The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump invites leaders to White House | Trump hits back at Romney op-ed | Fights we're watching in the new year

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--> A midday take on what's happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.*

*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha--breaks down crying hysterically.


The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump invites congressional leaders to White House | Latest as shutdown enters 12th day | Smithsonian, National Zoo to close | Trump hits back at Romney op-ed | Stock market drops | Fights we're watching in the new year | Political figures share their resolutions | Serena Williams, Roger Federer play for first time | Top diet for 2019



Step into my office:

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE is meeting with top Republican and Democratic congressional leaders in the White House today for a briefing on border security.

Who is invited: Expected Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments MORE (D-Calif.), incoming House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe case for congressional pay raises Approve USMCA before it's too late Lawmakers push to permanently ban automatic pay raises for members of Congress MORE (D-Md.), House GOP leaders Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe case for congressional pay raises McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' MORE (Calif.) and Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseThe case for congressional pay raises The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate MORE (La.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale MORE (R-Ky.), Senate Majority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump's border funding comes back from the dead Public policy expert: US has become 'outlier' on immigration practices Public policy expert: US has become 'outlier' on immigration practices MORE (R-S.D.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw US women's soccer team reignites equal pay push MORE (D-N.Y.), and Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle MORE (Ill.).

Timing of the briefing: "The news of the briefing comes after a prolonged impasse in which Trump hammered Democrats as weak on border security, and Democrats set out a plan to pass bills reopening the government in the House, which they will control starting Thursday." 

The current situation: "Trump has demanded $5 billion to fund a border wall along the southern border, while Democrats have refused to offer anything more than an extension for 2018 border security funds that included $1.3 billion for fencing,"

NEW CLOSURES: Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo just announced they will close because of the partial government shutdown. Was this expected?: Yes, the Smithsonian announced last week that it would have to close if the shutdown continued past Jan. 1. Why now: The Smithsonian had remained open by using funds from prior years.


It's Wednesday -- welcome back! I'm Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what's coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to -- and follow along on Twitter @CateMartel and Facebook.


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Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyMcConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' 'Landslide' for Biden? A look at 40 years of inaccurate presidential polls MORE rolls into Washington like...

Sen.-elect Mitt Romney (R-Utah) wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post slamming President Trump for his character.



On Trump's character: "To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. ... With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent's shortfall has been most glaring." 

Why Romney says he wrote this op-ed now: "The Trump presidency made a deep descent in December."

Romney gave examples: "The departures of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, the appointment of senior persons of lesser experience, the abandonment of allies who fight beside us, and the president's thoughtless claim that America has long been a 'sucker' in world affairs all defined his presidency down."

Romney on his upcoming Senate term: "I do not intend to comment on every tweet or fault. But I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions." 

Read the full op-ed:


THIS A.M. -- THE REACTION WE'VE (OBVIOUSLY) BEEN WAITING FOR: President Trump responded to Romney's scathing op-ed. Trump tweeted: "Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake?  I hope not. Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn't. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!"

^^WHERE IT GETS AWKWARD: Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, who happens to be Mitt Romney's niece (!), responded to President Trump's tweet siding with the president.

She tweeted: "POTUS is attacked and obstructed by the MSM media and Democrats 24/7. For an incoming Republican freshman senator to attack @realdonaldtrump as their first act feeds into what the Democrats and media want and is disappointing and unproductive." I.e.: The next Romney family reunion should be fun.

HAPPENING AT 4 P.M. EST: Romney will appear on CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper." 



Even the stock market has new year scaries:

Via The Hill's Sylvan Lane, "U.S. stocks dropped swiftly Wednesday morning, the first day of trading in 2019, amid rising concerns about the global economy and major technology companies."


Opening this week -- sorry everyone, the day care is for kids only:

Via NPR's Susan DavisSusan Carol DavisSupporting the military means supporting military spouses Sinema, Gallagher fastest lawmakers in charity race Republican's campaign accused of racism for referring to Palestinian opponent as a 'national security threat' MORE, a new day care facility is opening on Capitol Hill for the children of U.S. House employees. Why this big: It will reduce the waitlist for the House's day care from three years to one year. Sorry, Senate side: This is only for House employees. The Senate day care still has a big waiting list. Photo of the play area -- the tiny Capitol dome is adorable!



