What The Fuck Just Happened Today?

Today's essential guide to the daily shock and awe in national politics. Read in moderation.
Curated by @matt_kiser

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Day 761: Grenades.

1/ Trump asked acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker if a Trump-appointed attorney could lead the Southern District of New York's investigation into Michael Cohen's hush money payments during the 2016 election. Whitaker couldn't put Geoffrey Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, in charge, because Berman had already recused himself from the investigation, which led to Trump complaining about Whitaker's inability to pull the strings necessary at the Justice Department to make his legal problems go away. There is no evidence that Whitaker took any direct steps to intervene in the Manhattan investigation, but Whitaker privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to "jump on a grenade" for Trump. Earlier this month Whitaker testified to the House Judiciary Committee that Trump had never pressured him to intervene in an investigation, which is now under scrutiny by House Democrats for possible perjury. [Editor's note: This is a must read] (New York Times)

  • Trump denied the report that he asked Whitaker to put an ally in charge of the investigation into pre-election hush payments to women who claimed to have had affairs with him. Trump then praised Whitaker, who was replaced by William Barr last week, saying "I think he’s done a great job" and "should be given a lot of thanks by the nation." (Politico / The Hill)

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asked Whitaker to clarify his recent testimony, saying Whitaker "refused to offer clear responses regarding your communications with the White House." (Politico)

  • Michael Cohen plans to describe his "personal, front-line experiences of memories, and incidents, and conduct, and comments that Donald Trump said over that 10-year time period behind closed doors," which is lawyer described as "chilling." Cohen has pledged to appear before closed sessions of the House and Senate intelligence committees and in a public session of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee before he reports for a federal prison sentence on March 6. (ABC News)

  • Trump has publicly criticized the Russia investigation nearly 1,200 times. (New York Times)

2/ Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe briefed congressional leaders in 2017 about the counterintelligence investigation he opened into Trump and that "no one objected," including Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. McCabe ordered the obstruction of justice and counterintelligence investigations after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May of 2017, which made McCabe acting director of the bureau at the time. The FBI wanted to know whether Trump had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests. "The purpose of the briefing was to let our congressional leadership know exactly what we'd been doing," McCabe said, and that nobody raised concerns, "not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds, and not based on the facts." Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also attended the meeting, which is when the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation was first announced. Eight days after Comey was fired, Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller. (NBC News / CNBC / Politico / Daily Beast / The Atlantic / CBS News)

  • WATCH: The full Andrew McCabe interview. (CBS News)

  • McCabe: Trump is unwilling to accept intelligence on North Korea given to him by U.S. officials, telling them, "I don't care, I believe Putin." Trump said he didn't believe that North Korea has missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland because Putin told him the missiles didn't exist. (The Hill / 60 Minutes)

3/ Trump accused McCabe and Rosenstein of "illegal and treasonous" actions. In a tweet, Trump said McCabe and Rosenstein "look like they were planning a very illegal act, and got caught" in response to McCabe's interview on 60 Minutes. McCabe and Rosenstein had discussed "counting votes" among Cabinet members to see who would consider invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from power. "There is a lot of explaining to do to the millions of people who had just elected a president who they really like and who has done a great job for them with the Military, Vets, Economy and so much more," Trump continued. "This was the illegal and treasonous 'insurance policy' in full action!" (Daily Beast / Washington Post)

  • Trump circulated a call by Rush Limbaugh to imprison the people investigating him and his administration, including Robert Mueller. Trump quoted Limbaugh in a tweet, writing, "These guys, the investigators, ought to be in jail. What they have done, working with the Obama intelligence agencies, is simply unprecedented." He continued: "This is one of the greatest political hoaxes ever perpetrated on the people of this Country, and Mueller is a coverup." Later, Trump added his own condemnation of Mueller and his team, calling the investigation "totally conflicted, illegal and rigged!" (Daily Beast)

  • House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff said there is "evidence in plain sight" of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia. Schiff rejected the conclusions of Senate Intelligence Chair Richard Burr, who said no such evidence exists. "You can see evidence in plain sight on the issue of collusion, pretty compelling evidence," Schiff said. "There is a difference between seeing evidence of collusion and being able to prove a criminal conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt." (Politico)

4/ Rosenstein will resign as deputy attorney general and leave the Justice Department in March. Incoming Attorney General William Barr is expected to name Rosenstein's successor as early as this week. Justice Department officials say Rosenstein's departure has nothing to do with McCabe's recent interview on 60 Minutes. It is unclear what this means for Mueller's investigation, which will likely be handed off to Barr. (CBS News / CNN / Reuters / Washington Post)

  • Barr's son-in-law, Tyler McGaughey, will be leaving his job at the Justice Department and will join the White House counsel's office, where he'll "advise the president, the executive office, and White House staff on legal issues concerning the president and the presidency." (Vanity Fair / CNN)

5/ Michael Flynn and several other Trump administration appointees ignored repeated legal and ethical warnings as they promoted the sale of nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia. The 24-page report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee outlined actions by the Trump administration to have American companies build dozens of nuclear power plants across Saudi Arabia, potentially at the risk of spreading nuclear weapons technology. The report said the unnamed whistleblowers inside the White House came forward because they were worried by the continued effort to sell the power plants. House Democrats said the White House was still considering the proposal as recently as last week. The Oversight Committee said it would continue to investigate the matter and make new requests for documents from the White House and cabinet agencies "to determine whether the actions being pursued by the Trump administration are in the national security interests of the United States, or rather, serve those who stand to gain financially." (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / Reuters / NBC News)

6/ California, New York, and 14 other states joined a lawsuit to challenge Trump's plan to use a national emergency declaration to funnel billions of dollars into his border wall. The suit was filed in Federal District Court in San Francisco, and claims that Trump does not have the authority to redirect funds from other projects to pay for his border wall over the objections of Congress, which controls government spending. Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai'i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Virginia also joined the lawsuit. Several nonprofit organizations have also announced plans to sue. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)

poll/ 61% of Americans disapprove of Trump's decision to declare a national emergency to build his border wall along the southern border. 94% of Democrats and 63% of independents disapprove, while 12% of Republicans feel the same. Nearly 60% of Americans also don't believe there is an emergency at the southern border. (NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist)


Notables.

  1. Robert Mueller recommended that Paul Manafort spend 19-24 years in prison and pay up to $52 million in fines and forfeitures. Trump's former campaign chairman was convicted in August on eight felony counts including tax and bank fraud. Mueller added that "the government does not take a position as to the specific sentence to be imposed here," but he did remind the court about Manafort's long career of criminal activity. "Manafort acted for more than a decade as if he were above the law," Mueller said, "and deprived the federal government and various financial institutions of millions of dollars." (CNBC / BuzzFeed News / Bloomberg / Politico)

  2. Roger Stone was ordered to appear in court after posting a photo of the judge in his case with what appeared to be crosshairs near her head days after the judge imposed a gag order on him. The photo of Judge Amy Berman Jackson was posted alongside a caption that referred to her as "an Obama appointed judge who dismissed the Benghazi charges against Hillary Clinton and incarcerated Paul Manafort prior to his conviction for any crime." The post also mentioned the "Deep State" and featured a plea to help Stone "fight for my life" by donating to his legal defense fund. Stone later deleted the post and issued an apology. (Rolling Stone / The Guardian / Washington Post / NBC News) / NPR)

  3. Former Maine Gov. Paul LePage and his staff bought more than 40 rooms in Trump's D.C. hotel for $22,000 over a two-year period, which coincided with trips to meet with Trump or members of his inner circle, as well as visits to White House events and Congressional meetings. LePage and his staff also spent hundreds of dollars on expensive steaks and other luxury menu items at the restaurants in Trump's hotel. (Portland Press Herald)

  4. Bernie Sanders announced that he is running for president again in 2020. Polls show the 77-year-old independent senator from Vermont ahead of the rest of the pack, trailing only Joe Biden in the 2020 field. (CNN / NBC News / New York Times)

  5. Trump's pick to serve as ambassador to the United Nations withdrew from consideration. Heather Nauert had a nanny who was in the United States legally but did not have the proper work visa. (New York Times)

  6. Trump's former legislative affairs director will now serve as Pence's chief of staff. Marc Short will fill the role that was left vacant by Nick Ayers when he resigned earlier this year. (New York Times / CNBC)

  7. Trump will sign a directive to establish a Space Force, but instead of being a new branch of the military dedicated to space, it will instead remain part of the Air Force. It will be structured similarly to how the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy. (Politico)

Day 757: Didn't need to do this.

1/ Trump declared a national emergency at the border to circumvent Congress and fund his border wall with money lawmakers refused to give him, saying "I didn't need to do this," but "I just want to get it done faster, that's all." In a Rose Garden news conference, Trump said he would sign the declaration to divert $3.6 billion from military construction projects to his border wall and then use presidential budgetary discretion to redirect $2.5 billion from counternarcotics programs and another $600 million from a Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund. Between the $1.375 billion authorized for fencing in a spending package passed by Congress, and the roughly $6.5 billion in funding from executive action, Trump is will have about $8 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier – significantly more than the $5.7 billion that Congress refused to give him. Following the news conference, Trump signed the spending legislation. (New York Times / The Guardian / Politico / Washington Post / NBC News / ABC News)

  • Capitol Police pushed and physically blocked reporters from talking with Senators headed to vote on the spending package last night, despite some lawmakers willing to engage with the press. (Roll Call)

  • The White House announced the national emergency by tweet using the iPhone Notes app. (BuzzFeed News)

  • Trump's national emergency press conference, annotated. (Washington Post)

  • Trump's bizarre, rambling national emergency announcement distracted from what the president actually did. (The Atlantic)

  • In November 2014, Trump called taking executive action on immigration dangerous, unconstitutional, and impeachable. (CNN)

2/ The Justice Department warned the White House that a national emergency declaration is nearly certain to be blocked by the courts, which would prevent the immediate implementation of Trump's plan to circumvent Congress and build the wall using his executives powers. (ABC News)

  • The ACLU plans to file suit challenging Trump's national emergency declaration, arguing his attempt to evade congressional funding restrictions is "patently illegal." (Axios)

3/ House Democrats plan to pass a joint resolution disapproving of Trump's emergency declaration, which would force Senate Republicans to take a public position. By law, if one chamber passes a resolution, the other one must bring it up for a vote within 18 days. While Republicans hold a 53-to-47 advantage, the resolution would only need a simple majority to pass. A White House aide indicated that Trump would "absolutely veto" any congressional efforts to interfere with his plan to declare a national emergency to secure funding for his border wall. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / Politico)

4/ The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the Trump administration can add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census. A federal judge last month stopped the Commerce Department from adding the question, questioning the motives of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who claimed he ordered the question to be added in response to a December 2017 request from the Justice Department, which said that data about citizenship would help it enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Judge Jesse Furman of the United States District Court in Manhattan issued an opinion saying that "promoting enforcement" of the Voting Rights Act "was not his real reason for the decision." The court is scheduled to hear arguments in April so that it can issue a decision before census forms are printed in June. (Washington Post / New York Times)

5/ Robert Mueller's team interviewed Sarah Huckabee Sanders in early fall of 2018 – around the time that Trump's former Chief of Staff John Kelly was questioned by Mueller's team. (CNN / CNBC)

  • Maria Butina, a self-confessed Russian agent, "manipulated" a Russian spy agency when arranging the NRA's trip to Moscow, according to her boyfriend, Paul Erickson. In a Nov. 25, 2015, email sent to then-incoming NRA President Pete Brownell, Erickson wrote that "most of the FSB agents 'assigned' to her want to marry her," which is how she arranged a tour of a Russian arms factory for the NRA delegation. (Daily Beast)

  • A federal judge has placed a gag order on Roger Stone and attorneys involved in his criminal case, ordering the Trump associate to "refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case." (Politico / CNN)


Notables.

  1. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro's foreign minister met secretly with the U.S. special envoy in New York, even while the Trump administration continues to publicly back an attempt to overthrow the Maduro government. While in New York, the foreign minister urged Elliot Abrams to come to Venezuela "privately, publicly or secretly." U.S. officials have said they are willing to meet with officials from the current Venezuelan administration, "including Maduro himself, to discuss their exit plans." (Associated Press / Politico)

  2. The top American general in the Middle East disagreed with Trump's decision to pull troops out of Syria, and warned that the terror group was far from defeated. (CNN)

  3. Pro-Israel lobbyists and donors spent more than $22 million on lobbying and campaign contributions during the last election cycle. Those same groups have spent hundreds of millions of dollars through a variety of channels in order to influence American politics and elections in recent decades. The Guardian investigation found that the pro-Israel lobby is "highly active and spends heavily to influence US policy," but not as heavily as some U.S. business sectors. "I haven’t observed many other countries that have a comparable level of activity, at least in domestic lobbying data," said a senior researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics. The Guardian started examining the data after Muslim Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar claimed pro-Israel lobby money influenced U.S. policy. (The Guardian)

  4. Trump claimed that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to broker peace between North and South Korea. The Japanese have not announced Trump's nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize. (Politico / Washington Post)

  5. At least 10 Trump judicial nominees in the past year have refused to endorse Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 ruling that abolished school segregation. (Mother Jones)

Day 756: Emergency declaration.

1/ Trump will declare a national emergency to bypass Congress and build his border wall after signing the spending legislation to prevent another government shutdown. The border security compromise provides $1.375 billion for 55 miles of steel-post fencing – basically the same deal Trump rejected in December – instead of the $5.7 billion he demanded for more than 200 miles of steel or concrete wall. The emergency declaration would allow Trump to redirect funds from other parts of the government without congressional approval. The Senate advanced the spending package in an 81-16 vote. The House is expected to approve the package later tonight. (Washington Post / New York Times / CNBC / CNN / NBC News / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

2/ A federal judge ruled that Paul Manafort violated the terms of his cooperation deal by repeatedly lying to Robert Mueller and a grand jury about "his interactions and communications with [Konstantin] Kilimnik," a longtime aide who the FBI assessed to have ties to Russian intelligence. Judge Amy Berman Jackson found that Manafort also intentionally lied about $125,000 he received for legal bills and about another unnamed Justice Department criminal investigation. Manafort will not be able to retract his guilty plea, but he will still be required to hold up his end of the plea deal. The ruling does free Mueller's office from having to comply with the obligations in Manafort's cooperation agreement, notably offering Manafort a reduced sentence for his cooperation. The breach of the cooperation deal after his guilty plea could add years to Manafort's prison sentence, having been convicted last year of eight felonies, including tax and bank fraud. Manafort later pleaded guilty to two additional conspiracy counts. (CNN / Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Vox / Wall Street Journal)

3/ The Senate confirmed William Barr as attorney general, putting him in command of the Justice Department and its ongoing investigation into links between Russia's interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign. Last year, Barr sent a 19-page, unsolicited memo to the Justice Department and Trump's lawyers, arguing that Trump has the power to "start or stop a law enforcement proceeding," and therefore he could prevent Mueller from investigating whether Trump committed obstruction of justice when he pressured James Comey to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn. Barr previously served as George H.W. Bush's attorney general in the 1990s. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

4/ The former deputy F.B.I. director said Justice Department officials discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office after Trump fired Comey – his former boss – in May 2017. Andrew McCabe ordered the team investigating Russia's election interference to look into whether Trump had obstructed justice by firing Comey, and examine whether Trump had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests. McCabe's order came two days after Comey was fired in order "to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground, in an indelible fashion" so the investigation "could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace". McCabe was fired last March and stripped of his pension days before his planned retirement, because he "lacked candor." (CBS News / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 110: Trump fired James Comey on the recommendation of Jeff Sessions. In a letter dated Tuesday to Comey, Trump concurred "with the judgment of the Department of Justice that [Comey is not] able to effectively lead the bureau." Earlier, the FBI notified Congress that Comey misstated key findings involving the Clinton email investigation during testimony, saying that only a "small number" of emails had been forwarded to disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner, not the "hundreds and thousands" he’d claimed in his testimony. The move sweeps away the man who is responsible for the investigation into whether members of Trump's campaign team colluded with Russia in its interference in last year's election. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein laid out the reasons for Comey's firing, arguing that the handling of his investigation into Clinton's private server, his decision not to recommend charges be filed, and the news conference he held to explain his reasoning were the cause of his dismissal. Democrats reacted with shock and alarm, accusing Trump of ousting the FBI director to escape scrutiny over his campaign’s Russia ties. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged deputy Rosenstein to appoint a special prosecutor for the federal probe into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russian officials — warning that failing to do so will lead the public to “rightly suspect” that Comey’s surprise firing “was part of a cover-up.” (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / CNN / Politico)

  • 📌 Day 610: Rod Rosenstein raised the idea of wearing a wire last year to secretly record Trump in the White House and expose the chaos in the administration, according to memos written by Andrew McCabe, then the acting FBI director. Rosenstein also discussed recruiting Jeff Sessions and John Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security, to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office. Rosenstein called the report "inaccurate and factually incorrect," adding: "Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment." At least one person who was present for the discussions said Rosenstein was joking. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Associated Press)

  • 📌 Day 725: 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)


Notables.

  1. Trump is dramatically downsizing two teams of federal officials tasked with fighting election interference by foreign countries. The task forces are part of the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Agency and were assembled in response to Russian interference in the 2016 election. One of the task forces is half the size it was a few months ago, and there are no indications that senior political leadership plans to rebuild it. The other task force was reduced significantly after the 2018 midterms, before its staff could produce a full assessment of what happened during the election. DHS sources say "2020 is going to be the perfect storm." (Daily Beast)

  2. The House voted to stop U.S. funding for Saudi Arabia's war on Yemen. The move is seen as an attempt to limit presidential war powers and highlight Congress' anger of Trump's refusal to condemn Saudi Arabia in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi's murder inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey. The vote was 248 to 177 in favor of stopping aid and condemning the Saudi campaign, which has killed thousands of civilians and caused a massive famine and an historic cholera outbreak. (New York Times)

  3. Trump is accelerating a secret U.S. program to sabotage Iran's missiles and rockets in an attempt to cripple Iran's military and isolate its economy. The program has never been publicly acknowledged by U.S. officials, which involves slipping faulty parts and materials into Iran's aerospace supply chains. It was started under the Bush administration and was active early in the Obama administration, but it was winding down by 2017 when Mike Pompeo took over as CIA director and started ramping things up again. (New York Times)

  4. A White House security specialist wants official whistleblower protections from the federal government after she raised concerns about "unwarranted security clearances" for top administration officials like Jared Kushner. Tricia Newbold requested whistleblower protections less than two weeks after she was suspended without pay by her supervisor, Carl Kline. Newbold says Kline "repeatedly mishandled security files and has approved unwarranted security clearances," one of which was Jared Kushner's. Kline overruled Newbold's concerns and approved top-secret security clearance for Kushner and at least 30 White House officials. (NBC News)

  5. Trump is in "very good health overall," according to results from his physical examination. Last year, then-physician Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson declared Trump in "excellent health," joking that Trump "might live to be 200 years old" if he made improvements to his diet. Trump gained four pounds since last year, putting his body mass index at 30.4, which makes him clinically obese. (CNN)

Day 755: Other methods.

1/ Trump intends to sign the bipartisan border security deal and avoid another partial government shutdown. Trump said he was "not happy" with the deal and suggested that he'd find "other methods" for financing his border wall without congressional approval by "moving things around" in the budget from "far less important areas." The agreement includes $1.375 billion for 55 miles of physical border barriers – short of the $5.7 billion Trump wanted for his wall – and is less than the $1.6 billion included in a Senate package last year. Republicans and administration officials, meanwhile, have signaled that Trump will sign the measure and then immediately use his executive authority to redirect federal money to fund the additional border barriers. The agreement must be signed into law in both chambers of Congress and signed by Trump before the end of the week in order to avoid another shutdown. (CNN / Bloomberg / NBC News / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / Washington Post / CNBC)

2/ Paul Manafort and Rick Gates met with a Russian political operative in August 2016. Prosecutors believe that Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik may have exchanged key information relevant to Russia and Trump's presidential bid, including a proposed resolution to the conflict over Ukraine and Manafort sharing internal polling data from Trump's presidential campaign to the Russian associate. (Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 753: Robert Mueller's lead prosecutors disclosed that the special counsel is continuing to pursue collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia based on the conversations between Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, who allegedly is linked to Russian intelligence. Prosecutors have been focused on discussions the two had about a "peace plan" to end the conflict following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014. The two repeatedly communicated about the plan for Ukraine starting in early August 2016, while Manafort was still running Trump's campaign, and continuing into 2018 – months after Manafort had been charged by Mueller's office related to his work in the country. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 750: Mueller's team accused Paul Manafort of lying to them about "an extremely sensitive issue" in hopes of increasing "his chances for a pardon." Prosecutors allege that Manafort worked on Ukrainian political matters from August 2016 to December 2018 – after his first indictment by the special counsel in 2017 – and that he tried to avoid providing information that could be damaging to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort business partner in Ukraine. Prosecutors believe Kilimnik is connected with Russian intelligence. Kilimnik also attended Trump's inauguration. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 727: Konstantin Kilimnik "appears to be at the heart of pieces of Mueller's investigation" into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Kilimnik is a Russian tied to Moscow's intelligence services and is connected to Manafort. Prosecutors filed a 31-page affidavit from an FBI agent, and another 406 blacked-out exhibits, after a federal judge ordered them to lay out the "factual and evidentiary basis" for their claims that Manafort repeatedly lied after his plea deal and as a result had breached his cooperation agreement. (CNN / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 719: Paul Manafort gave 2016 polling data to a former employee with ties to Russian intelligence services. The exchange was inadvertently revealed when Manafort's lawyers failed to fully redact Manafort's interview with Robert Mueller in a court filing. Manafort's attorneys meant for Mueller's line of questioning to remain private, but the text in question was easily readable when opened with a word processor. (Washington Post / CNBC / Daily Beast)

3/ House Democrats plan to launch their own probe into Trump's connections to Russia. Using their new subpoena power, Democrats plan to focus on potential money laundering by using the multiple committees they control to host hearings and public sessions that could stretch into 2020. Democratic members of Congress plan to interview new witnesses and go back to previous witnesses, who they believe "stonewalled" committees under the Republican majority. The House Intelligence Committee will lead the effort, with the House Financial Services Committee focusing on money laundering, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee looking into possible Russian connections. (Axios)

  • The Justice Department is investigating the leak Michael Cohen's personal bank records, which includes numerous payments to Cohen's shell company, Essential Consultants LLC, from a company linked to a Russian oligarch. Essential is what Cohen used to make hush money payments to Stormy Daniels to silence her allegations of an affair with Trump. (CNN)

4/ A Manafort-linked super PAC failed to report a $1 million contribution it received just before the 2016 election. The Federal Election Commission has asked the Rebuilding America Now PAC for more information about the contribution, which was disclosed in an amended filing two years after the fact. Mueller, meanwhile, is reportedly investigating whether Rebuilding America Now illegally received foreign funds. (Talking Points Memo)

poll/ 33% of voters support shutting down the government again over Trump's demand for a border wall while 60% of voters oppose another shutdown. 52% of voters would blame Trump and the Republicans for another shutdown, while 37% say they would blame Democrats. Voters remains split when it comes to building a border wall along the southern border, with 47% in favor and 47% opposed. (Politico)

poll/ Trump's approval rating jumped seven percentage points to 44% approval after the 35-day shutdown ended. The approval rating is one percentage point shy of his personal best. (Gallup)


Notables.

  1. The national debt topped $22 trillion for the first time in U.S. history. The Treasury Department shows that the total outstanding public debt is at $22.01 trillion — up from $19.95 trillion when Trump first took office – and the debt has accelerated since the passage of Trump's $1.5 trillion tax cut in December 2017 and the increase in military spending. (Associated Press / USA Today / CNBC)

  2. A record 7 million Americans are 90 days or more behind on their car payments – more than 1 million higher than the peak in 2010 following the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Economists warn that this is a red flag, saying car loans are typically the first payment people make because it's how they get to work, and that as car loan delinquencies rise, it is usually a sign of significant duress among low-income and working-class Americans. (Washington Post / CNBC)

  3. The FEMA administrator resigned. Brock Long was the subject of a Homeland Security investigation last year into his use of government vehicles to travel between Washington and his home in North Carolina. (NPR / Washington Post / CNN)

  4. The Senate passed a public lands conservation bill, designating more than one million acres of wilderness and hundreds of miles of wild rivers for environmental protection and reauthorizing a federal program to pay for conservation measures. The Trump administration, however, has worked to strip away protections on public lands, shrinking national monuments, and opening up large swaths of land up for oil, gas and mining leases. (New York Times / The Guardian / Washington Post)

  5. Trump called for the Tennessee Valley Authority to keep an aging coal plant open that buys coal from a company chaired by a leading donor to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. (Washington Post)

  6. Trump installed a $50,000 room-sized "golf simulator" at the White House, allowing him to play virtual rounds by hitting a ball into a large video screen. It replaced an older, less sophisticated simulator that Obama had installed. (Washington Post)

  7. Trump complained that getting a dog would make him feel "a little phony." The Trumps are the only modern first family to not have a pet of any kind. (ABC News)

Day 754: Not happy.

1/ Negotiators in the House and Senate reached an agreement "in principle" to avoid another partial government shutdown. Details of the agreement have not been released, but the tentative deal includes $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fences along the border, but does not include the $5.7 billion Trump wanted for more than 200 miles of border walls. The border security spending agreement would also provide an additional $1.7 billion for other Homeland Security priorities, like new technology and more customs officers. To avoid another shutdown by the end of the week, the deal needs to be written into final legislation, passed by both the House and Senate, and signed into law by Trump. It's unclear if Trump will accept the deal. (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / ABC News / NPR)

2/ Trump is "not happy" with the tentative bipartisan border security deal, adding that "it's not doing the trick." Trump did not commit to signing the spending measure if Congress passes it, but he did say: "I don't think you're going to see another shutdown." Trump also didn't rule out declaring a national emergency to secure wall funds. "I'm considering everything." (CNBC / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Reuters / Bloomberg)

3/ The White House is working on a plan to redirect federal dollars to fund Trump's border wall without invoking a national emergency. The current plan is to take money from two Army Corps of Engineers' flood control projects in Northern California, draw from disaster relief funds intended for California and Puerto Rico, and tap Department of Defense funds. A former staff director for the House Appropriations Committee said the plan "will create a firestorm." (Politico)

  • The Trump administration is still separating families when they cross the U.S.-Mexico border unlawfully, despite ending the policy last summer. (The Guardian)

4/ Senate Republicans are "livid" with Trump's refusal to issue a report determining who is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The deadline was Friday for the White House to officially detail the role Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman played in the Khashoggi murder. On Friday, the Trump administration said it reserved the right to decline lawmakers' demand under the Magnitsky Act that Trump determine who is responsible for Khashoggi's murder inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Mike Pompeo also denied that the Trump administration is protecting Mohammed, saying "America is not covering up for a murder." The CIA, however, has concluded that the crown prince personally ordered Khashoggi's killing. (Politico / ABC News / CNN)

5/ The Senate Intelligence Committee found "no direct evidence" of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. "We were never going to find a contract signed in blood saying, 'Hey Vlad, we're going to collude,'" one Democratic aide said. Democratic Senate investigators said that the more than 100 contacts between Trump's associates and various Russians show that the campaign was willing to accept help from a foreign adversary. Senate investigators also said they have uncovered facts yet to be made public. (NBC News)

  • Trump's former attorney, John Dowd, claimed he knows more than Mueller about the Russia investigation because of the joint-defense agreements with witnesses in the probe. "I know exactly what [Mueller] has," Dowd said. "I know exactly what every witness said, what every document said. I know exactly what he asked. And I know what the conclusion or the result is," he said. (ABC News / Talking Points Memo)

6/ The House Judiciary Committee hired two "special oversight counsels" tasked with reviewing allegations against Trump that could be at the heart of an impeachment case. Norm Eisen and Barry Berke are two elite white collar litigators and prominent legal critics of Trump will consult on matters "related to the Department of Justice, including the Department's review of Special Counsel Mueller's investigation," would include alleged ethics violations, corruption, and possible obstruction of justice. The committee's chairman, Jerrold Nadler, has not committed to opening a formal impeachment inquiry, but the hires signal that he does not intend to wait for Mueller to finish his work to begin reviewing the issues. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)

poll/ 56% of Americans say they trust Mueller's version of the facts than Trump's. 57% also believe that Mueller is mainly interested in "finding out the truth" than trying to "hurt Trump politically." (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Mitch McConnell said the Senate would vote on the "Green New Deal," which could put Democrats on the record backing a plan that Republicans have derided as a "socialist fantasy." The deal has no chance of passing the Senate, where it will need 51 votes. Republicans hold 53 seats. (Politico / CNBC / The Hill)

  2. Michael Cohen postponed his planned appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee because of "post-surgery medical needs" stemming from his recent shoulder surgery. Cohen is is due to begin serving a three-year prison sentence on March 6 for lying to Congress, campaign finance violations and financial crimes. It's the third time Cohen's testimony has been rescheduled. (Politico / CNBC)

  3. Companies are spending the corporate windfall from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on stock buybacks instead of wage increases and employee bonuses. Corporations spent $770 billion on buybacks in 2018, which is expected to increase to around $940 billion this year when after-tax profits are included. Other portions from the tax cut savings went to dividends or debt reduction. (Center for Public Integrity / NBC News)

  4. A small company in Switzerland is being investigated by Robert Mueller's team for its connection to a now-defunct Israeli social media manipulation company called Psy Group, which created a plan to help Trump win in 2016. Former employees of Psy Group were interviewed by Mueller's team in 2017 about the company's business and ownership structure. Psy Group's business structure was very complicated and included offshore entities registered in the Virgin Islands. It also included a chain of entities in Zurich known as Salix Services AG. Financial documents appear to show that Salix is connected to at least one of the companies that owned Psy Group. One question at the heart of Mueller's interest in Salix and Psy Group involves a $2 million payment from international business and influence-peddler George Nader to former Psy Group owner Joel Zamel. Investigators want to know why Nadler paid Zamel after the 2016 election and where the money went after that. (Daily Beast)

  5. A federal agency that acts as a personnel court for federal workers has only one person to hear cases and he leaves at the end of February. Two of the board's three seats have been vacant for the entire Trump administration. Justice Department attorneys said the agency could be operating illegally if the board has no members. (Washington Post)

  6. The acting chief of the Interior Department is weakening environmental protections for a fish in California, which would free up river water for farmers who are his former clients. David Bernhardt disproportionately benefit one of his former clients. (New York Times)

  7. A former White House aide is suing Trump after Trump's campaign organization filed an arbitration against Cliff Sims claiming he violated an NDA he signed during the 2016 presidential race by writing the tell-all book, "Team of Vipers." Sims alleges that Trump is using his campaign organization as an "illegitimate cutout" to penalize Sims for writing the book. The suit also claims that Trump has been selective when it comes to enforcing NDAs against former staffers by going after people like Omarosa and Sims, but not Sean Spicer or Corey Lewandowski for their tell-all books. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / USA Today)

  8. A BBC cameraman was "violently pushed and shoved" by a Trump supporter at Trump's rally in El Paso. A man in a MAGA hat started screaming "Fuck the media! Fuck the media!" after attempting to knock BBC cameraman Ron Skeans off balance while he was filming Trump's speech. The man was restrained and removed by security. Skeans said he is fine. (The Guardian / New York Times / CNN)

Day 753: Generally working.

1/ Negotiations to avoid another partial government shutdown fell apart on Sunday. Democrats are demanding a limit on the number of arrests of undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, as well as a cap the number of beds in ICE detention centers to force the Trump administration to focus on detaining undocumented immigrants with criminal records instead of using indiscriminate deportation raids in local communities without valid reason. To avoid another partial shutdown – set to begin Saturday – the House and Senate must pass identical spending bills that Trump would then need to sign into law by Friday night. The 17 House and Senate negotiators had hoped to reach a deal by Monday to give lawmakers enough time to approve the deal in both chambers before the deadline. The only things being discussed at the moment are a temporary Homeland Security spending bill or a possible national emergency declaration by Trump. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Reuters / The Guardian)

  • California's governor is pulling the National Guard troops back from the southern border. Gov. Gavin Newsom will order the removal of roughly 360 California National Guard members from the state's border with Mexico, and instead directing them to focus on drug trafficking and wildfire prevention. (Los Angeles Times / New York Times / CBS News)

2/ Mick Mulvaney "absolutely cannot" rule out the possibility of another partial government shutdown if Congress doesn't include funding for a border wall. The acting White House chief of staff blamed the uncertainty on Democrats and that "You cannot take a shutdown off the table, and you cannot take $5.7 billion off the table." (NBC News)

3/ Trump spent about 50% of his time last week in unstructured "Executive Time," as more of his personal schedules leaked. Hours earlier, Mick Mulvaney said he expected to catch whoever leaked Trump's personal schedule to the media and "have a resolution on that this week." Trump responded to his leaked schedules by tweeted that "When the term Executive Time is used. I am generally working, not relaxing." Trump is believed to use his executive time watching TV, tweeting, calling friends, and reading newspapers. Trump added: "I probably work more hours than almost any past President." (Axios / USA Today)

4/ The average tax refund is down about 8% under the first full year of the Republican-led overhaul of the tax code. The White House promised a $4,000 "raise" under the Trump tax plan, but refunds have averaged $1,865 compared to $2,035 for tax year 2017. (NBC News / CNN)

5/ Robert Mueller's lead prosecutors disclosed that the special counsel is continuing to pursue collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia based on the conversations between Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, who allegedly is linked to Russian intelligence. Prosecutors have been focused on discussions the two had about a "peace plan" to end the conflict following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014. The two repeatedly communicated about the plan for Ukraine starting in early August 2016, while Manafort was still running Trump's campaign, and continuing into 2018 – months after Manafort had been charged by Mueller's office related to his work in the country. (New York Times)

poll/ 34% of Americans believe it's always or sometimes acceptable for a white person to wear blackface as a Halloween costume, compared to 53% who believe it's rarely or never acceptable. 50% of Republicans, however, say it's always or sometimes acceptable to wear blackface as part of a costume. (Pew Research Center)


👑 Presidential News and Notes.

  1. Amy Klobuchar announced that she will run for president in 2020. The three-term Minnesota Democrat announced her campaign with a call to rebuild American with a "sense of community." (Politico / CNN / New York Times / Washington Post)

  2. Elizabeth Warren announced she will run for president in 2020, calling for "fundamental change" because wealthy power brokers "have been waging class warfare against hardworking people for decades" and that Trump is "just the latest and most extreme symptom of what's gone wrong in America." (New York Times / CNN / Wall Street Journal)

  3. Trump mocked Warren – again – calling her by the slur "Pocahontas" and saying he'd "see you on the campaign TRAIL," which is interpreted as a reference to the Trail of Tears where Native Americans were forcibly relocated to reservations in the southeastern U.S. in the 1800s. Trump Jr. called the "TRAIL" tweet "savage." (New York Times / USA Today / ABC News)

  4. Warren suggested that Trump "may not even be a free person" by the 2020 election, noting the number of investigations into the president. (CNN / New York Times)

  5. Kamala Harris called for the legalization of marijuana at a federal level, saying "I think it gives a lot of people joy. And we need more joy." Harris also said she smoked weed in college "and I inhaled." (Politico)

  6. A Democratic party strategist called Joe Biden a "weaker candidate than Hillary." (McClatchy DC)

  7. Trump will hold a rally in El Paso tonight at the same time as Beto O'Rourke. Trump will speak at a Make America Great Again rally at the El Paso County Coliseum at 7 p.m. Mountain time, while O'Rourke and his supporters will meet at Bowie High School at 5 p.m., and then march to Chalio Acosta Sports Center. He will also begin speaking at 7 p.m. (New York Times)


✏️ Notables.

  1. The brother of Jeff Bezos' mistress leaked the text messages to the National Enquirer. AMI has previously refused to identify the source of the texts, but a lawyer for the company hinted that Michael Sanchez was behind the leak. Elkan Abramowitz also said the exposé of Bezos' extramarital affair was not "inspired by the White House, inspired by Saudi Arabia or inspired by The Washington Post," and insisted that neither the kingdom nor Trump leaked the messages. Abramowitz denied Bezos' allegations that the parent company of the National Enquirer attempted to extort and blackmail CEO, saying it "absolutely is not extortion and not blackmail." (Daily Beast / Politico / ABC News)

  2. The publisher of the National Enquirer asked the Justice Department last year if it should register as a foreign agent after it sought financial backing from Saudi investors and produced a magazine celebrating the country's new crown prince. American Media previously went to the Saudis to finance a failed effort to acquire Time magazine, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money. (Wall Street Journal)

  3. Trump is expected to sign an executive order launching the American Artificial Intelligence initiative to bolster American leadership in the field. (CNN)

  4. Trump's personal physician declared that the president is in "very good health" and should remain so "for the remainder of his presidency and beyond." Last year, Trump's then-physician noted the president's "excellent health" and "incredible genes," joking that Trump "might live to be 200 years old" if he improved his diet. (New York Times / CNN)

Day 750: No crimes whatsoever.

1/ The acting attorney general told the House Judiciary Committee that he has not spoken to Trump about Robert Mueller's investigation. Matthew Whitaker testified that while he had "not interfered in any way" with the special counsel investigation, he wouldn't discuss his "private conversations" with Trump. Meanwhile, Doug Collins, the ranking Republican on the committee, accused Democrats of engaging in "political theater" and a "character assassination" against both Whitaker and Trump. (New York Times / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Bloomberg)

  • After being asked if he had ever been asked to approve any moves by Mueller's team, Whitaker told Chairman Jerry Nadler "I see that your five minutes is up." Whitaker didn't answer the question directly, but added: "I'm here voluntarily. I agreed to five-minute rounds." (Daily Beast)

2/ Mueller's team accused Paul Manafort of lying to them about "an extremely sensitive issue" in hopes of increasing "his chances for a pardon." Prosecutors allege that Manafort worked on Ukrainian political matters from August 2016 to December 2018 – after his first indictment by the special counsel in 2017 – and that he tried to avoid providing information that could be damaging to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort business partner in Ukraine. Prosecutors believe Kilimnik is connected with Russian intelligence. Kilimnik also attended Trump's inauguration. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / CNN)

  • A federal judge ordered the Justice Department to release redacted versions of its Michael Cohen search warrant and other documents related to the FBI's April 2018 raid. (Politico)

3/ Rod Rosenstein privately complained that Trump ordered him to write the memo justifying the firing of James Comey. Rosenstein made the remarks in a private meeting at the Justice Department on May 12, 2017, according to Andrew McCabe, who also said that Rosenstein believed the White House used him as a scapegoat for Comey's dismissal. At the time, Sean Spicer denied that Trump had directed Rosenstein to write a justification for firing Comey, saying: "It was all [Rosenstein]." (The Guardian)

4/ Ivanka Trump has "zero concerns" about any of her "loved ones" being caught up in Mueller's Russia investigation. She also insisted that the Trump Tower project in Russia – pursued during the 2016 campaign – is overblown and "there's nothing there." (Politico / Washington Post)


Notables.

  • Trump has appointed at least eight people to senior posts in his administration who are either current or former members at Mar-a-Lago. Becoming a member of one of Trump's clubs can cost $100,000 or more in initiation fees, plus thousands more each year in dues. (USA Today)

  • The Supreme Court blocked a Louisiana law that could have left the state with only one doctor eligible in a single clinic authorized to provide abortions. The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court's four liberals. Only Brett Kavanaugh published a dissent. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • House and Senate negotiators are close to a possible border security agreement that would fund new technology, additional border patrol agents, and fencing in certain areas along the southern border. The agreement could offer Trump between $1.3 billion and around $2 billion in funding for border security, but there is no mention of funding for a wall. Trump has told allies he would grudgingly accept a figure of around $2 billion. (New York Times / Washington Examiner)

  • Trump's inauguration committee overpaid to use event spaces at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., despite internal objections at the Trump Organization that the rates were too high. The committee was charged a rate of $175,000 per day. An event planner, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, suggested that an appropriate rate would be closer to $85,000 per day. Tax law prohibits nonprofits from paying inflated prices to entities that are owned by people who also control the nonprofit. (ProPublica)


The Showdown: 🤜 Bezos vs A.M.I. 🤛

I'd rather not be talking about dick pics, but this is such a weird story that reaches back into the Trump administration in unexpected ways. So I guess I'll include. Happy Friday…

  1. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, accused National Enquirer's publisher of "extortion and blackmail" for threatening to release embarrassing photos of him. In a blog post, Bezos laid out a theory that covers international politics, White House politics, nude photos, and text messages. Trump is longtime friends with American Media's chief executive, David Pecker. Trump has repeatedly tweeted about the "Amazon Washington Post," because of Bezos' ownership of the paper and what Trump claims is unfair coverage.

  2. Bezos launched an investigation to determine how the Enquirer obtained his personal text messages for the initial article it published about the affair.

  3. Gavin de Becker, the Amazon chief's personal security consultant, confirmed that his probe was looking at Michael Sanchez, the brother of Bezos mistress Lauren Sanchez, who is also a personal and business associate of Roger Stone, Carter Page, and Scottie Nell Hughes. "Michael Sanchez has been among the people we've been speaking with and looking at," De Becker said, but added that "strong leads point to political motives." (Daily Beast / Washington Post)

  4. Sanchez offered several of theories to explain how the texts between Bezos and his sister made it to the Enquirer. He suggested that foreign governments were spying on Bezos, or that the "deep state" – specifically the National Security Agency – may have been responsible for obtaining text messages from Bezos' phone. (Washington Post / Daily Beast)

  5. American Media demanded that Bezos call off his investigators, instructing Bezos to state publicly that he had "no knowledge or basis for suggesting that [American Media's] coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces." The tabloid threatened to keep his photos on hand and publish them in the future "if we ever deviate from [the] lie."

  6. Bezos suggested that the Washington Post's reporting about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi may have made him a target of Pecker, saying "It's unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy." The CIA concluded that the murder was likely ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (The Guardian)

  7. A.M.I. engaged in talks with Saudi financiers to help shore up its debt-laden business last year. (Wall Street Journal)

  8. American Media entered into a deal with federal prosecutors last year where Pecker and Chief Content Officer Dylan Howard cooperate with authorities, and acknowledge that the Enquirer worked with the Trump campaign to kill stories "about the presidential candidate's relationships with women": the former Playboy model Karen McDougal and the porn star Stormy Daniels. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  9. The agreement stipulated that A.M.I, "shall commit no crimes whatsoever" for three years, and that if it did, "A.M.I. shall thereafter be subject to prosecution for any federal criminal violation of which this office has knowledge." (New York Times / Bloomberg)

  10. American Media said it "believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos" and that it was acting in "good-faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him." (Wall Street Journal)

  11. Federal prosecutors are reviewing the National Enquirer's handling of its story about Bezos to determine if the company violated the cooperation agreement. (Bloomberg)

Day 749: Political hack.

1/ The Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to approve William Barr's nomination to become attorney general and succeed Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker. All 12 Republicans on the panel voted for Barr, while all 10 Democrats voted against him. Democrats cited an unsolicited memo Barr wrote last year to Rod Rosenstein objecting to the obstruction of justice aspect of the Mueller probe was "fatally misconceived" and that "Mueller should not be permitted to demand that the President submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction." Barr also argued that Trump firing James Comey, and before that asking Comey to stop the investigation into Michael Flynn were within his powers as head of the executive branch. A final vote on Barr's nomination in the full Senate is expected next week. (ABC News / CNN / Reuters / NPR)

2/ Whitaker won't testify before the House Judiciary Committee unless he receives a written assurance that he won't be served with a subpoena. Whitaker's threat came after the committee voted to give Chairman Jerry Nadler the authority to subpoena Whitaker for testimony if he didn't appear or answer questions at Friday's planned oversight hearing. Democrats have until 6 p.m. today to respond. (CNN / Washington Post / Axios / Globe and Mail / New York Times)

3/ The Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight met to examine the process for obtaining Trump's tax returns. One law they're looking at from 1924 allows the chairman of the tax-writing subcommittee to privately review anyone's tax returns. Once they secure the documents, the committee would need a majority vote in order to release them to the public. (ABC News)

4/ Trump complained about the wave of oversight investigations into his administration launched by the new Democratic majority in the House, claiming that he's being subjected to "unlimited presidential harassment" that "Never happened before!" to previous presidents. Trump tweeted that there was "no reason" for the House Intelligence Committee to open an investigation into whether his decision-making as president is motivated by financial gain, while calling Adam Schiff a "political hack." (Politico / NBC News / New York Times)

  • Trump is reportedly "furious" at Schiff for trying to hire White House employees to help with the House Intelligence Committee's oversight of the president. Schiff has already hired one former career official at the National Security Council, Abigail Grace, who left the White House last year. A second career employee detailed to the Trump White House is also considering joining the staff. Trump called the committee "nuts" and "a continuation of Witch Hunt!" (Bloomberg / CNN)

  • The Republican Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said that "based on the evidence to date" the committee could not definitively say there was collusion between Trump and the Russians. Burr was Trump's national security adviser during the campaign. (CBS News / Politico)

  • 📌Day 748: The House Intelligence Committee voted to send more than 50 witness interview transcripts from its Russia investigation to Robert Mueller, who could use them to then prosecute potential perjury or obstruction of justice by Trump associates. Among the transcripts are testimonies by Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner. Mueller has already prosecuted Michael Flynn for lying to both the House and Senate intelligence panels about the failed Trump Tower Moscow project. Mueller has also charged Roger Stone with lying to the House Intelligence Committee. (Politico / ABC News)

  • 📌 Day 748: The House Intelligence Committee will also "investigate any credible allegation" into whether Trump's financial interests are driving his decision-making process. Chairman Adam Schiff announced that the committee would look "beyond Russia" and will examine "whether any foreign actor has sought to compromise or holds leverage, financial or otherwise, over Donald Trump, his family, his business, or his associates." (CNN)

poll/ 87% of Americans say Robert Mueller's investigators should produce a full, public report on their findings. 48% believe that Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government to help get him elected. (CNN)

poll/ 40% of voters approved of the job Trump is doing as president – a record low. 55% disapprove. (Morning Consult)


Notables.

  1. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey released an outline for the "Green New Deal," which would set a "10-year national mobilization" to shift away from fossil fuels by "upgrading all existing buildings" in the country for energy efficiency, work with farmers "to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions," and overhaul the transportation systems to reduce emissions, as well as develop national health care coverage, add job guarantees, and more. The resolution is not likely to go before the House for a vote, and there's little chance of a Green New Deal getting a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. Parts of the plan, however, could be turned into legislation to address climate change. (NPR / Politico / New York Times)

  2. The Southern District of New York is still investigating Michael Cohen, acknowledging in a court filing that "aspects" of the investigation involving Cohen "remain ongoing." Judge William Pauley partially unsealed documents pertaining to the April 9, 2018, raid of Cohen's home, office and hotel room. Pauley said there are other subjects of the ongoing investigation beyond Cohen. (CNN)

  3. The boyfriend of Russian spy Maria Butina was indicted by a federal grand jury for wire fraud and money laundering. Paul Erickson was arrested and pled "not guilty" to charges that allege he used a chain of assisted living homes, called Compass Care, to run a criminal scheme from 1996 to 2018. He also allegedly defrauded his investors using a company called Investing with Dignity and claiming to be "in the business of developing a wheelchair that allowed people to go to the bathroom without being lifted out of the wheelchair." The indictment also alleges that Erickson fraudulently claimed to be building homes in the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. His case is separate from the case against Butina in Washington, D.C. (Daily Beast)

  4. Trump will not meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a March 1 deadline to achieve a trade deal. (Reuters)

  5. The U.S. military will pull all American forces out of Syria by the end of April, despite the Trump administration having no plan to protect its Kurdish partners when they leave. (Wall Street Journal)

  6. The Trump administration plans to roll back Obama-era restrictions on payday lenders and vehicle title loans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants to get rid of a rule that requires payday lenders and others who provide "Certain High-Cost Installment Loans" to try and find out if borrowers can afford to pay back the loans before making them. The rollback happened just after Trump replaced the previous CFPB director with Mick Mulvaney, who now serves as acting White House Chief of Staff. (NBC News / Politico)

  7. New rules by the Trump administration will make it easier for U.S. weapons manufacturers to export semi-automatic weapons, flamethrowers, and some grenades overseas. Manufacturers will no longer need to obtain licenses from the State Department in order to sell certain weapons to foreign countries. Instead, they'll only need to get a no-fee license from the Commerce Department. (NBC News)

  8. T-Mobile executives involved in the company's merger with Sprint last year have booked more than 52 nights at Trump's D.C. hotel since then. Newly obtained records from the hotel show T-Mobile executives booked more nights than previously reported, sometimes staying in rooms that cost up to $2,246 per night. Trump still owns the hotel, despite turning day-to-day control over to his sons Eric and Don Jr. (Washington Post)

  9. Trump appealed to religious leaders with anti-abortion comments during the national prayer breakfast, saying "All children, born and unborn, are made in the holy image of God," and that "Every life is sacred, and every soul is a precious gift from heaven." (Washington Post / ABC News)

  10. A former Fox News reporter is expected to be appointed to lead the State Department's efforts to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation. Lea Gabrielle was the general assignment reporter for "Shepard Smith Reporting." She is expected to be officially named the special envoy and coordinator of the Global Engagement Center this week. (CNN)

Day 748: Doesn't work that way.

1/ Nancy Pelosi declared that House Democrats would not be intimidated by Trump's "all-out threat" during his State of the Union to stop investigating his administration. Pelosi called it Democrats' "congressional responsibility" to investigate Trump, "and if we didn't do it, we would be delinquent in that." During his address, Trump claimed that "If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation." He added: "It just doesn't work that way!" Pelosi called Trump's rhetoric a false choice. (New York Times)

  • 🔥 State of the Union Hot Takes.

  • Trump gave his second State of the Union speech last night. He started by calling for unity and bipartisanship, before launching into attacks on Robert Mueller's investigation, calls for Congress to fund his border wall, and plans to enact a new ban on abortion. Democrats responded by calling the speech "sickening," "shameful," and "inappropriate." Sen. Mazie Hirono simply replied, "WTF." Republicans, meanwhile, erupted into chants of "USA! USA! USA!" during the speech and largely curbed whatever criticisms they had in once it was over. (Politico)

  • The audience for the SOTU address was deeply Republican, the most partisan audience since 2001. The slant in the audience led to largely positive reviews from those who watched – about 6 in 10 viewers had a positive reaction to the speech. The positive remarks were cut down party and demographic lines. (CNN)

  • On Trump's big applause line, the sound of silence was stunning (NBC News)

  • Trump presented a false choice between investigations and prosperity, warning House Democrats that "If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. … We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction." (Washington Post)

  • "They know it's his party": Despite tensions with Trump, GOP lawmakers roar with approval for their president (Washington Post)

  • Why Trump's zigzagging speech made perfect sense (Politico)

  • Trump Asks for Unity, but Presses Hard Line on Immigration (New York Times)

  • State of the Union Fact Check: What Trump Got Right and Wrong (New York Times)

  • In dissonant State of the Union speech, Trump seeks unity while depicting ruin (Washington Post)

2/ The House Intelligence Committee voted to send more than 50 witness interview transcripts from its Russia investigation to Robert Mueller, who could use them to then prosecute potential perjury or obstruction of justice by Trump associates. Among the transcripts are testimonies by Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner. Mueller has already prosecuted Michael Flynn for lying to both the House and Senate intelligence panels about the failed Trump Tower Moscow project. Mueller has also charged Roger Stone with lying to the House Intelligence Committee. (Politico / ABC News)

  • Mueller referred to "uncharged individuals" in recent court filings aimed at restricting some evidence from defendants in Russia. Legal analysts believe the language indicates federal prosecutors are investigating additional subjects linked to the Russian troll farm and the Paul Manafort cases and more people could be indicted as part of the special counsel investigation. (The Hill)

3/ The House Intelligence Committee will also "investigate any credible allegation" into whether Trump's financial interests are driving his decision-making process. Chairman Adam Schiff announced that the committee would look "beyond Russia" and will examine "whether any foreign actor has sought to compromise or holds leverage, financial or otherwise, over Donald Trump, his family, his business, or his associates." (CNN)

4/ Michael Cohen's testimony before the House Intelligence Committee has been delayed "in the interests of the investigation." It's the second time Cohen's planned testimony has been rescheduled. Cohen canceled his scheduled appearance before Oversight and Government Reform citing threats Trump made to his family. The Senate Intelligence Committee has also issued Cohen a subpoena to compel his testimony on Feb. 12, while the House Oversight Committee is still negotiating about a public appearance before that panel. (Washington Post / Politico / CNN)

5/ Global temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest on record, according to scientists at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The 2018 average global temperature was 1.5F warmer than average, placing it behind 2016, 2017 and 2015. Collectively, the last five years have been the five warmest years since modern measurements began. "We're no longer talking about a situation where global warming is something in the future. It's here. It's now." (New York Times / The Guardian / Politico)

  • Climate change and natural disasters killed at least 247 people and cost the U.S. an estimated $91 billion in 2018. Since 1980, the U.S. has experienced 241 weather and climate disasters where the overall damage reached or exceeded $1 billion. (Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 733: 73% of Americans believe that climate change is real– a jump of 10 percentage points from 2015, and three points since last March. 72% also said that global warming is personally important to them. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 685: Global emissions of carbon dioxide have reached the highest levels on record. Global emissions grew 1.6% in 2017 with 2018 expected to increase 2.7%. The U.S. is the world's second-largest emitter of carbon emissions, but that hasn't stopped the Trump administration from moving to roll back regulations designed to limit those emissions from vehicle tailpipes and power-plant smokestacks. As United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said this week at the opening of the 24th annual U.N. climate conference: "We are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with climate change." (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 676: The National Climate Assessment concludes that global warming is already "transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us." The findings from the landmark scientific report, issued by 13 federal agencies, are at odds with the Trump administration's environmental deregulation agenda, which Trump claims will lead to economic growth, and its plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. The report predicts that the effects of global warming could eliminate as much as 10% of the U.S. economy by the end of the century, and warns that humans must act aggressively now "to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades." The first report, released in November 2017, concluded that there is "no convincing alternative explanation" for the changing climate other than "human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases." Trump recently questioned the science of climate change, saying that "I don't know that it's man-made" and that the warming trend "could very well go back." (New York Times / Associated Press / Washington Post / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 627: A U.N. report on the effects of climate change predicts a strong risk of an environmental crisis much sooner than expected. The report finds that the atmosphere could warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, which would cause sea levels to rise, intensify droughts, wildfires, and poverty, and cause a mass die-off of coral reefs. To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and fully eliminated by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40% today to between 1% and 7% by 2050. Renewable energy would have to increase to about 67%. Trump has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, vowing to increase the burning of coal, and he intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement. The world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark and "there is no documented historic precedent" for the scale of changes required, the report said. (New York Times / Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Trump has attended 17 intelligence briefings over the last 85 days and does not regularly read the Presidential Daily Brief prepared for him. From Nov. 7, 2018 to Feb. 1, 2019, Trump announced his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and quit a nuclear arms treaty with Russia. (NBC News)

  2. Russia is developing new hypersonic missiles that travel at more than five times the speed of sound and will be "invincible" in response to Trump's decision to pull out of the nuclear arms treaty. The new hypersonic missile is expected to be ready by 2021. (New York Times / NPR)

  3. During a private lunch with TV news anchors, Trump attacked prominent Democrats, calling Joe Biden "dumb," Chuck Schumer a "nasty son of a bitch," and saying that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam "choked like a dog" when he tried to explain the racist photo in his medical school yearbook. Trump also repeated his slur against Elizabeth Warren: "I hope I haven't wounded Pocahontas too badly,” Trump said. "I'd like to run against her." (New York Times)

  4. Trump nominated a critic of the World Bank to be the next president of the World Bank. David Malpass, the Treasury under secretary for international affairs, has made past statements critical of the World Bank and multilateral institutions broadly. In 2007, Malpass wrote that the U.S. economy was "sturdy and will grow solidly in coming months, and perhaps years." Malpass worked at Bear Stearns as its chief economist at the time. (ABC News / NPR)

  5. Archival footage shows Trump meeting with officials in Russia in the 1990s to discuss a potential building project in Russia. The video was allegedly aired by Russian state TV in 1995, and shows Trump meeting with members of the former mayor of Moscow's administration. "He had contacts," former mayor Yury Luzhkov said, "on matters related to the construction of the Okhotny Ryad underground mall on Manezh Square." The video was apparently discovered by someone who had been "going through the Russian TV archives." Trump has said on multiple occasions that "I have nothing to do with Russia. I don't have any jobs in Russia. I'm all over the world but we're not involved in Russia." (The Independent)

  6. Trump wanted $20 million up front for the right to use the Trump name on a Moscow development in 2006. Trump was willing to accept a $4 million upfront branding fee and a cut of profits in his 2015 and 2016 efforts to build a Moscow tower. (Bloomberg)

Day 747: Hysteria.

1/ Federal prosecutors in New York requested interviews with Trump Organization executives. New York federal prosecutors are running at least two investigations into Trump-related entities: the first centers on Cohen's possible campaign-finance violations for the hush-money payments made or organized to silence women who claimed affairs with Trump. The second concerns the Trump inaugural committee. (CNN)

2/ Trump's inaugural committee was ordered to turn over documents related to donations and spending following a subpoena by the Southern District of New York. Federal prosecutors are seeking all information about donors, vendors, contractors, bank accounts, and foreign contributors related to the inaugural committee, which raised a record $107 million – more than twice the amount raised to fund Obama's 2009 inaugural. Federal prosecutors are also seeking documents related to a Los Angeles venture capitalist, Imaad Zuberi, who gave $900,000 to the committee through his private-equity firm, Avenue Ventures, and once registered as a foreign agent working on behalf of the Sri Lankan government. The subpoena suggests that SDNY prosecutors are investigating crimes related to conspiracy to defraud the U.S., mail fraud, false statements, wire fraud, and money laundering. The investigation is being led by the public corruption unit of the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office, and grew out of the probe into Michael Cohen's business dealings. Cohen has since pleaded guilty to eight charges and has been sentenced to three years in prison. (Washington Post / ABC News / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

3/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed the Trump inaugural committee subpoena "has nothing to do with the White House," as she deferred questions to the committee, which is a separate entity from the White House. Sanders also dismissed the notion that Trump is a common factor in his inner circle's legal issues, arguing instead that "the common thread is a hysteria over the fact that this president became president." (Politico)

4/ SDNY prosecutors have been interviewing witnesses about foreign money flowing to three lobbying firms recruited by Paul Manafort to improve the image of the Russia-aligned president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, seven years ago. Mercury Public Affairs, the Podesta Group and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom are being scrutinized for representing foreign governments without registering as foreign agents. The case was originally referred by Mueller's investigation. (New York Times)

  • Manafort will be sentenced on March 13th on the two charges he pleaded guilty to: conspiracy and witness tampering. (CNN)

5/ Trump and Jared Kushner met with contractors at the White House to discuss building the border wall last week, despite senior Senate Republicans and members of GOP leadership raising concerns about Trump bypassing Congress and using an emergency declaration to build his wall. "Listen closely to the State of the Union," Trump said when asked if he was ready to announce a national emergency. (CNN)

👑 State of the Union: A Reader's Guide. Trump will deliver his second State of the Union address at 9 p.m. Eastern Time tonight. Here's what you need to know:

  1. Trump will deliver his address in the wake of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Democrats have taken the House, funding for the border wall is still off the table, Trump continues to be hounded by the Robert Mueller investigation, and his approval rating remains around 40%. (CNN)

  2. The theme of Trump's address is expected to be "Choosing Greatness" where he'll announce a plan to stop transmission of H.I.V. by 2030, make the case for an immigration "crisis," appeal to Republicans on abortion, justify reducing troop levels in Syria and Afghanistan, and more. (New York Times)

  3. Trump is expected to call for bipartisan cooperation amid a Congress divided over his demand for border wall funding, which has resulted in a 35-day partial government shutdown. (Washington Post)

  4. 6 things to watch for: wall demands, Democrats, Pelosi, guests, Kavanaugh, and unexpected events. (Washington Post)

  5. 5 things to know about the economy before Trump's State of the Union: the GOP tax cut benefits were a mirage, the stock market has been unstable in recent months, Trump's trade wars have hurt nearly every sector of the economy, and more. (Vox)


✏️Notables.

  1. The commander of U.S. Central Command "was not consulted" prior to Trump's announcement to withdraw troops from Syria. Gen. Joseph Votel oversees military operations in the Middle East and said that the fight against the terror group is "not over" and warned ISIS could regroup after US troops leave. (CNN)

  2. Trump's four trips to Mar-a-Lago in March and February 2017 cost the government nearly $14 million. The government also paid roughly $600,000 to Trump's Palm Beach property. (ABC News)

  3. The Trump Organization has fired at least 18 undocumented workers from five golf courses following reports about the clubs employing workers without legal status. (Washington Post)

  4. A bipartisan group of Senators are trying to limit Trump's existing authority to impose tariffs unilaterally on national security grounds. The bill would require congressional approval to impose trade restrictions for national security reasons. (CNN)

  5. The Treasury Department plans to drag the expected Democratic request for Trump's tax returns into a series of legal arguments. The Internal Revenue Code gives the three congressional committees responsible for taxes the ability to request the returns of any individual or business, but a related section within the Code says leaking tax information is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. (Politico)

Day 746: Willful ignorance.

1/ Trump said he doesn't "have to agree" with his intelligence chiefs on worldwide threats. Trump, agitated after intelligence officials contradicted him several times during congressional testimony last week, said he wants "them to give me their opinion," but not to share them publicly with Congress. Trump later called the intelligence officials naive and suggested they might need to go back to "school." Senior intelligence analysts who prepare Trump's briefs and the briefers themselves say Trump displays "willful ignorance" when presented with analysis, and that the use of visual aids, confining briefings to two or three sentences, and repeating his name and title as frequently as possible all fail to keep his attention. Two intelligence officers say they have been warned to avoid giving Trump intelligence assessments that contradict stances he has taken in public. (CBS News / Time)

2/ Trump won't commit to making Robert Mueller's final report public, and that he doesn't know if he wants the report made public at all, saying "it depends" on "what it's going to say." Trump did say that while he believes it's time to "get rid of the Russia witch hunt," he would leave the decision "totally up to the attorney general." William Barr, Trump's nominee for attorney general, said during his confirmation hearing that the public might see a summary report from the attorney general on Mueller's conclusions and not the full special counsel's report. (NBC News / New York Times / ABC News)

3/ Trump claimed to have "set the table beautifully" for his next fight with Democrats over his border wall, indicating that he will declare a national emergency on Feb. 15th, to secure funding for a wall. Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, privately advised Trump about the consequences of declaring a national emergency to build his border wall. (The Guardian / Washington Post)

  • The Trump administration said that reuniting thousands of separated migrant children may not be "within the realm of the possible." Health and Human Services officials said they don't know the exact number of children taken from their parents and that finding them would be too much of a "burden." (NBC News / HuffPost)

4/ Trump spent about nearly 60% of his time in unstructured "Executive Time." According to a leaked copy of his private schedule for the past three months, Trump usually spends the first five hours of the day in the White House residence watching TV and reading the news, and then calling advisers to discuss what he's seen and read. Trump's first meeting of the day usually starts around 11:30am. Trump has spent almost 300 hours in executive time and 77 hours in scheduled meetings since the midterms. (Axios / NBC News / The Guardian)

  • For the first time in 69 days, Trump had a chance to play a round of golf. He was joined by Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. (Yahoo Sports)

5/ The White House claimed that Trump's tan is the result of "good genes" and not due to a spray-tan booth or the use of a tanning bed. According to three people who have spent time in the White House residence, there is no bed or booth in the residence, the East Wing, or on Air Force One. Two senior White House officials also insisted that no such devices exists. (New York Times)

  • Trump's annual physical exam is next week. Last year, Trump's physician described the president as being in "excellent health" despite revealing that he was borderline obese and has a common form of heart disease. (CNN)

6/ Deutsche Bank refused to give Trump a loan during his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump was funding his campaign and expanding his business group's collection of properties at the same time. The Trump Organization specifically wanted a loan against a Miami property to fund work on the Turnberry golf course in Scotland. A 2018 financial disclosure, Trump owed at least $130 million to Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, a unit of the German bank. The decision came down to senior bank officials worrying about what would happen if Trump won the election and then defaulted on the loan. Deutsche Bank would then have to choose between not collecting on the debt or seizing the assets of the president of the United States. (New York Times / CNBC)

  • Maryland prosecutors have subpoenaed financial documents from Trump's golf courses in Scotland. The document request is part of an investigation into whether Trump has violated the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution by profiting from his businesses, including Trump Turnberry and Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. (Times of London / The Hill / Business Insider)

  • In late 2016, Deutsche Bank tried to shed a $600 million loan to VTB Group, a large Russian state-owned bank. The bank sold $300 million of the loan to another Russian financial institution, Alfa Bank, in December 2016. (Wall Street Journal)

  • European lawmakers will probe Deutsche Bank's possible involvement with money laundering by Danske Bank. (Politico)

  • A Russian-born lobbyist at the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 received half a million dollars in payments before and after the meeting. The large cash deposits to Rinat Akhmetshin were deemed suspicious transactions by bank investigators. (BuzzFeed News)

poll/ 38% of American want Trump to be re-elected in 2020, compared to 57% who say it is time for someone new in the Oval Office. (Monmouth University)


Notables.

  1. Trump plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq to monitor and pressure Iran. The U.S. has been quietly negotiating with Iraq for weeks to move hundreds of troops stationed in Syria to bases in Iraq so they can continue to attack ISIS strongholds from there. Iraqi President Barham Salih said Trump did not ask for permission to station more U.S. troops in his country to watch Iran. Iraq and Iran are allies. (New York Times / Reuters / CBC News)

  2. Pentagon will deploy approximately 3,750 additional troops to the Southern border to install wire barriers and monitor crossings. The new deployment will bring the number of active-duty troops there to around 6,000. The additional troops will be deployed for 90 days. (NPR / CNN / Reuters)

  3. Trump is expected to announce new uniformed leaders for the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. Trump also will formally nominate a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Wall Street Journal)

  4. Trump nominated a former oil lobbyist to head the Interior Department. David Bernhardt is current deputy chief of the Interior Department and would succeed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who resigned amid multiple scandals and ethics investigations. (New York Times / Politico)

  5. Putin ordered Russia's military to develop new medium-range missiles in response to the U.S. leaving a key Cold War nuclear arms treaty. (ABC News)

  6. Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler appointed several climate change deniers to its Science Advisory Board. Wheeler also appointed a scientist who argues for easing radiation regulations to lead the agency's radiation advisory committee. (Associated Press / CNN)

Day 743: The greatest loser.

1/ In a wide-ranging interview in the Oval Office, Trump called negotiating with Congress over his border wall "a waste of time" (again), brushed off the Russia investigation and claimed that Rod Rosenstein told him he was not a target in the probe, dismissed the importance of the proposed Trump Tower his team was trying to build in Moscow during the 2016 campaign, denied he ever spoke with Roger Stone about WikiLeaks and the stolen Democratic emails, and insisted that he played no role in Jared Kushner receiving a security clearance despite concerns by both the FBI and CIA. The interview was arranged after Trump reached out to A. G. Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, inviting him for an off-the-record dinner. Sulzberger initially declined, saying he would prefer an on-the-record interview that included two of his reporters. Trump agreed. During the interview, Trump told the Times "I love this job," but also complained that he's "lost massive amounts of money" since becoming president. He called the job of being president "one of the great losers of all time. You know, fortunately, I don't need money. This is one of the great losers of all time." [Editor's note: Just read the interview. Podcast and excerpt links below.] (New York Times)

  • 🎧 LISTEN: Trump spoke with the New York Times about the Russia investigation, the government shutdown, and his plans for border security. Trump also spoke about the role of a free press. (New York Times)

  • ✏️ EXCERPTS: Trump's Oval Office interview with two White House correspondents, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman. (New York Times)

  • ✏️ EXCERPTS: Trump about his "anti-press rhetoric." (New York Times)

2/ Trump took credit for popularizing the term "fake news," calling the news media "important" and "beautiful," but also "so bad" and "unfair." He called himself "a victim" of unfair coverage. (New York Times)

3/ Trump claimed that the Trump Tower Moscow development was "not important" and he was "not even sure they had a site." Hundreds of pages of business documents, emails, text messages, and architectural plans, however, show that the Trump Organization proposed building the skyscraper on an industrial complex near the Moscow River. Earlier this month, Rudy Giuliani also claimed that "No plans were ever made. There were no drafts. Nothing in the file." (BuzzFeed News)

  • 📌 Day 734: Rudy Giuliani claimed that "no plans were ever made" for Trump Tower Moscow, despite hundreds of pages of business documents, emails, text messages, and architectural plans proving otherwise. For instance, by September 2015, an architect had completed plans for a 100 story high tower, and when Trump signed a finalized letter of intent on Oct. 28 2015, the tower would have "approximately 250 first class, luxury residential condominiums" and "approximately 15 floors" and contain "not fewer than 150 hotel rooms." The Trump team also considered an option to open "The Spa By Ivanka Trump," as well as giving a "$50 million penthouse to Putin." Trump's lawyer characterized this by saying "the proposal was in the earliest stage" and later adding "There were no drafts. Nothing in the file." (BuzzFeed News)

4/ Trump Jr.'s mysterious phone calls ahead of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting were not with his father, according to new evidence obtained by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The same day Trump Jr. spoke on the phone with Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, whose father set up the June 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower, he also talked to two business associates who used blocked numbers – Brian France, the chief executive of Nascar, and the investor Howard Lorber, who has made significant investments in Russia. Lorber also traveled to Moscow in 1996 with Trump as they considered building a Trump Tower there. A spokesman for Lorber said the real estate developer "does not recall conversations with Donald Trump Jr. in the summer of 2016," and that Lorber never discussed "any Russian matters" with Trump Jr. (CNN / ABC News / New York Times / Washington Post)

5/ The U.S. will withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Russia has been violating the 1987 arms control treaty for more than five years, and the U.S. gave Russia 60 days to return to compliance in December. The treaty prohibits the U.S. and Russia from possessing any land-based cruise missiles with a range of 310 to 3,410 miles. (NBC News / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)

6/ Trump said he thinks "there's a good chance we will have to" declare a national emergency to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump has repeatedly suggested that he would declare a national emergency, which would likely be challenged in court, when the three-week continuing resolution ends on Feb. 15 – unless Congress strikes a deal to his liking. (Politico)

7/ About 3,500 additional active duty troops will deploy to the southern border, joining the 2,300 troops already there. The troops are expected to deploy in mid-February, and will build and reinforce about 160 miles of concertina wire. The Pentagon initially did not reveal the size of the increase during a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee. (CNN / ABC News)


✏️ Notables.

  1. Trump's reelection campaign spent $23 million in the last three months of 2018 driven by rallies and advertising – four times what it spent in previous quarters in 2018. (Politico)

  2. Billionaire Republican benefactors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson donated $500,000 to a legal defense fund set up to help pay the legal costs for Trump aides involved in the Mueller investigation. Each Adelson gave $250,000 to the fund on Oct. 1, 2018, during the height of the midterm elections. The Adelsons were also the largest contributors to GOP political campaigns and committees, making more than $100 million in donations to Republican candidates. (Politico)

  3. A pair of Democratic House lawmakers called on Mick Mulvaney to revoke Jared Kushner's security clearance. Kushner's clearance was initially rejected by career security specialists after his background check revealed potential avenues for foreign influence, but the rejections were overridden by a Trump-appointed supervisor. Kushner is just one of at least 30 cases in which the supervisor overruled career security experts and approved clearances for Trump administration officials. (The Hill)

  4. Foxconn will now move forward with the construction of its Wisconsin facility after a conversation with Trump. Earlier this week, Foxconn said the company would offer mostly researcher and engineering jobs in Wisconsin – not the blue collar manufacturing jobs that were originally promised and promoted by Trump. (Politico / Wall Street Journal / CNBC / Washington Post / New York Times)

  5. Trump will spend the weekend at Mar-a-Lago after complaining for two months about being cooped up in the White House. Trump is expected to dine at the owner's table on the patio and spend the afternoon at Trump International Golf Club, about a 15-minute motorcade drive away. (New York Times)


🗳So Presidential.

An occasional section of news and notes about the 2020 race.

  1. Cory Booker announced his bid for the presidency in 2020. The New Jersey senator made the announcement in a video posted to his social media account, laying out his vision for a country that will "channel our common pain back into our common purpose." (NBC News / New York Times / CNN / NPR / NJ.com / ABC News / Washington Post)

  2. Kellyanne Conway suggested that Booker is sexist because he's running against Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Tulsi Gabbard. "If he were a Republican running against them," Conway said, "they immediately would call him a sexist for running against these women in the Democratic field." (Politico)

  3. Elizabeth Warren apologized to the Cherokee Nation for taking a DNA test to prove her Native American ancestry. (New York Times)

  4. Howard Schultz faced protests in his hometown of Seattle before his planned event to promote the book and his possible candidacy. (My Northwest / New York Times)

Day 742: Waste of time.

1/ Trump called any bipartisan committee plan to avoid a government shutdown a "waste of time" if it doesn't include a border wall. In a barrage of tweets, Trump reiterated his demands for a wall and called the debate between fencing and a wall "political games," and insisting that "A WALL is a WALL!" He repeated his threat to declare a national emergency and transfer billions of dollars in previously allocated funds to build the wall, saying that "if there's no wall, it doesn't work." (CBS News / Bloomberg / Politico) / Washignton Post)

  • Trump blamed his inability to secure the funding for his wall on Paul Ryan, saying that Ryan promised him "in the strongest of terms" that if he signed the omnibus bill last year, then Ryan and congressional Republicans would get him the money for his border wall. "And then he went lame duck," Trump said, referring to Ryan's decision to retire. (CNN / Daily Caller)

2/ Pelosi to Trump: "There's not going to be any wall money in the legislation." Her comments came after Democrats detailed their border security proposal during a conference committee meeting that would provide no funds for a border wall, though it would add billions for technology and personnel. The border security measure totals nearly $22 billion for customs, border patrol, and immigration agents, includes increases in spending for scanners at ports of entry, humanitarian aid for detained migrants, and adds new aircraft to police the U.S.-Mexico border. The proposal would freeze the number of border patrol agents as well as block any future wall construction in wildlife refuges along the border. Pelosi called Trump's suggestion of trading temporary protection for DACA recipients for a permanent border wall a "non-starter." (NBC News)

3/ The White House is reportedly still working out the details for a potential national emergency declaration to secure Trump's border wall if Congress doesn't strike a deal before government funding runs out on Feb. 15th. A national emergency would enable Trump to take existing funds appropriated by Congress and use them for other purposes. The goal is to have a declaration ready to go if Trump decides to move on it, rather than scrambling to draw one up at the last minute. Trump has called the odds of a congressional deal "less than 50-50." (Politico / The Guardian)

4/ Trump pinky-promised that he won't intervene with the Justice Department's decision-making process about whether to release Robert Mueller's report on possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. "They'll have to make their decision within the Justice Department," Trump said, insisting that he hasn't spoken with acting AG Matthew Whitaker about the inquiry. Trump cautioned, however, that he "could've gotten involved in this. I could've terminated everything. I could've ended everything." (New York Times / Politico)

  • Mueller signaled to Roger Stone's defense lawyers that prosecutors could use Stone's bank records and years of personal communication as evidence in the case against him. Legal analysts believe that Mueller's listing of bank records as evidence suggests there will be additional charges against Stone. Mueller said his team seized "voluminous and complex" material from Stone last week, including "multiple hard drives containing several terabytes of information." (The Guardian / NBC News / Bloomberg)

poll/ 62% of Americans believe that Trump knew that people like Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort or others tried to conceal information from federal investigators. 50% believe that Trump personally asked people around him to provide misleading information about his businesses or Russian interference. (Monmouth University)


Notables.

  1. Federal immigration officials at a Texas detention facility are force-feeding six immigrants using nasal feeding tubes. ICE says 11 detainees at an El Paso facility have been on a hunger strike, some for more than a month. Nearly 30 detainees from India and Cuba have also refused to eat. The men stopped eating to protest the constant verbal abuse and threats of deportation from guards, as well as the lengthy lockups while waiting for their legal proceedings. The men who are being subjected to the nasal feeding tubes have been experiencing constant nose bleeds and are vomiting multiple times per day. (Associated Press / The Guardian)

  2. The Senate rebuked Trump's rationale for withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan, voting to declare that ISIS still poses a serious threat to the U.S. The 68-to-23 vote – backed by nearly every Senate Republican – is nonbinding and doesn't prevent Trump from pursuing his plans, but it puts congressional Republicans on the record as being at odds with Trump's Middle East policy. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  3. A White House security specialist was suspended less than a week after it was reported that Jared Kushner's top-secret security clearance was approved over career staff objections. Tricia Newbold was suspended without pay for failure to supervise, failure to follow instructions and defiance of authority. She had filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against supervisor Carl Kline three months ago for moving security files to a location that were too high and out of her reach. (NBC News)

  4. Nikki Haley is charging $200,000 to give speeches. The former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. also requires the use of a private jet to get to her speaking engagements. (CNBC)

  5. The Treasury Department pushed back against claims that Steve Mnuchin had a conflict of interest when he decided to lift sanctions against a Russian oligarch's businesses. The letter claimed that Mnuchin didn't sell his stake in RPDE (RatPac-Dune Entertainment) to Len Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born oligarch, and that there was "no business conversations whatsoever" between Mnuchin and Blavatnik related to the Treasury Department's decision to lift the sanctions. (ABC News)

  6. The Bureau of Land Management will move forward with the sale of oil and gas leases near Chaco Culture National Historical Park and other sacred Native American sites. BLM officials have faced criticism for pushing ahead with the drilling permit reviews and energy lease preparations despite the government shutdown. (Associated Press)

  7. Mitch McConnell called a bill to make Election Day a federal holiday a "power grab" by Democrats that would "victimize" taxpayers by making it easier to vote. The bill would also prohibit the purging of voter rolls and would require presidential and vice-presidential candidates to release their tax returns, require states to form independent redistricting commissions, and create a matching system for small-dollar donations to congressional candidates. [Editor's note: 🙄](Washington Post)

Day 741: Back to school.

1/ Trump attacked the U.S. intelligence community, claiming they're being "extremely passive and naive" and suggesting his intel chiefs need to "go back to school" because "they are wrong!" The outburst comes a day after senior American intelligence officials briefed Congress on their 2019 worldwide threat assessment, directly contradicted Trump on several of his foreign policy priorities, including Iran, North Korea, Syria, and ISIS. Trump, however, made no mention of Russia, which Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said was likely to target the 2020 elections. (Politico / New York Times / Reuters / CNN)

2/ Trump met Putin at the G20 summit in November without a U.S. translator, notetaker, or staff member present. Melania Trump, however, was there, as well as Putin's own translator. The White House had previously said meeting was one of several "informal" talks, but didn't disclose that Trump did not have any official members of his team present. The Russian government said Trump and Putin spoke for roughly 15 minutes about various foreign policy issues, including an incident in the Azov Sea and the war in Syria. (Financial Times / Vox)

  • 📌 Day 725: 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)

3/ Trump Jr. met with a firm that gamed out how a foreign government could meddle in the U.S. political process. After Trump became the Republican nominee, Trump Jr. met with Wikistrat founder Joel Zamel to discuss simulations the firm conducted in 2015 about how illicit efforts could shape American politics. In April 2016, Rick Gates reviewed a plan by a company called Psy Group, which Zamel reportedly owns. The plan echoed both the real election interference by Russia as well as the scenario Wikistrat had gamed out. It's unclear if the Psy Group plans ever went forward, with some former employees saying Gates never pursued the campaign, while others said part of the plan was carried out. Wikistrat has been questioned by Robert Mueller's team. (Daily Beast)

4/ Russians leaked more than 1,000 files Robert Mueller's office shared confidentially with indicted Russian hackers in an attempt to discredit the investigation into interference in the 2016 election. According to Mueller's court filing, the names and structure of folders containing the leaked files matched those used by the special counsel's office when it shared the data with Concord Management. The files appeared to have been uploaded to a filesharing site, which confirmed to the FBI that the account was registered in Russia. A pro-Russian Twitter account used the information as part of a disinformation campaign. (The Guardian / NBC News / CNN)

5/ The NRA claimed "they played no official role" in a December 2015 trip to Moscow to meet with Russian nationals despite internal NRA emails and photos showing that the organization was significantly involved in the planning. Emails show that alleged Russian agent Maria Butina helped make travel arrangements for the NRA delegation, as well as organizing the meetings with senior Kremlin officials. One email suggested that the NRA would pay for travel expenses and provide "gifts" to their Russian hosts. In another, Butina told the delegation she'd meet them at the airport with "a big red sign saying Welcome NRA." The NRA met with Butina and her Russian handler, Alexander Torshin, who was Deputy Governor of the Russian Central Bank at the time and later sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury, Dmitry Rogozin, then-Russian Deputy Prime Minister who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury in 2014, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, a member of Putin's inner circle. (ABC News)

6/ Democrats in Congress raised ethical concerns that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin decision to lift sanctions on a Russian oligarch was a conflict of interest. The Treasury Department repeatedly postponed implementing sanctions against Oleg Deripaska's companies, and later lifted them entirely after striking a deal to restructure the companies. Len Blavatnik is a major investor in Deripaska's aluminum company, Rusal, as well as a major Republican National Committee donor, where Mnuchin served as finance chairman for Trump's 2016 campaign. (New York Times)

poll/ 31% of voters support shutting the government down again over funding for Trump's border wall, while 58% oppose another government shutdown generally. If the government shuts down again, a combined 54% would blame Trump and Republicans, while 33% would blame congressional Democrats. (Politico-Morning Consult)

poll/ 37% of the 2020 electorate will be made up of Millennials and Generation Z. By comparison, Baby Boomers and older generations – those who will be ages 56 and older next year – are also expected to account for 37% of the electorate. Generation X, who will be ages 39 to 55 next year, are expected to make up 25% of the electorate. (Pew Research Center)


Notables.

  1. The Pentagon is preparing to send "several thousand" additional troops to the southern border at the request of the Department of Homeland Security. DHS officials asked for more troops to help put up concertina wire and conduct border surveillance operations. Roughly 2,300 active-duty troops are currently deployed to the southern border – down from 5,900 in November. An additional 2,200 National Guard troops are also currently deployed to the border. (Politico)

  2. Democrats and Republicans will meet on an exclusive committee for the first time today to begin negotiations over border security funding. The committee has less than three weeks to strike a deal before parts of the government are shut down again. The group has jurisdiction over the language of a bill that would fund DHS, but some Republicans have suggested the group should expand the negotiations to include immigration policy more broadly. (ABC News)

  3. A group of House lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill to withhold pay from the president, vice president and members of Congress during government shutdowns. The Solidarity in Salary Act of 2019 aims to "prevent and limit the duration of future shutdowns and ensure that lawmakers feel the harm they cause federal employees when they fail to fund the government." (The Hill)

  4. The Trump Organization will start using E-Verify after it was reported that its golf club in New York employed undocumented immigrants for years. During the 2016 campaign, Trump claimed he used E-Verify across his properties. E-Verify is a federal program to check whether new hires are legally eligible to work in the U.S. (Washington Post)

  5. Sarah Huckabee Sanders: God "wanted Donald Trump to become president, and that's why he's there." (CNN)

Day 740: Regime survival.

1/ Trump dismissed climate change as a hoax, calling for "global warming" to "come back fast" as a dangerous deep freeze hits the Midwest where a polar vortex is expected to drop temperatures to negative 30F with the wind chill driving temperatures as low as negative 50F or 60F — the lowest in more than two decades. Roughly 83 million Americans – about 25% of the U.S. population – will experience temperatures below zero this week. Weather and climate are two different things: Weather is what you experience in the moment, while climate is the broader trend. Trump's tweet, asking "What the hell is going on with Global Waming?" – misspelling "warming" – suggests he doesn't understand the difference between climate and weather. In 2017, Trump also tweeted that the U.S. could use some "good old Global Warming" while most of the Northeast was experiencing record-breaking cold weather. (Chicago Tribune / Vox / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 733: 73% of Americans believe that climate change is real– a jump of 10 percentage points from 2015, and three points since last March. 72% also said that global warming is personally important to them. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 685: Global emissions of carbon dioxide have reached the highest levels on record. Global emissions grew 1.6% in 2017 with 2018 expected to increase 2.7%. The U.S. is the world's second-largest emitter of carbon emissions, but that hasn't stopped the Trump administration from moving to roll back regulations designed to limit those emissions from vehicle tailpipes and power-plant smokestacks. As United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said this week at the opening of the 24th annual U.N. climate conference: "We are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with climate change." (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 676: The National Climate Assessment concludes that global warming is already "transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us." The findings from the landmark scientific report, issued by 13 federal agencies, are at odds with the Trump administration's environmental deregulation agenda, which Trump claims will lead to economic growth, and its plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. The report predicts that the effects of global warming could eliminate as much as 10% of the U.S. economy by the end of the century, and warns that humans must act aggressively now "to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades." The first report, released in November 2017, concluded that there is "no convincing alternative explanation" for the changing climate other than "human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases." Trump recently questioned the science of climate change, saying that "I don't know that it's man-made" and that the warming trend "could very well go back." (New York Times / Associated Press / Washington Post / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 627: A U.N. report on the effects of climate change predicts a strong risk of an environmental crisis much sooner than expected. The report finds that the atmosphere could warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, which would cause sea levels to rise, intensify droughts, wildfires, and poverty, and cause a mass die-off of coral reefs. To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and fully eliminated by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40% today to between 1% and 7% by 2050. Renewable energy would have to increase to about 67%. Trump has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, vowing to increase the burning of coal, and he intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement. The world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark and "there is no documented historic precedent" for the scale of changes required, the report said. (New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ U.S. intelligence chiefs contradicted Trump's claims about North Korea, Iran, and ISIS. Trump previously claimed that "We have won against ISIS" as justification for withdrawing 2,000 troops from Syria, he pledged that North Korea is on the path to fully denuclearize, and withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, claiming the country posed a nuclear threat. The Worldwide Threat Assessment, released by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, however, outlines that North Korea is "unlikely to give up" its nuclear stockpiles because Kim Jong-un sees them as "critical to regime survival," and that Iran is not "currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activity" needed to make a bomb. Coats also said that ISIS "very likely will continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States." The report also concluded that China is positioned to conduct cyberattacks against American infrastructure and that "Moscow is now staging cyberattack assets to allow it to disrupt or damage U.S. civilian and military infrastructure during a crisis." (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / The Guardian)

  • Russia, China, and Iran are "probably already are looking to the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests," according the Worldwide Threat Assessment report. Dan Coats warned that these countries "will use online influence operations to try to weaken democratic institutions, undermine U.S. alliances and partnerships and shape policy outcomes in the United States and elsewhere." (Politico)

  • Russia offered North Korea a nuclear power plant after negotiations with the Trump administration to denuclearize stalled. The plan called for Moscow to operate the plant and transfer all waste back to Russia, reducing the risk that North Korea could use the power plant to build nuclear weapons. (Washington Post)

3/ Roger Stone pleaded not guilty to witness tampering, obstruction of justice and lying to Congress. Stone's indictment alleges that he was the conduit between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, which published Democratic National Committee emails in the summer of 2016, and that "a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton campaign." Robert Mueller has previously accused 12 Russian intelligence officers of hacking those emails, and the U.S. intelligence community consensus is that those Russians "relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks." (NPR / Washington Post / CNBC / ABC News / New York Times / Reuters)

  • Mueller and the Justice Department are considering another indictment of Stone or have plans to charge others, according to the defense attorney for Andrew Miller, who's fighting a subpoena from Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller is seeking information Miller has about Stone's communications regarding WikiLeaks and Russian hackers around the time they disseminated damaging hacked Democratic emails. The development came shortly after acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker claimed that Mueller's investigation was "close to being completed." (CNN)

4/ The Senate Judiciary Committee delayed a vote on William Barr's nomination for attorney general as Democrats raised concerns about whether he would allow Mueller to finish his probe and publish his report. Barr has repeatedly refused to provide a firm guarantee that he will release the report to Congress and the public. The committee postponed its vote on Barr until its next meeting. (Washington Post / Politico)

  • A bipartisan pair of Senators introduced legislation that would require Mueller to provide a summary of his findings to Congress and the public. The new legislation from Richard Blumenthal and Chuck Grassley would remove the decision to make the report public from the attorney general, who now decides what happens once Mueller submits his findings. (CNN)

poll/ 32% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters would like the GOP to nominate "someone other" than Trump in 2020. 65% want the GOP nominate Trump. (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. John Bolton disclosed what appeared to be a confidential note to send 5,000 U.S. troops to Colombia as tensions rise in Venezuela. The national security adviser had written the note on a yellow legal pad, which he held against his chest with the notes facing out during a White House briefing while announcing new sanctions against Venezuela's national oil industry. When asked about the note, the White House replied: "All options are on the table." The Defense Department said it hasn't received any orders to this effect. (Washington Post)

  2. The Trump administration has started making a new, low-yield nuclear weapon that the Department of Energy claims is designed to counter Russia. The W76-2 is believed to be about half as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The report claims that smaller nuclear warheads will help balance the threat from Russian forces. (NPR)

  3. Three Republican Senators introduced a plan to repeal the federal estate tax. Fewer than 2,000 of the wealthiest Americans are expected to pay the tax annually. (Washington Post)

  4. More than a million federal contractors aren't guaranteed back pay after working during the shutdown. The contractors who clean, guard, cook and do other jobs at federal workplaces are also among the lowest-paid laborers in the government economy, generally earning between $450 and $650 a week. (Washington Post)

  5. Trump's re-election campaign plans to sue former White House staffer Cliff Sims for violating his non-disclosure agreement in his new tell-all book about his experience in the White House. Trump distanced himself from Sims, calling the former aide "a mess" and just "a low level staffer that I hardly knew." In Sims' book, "Team of Vipers," he writes that "it's impossible to deny how absolutely out of control the White House staff — again, myself included — was at times." Trump is reportedly "very pissed off" and "really hopping mad" at Sims. (Washington Examiner / Politico / Washington Post)

Day 739: Wrong track.

1/ The partial shutdown – the longest in U.S. history – ended Friday with Trump agreeing to temporarily reopen the government without money for his wall. Trump, however, is threatening to shut down the government again in less than three weeks if Congress can't reach a deal to fund the wall, because he doesn't believe negotiators will strike a deal he could accept. According to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Trump will secure border "with or without Congress." (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

2/ The shutdown cost the economy $11 billion, with an estimated $3 billion in economic activity permanently lost. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected economic growth will slow this year to 2.3%, compared with the 3.1% rate last year, as the benefits of the new tax law begin to fade. Separately, the National Association of Business Economics found that the $1.5 trillion cut tax package has had no major impact on businesses' capital investment or hiring plans. (CNBC / Reuters / Washington Post)

3/ Nancy Pelosi invited Trump to give the State of the Union on February 5. Pelosi previously rescinded Trump's invitation to give the address until after the shutdown ended. (Washington Post / Politico / CNBC)

4/ Trump's golf course in New York relied on a dozen undocumented workers while Trump was demanding border wall funding during the shutdown. They were fired midway through the government shutdown. The firings at the New York golf club follow a report from last year about an undocumented worker at Trump's Bedminster golf club in New Jersey. After that story, the company fired the undocumented workers. Trump still owns his businesses, but has given day-to-day control to Trump Jr. and Eric Trump. (Washington Post / NBC News)

  • 📌 Day 686: An undocumented immigrant has worked as a maid at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., since 2013 using fake documents to secure employment. After Trump became president, one of her managers told her to get both a new green card and new Social Security card because there were problems with her current ones. When she told the manager that she did not know how to obtain new forgeries, her manager suggested she speak with a maintenance employee to acquire new documents. Her manager lent her the money to replace the one that had "expired." (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 714: Trump's Bedminster golf club shielded at least one undocumented immigrant from a list of workers vetted by the Secret Service during the 2016 campaign. Emma Torres told a human resources employee that she did not have legal status. The woman replied: "'It's O.K. No problem.' She scratched me off the list." Torres later made sandwiches for Secret Service agents when they began visiting the property. (New York Times)

poll/ 48% of Americans say they have no confidence "at all" in Trump. 64% also have no confidence in Trump to make the right decisions for the future of the country. (ABC News)

poll/ 63% of Americans believe the country is "off on the wrong track" while to 28% believe it's "headed in the right direction." 50% blame Trump for the shutdown. (NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

poll/ 60% of Americans say House Democrats should use their authority to obtain and publicly release Trump's tax returns. 46% say Democrats will go too far in investigating Trump, while 34% think they'll handle it about right, with 17% thinking Democrats will not go far enough. (ABC News)

poll/ 57% of Americans support congressional Democrats investigating whether or not Trump's 2016 campaign colluded with Russia, 61% support investigating financial ties between Trump and foreign governments, and 59% support investigating Trump's relationship and communications with Putin. (Washington Post)

poll/ 35% approve of Trump's handling of foreign policy, while 63% disapprove. 76% of Republicans approve of his foreign policy, while just 8% of Democrats do. (Associated Press)


✏️ Notables.

  1. The Trump administration lifted sanctions against three companies owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. The Treasury Department originally sanctioned Deripaska, six other oligarchs, and their companies in April in response to Russia's "malign activity" around the world. The sanctions against Deripaska himself will remain in effect, but his companies launched a lobbying campaign to argue that the sanctions against aluminum giant Rusal would disrupt the aluminum market and damage U.S. companies. (Reuters / New York Times / Fox News / Bloomberg)

  2. Roger Stone didn't rule out cooperating with Robert Mueller, despite repeatedly pledging his loyalty to Trump. Stone said he'd "have to determine after my attorneys have some discussion" about cooperating with Mueller. He added: "If there's wrongdoing by other people in the campaign that I know about, which I know of none, but if there is I would certainly testify honestly." (ABC News / Reuters / Wall Street Journal)

  3. Jerome Corsi, a longtime friend and associate of Stone, said the indictment against Stone is "accurate" and that he will be "happy" to "affirm that if asked to in court." Corsi was identified as "Person 1" in the 24-page federal indictment filed by Mueller against Stone. (CNN / Politico)

  4. Trump and Jared Kushner thought firing Michael Flynn would end the "Russia thing," according to Chris Christie's forthcoming book, "Let Me Finish." Christie recalled that Trump told him "this Russia thing is all over now, because I fired Flynn." Trump went on to explain that "Flynn met with the Russians. That was the problem. I fired Flynn. It's over." Kushner added: "That's right, firing Flynn ends the whole Russia thing." (New York Times)

  5. Trump endorsed states pushing legislation to allow Bible literacy classes in public schools, calling it a "great" idea. (Politico / Washington Post)

  6. American and Taliban officials have agreed in principle on a framework for a peace deal in Afghanistan. The framework includes a guarantee that the Taliban will prevent Afghan territory from being used by terrorists in exchange for a ceasefire and Taliban talks with the Afghan government. (New York Times)

  7. The Justice Department accused Huawei of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran and of stealing trade secrets from T-Mobile. Federal prosecutors also filed paperwork to formerly requesting the extradition of Huawei's CFO from Canada. (Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / CNBC)

  8. The Trump administration sanctioned Venezuela's state-owned energy company PDVSA. John Bolton said the actions will block $7 billion in assets and cost the country $11 billion in lost exports during the next year. The sanctions come after Trump last week declared the U.S. would no longer recognize President Nicolás Maduro government, proclaiming opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the rightful "interim president" of Venezuela. (Politico / CNBC / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / Washignton Post)


🧐 So Presidential.

  1. Hillary Clinton isn't "closing the doors to the idea of running in 2020." In October, Clinton said she wasn't planning on running, but has reportedly told people "as recently as this week" that she would "like to be president." (The Hill)

  2. Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz tweeted that he is "seriously thinking of running for president" as an independent. The billionaire's announcement was mocked by people pointing out that there were better ways of helping the country with his money than by jumping in the race and helping Trump win re-election. Trump tweeted that Schultz "doesn't have the 'guts' to be president." (CBS News / Daily Beast / Politico)

  3. Michael Bloomberg warned that there "is no way an independent" presidential candidate "can win" and would only ensure Trump's reelection. The former New York City mayor is weighing a bid for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2020. (Politico)

  4. Kamala Harris formally launched her Democratic bid for president, promising to be a fighter "for the people" and to unify a country divided along social, cultural and political lines, saying we're at "an inflection point" in history. She called on Americans to "speak truth about what's happening" in the Trump era. (Los Angeles Times / CNN / New York Times / Washington Post)

Day 736: "Nothing to do with the president."

1/ Roger Stone was arrested on seven counts of obstruction, lying to Congress and witness tampering as part of Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the election. Between June and July of 2016, Stone told a "senior Trump Campaign official" that he had information that WikiLeaks would release documents that would hurt the Clinton campaign. On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks released its first batch of Democratic emails. After that the "senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information" that WikiLeaks had about the Clinton campaign. Then, in October of 2016, a "high-ranking Trump Campaign official" asked Stone about "future releases by" WikiLeaks. Stone replied that WikiLeaks would release "a load every week going forward." In total, Stone interacted with at least four people close to the Trump campaign about WikiLeaks. The indictment also accused Stone of attempting to intimidate Randy Credico, who was in contact with Julian Assange in 2016. Separately, FBI agents were seen carrying hard drives and other evidence from Stone's apartment in New York City. (Washington Post / New York Times / CNBC / The Guardian / Politico / CNN / NBC News / Washington Post / Department of Justice)

  • Stone was released on $250,000 bond, denied working with Russia, and declared he would not "bear false witness" by testifying against Trump. (CBS News)

  • Everyone who's been charged in investigations related to the 2016 election and how they're connected to Trump. (New York Times)

  • 4 takeaways from the Stone indictment, including repeated references to the Trump campaign's contacts about WikiLeaks and a possible reference to Trump. (Washington Post)

  • 3 takeaways from the Stone indictment: WikiLeaks, dog threats, and Godfather references. (Vox)

  • What we learned from Stone's indictment. The longtime adviser to Trump said he had been falsely accused and "will plead not guilty." He also called the investigation by the special counsel "politically motivated." (New York Times)

2/ Steve Bannon is the unidentified "high-ranking Trump campaign official" in Mueller's indictment. Bannon has also spoken with Mueller's team and the Senate Intelligence Committee about the exchange. The indictment said the campaign official (Bannon) reached out to Stone in October 2016 – a month before Trump was elected – "about the status of future releases by Organization 1," which refers to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. (CNBC / Bloomberg)

3/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed Stone's arrest "has nothing to do with the president and certainly nothing to do with the White House." Trump, meanwhile, tweeted: "Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country! NO COLLUSION!" (The Hill)

4/ Trump agreed to reopen the government for three weeks without border wall funding, bringing an end to the 35-day shutdown – the longest ever – which 800,000 federal workers without pay. Negotiations over a border security package will continue until Feb. 15. Speaking from the Rose Garden, Trump said he was "very proud" to end the shutdown after previously claiming that he'd be "proud to shut down the government" if his demand for $5 billion in border wall funding wasn't met. Trump threatened that there could be another government shutdown or he could declare a national emergency if a "fair deal" doesn't emerge, saying "I have a very powerful alternative, but I didn't want to use it at this time." Federal workers will receive their backpay "very quickly, or as soon as possible." After the announcement, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump's State of the Union would not be held next Tuesday as originally scheduled. (Politico / The Guardian / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / NBC News)

  • The Senate passed the bill by voice vote and sent it to the House. The bill could be on Trump's desk by the end of the day. (Washington Post)

  • The shutdown caused flight delays at airports in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Orlando and Atlanta, due to staffing shortages at air traffic control centers. Three unions for air traffic control workers issued a statement yesterday urging Congress and the White House to fund the government due to "unprecedented" risks to the air safety environment. (CNN / The Guardian / New York Times / NPR / CNBC / NBC New York)

  • At least 14,000 unpaid IRS workers did not show up for work this week despite the Trump administration ordering more than 30,000 employees back to work, unpaid, to prepare for tax season. (Washington Post)

  • How Trump could use a national emergency to get his border wall. Beyond the legal questions around what Trump can do and how he can do it, there's no new emergency at the border. (Vox)

poll/ 55% of Americans disapprove of Trump's job performance, while 39% approve. (FiveThirtyEight)

poll/ 53% of Americans blame Trump and Republicans for the government shutdown. More than 1 in 5 Americans say they have been inconvenienced by the shutdown. (Washington Post)

poll/ 45% of Florida voters say Trump should be re-elected in 2020 with 46% saying he should be replaced. (Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy)

poll/ 38% of voters gave Trump a failing grade for his first two years as president. 10% gave Trump a D, 13% gave him a C, and 17% each gave him a B or an A. Trump, meanwhile, gave himself an A+. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. A Trump appointee approved Jared Kushner's top secret security clearance application after it was initially rejected by two career White House security specialists. Kushner's background check included concerns about potential foreign influence over him. The supervisor, Carl Kline, also overruled the recommendations of career security specialists and approved top secret security clearances for at least 30 incoming Trump officials, despite unfavorable information. (NBC News)

  2. The United Nations humans rights office will investigate the killing of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey. Agnès Callamard will "review and evaluate, from a human rights perspective, the circumstances surrounding the killing of Khashoggi" and "will assess the steps taken by governments to address and respond to the killing, and the nature and extent of states’ and individuals’ responsibilities for the killing." (New York Times)

  3. EPA civil penalties for polluters under the Trump administration have fallen to the lowest average level since 1994. Civil fines have averaged more than $500 million a year, when adjusted for inflation, over the past two decades. Last year's total was 85% below that amount – or about $72 million. (Washington Post)

  4. Mueller's office suggested that Paul Manafort should not get credit for his cooperation when he's sentenced next month. Mueller's prosecutors said Manafort told "multiple discernible lies" that were not "mere memory lapses." At the hearing, Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered lawyers to appear Feb. 4 for a closed hearing on whether Manafort breached his plea deal by lying to investigators. (NBC News / Reuters / ABC News / Washington Post)

Day 735: History and tradition.

1/ The Senate failed to advance a pair of competing proposals to reopen the government and end the partial shutdown, which is now in its 34th day. The first vote was on a Republican-backed proposal to allocate $5.7 billion for Trump's border wall. The second vote was on a Democratic-backed proposal to temporarily reopen the shuttered government agencies without providing any money for a wall. Both measures fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance. The two votes were the first the Senate has taken to reopen the government since the shutdown began on Dec. 22. (Politico / CNN / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / ABC News)

2/ House Democrats are preparing a funding proposal that is expected to include at least $5 billion for border protection efforts, but won't include new money for Trump's border wall. The money would go to the Department of Homeland Security and be used for new technology and more law enforcement agents. (Politico / Vox)

  • Trump is pushing for a "large down payment" on his border wall in exchange for a potential deal to reopen the government for three weeks. Trump suggested that he'd back a deal by Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer "if they come to a reasonable agreement." He then added: "I have other alternatives." [This story is developing…] (CNBC) / NBC News)

3/ The White House is preparing a draft proclamation for Trump to declare a national emergency at the border. They've identified more than $7 billion in potential funds for his border wall by pulling $681 million from the treasury forfeiture funds, $3.6 billion in military construction, $3 billion in Pentagon civil works funds, and $200 million in Department of Homeland Security funds. Trump's advisers are divided on the issue. (CNN)

4/ Trump won't deliver his State of the Union address during the shutdown after all, capitulating to Nancy Pelosi, who vowed not to pass a "concurrent resolution authorizing the president's State of the Union address in the House chamber until government has opened." The White House was reportedly caught off-guard by Pelosi's statement, leaving officials scrambling for a response. Officials also worried that a campaign-style rally wouldn't be formal enough for the traditional speech, and that Trump is prone to veer off message during a rally. The other reason: TV networks might not carry the rally live. Trump instead tweeted that he will wait until the shutdown is over because nowhere could compete with the "history and tradition" of the House chamber. Fox News host Laura Ingraham, meanwhile, called Trump's decision to concede to Pelosi was a "bad decision." (CNN / The Guardian / New York Times / CBS News)

5/ Trump's commerce secretary doesn't "really quite understand why" unpaid federal workers are going to food banks when they could take out low-interest loans from banks and credit unions to cover their bills. The suggestion by Wilbur Ross comes as roughly 800,000 unpaid federal workers are about to miss their second paycheck due to the shutdown. Chuck Schumer called Ross' comments "unreal" while Pelosi characterized them as a "let-them-eat-cake attitude." (CNBC / Politico / CNN / Washington Post)

  • Air traffic controllers' union: "We cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break." Union leaders said staffing at air traffic control facilities was at a "30-year low" as employees continue to callout. Airlines also warned that passengers will soon face worse delays and more canceled flights if the partial federal government shutdown drags on further. (The Guardian) / Wall Street Journal)

  • John Kelly and four other former Homeland Security secretaries called on Trump to end the shutdown on national security grounds. Kelly, along with Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff, Janet Napolitano, and Jeh Johnson sent a joint letter to Trump calling on him "to restore the funding necessary to ensure our homeland remains safe and that the Department's critical national security functions continue without compromise." (Daily Beast)

  • The White House economist said the U.S. economy will grow "very close to zero" if the shutdown persists through March. Economists at J.P. Morgan said the government shutdown is beginning to take its toll on the U.S. economy, as they cut their first quarter growth estimate to 1.75%. (Wall Street Journal / CNBC)

6/ The Senate Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena for Michael Cohen to testify in mid-February after he delayed his public testimony before the House Oversight Committee over alleged "ongoing threats against his family from President Trump" and members of his legal team. Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, said his client will "he will honor the subpoena." It is not clear if the House Oversight and Intelligence committees will also issue subpoenas for Cohen, who is expected to begin serving a three-year prison term in early March. Trump weighed in on Twitter, calling Cohen a "bad lawyer." (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / CNN / Politico / Wall Street Journal)

  • Paul Manafort's lawyers argued that special counsel prosecutors wrongly twisted memory lapses and misstatements by Manafort into deliberate lies about his interactions with Russian citizen Konstantin Kilimnik, who received the polling data in 2016 as Trump was closing in on the Republican presidential nomination. (New York Times)

poll/ 50% of Americans believe Robert Mueller's investigation is justified. 45% believe it is politically motivated. In November, 46% of Americans thought the investigation was justified and 51% believed it was politically motivated. (CNN)

poll/ 60% of Americans blame Trump for the shutdown. 65% of Americans, including 86% of Democrats, 69% of independents and 33% of Republicans, call the shutdown a major problem. (Associated Press)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration hasn't imposed required sanctions on Moscow nearly three months after determining that Russia had violated the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act in connection with the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal. (NBC News)

  2. Russia warned the U.S. against launching a military intervention in Venezuela after Juan Guaido declared himself interim president in a coup d'etat and Trump threatened to use the "full weight" of U.S. economic and diplomatic power to stabilize the country. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said a U.S. military intervention in Venezuela "would be a catastrophic scenario that would shake the foundations of the development model which we see in Latin America." (NBC News)

  3. Elizabeth Warren plans to propose a "wealth tax" on Americans with more than $50 million in assets. The tax is projected to apply to less than 0.1% of households and would raise approximately $2.75 trillion over 10 years. (Washington Post / CNBC)

  4. The U.S. and China are still "miles and miles" apart on a trade deal with "lots and lots of issues." The Dow and S&P 500 traded lower after Wilbur Ross' remarks. (Bloomberg / CNBC)

Day 734: Unforced errors.

1/ Rudy Giuliani claimed that "no plans were ever made" for Trump Tower Moscow, despite hundreds of pages of business documents, emails, text messages, and architectural plans proving otherwise. For instance, by September 2015, an architect had completed plans for a 100 story high tower, and when Trump signed a finalized letter of intent on Oct. 28 2015, the tower would have "approximately 250 first class, luxury residential condominiums" and "approximately 15 floors" and contain "not fewer than 150 hotel rooms." The Trump team also considered an option to open "The Spa By Ivanka Trump," as well as giving a "$50 million penthouse to Putin." Trump's lawyer characterized this by saying "the proposal was in the earliest stage" and later adding "There were no drafts. Nothing in the file." (BuzzFeed News)

2/ Trump was reportedly "apoplectic" and "furious" with Giuliani after his lawyer claimed that he had been involved in discussions to build a Trump Tower in Moscow through the end of the 2016 campaign. Giuliani's statement contradicted Trump's own public statements about the project. Trump has been "screaming" and is "so mad at Rudy," because he felt that Giuliani had "changed the headlines" for the worse and had obscured what he believed was a public relations victory when Robert Mueller's office disputed portions of a report that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. Trump is also being encouraged by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner – among others – to fire Giuliani before it's too late. Giuliani blamed journalists for his gaffs, saying they've taken his hypothetical arguments literally, adding that Trump is "not pissed. He just wants it clarified." Giuliani also admitted this week that he is worried that his legacy would be that "he lied for Trump" and has told people privately that he "hates the job." (Politico / Vanity Fair / Associated Press)

3/ Michael Cohen indefinitely postponed his plan to testify before Congress over concerns of "ongoing threats" to his family from Trump and Giuliani. Trump dismissed Cohen's allegation, saying Cohen has "only been threatened by the truth." Cohen was scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7. (CNBC / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Axios / The Hill)

4/ Trump told Nancy Pelosi he plans to deliver his State of the Union address in the House chamber as scheduled, rejecting her suggestion that he delay it or submit it in writing because of the government shutdown, which has now entered its 33rd day. In a letter to Pelosi, Trump dismissed the concerns about security due to the shutdown, saying "It would be so very sad for our Country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!" The House and Senate, however, must first pass a concurrent resolution for a joint session of Congress for Trump to address lawmakers on Jan. 29th. (New York Times / NBC News / Politico / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

5/ Pelosi responded by blocking Trump from delivering the State of the Union from the House chamber, saying she would not pass a resolution authorizing him to give the speech inside the chamber until the government is reopened. Trump said he was "not surprised" by Pelosi's decision, unrelatedly claiming that Democrats have "become radicalized." (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal)

6/ The State Department canceled a conference on border security because of the ongoing government shutdown over border security. The conference was supposed to take place next month, but it has been postponed "due to uncertainty associated with the continuing partial U.S. federal government shutdown," according to a letter sent to at least 55 U.S. embassies and missions across the globe. (CNN)

  • Hundreds of IRS employees were told to skip work during the shutdown due to financial hardship, despite the Trump administration ordering at least 30,000 IRS workers back to their offices. (Washington Post)

  • The shutdown has impeded FBI efforts to crack down on child trafficking, violent crime, and terrorism due to funding freezes. (New York Times)

  • Mick Mulvaney asked agency leaders for a list of the programs that would be jeopardized if the shutdown continues into March or April. (Washington Post)

poll/ 54% blame Trump and the GOP for the shutdown, while 35% blame the Democrats in Congress. (Politico)

poll/ 70% of Americans don't think the border wall is worth a government shutdown and think the shutdown is having a negative impact on the country. 65% of Republicans think Trump should refuse to sign a budget unless it includes funding for the wall, while 69% of Democrats think party leaders should continue to refuse Trump's demands to fund the wall. (ABC News)

poll/ 34% of Americans approve of Trump's job performance – down from 42% a month earlier. (Associated Press)

poll/ 56% of voters support the single-payer health insurance plan known as Medicare for All, while 42% oppose it. (The Hill)


Notables.

  1. The House Oversight Committee is launching an investigation into how Jared Kushner got a security clearance, despite concerns that he had been targeted for manipulation by foreign governments. (NBC News)

  2. Robert Mueller's team is interested in the Trump campaign's relationship with the NRA during the 2016 campaign. Mueller wants to know more about how and when Trump and his campaign first established a relationship with the NRA, and how Trump ended up as a speaker at the organization's annual meeting in 2015. The NRA is under scrutiny from lawmakers for its spending in support of Trump in 2016 and its ties to Russian nationals. (CNN)

  3. Trump recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela. U.S. officials urged Nicolas Maduro to peacefully give up power. Instead, Maduro gave U.S. diplomats 72 hours to leave. Maduro succeeded socialist Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013. (Bloomberg / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)

Day 733: Hypothetical.

1/ The Supreme Court granted the Trump administration's request to enforce its ban on transgender people serving in the military while the legal challenges continue in the lower courts. The vote was 5 to 4, with the court's five conservative members in the majority and its four liberal members in dissent. More than 15,000 transgender Americans are currently serving in the U.S. military and that more than 134,000 are veterans. (New York Times / ABC News / Washington Post)

2/ Rudy Giuliani walked back his comments about Trump's involvement in the Trump Tower Moscow project, calling the statements "hypothetical" and "not based on conversations" he had with Trump. Giuliani originally said that negotiations over the project continued up until the day Trump won, and that Trump remembered having "fleeting conversations" about the deal after the Trump Organization signed a letter of intent. At question is whether or not Trump was engaged in ongoing negotiations with an American adversary while seeking the presidency and advocating that Obama lift sanctions against Russia. (New York Times / ABC News)

  • 📌 Day 732: Trump was involved in negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow throughout the entire 2016 presidential campaign – several months longer than any administration official or Trump associate has previously admitted. Rudy Giuliani said conversations between Trump and Michael Cohen about building a Trump Tower in Moscow "went on throughout 2016 […] probably up to, could be up to as far as October, November." Giuliani later clarified, quoting Trump that the discussions were "going on from the day I announced to the day I won." The new timetable means that Trump, who repeatedly claimed during the campaign that he had "no business" in Russia, was in fact seeking a deal in Russia when he said in July 2016 that he had "nothing to do with Russia." The timeline also conflicts with Cohen's 2017 testimony that the Moscow project ended in January 2016 – before the Republican primaries began. Cohen later pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the deal, saying efforts continued through June 2016 before it fell apart – a month after Trump had secured the Republican Party's presidential nomination. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Politico / CNN / Bloomberg)

3/ Giuliani also claimed that it didn't matter if Trump engaged in conversations with Russia about the Moscow deal, because it's not a crime. He went on to say that "there are no tapes, there are no texts, there is no corroboration," because he's personally "been through all the tapes, I have been through all the texts, I have been through all the e-mails, and I knew none existed." A few moments later, Giuliani tried to clarify: "I shouldn't have said tapes." Moments after that, Giuliani added: "Well, I have listened to tapes." Giuliani also tried to revise his previous statement that Trump told him the Trump Tower Moscow "discussions were going on from the day I announced to the day I won," saying simply: "He didn't have the conversations." [Editor's note: This is a wild interview. Worth the read.] (New Yorker)

  • Trump's aides have grown "exasperated" by Giuliani's public statements, expressing concern that he's incorrectly representing the Trump Tower project in Moscow and angering Mueller. (New York Times)

4/ Trump Jr. blamed Michael Cohen for the Trump Tower Moscow project, claiming the family "[doesn't] know anything about it." Trump Jr. also claimed that there was never a deal, contradicting the fact that Trump signed a letter of intent in October 2015 and the team of developers were revealed in 2017. (Axios)

  • 📌Day 221. Four months into the presidential campaign, Trump signed a "letter of intent" to pursue building a Trump Tower in Moscow. The involvement of then-candidate Trump in a proposed Russian development deal contradicts his repeated claims that his business had "no relationship to Russia whatsoever." The Trump Organization signed a non-binding letter of intent in October 2015. (ABC News)

poll/ 73% of Americans believe that climate change is real – a jump of 10 percentage points from 2015, and three points since last March. 72% also said that global warming is personally important to them. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 685: Global emissions of carbon dioxide have reached the highest levels on record. Global emissions grew 1.6% in 2017 with 2018 expected to increase 2.7%. The U.S. is the world's second-largest emitter of carbon emissions, but that hasn't stopped the Trump administration from moving to roll back regulations designed to limit those emissions from vehicle tailpipes and power-plant smokestacks. As United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said this week at the opening of the 24th annual U.N. climate conference: "We are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with climate change." (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 676: The National Climate Assessment concludes that global warming is already "transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us." The findings from the landmark scientificreport, issued by 13 federal agencies, are at odds with the Trump administration's environmental deregulation agenda, which Trump claims will lead to economic growth, and its plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. The report predicts that the effects of global warming could eliminate as much as 10% of the U.S. economy by the end of the century, and warns that humans must act aggressively now "to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades." The first report, released in November 2017, concluded that there is "no convincing alternative explanation" for the changing climate other than "human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases." Trump recently questioned the science of climate change, saying that "I don't know that it's man-made" and that the warming trend "could very well go back." (New York Times / Associated Press / Washington Post / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 627: A U.N. report on the effects of climate change predicts a strong risk of an environmental crisis much sooner than expected. The report finds that the atmosphere could warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, which would cause sea levels to rise, intensify droughts, wildfires, and poverty, and cause a mass die-off of coral reefs. To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and fully eliminated by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40% today to between 1% and 7% by 2050. Renewable energy would have to increase to about 67%. Trump has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, vowing to increase the burning of coal, and he intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement. The world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark and "there is no documented historic precedent" for the scale of changes required, the report said. (New York Times / Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. The White House has not held an on-camera press briefing in more than 35 days – a new record for the Trump administration. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has also surpassed the all-time record for time with no on-camera briefings since they began during the Clinton administration. (ABC News)

  2. Trump directed Sanders "not to bother" with press briefings because "certain members of the press" cover her "rudely" and "inaccurately." (Axios / Politico)

  3. Mitch McConnell will introduce two bills to end the government shutdown on Thursday. One bill follows Trump's plan to trade protections for DACA recipients for $5.7 billion in wall funding, which Democrats have already rejected. The other would extend funding for closed agencies through Feb. 8. (ABC News / New York Times)

  4. The Supreme Court took no action on the Trump administration's request to review the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Trump wanted the Supreme Court to take up the case to determine if he had the authority to end the program that has protected nearly 700,000 people brought to the country as children, known as "dreamers." (Washington Post / New York Times)

  5. A U.S. banker with ties to the Kremlin tried to schedule a meeting with Trump nine days after he won the presidency in the hopes of securing a role in the Trump administration. A producer from "The Apprentice" contacted one of Trump's closest advisers to set up a meeting with Robert Foresman, who is now chairman of the Swiss bank UBS's investment arm. Foresman lived in Moscow for years and led a $3 billion Russian investment firm and was touted as someone with connections to Putin's inner circle. Foresman did not end up getting a seat in Trump's administration, but did secure a sit-down meeting with Tom Barrack, then-chair of Trump's $100 million inaugural fund. (ABC News)

  6. A Russian singer linked to the Trump Tower meeting canceled an upcoming tour of North America over concerns about Mueller's Russia probe. Emin Agalarov is said to have helped to arrange the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya during the campaign. Agalarov's attorney confirmed that the cancellation is "most definitely" linked to Mueller's probe, saying "we don't want him to be subpoenaed or held under a material witness warrant or anything else." (NBC News)

  7. The Supreme Court will allow a mysterious foreign-owned company file sealed court documents in an investigation that is believed to be led by Mueller. The court did not rule on the merits of the company's argument. (CNBC)

  8. The top diplomat in charge of European affairs at the State Department resigned, citing personal and professional reasons. A. Wess Mitchell's last day as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs is Feb. 15. (Washington Post)

  9. Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts have been posting altered photos that make him look thinner and his hands bigger. At least three different photos appear to have been doctored to make Trump look more fit. Trump's hair and shoulders have been touched up, as well as his fingers, which were made slightly longer. (Gizmodo)

  10. Trump is preparing two different State of the Union speeches – one to be delivered to Congress in the House chamber where he's been disinvited by Nancy Pelosi, and another for a political rally outside of Washington, D.C. (ABC News / Washington Post)

Day 732: So what.

1/ The special counsel's office issued a rare statement disputing aspects of the BuzzFeed report that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about Trump's involvement in a real-estate deal with Russia during the 2016 campaign. A statement from Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, called the report's "description of specific statements to the Special Counsel's Office" and the "characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office" as it related to Cohen's Congressional testimony "not accurate." In response, BuzzFeed News Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith tweeted: "We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he's disputing." BuzzFeed's story cited two anonymous law-enforcement sources. According to different anonymous people who claim to be familiar with the matter, "Mueller's denial […] aims to make clear that none of those statement in the story are accurate." And, another anonymous person claiming to be familiar with Cohen's testimony to Mueller's prosecutors said: "Cohen did not state that the president had pressured him to lie to Congress." The statement from the special counsel's office came nearly a day after the story was published. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / The Guardian / Politico / CNN / Vox)

  • Trump thanked Robert Mueller for the statement, tweeting that he "appreciate[s] the special counsel coming out with a statement last night" about what he called "a total phony story." (Reuters / Axios / USA Today)

  • BuzzFeed insisted that their reporting is "solid" and "accurate." BuzzFeed's Anthony Cormier said "I'm solid. My sources are solid. This reporting is accurate," adding that he has received "further confirmation" that the report is accurate. "I have further confirmation that this is right. We're being told to stand our ground. … Our reporting is going to be borne to be accurate and we're 100 percent behind it." (The Hill)

2/ Trump was involved in negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow throughout the entire 2016 presidential campaign – several months longer than any administration official or Trump associate has previously admitted. Rudy Giuliani said conversations between Trump and Michael Cohen about building a Trump Tower in Moscow "went on throughout 2016 […] probably up to, could be up to as far as October, November." Giuliani later clarified, quoting Trump that the discussions were "going on from the day I announced to the day I won." The new timetable means that Trump, who repeatedly claimed during the campaign that he had "no business" in Russia, was in fact seeking a deal in Russia when he said in July 2016 that he had "nothing to do with Russia." The timeline also conflicts with Cohen's 2017 testimony that the Moscow project ended in January 2016 – before the Republican primaries began. Cohen later pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the deal, saying efforts continued through June 2016 before it fell apart – a month after Trump had secured the Republican Party's presidential nomination. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Politico / CNN / Bloomberg)

  • Giuliani suggested that Trump may have spoken to Cohen before he gave false testimony to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow discussions. Giuliani claimed it would have been "perfectly normal" for Trump to discuss the testimony with Cohen, but added "So what if he talked to him?" (The Guardian)

3/ Trump offered Democrats a limited three-year renewal of DACA and Temporary Protected Status protections in exchange for $5.7 billion in funding for his border wall. The proposal to end the government shutdown – now in its 31st day – was immediately rejected by Democrats and mocked by conservatives as "amnesty." Trump canceled DACA in 2017 and has moved to end TPS as well. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / The Guardian / CNN / CNBC)

  • 10% of TSA employees called out with "unscheduled absences" on Sunday, with many employees citing "financial limitations" preventing them from working. (CNN)

  • The FDA has called back about 100 furloughed investigators and 35 supervisors for domestic food surveillance inspections. The FDA's Scott Gottlieb said the agency is "targeting the riskiest products to make sure that Americans remain protected" during the shutdown. (Bloomberg)

4/ Trump lied 8,158 times since taking office two years ago. Trump averaged nearly 5.9 false or misleading claims a day in his first year in office, and hit nearly 16.5 a day in his second year – almost triple the pace. (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Researchers discovered as many as 20 undisclosed ballistic missile sites in North Korea. The Kim regime has never admitted the existence of the bases. (NBC News)

  2. Kamala Harris announced she is running for president in 2020. The California senator joins a Democratic field that includes Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, and Joe Biden are all expected to announce their bids in the coming weeks. (Bloomberg / Reuters / Wall Street Journal)

  3. The Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Jerome Corsi, seeking both an interview and documents from the Roger Stone associate. (The Hill)

  4. The Trump administration's deal to lift sanctions against a Russian oligarch contains provisions that will allow Oleg Deripaska to wipe out of hundreds of millions of dollars in debt while leaving him and his allies with majority ownership of his company. (New York Times)

  5. The House Intelligence Committee and Financial Services Committee are discussing how to investigate Trump's business ties to Deutsche Bank. Trump owes the bank at least $130 million according to a 2017 financial disclosure. (Reuters)

  6. Senate Republicans threatened to use the "nuclear option" to quickly confirm Trump's nominees, which an emphasis on confirming judges to lifetime appointments. (Politico)

  7. Trump honored Martin Luther King, Jr. with a two-minute visit to the memorial in Washington. He laid a wreath at the base of a sculpture of King and thanked reporters for being there. (Politico)


⚠️ Programming note: According to my publishing schedule, I wasn't supposed to publish today. However, a lot happened since Friday and I wanted to make sure we captured the big updates. Oh well! Here's your "limited" WTFJHT!

Day 729: Make it happen.

1/ Trump personally directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in order to obscure his involvement in the deal. Cohen and Trump had at least 10 face-to-face meetings about the deal during the campaign. Cohen acknowledged to Robert Mueller's team that he had given false testimony to the Senate and House intelligence committees that the Moscow tower negotiations ended in January 2016 were an attempt to "minimize links between the Moscow Project" and Trump "in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations." Trump also approved a plan by Cohen to visit Russia during the presidential campaign and meet with Putin in order to kick off the negotiations for the Moscow project. "Make it happen," Trump told Cohen. Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. both regularly received "very detailed updates" about the project from Cohen. The revelation marks the first time Trump is known to have directly – and explicitly – ordered one of his subordinates to lie about his dealings with Russia. (BuzzFeed News)

  • Court records, sentencing memos, hearings, and charging documents line up with BuzzFeed's reporting. Here are the relevant sections of court filings and how they match the BuzzFeed report. (CNN)

2/ Democrats in Congress vowed to investigate the report that Trump personally directed Cohen to lie to Congress, which could leave the president open to accusations of suborning perjury and obstruction of justice. House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff said "we will do what's necessary to find out if it's true" and that allegations that Trump "may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date." Rep. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, tweeted that the panel's "job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work," adding: "We know that the President has engaged in a long pattern of obstruction." (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNN / The Guardian / NBC News)

  • [Opinion] This charge is different. An explosive report that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress provides a straightforwardly impeachable offense. (The Atlantic)

  • [Opinion] This may be the smoking gun in the Russia investigation. Why, if there was nothing worrisome or untoward about Trump's dealings with Russia, would he instruct Cohen to lie to about the depth and breadth of the conversations between the Trumps and the Russians regarding a potential construction project in Moscow? (CNN)

  • [Opinion] Impeach Donald Trump. Starting the process will rein in a president who is undermining American ideals—and bring the debate about his fitness for office into Congress, where it belongs. (The Atlantic)

3/ Trump's nominee for attorney general testified this week that it would be a crime if "the president tried to coach somebody not to testify, or testify falsely." William Barr described such conduct as "classic" obstruction of justice. (Washington Post)

  • The wife of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker sent an email to a reporter saying Mueller's investigation is "wrapping up." Marci Whitaker was responding to an article in Slate that criticized her husband and argued that the Senate should not confirm him as the next attorney general. She objected to the reporter's suggestion that Whitaker should recuse himself from the Mueller investigation. Marci Whitaker added that the government shutdown is affecting her family's ability to earn a living. (Slate / CNN)

  • Trump was reportedly "startled" and "caught off guard" that Barr has a warm relationship with Mueller. Trump complained to aides that he didn't realize Barr and Mueller have worked together for 30 years. (CNN)

4/ Trump accused Cohen of "lying to reduce his jail time" following the report that he directed his former lawyer to lie to Congress. Separately, Rudy Giuliani issued a statement that "Any suggestion— from any source— that the President counseled Michael Cohen to lie is categorically false." (CNBC / Axios / Associated Press)

  • Cohen arrived at his Manhattan apartment with his arm in a sling and a black eye. Trump's former lawyer right hand had a small bandage – like the kind used to cover a small wound by an IV – and a red identification bracelet. Cohen's legal and communications advisor, Lanny Davis said Cohen was in the hospital for a pre-scheduled shoulder surgery. (The Daily Mail)

poll/ 37% of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as Season Three begins; 59% disapprove. 47% think Trump be an unsuccessful president compared to 29% who think he will be successful in the long run. (Pew Research Center)


Notables.

  1. Nancy Pelosi postponed her official trip to Europe and Afghanistan due to security concerns after Trump divulged the itinerary. Trump grounded Pelosi's military flight after speaker of the House requested that Trump postpone his State of the Union address in light of the partial government shutdown. Pelosi is second in line to the presidency. (New York Times)

  2. Melania Trump flew to Florida on an Air Force jet hours after Trump postponed Pelosi's use a military plane. (CNBC)

  3. Mitch McConnell blocked another bill to reopen the government, marking the third time he has knocked down House-passed government funding bills. McConnell gave no explanation for the move, but he has said over the last few weeks that he will not bring government funding bills to a vote unless the bill is the result of negotiations between Trump and the Democrats. (The Hill)

  4. The Justice Department is hiring a pair of attorneys to handle border wall litigation in South Texas. The attorneys likely will deal with eminent domain property seizures for properties in the path of planned wall construction. (Politico)

  5. The Trump administration considered speeding up the deportation of migrant children by denying them asylum hearings after separating them from their parents, according to a 2017 draft memo. In June, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the administration did "not have a policy of separating families at the border" – they were just enforcing the law. Sen. Jeff Merkley asked the FBI to open a perjury investigation into Nielsen. (NBC News / ABC News / CNN)

  6. Trump will meet with Kim Jong Un in late February. It'll be the second time Trump has met with the North Korean leader about eliminating its nuclear arsenal. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  7. The White House canceled its delegation's planned trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "Out of consideration for the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay," Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, "and to ensure his team can assist as needed, President Trump has canceled his Delegation's trip to the World Economic Forum." Trump recently canceled his own trip to Davos, but cabinet members and others from his delegation were also scheduled to meet at the annual economic conference. (CNN)

  8. Pence called criticism of his wife's decision to teach at an anti-LGBT Christian school "deeply offensive." In the employment application, Immanuel Christian School requires applicants to agree that marriage can be only between a man and a woman. The school also requires a a parent agreement, allowing the school to deny admission or kick out students who engages in activities that conflict with a "biblical lifestyle," such as "condoning sexual immorality, homosexual activity or bi-sexual activity." (Washington Post)

Day 728: Any way, shape or form.

1/ Rudy Giuliani claimed that "I never said there was no collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russia. In a remarkable interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night, Giuliani argued that he had only ever said Trump himself had not colluded with Russia during the 2016 election, leaving open the possibility that campaign aides could have colluded. "There is not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime you can commit here, conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC." Trump has tweeted at least 13 times directly saying there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. (CNN / The Guardian / Washington Post)

2/ Hours later Giuliani backtracked his "no collusion" claim, saying he has "no knowledge of any collusion by any of the thousands of people who worked on the campaign." Giuliani's statement added: "There was no collusion by President Trump in any way, shape or form." (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • A woman from Belarus claiming to have recordings that showed contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians was detained at a Moscow airport on prostitution allegations. Anastasia Vashukevich was deported from Thailand earlier in the day after spending nine months in prison on charges of conspiracy and soliciting prostitution. (Washington Post)

3/ Trump directed Michael Cohen to hire a company to rig CNBC and Drudge Report online polls in his favor. Cohen then stiffed John Gauger, who owns RedFinch Solutions. Gauger went to Trump Tower in early 2015 to collect the $50,000 he was owed for the work, but instead Cohen apparently gave him a blue Walmart bag containing between $12,000 and $13,000 in cash and a boxing glove that Cohen said had been worn by a Brazilian mixed-martial arts fighter. Cohen disputed that he handed over a bag of cash, but confirmed that he had hired RedFinch Solutions, adding in a tweet that "what I did was at the direction of and for the sole benefit of @realDonaldTrump @POTUS." Gauger said he never received the rest of what he was owed. However, in early 2017 Cohen received a $50,000 reimbursement from Trump and his company for the RedFinch work. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News)

  • Cohen also hired RedFinch Solutions to promote him as a "sex symbol" on Twitter. The @womenforcohen account was created in May 2016 and run by a female friend of Gauger. (Wall Street Journal / The Guardian)

4/ The Trump administration separated thousands more migrant children from their parents at the U.S. border than previously reported and whether they have been reunified is unknown, according to a report released by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services. Before the administration officially implemented its zero-tolerance policy in the spring of 2018 that forcibly separated more nearly 3,000 children, the staff at the Department of Health and Human Services had noted a "sharp increase" in the number of children separated from a parent or guardian, according to the report. (Politico / The Guardian / NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times)

5/ Trump postponed Nancy Pelosi's planned trip to Belgium, Egypt and Afghanistan in retaliation for her suggesting he delay his State of the Union address. He called it a "public relations event." Military transport is typically provided to the House speaker for foreign trips. Trump instead called on Pelosi to remain in Washington during the shutdown, but she is welcome to make the trips on commercial flights. (NBC News / Politico / New York Times)

  • The White House is discussing whether Mitch McConnell could invite Trump to deliver the State of the Union address in the Senate chamber. (CBS News)

  • The State Department is calling back its furloughed diplomats after finding enough money to cover payroll for two weeks. The 8,000 employees will still have to wait to get their back pay. (Washington Post)

poll/ 39% approve the job Trump is doing as president – down from 42% approval since last month. Since December, Trump's approval is down 18 percentage points among suburban men, down 13 points among white evangelicals, down 10 points among Republicans, and down 8 points among white men without a college degree. (NPR)

poll/ 57% of voters said they would "definitely" vote against Trump in 2020, 30% said they plan to vote for Trump, and an additional 13% said they had no idea who they'll vote for. (PBS)


Notables.

  1. Betsy DeVos is recovering in a wheelchair after breaking her pelvis and hip socket in a bicycling accident. She described the recovery as "very painful." (Politico)

  2. The Trump Organization requested and received at least 192 visas for foreign workers in 2018, according to Department of Labor data – the highest for the company going back to at least 2008. (Talking Points Memo)

  3. The Trump administration called extending disaster funding for Puerto Rico's food stamp program "excessive and unnecessary" after the House passed a measure that would have provided the island with $600 million in disaster relief funding. (BuzzFeed News)

  4. More than 130 Republicans joined House Democrats in opposing a Treasury Department plan to lift sanctions against companies controlled by a Putin ally. Senate Republicans narrowly blocked a similar measure yesterday. Oleg Deripaska is a Russian oligarch with ties to Paul Manafort. (Washington Post)

Day 727: Damage.

1/ The government shutdown is causing more economic damage than previously estimated and could push the U.S. economy into a contraction. White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett called "the damage" to the economy "a little bit worse" than anticipated, because they miscalculated the rate of damage by failing to account for government contractors. Meanwhile, the White House revised estimates from the Council of Economic Advisers, which shows that the shutdown – now in its 26th day – reduces quarterly economic growth by 0.13 percentage points for every week that it lasts. By comparison, last year's economic growth for the first quarter totaled 2.2% (New York Times / CNN / NPR)

  • A bipartisan group of senators plan to send Trump a letter pressing him to reopen the government in return for their commitment to work with him on a border security package. While more than a dozen senators in both parties are expected to sign on, the key Republicans aren't signing on. (Politico)

2/ The Trump administration continues to force thousands of federal workers back to work without pay by designating their jobs as essential or exempting them from the furlough. The IRS, for example, will officially be recalling 36,000 workers – more than half the IRS workforce – to process tax returns and refunds despite the shutdown. (CNN)

  • The National Air Traffic Controllers Association said that flying is "less safe today than it was a month ago" due to the partial government shutdown. The FAA is trying to recall thousands of workers who had been furloughed that they deem essential to deal with safety concerns. (The Hill)

  • Federal workers lose more than $200 million in combined unpaid wages for every workday the the government remains shutdown. A typical federal worker has missed $5,000 in wages since the shutdown began. (New York Times)

3/ Nancy Pelosi told Trump to reschedule his State of the Union address – or just submit it in writing – while the government remains partially closed. Pelosi cited "security concerns" related to the shutdown's effect on the Secret Service. White House officials, meanwhile, are urging Republican senators to not sign a bipartisan letter calling for an end of the government shutdown. Trump is scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address on Jan. 29th, which is an opportunity for him to make his case for border wall funding in a prime-time televised address. (Politico / ABC News / Washington Post / CNBC)

4/ ISIS claimed responsibility for an explosion that killed at least two U.S. troops in northern Syria. The attack comes weeks after Trump claimed the U.S. had "defeated ISIS in Syria" and announced he would pull out all 2,000 American forces, which triggered the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. An hour after the US-led coalition confirmed that American troops had been killed in an explosion, Pence declared that "the caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated." He made no mention of the attack and did not offer condolences in his remarks at the Global Chiefs of Mission conference. (Reuters / NBC News / CNN)

5/ Nine T-Mobile executives booked rooms at Trump's hotel in D.C. a day after the company announced a merger that required Trump's approval. Staffers at the Trump International Hotel were handed a list of incoming "VIP Arrivals" last April following the announcement of a $26 billion deal with Sprint, which would more than double T-Mobile's value and significantly increase its share of the cellphone market. T-Mobile executives have repeatedly returned to Trump's hotel since, with one T-Mobile executive racking up 10 visits to the hotel between April and July. (Washington Post)

6/ The General Services Administration inspector general report said the agency "ignored" concerns that Trump's lease of the Trump International Hotel violated the Constitution's emoluments clause when it allowed Trump to keep the lease after he took office. The hotel is housed in the Old Post Office Building – a government-owned building. The report does not recommend that Trump's lease be canceled. (Washington Post)/ NPR)

poll/ 36% of voters support Trump declaring a national emergency to re-allocate money to pay for his border wall, while 51% oppose an emergency declaration. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Trump's pick to replace Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA will face questions from lawmakers during his confirmation hearing. Andrew Wheeler has been serving as the acting EPA administrator since Pruitt stepped down in July amid numerous ethics investigations. Democrats are expected to ask Wheeler about his connections to coal companies that he represented as a lobbyist, of which Wheeler says he is "not at all ashamed." (ABC News)

  2. Karen Pence, wife of Mike Pence, started teaching art at a school that discriminates against LGBTQ kids, saying it will refuse admission to students who participate in or condone homosexual activity. The employment application for Immanuel Christian School in Northern Virginia also requires that job candidates sign a pledge not to engage in homosexual activity or violate the "unique roles of male and female." (HuffPost / Politico)

  3. A Belarusian woman who claimed to have 16 hours of audio recordings linking Russia to Trump's election will be deported after spending nearly a year behind bars in Thailand. Anastasia Vashukevich pleaded guilty to charges of solicitation and conspiracy in the Pattaya Provincial Court. Vashukevich requested asylum in the U.S. in exchange for her recordings, which she claimed contained evidence that could help shed light on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The audio evidence that Vashukevich claimed to have has never materialized. (New York Times)

  4. Trump called a New York Times reporter and defended Russia against claims of election interference the day after he met privately with Putin in July 2017. Trump insisted that the call remain off the record while arguing that the Russians had been falsely accused of interfering in the 2016 election. Trump and Putin have met five times in private and the U.S. has no records or notes from any of their conversations. (New York Times)

  5. Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic effort to enforce sanctions against Russian companies controlled by a Putin ally, despite a group of 11 GOP senators joining Democrats in the vote. The vote fell three votes shy of the 60-vote threshold, ensuring that the sanctions on the companies tied to Oleg Deripaska, including the world's second-largest aluminum company, Rusal, will be lifted as part of a deal negotiated by the Treasury Department. (New York Times / CNN / The Hill)

  6. Paul Manafort worked with unknown intermediaries to get people appointed in the Trump administration in January 2017. The former Trump campaign chairman continued speaking with the unidentified group of people through February 2018 – months after Manafort was indicted by Mueller's prosectors. (Politico)

  7. Konstantin Kilimnik "appears to be at the heart of pieces of Mueller's investigation" into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Kilimnik is a Russian tied to Moscow's intelligence services and is connected to Manafort. Prosecutors filed a 31-page affidavit from an FBI agent, and another 406 blacked-out exhibits, after a federal judge ordered them to lay out the "factual and evidentiary basis" for their claims that Manafort repeatedly lied after his plea deal and as a result had breached his cooperation agreement. (CNN / Washington Post)

  8. Rick Gates told Mueller about the Trump campaign's dealings with Psy Group, which plotted "social media manipulation" during the 2016 campaign. The former Trump campaign aide had requested proposals from Psy Group to help Trump during the campaign, which included creating fake social media accounts to engage voters and Republican campaign delegates. It's unclear if the campaigns were ever carried out for Trump. (Daily Beast)

  9. The U.S. rejected a Russian offer to save the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, saying "we see no indication that Russia would choose compliance." The U.S. and its NATO allies want Russia to destroy its 9M729 nuclear-capable cruise missile system. Without a deal, a U.S. withdrawal over six months will start from Feb. 2. (Reuters)

Day 726: Everyone's favorite.

1/ Trump discussed withdrawing the U.S. from NATO with senior administration officials several times in 2018, saying he didn't see the point of the military alliance, which has been in place since 1949. National security officials believe that Russia is focused on undermining the alliance so Putin could have the freedom to behave as he wishes. (New York Times)

2/ Trump's legal team refused requests by Robert Mueller's team for an in-person follow-up session with Trump. The request was made after Trump submitted written answers to a limited number of questions from Mueller's office focusing on the period before Trump was in office. The two sides are reportedly at an impasse, with no meaningful discussion in roughly five weeks. (CNN)

3/ Michael Cohen's testimony before the House Oversight Committee next month is expected to be heavily restricted to avoid interfering with Mueller's Russia investigation. Cohen is scheduled to speak in a public hearing on Feb. 7 and won't be able to talk about topics that he has discussed with Mueller and may also be limited in what he can say about the on-going Manhattan U.S. attorney's office investigation. A person close to Cohen said "he's going to tell the story of what it's like to work for a madman, and why he did it for so long," adding that Cohen is "going to say things that will give you chills." (Wall Street Journal)

  • Rick Gates is still cooperating with federal prosecutors on "several ongoing investigations." In a status report filed by Mueller, the special counsel and the Gates defense team are asking a federal judge to – again – delay Gates' sentencing. (The Hill / Bloomberg)

  • Mueller has subpoenaed at least three new witnesses associated with Jerome Corsi, a Roger Stone associate. (ABC News)

4/ Mueller and federal prosecutors in Manhattan are looking at a meeting involving Devin Nunes, Michael Flynn, and dozens of foreign officials at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. two days before Trump's inauguration. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are looking into whether the Trump inaugural committee misspent funds and if donors tried to buy influence in the White House. Mueller is also looking at the meeting as part of his investigation into whether foreigners contributed money to the Trump inaugural fund and PAC through American intermediaries. (Daily Beast)

  • Trump's inaugural committee spent more than $1.5 million at the Trump International Hotel for the 2017 swearing-in ceremony. The expenses included $10,000 on makeup, $30,000 in per diem payments for contract staffers, $130,000 on customized seat cushions, and $2.7 million on a Broadway-style rendition of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York." In the 72 days leading up to the inauguration, the committee spent a total of about $100 million. Inaugural committees are required to document every donation with the Federal Election Commission and those donations are now facing legal scrutiny over who funded them. (New York Times / ABC News)

  • 📌 Day 694: Federal prosecutors are investigating whether Trump's inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC received illegal donations from individuals from Middle Eastern nations who were hoping to buy influence over U.S. policy. The inquiry focuses on whether people from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates used straw donors to disguise their donations to the two Trump funds. Foreign contributions to federal campaigns, political action committees, and inaugural funds are illegal. The inaugural committee was headed by Thomas Barrack, and Paul Manafort, who was Trump's campaign chairman at the time, believed that Barrack could help raise funds for the super PAC, Rebuilding America Now, which could collect unlimited amounts of money. Barrack said that Manafort viewed the super PAC as an arm of the campaign, despite laws meant to prevent coordination. The committee raised $23 million on Trump's behalf. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 693: Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether Trump's 2017 inaugural committee misspent the $107 million it raised and whether some of the donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions, or to influence administration positions. The committee said in its tax documents that it spent $77 million on conferences, conventions and meetings, $4 million on ticketing, $9 million on travel, $4.5 million on salaries and wages, and other expenses. Nearly a quarter of the money was paid to a firm led by a friend of Melania Trump that was formed 45 days before the inauguration. (Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 389: Trump's inaugural committee won't reveal what it's doing with tens of millions of dollars it pledged to charity last year. The committee raised about $107 million, but only spent about half of it. The rest, it said, would go to charity. (Daily Beast)

  • 📌 Day 392: Trump's inaugural committee paid nearly $26 million to an event planning firm started by Melania's adviser and longtime friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. The firm was created in December 2016 – 45 days before the inauguration. Trump’s inauguration committee raised $107 million and paid to WIS Media Partners $25.8 million. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 404: Melania Trump parted ways with her senior adviser and friend, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, after news surfaced that Wolkoff's firm had received $26 million to plan Trump's inauguration and surrounding events in January 2017. Wolkoff was terminated last week because the Trumps were unhappy with the news reports about the contract. (New York Times)

poll/ 59% of voters support raising the top marginal tax rate to 70%, proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 62% of women, 55% of men, 71% of Democrats, and 45% of Republicans support the idea. (The Hill)

⚠️ Trump's Attorney General nominee William Barr faced questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing. Here's a few notes from day one of his two-day hearing:

  1. Pledged to allow Mueller to finish his investigation, adding that he wouldn't fire Mueller without cause while vowing that he "will not be bullied" by Trump.

  2. Would not commit to recusing himself from overseeing Mueller, while defending his unsolicited memo criticizing Mueller's examination of whether Trump obstructed justice. He called the memo "entirely proper" and said that instead of following the advice of the Justice Department's ethics office, the decision would be his own.

  3. Suggested that Mueller's final report may not be made public, saying but attorney general will produce his own report to Congress based Mueller's "confidential" findings. Barr said intends to be as transparent as possible, but that he would not let the White House edit or change it, as Rudy Giuliani has suggested.

  4. Views Mueller as a fair-minded investigator. "I don't believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt," he said.

  5. Can "conceive of situations" in which a journalist could be held in contempt when asked if the Justice Department will jail reporters for "doing their jobs."

  6. Wouldn't direct federal prosecutors to target marijuana sales in states that have legalized the drug, breaking with Jeff Sessions's stance.

  7. Sources: The Guardian / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNN / NBC News / Vox / CNBC / Associated Press / Bloomberg


Notables.

  1. A federal judge ordered the Trump administration to remove a citizenship question from the 2020 census. The case is likely headed to the Supreme Court. Critics accused the Trump administration of trying to turn the census into a tool to advance Republican political fortunes by to reapportioning seats in the House of Representatives in 2021, which could affect Congress, the Electoral College, and thousands of state and local political districts. (NPR / CNN / Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

  2. Trump ordered thousands of furloughed federal employees back to work without pay to limit the impact of the shutdown that's now entered its 25th day. (Bloomberg)

  3. House Republican leaders stripped Rep. Steve King of his seats on the Judiciary and Agricultural Committees after he rhetorically questioned how "white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?" King was denounced by a number of prominent republicans, including Mitch McConnell, who suggested that King find "another line of work." King has refused to resign, instead criticizing House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, saying, "Leader McCarthy's decision to remove me from committees is a political decision that ignores the truth." (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post / The Guardian / CNN)

  4. Meanwhile, NBC News initially advised staffers not to refer to King's comments about white supremacy as "racist." Later, the NBC standards department revised their guidance, saying it is fair to describe King's racists remarks as racist. (HuffPost)

  5. Mitch McConnell blocked a House-passed package to reopen the federal government for a second time. One bill would fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8, while the other would fund the rest of the impacted departments and agencies through Sept. 30. (The Hill)

  6. House Democrats turned down an invitation to have lunch with Trump at the White House, saying the meeting would be little more than a photo op benefiting Trump. (Washington Post)

  7. More than 40,000 immigration court hearings have been canceled due to the shutdown. The Pentagon has directed additional funds to extend troop deployment at the U.S.-Mexico border. (CNBC)

  8. A federal judge refused to force the government to pay federal employees who are working without pay during the partial government shutdown, rejecting arguments from labor unions that unpaid work violates labor laws and the Constitution. (Washington Post)

  9. The Trump administration doubled the estimated cost of the government shutdown to a 0.1 percentage point subtraction in growth every week. If the shutdown lasts through January, it could subtract a half a percentage point from the gross domestic product. (CNBC)

  10. Rand Paul will travel to Canada for a hernia surgery. While Shouldice Hernia Hospital is privately owned — like most Canadian hospitals — it receives a majority of its funding from the Ontario government. Paul once called the idea of a national public health care system "slavery." (USA Today)

  11. Ivanka Trump will help select the next head of the World Bank. She will not be a candidate herself, but she will assist Steve Mnuchin and Mick Mulvaney in choosing a successor to Jim Yong Kim, who abruptly announced his resignation last week, three years before his term was set to expire. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Politico)

  12. Trump served "great" "American fast food paid for by me" to Clemson University's football team. The menu consisted of more than 300 burgers from "McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King's with some pizza," Trump told reporters. Trump spent less than $3,000 on feeding the team and, according to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, he paid "for the event to be catered with some of everyone's favorite fast foods" because "Democrats refuse to negotiate on border security [and] much of the residence staff at the White House is furloughed." (NBC News / CNN / The Guardian / Washington Post)

Day 725: Big fat hoax.

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)

Day 722: Embarrassing.

1/ The government shutdown entered day 21 as Congress left for the weekend following another round of stalled negotiations to end the shutdown – ensuring that the partial government shutdown will become the longest in history. The House and Senate, however, both passed a measure to ensure that federal workers who are furloughed receive back pay once the government reopens, which now goes to Trump for his signature. The House also passed another bill to reopen more government departments, but is likely DOA in the Senate because of a veto threat from Trump. The second-longest shutdown stretched for 21 days from December 1995 until January 1996, due to a dispute between Bill Clinton and the Republican-led Congress at the time. (CNN / Politico / Washington Post / Associated Press)

2/ An estimated 800,000 federal employees missed their first paycheck due to the shutdown. In particular, more than 24,000 FAA employees, including air traffic controllers, are working without pay, since their positions are considered vital for "life and safety," and more than 17,000 other have been furloughed – told to stop doing their jobs. (NBC News / CNN / Washington Post / New York Times)

  • Federal crop payments have stopped flowing to farmers, who say they cannot get federally-backed operating loans to buy seed for their spring planting, or feed for their livestock because of the shutdown. Farmers also can't look up government data about beef prices or soybean yields to make decisions about planting and selling their goods. Some farmers have said the loss of loans, payments and other services has pushed them to a breaking point. (New York Times)

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has curtailed inspections due to the shutdown, while the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has suspended health exposure assessments. Cash assistance to buy groceries are funded through February. (The Guardian)

  • White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett compared the shutdown to getting a free "vacation" for furloughed workers and that they might be "better off" after they return to work. (Politico)

3/ The Trump administration is laying the groundwork to declare a national emergency and possibly using a portion of the Army's $13.9 billion disaster fund to pay for his border wall. The money is meant to fund civil works projects, including repairing storm-damaged areas of Puerto Rico through 2020. Jared Kushner, meanwhile, has urged Trump to try to find other approaches than declaring a national emergency, but said an emergency should be invoked only if it creates a clear path for the White House to build the wall. Democrats are exploring both legislative and legal options to challenge a possible national emergency declaration. (NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / The Guardian)

  • UPDATE: Trump said he is not looking to declare a national emergency "right now" for his border wall, a day after suggesting he would "probably" do so. Trump instead urged "Congress to do its job" and vote, again, on funding for the wall. Yesterday, Trump claimed his lawyers had told him that a national emergency declaration – allowing him to bypass Democrats in Congress – would hold up to legal scrutiny "100%." (Washington Post / The Guardian)

4/ Trump falsely denied that he ever promised that Mexico would "write out a check" for his border wall, except he did: at least 212 times during the campaign and more since taking office. In a March 2016 memo, Trump outlined that Mexico would "make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion" for the wall. Trump has more recently resorted to a baseless claim that Mexico will now indirectly pay for the wall through the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which has not been ratified by Congress, and contains no provisions earmarking money for the wall. (Washington Post / New York Times)

poll/ 74% of Americans call the shutdown "embarrassing," with 72% saying the shutdown is going to hurt the country. (NPR)

poll/ 51% of adults believe Trump "deserves most of the blame" for the shutdown. (Reuters)

poll/ 39% of Americans favor building a wall, while 59.1% oppose it. Among Republicans, 74.1% favor a wall, while 85.4% of Democrats oppose it. (Washington Post)


✏️Notables.

  1. The U.S. began withdrawing some equipment – but not troops – from Syria. Military officials have refused to provide details about specific timetables or movements, but a spokesperson said "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria" has begun. He continued: "Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movement." The number of troops or vehicles that have been withdrawn also remains unknown at this time. (Associated Press / ABC News / New York Times)

  2. The United States approved thousands of child bride requests over the past decade. From 2007 through 2017, there were 5,556 approvals for those seeking to bring minor spouses or fiancees, and 2,926 approvals by minors seeking to bring in older spouses. The Immigration and Nationality Act does not set minimum age requirements, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services goes by whether the marriage is legal in the home country. (Associated Press)

  3. Rudy Giuliani thinks Trump's legal team should be allowed to "correct" Robert Mueller's final report before Congress or the American people get the chance to read it. Giuliani went on to call it "a matter of fairness," because the special counsel "could be wrong." (The Hill)

  4. Steve King doesn't understand why the phrases "white nationalist" and "white supremacist" have "become offensive." The nine-term Iowa Republican and Trump ally declared himself an "American nationalist" in a statement while defending his support of "western civilization's values." (New York Times / Politico / The Guardian)

Day 721: A credible account.

1/ Mitch McConnell blocked two bills that would have ended the government shutdown. The bills had passed the House. McConnell said he will not consider any shutdown-related bills he doesn't believe Trump would sign. He added: "Political stunts are not going to get us anywhere." (CNN / The Hill)

2/ The Pentagon has begun preparing options for building a wall along the southern border in the event Trump declares a national emergency. If an agreement can't be reached, said Trump, "probably I will do it – I would almost say definitely. We have plenty of funds if there’s a national emergency." (USA Today / Reuters / Washington Post)

3/ Michael Cohen agreed to publicly testify in front of the House Oversight Committee before he goes to prison next month. Trump's former personal attorney said he appreciates the opportunity "to give a full and credible account" of the time he worked for Trump. Cohen will also answer questions from lawmakers about the Russia investigation during a closed-door session. (Washington Post / NBC News / New York Times / ABC News / CNN / The Hill)

4/ Robert Mueller requested information last year from a Trump campaign pollster and colleague of Paul Manafort. Tony Fabrizio was interviewed by Mueller's team in February 2018; the meeting went unreported until now. The interview is significant in light of recent revelations that Mueller has been investigating Manafort's sharing of polling data with an associate tied to Russian intelligence. (CNN)

  • 📌 Day 719: Paul Manafort gave 2016 polling data to a former employee with ties to Russian intelligence services. The exchange was inadvertently revealed when Manafort's lawyers failed to fully redact Manafort's interview with Robert Mueller in a court filing. Manafort's attorneys meant for Mueller's line of questioning to remain private, but the text in question was easily readable when opened with a word processor. (Washington Post / CNBC / Daily Beast)

Notables.

  1. Scientists say the oceans are warming at a much faster rate than previously thought. A new study published in Science found the oceans are heating up 40% faster than estimates a U.N. panel published five years ago. The rising temperatures are killing off marine wildlife, and rising sea levels are making hurricanes more destructive. (New York Times)

  2. Steven Mnuchin delivered a classified briefing to Congress on his decision to lift sanctions on companies linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. The briefing came after the chairs of seven House committees sent a letter to the Treasury Secretary and former Trump campaign finance chair demanding to know more about the decision. (NBC News)

  3. Trump canceled a trip to Davos for the World Economic Forum, blaming "the Democrats [sic] intransigence on Border Security and the great importance of Safety for our Nation." (New York Times)

Day 720: Bye-bye.

1/ Trump abruptly walked out of a closed-door meeting with congressional leaders, who were at the White House to discuss the partial government shutdown. He reportedly left after Nancy Pelosi reiterated she wouldn't fund his border wall. In a tweet, Trump called the meeting "a total waste of time," writing: "I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!" (NBC News / BBC / CNN)

  • Trump once again warned he might declare a national emergency in order to bypass Congress to build his border wall. "I have the absolute right to do national emergency if I want," Trump said when asked what he would do if he is unable to reach a deal with Democrats. (New York Times)

2/ The Supreme Court refused to intervene in a case believed to involve Robert Mueller and an unidentified foreign-owned company. According to court filings, Mueller subpoenaed "Company A," but the company insists it has immunity and that complying with the subpoena would violate the laws of its home country. The court offered no explanation as to why it declined to intervene in the case. The company is believed to be a foreign financial institution. (Politico / Washington Post)

3/ A law firm that has represented both Russian interests and the Republican National Committee is involved in the subpoena case presumed to be between Mueller and "Company A." Alston & Bird previous represented Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, as well as the RNC in its efforts to obtain some of Hillary Clinton's emails. It is unclear whether the firm is currently representing "Company A," the country that owns "Company A," or the regulators of that country. (CNBC / CNN)

4/ Seven House committees called on Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to explain why the United States decided to ease sanctions on companies linked to Oleg Deripaska, including an aluminum manufacturing giant. Mnuchin has argued the move keeps Deripaska on a blacklist of sanctioned oligarchs, but Democrats say the deal allows Deripaska to maintain "significant ownership" of one of the companies. (Associated Press / Washington Post)

Notables.

  1. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will leave the Justice Department in the coming weeks. He will likely remain on the job until Mueller completes his investigation or after a new attorney general is confirmed. There has been no indication that Rosenstein is being forced out by the Trump administration. (ABC News / NBC News / Reuters / CNN)

  2. The Food & Drug Administration suspended routine inspections of the U.S. food supply because of the partial government shutdown. "It’s not business as usual," said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, "and we are not doing all the things we would do under normal circumstances. There are important things we are not doing." (NBC News / Washington Post)

  3. TSA officers have started quitting their jobs after being forced to work without pay during the shutdown. The loss of workers "will create a massive security risk for American travelers," said Hydrick Thomas, head of the American Federation of Government Employees' TSA Council. (Daily Beast)

  4. Roughly $5 million from Trump's farm bailout program will go to a Brazilian-owned meatpacking company. JBS is one of the largest meatpacking companies in the world and has roughly 73,000 employees and 44 plants in the U.S., but JBS is owned by a company based in San Paulo, Brazil. (Washington Post / The Hill)

Day 719: Intentionally misleading.

1/ Most major TV networks will broadcast Trump's national address tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern, during which he will discuss the ongoing partial government shutdown and the southern U.S. border. ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, and Fox Business have all confirmed they will air Trump's remarks. A response from Congressional Democrats will follow. Trump has made 1,130 false statements about immigration since taking office. (Politico / NBC News)

  • Trump's aides have been laying the rhetorical foundation for Trump to declare a national emergency at the southern border, which would allow him to circumvent some Congressional approval for his long-promised border wall. (Washington Post)

2/ Paul Manafort gave 2016 polling data to a former employee with ties to Russian intelligence services. The exchange was inadvertently revealed when Manafort's lawyers failed to fully redact Manafort's interview with Robert Mueller in a court filing. Manafort's attorneys meant for Mueller's line of questioning to remain private, but the text in question was easily readable when opened with a word processor. (Washington Post / CNBC / Daily Beast)

3/ Natalia Veselnitskaya worked secretly with the Russia prosecutor general to draft the Russian response to a U.S. money-laundering case. Veselnitskaya is the Russian lawyer who met with top Trump campaign officials at Trump Tower in 2016. The case in question isn't directly related to the Trump Tower meeting and instead involves a scheme to launder dirty money through New York real-estate purchases. The indictment says Veselnitskaya covertly drafted an "intentionally misleading" response, which constitutes obstruction of justice. (New York Times)


Notables.

  1. U.S. carbon emissions increased by 3.4% in 2018, the largest jump in eight years. While more coal plants are shutting down, demand for electricity is on the rise—and the Trump administration continues to roll back environmental regulations meant to speed the growth of renewable energy. (The Guardian / New York Times)

  2. The Trump administration quietly downgraded the diplomatic status of the European Union's delegation last year without formally announcing the decision or informing the E.U. about the change. The classification was temporarily reversed after Brussels scheduled a meeting with the administration to discuss the move. (New York Times)

  3. The Justice Department is attempting to delay the testimony of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker until next month, after a permanent replacement has been chosen. Justice Department officials cited the ongoing government shutdown and Whitaker's busy schedule as reasons why his testimony to the House Judiciary Committee should be delayed. (Politico)

Day 718: Prime-time.

1/ The White House will order the IRS to pay out income-tax refunds, despite 90 percent of its workforce not working. A little over 10 percent of IRS employees are still on the clock through the partial government shutdown attempting to implement the sweeping Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The effort adds to bureaucratic backlog as the shutdown drags into its 17th day. (ABC News / New York Times)

  • Senate Democrats are considering blocking all future legislation in order to maintain focus on the shutdown. Chuck Schumer told the Democratic caucus he will only focus on bills that would reopen the government. (CNN)

2/ The Department of Agriculture wouldn't say for how long it will continue to pay out food stamps during the shutdown to the nearly 39 million people who depend on the service each month. Senior officials said the program, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has enough funding to cover the rest of January—but not enough for February. Congress has never let SNAP funding run out. (Politico / Washington Post)

3/ Trump's latest offer to end the shutdown includes a demand for $5.7 billion in funding "for construction of a steel barrier for the Southwest border," plus another $800 million to address "urgent humanitarian needs" related to unaccompanied minors arriving at the border. The White House refused to detail how the requested funding would be spent or why the amount is larger than what the administration requested a few months ago. Members of Congress made no progress in negotiations over the weekend. (Washington Post)

  • Jimmy Carter became the latest former president to deny telling Trump he regrets not building a wall along the southern U.S. border. "I have not discussed the border wall with President Trump and do not support him on the issue," Carter said. (The Hill)

4/ Trump wants to deliver a prime-time address Tuesday night to discuss the government shutdown and what he calls "the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border." All major networks—ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC—confirmed they had received requests to air the broadcast during the 9 p.m. Eastern slot, but producers have not yet decided whether or not they will do so. (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News)

5/ The president of the World Bank resigned and will leave his post at the end of the month, three years before his term was set to end. Jim Yong Kim was nominated in 2012 by President Obama, and his early departure grants Trump the power to nominate a successor. Kim gave no reason for his sudden resignation. The CEO of the Bank will take over on an interim basis. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg missed oral arguments at the Supreme Court for the first time in more than 25 years as she recovered from surgery. It is not clear when she will return to the bench, but a spokesperson said Ginsburg, 85, continues to work from home as she recuperates. Doctors removed two cancerous growths from her lungs on December 21. (Associated Press)

  2. Former GOP Sen. Jon Kyl became the second person to turn down Trump's offer to replace Jim Mattis as Secretary of Defense. Ret. Gen. Jack Keane also turned Trump down shortly after Mattis resigned late last month. (Politico)

  3. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to several Middle Eastern nations to reassure America's allies in the midst of a flurry of contradictions and confusion regarding Trump's plan to pull U.S. forces out of Syria and Afghanistan. (ABC News)

Day 715: Contentious.

1/ House Democrats approved a series of spending bills to reopen the federal government without Trump's border wall money, but the legislative spending package is expected to be dead on arrival in the Senate where Mitch McConnell has vowed to not "waste its time" with proposals that Trump will veto. Congressional Republicans called the effort pointless political theater. (CNN / CNBC / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / USA Today)

2/ Trump is reportedly considering declaring a national emergency in order to use $4 billion in Department of Defense funds to build his wall. The move would sidestep Congress if he doesn't get money for his border wall. During his press conference, Trump acknowledged that he was considering using national emergency powers to get the wall built "for the security of our country." He likened it to "the military version of eminent domain," which is not a real thing. [This story is developing…] (ABC News / Washington Post / NBC News)

3/ Trump threatened to keep the government partially shutdown for "months or even years" following what Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi described as a "lengthy" and "sometimes contentious" meeting at the White House. Trump, however, characterized it as a "very, very productive meeting," during a Rose Garden press conference. "I think we've come a long way" as he defended the shutdown, adding: "I'm very proud of doing what I'm doing. I don't call it a shutdown. I call it doing what you have to do." The shutdown, which entered its 14th day, has left about 800,000 workers without pay, limited several federal agencies, and slowed the court system. (New York Times / Washington Post)

4/ Hundreds of senior Trump administration officials are scheduled to receive a $10,000 raise tomorrow as some 800,000 federal employees are currently unpaid due to the partial government shutdown. (Washington Post / CNN)

5/ Shortly after being sworn in, freshman Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib told supporters: "We're gonna go in there and we're going to impeach the motherfucker." House Democratic leaders immediately tried to quell the impeachment talk, saying they should wait for Robert Mueller to file a report on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. Republicans, meanwhile, seized on the comments, saying it's proof that Democrats are playing politics rather than pursuing oversight. Trump responded to Tlaib's call for impeachment, saying: "You can't impeach somebody who's doing a great job." (Politico / The Guardian / CNN / CNBC / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

  • Robert Mueller's federal grand jury has been extended by six months. (CNN)

Notables.

  1. House Democrats unveiled an ethics reform package that would put new checks on the White House and require Trump to release his tax returns. The legislation is unlikely to be approved by the GOP-held Senate. (Politico / Vox)

  2. A watchdog group accused Ivanka Trump of violating a conflict of interest law by participating in the implementation of "opportunity zones," a program that gives tax breaks for investing in economically distressed communities. (CNN)

  3. U.S. employers added 312,000 jobs in December. The unemployment rate went up to 3.9 percent, and the average hourly pay rose by 3.2 percent from a year ago and 0.4 percent since the previous month. The slight uptick in the unemployment rate is seen as an increase in job seekers, a positive signal. (Associated Press / CNBC)

  4. Trump blamed the recent stock market sell-off on the fact that the Democrats took control of the House. In October, Trump blamed Democrats for market turbulence. He has also blamed the Federal Reserve or a "glitch" for recent troubles with the stock market, while claiming credit when stocks are up. (CNBC)

  5. A bipartisan pair of Senate lawmakers proposed legislation forcing the Trump administration to take a stronger stance against China. The proposed measure would establish an Office of Critical Technologies & Security at the White House to coordinate efforts and develop strategies to combat state-sponsored technology theft. (Politico)

  6. House Democrats filed a motion to intervene in a federal court case in Texas that poses a threat to the Affordable Care Act. A Texas judge ruled last month that the ACA is unconstitutional without the individual mandate, which Congress effectively eliminated by reducing the penalty to $0, which started this year. Since the Trump administration is not defending the ACA, a coalition of Democratic states is appealing the judge's ruling. The move to intervene is largely symbolic, however, and critics say lawmakers would be better off simply passing new legislation to address the issues in the lawsuit. (CNN)

  7. The American man held on espionage charges in Moscow also has British, Canadian and Irish citizenship. Russia arrested Paul Whelan on Dec. 28th, and charged him with espionage. [Editor's note: Not in itself very newsworthy, but I wanted to pin this in the event Whelan turns out to be a player.] (Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

  8. A federal appeals court sided with the Trump administration on a policy of restricting military service by transgender people. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned a decision by a federal judge in Washington D.C. that blocked the policy, saying it probably violates the constitutional rights of transgender recruits and service members. (The Guardian / HuffPost)

Day 714: Foolish.

1/ Trump and congressional leaders failed to resolve the partial government shutdown that's now stretched into its 13th day. The meeting was billed as a a "border security briefing," but turned into Trump asking Department of Homeland Security officials to "make a plea" for his $5 billion border wall with Trump rejecting an offer from Democrats to reopen the government, because he "would look foolish if I did that." Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, reaffirmed her refusal to accommodate Trump's border wall demand, saying: "How many more times can we say no? Nothing for the wall." Sen. Lindsay Graham, meanwhile, has been pressuring Trump to hold firm as well. "If he gives in now, that's the end of 2019 in terms of him being an effective president," Graham said. "That’s the probably the end of his presidency." (The Guardian / New York Times / CNN / NBC News)

  • Mitch McConnell: The Senate will not consider the House Democrat bills to end the government shutdown if they don't include Trump's demand for a $5 billion border wall. "The Senate will not waste its time considering a Democratic bill which cannot pass this chamber and which the president will not sign." (Reuters)

  • Trump falsely accused Democrats of shutting down the government in order to take the presidency in 2020. He went on to praise "all of the achievements of 'Trump.'" (Politico)

  • Trump put a large "Game of Thrones" poster of himself on the table in front of him during a cabinet meeting with the words "SANCTIONS ARE COMING NOVEMBER 4" across the middle. Nobody in the meeting talked about the poster and the White House did not respond to questions about it. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Trump issued an executive order freezing federal workers' pay for 2019, after initially announcing a 2.1% across-the-board pay raise that was set to take effect in January. (CNN)

2/ The House of Representatives elected Rep. Nancy Pelosi as speaker for a second time. The 116th Congress convened with Democrats taking control of the House and Republicans maintaining control of the Senate. (Wall Street Journal / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • The congressional freshman class of 2019 is the most racially diverse and most female group of representatives ever elected to the House, and includes the first Native American congresswomen, the first Muslim congresswomen, and the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. (CNN / New York Times)

3/ Pelosi suggested it's an "open discussion" whether Trump can be indicted by Robert Mueller while still in office, challenging the Department of Justice's guidelines that a sitting president cannot be indicted. The incoming speaker also added that "everything indicates" that Trump "can be indicted after he is no longer president of the United States." Pelosi's statements make her the highest ranking politician to suggest that Trump can be indicted while still in office. (NBC News / Axios / Politico / USA Today)

  • The Incoming House Judiciary Chairman plans to re-introduce legislation to protect Robert Mueller. The legislation would provide recourse for Mueller and future special counsels to challenge any firings in the court system. (CNN)

4/ Democrats plan to ask for 10 years of tax returns for presidential candidates in their first piece of legislation in 2019. Vice presidents would also be required to turn over the last decade of their tax returns. The documents would then be posted on the FEC's website for the public to view. The legislation, however, is not expected to pass the Republican-controlled Senate or signed into law by Trump. (CNN)

5/ Russia charged an American with espionage. Paul Whelan faces 20 years in Russia if convicted. Russia's Interfax news agency said Whelan was arrested on Dec. 28 "while on a spy mission." Another Russian news outlet, Rosbalt, claimed that Whelan, a former U.S. marine now detained in Moscow by Russia's Federal Security Service, was arrested minutes after receiving a USB drive that contained the names of people employed at a top secret state organization. Whelan's arrest comes weeks after Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as an agent for the Kremlin from 2015 until her arrest in July. She agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors. (The Guardian / Washington Post / New York Times / USA Today / NPR / CNN)


Notables.

  1. The confirmation of 70 of Trump's judicial nominees remains in flux after Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer failed to reach an agreement on how to move the nominations forward. The pending nominations will now be sent back to the White House to be re-nominated. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to hold an extra-long session at some point in the next few weeks to consider all the remaining nominees who were awaiting a vote on the Senate floor or waiting for a committee vote. (Politico)

  2. Trump's Bedminster golf club shielded at least one undocumented immigrant from a list of workers vetted by the Secret Service during the 2016 campaign. Emma Torres told a human resources employee that she did not have legal status. The woman replied: "'It's O.K. No problem.' She scratched me off the list." Torres later made sandwiches for Secret Service agents when they began visiting the property. (New York Times)

  3. The Trump administration is considering a rollback of anti-discrimination rules. The rollback would dilute federal rules against discrimination in education, housing and more. (Washington Post)

  4. The Justice Department is examining whether Ryan Zinke lied to the Interior agency's inspector general investigators – a potential criminal violation. (Washington Post)

  5. The national debt is $2 trillion higher since Trump took office. At the end of 2018, the debt stood at $21.974 trillion. (CNN)

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)


Notables.

  1. 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)

  2. 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)

  3. 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)

  4. 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)

  5. 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.

Day 708: A profit making operation.

1/ On the seventh day of a partial government shutdown, Trump threatened to "close the Southern Border entirely" until he gets the $5 billion in funding for his border wall. Trump also threatened to cut off aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, because – he claims – migrants from those country have been "taking advantage of U.S. for years" as they flee persecution and seek asylum in the U.S. Confusingly, Trump called "closing the Southern Border a 'profit making operation.'" The shutdown will to continue into 2019 after the House and Senate adjourned on Thursday without taking any action to end the shutdown, leaving the border wall impasse to House Democrats as they assume the majority next week. (ABC News / The Guardian / Washington Post / New York Times)

2/ The Trump administration tweeted advice to furloughed federal workers about how to offer to do chores and other maintenance projects in exchange for rent payments. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management also suggested that the nearly 800,000 workers who have either been furloughed or asked to work without pay to "please consult with your personal attorney" for any required legal advice during the partial government shutdown. (Daily Beast)

3/ The EPA proposed a plan to make it easier for coal-fired power plants to release mercury and other pollutants linked to developmental disorders and respiratory illnesses into the atmosphere. After nearly a decade of restrictions, the plan represents a major shift in the way the federal government calculates the costs and benefits of air pollutants and would weaken the ability of the EPA to impose new regulations in the future by giving less weight to the potential health gains of curbing pollutants. (New York Times / Washington Post / Reuters)

4/ An indicted Russian organization in a court filing referred to a "nude selfie" obtained by Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller has collected nearly four million pages of material from the email and social media accounts in the case against the Internet Research Agency, an alleged Russian state-controlled troll farm. The IRA's lawyer, Eric Dubelier, questioned how there could be any national security concerns related to a nude selfie. Dubelier also represents Concord Management and Consulting LLC, which prosecutors alleged is controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman close to Putin with key ties to Russia's military and political establishment. Prigozhin is also known as "Putin's Chef." Dubelier did not provide information about who is depicted in the photo, but asked the court to lift a protective order that bans him from sending the millions of pages of pre-trial discovery to Russia. (Daily Beast / CNN / HuffPost / Law & Crime)

Day 707: Whatever it takes.

1/ Trump's shutdown entered its sixth day with negotiations between Democrats, Republicans, and the White House at a standstill. The Senate is scheduled to be in session today, but there are no votes for a spending bill scheduled since an agreement between Democrats and Trump hasn't been reached over Trump's demand for $5 billion in border wall funding. The impasse has left about 420,000 federal workers working without pay and another 380,000 furloughed. Trump told reporters that he'll do "whatever it takes" to fund the wall he once claimed Mexico would pay for. (ABC News / New York Times)

2/ Trump made up alternative facts to claim "most of the people not getting paid" during the government shutdown are Democrats, contrasting his Christmas claimed that "many of those workers" had told him to continue to shut down the government "until you get the funding for the wall." (Washington Post / NBC News / CNBC / Bloomberg)

3/ Trump's lawyers asked to delay the emoluments case against him until the shutdown ends. Justice Department attorneys representing Trump asked a federal appeals court to indefinitely postpone all filings in the lawsuit alleging that Trump is illegally profiting from foreign officials' use of the Trump International Hotel in Washington. (Politico)

4/ Trump tweeted a video revealing a covert U.S. Navy SEAL team deployed in Iraq, which violated combat operational security by posting the faces and location of the special operations unit. Trump's trip to Iraq, his first to a war zone as president, was supposed to be a secret for security reasons, but a Twitter user in Germany posted that he had tracked an aircraft that could be Air Force One, while a British-based Flickr user later posted a photo of the plane flying through clear skies over Yorkshire. The clandestine trip came a week after Trump ordered the Pentagon to withdraw roughly 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria and about 7,000 from Afghanistan over the next few month, which prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (Newsweek / New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / NBC News)

5/ Trump lied to troops in Iraq that he had secured a "more than 10 percent" pay raise for them. Trump authorized a raise that amounts to 2.6% earlier this year. Military members have seen a pay raise in each of the last 10 years, ranging from 1% to 3.9%. (Washington Post / CNN / HuffPost)

6/ The acting attorney general claimed he was an Academic All-American while playing football at the University of Iowa. He wasn't. The College Sports Information Directors of America said the group has no record that Matthew Whitaker was ever an Academic All-American. To be considered an Academic All-American, a student-athlete must have at least a 3.3 cumulative GPA and be an integral part of the team. (Wall Street Journal)

7/ Michael Cohen's cell phone was briefly activated near Prague around time of the Russia meeting described in the Steele dossier, which purports that Cohen and one or more Kremlin officials met in or around the Czech capital to plot ways to limit discovery of the close "liaison" between the Trump campaign and Russia. Additionally, around the same period of late August or early September 2016, electronic eavesdropping by an Eastern European intelligence agency picked up Russians remarking that Cohen was in Prague. The cell phone and eavesdropping evidence was shared with Robert Mueller. (McClatchy DC)

  • 📌Day 224: Trump's lawyer "vehemently" denied working with Russia to disrupt the election. Michael Cohen gave Congress a point-by-point rebuttal of the 35-page dossier compiled by retired British spy Christopher Steele, which alleges he has deep ties to Russian officials. Cohen denied the dossier's claims, including that he had secret meetings in Prague with a Russian official last summer. (New York Times)

  • 📌Day 450: Robert Mueller has evidence that Michael Cohen made a secret trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, entering through Germany in "August or early September." Confirmation of the trip corroborates part of the Christopher Steele dossier that Cohen met with an ally of Putin. Cohen has denied that he has ever been in Prague and that he colluded with Russia during the campaign. (McClatchy DC)

8/ Rudy Giuliani said negotiations with Mueller are "still open" on whether the special counsel will further question Trump, including the scope of the questions, if they take place. (Daily Beast)

poll/ 47% of Americans hold Trump responsible for the shutdown, while 33% blame Democrats in Congress. 35% of those surveyed said they backed including money for the wall in a congressional spending bill. 25% said they supported Trump shutting down the government over the matter. (Reuters)

Day 706: Favors.

1/ Trump's partial government shutdown entered its fifth day as the White House and lawmakers remain at odds over Trump's demand for $5 billion in border wall funding. "I can't tell you when the government is going to be open," Trump said in the Oval Office after a Christmas call with U.S. troops. "I can tell you it's not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they would like to call it." About 25% of the federal government has been shutdown, with an estimated 400,000 federal employees working without pay with 350,000 furloughed. Democrats will take control of the House on Jan. 3 and are expected to pass a bill to fund the government without additional wall funding. This is the third shutdown of 2018, with Mick Mulvaney, acting chief of staff and director of the Office of Management and Budget, predicting that "it's very possible" the shutdown will extend into the new year. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNN / The Guardian)

2/ An 8-year-old boy from Guatemala died in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody – the second death of an immigrant child in the agency's care this month. The boy showed "signs of potential illness" on Monday and was taken to a hospital in New Mexico where hospital staffers diagnosed the child "with a common cold, and when evaluated for release, hospital staff found a fever." The boy was readmitted to hospital where he died later that evening after suffering nausea and vomiting. (Associated Press / The Guardian / Politico / Washington Post)

3/ The daughters of a foot doctor said their late father diagnosed Trump with bone spurs to help him avoid the Vietnam War as a "favor" to his father Fred Trump. Dr. Larry Braunstein rented his office in Jamaica, Queens, from Fred Trump in the 1960s. (New York Times)


Notables.

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg was discharged from the hospital and is recuperating at home after having two cancerous nodules removed from her left lung. (CNN)

  • Trump asked a 7-year-old if she was "still a believer" in Santa Claus. (ABC News)

  • The U.S. envoy to the global coalition fighting the Islamic State resigned in protest of Trump's decision to abruptly withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Brett McGurk described Trump's decision as a "shock." (Associated Press / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Trump has at least twice in the past few weeks lashed out to his acting attorney general, complaining that the prosecutors Matt Whitaker oversees filed charges that made him look bad. (CNN)

Day 704: All alone.

1/ Major parts of the federal government are shut down after Trump tanked a bipartisan spending bill because it didn't include money for his border wall. Agencies in charge of federal parks, law enforcement, taxes and transportation ran out of money Friday night. Nearly 400,000 federal workers won't work or get paid until a deal can be reached. Several services will be also unavailable, and the impacts will get worse the longer the shutdown lasts. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico)

  • Mick Mulvaney: It is "very possible" the partial government shutdown will continue into next year and into the new Congress. (CNN / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • NORAD confirmed its Santa Tracker will remain operational despite the partial government shutdown. The National Christmas Tree, however, may stay dark during the shutdown. (NPR / HuffPost)

2/ Trump complained that he is "all alone (poor me)" in the White House as the government entered its third day of a partial shutdown and the markets continued to tank. Trump canceled his planned vacation to Florida as 800,000 federal employees remain without pay. He spent the morning tweeting his grievances. (CNBC / New York Times / The Hill)

3/ Trump discussed firing Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell several times over the past few days following the latest interest-rate hike and recent stock market losses that put the market on track for its worst year since 2008. Trump told advisers he thinks Powell will "turn me into Hoover," a reference to the Great Depression-era president Herbert Hoover. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted a statement from Trump: "I totally disagree with Fed policy . . . but I never suggested firing Chairman Jay Powell, nor do I believe I have the right to do so." Experts say Trump most likely does not have the authority to remove Powell. (Bloomberg / Washington Post / CNN / New York Times)

4/ The incoming acting chief of staff said Trump "now realizes" he "does not have the authority to fire" the Federal Reserve chairman. Mick Mulvaney claimed that "it's not at all unusual for a president to complain about the actions of the Federal Reserve chairman." However, Trump broke a 25-year tradition of presidents refraining from making public comments on Fed interest rate moves to preserve its independence. (USA Today / NBC News / ABC News)

5/ Markets dropped after Mnuchin unexpectedly called the CEOs of the six largest U.S. banks to ensure that their operations were running smoothly, and that they had "ample liquidity available for lending." Treasury did not say what motivated Mnuchin's statement, though it comes amid a government shutdown and following the Dow suffering its worst week since 2008. The CEOs who spoke with Mnuchin said they were "totally baffled" by the session, finding the encounter puzzling and unnecessary. (CNN / New York Times / Politico /

6/ Trump attacked the Federal Reserve, tweeting that "the only problem" the economy has "is the Fed" and suggesting that "they don't have a feel for the Market." Both major stock indexes fell in the worst day of Christmas Eve trading ever following Trump's tweets. (CNBC / Bloomberg / NBC News)

7/ Trump directed Mike Pompeo to fire Jim Mattis after the defense secretary had already resigned. Trump tweeted that Mattis was retiring "with distinction" at the end of February, but after reading the general's resignation letter, Trump announced that he was removing Mattis from his post by Jan. 1 – two months before the defense secretary had planned to depart. Trump appointed Patrick Shanahan – Mattis's deputy and a former Boeing executive – to serve as the acting defense secretary, calling him "very talented" and adding that "he will be great!" Shanahan will take over the government's largest and most complex agency with no military or foreign policy experience. (Washington Post / New York Times / CNN)

Day 701: Tailspin.

1/ A partial shutdown is assured after House lawmakers left the Capitol for the night without passing a budget agreement. Funding for several key government agencies will lapse at midnight. Despite the Senate narrowly passing a procedural vote to begin debate on the House funding bill. That vote passed 48-47, with Mike Pence breaking the tie. Senators have also been told to go home. They were told they will have at least 24 hours notice before any vote. If the government shuts down, the Treasury and the departments of Agriculture, Homeland Security, Interior, State, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Commerce, and Justice will close, more than 420,000 people will work without pay, and another 380,000 workers will be furloughed. (Washington Post / New York Times / Associated Press / CNBC / NBC News / Politico / Reuters / Wall Street Journal)

2/ The House of Representatives passed a stopgap measure funding measure that includes $5.7 billion in border wall funding after Trump threatened to veto the Senate-passed stopgap spending bill. The bill passed on a near-party-line vote of 217 to 185. Democrats, however, have the Senate votes to block any bill that includes funding for Trump's wall, while Trump says he'll veto any bill that doesn't. (NBC News / Washington Post)

3/ Trump warned of a "shutdown today" that will last "a very long time" if his wall isn't funded. Trump tried to blame it on a "Democrat Shutdown" despite last week taking responsibility about how he would be "proud to shut down the government." Trump also urged McConnell to change Senate rules so Republican could "use the Nuclear Option and get it done!" Trump warned that "If the Dems vote no, there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time." (The Guardian / NBC News / The Hill / Reuters / Washington Post / New York Times)

  • McConnell and Senate Republicans rejected Trump's demand to eliminate the filibuster, signaling that the Senate does not have enough votes to change the rules to pass Trump's border wall funding with a simple majority. Republicans have a 51-49 majority in the Senate, but Democrats can block the House bill with a filibuster and other procedural moves, which require 60 votes to overcome. (The Hill / Politico)

  • Trump compared his border wall to the invention of "the wheel," saying "there is nothing better" because – he claims – he understands "technology on a Border" "better than anyone." He then compared his wall to Israel's wall with Gaza to defend against Democrats "trying to belittle the concept of a Wall, calling it old fashioned." (The Independent)

  • Federal agencies are preparing to furlough 380,000 workers. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Trump canceled his two-week-plus Mar-a-Lago holiday vacation as a government shutdown nears. White House aides, however, were notified that Trump may depart for Florida on Saturday at noon. (Politico)

  • Government shutdown 101: What is it, will it happen and who's to blame? (The Guardian / Vox)

4/ The Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration's request to automatically reject asylum bids by immigrants who illegally cross the U.S-Mexico border. Federal immigration law says people may apply for asylum "whether or not at a designated port of arrival" and "irrespective of such alien's status." The Trump policy would require all asylum claims to be made at official ports of entry. (Bloomberg / Washington Post / The Guardian)

poll/ 58% of Americans believe Trump tried to obstruct the investigation into his campaign's ties to Russia. 38% believe Trump did something illegal, 34% believe he did something unethical, but not illegal, and 25% Americans believe Trump did nothing wrong. (Associated Press)


Notables.

  1. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent surgery to remove two cancerous nodules from her left lung. After the surgery, her thoracic surgeon said the nodules were malignant and that "there was no evidence of any remaining disease" and "scans performed before surgery indicated no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body." (New York Times / CNN)

  2. A U.S. intelligence report concludes that Russia, China, and Iran "conducted influence activities and messaging campaigns" targeting the midterm elections. Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, said they did not compromise the voting systems, however. (New York Times)

  3. Republican megadonor Robert Mercer has retreated from financially backing Trump's agenda. The Mercers gave just over $25 million to conservative causes in 2016. This year the family gave $6.4 million to Republicans – the lowest amount since 2012. (CNBC)

  4. Trump is already souring on Mick Mulvaney over a two-year-old video where Mulvaney calls Trump "a terrible human being." Mulvaney hasn't started as acting White House chief of staff yet. Trump was reportedly "furious" when he heard about the footage. In a separate interview from 2015, Mulvaney called Trump's view on a border wall "simplistic," absurd and almost childish." (Axios / CNN)

  5. Trump complained to aides that it's unfair he is being blamed for the market's downturn and concerns of an economic slowdown. Trump has repeatedly pointed to market gains as proof that his economic policies are working and that the country is thriving under his leadership. Unless an end-of-year rally emerges, 2018 will be the worst year for U.S. stocks since 2008 and the S&P 500 on track for its worst December since the Great Depression. (Washington Post)

  6. The Dow had its worst week since the financial crisis in 2008 – down nearly 7%. The Nasdaq closed in a bear market and the S&P 500 was on the brink of one itself – down nearly 18% from its record earlier this year. (CNBC)

  7. One Republican close to the White House described Trump as in "a tailspin," acting "totally irrationally," and "flipping out" over criticisms from conservatives calling him a "gutless president," and questioning whether he would ever build a wall. (Washington Post)

Day 700: Fatally misconceived.

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)

Day 699: Everybody out.

1/ Newly obtained document show Trump signed a letter of intent to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, contradicting Rudy Giuliani's claim that the document was never signed. The signed letter is dated Oct. 28, 2015. Trump Jr. testified on Sept. 7, 2017 that his father had signed a letter of intent for the Moscow project, which Michael Cohen worked on, but he knew "very little" about it. Cohen also told congressional committees investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election that Trump had signed the letter. On Sunday, Giuliani claimed: "It was a real estate project. There was a letter of intent to go forward, but no one signed it." During the 2016 campaign, Trump did not disclose that the Trump Organization explored the business deal with Russia. Instead, he repeatedly claimed he had "nothing to do with Russia." Read the signed letter of intent. (CNN)

  • 📌Day 680: Trump Jr.'s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee conflicts with Michael Cohen's version of events regarding negotiations of a prospective Trump Tower in Moscow. In Cohen's version, he says the discussions with at least one Russian government official continued through June 2016. Trump Jr. testified in September 2017 that talks surrounding a Trump Tower in Moscow concluded without result "at the end" of 2014 and "certainly not [20]16. There was never a definitive end to it. It just died of deal fatigue." Trump Jr. told the Senate committee that he "wasn't involved," knew "very little," and was only "peripherally aware" of the deal other than a letter of intent was signed by Trump. He also said he didn't know that Cohen had sent an email to Putin's aide, Dmitry Peskov. In Cohen's guilty plea, he said he briefed Trump's family members about the continued negotiations. (NPR / USA Today)

2/ Giuliani conceded that "of course" Trump signed the "bullshit" letter of intent to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. "I don't think I said nobody signed it," Giuliani claimed, despite telling CNN on Sunday that "no one signed" the letter. The deal would have given Trump's company $4 million upfront, plus a percentage on all sales, as well as marketing and design oversight. The hotel would have also named the spa after Ivanka Trump. (New York Daily News)

3/ Mitch McConnell introduced a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running into February, which does not include the money Trump wants for his border wall. Both chambers are expected to pass the measure by Friday's midnight deadline, and avoid a partial shutdown. The White House has not publicly confirmed Trump will sign the measure. (Politico / The Guardian / Washington Post / CNN / New York Times / NBC News)

4/ Trump ordered a "full" and "rapid" withdrawal of all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria within 30 days, according to a U.S. defense official. Pentagon officials tried to talk Trump out of the decision, arguing that the move would betray Kurdish allies who have fought alongside American troops in Syria, but "the president said 'Everybody out,'" a senior administration official said. In announcing the decision, Trump tweeted: "We have defeated ISIS in Syria." However, in August the Pentagon estimated that there were still as many as 14,500 ISIS fighters still in Syria. (New York Times / Daily Beast / The Guardian / CNN / Politico / Washington Post)

poll/ 52% of Americans say they are against the country becoming more politically correct and are upset that there are too many things they can't say anymore. Overall, 55% of Millennials ages 18-29 favor political correctness, while a majority of everybody older than 30 is against political correctness. 76% of Republicans are against the country becoming more politically correct compared to 55% of Democrats. (NPR)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration will lift sanctions on three Russian corporations controlled in part by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire who once loaned Paul Manafort $10 million. Deripaska agreed to cut his ownership stake in each company below 50%. In April, the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on Deripaska, Rusal, En+ Group Plc, and JSC EuroSibEnergo, citing "malign activities" by Russia. (Bloomberg / Reuters)

  2. The Justice Department ordered an unnamed foreign company to comply with Robert Mueller's grand jury subpoena to turn over information about its commercial activities as part of a secret court case. Very little is known about the details of the case, but the company fighting the subpoena has been identified as a foreign government-owned company tied to Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Court officials have taken drastic steps to ensure the identity of the company remains unknown. The case, referred to in public dockets as 18-3071 with the title Sealed v Sealed, began in August. (CNN / Politico / The Guardian / Vox)

  3. A document that is sealed from public view was placed in a New York federal court vault related to the criminal case against Michael Cohen. The filing came a week after Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for his guilty pleas in cases brought separately by federal prosecutors in New York and by Mueller. (CNBC)

  4. Michael Cohen dropped a pair of libel suits against BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS over the publication of the Steele dossier, which detailed alleged ties between Trump and Russia. (Politico)

  5. A federal judge tossed a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed over publication of the Steele dossier. Aleksej Gubarev, a CEO named in the dossier, alleged that the statements in dossier about him were "false" and that BuzzFeed "never contacted" him to confirm the allegations. U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro ruled that BuzzFeed was covered by the "fair report privilege" because the site published the dossier in its entirety without editorializing its presentation. (Hollywood Reporter / Daily Beast)

  6. A federal judge dismissed Trump administration policies that turned away asylum seekers who claimed to suffer domestic violence or gang violence. Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court in Washington ruled that policies ordered by Jeff Sessions were "arbitrary, capricious and in violation of the immigration laws." (Politico / NBC News)

  7. The Senate passed a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill. The First Step Act would expand job training and other anti-recidivism programs, modify sentencing and mandatory minimum laws, and expand early-release programs. Trump has said he plans to sign it into law. (New York Times / Politico)

  8. The United States was added to list of most dangerous countries for journalists for the first time. At least 63 professional journalists were killed doing their jobs in 2018 – a 15% increase over last year. (NBC News)

Day 698: A shocking pattern of illegality.

1/ Trump will close his foundation and give away its remaining $1.7 million in assets amid a lawsuit accusing the Trump, Ivanka, Eric, and Trump Jr. of illegally using the foundation for personal and political gain. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood accused the foundation of "a shocking pattern of illegality," which included "unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign" that was "willful and repeated." Trump used the charity's money to pay legal settlements for his private business, to purchase a $10,000 portrait of Trump that was displayed at one of his golf clubs, and to make a prohibited political donation. The attorney general’s office is seeking for the Trump Foundation to pay $2.8 million in restitution. (Bloomberg / Washington Post / New York Times)

2/ Michael Flynn agreed to delay his sentencing after U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan told Trump's former national security adviser "you sold your country out," and because of that, "I cannot assure you, if you proceed today, you will not receive a sentence of incarceration." Robert Mueller recommended that Flynn serve no jail time for his crimes because of the "substantial help" he provided to the special counsel and other investigations. Flynn was supposed to be sentenced today for lying to the FBI and acting as an unregistered agent for Turkey. The judge also asked the special counsel's office whether Flynn could be charged with "treason" after he acted as "an unregistered agent of a foreign country, while serving as the national security adviser to the president of the United States." Flynn's sentencing has been delayed until March 13th and will allow him to continue cooperating with the Russia investigation. Sullivan's last words to the court were: "Happy holidays." (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / BuzzFeed News)

  • Mueller released a memo from 2017 that summarizes Michael Flynn's contemporaneous interview with the FBI. The interview was the catalyst that led to the high-profile case against Trump's former national security adviser and felon. According to the memo, Flynn lied during the interview about his contact with then-Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 presidential transition period. The memo includes clear examples of Flynn lying and claiming that he never made any policy requests of Russia as FBI agents prod him to provide fuller descriptions of his calls. (CNN)

  • Flynn Intel Group co-founder Bijan Rafiekian, also known as Bijan Kian, pleaded not guilty after being charged with conspiracy and acting as an agent of a foreign government. (CNN)

3/ Hours earlier, Trump wished Flynn – a confessed felon – "good luck" ahead of his sentencing hearing. "Will be interesting to see what he has to say," Trump tweeted, "despite tremendous pressure being put on him, about Russian Collusion in our great and, obviously, highly successful political campaign." Flynn will be the highest-ranking Trump administration aide to be sentenced as part of Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. (New York Times / CNBC)

  • Giuliani: Trump is negotiating with Mueller over whether or not to provide more written answers to the special counsel's questions. "We might agree," Giuliani said. If they do agree, he continued, Trump might provide "a few more answers. … Or we might not." (Axios)

  • Giuliani: Trump discussed a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow with Michael Cohen later than previously known. Trump previously claimed that discussions about the project ended in January 2016, but Giuliani indicated that the conversations could have been in June or July of 2016. (CNN)

4/ The Russian disinformation campaign also targeted Mueller by falsely claiming that he was corrupt and that Russian interference in the 2016 election was just conspiracy theories. Russian operatives went after Mueller and his team via fake social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms. They also claimed that Mueller had a history of working with "radical Islamic groups." (Washington Post)

  • 📌Day 697: The Russian disinformation and influence campaign during the 2016 presidential election was more far-reaching than originally understood, according to the findings of two independent groups of researchers tasked by the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee. The report found that "active and ongoing interference operations remain on several platforms," including one campaign to support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and influence opinions on the Syrian Civil War. The Internet Research Agency created social media accounts under fake names and spread its messages across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and Google+, and other platforms. As attention was focused on Facebook and Twitter in 2017, the Russians shifted much of their activity to Instagram. The Internet Research Agency is owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of Putin's. Prigozhin and a dozen Internet Research Agency employees were indicted last February as part of Robert Mueller's investigation. In particular, the campaigns urged the African-American community "to boycott the election and focus on other issues instead," while messaging to conservative and right-wing voters "patriotic and anti-immigrant slogans" designed to "elicit outrage […] about liberal appeasement of 'others' at the expense of U.S. citizens, and [to] encourage them to vote for Trump." The report concludes: "What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump." (New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press / Bloomberg)

5/ Roger Stone admitted to spreading lies via InfoWars and will be required to make a public apology in order to avoid paying fines in a now-settled defamation lawsuit against him. Stone will be forced to run apology ads in national newspapers and post on social media apologizing for defaming a Chinese businessman who is a vocal critic of Beijing. The settlement also requires Stone to publish a retraction of all the lies he posted on social media. If Stone refuses to apologize, he will be forced to pay $100 million in damages to Guo Wengui. In a text message, Stone said his behavior was "irresponsible" and said that "I am solely responsible for fulfilling the terms of the settlement." (Wall Street Journal)

  • Stone took a lie detector test in an attempt to prove he did not conspire with Russia during Trump's 2016 campaign. The results were "inconclusive." (WSVN 7)

6/ Trump may back down on his demand for $5 billion from Congress for a wall on the border with Mexico in the year-end spending bill, easing concerns of a Christmas government shutdown that would begin at midnight Friday. "We have other ways that we can get to that $5 billion that we'll work with Congress," Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, adding that the Trump administration could support $1.6 billion in border security funding proposed by Senate Democrats, as long as it can "couple that with other funding resources" to get to $5 billion. The $1.6 billion offered by Democrats prohibits the money to be used on a wall. Mitch McConnell, however, proposed an appropriations bill that would allocate the $1.6 billion for border security, plus about $1 billion for Trump to spend as he saw fit on immigration, which a Senate Democratic aide described as a $1 billion "slush fund." (New York Times / CNBC / Politico / Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Trump's 2020 reelection campaign will merge with the Republican National Committee into a single entity under the banner of "Trump Victory." The two teams will also share office space. The goal of the merger is to create a single, streamlined organization that will combine field and fundraising programs. Formally tying Trump's reelection campaign to the RNC will make it harder for primary challenge. (Politico)

  2. The Trump administration announced a second and final round of roughly $4.9 billion in direct trade aide payments to farmers and ranchers who have been hurt by Trump's trade wars with various countries around the globe, including China. The effort is the latest attempt by Trump to ease the burden placed on U.S. farmers and ranchers who have been hurt by retaliatory tariffs as a result of Trump's trade ongoing disputes. The latest round of payments brings the total direct payment spending to nearly $9.6 billion. (Politico)

  3. The Trump administration banned bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic weapons to fire rapidly like automatic firearms. (Associated Press / CNN / Wall Street Journal)

  4. A federal school safety report downplayed the role of guns in school violence and instead focused on rescinding Obama-era disciplinary policies, improving mental health services, and training school personnel in the use of firearms. The commission on school safety consists of four cabinet officials and is led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. (New York Times)

  5. Trump ordered the creation of "Space Command" to "integrate space capabilities across all branches of the military." The move is a precursor to the creation of a Space Force, a proposed sixth branch of the military. (CNN / NPR)

  6. Ethics complaints against Brett Kavanaugh were dismissed because they were filed under a federal law that does not apply to Supreme Court justices. (ABC News)

  7. The chance of recession in the next 12 months rose to 23% – the highest level of the Trump presidency. (CNBC)

Day 697: A form of compromise.

1/ The Russian disinformation and influence campaign during the 2016 presidential election was more far-reaching than originally understood, according to the findings of two independent groups of researchers tasked by the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee. The report found that "active and ongoing interference operations remain on several platforms," including one campaign to support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and influence opinions on the Syrian Civil War. The Internet Research Agency created social media accounts under fake names and spread its messages across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and Google+, and other platforms. As attention was focused on Facebook and Twitter in 2017, the Russians shifted much of their activity to Instagram. The Internet Research Agency is owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of Putin's. Prigozhin and a dozen Internet Research Agency employees were indicted last February as part of Robert Mueller's investigation. In particular, the campaigns urged the African-American community "to boycott the election and focus on other issues instead," while messaging to conservative and right-wing voters "patriotic and anti-immigrant slogans" designed to "elicit outrage […] about liberal appeasement of 'others' at the expense of U.S. citizens, and [to] encourage them to vote for Trump." The report concludes: "What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump." (New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press / Bloomberg)

  • Rep. Adam Schiff wants to subpoena Trump's records with Deutsche Bank because he believes they could expose "a form of compromise" with Russia. Deutsche Bank has a long relationship with Trump, as well as Russia. "Well," Schiff said, "the concern about Deutsche Bank is that they have a history of laundering Russian money. And this, apparently, was the one bank that was willing to do business with the Trump Organization." He added: "If this is a form of compromise, it needs to be exposed." Schiff is the likely incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. (NBC News)

2/ Rudy Giuliani suggested that Mueller's investigation is "done" and all that's left is to investigate are "parking tickets and jaywalking." However, when asked if Roger Stone ever gave Trump a "heads-up" about the WikiLeaks publication of emails concerning Hillary Clinton and the DNC, Giuliani responded: "No, he didn't, no." After a moment of silence, Giuliani softened his response: "I don't believe so. But again, if Roger Stone gave anybody a heads-up about WikiLeaks' leaks, that's not a crime. It would be like giving him a heads-up that the Times is going to print something. One the — the crime, this is why this thing is so weird, strange. The crime is conspiracy to hack; collusion is not a crime; it doesn't exist." (ABC News)

  • A guide to the 17 known Trump-Russia investigations. Two years after Trump won the presidency, nearly every organization he has led in the past decade is under investigation and there are known cooperators in almost every single one of the open cases, from Michael Cohen to National Enquirer chief David Pecker to former Paul Manafort aides Sam Patten and Rick Gates. (WIRED / Washington Post / Axios)

3/ Two former business associates of Michael Flynn were arrested and charged with conspiring to "covertly and unlawfully" influence U.S. politicians on behalf of Turkey. Bijan Rafiekian, who also goes by the name Bijan Kian, was the vice-chairman of the Flynn Intel Group and worked with Flynn to have cleric Fethullah Gülen extradited from the U.S. to Turkey. Ekim Alptekin was charged with failing to register as a foreign agent and making false statements to the FBI. Mueller referred the Turkey case to prosecutors in Northern Virginia earlier this year. (The Guardian / Associated Press / New York Times / Washington Post)

👀 Shutdown watch: Trump doesn't plan to support a one- or two-week funding extension to avert a partial government shutdown over the holidays. Trump continues to demand $5 billion to build his border wall. Democrats, meanwhile, insist on spending no more than $1.37 billion on border fencing. Last week Trump said he would be "proud" to shut the government if it will force them to give in to his demands. The House is out of session until Wednesday and a shutdown will occur if nothing is passed by the end of Friday. (Bloomberg)

poll/ 62% of Americans say Trump isn't telling the truth about the Russia investigation. 43% approve of the job Trump is doing as president compared with 54% who disapprove. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. A federal judge in Texas struck down the entire Affordable Care Act on the grounds that "the individual mandate is unconstitutional" and the rest of the law cannot stand without it in a case brought by 20 Republican state attorneys general. Legal experts say the ruling won't immediately affect Americans' health coverage, and a group of states led by California is already vowing to appeal. (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post / ABC News)

  2. The Justice Department asked a federal appeals court to throw out a lawsuit accusing Trump of violating the anti-corruption provisions in the U.S. Constitution after the trial judge ruled the case could proceed. The lawsuit accuses Trump of illegally benefiting from his family's business and seeks to define the meaning of emoluments. (Reuters / New York Times)

  3. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke submitted his resignation and will depart the Trump administration at the end of the year. Zinke is currently facing multiple ethics investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest. (CNN / Bloomberg / Washington Post)

  4. Ben Carson's top deputy at HUD resigned. Pam Patenaude ran operations at the agency. (NBC News)

  5. Trump named Mick Mulvaney as acting White House chief of staff, ending a public week-long search for his third chief of staff in two years. Mulvaney is currently the director of the Office of Management and Budget. (Washington Post)

  6. Shortly before the 2016 presidential election, Mulvaney called Trump "a terrible human being." In the video, Mulvaney says he's supporting Trump "as enthusiastically as I can given the fact I think he's a terrible human being." (The Guardian)

Day 694: "Of course."

1/ Federal prosecutors are investigating whether Trump's inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC received illegal donations from individuals from Middle Eastern nations who were hoping to buy influence over U.S. policy. The inquiry focuses on whether people from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates used straw donors to disguise their donations to the two Trump funds. Foreign contributions to federal campaigns, political action committees, and inaugural funds are illegal. The inaugural committee was headed by Thomas Barrack, and Paul Manafort, who was Trump's campaign chairman at the time, believed that Barrack could help raise funds for the super PAC, Rebuilding America Now, which could collect unlimited amounts of money. Barrack said that Manafort viewed the super PAC as an arm of the campaign, despite laws meant to prevent coordination. The committee raised $23 million on Trump's behalf. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 693: Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether Trump's 2017 inaugural committee misspent the $107 million it raised and whether some of the donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions, or to influence administration positions. The committee said in its tax documents that it spent $77 million on conferences, conventions and meetings, $4 million on ticketing, $9 million on travel, $4.5 million on salaries and wages, and other expenses. Nearly a quarter of the money was paid to a firm led by a friend of Melania Trump that was formed 45 days before the inauguration. (Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 389: Trump's inaugural committee won't reveal what it's doing with tens of millions of dollars it pledged to charity last year. The committee raised about $107 million, but only spent about half of it. The rest, it said, would go to charity. (Daily Beast)

  • 📌 Day 392: Trump's inaugural committee paid nearly $26 million to an event planning firm started by Melania's adviser and longtime friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. The firm was created in December 2016 – 45 days before the inauguration. Trump’s inauguration committee raised $107 million and paid to WIS Media Partners $25.8 million. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 404: Melania Trump parted ways with her senior adviser and friend, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, after news surfaced that Wolkoff's firm had received $26 million to plan Trump's inauguration and surrounding events in January 2017. Wolkoff was terminated last week because the Trumps were unhappy with the news reports about the contract. (New York Times)

2/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that Trump had nothing to do with his inaugural committee's spending. "The biggest thing the president did, his engagement in the inauguration, was to come here and raise his hand and take the oath of office," Sanders said. (Politico)

3/ Ivanka Trump negotiated the prices that Trump's inauguration committee paid the Trump Organization for rooms, meals, and event space at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. A top inaugural planner emailed Ivanka and others at the company to "express my concern" that the hotel was overcharging for its event spaces and asking what would happen "when this is audited." It could violate tax law if the hotel charged more than the going rate for the event spaces. (ProPublica)

4/ Michael Cohen says "of course" Trump knew it was wrong to make the hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, because Trump "was very concerned about how this would affect the election." Cohen admitted that he "knew what I was doing was wrong," adding that the whole purpose was to "help [Trump] and his campaign." Cohen also noted that "nothing at the Trump Organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump. He directed me to make the payments, he directed me to become involved in these matters." (ABC News / CNN / New York Times)

  • 📌Day 441: Trump denied knowing about the $130,000 payment his lawyer made to Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election to buy her silence. Trump said he didn't know where Michael Cohen got the money from and he declined to say if he ever set up a fund for Cohen to cover expenses like that. "You'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You'll have to ask Michael," Trump said. Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, tweeted: "We very much look forward to testing the truthfulness of Mr. Trump's feigned lack of knowledge concerning the $130k payment as stated on Air Force One. As history teaches us, it is one thing to deceive the press and quite another to do so under oath." (USA Today / Bloomberg / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • 📌Day 471: Trump knew about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels several months before he denied any knowledge of it to reporters aboard Air Force One in April. While it's not clear when Trump learned of the payment, which Michael Cohen made in October 2016, Trump did know that Cohen had succeeded in keeping the allegations from becoming public when he denied it. Last week, Giuliani said Cohen was reimbursed between $460,000 and $470,000 for various payments. Cohen was mainly reimbursed through payments of $35,000 per month – or about $420,000 over 12 months – from Trump's personal trust. (New York Times)

5/ Rudy Giuliani contends that the hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal are overblown, because "nobody got killed, nobody got robbed […] This was not a big crime." Trump continues to insist that he is innocent of any crimes because he never explicitly asked for Cohen or AMI to violate campaign finance law. (Daily Beast)

6/ Paul Manafort advised the White House about how to undermine and discredit Robert Mueller's investigation in the spring and summer of 2017. Manafort urged Trump to attack the FBI, Hillary Clinton and the Steele dossier, and to allege without evidence that the Ukrainian government had colluded with the Democratic National Committee to try to help Clinton win the 2016 presidential election. "After signing the plea agreement, Manafort stated he had no direct or indirect communications with anyone in the administration while they were in the administration," Mueller said in a court filing, "and that he never asked anyone to try and communicate a message to anyone in the administration on any subject." (Vox)

7/ Mueller rejected Michael Flynn's suggestion that he was tricked into lying to FBI agents about his communications with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. "The interview was voluntary, and lacked any indicia of coercion," Mueller's team wrote in new court documents, referring to the Jan. 24, 2017 interview at the White House four days after Trump's inauguration. Neither Flynn nor his lawyers have explained why he lied. (New York Times / USA Today / NBC News / Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. A 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died of dehydration and shock while detained by U.S. Border Patrol after crossing into the U.S. illegally with her father. The girl was taken into custody and separated from her father on Dec. 6 around 10 p.m. More than eight hours later, the girl began having seizures around 6:25 a.m. the next morning. (Washington Post)

  2. The White House deflected blame for the death of the 7-year-old girl who died in Border Patrol custody, calling it a "tragic situation" that was "100 percent preventable" if Congress would Congress "disincentivize" migrants from making long treks to the southern U.S. border. (Washington Post)

  3. The 7-year-old migrant who died in U.S. custody didn't receive medical care for more than 90 minutes after her father reported that she was sick. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen called the death of the girl "a very sad example of the dangers of this journey." (Bloomberg)

  4. Betsy DeVos will cancel $150 million in federal student loan debt for for 15,000 borrowers after losing a court battle. The move comes two months after a federal judge ordered the immediate implementation of the "borrower defense" rule, which was designed to help students cheated by for-profit colleges get relief on their education debt. (Politico / CNN)

  5. Chris Christie told Trump he doesn't want to be considered for the chief of staff job. (Axios)

  6. George Papadopoulos is considering a run for Congress. The former Trump campaign foreign policy aide just spent 12 days in prison after pleading guilty to making false statements to the FBI about contacts with a professor, Joseph Mifsud, who claimed to know that Russia had thousands of emails connected to Hillary Clinton. (Politico)

  7. Reince Priebus is joining the Navy on a recommendation from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. A Navy review board "professionally recommended" the former Trump chief of staff to join the service. (Washington Post)

Day 693: The Diplomacy Project.

1/ Maria Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as a foreign agent of the Kremlin and influence U.S. politics from 2015 until her arrest in July. Butina tried to establish "unofficial lines of communication" with influential Americans in the NRA and in the Republican Party "under direction of" a former Russian senator and deputy governor of Russia's central bank, who matches the description of sanctioned Russian central banker Alexander Torshin. Butina is also expected to provide evidence against Paul Erickson, who helped her with what she called her "Diplomacy Project." Butina faces up to five years in prison but is expected to only serve six months based on "the sentencing guidelines cited as part of the plea agreement." (Washington Post / CNN / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Politico) / NBC News)

2/ Trump claimed he "never directed Michael Cohen to break the law" and said he isn't responsible for any crimes because he acted on the "advice of counsel" and his former lawyer is "supposed to know the law." Trump also questioned whether any campaign finance violations even occurred, saying "Cohen was guilty on many charges unrelated to me […] which were not criminal and of which he probably was not guilty even on a civil basis." Trump suggested that Cohen pleaded guilty to the charges in order to "embarrass" him and to get a reduced prison term. Cohen pleaded guilty in August to violating campaign finance law when he made hush money payments ahead of the 2016 election to Stormy Daniels and arranged a similar pay-off to Karen McDougal at the direction of then-candidate Trump, which were intended to sway the election. (New York Times / Washington Post / The Guardian / Politico / CNN / NBC News)

  • 🚨 CONFIRMED: Trump was the "other member of the campaign" in the room when Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker discussed ways Pecker could "help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate's relationships with women." In August 2015, Trump and Cohen met with Pecker in his Trump Tower office and asked how he could help the campaign. Pecker offered to use the National Enquirer to buy the silence of women if they tried to publicize alleged sexual encounters with Trump. (Wall Street Journal / NBC News)

  • ⏮ At the time, Hope Hicks claimed the Trump campaign had "no knowledge of any of this," adding that Karen McDougal's claim that she had an affair with Trump was "totally untrue." The National Enquirer's parent company said that "AMI has not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump." (Wall Street Journal)

3/ Two Michael Flynn associates said he discussed a deal with Sergey Kislyak during the campaign about how Trump and Russia could work together if Trump won. According to Flynn's associates, the bargain he discussed with Russia's then-ambassador to the U.S. was that Moscow would cooperate with the Trump administration to resolve the Syrian conflict and in exchange the U.S. would end or ease sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and military intervention in Ukraine. In mid-August 2016, Trump and Flynn received a briefing that noted the intelligence community had reached the preliminary conclusion that Moscow was behind the hacks of Democratic targets and the public disclosure of the stolen material. Flynn's "series of contacts" with Kislyak continued despite knowing Moscow was behind the efforts to subvert the U.S. election. (Mother Jones)

  • Trump claimed that Robert Mueller's prosecutors gave Michael Flynn "a great deal because they were embarrassed by the way he was treated." Mueller recommended Flynn serve no jail time due to his "substantial assistance" in the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election after the former national security adviser pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. last December. (The Hill)

  • 📌 The Re-Up: Day 25: Michael Flynn resigned as National Security Adviser after it was revealed that he had misled Pence and other top White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Flynn served in the job for less than a month. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 26: Trump knew Flynn misled officials on Russia calls for "weeks," the White House says. The comment contrasts the impression Trump gave aboard Air Force One that he was not familiar with a report that revealed Flynn had not told the truth about the calls. White House counsel Don McGahn told Trump in a January briefing that Flynn had discussed U.S. sanctions with Russia. (Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 22: Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials. Flynn's communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin that it could expect a reprieve from sanctions that were being imposed by the Obama administration in late December to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 election. (Washington Post)

4/ Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether Trump's 2017 inaugural committee misspent the $107 million it raised and whether some of the donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions, or to influence administration positions. The committee said in its tax documents that it spent $77 million on conferences, conventions and meetings, $4 million on ticketing, $9 million on travel, $4.5 million on salaries and wages, and other expenses. Nearly a quarter of the money was paid to a firm led by a friend of Melania Trump that was formed 45 days before the inauguration. (Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 389: Trump's inaugural committee won't reveal what it's doing with tens of millions of dollars it pledged to charity last year. The committee raised about $107 million, but only spent about half of it. The rest, it said, would go to charity. (Daily Beast)

  • 📌 Day 392: Trump's inaugural committee paid nearly $26 million to an event planning firm started by Melania's adviser and longtime friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. The firm was created in December 2016 – 45 days before the inauguration. Trump’s inauguration committee raised $107 million and paid to WIS Media Partners $25.8 million. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 404: Melania Trump parted ways with her senior adviser and friend, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, after news surfaced that Wolkoff's firm had received $26 million to plan Trump's inauguration and surrounding events in January 2017. Wolkoff was terminated last week because the Trumps were unhappy with the news reports about the contract. (New York Times)

5/ The Senate passed a resolution condemning Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, delivering a political rebuke of Trump's refusal to condemn Mohammed for the killing of Khashoggi. Last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefed senators in a classified session, claiming there is no "direct reporting" linking the crown prince to Khashoggi's death despite a CIA assessment reporting that Mohammed was likely responsible for the murder. The Senate also overwhelming approved a resolution to end U.S. participation in the Saudi-led war effort in Yemen. (Washington Post / CNN / New York Times / Bloomberg / ABC News)

6/ Trump canceled the White House holiday party for members of the media, ending the decades-long tradition as his contentious relationship with the media continues to escalate. There was no announcement from the White House stating that the event was canceled. (Fox News)

poll/ 48% of Americans have confidence in the Democrats in Congress to deal with the major issues facing the country today, compared with 39% who said they have confidence in Trump, and 9% who say they don't trust either. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma bought tens of thousands of dollars in stock in a top defense contractor days before he began pushing for an unprecedented $750 billion defense spending bill. When asked about his purchases, Inhofe had his financial adviser cancel the transactions, dump the stock, and avoid defense and aerospace purchases in the future. (Daily Beast)

  2. Trump removed Rep. Mark Meadows from consideration to be chief of staff. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump needs the House Freedom Caucus chairman in Congress. (Politico)

  3. Jared Kushner met with Trump about the chief of staff job. Trump told reporters that he is down to five finalists. (HuffPost)

  4. Jose Canseco volunteered to be Trump's "Chief if Staff," tweeting at the president that he is "worried about [Trump] looking more like a Twinkie everyday" and promising to "buff you up daily workouts" if he is given the job. (ESPN)

  5. Using backwards math, Trump claimed that the "money we save" from the new trade deal with Mexico and Canada would mean "MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!" Chuck Schumer told the Senate that if Mexico is funding the wall, then Congress doesn't need to spend any money on it. (Washington Post)

  6. Trump will spend 16 days at Mar-a-Lago over the Christmas and New Year's holidays. The upcoming visit is longer than last year's 12-day visit. (Palm Beach Post)

Day 692: Hello darkness, my old friend.

1/ Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion, violating campaign finance laws, lying to banks and to Congress. Cohen apologized for his conduct, admitting that he had arranged the payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal "for the principal purpose of influencing the election" for president in 2016, and took "full responsibility" for covering up the "dirty deeds" out of "blind loyalty" to Trump. Cohen pleaded guilty in two separate cases: One brought by Robert Mueller over his lies to Congress. The other was brought by the southern district of New York over tax and bank fraud, and campaign finance violations. Cohen blamed Trump for his "path of darkness." In addition to the prison time, Cohen will forfeit $500,000 in assets and pay $1.393 million in restitution. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Politico / The Guardian / NBC News / CBS News / ABC News)

  • Sean Hannity deleted past tweets that tied him to Cohen hours before Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison. Hannity reportedly deleted over 270 tweets, with five of them directly referencing his relationship with Cohen. Hannity deleted several April 16 tweets discussing Cohen following the revelation that Cohen represented him, Trump, and former Republican National Committee Deputy Finance Chair Elliott Broidy in legal matters. "Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter. I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees. I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective," Hannity tweeted in the now-deleted tweet. (Newsweek / Daily Beast)

  • Trump blamed Cohen for the crimes stemming from paying Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, arguing that it was his "lawyer's liability if he made a mistake, not me." Cohen said he arranged the payments at Trump's behest. (Bloomberg)

  • Stormy Daniels was ordered to pay Trump nearly $293,000 for his attorneys' fees and another $1,000 in sanctions after her defamation suit against him was dismissed. Earlier this year Daniels filed a defamation lawsuit, claiming Trump acted with "actual malice" and "reckless disregard for the truth" when he mocked her claim that she was threatened by an unknown man to keep silent about her alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump. (Associated Press / The Guardian / ABC News)

2/ National Enquirer's parent company admitted that it paid Karen McDougal $150,000 in an attempt to influence the 2016 election as part of a non-prosecution cooperation agreement that American Media Inc. entered into with the Southern District of New York. David Pecker, a Trump ally and CEO of AMI, met with Cohen "and at least one other member of the campaign" in August of 2015, offering "to help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate's relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided." AMI confessed to the tabloid practice of "catch and kill," paying McDougal for the rights to her story about an alleged affair with Trump and then never publishing it. (Bloomberg / Talking Points Memo / CNN / New York Times)

  • 🚨The "one other member of the campaign" was Trump. In August 2015, Trump met with Pecker in his Trump Tower office and asked how he could help the campaign. Pecker offered to use the National Enquirer to buy the silence of women if they tried to publicize alleged sexual encounters with Trump. (Wall Street Journal)

  • ⏪Four days before the 2016 election, Hope Hicks claimed the Trump campaign had "no knowledge of any of this," adding that McDougal's claim that she had an affair with Trump was "totally untrue." In a statement at the time, the company said that "AMI has not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump." (Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌Day 581. David Pecker was granted immunity by federal prosecutors for providing information about Cohen and Trump in their criminal investigation into hush-money payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal during the 2016 presidential campaign. In exchange for immunity, the CEO of American Media, Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, met with prosecutors and shared details about payments Cohen arranged to Daniels and McDougal, including Trump's knowledge of the deals. Dylan Howard, AMI's chief content officer, is also cooperating with federal prosecutors. Together, Pecker and Howard corroborate Cohen's account implicating Trump in a federal crime (campaign-finance violations). Cohen's lawyer Lanny Davis says there are more revelations to come. And, one person close to Cohen claims Cohen wants to tell Mueller that Trump discussed the release of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's e-mails during the weekend when the Access Hollywood "grab 'em by the pussy" tape dominated the news cycle. Late last night, Trump tweeted: "NO COLLUSION - RIGGED WITCH HUNT!" It's unclear what prompted the tweet. (Wall Street Journal / Vanity Fair / NBC News / New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 581: The National Enquirer kept a safe with documents about hush money payments and damaging stories it killed as part of its relationship with Trump. Pecker and the company’s chief content officer, Dylan Howard, removed them from the safe in the weeks before Trump's inauguration and it's unclear if the documents were destroyed or simply were moved to a new location. (Associated Press)

  • 📌 Day 547: Michael Cohen recorded a conversation with Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model who had an affair with Trump. In the September 2016 conversation at Trump Tower, Cohen told Trump that American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, had bought the rights to McDougal's story about her affair with Trump for for $150,000 in August 2016. Cohen suggested that they acquire the rights to McDougal's story themselves and Trump asked how to proceed and whether he should write a check. The FBI seized the recording during the raid on Cohen's office. Rudy Giuliani confirmed that Trump had discussed the payments with Cohen on the tape, but said the payment was ultimately never made. Prosecutors want to know if Cohen's efforts to limit negative stories about Trump during the campaign violated federal campaign finance laws. When informed about the recording today, Trump responded: "I can't believe Michael would do this to me." (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 162: "Morning Joe" hosts claimed that Trump tried to blackmail them with a National Enquirer hit-piece. Joe Scarborough recounted a story where "three people at the very top of the administration" called and texted him to say the National Enquirer was going to run a negative story about him and Mika Brzezinski. "If you call the president up, and you apologize for your coverage," the officials said, "then [Trump] will pick up the phone and basically spike this story." In a Washington Post op-ed by Scarborough and Brzezinski today, the couple said that during the campaign, Trump called Mika “neurotic” and promised to personally attack them after the campaign ended. Trump is friends with David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer. (CNN / Washington Post)

3/ Michael Flynn asked to be spared jail time because of his "extensive cooperation" with Mueller. Flynn pleaded guilty last December to lying to the FBI during its counterintelligence investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He blamed the FBI agents for tricking him into lying by not warning him "that it was a crime to lie during an FBI interview." Flynn asked to receive a year of probation and 200 hours of community service in light of his cooperation, long service in the U.S. military, and his lack of a criminal record. Mueller's office similarly recommended little to no jail time last week because he had provided "substantial assistance" in the investigation that "likely affected the decisions of related firsthand witnesses to be forthcoming." (Politico / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / NBC News)

  • Everyone who's been charged as part of the Mueller investigation. The special counsel has issued more than 100 criminal counts against 33 people and three companies. (New York Times)

4/ The incoming New York attorney general plans to launch a wide-ranging investigation into Trump, his family, and "anyone" in his orbit who may have violated the law. Letitia James plans to investigate any potential illegalities involving Trump's real estate holdings in New York, the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, government subsidies Trump has received, whether he used his businesses to violate the emoluments clause, and the Trump Foundation. (NBC News)

  • Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are poised to benefit financially from the Opportunity Zone tax break they pushed Trump to pass. Opportunity Zones provide tax breaks to developers who invest in depressed American communities. Watchdog investigators say the pair are navigating an ethical minefield after becoming two of Trump's closest advisers without divesting from their real estate investments. The couple owns stakes in at least 13 properties held by Kushner's family firm that could now qualify for tax breaks because they are in Opportunity Zones in New Jersey, New York, and Maryland. (Associated Press)

  • Rudy Giuliani continues to seek lucrative security consulting contracts with foreign governments while representing Trump as part of his work for Giuliani Security and Safety. Giuliani is not a government employee and is not subject to government ethics rules. His security consulting contracts include clauses stipulating that he will not lobby on behalf of clients before the U.S. government. (New York Times)

  • The targets of U.S. sanctions are trying to hire lobbyists with connections to Trump in order to help them reduce or get out of those sanctions entirely. Some of the biggest payments to Washington's influence industry have gone to lobbyists, lawyers, and consultants with connections to Trump or his administration, a notion that reeks of the pay-to-play corruption often seen in the politics of many African, Asian, Middle Eastern, and former Soviet nations. "People overseas often want to hear that you know so-and-so, and can make a call to solve their problem," said a leading Washington sanctions lawyer. The trend has been encouraged by Trump administration officials who project Trump's willingness to make deals around sanctions and tariff exemptions. (New York Times)

5/ Trump claimed he is not concerned about impeachment a day after it was reported that he sees impeachment as a "real possibility." He then defended the payments he directed Cohen to make to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, saying "It's hard to impeach somebody who hasn't done anything wrong and who's created the greatest economy in the history of our country." Trump added: "I'm not concerned, no. I think that the people would revolt if that happened." (Reuters)


Notables.

  1. The next chief of staff needs to win the approval of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. The two have their sights set on Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, who they see as extremely loyal. Mnuchin, however, remains uninterested in the position. "There was no Plan B" after Nick Ayers refused to take the job, Steve Bannon said. Trump, meanwhile, claimed that 10 to 12 people who want the chief of staff job "badly," but the understanding is that Trump has essentially been "just calling around to friends" to try and fill the position. (Reuters / Politico / Washington Post)

  2. Trump doubled down on his decision to stand by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite his own CIA's assessment that MBS ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. "He’s the leader of Saudi Arabia," Trump said during an interview. "They’ve been a very good ally." Trump continued to defend MBS by reiterating that the "crown prince vehemently denies" any involvement in Khashoggi's death. (Reuters)

  3. The Trump administration decided that Vietnamese migrants who arrived before the establishment of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Vietnam are all eligible for deportation. The White House reinterpreted a 2008 agreement that specifically bars the deportation of Vietnamese people who arrived in the U.S. before July 12, 1995. (The Atlantic)

  4. The Senate passed legislation to reverse a Trump administration policy limiting donor disclosure requirements for political nonprofits. The resolution blocks the recent Treasury Department change to IRS forms allowing political nonprofits to avoid listing some donors. The rule, however, is unlikely to survive the GOP-led House, which must vote on the resolution before the end of the year. (Politico / Washington Post)

  5. The House passed an $867 billion farm bill to address a wide range of areas including farming, nutrition, conservation, trade, energy and forestry. The bill, which passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan support, heads to Trump's desk for his signature. (The Hill / Los Angeles Times / CNN)

  6. Despite no evidence linking terror attacks in the U.S. to illegal immigration, Trump used the attack in France to again argue for more funding for his border wall. "Another very bad terror attack in France," Trump tweeted. "We are going to strengthen our borders even more. Chuck and Nancy must give us the votes to get additional Border Security!" (ABC News / Politico / Washington Post)

Day 691: This wall thing.

1/ Trump claimed he'd be "proud to shut down the government" if his demand for $5 billion in border wall funding isn't met. In an extended, heated, and televised exchange with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, Trump declared that "I will be the one to shut it down. I'm not going to blame you for it. I am proud to shut down the government for border security. […] I will take the mantle […] for shutting down the government." Schumer and Pelosi said they made two offers to Trump at the current level of $1.375 billion. Prior to the meeting, Trump falsely tweeted that a substantial part of his "Great Wall" had already been built and then threatened that "if the Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country, the Military will build the remaining sections of the Wall." Schumer accused Trump of throwing a "temper tantrum" with the meeting ending with no resolution, increasing the chances of a partial government shutdown at the end of next week. (Washington Post / Axios / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNBC)

  • After the meeting, Pelosi questioned Trump's manhood and called the border wall a matter of masculine pride. Trump "must have said the word 'wall' 30 times," the House minority leader said. "It's like a manhood thing with him — as if manhood can be associated with him," she added. "This wall thing." (Politico / Washington Post)

  • 5 takeaways from Trump's meeting with Pelosi and Schumer. (New York Times)

  • Annotated: Trump's squabble with Pelosi and Schumer. (Washington Post)

2/ The Trump administration plans to unveil sweeping changes to federal clean water rules that would weaken protections for millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of streams against pesticide runoff and other pollutants. The proposed reforms would strip away standards that were put in place during the George H.W. Bush administration despite Trump's repeated commitment to "crystal-clean water." Current rules restricts farmers from using land near streams and wetlands for certain kinds of plowing and planting, and also requires permits from the EPA to use some pesticides and fertilizers. Trump's new plan would lift those restrictions. (New York Times / The Guardian / Wall Street Journal)

3/ John Kelly will remain as chief of staff through at least Jan. 2 to ensure "a very peaceful and pragmatic transition," Kellyanne Conway said. Trump previously announced that Kelly would exit by the end of the year. (Washington Post)

  • After Nick Ayers declined the chief of staff job, Trump asks "why wouldn't someone want one of the truly great and meaningful jobs in Washington." Trump later claimed that "a lot of friends of mine want it," and "we're in no rush." (Politico / New York Times / USA Today)

  • Trump's mood after Ayers' declined the job: "super pissed" and humiliated. Trump has also become increasingly concerned about what his administration is up against come January, when Democrats are expected to exercise their oversight powers on the Trump administration. (CNN)

4/ Trump sees impeachment as a "real possibility" after prosecutors in New York linked him to campaign finance violations for directing the payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. The legal troubles have unnerved some of his fellow Republicans with one official calling last week's court filings a "reality tremor." (CNN / Associated Press / Axios)

  • More Mueller developments are coming this week in the Manafort, Cohen and Flynn cases. (CNBC)

5/ Trump continues to reject the assessment U.S. spy agencies lay out for him in daily briefings on world events. In particular, Trump has dismissed the intelligence community's assessments about Russia's interference in the 2016 election, North Korea's willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons program, Iran's nuclear and regional ambitions, the existence of climate change, and the role of the Saudi crown prince in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. (Washington Post)

poll/ 57% of Americans think Trump should compromise on his border wall to prevent a government shutdown. 69% do not consider building a border wall to be an immediate priority for the next Congress. (NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist)

poll/ 29% of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling the Russia investigation. 54%, meanwhile, think the things Trump has said publicly about the investigation have been false. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. The Senate will vote on a criminal justice bill before the end of the year. The legislation would reduce the three-strike mandatory life sentence to 25 years for drug offenses, and give judges the power to bypass the minimum sentences for certain offenders. It would also mark of Trump's first bipartisan legislative achievements of his presidency. (CNBC / Bloomberg / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

  2. For months the Trump administration hid a report that showed Wells Fargo charged college students fees that were several times larger than the average fees of its competitors. The report was produced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under its former top student loan official, Seth Frotman, who resigned in protest in August. Wells Fargo collected more than half of all the fees paid by students despite handling about a quarter of the accounts. (Politico)

  3. China agreed to reduce tariffs on U.S. autos to 15% – down from 40% currently. The Trump administration, meanwhile, plans to condemn China's trade, cyber, and economic policies. The Justice Department is also expected to announce the indictments of several hackers suspected of working for the Chinese government. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / New York Times)

  4. The incoming House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman plans to investigate Jared Kushner's ties to Mohammed bin Salman as part of a review of U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia. (CNN)

  5. Putin claimed "nobody" at Russia's spy agencies "knows anything about" Maria Butina, who agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and cooperate with federal, state and local authorities in any ongoing investigations. (CNBC / ABC News)

Day 690: "I have nothing to do with Russia."

