The Hill's Morning Report — Groundhog Day: Negotiations implode as shutdown reaches 20 days




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It’s Groundhog Day in Washington, where President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Rove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Ann Coulter blasts Trump shutdown compromise: ‘We voted for Trump and got Jeb!’ MORE and Democratic leaders are cycling through the same daily drama while the partial government shutdown reaches 20 days.

If there is no agreement after 21 days, the president and Congress will achieve a new record: The longest shutdown in U.S. history.

This afternoon, the president heads to McAllen, Texas, for discussions at the southern border as part of his campaign to persuade Democrats in Congress that there is a “humanitarian and national security crisis” that can only be solved by constructing a border wall. He’s traveling today with Texas GOP Sens. John CornynJohn CornynTrump tells GOP senators he’s sticking to Syria and Afghanistan pullout  Texas governor, top lawmakers tell Trump not to use hurricane relief funds to build border wall The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s attorney general pick passes first test MORE and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGroup aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video Howard Dean looking for a 'younger, newer' Democratic nominee in 2020 Congress can stop the war on science MORE.

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Rove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Senate to take up Trump's border-immigration plan next week MORE (D-Calif.) has no intention of bringing a spending bill with additional wall money to the floor for a vote.

A quick resolution appears unlikely. On Wednesday, negotiations at the White House imploded spectacularly, with both sides sniping at one another as they left the Situation Room.



The Hill: Trump storms out of meeting as shutdown careens toward fourth week.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Trump blasts Pelosi for wanting to leave country during shutdown The Senate should host the State of the Union MORE (D-N.Y.) accused Trump of having another “temper tantrum” and Pelosi called him a “petulant president.” The Speaker also took a shot at Trump’s inherited wealth, saying he doesn’t understand the plight of federal workers who will be forced to go without paychecks.

“He thinks maybe they could just ask their father for more money.” – Pelosi

The House on Wednesday voted to reopen the Treasury Department, IRS and Small Business Administration, and several other federal agencies. Eight Republicans voted with Democrats to pass the legislation, which is the first of several small spending bills Pelosi plans to bring up this week.

In an interview with Laura Ingraham on Fox News last night, House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseDemocrats will push to retake vote on funding government after chaos on the floor Pelosi pulls State of the Union surprise on Trump House GOP blast Pelosi for suggesting State of the Union delay MORE (R-La.) cited speculation in the media that there could be up to 25 defections. Scalise pointed out he counts votes for the House GOP and anticipated a dozen defections at most.

“We were never close [to 25].” – Scalise

Regardless, the White House announced preemptively that Trump would veto the piecemeal spending legislation without wall money. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Senate to take up Trump's border-immigration plan next week Trump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback MORE (R-Ky.) has no intention of bringing it up for a vote, even as some in his caucus challenged the president over his shutdown strategy at a closed-door meeting.

The Hill: GOP senators challenge Trump on shutdown strategy.

The Washington Post: In Texas, nearly every state and federal official who represents a district along the border is opposed to the president’s plan.

“We’re sticking with the president on this.” – McConnell

“I'm worried about what the end game is. This cannot be allowed to go on forever.” — Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World Overnight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal MORE (R-Maine), interviewed on NBC News

The Hill: GOP emphasizes unity ahead of shutdown votes.

The Hill: Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback Trump expected to pitch immigration deal to end funding stalemate The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World MORE meets with moderate Republicans in search shutdown solution.

Which way from here?

Trump is threatening to declare a national emergency, which would ostensibly give the president power to redirect money from the military to spend on a border wall.

The president would be immediately challenged in court if he did that, and Republicans in both chambers have expressed unease with that option.

The Hill: Emergency declaration option for wall tests GOP.

Shutdown Fallout: #shutdownstories on Twitter has been trending among some federal workers impacted by Washington’s standoff. The anecdotes describe frustrations with Trump as well as lawmakers.

The New York Times: Washington’s strong economy, financed by taxpayers, takes a hit during shutdown.

