Day 713: Enjoy the ride.
1/ As the shutdown stretches into its 12th day – and a day before Democrats take control of the house – Trump invited congressional leaders to the White House for a briefing on border security. It’s the first time Trump has sat down with top congressional leaders of both parties since the shutdown started. Homeland Security officials will brief the top two leaders of each party from both the Senate and the House. “Border Security and the Wall ‘thing’ and Shutdown,” Trump tweeted, “is not where Nancy Pelosi wanted to start her tenure as Speaker! Let’s make a deal?” (Washington Post / The Guardian / New York Times / Politico)
- A federal employees union filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, because the partial government shutdown is illegally forcing more than 400,000 “essential” or “excepted” federal employees to work without pay. (CNN / Washington Post)
2/ House Democrats plan to vote on a bipartisan package of six Senate spending bills to reopen the government, as well as a stopgap measure to reopen the Department of Homeland Security at its current funding levels until February 8. The temporary funding measure would include the current $1.3 billion in border security money, which can be used for fencing and repairs of the current barriers. The move, however, lacks support from Senate Republicans and Trump. (CNN / NBC News)
Trump tried to convince people on Twitter that the Obamas had a 10-foot wall built around their family home in D.C. as a way of justifying why the U.S. should build a wall along the southern border with Mexico. Trump tweeted: “I agree, totally necessary for their safety and security. The U.S. needs the same thing, slightly larger version!” According to a neighbor (and all of the available photos of the residence), “There’s a fence that goes along the front of the house, but it’s the same as the other neighbors have.” Another neighbor said the house is “100 percent visible from the street.” (Washington Post / Rolling Stone)
John Kelly: Trump abandoned the idea of “a solid concrete wall early on in the administration.” The outgoing chief of staff added that “the president still says ‘wall,’” but he often means a “‘barrier’ or ‘fencing,’ now he’s tended toward steel slats.” Trump responded to Kelly’s comments on Twitter, saying that the idea of an all-concrete border “WAS NEVER ABANDONED,” asserting that the Border Patrol experts “prefer a Wall that is see through.” (Los Angeles Times / New York Times)
3/ A former Russian intelligence officer pressured Paul Manafort to pay back around $19 million he owed a Russian oligarch while he was running Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Victor Boyarkin said Manafort “owed us a lot of money. And he was offering ways to pay it back.” Less than two weeks before Trump accepted the Republican nomination, Manafort tried to offer “private briefings” about the presidential race to Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska to “get whole.” Manafort sent the messages through his former business associate Konstantin Kilimnik. Both Boyarkin and Deripaska have been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department. Boyarkin also said he was approached by Robert Mueller’s office, which is investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, but he allegedly told investigators “to go dig a ditch.” (Time / CNN)
- 📌 Day 245: Writing through an intermediary, Paul Manafort offered to give private briefings to a Russian billionaire during the 2016 campaign. Oleg Deripaska is an aluminum magnate and former business associate of Manafort’s with close ties to the Kremlin. It is unclear if Deripaska received or acted on the offer. (Washington Post)
5/ Trump gave the military four months to “slowly” remove the 2,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Syria. Two weeks ago Trump ordered the military to pull out in 30 days. Trump went on to complain about the lack fanfare over his decision to pull the troops out of Syria, tweeting that “If anybody but Donald Trump did what I did in Syria […] they would be a national hero.” He added that he is “just doing what I said I was going to do” during his presidential campaign. (New York Times / CNN)
6/ Border Patrol agents fired tear gas at a group of 150 people in Mexico who were attempting to cross the border. CPB claimed that agents were not directly targeting the people who were attempting to cross the fence, but rather aiming upwind at another group of migrants who were allegedly throwing rocks at them. CPB detained 25 people, including two teenagers. This is the second known occasion during which U.S. agents used gas as a deterrent or dispersal tactic against migrants. A similar incident occurred in November 2018, into which Mexico later called on the U.S. to launch an investigation. (Reuters / Associated Press)
📌 Day 676: U.S. border agents fired tear gas on migrants protesting near the U.S.-Mexico border after some of them attempted to cross using a train border crossing. The fumes were carried by the breeze toward unarmed families hundreds of feet away. Mexico’s Interior Ministry said around 500 migrants were involved in the march for faster processing of asylum claims for Central American migrants, but it was a smaller group of migrants who broke away and tried the train crossing. The border was shut down in both directions for several hours. (Associated Press / New York Times / CNN)
Trump blamed Democrats for the two Guatemalan children who died while in U.S. Border Patrol custody, claiming the deaths are “strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies.” (Politico)
New Jersey prosecutors have evidence that supervisors at Trump’s Bedminster golf club may have committed federal immigration crimes. The FBI and Mueller have been involved in the in the inquiry. (New York Daily News)
Trump attacked retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, saying he “got fired like a dog” and that McChrystal is a “big, dumb mouth.” Prior to Trump’s comments, McChrystal said Trump is immoral, dishonest, and “I don’t think he tells the truth.” McChrystal was relieved of his command in 2010 by then-President Obama after he made controversial comments about the Obama administration in a Rolling Stone article. (ABC News)
Mitt Romney savaged Trump’s leadership, saying he “has not risen to the mantle” of his office and his “words and actions have caused dismay around the world,” in a Washington Post op-ed. Trump responded by tweeting: “I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!” (Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / CNN / The Guardian)
Trump averaged 15 false claims a day in 2018. When 2018 began, Trump had made 1,989 false and misleading claims. By the end of the year, Trump had accumulated more than 7,600 untruths during his presidency – or about 5,611 false or misleading claims in 2018 alone. (Washington Post)
Trump wished “the haters” and “the fake news media” a happy new year, urging them to “calm down and enjoy the ride.” Trump’s all-caps tweet went on to say that 2019 would be a “fantastic” year for anyone “not suffering from Trump derangement syndrome.” (CBS News / NBC News)
Editor’s note: It’s nice to be back after a weird, quasi-break. I’ll be honest, I kinda tuned everything out and mostly took a news sabbatical – highly recommended! – aside from anxiously refreshing Twitter multiple times a day. I’ve included whatever worthwhile updates from the past five days or so in today’s post. ALSO: Not that it was ever in doubt, but I’m happy to announce that WTF Just Happened Today: Season 3, Episodes 731 to 1096 begins January 20th (here’s a link to Season 1 and Season 2). I’m looking forward to sharing my 2019 plan with y’all, which includes more ways for members to get involved and become the media. Shoutout to the members who make this whole thing possible with their generous contributions. If you’d like to invest in the continued production of WTFJHT, consider becoming a member today.
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