Welcome baaack:

Via The Hill's Jordain Carney, Congress is returning to Congress this week with several fights on the docket for 2019. And let's not forget: The 2020 presidential election looms in the background.


  • The fight over funding the partially closed government
  • Nomination fights to confirm President Trump's replacement Cabinet picks -- remember all of the controversial reshuffling before the holidays?
  • Raising the debt ceiling
  • Trump needs Congress to pass his new trade deal with Canada and Mexico
  • Several foreign policy fights, including the removal of all troops from Syria and some from Afghanistan.

Context and details for each:


Happening next week -- it's always ObamaCare SZN:

Via The Hill's Peter Sullivan, "The House will hold a vote next week on intervening to defend ObamaCare in court against a GOP-led lawsuit, which Democrats hope will be a tough vote for many Republicans."



Because it's 2020 now ... for the next ... two ... years:

On Monday: "Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenJulián Castro defends going on Fox: I'm focused on 'the people out there watching' Julián Castro defends going on Fox: I'm focused on 'the people out there watching' O'Rourke unveils plan to support women, minority-owned businesses MORE (Mass.) became the first major Democratic name to jump into the 2020 presidential race ...  announcing that she is forming an exploratory committee to run for the White House."

On Jan. 12: Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro will announce his decision on whether to run for president.


Everyone has a New Year's resolution:

The Hill's Judy Kurtz asked prominent political figures about their resolutions for the new year. Here's the list:

My personal favorite: Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellDems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Democratic presidential hopefuls react to debate placement MORE (D-Calif.) answered: "My resolution for 2019 is potty training. Not for me. For my 18-month-old son. But his 8-week-old sister will probably achieve that first." 




Putting to bed a much-discussed hypothetical scenario:

Tennis stars Roger Federer and Serena Williams, both 37 years old, faced off in a tennis match for the first time.

Who won: "[Roger Federer] and his partner, Belinda Bencic, beat [Serena Williams] and Frances Tiafoe in an abbreviated format match by the score of 4-2, 4-3 (5-3) in 46 minutes."

Though: "Long exchanges between the two proved few, however, with each using their serve to effectively neutralize the other." 

SO. GREAT.: Serena Williams and Roger Federer did a joint interview on the court after. Video -- it's pretty funny:

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MATCH: Wow, the first point of this video is insane:



Overheard in D.C. -- I can't roll my eyes enough:


That's not what we meant by ~Krispy~ Kreme doughnuts :(

A Krispy Kreme truck caught fire in Lexington, Ky., on Monday. Police officers mourned the loss. Keep in mind: There were no injuries, except for some of the doughnuts. The full back story:


Full-size photo:

Keep in mind about the cabinet meeting:

 “1/3 of attendees at today's [White House] cabinet meeting are in an ‘Acting’ capacity:

Chief of Staff,

Defense Secretary,

Attorney General,

US Ambassador to the UN,

EPA Administrator,

OMB Director,

& Interior Secretary (deputy attending)...”



Today: Day 12 of the partial government shutdown. 

Today: President Trump invited top congressional leaders in both parties to the White House for a briefing on border security.

4 p.m. EST: The Senate meets.  

Thursday: The 116th Congress is sworn in.



4 p.m. EST: Sen.-elect Mitt Romney (R-Utah) appears on CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper." 

4 p.m. EST: The Senate meets the day before the next Congress begins. Livestream:

Tomorrow morning: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sits down with NBC's Savannah Guthrie on "Today." Pelosi is expected to be elected Speaker on Thursday. Keep in mind: A preview of the interview will air tonight on NBC's "Nightly News."



Today is National Cream Puff Day.


That diet is ~so~ 2019:

The Mediterranean diet was ranked the best diet for 2019, according to new rankings by US News and World Report.

Other categories the Mediterranean diet won: "Best diet for healthy eating, best plant-based diet, best diet for diabetes and easiest diet to follow." 

The gist of the diet: It focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish and lots of extra virgin olive oil. "Meat can make a rare appearance, usually only to flavor a dish. Instead, meals may include eggs, dairy and poultry, but in much smaller portions than in the traditional Western diet."

The full list of best diet rankings by category:


And to brighten your Wednesday afternoon, here's an elephant teasing his human friend: