The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump says he 'never worked for Russia' | Shutdown enters fourth week | AG pick says public should know Mueller probe findings

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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 responds to NY Times report: 'I never worked for Russia' | Trump AG pick says public should know results of Mueller probe | Nominee faces high-stakes hearing | Shutdown hits Day 24 | Wife of furloughed worker wins lottery | Clemson football team visiting White House | Trump says he will serve them McDonald's, Burger King | Egg photo beats Kylie Jenner for most-liked Instagram post



Imagine waking up from a 4-year coma to this headline --

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE: 'I never worked for Russia': 

Speaking to reporters this morning before traveling to a speech in New Orleans, President Trump denied working for Russia.

In Trump's words: "I never worked for Russia. Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it's a disgrace that you even asked that question because it's a whole big fat hoax."

WHAT SPARKED THIS QUOTE -- TRUMP WAS RESPONDING TO A NEW YORK TIMES REPORT: The New York Times's Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt and Nicholas Fandos report that in the days after President Trump fired FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyFive memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House Five memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House Under Trump, our democracy is for sale MORE, the FBI was so concerned by his actions that the bureau started investigating whether Trump was working against American interests.


It's a winter wonderland in Washington! 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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They must never discover our secret handshake:

Via The Washington Post's Greg MillerPresident Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to hide his face-to-face discussions he had with Russian President Vladimir PutinIncluding: Trump once told his interpreter not to discuss the meeting with any officials -- and even took the notes from that interpreter.

OH AND...: Via The Washington Post's Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, "New revelations about Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortNew York activists go on hunger strike to advocate for ending solitary confinement New York activists go on hunger strike to advocate for ending solitary confinement House panel subpoenas Flynn, Gates MORE's interactions with a Russian associate while he was leading President Trump's campaign provide a window into how extensively the special counsel has mapped interactions between Trump associates and Russians in his 20-month-long investigation." 

TIMING -- I SHOULD ALSO MENTION: House Democrats summoned President Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen to publicly testify on Capitol Hill next month to discuss working for Trump. When: Feb. 7. Keep in mind: Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for his work for Trump. He reports to prison on March 6. 



Today is the 24th day of the partial government shutdown.

Dear Diary, it's been 24 days and no one seems to want me back. I'm getting nervous, Diary:

The partial government shutdown broke the record this weekend for the longest shutdown in U.S. history -- and with no clear end. Via USA Today's Susan Page, here's a quick breakdown of the possible scenarios in which the shutdown ends:


Why this border wall fight is just the tip of the iceberg in the new era of a divided government:

The New York Times's Peter Baker has an interesting analysis of how the Russia developments coupled with the longest shutdown in U.S. history may be minor compared to the real battles coming ahead.


A nice story during the shutdown:

The wife of a furloughed federal worker just won the lottery. What she won: An SUV and $100,000.



And this sounds fun to you, William Barr?:

Via The Hill's Jordain Carney, President Trump's attorney general nominee, William Barr, is in the hot seat this week, facing two days of grilling from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Why this is so important: If confirmed, Barr would oversee the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinTrump: I didn't fire Mueller since firings 'didn't work out too well' for Nixon Trump: I didn't fire Mueller since firings 'didn't work out too well' for Nixon GOP group urges Republicans to speak out on obstruction claims against Trump in new ad MORE, who currently oversees special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE's probe, is expected to step down once Barr is confirmed. 

BARR'S PREPARED REMARKS -- WHAT TO EXPECT: Via The Hill's Morgan Chalfant, William Barr, President Trump's nominee for attorney general, will tell lawmakers this week that he will allow special counsel Robert Mueller to complete the Russia investigation. Barr also said the American people should see the report: “I believe it is in the best interest of everyone — the president, Congress, and, most importantly, the American people — that this matter be resolved by allowing the special counsel to complete his work,” Barr is expected to say in his opening remarks.

Read Barr's full testimony

WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING IN CONGRESS THIS WEEK, WELL, BESIDES THE SHUTDOWN: Via The Hill's Jordain Carney and Juliegrace Brufke, 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.) is expected to force a vote on the White House's decision to ease Russia sanctions. The Senate is expected to vote on a foreign policy bill that includes Syrian government sanctions.




Everyone knows fast food has about a five-minute window of optimal taste. I really hope the White House has thought this through:

The national champion Clemson University Tigers are visiting the White House today to celebrate the football team's win. President Trump told reporters that the White House will serve McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King and pizza to the team.

In Trump's words: "The Clemson championship team, the national championship team, will be coming tonight. It'll be exciting. Very great team. An unbelievable team. … And I think we're going to serve McDonalds, Wendy's, and Burger King with some pizza. I really mean it. It will be interesting. And I would think that's their favorite food. So we'll see what happens."

The real news here: Where's the Chick-fil-A?!



By the way, the full size photo shows Fufu the Air Chief Marshal:

Full size photo -- Fufu is taking his job very seriously



The House and Senate are in. President Trump is giving a speech in New Orleans. Vice President Pence has no public events on his schedule.

Today: D.C. federal offices are closed for a snow day.

9:20 a.m. EST: President Trump leaves for New Orleans. Whooops: Early this morning, Trump tweeted that he was excited to visit Nashville, Tenn., today. "Love our farmers, love Tennessee -- a great combination! See you in a little while." He then deleted the tweet.

12:25 p.m. EST: President Trump arrives at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

3 p.m. EST: The Senate meets.

4:25 p.m. EST: President Trump gets back to the White House.

6:30 p.m. EST: Votes in the House.



12:40 p.m. EST: President Trump speaks at the American Farm Bureau Federation's 100th Annual Convention in New Orleans. Livestream:

6:30 p.m. EST: President Trump welcomes the 2018 College Football Playoff National Champion Clemson Tigers to the White House. Livestream:



Today is National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day.


An egg just became Instagram's most-liked photo -- this is our world now:

A photo of an egg beat Kylie Jenner over the weekend as the most-liked Instagram photo. The new record: The egg post has more than 28 million likes so far. The previous record: An official Kylie Jenner post with 18.1 million likes.

The Instagram post: The caption reads, "Let's set a world record together and get the most liked post on Instagram. Beating the current world record held by Kylie Jenner (18 million)! We got this." The original Instagram photo:

The Instagram account: It claims to be a chicken named Henrietta from the British countryside.

REACTION FROM JENNER -- I APPRECIATE THAT SHE GOT INVOLVED: Kylie Jenner posted a short video reacting to the egg post. The caption of her post: "Take that little egg." Watch:


Alexa learned a new trick:

Try asking Amazon's Alexa to read The New York Times's daily podcast or to give you the weekly news quiz. Details:


And to make your Monday morning a little better, here's a dog just chilling: