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Wake Up To Politics - January 8, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, January 8, 2019. 391 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 665 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Trump to deliver national address on border "crisis"

President Donald Trump will deliver his first prime-time Oval Office address to the nation tonight, announcing in a tweet that he would be discussing "the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border." The 8-minute address will air on all of the major broadcast (NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, and Fox) and cable (CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC) networks, and will likely be followed by a Democratic response.

Trump's address comes on Day 18 of the partial government shutdown, which has resulted in the closure of about one-fourth of federal agencies. The president has refused to sign any spending bill into law that does not include $5.7 billion in funding for his proposed Mexican border wall. According to Politico, his campaign for the wall has been "intense but lonely" in Washington so far; tonight's address will allow him to take his case directly to the American people, an attempt to gain support for the wall and explain why a shutdown is necessary to secure it. Trump will continue his "one-man messaging battle" on Thursday, with a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border.

One word to expect to hear during the president's speech tonight: "crisis." Trump used the word in announcing the address on Twitter, and Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen used it a combined 36 times in a briefing on border security Monday. According to the Washington Post, Trump administration officials have been making the case that "the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border has reached a crisis level" to "[lay] the groundwork for President Trump to possibly declare a national emergency that would empower him to construct a border wall without congressional approval."

Pence told reporters at the Monday briefing that Trump has made "no decision" yet about declaring a national emergency, and that lawyers in the White House counsel's office are working to determine the president's options. Congressional Democrats have made clear they would challenge the legality of such a move: "We will oppose any effort by the president to make himself a king and a tyrant," House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler said Monday. "The president has no authority to usurp Congress's power of the purse."

As the shutdown continues, the Trump administration has turned to other moves that have been questioned by legal experts. The National Park Service has announced it will use visitor fees to pay for expanded operations at some sites (a possible violation of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act). The White House announced on Monday that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would continue to issue tax refunds during the shutdown, although past administrations had interpreted federal law as prohibiting the IRS from issuing refunds when Congress had yet to fund the Treasury Department.  

Meanwhile, the House Rules Committee will today start the process of passing individual appropriations bills to reopen the government, starting with a measure to fund the Treasury Department. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is holding votes on these bills in an attempt to force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)'s hand and put pressure on him to hold a vote on reopening the government. According to Politico, GOP leaders are worried that as many as "several dozen House Republicans" could cross the aisle to support the Democratic bills, as support for Trump's shutdown fight erodes inside his own party. Pence and Nielsen will meet with House Republicans on Capitol Hill at 5:30 p.m. today in an attempt to hold their support.

Senate Democrats have signaled that they will also work to put pressure on McConnell by blocking other pieces of legislation from being considered while the shutdown is in effect. The chamber is set to consider a Middle East policy bill, S.1, today; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told members of his caucus that he would be voting against a procedural vote on the measure "because Senate Republicans should instead bring to the floor the House-passed bills to reopen the government," a Senate Democratic aide told reporters.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the president told aides at a Camp David retreat this weekend that "he wanted them to come up with a resolution [to the shutdown] without him appearing to have capitulated to Democrats." White House officials denied that the president made such a statement.

--- Shutdown fact checks: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had stopped nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists from crossing the southern border in fiscal year 2018. But according to NBC News, only six immigrants at ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border were on the government's list of known or suspected terrorists in the first half of the fiscal year...

... President Trump said on Friday that "some" of his predecessors had "told me that we should have" built the border wall in decades past. But spokesmen for all four living former presidents denied to the Washington Post that they had discussed the wall with President Trump.

The Rundown

2020 Central: Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), who challenged Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in 2018, "is asking aides to create an itinerary for him to take a solo road trip outside of Texas where he would 'pop into places' such as community college campuses, as he considers whether to enter the 2020 Democratic presidential primary," the Wall Street Journal reports.

--- Happening today: Another potential 2020 contender, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) will release a memoir, "The Truths We Hold."

Trump Cabinet: President Trump is "having a tough time" replacing former Defense Secretary James Mattis, according to Politico. Two candidates for the position, former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and retired general Jack Keane, have turned down the job since Mattis resigned last month, the report said.

AL-SEN: "Dry Alabama": The New York Times reveals a second fake online push by Democrats in the 2017 Alabama Senate race.

World Bank: Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, announced Monday that he would abruptly resign on February 1, nearly three years before his term was scheduled to end. Traditionally, the United States selects the World Bank's leader, meaning President Trump will be able to tap Kim's successor.

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White House schedule

POTUS: President Trump has just one item on his public schedule: his 9 p.m. Oval Office address to the nation.

Congress schedule

Senate: The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. today. At 4 p.m., Republican Rick Scott will be sworn in as the Senator from Florida. (Scott's swearing-in was delayed until the end of his term as Florida's governor.)

At 5:30 p.m., the Senate will hold a procedural vote on S.1, a Middle East policy package that would impose new sanctions on entities doing business with the Syrian government, finalize additional aid for Israel, and allow state and local governments to refuse to do business with any company that boycotts Israel.

Senate Democrats are threatening to oppose the measure until a vote is held on reopening the government, which could prevent it from receiving the 60 "yeas" needed to advance.

House: The House meets at 12 p.m. today. The chamber is scheduled to consider six pieces of legislation:

  1. H.R. ___ – Medicaid Extenders Act of 2019, as amended
  2. H.R. ___ – Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019
  3. H.R. 251 – Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Program Extension Act
  4. H.R. 226 – Clarity on Small Business Participation in Category Management
  5. H.R. 227 – Incentivizing Fairness in Subcontracting Act
  6. H.R. 128 – Small Business Advocacy Improvements Act

Also today: House Democrats will announce the introduction of a new bill to expand background checks for gun sales. At an event announcing the bill, H.R. 8, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Democratic Gun Violence Prevention Task Force chairman Mike Thompson (D-CA) will be joined by former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), who survived a shooting in Tucson exactly eight years ago today.

Supreme Court schedule

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Herrera v. Wyoming and Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp v. Wall-Street.com.

--- Will Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg be present at today's oral arguments? Ginsburg, who is recovering from lung surgery, missed the court's oral arguments on Monday, her first time missing a session in 25 years on the bench.

*All times Eastern