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 TrumpMueller report findings could be a 'good day' for Trump, Dem senator says Trump officials heading to China for trade talks next week Showdown looms over Mueller report 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 CornynConservatives wage assault on Mueller report Senate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks GOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 MORE and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCNN town halls put network at center of Dem primary The Memo: Trump can't let go of McCain grudge Michael Bennet is close to deciding on possible presidential bid MORE.

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiPelosi, Dems plot strategy after end of Mueller probe Coons after Russia probe: House Dems need to use power in 'focused and responsible way' Trump, Congress brace for Mueller findings 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 Schumer4 in 5 Americans say they support net neutrality: poll GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar 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 ScaliseConservatives wage assault on Mueller report Meadows says Mueller's end proves 'no collusion' House Dem renews call for censuring Steve King 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 McConnellConservatives wage assault on Mueller report Overnight Energy: Interior reverses decision at heart of Zinke criminal probe | Dem divisions deepen over approach to climate change | GM to add 400 workers to build electric cars Trump: Green New Deal 'the most preposterous thing' and 'easy to beat' 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 CollinsSenate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks Overnight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' MORE (R-Maine), interviewed on NBC News

The Hill: GOP emphasizes unity ahead of shutdown votes.

The Hill: Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerBill Maher questions whether Democrats put 'too much trust' in Mueller report Kushner to cooperate with Judiciary document requests Washington Monthly editor: Parents 'routinely' use wealth to get children into college 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 KingMan arrested for allegedly throwing glass of water at Steve King House Dem renews call for censuring Steve King Louisiana rep calls Steve King a 'white supremacist' after Katrina comment 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 GrahamDem senator: 'Appropriate' for Barr, Mueller to testify publicly about Russia probe Conservatives wage assault on Mueller report Graham expects 'thorough' briefing on Mueller report 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 KlobucharHere's what the Dem candidates for president said about the Mueller report Booker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Harris wants Barr to testify on Mueller report as 2020 Dems call for its release 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 MnuchinTrump officials heading to China for trade talks next week US sanctions Venezuelan bank after Guaidó aide's arrest Treasury expands penalty relief to more taxpayers 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 PruittOvernight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election EPA pushes forward plan to increase ethanol mix in gasoline Trump: The solitary executive 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 BeraModerate Dems revive effort to stabilize ObamaCare markets The 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 MORE (D-Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonDem lawmakers unveil Journalist Protection Act amid Trump attacks on media Dems push to include contractor back pay in any shutdown deal Dem bill would let essential workers collect unemployment during shutdown MORE (D-D.C.). ***

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley & Alexis Simendinger Suggestions? Tips? We want to hear from you! Share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


President Trump’s border security fight is the right one, by former Trump campaign manager Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiCNN's Chris Cuomo knocks 'state TV' Fox News T-Mobile says it increased Trump hotel spending after Sprint merger announcement The 81 names targeted in Democrats' expansive Trump probe 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 MitchellIt’s time to shut down all future government shutdowns GOP lawmakers offer several locations for Trump address Dem leaders avert censure vote against Steve King 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 PompeoUS sanctions Venezuelan bank after Guaidó aide's arrest The Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game 2020 Dems avoid this year's AIPAC conference 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 ConwayGeorge Conway: Trump 'thinks he needs to be re-elected to avoid indictment' The Memo: Trump can't let go of McCain grudge The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump attacks on McCain rattle GOP senators 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 TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game Schwarzenegger tells Trump to 'listen to the first lady' before attacking McCain The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump steps up attacks on McCain MORE
  3. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenClinton calls for people to sign petition to help DACA recipient detained by ICE Hillicon Valley: Nunes sues Twitter for 0 million | Trump links tech giants to 'Radical Left Democrats' | Facebook settles suits over ad discrimination | Dems want answers over spread of New Zealand shooting video Nielsen calls for greater public-private collaboration on cyber threats 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 MurkowskiRed dresses displayed around American Indian museum to memorialize missing, murdered native women Juan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration MORE of Alaska
  2. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrTrump, Congress brace for Mueller findings GOP's Tillis comes under pressure for taking on Trump Warner says there are 'enormous amounts of evidence' suggesting Russia collusion MORE of North Carolina
  3. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTreasury expands penalty relief to more taxpayers Overnight Health Care: Senators seek CBO input on preventing surprise medical bills | Oversight panel seeks OxyContin documents | Pharmacy middlemen to testify on prices | Watchdog warns air ambulances can put patients at 'financial risk' Drug prices are a matter of life and death 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 ConnollyHouse passes series of measures hitting Russia, Putin Exclusive: Biden to run for White House, says Dem lawmaker Dems struggle to turn page on Omar controversy MORE (Virginia)
  2. Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump attacks on McCain rattle GOP senators Harris to make hard Texas push, recruits key O'Rourke aide: report Trio of NFL players intern on Capitol Hill as part of league program MORE (Texas)
  3. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOvernight Energy: Interior reverses decision at heart of Zinke criminal probe | Dem divisions deepen over approach to climate change | GM to add 400 workers to build electric cars 'Washington Monthly' editor says diversity on Capitol Hill starts with interns Why is my party prioritizing an extreme environmental agenda? MORE (N.Y.)
  4. Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOvernight Defense: Top Marine warns border deployment could hurt readiness | McSally aims for sexual assault reforms in defense bill | House to vote on measure opposing transgender ban | New warning over F-35 sale to Turkey House Dems unveil measure to reject anti-Israel boycotts House to vote on measure opposing transgender military ban 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)