The Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days

The Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE appears closer to declaring a national emergency at the southern border to circumvent Congress and secure the money he’s demanding to build a wall. 

“The law is very clear. We have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. … I think we’re going to see what happens over the next several days. ...We’re not going anywhere. We’re not changing our mind.” — Trump to Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity during stop at the Texas border

From The Hill’s Jordan Fabian:

“The White House is looking at $13.9 billion in funding approved by Congress last year to use for building Trump’s wall in the event he declares an emergency. That bill provided funding for various Army Corps of Engineers projects that have been allocated but not spent.”

The White House has not committed to this route, although the president’s allies are urging him to take drastic measures to end the government shutdown.

“It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier. I hope it works.” — Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDemocrats duke it out in most negative debate so far Republicans give Barr vote of confidence Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills MORE (R-S.C.)

The Memo: Trump moves to brink of emergency declaration.

The Hill: Some House Democrats warm to Trump’s emergency declaration, believing it would end the shutdown and lose in court.

The Hill: Legal obstacles await national emergency declaration for wall. 

Friday marks the 21st day of the shutdown, tying the previous record for the longest government closure, which stretched between 1995 and 1996.

There’s no deal in sight. 

The White House is not backing down from its insistence that Congress allocate $5.7 billion for the project. 

“No wall, no deal.”Vice President Pence

House Democrats have no plans to fork over the money. The House passed stand-alone measures to fund several agencies on Thursday but the Senate will not take the bills up and the White House has already said the president would veto the legislation if it reached his desk.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans give Barr vote of confidence Democrats block two Senate abortion bills VA could lead way for nation on lower drug pricing MORE (R-Ky.) plans to adjourn the Senate today despite protests from Democrats that he take up the House-passed bills. A last-ditch effort by a group of Senate Republicans to strike an immigration deal that might end the partial government shutdown has fallen apart.

Amid that backdrop, the partial government shutdown is spilling into the real world, with federal workers protesting at the White House, suing the government and going on strike as they prepare to miss paychecks for the first time. 

The Associated Press: Payday without pay hits federal workers.

The pain will become real for 800,000 people and their families on Friday, when about half of those federal workers will be on the job but not getting paid. The Senate passed a bill guaranteeing back pay for federal workers and Trump has said he’ll sign it, but it would do nothing to alleviate the pressure for those living paycheck to paycheck.

On Thursday, scientists, judges, NASA employees and members from dozens of federal worker labor unions marched to the White House to demand that their agencies be reopened.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the largest union representing federal workers, has filed a lawsuit under the Fair Labor Standards Act to protest its members working without pay.

"Many of our employees struggle every day to make ends meet, and they cannot afford to miss even one paycheck." — AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr.



A handful of federal workers filed their own lawsuit against President Trump, saying that being forced to work without pay is tantamount to indentured servitude. FBI agents are lobbying Congress to end the shutdown and Transportation Security Agency (TSA) workers are protesting at airports. 

The Washington Post: Travelers offer TSA officers tips, gifts to show support.

The Associated Press: Federal workers seek loans, second jobs.

The uprising from the federal workforce, as well as scores of stories about government services placed on hold amid the shutdown, increase pressure on lawmakers to do something.

"I'm working on what I would consider just a bare-bones funding mechanism that will pay the essential employees, whether it's Coast Guard, TSA, [Customs and Border Protection], people involved in national security, homeland security. Making sure that as long as parts of the government are shutdown, the essential parts can remain open and are funded.” — Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonWhistleblower retaliation: Stop confusing unlawful attacks with politics Congress looks to strengthen hand in State Department following impeachment Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony MORE (R-Wis.) to Hill.TV

The shutdown is also impacting the economy at a time when many analysts are forecasting a global economic slowdown.

Speaking at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said an extended shutdown “would show up in the data pretty clearly.”

Politico: Shutdown’s economic damage estimated at $1 billion a week.




INVESTIGATIONS: House Democrats have landed their first big witness for a public hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.

The president’s former attorney Michael Cohen will testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Feb. 7.

“I look forward to having the privilege of being afforded a platform with which to give a full and credible account of the events which have transpired.” — Cohen

Cohen, who was once one of Trump’s most loyal lieutenants, reports to prison for a three-year term beginning on March 6. He pleaded guilty to a slew of financial crimes, as well as one campaign finance violation that implicated the president. Cohen says that at the height of the 2016 campaign, Trump directed him to pay off two women who claim to have had extramarital affairs with the president.

“I am not worried about that at all.” — Trump



Meanwhile, CNN is reporting that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE interviewed Trump’s 2016 campaign pollster Tony Fabrizio.

That news is significant because former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortPresident Trump's assault on checks and balances: Five acts in four weeks Free Roger Stone Trump tweets test Attorney General Barr MORE’s lawyers accidentally revealed in a court filing this week that Mueller suspects Manafort shared campaign data with two Russian oligarchs.