The Hill: Worries mount as cybersecurity agency struggles through shutdown.

The Washington Post: Food and Drug Administration cuts back on food inspections.

The Hill: Shutdown chaos complicates tax season.

The Washington Post: Coast Guard told to navigate funding lapse with garage sales, second jobs.




POLITICS: One Democrat is out, while another appears to be gaining steam.

Billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer, who has spent millions on a campaign to impeach Trump, announced in Iowa on Wednesday that he will not seek the Democratic nomination for president.

Steyer had been laying the groundwork for a presidential run, but instead will continue to direct his time and money to pressuring Congress to impeach the president (The New York Times).

It’s possible that after analyzing the field, Steyer discovered that it would be tough for him to break through the crowded room of candidates, which is likely to include buzzier names, such as former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas).

Lisa Hagen reports on the growing “Draft Beto” effort that could leave the Texan with a healthy email and donor list if he decides to run (The Hill).

Democrats taking on Trump in 2020 will face a major challenge in trying to compete for airtime and headlines with a president who dominates the news, Amie Parnes reports (The Hill).

Turning to the House, Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingSteve King fundraising off controversy surrounding white supremacy comments Steve King's primary challenger raises more than 0k in first 10 days of campaign GOP can't excommunicate King and ignore Trump playing to white supremacy and racism MORE (R-Iowa), who has repeatedly stumbled into controversy for his remarks on race, has drawn a Republican primary challenger in Iowa.




ADMINISTRATION: At the Justice Department, attorney general nominee William Barr is preparing for Senate confirmation hearings next week and visited Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback Democrats signal they'll reject Trump shutdown proposal Dems revive impeachment talk after latest Cohen bombshell MORE (R-S.C.) on Wednesday.

Graham said Barr, who held the job under former President George H.W. Bush, assured him that if confirmed he would let special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE complete the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election (CNBC).



Committee member Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharCNN analyst Phil Mudd: Barr will ‘crush’ Trump administration 5 takeaways from Barr’s testimony Klobuchar dismisses mock campaign logo as something from 'very enthusiastic supporter' MORE (D-Minn.) tweeted she wants to meet with the nominee before his hearings next week, but was given a “shutdown” turn-down.



Justice: Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker had been invited by House Judiciary Committee Democrats to testify this month about the Russia probe and other issues. Whitaker, citing the continuing shutdown, now seeks to delay testimony until
February (The Hill).

Treasury: House Democrats as well as lawmakers across the aisle want to question Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Trump teases 'major announcement' Saturday on shutdown | Fight with Dems intensifies | Pelosi accuses Trump of leaking trip to Afghanistan | Mnuchin refuses to testify on shutdown impacts The case for Russia sanctions Treasury issues final rules on key part of Trump's tax law MORE during a closed, classified briefing scheduled today about the administration’s decision, announced in December, to lift U.S. sanctions on companies owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska (The New York Times).

U.S.-China talks: Three days of trade negotiations concluded in Beijing as hopes grew for a deal by a March 2 deadline. China said the talks helped establish a foundation to resolve differences, without offering details (Reuters). U.S. negotiators are focused on China’s pledge to buy more U.S. goods (Reuters). …Financial markets soared on optimism that an end to tit-for-tat tariffs between the two countries may be achieved (The Associated Press). But next steps for China and the administration are unclear (The Associated Press).

Russia: Experts believe the arrest in Russia of U.S. citizen Paul Whelan, accused of espionage, is meant to retaliate for the U.S. arrest of Russian Maria Butina, who has pleaded guilty to being a foreign agent (The Hill). Whelan’s family says the former Marine is not a spy.

EPA: As anticipated, the president on Wednesday formally nominated Andrew Wheeler as acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, to succeed Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittMeet 3 women who stood up to Trump to protect the American people — and lost their jobs Overnight Energy: Wheeler weathers climate criticism at confirmation hearing | Dems want Interior to stop drilling work during shutdown | 2018 was hottest year for oceans Dems blast EPA nominee at confirmation hearing MORE, who resigned under pressure last year (The Hill).

FEMA: Trump on Wednesday tweeted anew that he might withhold funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency working in California, if the state does not better mitigate wildfires and manage its forests.

Progressive Gov. Gavin Newsom, who this week succeeded former California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), is an outspoken Trump critic.



 ***Around town … Journalists gathered at the Newseum last night for a showing of “Vice,” the new movie about former Vice President Dick Cheney starring Golden Globe winner Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Steve Carell.

Spotted: The Hill’s Jordan Fabian, Scott Wong, Niall Stanage and Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack, as well as Josh Lederman, Margaret Talev, Philip Rucker, Daniel Lippman, Mike Memoli and John Harwood. Lawmakers also showed up, including Rep. Ami BeraAmerish (Ami) Babulal BeraThe Hill's Morning Report — Groundhog Day: Negotiations implode as shutdown reaches 20 days Trump tells FEMA not to send more money to California for forest fires U.S. foreign aid empowers women and girls worldwide MORE (D-Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonDC and Puerto Rico share the long-ignored dream of statehood Dems struggling to help low-wage contractors harmed by shutdown The Hill's Morning Report — Groundhog Day: Negotiations implode as shutdown reaches 20 days MORE (D-D.C.). ***

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President Trump’s border security fight is the right one, by former Trump campaign manager Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiThe Hill's Morning Report — Groundhog Day: Negotiations implode as shutdown reaches 20 days Chris Christie declines White House chief of staff role The Hill's Morning Report — Trump maintains his innocence amid mounting controversies MORE, opinion contributor, The Hill.

Terrorism is not a thing to cry wolf about, by Ruth Ellen Wasem, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features interviews with Rep. Paul MitchellPaul MitchellDem leaders avert censure vote against Steve King Steve King faces new storm over remarks about white supremacy GOP conference chair: Steve King's comments were 'abhorrent' and 'racist' MORE (R-Mich.) and Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers.                         

The House convenes at 10 a.m. on day 20 of the government’s lapse in funding.

The Senate meets at 9:30 a.m. and continues debate on a Middle East policy measure.

The president travels to McAllen, Texas, to advocate for increased security at the border with Mexico. He’ll be on the ground there for three hours to participate in a roundtable discussion and a briefing.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump travels to Dover Air Force Base to meet with families of Americans killed in Syria Overnight Defense: Second Trump-Kim summit planned for next month | Pelosi accuses Trump of leaking Afghanistan trip plans | Pentagon warns of climate threat to bases | Trump faces pressure to reconsider Syria exit Pompeo planning to meet with Pat Roberts amid 2020 Senate speculation MORE is in Egypt, where today he holds a news conference and delivers a speech about the United States as “a force for good.” Beyond Cairo, he will travel to Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait through Jan. 15.

The Labor Department reports at 8:30 a.m. on U.S. weekly jobless claims. The information will be viewed through the lens of the ongoing shutdown, which began Dec. 22. Data on claims filed by federal employees is released with a one-week lag.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell speaks at 12:45 p.m. at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida speaks about monetary policy and the economy at 7 p.m. at Money Marketeers of New York University in New York City. President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Neel Kashkari speaks about immigration and economic growth at noon at the Minneapolis Club.


> Teachers: In Los Angeles, the first teachers strike in 30 years in the nation’s second-largest school district is now set to begin on Monday (The Los Angeles Times). Teachers are seeking higher pay and smaller class sizes in a school district weighed down by budget deficits, including billions of dollars in obligations for pensions and health coverage.

> Students: Millions of college students are going hungry (The Atlantic).

> 3D paleontology: A 200-million-year-old skull measuring a yard in length was discovered in 1955 in a farm field in Great Britain and then largely forgotten on a museum shelf. Now, scientists have used CT scans and 3D technology to learn some secrets from the well preserved ancient ichthyosaur, a giant creature that once roamed the seas (The Daily Mail).




And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the never-ending shutdown, we’re eager for some savvy guesses and Googling about who said what, according to news and television reports this week.

Email your responses to or, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.

The New York Times television critic James Poniewozik wrote on Tuesday night that a particular duo he viewed looked “unfortunately like a cross between Grant Wood’s `American Gothic’ and the twins from `The Shining.’ To whom did he refer?

  1. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Texas Sen. John Cornyn
  2. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi
  3. President Trump seated in the Oval Office with a photo of his father behind him
  4. White House senior advisers Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayConservatives pound BuzzFeed, media over Cohen report Trump 2020 campaign manager hits George Conway: 'Think how bad of a husband you have to be' Trump’s polls sag amid wall fight MORE and Stephen Miller

At the White House on Tuesday, who was reported to have said off-the-record about Trump’s planned trip today to the U.S.-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas, “It’s not going to change a damn thing”?

  1. Vice President Pence
  2. Melania TrumpMelania TrumpOvernight Defense: Trump says he won't declare emergency 'so fast' | Shutdown on track to become longest ever | Military begins withdrawing equipment from Syria | Bolton taps new deputy Bolton names replacement for deputy who clashed with first lady The Hill's Morning Report — Groundhog Day: Negotiations implode as shutdown reaches 20 days MORE
  3. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenDem senator requests FBI investigate Nielsen for potential perjury Schumer wants answers from Trump on eminent domain at border Trump officials discussed ‘deterrent effect’ of prosecuting migrant parents: report MORE
  4. President Trump

Which GOP senator on Tuesday advocated breaking with the White House and Senate leaders to pass bills this week to reopen parts of the government that are not embroiled in the wall funding fight, quipping with reporters, “I think we can walk and chew gum”?

  1. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World Kaine to force Senate to hold rare Saturday session amid shutdown MORE of Alaska
  2. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrHillicon Valley: Senate panel subpoenas Roger Stone associate | Streaming giants hit with privacy complaints in Europe | FTC reportedly discussing record fine for Facebook | PayPal offering cash advances to unpaid federal workers Senate panel subpoenas Roger Stone associate Jerome Corsi Manafort developments trigger new ‘collusion’ debate MORE of North Carolina
  3. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyDem calls for Cohen to testify before Senate panel over explosive report Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees IRS shutdown plan fails to quell worries MORE of Iowa
  4. Rick Scott of Florida

Which House Democrat said Tuesday on MSNBC, referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, “The president should not be asking for more money to an agency that has systematically violated human rights … because right now what we are seeing is death.”

  1. Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyDems lash out at Trump for recalling furloughed workers Dems eye lawsuit if Trump declares border emergency The Hill's Morning Report — Groundhog Day: Negotiations implode as shutdown reaches 20 days MORE (Virginia)
  2. Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeEx-interpreter for US troops in Afghanistan released from ICE custody Former staffer accuses Jackson Lee of retaliation after rape claim Texas governor, top lawmakers tell Trump not to use hurricane relief funds to build border wall MORE (Texas)
  3. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez speaks about 'justice' at Women's March New progressive sheriffs in town ready to fight for Main Street Meghan McCain on Ocasio-Cortez: She is 'just like Trump on Twitter' MORE (N.Y.)
  4. Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerBuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president Dems revive impeachment talk after latest Cohen bombshell Laura Ingraham: Dems 'are all going to have to kiss Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's ring' MORE (Md.)

Which TV figure said after watching the president’s primetime speech, “This was Trump’s first address from the Oval Office. Up until now, he’d been using it for Kardashian meet-and-greets. But tonight, he got very serious.”

  1. Stephen Colbert (CBS)
  2. Lester Holt (NBC)
  3. Jimmy Kimmel (ABC)
  4. Tucker Carlson (Fox News)