proposed border wall.

On Friday, about 800,000 federal workers will miss their first paycheck due to the shutdown. On Saturday, the funding gap will become the longest in U.S. history.

Meanwhile, President Trump will continue his public push for wall funding today with a visit to the southern border in Texas. According to Politico, he will be accompanied on the trip by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is "at the center of the administration's internal debate over whether and how Trump can unilaterally direct billions of dollars in funding to the [wall] project." Trump has publicly raised the possibility of declaring a national emergency, which would allow him to declare a national emergency and divert Defense Department funds to the construction of the border wall.

The Wall Street Journal reported that a national emergency declaration was "increasingly likely," and that White House officials viewed the move as an exit ramp that would allow Trump to sign spending bills to reopen the government, since the border wall would theoretically already be funded. However, in practice, such an action would likely be immediately challenged in court. According to CNN, Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike have expressed concern about the president unilaterally using the military to build his wall. "I think border security is very important. It is not a responsibility of the Department of Defense," House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mac Thornberry (R-TX) said earlier this week.

One other potential solution to the shutdown emerged on Wednesday afternoon: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) convened a meeting of Republican senators, joined by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, to discuss a deal that would include $5.7 billion in wall funding as well as provisions supported by Democrats, such as protections for those are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs, as well as modifications to H-2B visas.

With the two sides at an impasse, it is unclear if Democrats would be willing to support such an agreement. But after the president, who was elected as a dealmaker and once authored a book titled "The Art of the Deal," stormed out of the room on Wednesday, it is the only potential resolution being discussed.

While the president travels to the border today, the House will continue voting individually on spending bills to reopen the government, seeking to pressure Republicans to join them. A bill to fund the Treasury Department, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), as well as 20+ other federal agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), passed the House in a 240-188 vote on Wednesday. Eight Republicans voted for the measure, which is not expected to receive a vote in the Senate. The White House issued a formal veto threat for the bill on Wednesday, as well as for the Transporation/HUD and Agriculture spending bills the chamber will consider today.

--- The impact: Some recent headlines on the effects of the partial government shutdown...

  • "Government shutdown may put U.S. food supply at risk as FDA cuts inspections" (CBS News)
  • "Pilots association urges Trump to work to end shutdown, says it is affecting the 'safety, security and efficiency' of US airspace" (CNN)
  • "TSA union: Some screeners have quit as shutdown stretches on" (Politico)
  • "Coast Guard families told they can have garage sales to cope with government shutdown" (Washington Post)
  • "Highway and transit projects grind to a halt as the shutdown continues" (Washington Post)
  • "National parks face years of damage from government shutdown" (National Geographic)
  • "How the Partial Government Shutdown is Hampering Climate Efforts" (Scientific American)
  • "'It’s Just Too Much': A Florida Town Grapples With a Shutdown After a Hurricane" (New York Times)

The Investigations

Congressional investigations: House Democrats have summoned Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to brief lawmakers today about the Trump administration's plans to lift sanctions on companies linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, one of their first oversight moves since retaking the majority.

--- House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler (D-NY) also said Wednesday that he was summoning Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to testify before his panel by January 29. Nadler threatened to issue a subpoena if Whitaker, who has declined to recuse himself from oversight of the special counsel investigation, doesn't agree to voluntarily appear.

--- According to the Washington Post, a "beefed-up" White House legal team is "gearing up" to "strongly assert the president's executive privilege" in responding to requests from House Democrats. Since arriving on the job last month, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone has hired 17 new lawyers to assist the Trump administration's response to congressional investigations.

Mueller probe: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein plans to remain on the job until special counsel Robert Mueller wraps up his investigation, and then step down, NBC News reports. Other outlets have reported that Rosenstein plans to step down once Attorney General nominee William Barr is confirmed. Per NBC, although the timeline is uncertain, some legal sources expect Mueller to conclude his work by mid-to-late February, which would still mean Rosenstein's departure is slated for the coming weeks.

--- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said after he met with Barr on Wednesday that the AG nominee (who previously led the Justice Department under George H.W. Bush) told him that he would not interfere with the Mueller probe.

--- Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's lead personal attorney, told Reuters on Wednesday that the president would refuse to answer any more questions in the Mueller investigation.

2020 Central

Steyer won't run: Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer announced in a Des Moines speech on Wednesday that he wouldn't wage a presidential campaign in 2020, after publicly expressing interest in one. Steyer said he would instead focus his efforts on his Need to Impeach campaign, planning to spend at least $40 million on the effort in the coming year.

Sanders aide faces sexual misconduct allegations: Robert Becker, who oversaw Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' Iowa campaign in 2016 and later served as Sanders' deputy national field director, has been accused of forcibly kissing a subordinate at a party on the final night of the Democratic National Convention. Politico reported on the allegations, which Becker denies. Becker had been traveling to early states to make preparations for a Sanders campaign in 2020, but the senator's campaign committee said in a statement to Politico that he "would not be a part of any future campaigns."

As the Vermont Independent considers another presidential run, his 2016 campaign has come under scrutiny as multiple female staffers have described "episodes of sexual harassment and demeaning treatment," according to the New York Times.

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White House schedule

At 9:15 a.m., President Trump departs the White House for McAllen, Texas, where he will arrive at 1:45 p.m.

At 1:05 p.m., the president will arrive at the U.S. Border Patrol station in McAllen. At 1:10 p.m., he participates in a roundtable on immigration and border security.

At 2:15 p.m., President Trump departs the Border Patrol station for the Rio Grande, where he will arrive at 2:30 p.m. At 2:35 p.m., he receives a briefing on border security.

The president will then depart Texas and return to the White House.

Congress schedule

Senate: The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. today. Following leader remarks, the chamber will resume consideration of S.1, the Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act, which would impose new sanctions on Syria and punish Americans who boycott Israel. At 1:45 p.m., the Senate will hold a procedural vote on the legislation; the chamber held the same vote on Tuesday, but it failed to receive the 60 votes needed to advance, with Senate Democrats vowing to block all legislation until a vote is held on reopening the government.

House: The House convenes at 10 a.m. today. The chamber will vote on two more bills to reopen individual government agencies (the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act and the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act).

The House is also slated to consider five additional pieces of legislation:

  1. H.R. 31 – Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019, as amended
  2. H.R. 115 – Protecting Diplomats from Surveillance Through Consumer Devices Act
  3. H.R. 133 – United States-Mexico Economic Partnership Act
  4. H.R. 192 – Trans-Sahara Counter-terrorism Partnership Act
  5. H.R. 221 – Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act

Supreme Court schedule

The Supreme Court does not have any sessions scheduled for today.

*All times Eastern