The president on Thursday said he didn’t know what Manafort was up to. 

“I didn’t know anything about that.” — Trump

More from the investigations front … Beefed up White House legal team prepares aggressive defense of Trump’s executive privilege as investigations loom large (The Washington Post) … In closed-door testimony to Congress, Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinFinancial trade tax gains traction with 2020 Democrats Hillicon Valley: Agencies play catch-up over TikTok security concerns | Senate Dems seek sanctions on Russia over new election meddling | Pentagon unveils AI principles Senate Democrats urge Trump administration to impose sanctions on Russia for election interference MORE defends plan to remove Russian aluminum giant from sanctions blacklist (The Wall Street Journal).


POLITICS: A new survey from Morning Consult ranks the U.S. senators from the past Congress from most popular to least.

Topping the list is Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE (I-Vt.) at 64 percent favorable and 28 percent unfavorable.

Sanders is gearing up for another run at the Democratic presidential nomination but has run into some unexpected early turbulence after reports that some officials from his 2016 campaign harassed their female colleagues. 

On Thursday, Sanders apologized and vowed to instill safeguards to ensure it doesn’t happen again in 2020.

“What they experienced was absolutely unacceptable and certainly not what a progressive campaign or any campaign should be about … Every woman in this country who goes to work today or tomorrow has the right to make sure she is working in an environment that is free of harassment, which is safe and which is comfortable. And I will do my best to make sure that happens.” — Sanders

At the bottom of the list is former Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane Flake70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents McSally ties Democratic rival Kelly to Sanders in new ad McSally launches 2020 campaign MORE (R-Ariz.), the outspoken Trump critic who retired in January. Flake was succeeded by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

The survey gave Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThis week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Juan Williams: Black votes matter Clyburn: Biden 'suffered' from not doing 'enough' in early debates MORE (D-Calif.) positive marks, with the freshman senator at 43 percent positive and 29 percent negative. KCBS radio is reporting that Harris will launch her presidential campaign on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which is Jan. 21, although Harris’s aides disputed the report.



Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandNow is the time for a US data protection agency The Hill's Campaign Report: Warren up, Bloomberg down after brutal debate Ginsburg, accepting lifetime achievement award, urges working fathers to take an active role in kids' lives MORE (D-N.Y.) registered marks of 47 percent positive and 28 percent negative. The Associated Press reports that Gillibrand is eyeing Troy, N.Y., for her campaign headquarters.

Trump is eager to fight with the 2020 Democrats. On Thursday, the president blasted the field as soft on crime and immigration.

“The Democrats don't care about crime. They've been taken over by a group of young people who, frankly, in some cases – I've been watching, I actually think they're crazy. But they've been taken over by a group that's so far left. I really don't think they care about crime. And you know, sadly, their view exists at the beginning of the 2020 presidential race, and that's OK with me. But they have been taken over by a group of people that don't care about gangs, they don't care about human trafficking and drugs, they don't care about anything. I tell you what, they have gone crazy." — Trump

Meanwhile, in the House, Republicans are turning on Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingMother of child in viral meme sends Steve King cease-and-desist for using image in fundraising Nebraska Democratic Party Chair: Rural vote should be 'bedrock' of party With surge in anti-Semitism, political leaders need to be aggressive and reflective in response MORE (R-Iowa).

King provoked anger for his latest racial remarks, in which he questioned why it is offensive to be a “white nationalist” or “white supremacist.” 

“Everything about white supremacy and white nationalism goes against who we are as a nation. Steve’s language is reckless, wrong and has no place in our society. The Declaration of Independence states that ‘all men are created equal.’ That is a fact. It is self-evident.” — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyFive takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders comes under fire over cost of 'Medicare for All' Trump's intel moves spark Democratic fury MORE (R-Calif.). 

Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThis week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Overnight Defense: GOP lawmaker takes unannounced trip to Syria | Taliban leader pens New York Times op-ed on peace talks | Cheney blasts paper for publishing op-ed Liz Cheney blasts NYT for publishing op-ed by Taliban leader MORE (R-Wyo.), the House GOP conference chairwoman, also responded:



ADMINISTRATION: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: More closures possible at US bases in Europe as coronavirus spreads | Pompeo says Afghan 'reduction in violence is working' | Man accused of trying to blow up vehicle at Pentagon Pompeo: Afghanistan 'reduction of violence is working' Pompeo accuses China and Iran of hiding coronavirus outbreak MORE used a speech in Cairo on Thursday to outline U.S. policy towards Iran and contrast it in personal terms with the approach pursued by former President Obama (Bloomberg). Full text is HERE.

In the Middle East, analysts said they found it challenging to square the seeming contradiction between Trump’s abrupt announcement in December that U.S. forces would leave Syria and Pompeo’s declaration that “when America retreats, chaos follows” (The New York Times).

U.S. forces exiting Syria: Meanwhile overnight, some unspecified number of U.S. troops began withdrawing from Syria, according to a military spokesman (The New York Times).

