1/ The FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump had been working on behalf of Russia after he fired Comey in May 2017. Law enforcement officials became concerned that if Trump had fired Comey to stop the Russia investigation, his behavior would have constituted a threat to national security. Counterintelligence agents were also investigating why Trump was acting in ways that seemed to benefit Russia. No evidence has publicly emerged – yet – that Trump was secretly taking direction from Russian government officials. Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the report "absurd" and claimed that, compared to Obama, "Trump has actually been tough on Russia." (New York Times / CNN)

  • [Opinion] What if the obstruction was the collusion? "We might be in a position to revisit the relationship between the 'collusion' and obstruction components of the Mueller investigation. Specifically, I now believe they are far more integrated with one another than I previously understood." (Lawfare)

2/ Trump concealed details about his conversations with Putin from administration officials. On at least one occasion in 2017, Trump confiscated the notes from his interpreter and told the interpreter not to discuss the details of his Putin conversation with other administration officials. As a result, there is no record of Trump's face-to-face interactions with Putin at five locations from the past two years. U.S. officials only learned about Trump's actions when a White House adviser and a senior State Department official requested additional information about the meeting beyond what Rex Tillerson had provided. (Washington Post)

  • Lawyers for the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees are discussing subpoenaing the interpreters who were present when Trump spoke privately with Putin. Lawyers are not actively drafting subpoenas, but instead reviewing the best way forward and deciding which committee would submit a request, should they decide to make it. (ABC News)

3/ Fox News asked Trump if he is a Russian agent – he refused to directly answer. Instead, he called the question from Jeanine Pirro "the most insulting thing I've ever been asked." When asked about concealing the details of his private meetings with Putin, Trump replied: "We had a great conversation." Later, Trump said he "never worked for Russia" and called the report that the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation "a whole big fat hoax" while labeling the FBI officials "known scoundrels" and "dirty cops." (New York Times / CNBC / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Washington Post)

4/ Trump's nominee for attorney general said that "it is vitally important" that Robert Mueller be allowed to complete his Russia investigation. "On my watch, Bob will be allowed to complete his work," William Barr will tell senators at his confirmation hearing, and that Congress and the public should "be informed of the results of the special counsel's work." Barr added that his "goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law." (Associated Press / CNN / New York Times / The Guardian)

  • The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the appointment of Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general. Opponents argued that Whitaker was not constitutionally appointed for the position because he had not been subject to Senate confirmation, and that Trump did not have the legal authority to appoint Whitaker. (NBC News / Washington Post / CNBC)

5/ The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed off on a plan by Alexander Torshin and Maria Butina to infiltrate the NRA and the American conservative movement. A U.S. intelligence report says Torshin, a Russian central bank official, courted NRA leaders for years and briefed the Kremlin on his efforts, recommending that they participate in the project. The report notes that the Kremlin was fine with Torshin and Butina's courtship of the NRA because those relationships would be valuable if a Republican was elected president in 2016. (Daily Beast)

6/ Trump rejected Lindsey Graham's proposal to reopen the government as the shutdown entered its 24th day. Graham proposed that Trump agree to reopen the government for about three weeks, and if no deal were made in that time, Trump could then declare a national emergency to obtain funding for a border wall without congressional action. Last week, Trump floated the ideal of declaring a national emergency to direct the military to start construction of the wall, but today he claimed "I'm not looking to call a national emergency. This is so simple you shouldn't have to." (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico)

  • Trump is "not going to budge even 1 inch" on the shutdown, according to a person close to Trump. Democrats, meanwhile, are unlikely to give ground to Trump as the record-setting partial government shutdown drags on. (CNN / CNBC)

  • Trump to Mick Mulvaney: "You just fucked it all up, Mick." Trump cut off and lashed out at his acting chief of staff after he attempted to negotiate with Democrats for more than $1.3 billion in border wall funding. (Axios / CNN)

  • Despite the shutdown, the Trump administration is continuing work on opening up more Arctic lands in Alaska to oil drilling. The Bureau of Land Management has moved ahead with a series of public meetings to expand oil development in the 22-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. (NPR)

poll/ 53% of Americans blame Trump and the Republicans for the shutdown. 42% say they support a wall – up from 34% last January – while 54% oppose the idea – down from 63% a year ago. (Washington Post / ABC News)

  • Six surveys taken since the partial government closure began tell a consistent story that more than half of Americans believe Trump and his party are responsible for the shutdown. (Bloomberg)

poll/ 63% of voters support the Democrat's plan to reopen parts of the government that don't involve border security. Every party, gender, education, age and racial group supports the plan except Republicans, who are opposed 52 - 39%. (Quinnipiac)

poll/ 69% of Americans do not want Trump to designate the border a national emergency site. 31% of respondents said they wanted such a declaration. (The Hill)

poll/ 37% of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president while 57% disapprove. 52% say the current situation at the border between the U.S. and Mexico is not a crisis. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. Trump sold about $35 million worth of real estate in 2018 while serving as president. Although he offloaded the daily management of his assets to his sons, he maintained ownership of his businesses. More than half of the $35 million came from a single real estate deal involving a federally subsidized housing complex in Brooklyn, which Trump and his business partners offloaded for roughly $900 million. Trump held a 4% stake in the property and pulled in $20 million after subtracting the $370 million in debt owed on housing complex. (Forbes)

  2. A federal judge in California blocked Trump administration rules that would allow more employers to avoid providing women with no-cost birth control in 13 states and the District of Columbia. Judge Haywood Gilliam issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the rules from taking effect as scheduled today. The injunction limited the scope of the ruling to the plaintiffs, preventing the rules from going into effect nationwide. (Associated Press)

  3. Trump's nominee to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the federal bench questioned whether victims of date rape were partly responsible if they'd been drinking. Neomi Rao currently serves as Trump's deregulatory czar as administrator of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. (Mother Jones)

  4. Trump threatened to "devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds" following the U.S. troop withdrawal in Syria. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu blasted Trump's "threatening language" saying that his country was "not going to be scared or frightened off," adding: "You will not get anywhere by threatening Turkey's economy." (CNBC / Washington Post / New York Times)

  5. Trump's National Security Council asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran last year. The request, made at National Security Advisor John Bolton's direction, alarmed Pentagon and State Department officials, including then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The Pentagon offered some general options, including a cross-border airstrike on an Iranian military facility that would have been mostly symbolic. (Wall Street Journal / New York Times / CNBC)