1/ An alleged Russian spy appears to have reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors involving accusations that she was working as an agent for the Kremlin in the U.S. Maria Butina is accused of working with a Russian banking official to develop relationships with American politicians through the National Rifle Association in an effort to advance Russian interests. Butina previously pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and acting as an agent of a foreign government, but attorneys and prosecutors filed a request for a "change of plea" hearing since "the parties have resolved this matter." Butina's case was brought by federal prosecutors in D.C. – not by Robert Mueller. (CNN / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)

  • Relevant: The NRA spent $30 million to support Trump in the 2016 election, and the two groups used the same consultants to execute complementary TV advertising strategies during the campaign. The FBI is also investigating whether a Russian banker – Alexander Torshin – illegally funneled money to the NRA in order to help Trump win the presidency.

  • 📌 The Re-up: Day 543. The Justice Department charged a Russian national and accused her of acting as a Russian agent "for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian federation." Maria Butina tried to infiltrate the NRA and "create a back-channel line of communication" back to the Kremlin. Charging documents say Butina was directed by a "high-level official in the Russian government," who has been previously identified as Alexander Torshin, a senior official at the Russian central bank, who is also a longtime associate of the NRA. The charges were filed under seal the day after 12 Russian intelligence officers were indicted by the Justice Department for hacking Democratic computers. They were unsealed following Trump's press conference with Putin where he said he saw no reason the Russian leader would try to influence the presidential election. (Bloomberg / The Guardian / New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 564. Maria Butina, the alleged Russian spy, socialized with a former Trump campaign aide weeks before the 2016 election. At the time, J.D. Gordon planned to join Trump's transition team, but ultimately never did. From March 2016 until August 2016, Gordon was the point person for an advisory group on foreign policy and national security for the Trump campaign. Paul Erickson, a GOP operative with whom Butina was in a romantic relationship, told her that Gordon was "playing a crucial role in the Trump transition effort and would be an excellent addition to any of the U.S./Russia friendship dinners" that might be held. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 545. The Justice Department added a second charge against Russian national Maria Butina of acting as an unregistered foreign agent of the Kremlin since at least 2015. Butina was charged on Monday with conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government. Butina was arrested on Sunday because she appeared to have plans to flee the U.S. (Politico / Washington Post)

2/ Jerome Corsi sued Mueller, the Justice Department, the National Security Agency, the FBI and the CIA for $350 million, claiming his Fourth Amendment rights were violated, and that Mueller leaked his grand jury testimony and blackmailed him to lie as part of a "legal coup d'etat" against Trump. The conspiracy theorist and Roger Stone associate is asking for $100 million in actual damages and $250 million in punitive damages as compensation for injury to his reputation. The suit also accuses the CIA, FBI, and NSA of placing Corsi under illegal surveillance "at the direction of Mueller and his partisan Democrat, leftist, and ethically and legally conflicted prosecutorial staff." Corsi is suspected of being the go-between for Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (Politico / NBC News)

  • 📌 Day 667. Jerome Corsi emailed Roger Stone two months before WikiLeaks released emails stolen from the Clinton campaign, saying "Word is (Julian Assange) plans 2 more dumps…Impact planned to be very damaging." On July 25, 2016, Stone emailed Corsi, directing him to "Get to (Assange) [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending (WikiLeaks) emails." Corsi passed the directive along to conservative author Ted Malloch. Eight days later, Corsi emailed Stone saying that WikiLeaks had information that would be damaging to Clinton's campaign and planned to release it in October. (NBC News)

3/ At least 16 Trump associates interacted with Russian nationals during the campaign and transition period, according to public records and interviews. After taking office, Trump and senior officials repeatedly lied about the campaign's contact with Russians, with Trump at one point claiming: "No. Nobody that I know of. I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does." Hope Hicks, then Trump's spokeswoman, also lied, saying: "It never happened. There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign." The contacts and communications occurred amidst "sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election," according to Mueller's latest filing. The list of associates communicating with Russians includes Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Jeff Sessions, JD Gordon, Roger Stone, Michael Caputo, Erik Prince, Avi Berkowitz, Michael Cohen, Ivanka Trump, and Felix Sater. (CNN / Washington Post)

4/ Trump tweeted there is no "smocking gun" tying his campaign to Russia, misspelling "smoking gun" twice in the same tweet. Trump suggested that the payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal were not illegal campaign contributions, as federal prosecutors claim, but instead a "simple private transaction" that are only being scrutinized because investigators have not been able to find evidence of collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russia. "No Smocking Gun…No Collusion." (Washington Post)

  • The incoming chair of the House judiciary committee: Trump is "at the center of a massive fraud" against the American people. Jerrold Nadler said Trump committed impeachable offenses if it is proven that he ordered the illegal payments to Daniels and McDougal to keep quiet about alleged sexual encounters. (The Guardian)

Notables.

  1. Trump told James Mattis to submit a $750 billion defense budget proposal for the 2020 fiscal year. Trump previously called for a reduction in defense spending, but now he appears to have reversed course. Mattis and other top military leaders have been fighting to preserve the current $733 billion proposal, and Trump has called for a top line of $716 billion and even $700 billion as recently as October. (Politico)

  2. Trump's preferred choice to replace John Kelly turned down the chief of staff role. Nick Ayers currently serves as Pence's chief of staff, and said that he is instead leaving the administration entirely at the end of the year to spend more time with his family in Georgia. Trump didn't appear to have an obvious second choice lined up, but some believe he is eyeing North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows, who serves as the chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is also under consideration. (New York Times / The Guardian / Axios / CNBC)

  3. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have shifted their focus from Michael Cohen's crimes to the role of Trump Organization executives in those crimes. Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign finance violations and other crimes and has assisted prosecutors in their investigation. Cohen told prosecutors that the Trump Organization's CFO was involved in discussions about hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougall, on which prosecutors are now focusing. Now, prosecutors have renewed their requests for documents and other materials related to those payments. (New York Times)

  4. The Supreme Court declined to review whether states can cut off public funding for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from their Medicaid programs. (Politico / CNN / Washington Post)

  5. Jamal Khashoggi's last words: "I can't breathe." The translated transcript notes the sounds of Khashoggi's body being dismembered by a saw. (CNN)

  6. Jared Kushner offered Prince Mohammed bin Salman advice about how to weather the storm after Khashoggi was killed, urging the prince to resolve his conflicts around the region and avoid further embarrassments. (New York Times)

Day 687: Undisciplined.

1/ Paul Manafort told "multiple," "discernible lies" to the FBI and the special counsel's office concerning five different matters after agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors. Federal prosecutors accused Manafort of lying about his "contact with administration officials" and his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian tied to Moscow's intelligence services. Manafort met with Kilimnik twice during the campaign. Robert Mueller's team said Manafort made multiple false statements that were "not instances of mere memory lapses" over the course of 12 meetings with the FBI and the special counsel after signing a plea agreement in September. (NBC News / New York Times / The Guardian / Washington Post / CNN)

  • READ: Mueller's filing on Manafort (CNN)

2/ Federal Prosecutors with the Southern District of New York said that while Michael Cohen gave federal investigators "relevant and useful" information, he still deserves a "substantial" prison term of about four years for his "extensive" criminal conduct. Prosecutors said Cohen "repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends" and "repeatedly declined to provide full information about the scope of any additional criminal conduct in which he may have engaged or had knowledge." Mueller also revealed that Cohen told them that a well-connected Russian national offered Cohen "political synergy" with the Trump campaign in November 2015. The person claimed to be a "trusted person" in the Russian Federation offering the campaign "synergy on a government level." Federal prosecutors also implicated Trump in the illegal payments that violated campaign finance laws to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, saying Cohen "acted in coordination and at the direction of Individual-1," who we know as the person currently serving as president of the United States. (Washington Post / NBC News / New York Times / The Guardian / ABC News / CNN / Bloomberg)

  • READ: Sentencing memorandums for Cohen. (CNN)

  • 5 takeaways from the Cohen and Manafort filings. (Washington Post)

  • Mueller's indictments so far: At least 33 people and three companies have been charged so far as a result of the special counsel’s investigation into 2016 election tampering. (Politico)

  • A political consultant is challenging federal law barring foreign involvement in U.S. elections, saying the provision is unconstitutional because Congress can't regulate the role played by non-citizens in state and local elections. Legal scholars say the appeal represents a serious challenge to the statute, which could undermine the law at center of the Mueller probe. (Politico)

3/ Mueller cited Trump's time in the White House as relevant to the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election, saying Cohen provided valuable information "concerning his contacts with persons connected to the White House during the 2017–2018 time period." Following Mueller's memos, Trump inexplicably tweeted: "Totally clears the President. Thank you!" While Trump did not explain his comment, federal prosecutors did say in the court filing that Cohen committed campaign finance crimes "in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump. [See item #2] (NBC News)

4/ Hours before Mueller filed his memos, Trump kicked off the day by attacking the investigation in a series of angry, error-laden tweets alleging that Mueller is biased, full of "Conflicts of Interest," and is best friends with "Leakin' Lyin' James Comey." The eight-tweet tirade did not include any supporting evidence. (NBC News / Daily Beast / The Guardian)

  • Rex Tillerson: Trump is "undisciplined," "doesn't read briefing reports," and repeatedly tries to do illegal things. "So often, the president would say, 'Here's what I want to do, and here's how I want to do it,'" Tillerson said, "and I would have to say to him, 'Mr. President, I understand what you want to do, but you can't do it that way. It violates the law.'" Trump responded by calling Tillerson "dumb as a rock" and "lazy as hell." Tillerson previously called Trump a "moron." (Washington Post / NBC News / Politico)

5/ Trump also claimed that his lawyers are preparing a "major Counter Report" to rebut Mueller's findings in the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign. According to Trump, his lawyers have already completed 87 pages, adding, "obviously cannot complete until we the see the final Witch Hunt report." Trump's statement contradicts Rudy Giuliani, who said he hasn't had time to consider drafting a response plan, let alone work on a "counter report." Giuliani added that he spent the summer answering Mueller's questions, describing the process as "a nightmare" that took "about three weeks to do what would normally take two days." (Washington Post / The Atlantic)

6/ CNN received a bomb threat and had to be evacuated as Trump attacked the media on Twitter as "the enemy of the people." Trump's all-caps "FAKE NEWS - THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!" tweet was sent at 10:07 pm. A short time later, Don Lemon abruptly went to commercial break as CNN's New York studio was evacuated because of a bomb threat. The New York Police Department said the threat was not substantiated. Trump appears to be responding to a report that the White House does not have a plan for how to respond to the Mueller report. (Vox / CNN)

7/ John Kelly is expected to resign immediately as chief of staff in the coming days. Kelly and Trump have reached an impasse and neither sees the situation as tenable as the two have also stopped speaking entirely in recent days. Nick Ayers, who currently serves as Pence's chief of staff, is seen as a leading candidate to replace Kelly. (CNN / Reuters / Bloomberg / Washington Post / Politico)

  • Mueller's team interviewed Kelly in recent months about potential obstruction of justice. The questions centered on Trump's attempt to fire Mueller in June 2017. (CNN)

poll/ 71% of Republicans believe Mueller's investigation is a "witch hunt," while 82% of Democrats and 55% of independents see the investigation as "fair." Overall, 54% of Americans believe the Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign is fair. (NPR)


Notables.

  1. George Papadopoulos was released from prison after serving 12 whole days for lying to investigators about his contact with individuals tied to Russia during the 2016 campaign. Papadopoulos will have 12 months of supervised release, serve 200 hours of community service, and pay a $9,500 fine. (CNN)

  2. James Comey met behind closed doors with the House Judiciary and Oversight committees. Lawmakers are expected to question Comey on a range of topics, including his memos about interactions with Trump, the details of his firing, the origins of the FBI's Russia probe, and whether bias contributed to the decisions to focus on Trump and to conduct surveillance on Carter Page. (Washington Post)

  3. Trump named William Barr as his next attorney general. If confirmed by the Senate, Barr will take over from Matthew Whitaker, who has served in an acting capacity since Jeff Sessions was forced out. (The Guardian / New York Times / Washington Post)

  4. Trump named Army Gen. Mark Milley as his nominee to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Milley will replace current chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, who still almost 10 months left in his term. (Politico)

  5. The Justice Department hasn't filed required paperwork stating when Jeff Sessions left office. Federal law requires the vacancy and any acting appointment to be reported "immediately" to the Government Accountability Office. This reporting is important because Matthew Whitaker, acting attorney general, can only serve for 210 days. (BuzzFeed News)

  6. Trump nominated former Fox News anchor Heather Nauert as the next ambassador to the United Nations. Nauert currently serves as the State Department spokeswoman. Her post as UN ambassador will be downgraded from its current cabinet-level status. (Bloomberg / New York Times / The Guardian)

  7. The Trump administration finalized a rollback of school lunch regulations, relaxing restrictions on products allowed. The changes will impact 99,000 schools and institutions that feed 30 million children every year. (ABC News)

Day 686: Strong signals.

1/ Congress passed a two-week spending bill to extend the government's funding through Dec. 21 and avoid a partial shutdown. Lawmakers face an impasse over whether to meet Trump's demand for $5 billion to build a wall along the border with Mexico, which Democrats have resisted. Trump has threatened to force a partial government shutdown if Congress does not give him his wall money. (Wall Street Journal / Reuters / Washington Post)

2/ A bipartisan group of senators are trying to punish Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi while also curtailing U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, and suspending arms sales to the Kingdom. Trump, meanwhile, has downplayed assertions that Prince Mohammed was responsible for Khashoggi's murder at the Saudi consulate. (Bloomberg / Reuters / CNN)

3/ Trump blamed Robert Mueller's Russia investigation for his low approval rating, claiming that "without the phony Russia Witch Hunt […] my approval rating would be at 75% rather than the 50% just reported by Rasmussen." Trump's average approval rating is 43.3%, according to Real Clear Politics. And, according to FiveThirtyEight, Trump's approval rating is 42.1%. (Politico)

  • A Trump campaign adviser was questioned about his relationship with a Kremlin-controlled broadcaster, which U.S. intelligence authorities have called Russia's principal propaganda arm. Mueller's investigators have questioned Ted Malloch about his appearances on RT. (The Guardian)

4/ 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)

poll/ 67% of voters are concerned about the recent climate change report that concludes that global warming is already "transforming where and how we live." 58% agree with the scientific consensus that climate change is being caused by human activity. (Politico)

  • 📌 The Re-up: Day 685. Global emissions of carbon dioxide have reached the highest levels on record. Global emissions grew 1.6% in 2017 with 2018 expected to increase 2.7%. The U.S. is the world's second-largest emitter of carbon emissions, but that hasn't stopped the Trump administration from moving to roll back regulations designed to limit those emissions from vehicle tailpipes and power-plant smokestacks. As United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said this week at the opening of the 24th annual U.N. climate conference: "We are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with climate change." (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 678. Trump – again – dismissed his own government's report on the devastating impacts of climate change and global warming, saying he doesn't see climate change as a man-made issue and that he doesn't believe the scientific consensus. "One of the problems that a lot of people like myself," Trump said, "we have very high levels of intelligence but we're not necessarily such believers." He continued: "You look at our air and our water, and it's right now at a record clean." (Washington Post)

  • 📌Day 676. The National Climate Assessment concludes that global warming is already "transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us." The findings from the landmark scientific report, issued by 13 federal agencies, are at odds with the Trump administration's environmental deregulation agenda, which Trump claims will lead to economic growth, and its plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. The report predicts that the effects of global warming could eliminate as much as 10% of the U.S. economy by the end of the century, and warns that humans must act aggressively now "to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades." The first report, released in November 2017, concluded that there is "no convincing alternative explanation" for the changing climate other than "human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases." Trump recently questioned the science of climate change, saying that "I don't know that it's man-made" and that the warming trend "could very well go back." (New York Times / Associated Press / Washington Post / CNN)

  • 📌Day 627. A U.N. report on the effects of climate change predicts a strong risk of an environmental crisis much sooner than expected. The report finds that the atmosphere could warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, which would cause sea levels to rise, intensify droughts, wildfires, and poverty, and cause a mass die-off of coral reefs. To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and fully eliminated by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40% today to between 1% and 7% by 2050. Renewable energy would have to increase to about 67%. Trump has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, vowing to increase the burning of coal, and he intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement. The world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark and "there is no documented historic precedent" for the scale of changes required, the report said. (New York Times / Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration proposed loosening rules on carbon emissions for new coal power plants. Under the existing Obama-era rule, new coal plants would have to burn some natural gas, which emits less carbon, or install carbon capture equipment. The proposal would allow new coal plants to emit up to 1,900 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity, up from 1,400 pounds now. (Reuters)

  2. The Trump administration moved forward with plans to ease restrictions on oil and natural gas drilling that were put in place to protect a bird that is close to endangerment. The greater sage grouse is a chickenlike bird that roams across nearly 11 million acres in 10 oil-rich Western states. Trump's plan would limit the grouse's protected habitat to 1.8 million acres. (Associated Press / New York Times)

  3. Canada arrested Huawei's chief financial officer on a U.S. request for extradition the same day Trump and President Xi Jinping agreed to a 90-day pause in raising tariffs to allow for trade negotiations. Meng Wanzhou was arrested for allegedly shipping U.S.-origin products to Iran and other countries in violation of U.S. export and sanctions laws. (Bloomberg / CNBC / Wall Street Journal)

  4. The Dow dropped nearly 800 points before rebounding over concerns that trade talks between the U.S. and China could collapse and result in trade war escalation. Trump took to Twitter to express optimism about the state of trade negotiations, claiming that China is sending "very strong signals." (ABC News / New York Times / CNBC / Washington Post)

  5. Former attorney general William Barr is Trump's leading candidate to replace Jeff Sessions. Barr served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under then-President George H.W. Bush. (Washington Post / Reuters)

  6. An undocumented immigrant has worked as a maid at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., since 2013 using fake documents to secure employment. After Trump became president, one of her managers told her to get both a new green card and new Social Security card because there were problems with her current ones. When she told the manager that she did not know how to obtain new forgeries, her manager suggested she speak with a maintenance employee to acquire new documents. Her manager lent her the money to replace the one that had "expired." (New York Times)

  7. Pat Cipollone will start as the new White House counsel on Monday after a nearly two-month delay since his appointment. Trump appointed Cipollone in October as Don McGahn's replacement. Cipollone will start his new job just as House Democrats are preparing to assume their new committee chairmanship roles in January. (Politico)

  8. Democrats plan to send Mueller the transcripts of testimony by some of Trump's closest associates when they take control of the House next month. Democrats want Mueller to review the transcripts for evidence and possible falsehoods. The list of testimony transcripts includes Jared Kushner, Trump Jr., Roger Stone, Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks, Keith Schiller, and others. (Reuters)

  9. The Supreme Court is hearing a case with implications on Trump's pardon power. At stake is whether to overturn the "separate sovereigns" doctrine, which lets a state and the U.S. government press separate prosecutions involving the same conduct. Eliminating the doctrine would mean that a presidential pardon could block some state charges as well. However, the Supreme Court appeared unlikely to change its existing rules. For Paul Manafort, a presidential pardon could keep him out of federal prison, but it would not free him from being prosecuted on similar state charges. Trump hasn't ruled out a pardon for Manafort. (Bloomberg / NBC News)

Day 685: Substantial assistance.

1/ Robert Mueller's office recommended that Michael Flynn serve no jail time because he provided "substantial assistance" with the Russian probe. A court filing submitted by the special counsel's office says Flynn provided "firsthand information about the content and context of interactions between the transition team and Russian government officials." Flynn gave 19 interviews to Mueller's team and other investigators and, as a result, Mueller asked a federal judge not to sentence Flynn to prison. Flynn also provided details about other criminal investigations, but those details were heavily redacted from the court filing in order to keep information about ongoing probes secret. The redactions suggest there is more to come in the probe into Russian election interference. (Reuters / New York Times / CNN / Axios / NBC News / Washington Post / CNBC)

  • Mueller's team also disclosed details about Flynn's efforts to cover up his ties to Turkey while he was Trump's national security adviser. A central part of Flynn's involvement with the Turkish government was his attempts to kidnap a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania and return him to Turkey to face punishment for allegedly orchestrating a failed coup attempt against Turkish President Erdogan. Flynn's decision to hide the fact that he was working for Turkey "impeded the ability of the public to learn about the Republic of Turkey's efforts to influence public opinion about the failed coup, including its efforts to effectuate the removal of a person legally residing in the United States." (NBC News)

  • Prosecutors in Manhattan are ramping up their investigation into foreign lobbying by two firms that did work for Paul Manafort. Mueller referred the case to authorities because it fell outside his mandate of determining whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia. (Associated Press)

2/ Global emissions of carbon dioxide have reached the highest levels on record. Global emissions grew 1.6% in 2017 with 2018 expected to increase 2.7%. The U.S. is the world's second-largest emitter of carbon emissions, but that hasn't stopped the Trump administration from moving to roll back regulations designed to limit those emissions from vehicle tailpipes and power-plant smokestacks. As United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said this week at the opening of the 24th annual U.N. climate conference: "We are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with climate change." (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • 📌 The Re-up: Day 678. Trump – again – dismissed his own government's report on the devastating impacts of climate change and global warming, saying he doesn't see climate change as a man-made issue and that he doesn't believe the scientific consensus. "One of the problems that a lot of people like myself," Trump said, "we have very high levels of intelligence but we're not necessarily such believers." He continued: "You look at our air and our water, and it's right now at a record clean." (Washington Post)

  • 📌Day 676. The National Climate Assessment concludes that global warming is already "transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us." The findings from the landmark scientific report, issued by 13 federal agencies, are at odds with the Trump administration's environmental deregulation agenda, which Trump claims will lead to economic growth, and its plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. The report predicts that the effects of global warming could eliminate as much as 10% of the U.S. economy by the end of the century, and warns that humans must act aggressively now "to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades." The first report, released in November 2017, concluded that there is "no convincing alternative explanation" for the changing climate other than "human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases." Trump recently questioned the science of climate change, saying that "I don't know that it's man-made" and that the warming trend "could very well go back." (New York Times / Associated Press / Washington Post / CNN)

  • 📌Day 627. A U.N. report on the effects of climate change predicts a strong risk of an environmental crisis much sooner than expected. The report finds that the atmosphere could warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, which would cause sea levels to rise, intensify droughts, wildfires, and poverty, and cause a mass die-off of coral reefs. To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and fully eliminated by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40% today to between 1% and 7% by 2050. Renewable energy would have to increase to about 67%. Trump has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, vowing to increase the burning of coal, and he intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement. The world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark and "there is no documented historic precedent" for the scale of changes required, the report said. (New York Times / Washington Post)

3/ Trump joined the three living former presidents and first ladies for the funeral of former president George H.W. Bush. Trump shook hands with the Obamas but didn't seem to acknowledge the Clintons or Carters. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, stared straight ahead. Fox News anchor Chris Wallace noted that "a chill had descended" on the front row when Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived. Despite earning about 80% of the evangelical vote in 2016's presidential election, the Trumps did not participate in the Apostles' Creed or sing the hymns during the funeral. (BuzzFeed News / The Hill / Newsweek)

4/ Trump traveled 250 yards in a limo as part of an eight-vehicle motorcade to visit with George W. Bush for 23 minutes across the street. The weather was overcast and cold, but there was no rain. The cost of the trip is unknown. (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. New satellite images reveal North Korea has expanded a key long-range missile base. Despite five months of denuclearization, the Yeongjeo-dong missile base and a previously unreported site remain active and have been continuously upgraded. (CNN)

  2. Istanbul's chief prosecutor filed warrants for the arrest Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's top aide and the deputy head of its foreign intelligence on suspicion of planning the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. (Reuters)

  3. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were accused of misleading senators on the murder of Khashoggi. Last week, Pompeo said there was no definitive proof that the crown prince was responsible for Khashoggi's murder, while Mattis said that there was "no smoking gun." The CIA, however, determined with "high confidence" that the crown prince ordered the killing. (Politico)

  4. Saudi-funded lobbyists booked 500 nights at Trump's D.C. hotel shortly after his 2016 election, sending military veterans to Washington and have them lobby against a law the Saudis opposed. The lobbyists spent more $270,000 on six groups of visiting veterans at the Trump hotel, which Trump still owns. (Washington Post)

  5. A Democratic member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee called for an emergency hearing to examine allegations of election fraud in North Carolina's 9th District. Last week the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics voted against certifying Republican Mark Harris' 905 vote win over Democrat Dan McCready in the state's 9th Congressional District. State election officials are now investigating charges that a political operative working for the Harris campaign oversaw workers illegally collect mail-in absentee ballots from voters. (Washington Post / CNN)

  6. Giuliani tried to blame his typo on Twitter "invading my text with a disgusting anti-President message" after he accidentally created a link to G-20.In in one of his tweets. A Twitter user noticed that the domain was unclaimed, so they bought it and created a website with the simple message: "Donald J. Trump is a traitor to our country," allowing anyone who clicked on the link in Giuliani's tweet to view the website. Giuliani suggested that the incident was proof that Twitter employees are "committed cardcarrying anti-Trumpers." Giuliani ended his tweet with a call for "FAIRNESS PLEASE." (New York Times)

  7. Jeff Sessions might be done with politics, saying he doesn't miss being a senator and won't be deciding anytime soon about running. [Editor's note: Good riddance.] (Politico)

  8. Trump isn't worried about the national debt, because "I won't be here" when America has to pay its creditors back. The U.S. owes roughly $21 trillion in debt, but Trump has repeatedly shrugged those financial obligations off during meetings about the national debt. "Yeah," Trump told his aides, "but I won't be here." (Daily Beast)

Day 684: Loose ends.

1/ The National Republican Congressional Committee suffered a major hack during the 2018 election, exposing thousands of emails to an "unknown entity." Four senior NRCC aides had their email accounts surveilled for months by a suspected "foreign agent" and despite learning about the hack in April, the NRCC didn't tell GOP leadership about it until yesterday after a Politico inquiry. The NRCC said it withheld the information from party leaders so they conduct their own investigation. (Politico / Washington Post / CNN)

2/ A bipartisan group of senators accused the Saudi crown prince of complicity in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi following a closed-door briefing with CIA director Gina Haspel. Lawmakers said evidence presented by the CIA overwhelmingly pointed to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's involvement in the assassination, but they were divided about what steps to take next. (Washington Post / New York Times / Axios / ABC News / The Guardian)

3/ Robert Mueller's prosecutors recently told defense lawyers they are "tying up loose ends" in their investigation. The special counsel is planning to file sentencing memos this week about Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Michael Cohen. In the Manafort case, Mueller could file his memo under seal in order to avoid disclosing additional crimes his office believes Manafort committed when he lied to prosecutors and broke his cooperation deal. (Yahoo News / CNN / CNBC)

4/ Mueller is expected to make a sentencing recommendation for Michael Flynn today. The memo should describe the crimes the former national security adviser committed that led to his guilty plea after 24 days on the job and how he has helped the Russia probe. Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. He will be sentenced by a federal judge on Dec. 18. Flynn's sentencing was delayed four times after Mueller said he needed more time "due to the status of the investigation." (Reuters / CNN / ABC News / The Guardian)

  • 📌 The Re-Up: Day 25. Michael Flynn resigned as National Security Adviser after it was revealed that he had misled Pence and other top White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Flynn served in the job for less than a month. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 26. Trump knew Flynn misled officials on Russia calls for "weeks," the White House says. The comment contrasts the impression Trump gave aboard Air Force One that he was not familiar with a report that revealed Flynn had not told the truth about the calls. White House counsel Don McGahn told Trump in a January briefing that Flynn had discussed U.S. sanctions with Russia. (Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 22. Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials. Flynn's communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin that it could expect a reprieve from sanctions that were being imposed by the Obama administration in late December to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 election. (Washington Post)

5/ Maryland and the District of Columbia issued subpoenas for Trump's financial records related to his D.C. hotel as part of an ongoing lawsuit alleging that the president's business violated the Constitution's ban on gifts or payments from foreign governments. The Trump hotel is the Old Post Office building, which is leased from the federal government. The lease says that no elected official may hold that lease. The attorneys general in Maryland and Washington plan to serve as many as 20 companies and government agencies with subpoenas. (Washington Post / Associated Press / NPR / Politico)

6/ Paul Manafort tried to get Ecuador to hand over Julian Assange in exchange for debt relief from the U.S. Manafort originally flew to Ecuador in May 2017 to convince then-incoming President Lenín Moreno to let him broker an energy deal between China and Ecuador. But the talks shifted to Ecuador's desire to rid itself of Assange, who has been staying the Ecuadorean embassy in London since 2012. Manafort suggested that he could negotiate a deal to handover Assange, which fell apart once it became clear that Manafort was a major target of Mueller's Russia investigation. There is no evidence that Trump was aware of or involved in Manafort's dealings with Ecuador. (New York Times)

  • Roger Stone invoked the Fifth Amendment as he declined to share documents and testimony with the Senate Judiciary Committee. Stone is under scrutiny Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election over allegations that he had advanced knowledge of WikiLeaks' dump of Clinton campaign emails. (Politico)

Notables.

  1. The White House wants to end federal subsidies and tax credits for electric cars and renewable energy sources. Larry Kudlow, Trump's economic adviser, predicted that the subsidies would be gone within the next few years. "It's just all going to end in the near future," Kudlow said. "I don't know whether it will end in 2020 or 2021." (Reuters)

  2. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen expects to keep her job thanks to her "tough" response to the caravan of Central American migrants headed toward the U.S. that Trump turned into a midterm campaign issue. (Politico)

  3. Michael Avenatti will not run for president in 2020 after all. "After consultation with my family and at their request, I have decided not to seek the Presidency of the United States in 2020," Avenatti said. "I will continue to represent Stormy Daniels and others against Donald Trump and his cronies and will not rest until Trump is removed from office, and our republic and its values are restored." (Law & Crime)

  4. Trump's use of Air Force One to campaign for Republican candidates during the midterms cost taxpayers about $17 million. Presidents using Air Force One for campaign purposes are supposed to pay for a portion of the operating cost from their political party or reelection campaign. Instead, the Trump campaign reimbursed the Treasury roughly $112,000 for air travel. (Quartz)

  5. Trump complained about the cost of an "uncontrollable" arms race with Russia and China, despite previously bragging about his increase in military spending. (Associated Press)

  6. Mike Pompeo said the U.S. would suspend its obligations to the 1987 Treaty on Intermediate-range Nuclear Force in 60 days unless Russia returns to compliance. If Russia fails to meet the deadline, the U.S. would be free to develop and test new ground-based missiles, Pompeo said. (Wall Street Journal)

  7. Trump declared himself a "Tariff Man" and threatened to hit China with more tariffs if a trade deal with Beijing falls apart. (CNBC / The Guardian)

  8. The Dow responded by falling nearly 800 points. (Wall Street Journal / CNBC)

Day 683: Compromised.

1/ Trump called for a "full and complete" sentence for Michael Cohen after his former lawyer asked to not be sent to prison. Cohen's lawyers argued that his cooperation with Robert Mueller warranted a sentence of "time-served." Cohen was also in "close and regular contact" with White House staff and Trump's legal team while preparing his statement to Congress about Trump's efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 campaign. In seeking leniency, Cohen's attorneys claim his false statement to Congress was based on Trump and his team's attempts to paint interactions with Russian representatives "as having effectively terminated before the Iowa caucuses of February 1, 2016." Cohen's attorneys, however, say he had a "lengthy substantive conversation with the personal assistant to a Kremlin official following his outreach in January 2016, engaged in additional communications concerning the project as late as June 2016, and kept [Trump] apprised of these communications." Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 12 after pleading guilty to tax evasion, making false statements to a bank, campaign finance violations, and lying to Congress. Trump tweeted that all of those charges were "unrelated to Trump." (Reuters /Politico / Washington Post / Bloomberg)

  • Cohen believed Trump would offer him a pardon if he stayed on message during conversations with federal prosecutors. That was before Cohen implicated Trump under oath in the illegal hush-money scheme with Stormy Daniels, which could be used as part of Mueller's obstruction of justice probe in determining whether Trump tried to illegally influence a witness in the investigation. (CNN)

  • Trump's lawyers want Stormy Daniels to pay their $340,000 legal bill they claim they earned after successfully defending Trump against her frivolous defamation claim. (Associated Press)

2/ Trump praised Roger Stone for not cooperating with Mueller, tweeting that it's "nice to know that some people still have 'guts!'" Stone said Sunday that there's "no circumstance in which I would testify against the president." Stone has denied multiple times that he knew WikiLeaks was going to release hacked emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign. (Politico / Axios)

3/ Kellyanne Conway's husband accused Trump of witness tampering after Trump praised Stone for vowing to never testify against him. "Witness tampering: File under '18 U.S.C. §§ 1503, 1512,'" George Conway wrote, listing the federal criminal statute about "tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant." (New York Post)

4/ The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said the committee has made "a number of referrals" to Mueller's office for prosecution. Sen. Mark Warner added that while he doesn't know whether Cohen was instructed to lie to Congress, Cohen's plea contradicts Trump's multiple denials during the campaign that he did not have any business links to Russia. Warner called it a "very relevant question that the American people need an answer to." (CBS News)

  • The incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee: Cohen's cooperation is proof that Russia had "leverage" over Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. "The fact that he was lying to the American people about doing business in Russia and the Kremlin knew he was lying gave the Kremlin a hold over him," Rep. Jerry Nadler said. "One question we have now is, does the Kremlin still have a hold over him because of other lies that they know about?"(NBC News)

  • The leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee: Cohen's cooperations confirms that "the president and his business are compromised." According to Rep. Adam Schiff, "there is now testimony, there is now a witness, who confirms that in the same way Michael Flynn was compromised, that the president and his business are compromised." Cohen admitted to misleading investigators about the Trump Organization's efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. "[W]hat the president was saying," Schiff added, "what Michael Cohen was saying and others were saying about when this business deal ended was not true. And what's more, the Russians knew it wasn’t true." He continued: "It means that the president, whether he won or lost, was hoping to make money from Russia, was seeking at the same time to enlist the support of the Kremlin to make that money." (ABC News)

  • James Comey agreed to testify to Congress about the FBI's investigations during the 2016 campaign as long as lawmakers release the full transcript of his testimony within 24 hours. Comey and his attorney filed a legal challenge last week to the Republican-led effort to compel him to testify. His attorney argued that the legal action was "to prevent the Joint Committee from using the pretext of a closed interview to peddle a distorted, partisan political narrative about the Clinton and Russian investigations through selective leaks." As part of the deal, Comey will be free to make all or part of his testimony available to the public. (NBC News / Reuters / ABC News / New York Times)

5/ The CIA has "medium-to-high confidence" that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "personally targeted" Jamal Khashoggi and "probably ordered his death." Prince Mohammed sent at least 11 messages to his closest adviser, Saud al-Qahtani, who supervised the 15-man team that killed Khashoggi, in the hours before and after the journalist's death in October. The leak of the intelligence report has infuriated Gina Haspel, the CIA director. In August 2017, Prince Mohammed told associates that if he couldn't persuade Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia, then "we could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements," according to the CIA assessment. (Wall Street Journal / New York Times)

poll/ 46% of voters approve of Trump's job performance – up from his October numbers, when 44% approved of the job Trump was doing as president. 54% don't approve. (The Hill)


Notables.

  1. Trump intends to formally notify Canada and Mexico of his intention to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement in six months in order to force Congress to pass his new trade deal. Trump is using the threat of disrupting the entire North American economy to get the deal passed. (Politico)

  2. The U.S. and China agreed to hold off on new tariffs. Trump agreed to postpone a plan to raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, while the Chinese agreed to an unspecified increase in their purchases of American industrial, energy and agricultural products. Trump and President Xi Jinping, however, remain far apart on basic trade policy issues and neither show signs of backing down on their demands. (New York Times)

  3. All of the world leaders at the G20 Summit in Argentina — except for Trump — released a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to fighting climate change. The U.S. did join a separate portion of the communique that focused on energy and the role it plays in shaping the future of the planet. (Axios)

  4. The House and Senate plan to vote this week to push the government shutdown deadline back two weeks and delay a fight over Trump's border wall until right before Christmas. Congress has until Friday to approve a funding extension before funding for the federal government runs out. (Politico / CNBC / CNN / Washington Post)

  5. Trump and Putin had an "informal" meeting at the G20 Summit. "As is typical at multilateral events," said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, "President Trump and the First Lady had a number of informal conversations with world leaders at the dinner last night, including President Putin." Trump previously canceled a formal meeting with Putin over Russia's recent seizure of Ukrainian ships and the detention of their crews. "I answered his questions about the incident in the Black Sea," said Putin. "He has his position. I have my own. We stayed in our own positions." (The Hill / Fox News)

Day 680: Peripheral awareness.

1/ Trump Jr.'s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee conflicts with Michael Cohen's version of events regarding negotiations of a prospective Trump Tower in Moscow. In Cohen's version, he says the discussions with at least one Russian government official continued through June 2016. Trump Jr. testified in September 2017 that talks surrounding a Trump Tower in Moscow concluded without result "at the end" of 2014 and "certainly not [20]16. There was never a definitive end to it. It just died of deal fatigue." Trump Jr. told the Senate committee that he "wasn't involved," knew "very little," and was only "peripherally aware" of the deal other than a letter of intent was signed by Trump. He also said he didn't know that Cohen had sent an email to Putin's aide, Dmitry Peskov. In Cohen's guilty plea, he said he briefed Trump's family members about the continued negotiations. (NPR / USA Today)

  • 📌 The Re-up: Day 223. The Senate Intelligence Committee wants Michael Cohen to testify as part of its investigation into Russia’s meddling. Cohen has been in the spotlight this week following new revelations about his outreach to Russian officials for help with a proposal for a Trump Tower in Moscow. Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort are also likely to appear for closed-door interviews. Trump Jr. agreed to testify privately before the Senate judiciary committee in the “next few weeks.” (Politico)

  • 📌 Day 229. The House and Senate intelligence committees are expected to conduct closed-door interviews with Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort and Trump Jr. in the coming weeks now that Congress has returned from the August recess. The two panels could possibly hold public hearings this fall. In addition, Trump Jr. is set to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The three committees are competing for information and witnesses with little coordination between them and Mueller's investigation, leading to conflicts over how they can share information. (Politico / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 230. Trump Jr. will meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday to discuss the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia. It's the first time someone from Trump's inner circle will speak with the committee members about the campaign’s alleged attempts to engage with Kremlin surrogates. Committee members still hope to interview Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner about the meeting they held at Trump Tower with the Russian lawyer claiming to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Kushner and Manafort have already spoken to the Senate Intelligence Committee. (Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 482. Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee he never mentioned the Trump Tower meeting to his father or the offer of compromising information about Hillary Clinton. He also said he couldn't "recall" if he discussed the Russia investigation with his father. Trump Jr. told the committee he didn't think there was anything wrong with meeting a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower ahead of the 2016 presidential election, saying "I didn't think that listening to someone with information relevant to the fitness and character of a presidential candidate would be an issue, no." (Associated Press)

2/ The Trump Organization wanted to give Putin a $50 million penthouse in the proposed Trump Tower Moscow as the company continued to negotiate the real estate development during the 2016 campaign. Michael Cohen discussed the idea with Dmitry Peskov, who serves as Putin's press secretary, hoping that giving the penthouse to Putin would encourage other wealthy buyers to purchase their own. The plan fizzled when the project failed to materialize, and it is not clear whether Trump knew about the plan to give the penthouse to Putin. (BuzzFeed News / CNN)

  • The House Intelligence Committee wants to investigate the Trump Organization's plan to give Putin a $50 million penthouse when Democrats take control of the committee in the new year. (BuzzFeed News / The Guardian / Politico)

3/ Ivanka and Trump Jr. are both under increased scrutiny for their roles in the proposed Moscow project. Trump Jr. and Ivanka were involved in the project at some point before Jan. 2016, but it is still unclear how deeply they were involved or how long they worked on the project after that. It is also unclear whether or not they worked with Michael Cohen on the deal. (CNN / Yahoo News)

4/ Investigators have publicly cast Trump as a central figure in Robert Mueller's investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign. Trump even has his own legal code name: "Individual 1." Documents reveal that investigators have evidence that Trump was in close contact with his most trusted aides and advisers as they dealt with both Russia and WikiLeaks, as well as evidence that they tried to cover their tracks. (Washington Post)

  • "Trump was totally caught off guard by the Cohen plea," according to a former White House staffer. "The Cohen news is very bad," and the Trump team is worried that Mueller may have laid a perjury trap. A person close to the president described the White House as "an untethered situation." (Vanity Fair)

5/ Mueller is also bearing down on Roger Stone and his relationship with WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange. Mueller is focusing on Stone's role as a potential go-between for the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, which published thousands of DNC emails that were stolen by Russian intelligence officers. Mueller's team has evidence that Stone may have known in advance about the release of the emails, and investigators may also be looking into potential witness intimidation by Stone. (Wall Street Journal)

6/ Mueller's office is considering retrying Paul Manafort and bringing new criminal charges, contending that he obstructed justice and committed additional federal crimes since entering a plea agreement with the special counsel in September. Prosecutors will file a more detailed explanation of what they believe Manafort lied about to investigators on Dec. 7. Manafort will be sentenced in March 2019 after he pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy and witness tampering. Manafort is currently in jail in Alexandria, Virginia. (Politico / CNN / CNBC / ABC News)

  • James Comey asked a U.S. court to block a subpoena from House Republicans for his testimony, saying he wants to testify in public rather than behind closed doors. (Bloomberg)

Notables.