Trump cancels European trip: The president scrapped his planned attendance Jan. 22-25 in Davos, Switzerland, at the annual World Economic Forum scheduled (The Hill). He cited the shutdown, hinting that he thought it possible that funding lapses may continue for at least another 10 days. The optics of Davos for Trump were challenging well before this week, when federal spending records showed that the U.S. delegation bound for the swanky event in the Alps booked at least $2.9 million in hotel expenses alone (Quartz).

North Korea: A second summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un may be “imminent” or “come soon” after Kim spent four days in China, according to South Korea (The New York Times). Trump previously said he hoped to meet with the North Korean leader in January or February to press for progress by Pyongyang on its denuclearization pledges. 



Don’t let Islamic State monsters get away with murder, by Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Health Care: Appeals court strikes down Medicaid work requirements | Pelosi's staff huddles with aides on surprise billing | Senate Dems pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Trump under pressure to renew last nuke treaty with Russia MORE (D-N.H.) and Diane Foley, mother of murdered American journalist James Foley, opinion contributors (The Washington Post).

How Robert Mueller can write a report the Justice Department cannot suppress, by Benjamin Wittes (Lawfare).

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!



Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features Harold Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters; Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist; and Nomiki Konst, a candidate for the New York City public advocate.                          

The House meets at 9 a.m 

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act.

The president hosts a border security roundtable conversation at the White House at 1:30 p.m. with state, local and community leaders.

Pence will make remarks today while visiting the U.S Customs and Border Protection headquarters, where he will hear from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenHillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 Sen. Kennedy slams acting DHS secretary for lack of coronavirus answers The 'accidental director' on the front line of the fight for election security MORE, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan and Chief of U.S. Border Patrol Carla Provost. He’ll also be at the White House for Trump’s roundtable discussion about border security.

Secretary Pompeo is traveling in Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait through Jan. 15.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 a.m. releases reports for December on consumer prices and real earnings.



> Tech: The maturing of the smartphone industry may be cause for celebration (The Economist). … Apple plans three new iPhone models this year, including triple and double rear cameras (The Wall Street Journal) … CES, the largest consumer electronics expo, ends today in Las Vegas. Gaze into the future, from 5G to virtual assistants (The New York Times).

> Astronomy: A swarm of mysterious radio bursts are seen coming from 1.5 billion light-years away. Their cause remains a puzzle, researchers say. There is a lot of fun in the not knowing” (National Geographic and Nature). 

> Entertainment: The Oscars broadcast cannot find a host, so movie superheroes may suit up (Hollywood Reporter).

> Food: The U.S. cheese industry is suffering from its largest surplus in history — 1.4 billion pounds, or 900,000 cubic yards, even as Americans consumed 37 pounds per capita in 2017 (NPR).



And finally … Kudos to this week’s Morning Report quiz champions! They paid close attention to news and television reports this week to correctly identify who said what related to the never-ending shutdown.

We appreciated all the guesses yesterday! Here’s who nailed five questions: Brittany Baker, Milt Mungo, Carl Hamilton, Katherine Ford, Dara Umberger, Diane McComb, Caroline Fisher, Susan Widmer, Sandy Sycafoose, Ashley Cummins, John H. van Santen, Bob Schneiderman, Norm Roberts, Jekka Garner, David Stevens and Linda Tillery.

These readers knew that The New York Times television critic James Poniewozik compared Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response Democrats block two Senate abortion bills MORE of New York and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOcasio-Cortez: Trump would 'never' say to her face some of the shots he takes at her on Twitter Oversight Committee room to be dedicated to late Rep. Elijah Cummings Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response MORE of California, both Democrats, to “a cross between Grant Wood’s `American Gothic’ and the twins from `The Shining.’ ”

At the White House on Tuesday, it was Trump who told network anchors off-the-record that his Thursday trip to Texas was “not going to change a damn thing.”

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Overnight Energy: Critics pile on Trump plan to roll back major environmental law | Pick for Interior No. 2 official confirmed | JPMorgan Chase to stop loans for fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic MacGregor confirmed as Interior deputy chief MORE (R-Alaska) quipped to reporters, “I think we can walk and chew gum,” while advocating that senators reopen the parts of the federal government not involved in the impasse over funding for a wall. A day later, the Senate rejected that idea.

During an MSNBC interview on Tuesday night, it was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez: Trump would 'never' say to her face some of the shots he takes at her on Twitter Ocasio-Cortez suggests a Bloomberg presidency would pave the way for 'a worse Trump' Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates MORE (D-N.Y.) who said, while referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, “right now what we are seeing is death.”

After watching the president’s prime-time border security speech on Tuesday, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel quickly devoted his opening monologue to the task. “This was Trump’s first address from the Oval Office,” he noted. “Up until now, he’d been using it for Kardashian meet-and-greets. But tonight, he got very serious”