The Hill's Morning Report — Trump complicates border wall negotiations

The Hill's Morning Report — Trump complicates border wall negotiations
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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report, and TGIF! Our newsletter gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Co-creators are Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger (CLICK HERE to subscribe!). On Twitter, you can find us at @joneasley and @asimendinger.


A bipartisan group of lawmakers seeking a border deal has only met for two days, but there are new headwinds with only 15 days to go until a quarter of the government runs out of money again. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE, who would have to sign into law whatever bill is able to make it through the House and Senate, is splashing cold water on the negotiations at every turn.

On Thursday, Trump said Republicans in the bipartisan group are “wasting their time” dealing with Democrats.

Despite the optimism from lawmakers that a deal could be reached, the president accused Democrats of “playing games” and said, “I don’t think they’re going to reach a deal.” 

And Trump is insisting on wall language in any bill, departing from his earlier openness to barriers constructed with steel slats. 

“If there’s no wall, it doesn’t work.” — Trump

Jordain Carney reports that Senate Republicans, who have no intention of enduring another shutdown, have a message for Trump: Back off and let us do our work.

The Hill: Republicans want Trump to keep out of border talks.

Some of the scuffling involves word games, as Trump is demanding a wall and Democrats have made clear they will not appropriate funding for anything labeled a wall.

It seems a “barrier” or “fencing” or “smart wall technology” or “infrastructure” might work, as long as both sides can claim victory. 

“There's not going to be any wall money in the legislation. However, if they have some suggestions about certain localities where technology, some infrastructure [is appropriate] ... that’s part of the negotiation.” — Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Democrat pushes for censuring Trump in closed-door meeting Trump: I don't have a racist bone in my body Ocasio-Cortez responds to fresh criticism from Trump MORE (D-Calif.)



“I think [Pelosi] probably doesn’t want to use the word ‘wall.’ That’s okay, she can call it a `wangdoodle’ for all I care.” — Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) 

The New York Times: The words have meaning in the border wall debate.

One bit of news from the back and forth on Thursday: Trump said he’s inclined to wait until the Feb. 15 funding deadline to decide whether to circumvent Congress and secure funds for the border wall by declaring a national emergency. It’s seen as fortification behind his $5.7 billion negotiating position.

That move would be immediately challenged in court, but Trump and his team are preparing a national emergency option, and the president wants his base to know it.

“We’ve set the stage for what’s going to happen.” — Trump

The Associated Press: Trump, Pelosi remain far apart on border wall issue. 

More from the border wall fight … Tech companies are increasingly bullish as discussions escalate around building a "smart wall" at the southern border (The Hill) … Lawmakers fear that increased threats from foreign actors combined with the lingering impact of the government shutdown could open the door for cyberattacks against the United States (The Hill). 



WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: On the second day of trade talks with China in Washington, Trump announced that discussions to open China’s markets to U.S. goods and services will continue toward a March 2 deadline, including a new meeting in February between himself and President Xi Jinping.

Reuters: Details from discussions.

“We’ve made tremendous progress,” Trump said.

“We have a lot more issues to cover,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerChinese, US negotiators fine-tuning details of trade agreement: report The Trump economy keeps roaring ahead Trump says no discussion of extending deadline in Chinese trade talks MORE said Thursday afternoon.

Xi sent a flowery letter to Trump transmitted by the Chinese leader’s top trade negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He. Liu, who spent two days in talks with Lighthizer and U.S. negotiators, said Xi is committed to buying 5 million tons of U.S. soybeans, a pledge Trump welcomed. The president added, however, that major gaps remain if China wants to avert higher tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports in March (The New York Times).

Trump’s next meeting with Xi could take place in late February, around the time he is expected to hold his second denuclearization summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, likely in Asia.



Russia and INF treaty: The United States plans to suspend compliance with a landmark nuclear missile pact with Russia, responding to an alleged violation of the treaty by Moscow. The Trump administration could reverse course once it starts a six-month countdown toward permanent withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty — if Russia comes into compliance within that period (Reuters). 

Health and Human Services: The administration wants to use its regulatory powers to end the practice of drug companies offering rebates to middlemen, which often results in higher costs to consumers (The Hill). The trade group that represents the middlemen, known as pharmacy benefit managers, said regulation will result in higher drug prices for patients (The Washington Post).

Syria and U.S. troops: Senators from both parties next week appear likely to add an amendment to a foreign policy measure, which would directly challenge Trump on his announced plan to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria (The Hill). For Republicans, it’s a rare public rebuke aimed squarely at the Oval Office. The president referred to the Pentagon operations in Syria in the last two weeks as “consolidating,” and he suggested that if the Taliban commit to a peace agreement, U.S. troops in Afghanistan also could be withdrawn. 

