1/ "At this moment," Trump won't sign the Senate-passed funding measure that would avoid a partial government shutdown if it doesn't include his border wall money, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. Paul Ryan added that Trump has "concerns for border security." Trump previously told Democrats he would be "proud" to shut down the government if they refused to give him $5 billion for his border wall. Democrats held firm and GOP leaders were forced to instead pursue a short-term spending bill that would avoid a shutdown, which the Senate unanimously passed Wednesday night to fund federal agencies through February 8th. The Senate-passed bill does not include funding for Trump's wall. Hours after the Senate passed its bill, House Republicans revolted over concerns that they were punting the border wall fight to next year, when Democrats take control of the House. Trump's opposition dramatically increases the chances of a government shutdown starting Friday night. (Politico / CNN / Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / NBC News)

  • A Florida man started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to pay for Trump's border wall. The campaign has raised over $5.5 million in the three days since it started, with an overall goal of $1 billion. Brian Kolfage believes that if the 63 million Americans who voted for Trump donated $80 each, they would be able to raise the $5 billion Trump is asking Congress for. (Politico)

  • Fox & Friends called Trump's defeat on border wall funding "a stunning turn of events." (Daily Beast)

2/ Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker declined to recuse himself from the Russia investigation despite a Justice Department ethics official advising him to step aside out of an "abundance of caution." The ethics official said that while a recusal was "a close call," there was no actual legal conflict of interest that would require Whitaker to recuse himself. Members of Congress are concerned about Whitaker's previous criticism of Robert Mueller's investigation. (CNN / ABC News / Politico)

3/ Trump's pick for attorney general criticized Mueller's obstruction of justice investigation in an unsolicited memo he sent to the Justice Department in June. William Barr said "Mueller's obstruction theory is fatally misconceived," claiming that Trump's interactions with James Comey would not constitute obstruction of justice, because Trump was using his "complete authority to start or stop a law enforcement proceeding." If confirmed as attorney general, Barr would oversee Mueller's work. (Wall Street Journal / New York Times / CNN / The Guardian / Washington Post)

  • Rod Rosenstein: Barr's "memo had no impact on our investigation." The deputy attorney general added that the memo "reflects Mr. Barr's personal opinion," and that "lots of people offer opinions" but they "don't influence our own decision making." (Politico)

4/ The House Intelligence Committee voted to send the transcript of its 2017 interview with Roger Stone to Mueller, suggesting that the special counsel is close to charging Stone with a crime. It's the first time Mueller has formally asked the committee to hand over material gathered related to the Russia investigation. Stone's relationship with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and whether he played a role in the release of stolen DNC emails has been a focus of the special counsel's investigation for months. (Washington Post / CNN / Politico)

5/ Trump's 2016 campaign and his 2020 reelection campaign used a shell company to buy ads in alleged illegal coordination with the NRA. FCC records show that the Trump campaign's ad disclosures include signatures and names of individuals working for National Media, despite no mention of National Media, or it's known affiliates Red Eagle Media Group and American Media & Advocacy Group, on any FCC or Federal Election Commission disclosures. The ad buyers' names are also included in ad documents for the NRA and America First, but with the buyers' affiliation listed as National Media or one of its affiliates. Rebuilding America Now, a super PAC supporting Trump, was also named in a recent Mueller court filing regarding a $125,000 wire transfer to Paul Manafort — a payment Manafort lied to federal investigators about. (Center for Responsive Politics)

  • 📌 Day 686: Trump and the NRA used the same consultants to execute complimentary TV advertising strategies during the 2016 presidential election. The NRA used a media strategy firm called Red Eagle Media, while the Trump campaign purchased ads through a firm called American Media & Advocacy Group, which were aimed at the same demographic as the NRA spots. Both firms are affiliated with the conservative media-consulting firm National Media Research, Planning and Placement, with both the NRA's and the Trump campaign's ad buys were also authorized by the same person at National Media. The arrangement is likely a violation of campaign finance laws. (Mother Jones)

  • Treasury Department officials exchanged messages using unsecured Gmail accounts set up by their Russian counterparts during the 2016 election. [Editor's note: I don't even know where to begin with summarizing this, but it's important. You should read it and send me a three to four sentence summary to update this entry with.] (BuzzFeed News)

poll/ 78% of Americans say the country has become more divided since Trump took office. 11% think it's more united. (USA Today)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration will force some asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while they wait for their claims to be processed. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced the decision, saying "catch and release will be replaced with 'catch and return.'" Mexico previously refused to accept the return of migrants who aren't Mexican. (Washington Post / New York Times / CNN / ABC News / Politico)

  2. Trump signed an $867 billion farm bill to provides aid to U.S. farmers hurt by his administration's trade war with China. Trump shared a video of him reenacting the "Green Acres" theme song from the 2005 Emmy Awards to hype up the farm bill. (Washington Post / The Hill)

  3. The Trump administration will tighten work requirements for Americans who receive federal food assistance. The proposed rule would strip states' ability to issue waivers unless a city or county has an unemployment rate of 7% or higher. SNAP serves roughly 40 million Americans. (The Guardian / ABC News / Washington Post)

  4. The Justice Department indicted two Chinese hackers on charges of participating in a global hacking campaign to steal technology company secrets and intellectual property from at least 45 U.S. companies and government agencies, as well as the personal data of more than 100,000 members of the U.S. Navy. (CNBC / New York Times / Washington Post)

  5. Putin praised Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, calling it "correct." Trump, meanwhile, defended his surprise decision, despite mounting criticism from lawmakers in both parties, saying the U.S. doesn't "want to be the Policeman of the Middle East." (ABC News / Politico / New York Times / Washington Post)

  6. James Mattis resigned. The announcement comes a day after Trump's plans to withdraw troops from Syria became public. The Defense Secretary said his views aren't "aligned" with Trump's. Mattis will retire at the end of February. (CNN / NPR / CNBC / Washington Post / New York Times)

  7. Trump is considering plans for a significant drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan, similar to his unexpected withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria that surprised the Pentagon. There are currently more than 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. (Wall Street Journal / CNN)

  8. North Korea won't give up its nuclear weapons program until it gets security assurances from the United States. Pyongyang demanded that the U.S. remove what it called a nuclear threat against North Korea before any denuclearization takes place. (Associated Press)

  9. Mick Mulvaney will take a more hands-off approach to the chief of staff job than John Kelly. While Kelly tried to bring some semblance of discipline to the West Wing, Mulvaney says he won't try to tame Trump. (Politico)