“We bring our people back home if that happens. We'll see what happens.”

U.S. intelligence: Trump says his own global threat assessments, which in a number of cases were contradicted by his intelligence chiefs in the Capitol on Monday, will be proven correct (The Hill).

“I think I’m right,” the president told reporters on Thursday. “Time will prove me right, probably.”

During a later interview with The New York Times, the president said his intelligence team had been misquoted while delivering testimony, and they remain “on the same page” with him.

White House staff additions: The press shop under press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is adding new faces as House Democrats launch investigations of the executive branch, including an examination of the White House security clearance process (CBS News).

Steven Groves moves over from the White House counsel’s office to be deputy press secretary handling issues related to the Department of Justice and legislative affairs. He will oversee the response to congressional probes. Hogan Gidley was named principal deputy press secretary, after serving in that role in an acting capacity. Judd Deere, who was formerly the White House director of media affairs, is elevated to deputy press secretary.

White House staff suspension: Tricia Newbold, a White House security specialist, was suspended for two weeks without pay for allegedly defying her boss. Her discipline occurred after NBC News reported that Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question Judiciary issues blitz of subpoenas for Kushner, Sessions, Trump associates House Judiciary to vote to authorize subpoenas for Trump officials, immigration documents MORE’s top security clearance had been approved over White House staff objections (NBC). Newbold filed a discrimination complaint against her supervisor, Carl Kline, three months ago. The White House denies her assertions of discrimination. House Democrats are likely to seek information from Newbold about the process to approve clearances for Trump advisers.


POLITICS & 2020: Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerHarris slams DOJ decision not to charge police in Eric Garner's death The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Fundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race MORE of New Jersey is about to get into the presidential race. Scott Wong and Mike Lillis broke the news last night - Booker on Thursday began calling lawmakers to tell them he’s running and is asking for their support (The Hill).

Meanwhile, the freak-out over Howard Schultz’s independent bid continues. Will Democrats be able to drive him out of the race?  Or is he in for the long haul? Amie Parnes has the latest (The Hill).

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s days of being an independent are behind him. If he runs for president in 2020, he says he’ll do it as a Democrat. But either way, Edward-Isaac Dovere reports that Bloomberg will plow hundreds of millions of dollars into a data operation aimed at unseating Trump (The Atlantic).

> On the GOP side, some Senate Republicans are ready to endorse Trump’s 2020 bid, but some are withholding their support after the 35-day government shutdown sent the president’s poll numbers spiraling lower. Others want to wait for special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats 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 findings. Republicans up for reelection in blue or purple states have a decision ahead of them.

Alexander Bolton has the latest on what Trump can expect in terms of support among Republicans on Capitol Hill as his reelection bid heats up (The Hill).

In an interview last night with The New York Times, Trump expressed confidence that he would not have a serious rival in the GOP primary.

“I don’t see it. I guess anything is possible.” — Trump

Meanwhile, Trump said this week he’ll focus on border security in his State of the Union address on Tuesday. Democrats are looking to make their own political statements and have invited some immigrants in the country illegally who worked for the Trump Organization to attend the address (The Hill).

The Associated Press: Women will surround Trump at State of the Union address.

More on campaigns and politics … Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' Trump says administration will 'take a look' after Thiel raises concerns about Google, China Thiel calls Warren the most 'dangerous' Democratic candidate MORE (D-Mass.) attacked capitalism in a new interview (Bloomberg News) … Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., says he has more experience in government than Trump and called for the Electoral College to be abolished (CBS News) … Republicans seize on liberal positions to paint Democrats as radical (The Washington Post) and one such issue is late-term abortion (The New York Times).

Perspectives and Analysis

Ronald Brownstein: The coming Democratic drama over “Medicare for All”.

Mene Ukueberuwa: Politicians put populism over pensions.

Bill Scher: How Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris slams DOJ decision not to charge police in Eric Garner's death Harris vows to 'put people over profit' in prescription drug plan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet MORE won the rollout primary and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Fundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race Five things to watch for at Defense nominee's confirmation hearing MORE lost it.

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



Trump’s Venezuela crisis may mark start of “Second Cold War” by Michael B. Schoenleber, Christopher Nixon Cox and Juan C. Lechín, opinion contributors to The Hill.

U.S. threat assessment challenges Trump’s worldview, imperils Coats’s career, by Dov S. Zakheim, opinion contributor, The Hill.



Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features guest hosts and commentators Juanita Tolliver and Saagar Enjeti; New Jersey Rep. Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerProblem Solvers Caucus co-chair calls Trump comments about progressive congresswomen 'totally unacceptable' Trump's tweets unify a fractured Democratic Party Bipartisan group of lawmakers invites colleagues to tour DC's Holocaust museum MORE (D) talking about a wealth tax and “opportunity for all’; Beer Institute president and CEO Jim McGreevy, discussing aluminum tariffs; and The Hill’s editor-in-chief Bob Cusack, reporting events in Congress.

The House reconvenes at 11:30 a.m. Monday.

The Senate meets at 3 p.m. Monday.

The president will hold a meeting on human trafficking in the Cabinet Room at 11:45 a.m., and have lunch with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoAs tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Trump's Huawei concession is 'the rope that could hang America' MORE. Trump will sit for an interview with Margaret Brennan of CBS News, for broadcast on Super Bowl Sunday. Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpCruz in 2016 said 'something fundamentally wrong' with Christians who back Trump: book Designer defends Melania Trump statue: 'People may laugh but the context still resonates' Melania Trump heading to West Virginia to discuss opioid epidemic MORE depart the White House at 4 p.m. to spend the weekend at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.

The vice president and Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Acosta resigns amid controversy over Epstein plea deal The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi looks to squash fight with progressives The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi looks to tamp down Dem infighting MORE head to Miami for a roundtable discussion at 11:30 a.m. with Venezuelan exiles and people who fled to the United States to escape political persecution there. Pence will give remarks at noon, accompanied by Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisDeSantis wants statue of civil rights activist to replace Confederate figure on Capitol Hill Florida couple wins right to plant vegetables in front yard after years-long legal battle Former sheriff running for reelection after suspension over Parkland shooting MORE, Florida Republican Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioLiberal think tank: GOP paid parental leave proposals are too narrow GOP senator: 'Outrageous' to say Trump's tweets about Democratic congresswomen are racist House passes bills to boost small business cybersecurity MORE and Rick Scott, and Rep. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartOvernight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record House passes amendment to block funding for transgender troops ban House passes bill to protect 'Dreamers' MORE (R-Fla).

Pompeo will make remarks to the news media at 8:30 a.m. at the State Department. He may speak about the fate of the INF treaty (The Associated Press).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on January employment at 8:30 a.m. As The Wall Street Journal foreshadowed Thursday: U.S. employers are expected to add 170,000 jobs to payrolls in January, which would mark 100 straight months of job creation. The streak, which began in Oct. 2010, is more than twice as long as the next longest stretch of continuous employment growth.” 

Black History Month begins today.




> Tech: Facebook and Twitter say they removed thousands of troll accounts in the runup to the 2018 elections (NBC News). … Sparring over consumer and user privacy issues has taken on a personal, competitive edge between Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergBorder Patrol chief was member of secret Facebook group for agents: report Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak urges Facebook users to delete their accounts Trump's legal battles over census go public MORE (NBC News).

>  Immigration: Brooke Jarvis writes about the social and educational struggles of U.S.-born children whose families are deported to Mexico or return there voluntarily (California Sunday).

> Global warming: Ice-penetrating satellites helped scientists detect a mammoth chasm growing rapidly beneath a glacier surface in Antarctica. The phenomenon is alarming new evidence of a pattern of “retreat and ice melt” in the warming Thwaites Glacier. If it were to melt, the result would raise oceans and potentially release catastrophic forces of inland glacier and ice masses. "As more heat and water get under the glacier, it melts faster" (Science Alert).


And finally … Congratulations to Morning Report quiz masters! 

Super Bowl 53 and football history inspired these readers to correctly answer our puzzler this week: David DeAngelo, Jennifer R. Dolin, David Bond, Rodney Dixon, Ian Jackson, Bob Easley, Bev Cigler, David Straney, Lorraine Lindberg, Jennifer Dolin, Jim Miller, William Mehok, Elizabeth Murphy, Lex Barker and Sandy Sycafoose.

They knew that Garth Brooks has never performed at the halftime show, although he did sing the national anthem before the big game in 1993.

Joe Montana is the second on the all-time list for playoff game victories at 16, which is 13 fewer than Tom Brady has.

The Green Bay Packers won the first ever Super Bowl.

A 30-second Super Bowl advertisement will run you north of $5 million this year.

And the Los Angeles Rams were the first franchise to be majority-owned by a woman, Georgia Frontiere. Frontiere’s St. Louis Rams won the Super Bowl in 2000, when they stopped a potential game-tying touchdown by the Tennessee Titans on the 1-yard line as time expired.