  1. The acting attorney general championed a patent firm in 2014 while fielding fraud complaints about it. Matthew Whitaker was an advisory board member of World Patent Marketing, which the FTC sanctioned in 2017 and described as an "invention promotion scheme" that was "bilking millions of dollars from consumers." (Washington Post / Bloomberg)

  2. Ryan Zinke responded to criticism about his various ethical scandals by calling a Democratic lawmaker a drunk, accusing Rep. Raúl Grijalva of using "$50,000 in tax dollars as hush money to cover up his drunken and hostile behavior." Grijalva had called on Zinke to resign. (Politico)

  3. The number of children who were uninsured in the U.S. in Trump's first year in office rose for the first time in nearly a decade. 276,000 more children were without health insurance due to GOP-led efforts to curb Medicaid expansion. (ABC News)

  4. Six Trump administration officials violated the Hatch Act for tweeting support for Republicans or Trump on their government Twitter accounts, according to the Office of Special Counsel, which declined to take disciplinary action. (NBC News)

  5. Roughly two million federal workers were warned that it may be illegal for them to discuss impeaching or resisting Trump, according to a memo distributed by the Office of Special Counsel. (New York Times)

  6. The Trump administration approved five requests from companies to conduct seismic tests off the Atlantic shore that could kill tens of thousands of dolphins, whales, and other marine animals. Seismic testing maps the ocean floor and estimates the location of oil and gas. (Washington Post)

  7. The U.S., Canada, and Mexico signed a new North American trade pact, ending 15 months of contentious talks between three countries. The agreement faces uncertain prospects in Congress next year, where Democrats will control the House. (Politico / Reuters / Washington Post)

Day 679: "Stayed away."

1/ Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress, admitting that he continued to engage in negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow well into the 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen previously said talks regarding the Moscow project stalled in January 2016, when in fact negotiations continued through June with Cohen traveling to Russia for meetings on the project. Cohen also told Congress that when the project allegedly stalled, he emailed Dmitry Peskov, a top aide to Putin, seeking help, but claimed he never received a response. That was also false. Cohen and Peskov discussed the project for 20 minutes by phone. Prosecutors also said that Cohen continued to have contact in 2016 with Felix Sater, a Russian developer assisting with the project. Cohen briefed Trump on the status of the project more than three times. In July 2016, Trump tweeted: "For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia." And, in January 2017, Trump told reporters that he had no deals in Russia because he had "stayed away." In exchange for pleading guilty and continuing to cooperate with Robert Mueller, he hopes to receive a lighter sentence. It's Cohen's second guilty plea in four months. (Washington Post / New York Times / NPR / ABC News / Politico / CNN / NBC News)

  • 📌 The Re-up: Day 221. Trump's company was pursuing a plan to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow while he was running for president. Discussions about the Moscow project began in September 2015 until it was abandoned just before the presidential primaries began in January 2016, emails show. The details of the deal had not previously been disclosed. The Trump Organization has turned over the emails to the House Intelligence Committee, pointing to the likelihood of additional contacts between Russia and Trump associates during the campaign. (Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 221. Trump's business associate promised that Putin would help Trump win the presidency if he built a Trump Tower in Moscow. “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected,” Felix Sater, a Russian immigrant, wrote to Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, in 2015. “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote in an email. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.” At the time, Sater was a broker for the Trump Organization and was paid to deliver real estate deals. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 221. Trump discussed a proposal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow with his company’s lawyer three times. The project was abandoned in January 2016 “from solely a business standpoint” and had nothing to do with Trump’s campaign his attorney Michael Cohen told the House intelligence committee. "I made the decision to terminate further work on the proposal," Cohen said. “The Trump Tower Moscow proposal was not related in any way to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.” (Bloomberg)

  • 📌 Day 221. Trump's attorney sent an email to Putin’s personal spokesman to ask for help advancing a stalled Trump Tower project in Moscow. Michael Cohen sent the email in January 2016 to Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s top press aide, at the recommendation of Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman who was serving as a broker on the deal. "I respectfully request someone, preferably you, contact me so that I might discuss the specifics as well as arranging meetings with the appropriate individuals," Cohen wrote. "I thank you in advance for your assistance and look forward to hearing from you soon." The email marks the most direct documented interaction of a top Trump aide and a senior member of Putin’s government. (Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 221. Four months into the presidential campaign, Trump signed a “letter of intent” to pursue building a Trump Tower in Moscow. The involvement of then-candidate Trump in a proposed Russian development deal contradicts his repeated claims that his business had “no relationship to Russia whatsoever." The Trump Organization signed a non-binding letter of intent in October 2015. (ABC News)

  • 📌 Day 222. Michael Cohen said he didn't inform Trump that he had sent the email to Putin’s top press official asking for "assistance" in arranging a licensing deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow. The Trump Organization attorney sent the email in January 2016 to Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s top press aide, at the recommendation of Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman who was serving as a broker on the deal. Cohen said he never heard back from Peskov and the project never got off the ground. (Wall Street Journal / Politico)

  • 📌 Day 223. The Kremlin confirmed that Trump’s personal lawyer reached out during the 2016 presidential campaign requesting assistance on a stalled Trump Tower real estate project in Moscow. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said they received Michael Cohen’s email, but the Kremlin didn't reply. Peskov said that he had seen the email but that it was not given to Putin. (Associated Press / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 278. Trump's personal lawyer met with the House Intelligence Committee today. Michael Cohen emailed Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, during the presidential campaign seeking help getting a Trump Tower built in Moscow. Peskov said he never responded to the email. (NBC News)

  • Cohen is the 33rd person Robert Mueller has charged. (FiveThirtyEight)

2/ Trump called Cohen a "weak" and "not a very smart person" for cooperating with Mueller, saying his former lawyer is "lying […] to get a reduced sentence." For the fourth straight morning, Trump attacked Mueller's investigation, musing whether it will "just go on forever." When asked why Trump ever hired Cohen, the president replied: "A long time ago he did me a favor." (Politico / Washington Post / CNBC)

  • Trump: Rosenstein belongs in jail, because "he should have never picked a special counsel." Trump declined to say whether he would fire Rosenstein. (Politico)

3/ Trump's written responses to Mueller about building a Trump Tower in Moscow during the campaign reportedly align with what Cohen said in court, according to Trump's lawyers. Rudy Giuliani attempted to explain why Trump would call Cohen a liar if they had the same understanding of the facts, saying: "Cohen has just told us he's a liar. Given the fact that he's a liar, I can't tell you what he's lying about." (New York Times)

4/ Trump abruptly canceled a planned meeting with Putin shortly after Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court to lying to Congress about his efforts to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign. He cited Moscow's seizure of Ukrainian assets and personnel for the cancellation. (NBC News / Politico / New York Times / Washington Post)

5/ Trump made several calls from a blocked number in the middle of the night to Roger Stone during the 2016 campaign. The call logs were turned over to Mueller and draw a direct line between Stone and Trump, which has rattled Trump's legal team and showed how closely the special counsel is scrutinizing their relationship. (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. The Department of Veterans Affairs told congressional staffers that it will not reimburse veterans who were paid less than they were owed as a result of delayed or deferred GI Bill payments. VA officials promised the opposite earlier this month. The VA said it can't make the payments it owes without auditing its previous education claims because that would delay future payments. (NBC News)

  2. The Senate Judiciary Committee cancelled a hearing on judicial nominees as Jeff Flake's demand for a bill to protect Mueller continues. Flake is holding firm to his vow to vote against judicial nominees on the floor and in committee unless Mitch McConnell schedules a vote on the bipartisan special counsel legislation. (Politico)

  3. More than 4 in 10 companies plan to raise prices to offset the higher cost of production due to Trump's trade war. About 1 in 10 companies said the tariffs would encourage them to move more jobs offshore. (CNBC)

  4. Federal agents raided the Chicago City Hall office of Trump's former tax lawyer. It's not yet clear whether the search has anything to do with Trump, but Ed Burke did work for Trump for more than a decade, obtaining $14 million in property tax relief for the Chicago Trump Tower. (Chicago Sun-Times / Fortune / Vox / Washington Examiner / The Hill)

  5. Trump: "I miss New York." (Politico)

Day 678: Guts.

1/ Trump told Robert Mueller that Roger Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks and that he was not told about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump Jr., campaign officials, and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump added a caveat that his responses were to the best of his recollection. For comparison, Trump also does not "remember much" from the meeting with George Papadopoulos, where Papadopoulos offered to arrange a meeting with Putin. Trump, however, has previously claimed to have "one of the great memories of all time," using it as justification for not using notes during his meeting with Kim Jong Un, and blaming Sgt. La David Johnson's widow when he stumbled over the solider's name during a condolence call. (CNN)

2/ Paul Manafort's attorney repeatedly briefed Trump's legal team about their discussions with Mueller after Manafort signed a cooperation agreement with the special counsel two months ago. The briefings made tensions worse between Manafort and the special counsel after prosecutors learned about them. While Manafort's attorney's discussions with Trump's lawyers didn't violate any laws, they did contribute to Manafort's deteriorating relationship with Mueller. (New York Times)

  • Trump claimed he has never discussed a pardon for Manafort, but it's "not off the table." In August, Trump said he "would consider" pardoning Manafort, because he "feels bad." (New York Post / CNN)

3/ Senate Republicans blocked a vote on a bill to protect Mueller, despite a threat from Jeff Flake to withhold support for all of Trump's judicial nominees unless Mitch McConnell allows for a vote on the protection bill. The Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill on a bipartisan basis, 14-7, this spring, but McConnell has argued that it's not necessary, because he doesn't believe Trump wants to fire Mueller. (NBC News / CNN / Politico)

  • Trump feels no urgency to nominate a new attorney general. Republicans have asked Trump move quickly to nominate a successor to Jeff Sessions. Trump, however, is content with Matthew Whitaker as acting head of the Justice Department, who currently oversees Mueller's Russia investigation. Whitaker can stay in the job for 210 days from Sessions' resignation or longer if a replacement is in the confirmation process. (Bloomberg)

4/ Trump – again – dismissed his own government's report on the devastating impacts of climate change and global warming, saying he doesn't see climate change as a man-made issue and that he doesn't believe the scientific consensus. "One of the problems that a lot of people like myself," Trump said, "we have very high levels of intelligence but we're not necessarily such believers." He continued: "You look at our air and our water, and it's right now at a record clean." (Washington Post)

  • 📌 The Re-up: Day 676. The National Climate Assessment concludes that global warming is already "transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us." The findings from the landmark scientific report, issued by 13 federal agencies, are at odds with the Trump administration's environmental deregulation agenda, which Trump claims will lead to economic growth, and its plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. The report predicts that the effects of global warming could eliminate as much as 10% of the U.S. economy by the end of the century, and warns that humans must act aggressively now "to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades." The first report, released in November 2017, concluded that there is "no convincing alternative explanation" for the changing climate other than "human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases." Trump recently questioned the science of climate change, saying that "I don't know that it's man-made" and that the warming trend "could very well go back." (New York Times / Associated Press/ Washington Post / CNN)

  • 📌 The Re-up: Day 627. A U.N. report on the effects of climate change predicts a strong risk of an environmental crisis much sooner than expected. The report finds that the atmosphere could warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, which would cause sea levels to rise, intensify droughts, wildfires, and poverty, and cause a mass die-off of coral reefs. To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and fully eliminated by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40% today to between 1% and 7% by 2050. Renewable energy would have to increase to about 67%. Trump has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, vowing to increase the burning of coal, and he intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement. The world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark and "there is no documented historic precedent" for the scale of changes required, the report said. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • The acting EPA chief credits Trump for a 2.5% decline in carbon emissions from 2016 to 2017. Trump took office in January 2017. Andrew Wheeler also noted "a 14% reduction in CO2 emissions in the United States since 2005," which includes the Obama administration's implementation of strict environmental policies, which the EPA and Trump administration have tried to reverse, change, or eliminate. Wheeler also said he has not finished reading the report. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration waived FBI fingerprint checks for caregivers and mental health workers in charge of thousands of teens at a migrant detention camp. None of the 2,100 staffers working at a tent city holding camp with more than 2,300 migrant teenagers have gone through the rigorous FBI fingerprint background check process. "Instead," reads an HHS memo, the camp is "using checks conducted by a private contractor that has access to less comprehensive data, thereby heightening the risk that an individual with a criminal history could have direct access to children." The federal government is also allowing the facility to forgo mental health care requirements that mandate at least one mental health clinician for every 12 children. Instead, the camp has one for every 100 kids. (Associated Press)

  2. Trump blamed the Federal Reserve for the GM plant closures and layoffs, as well as the recent declines in the stock market. Trump said he is "not even a little bit happy" with Jerome "Jay" Powell, who Trump picked to head the central bank. "So far," Trump said, "I’m not even a little bit happy with my selection of Jay. Not even a little bit. And I’m not blaming anybody, but I'm just telling you I think that the Fed is way off-base with what they're doing." He continued: "I'm doing deals, and I'm not being accommodated by the Fed. They're making a mistake because I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else's brain can ever tell me." (Washington Post)

  3. The Senate advanced a bipartisan bid to pull U.S. support for the Saudi Arabia-led forces in Yemen. The measure passed 63-37, signaling a rebuke to Trump and a reversal for the Senate, which rejected the same measure nine months ago. 19 senators switched their votes from the March vote following an "inadequate" briefing by Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Pompeo repeated the Trump administration's claim that there was no "direct reporting" connecting Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to Kahshoggi's murder. The Trump administration had been urging senators against withdrawing military support for the war in Yemen. (NBC News / Politico / New York Times)

  4. Trump threatened to cancel his upcoming summit with Vladimir Putin over Russia's recent maritime skirmish with Ukraine. Trump said he is waiting for a full report on the incident, during which Putin captured three Ukrainian ships and their crews in the Black Sea on Sunday, before making a final decision on whether he will cancel the planned summit in Argentina this week. The report "will be very determinative," Trump said. "Maybe I won’t have the meeting. Maybe I won’t even have the meeting." Russia said that it still expects the meeting to go ahead as planned. (Washington Post / Associated Press)

  5. Contributions to the NRA went down by $55 million in 2017, according to the gun-rights group's latest tax records. The NRA reported $98 million in contributions in 2017, down from almost $125 million in 2016. In addition to the drop in contributions, membership dues were also down by roughly $35 million. (Daily Beast)

  6. Trump – again – threatened that he would "totally be willing" to shut down the government if he doesn't get the $5 billion for his wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Democratic leaders will only approve $1.6 billion for for border security measures. "I will tell you, politically speaking, that issue is a total winner," Trump said, citing U.S. border agents firing tear gas on migrants protesting near the border as evidence of support for more security. Trump also said the $5 billion would only be for a physical barrier and that "the number is larger for border security." (Politico / CNN)

Day 677: Gone rogue.

1/ Paul Manafort violated his cooperation agreement with Robert Mueller by repeatedly lying to federal investigators, according to a court filing by the special counsel's office. Prosecutors claim Manafort's "crimes and lies" about "a variety of subject matters" relieve them of any promises made to Manafort as part of the plea agreement. Manafort cannot withdraw his guilty plea and without a deal, he now faces at least a decade in prison after pleading guilty in September to conspiring to defraud the U.S. and conspiring to obstruct justice. In August, a federal court jury in Alexandria, Va., convicted the former Trump campaign chairman on eight felony counts and deadlocked on 10 others. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / ABC News / CNN)

2/ Manafort allegedly held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadoran embassy in London. Manafort met with the WikiLeaks founder around March 2016 – about the same time he joined Trump's presidential campaign. Several months later, WikiLeaks published the Democratic emails stolen by Russia. Manafort also met with Assange in 2013 and 2015. It's unclear why Manafort met with Assange or what they discussed. Manafort and WikiLeak both denied that Manafort had met with Assange. [Editor's Note: Something about this story doesn't smell right.] (The Guardian / CNBC)

  • Jerome Corsi emailed Roger Stone two months before WikiLeaks released emails stolen from the Clinton campaign, saying "Word is (Julian Assange) plans 2 more dumps…Impact planned to be very damaging." On July 25, 2016, Stone emailed Corsi, directing him to "Get to (Assange) [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending (WikiLeaks) emails." Corsi passed the directive along to conservative author Ted Malloch. Eight days later, Corsi emailed Stone saying that WikiLeaks had information that would be damaging to Clinton's campaign and planned to release it in October. (NBC News)

  • Corsi claimed he received "limited immunity" from Mueller in order to talk about a "cover story" he crafted for Stone to help explain Stone's Aug. 21, 2016, tweet saying it would "soon be [the] Podesta's time in the barrel." Corsi also claimed he has a joint defense agreement with Trump. (Daily Caller / Slate)

  • Corsi rejected a deal offered by Mueller to plead guilty to one count of perjury, saying: "They want me to say I willfully lied. I'm not going to agree that I lied. I did not. I will not lie to save my life. I'd rather sit in prison and rot for as long as these thugs want me to." Corsi, who is associated with Roger Stone, said he was offered a deal on one count of perjury. (The Guardian)

  • Mueller's team has been investigating a meeting between Manafort and Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno in Quito in 2017. They're specifically asking if WikiLeaks or Julian Assange were discussed in the meeting. (CNN)

  • A federal judge appeared reluctant to unseal a criminal complaint against Assange due to the government's "compelling interest" in keeping the records under wraps until he is arrested. (CNN)

3/ Trump attacked Mueller after Manafort was accused of lying. Trump called the special counsel a "conflicted prosecutor gone rogue" and claimed Mueller is doing "TREMENDOUS damage" to the criminal justice system. Trump also accused the special counsel team of forcing witnesses to lie. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, meanwhile, said she was not aware of any discussions about a potential presidential pardon for Manafort. (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg)

4/ The Senate could vote on a bill to protect Mueller. Jeff Flake has said he will oppose all of Trump's judicial nominees until there is a vote on a bill to codify some protections for special counsel investigations. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said Republicans are willing to hold a vote "if that's what it's going to take" to get more of Trump's nominations through the Judiciary Committee. (Roll Call / Politico)


Notables.

  1. Trump threatened to cut subsidies for GM after the company said it was planning to cut up to 14,800 jobs and end production at several North American factories. (Wall Street Journal / CNBC / Bloomberg)

  2. Fox News coordinated its interview questions before on-air interviews with Scott Pruitt. In one instance, the EPA approved part of the show's script. (Daily Beast / Slate / ThinkProgress)

  3. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said "it's awfully tough" for Ivanka Trump to comply with government email rules. Bob Goodlatte suggested that Ivanka's use of a personal email account to conduct government business was "very different" from the private email server Hillary Clinton used during her time as secretary of State. (Politico)

  4. House Republicans are meeting with Trump today in an attempt to avoid a government shutdown on Dec. 7. Republican leaders promised Trump that they would fight to secure more funding for his border wall after the midterms. Democrats, however, say Trump's $5 billion price tag is too high. Senate GOP leaders have discussed the possibility of spreading the $5 billion out over two years. Trump hasn't ruled the idea out, but it's not clear whether Democrats will concede. (Politico)

  5. House Republicans released a 297-page tax plan they hope to pass during the lame-duck session. The bill would impact Americans' retirement savings, multiple business tax breaks, and would redesign the IRS. The House Republicans could vote on the proposal as early as this week. (Politico / CNBC / Reuters)

  6. The White House is preventing the CIA director from briefing the Senate on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Gina Haspel won't take part in a Senate briefing by Mike Pompeo and James Mattis on U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia behind closed doors on Wednesday. (The Guardian)

Day 676: Substantial damages.

1/ The National Climate Assessment concludes that global warming is already "transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us." The findings from the landmark scientific report, issued by 13 federal agencies, are at odds with the Trump administration's environmental deregulation agenda, which Trump claims will lead to economic growth, and its plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. The report predicts that the effects of global warming could eliminate as much as 10% of the U.S. economy by the end of the century, and warns that humans must act aggressively now "to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades." The first report, released in November 2017, concluded that there is "no convincing alternative explanation" for the changing climate other than "human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases." Trump recently questioned the science of climate change, saying that "I don't know that it's man-made" and that the warming trend "could very well go back." (New York Times / Associated Press / Washington Post / CNN)

  • 📌 The Re-up: Day 627. A U.N. report on the effects of climate change predicts a strong risk of an environmental crisis much sooner than expected. The report finds that the atmosphere could warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, which would cause sea levels to rise, intensify droughts, wildfires, and poverty, and cause a mass die-off of coral reefs. To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and fully eliminated by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40% today to between 1% and 7% by 2050. Renewable energy would have to increase to about 67%. Trump has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, vowing to increase the burning of coal, and he intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement. The world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark and "there is no documented historic precedent" for the scale of changes required, the report said. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Trump: "I don't believe" the climate report. (Axios)

2/ The Trump administration claimed it reached a deal with Mexico's incoming government to hold asylum seekers in Mexico while their claims are processed through U.S. courts. The incoming Mexican government, however, denied that it reached an agreement with the Trump administration, known as Remain in Mexico, and insisted that talks of a deal were premature. (Washington Post / The Guardian / USA Today / NBC News)

3/ 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)

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis declined last month to approve a Department of Homeland Security request to use military force to protect border agents on the southwest border. DHS instead went over Mattis' head and asked John Kelly to get approval for the use of lethal military force. Kelly is not in the military chain of command. (Daily Beast)

4/ A judge denied Trump's request to throw out a lawsuit alleging he used the Trump Foundation for personal and political purposes. The suit alleges that Trump, along with Ivanka and Trump Jr., engaged in "extensive unlawful political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit Mr. Trump's personal and business interests, and violations of basic legal obligations for nonprofit foundations." A lawyer for the Trump Foundation tried to have the case thrown out, arguing that a sitting president can't be sued and that the Trump family didn't knowingly do anything wrong. He claimed the suit was an act of political bias. (NBC News / Reuters / NBC News / CNN)

poll/ 59% of Americans disapprove of the way Trump is handling race relations. 35% approve. (Quinnipiac)

poll/ 60% of American disapprove of the job Trump is doing as president. 38% approve. (Gallup)


Notables.

  1. Jared Kushner directed the Department of Defense and State to inflate the value of the arms deal between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia from around $14.5 billion to $110 billion. (ABC News)

  2. Trump launched 238 drone strikes during his first two years in office on Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. In 2009 and 2010, "Drone President" Obama launched 186 drone strikes on Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. Once in office, Trump relaxed the burden of proof requirements for targets put in place by the Obama administration, which counterterrorism experts say explains the increase in strikes. (Daily Beast)

  3. The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to take up three cases challenging Trump's decision to ban transgender people from serving in the military. The move is an attempt to bypass federal appeals courts and bring the case directly to the high court for a decision. District courts across the country have so far prevented the policy from going into effect, and the D.C. Circuit is scheduled to hear arguments in early December. (CNN / Reuters / Washington Post / New York Times / BuzzFeed News)

  4. Jerome Corsi rejected a deal from Robert Mueller to plead guilty to one count of perjury. He claimed he was forgetful when investigators asked him whether he knew beforehand that WikiLeaks was going to publish emails stolen from Democratic computers during the campaign. He said he did not want to plead guilty to intentionally lying. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  5. George Papadopoulos was ordered to start his 14-day prison sentence today for lying to federal investigators in the Russia probe, Papdopoulos has asked to delay the start of his sentence while a constitutional challenge to the special counsel's investigation of Russian election interference remains unresolved. (CNN / New York Times / Washington Post)

  6. The head of Russian military intelligence died "after a long and serious illness." In March, the Trump administration sanctioned Igor Korobov, citing the GRU's involvement "in interfering in the 2016 U.S. election through cyber-enabled activities." (Meduza / The Guardian)

  7. The Office of Special Counsel is looking into whether acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from accepting political contributions. According to the Office of Special Counsel guidance, "penalties for Hatch Act violations range from reprimand or suspension to removal and debarment from federal employment and may include a civil fine." The office has no connection to the Robert Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. (CNN)

  8. The White House deputy communications chief will continue to receive payments from his $8.4 million Fox News severance package over the next two years while being paid by the White House at the same time. Bill Shine's financial disclosure form shows he will also receive a bonus and stock options package worth about $3.5 million this year and again in 2019. Shine was accused in multiple lawsuits of enabling and helping to cover up alleged sexual harassment by Fox News executives. (Hollywood Reporter / Daily Beast / USA Today / Associated Press)

Day 671: Sad irony.

1/ The White House authorized U.S. military troops deployed at the Mexican border to use lethal force and conduct law-enforcement operations. John Kelly's "Cabinet order" expanded the authority of troops at the border to include "a show or use of force (including lethal force, where necessary), crowd control, temporary detention, and cursory search" in order to protect border agents. The order could conflict with the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the military from acting as law enforcement on U.S. soil. (Military Times / Axios)

2/ The White House attacked "activist judges" for temporarily blocking Trump's attempt to refuse asylum to migrants who cross the border illegally. Trump also blamed Monday's ruling against his administration on an "Obama judge," who wrote that Trump's "rule barring asylum for immigrants who enter the country" outside a port of entry "irreconcilably conflicts" with federal immigration laws and "the expressed intent of Congress." Chief Justice John Roberts pushed back on Trump's characterization, saying the U.S. doesn't have "Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges," adding that an "independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for." (NBC News / Washington Post / Associated Press)

3/ The House Intelligence Committee's incoming Democratic majority is looking to hire money-laundering and forensic accounting experts for the purposes of examining unanswered financial questions about Trump and Russia. (Daily Beast)

4/ The bipartisan leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee demanded that Trump say whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Republican Sen. Bob Corker and Democrat Bob Menendez specifically asked whether the administration believed that bin Salman was involved in the murder. Under the Magnitsky Act, Trump can be required to determine whether a global leader was responsible for human rights violations. (Politico)

poll/ 15% of Americans say they are "looking forward" to talking about politics at Thanksgiving, 40% "hope to avoid" politics and 45% don’t really care. (CBS News)


Notables.

  1. A federal judge blocked a Mississippi state law that banned most abortions after 15 weeks, ruling that it "unequivocally" violated women's constitutional rights. Judge Carlton Reeves wrote that "the fact that men, myself included, are determining how women may choose to manage their reproductive health is a sad irony not lost on the court." (Reuters / CNN/ NPR)

  2. A federal judge in Detroit declared that a law banning female genital mutilation is unconstitutional. He dismissed charges against two doctors and six others accused of subjecting at girls to the cutting procedure, writing that "as despicable as this practice may be," Congress did not have the authority to pass the law that criminalizes female genital mutilation, and that it's a matter for the states to regulate. (USA Today / Reuters)

  3. Both parties have reached an impasse as a partial government shut down looms two weeks away. Trump wants Republicans to secure at least $5 billion to pay for his border wall, which is much more than Democrats are willing to give. (Politico)

  4. U.S. farmers are having trouble selling massive stores of grain that would usually be sold to Chinese buyers. As the trade dispute with China continues, farmers across the country are either letting their crops rot or plowing them under instead of harvesting as they wait and hope for better prices next year. (Reuters)

  5. Robert Mueller still wants to question Trump about his actions in the White House, in addition to the written answers Trump submitted in response to questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election. Rudy Giuliani signaled that the Trump team would fight any questions they believe violate executive privilege – especially if they relate to potential obstruction of justice. (Politico / CNN)

  6. Mueller asked a federal judge to order George Papadopoulos to start serving time in prison on Monday as scheduled. Papadopoulos asked to delay his two-week prison sentence while a constitutional challenge to the special counsel's appointment in a separate case in Washington is resolved. Mueller's team responded that Papadopoulos waived his rights to appeal when he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. (Washington Post)


📌 The Re-up: Thanksgiving Day Edition.

A few stories worth your attention that were drowned out by the daily shock and awe. But that's not all – these topics also make for great turkey talk. You can thank me later.

  1. Trump inherited his family's wealth through fraud and questionable tax schemes, receiving the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father's real estate empire. Trump has repeatedly claimed that "I built what I built myself." Trump and his siblings used fake corporations to hide financial gifts from their parents, which helped Fred Trump claim millions in tax deductions. Trump also helped his parents undervalue their real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars when filing their tax returns. In total, Fred and Mary Trump transferred more than $1 billion in wealth to their children and paid a total of $52.2 million in taxes (about 5%) instead of the $550+ million they should have owed under the 55% tax rate imposed on gifts and inheritances. Trump also "earned" $200,000 a year in today's dollars from his father's companies starting at age 3. After college, Trump started receiving the equivalent of $1 million a year, which increased to $5 million a year when he was in his 40s and 50s. Trump has refused to release his income tax returns, breaking with decades of practice by past presidents. There is no time limit on civil fines for tax fraud. [Editor's note: This is a must read. An abstract summary does not suffice.] (New York Times)

  2. A U.N. report on the effects of climate change predicts a strong risk of an environmental crisis much sooner than expected. The report finds that the atmosphere could warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, which would cause sea levels to rise, intensify droughts, wildfires, and poverty, and cause a mass die-off of coral reefs. To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and fully eliminated by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40% today to between 1% and 7% by 2050. Renewable energy would have to increase to about 67%. Trump has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, vowing to increase the burning of coal, and he intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement. The world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark and "there is no documented historic precedent" for the scale of changes required, the report said. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  3. Trump won't take action against Saudi Arabia or Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the death of Jamal Khashoggi, issuing an exclamation-point laden statement that defended the Kingdom and effectively closed the door on the issue. Trump questioned the CIA's assessment that Mohammed ordered Khashoggi's assassination, saying: "It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn't!" Regardless, Trump said, the U.S. "intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia" despite calling the "crime" against Khashoggi "terrible" and "one that our country does not condone." The statement was subtitled "America First!" (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / NPR / NBC News)

  4. The Trump administration plans to redefine the legal definition of gender as strictly biological, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with. The effort by the Department of Health and Human Services would establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, effectively narrowing the definition of gender and deny federal recognition and civil rights protections to transgender Americans. (New York Times)

  5. Ivanka Trump repeatedly used a private email account to conduct government business in 2017. A White House review found her personal email use included exchanges with cabinet secretaries and forwards of her schedule to her assistant, with hundreds of messages being in violation of federal records rules. Ivanka claimed she didn't know the rules about using a personal email account for government business. [Obligatory editor's note: But her emails.] (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News)


Programming note: WTF Just Happened Today will not publish Thursday or Friday. For the latest, check the Current Status – a news tool I built so you always know what the fuck just happened today in politics. Have a safe and happy holiday. I'll see you Monday.

Day 670: Steadfast.

1/ Trump won't take action against Saudi Arabia or Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the death of Jamal Khashoggi, issuing an exclamation-point laden statement that defended the Kingdom and effectively closed the door on the issue. Trump questioned the CIA's assessment that Mohammed ordered Khashoggi's assassination, saying: "It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn't!" Regardless, Trump said, the U.S. "intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia" despite calling the "crime" against Khashoggi "terrible" and "one that our country does not condone." The statement was subtitled "America First!" (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / NPR / NBC News)

  • READ: Trump's statement on the Saudi crown prince and the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. (White House)

2/ Ivanka Trump repeatedly used a private email account to conduct government business in 2017. A White House review found her personal email use included exchanges with cabinet secretaries and forwards of her schedule to her assistant, with hundreds of messages being in violation of federal records rules. Ivanka claimed she didn't know the rules about using a personal email account for government business. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News)

  • Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee plan to investigate Ivanka's use of a personal email account to determine whether she violated federal law. (The Hill / Washington Post)

3/ A federal judge temporarily blocked the Trump administration from refusing asylum to immigrants crossing the U.S. border illegally. U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar rejected Trump's Nov. 9 proclamation that said anyone who failed to cross into the U.S. at a designated port of entry would not be granted asylum. "Whatever the scope of the President’s authority," Judge Tigar wrote, "he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden." The ruling will remain in effect for one month barring any further appeals. (Associated Press / CNN / NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times)

4/ Trump submitted his written answers to Robert Mueller's questions "regarding the Russia-related topics of the inquiry," according to Trump's attorney, Jay Sekulow. Mueller has not ruled out trying to compel Trump to sit for an interview after reviewing the written answers. (Bloomberg / CNBC / New York Times / Associated Press)

poll/ 70% of Americans think Trump should allow the Russia investigation to continue. 52% of Americans think Congress should pass legislation to protect Mueller from being fired, while 67% of Republicans disagree. 51% of Americans think the Russia investigation is politically motivated. (CBS News)


Notables.

  1. Trump wanted to order the Justice Department in April to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey. The White House counsel at the time, Don McGahn, pushed back, saying Trump had no authority to order a prosecution, and that while he could request an investigation, that could prompt accusations of abuse of power. (New York Times)

  2. The acting attorney general received more than $1.2 million as the leader of a charity that reported having no other employees. Matthew Whitaker worked for a charity called the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust for three years, starting in 2014. (Washington Post)

  3. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer requested that the Justice Department inspector general investigate communications between Whitaker and the White House beginning in 2017, when Whitaker was appointed chief of staff to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (ABC News / Politico)

  4. The FBI now classifies the far-right organization known as the Proud Boys as an extremist group. The group has be designated as an "extremist group with ties to white nationalism," according to documents produced by Washington state law enforcement. The document also warns that the Proud Boys are "actively recruiting in the Pacific north-west" and that they have "contributed to the recent escalation of violence at political rallies held on college campuses, and in cities like Charlottesville, Virginia, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington." (The Guardian)

Day 669: A failure to abide.

1/ The CIA concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, contradicting the Saudi government's claims that he was not involved in the killing. The evidence included an intercept showing a member of the 15-person team calling an aide to Prince Mohammed and saying "tell your boss" that the mission was accomplished. Trump called Saudi Arabia a "truly spectacular ally," telling senior White House officials that he wants Prince Mohammed to remain in power as a check on Iran. Trump also claimed that the CIA "haven't assessed anything yet," but "as of this moment we were told that [Prince Mohammed] did not play a role." (Washington Post / New York Times / CNN / Politico)

  • Trump won't listen to what he called the "suffering tape" of Khashoggi's murder inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Trump also maintained that the crown prince told him "maybe five different times" and "as recently as a few days ago" that he had nothing to do with the killing. (Washington Post)

  • The White House official responsible for U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia resigned. Kirsten Fontenrose had pushed for tough sanctions against the Saudi government in the response to the killing of Khashoggi. (New York Times)

2/ Trump probably won't sit down for an in-person interview with Robert Mueller, saying "we've wasted enough time on this witch hunt and the answer is, probably, we're finished." Trump also claimed he didn't know that his Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker opposed the Mueller investigation, but said Whitaker is "right" about his criticism of the special counsel's investigation. The two have had multiple conversations about the probe over the last year. (Fox News / New York Times / NBC News)

  • Kellyanne Conway said Trump is "not afraid" to sit down with Mueller, because "it just doesn’t seem necessary." (The Hill)

3/ Trump won't stop Whitaker from curtailing Mueller's investigation into possible collusion by Trump campaign officials with Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump said he would "not get involved" if Whitaker moved to restrict it. (Bloomberg / Reuters)

4/ A group of Senate Democrats are suing to block Whitaker from serving as acting attorney general, saying the appointment is unconstitutional. They're asking a federal judge to remove him because the appointment violates the Constitution since Whitaker has not been confirmed by the Senate. Adam Schiff added that not only is Whitaker's appointment "flawed," but "that he was chosen for the purpose of interfering with the Mueller investigation. He auditioned for the part by going on TV and saying he could hobble the investigation." (Associated Press / Daily Beast / The Guardian)

5/ Trump called the incoming House Intelligence Committee chairman "little Adam Schitt" after the administration spent a week complaining about the need for decorum as part of its tiff with CNN and Jim Acosta, whose press credentials Trump revoked earlier this month. The White House did not comment on whether Trump misspelled Schiff's name intentionally. Melania Trump's office, who has spearheaded anti-cyberbullying efforts through her "Be Best" initiative, also did not comment. (Vox / CNN / Politico)

6/ After first threatening to suspend Acosta's press pass again after the current restraining order expires, the White House reversed course and "fully restored" Acosta's credentials. On Friday, Judge Timothy J. Kelly ruled that Acosta's right to due process had been violated when the White House suspended his pass. After the ruling, the White House sent Acosta a formal letter outlining a "preliminary decision" to again suspend his pass once the temporary order expires, citing a "fail[ure] to abide" by "basic, widely understood practices" when asking follow-up questions and not giving up the microphone right away. CNN and Acosta asked a federal judge for an emergency hearing to allow the judge to enter a more permanent preliminary injunction. The White House instead told CNN they would restore Acosta's press credentials as long as he follows new rules at presidential news conferences, which include asking just one question at a time and "physically surrendering the microphone." (Washington Post / NBC News / Axios / CNN)


Notables.

  1. Trump criticized the retired Navy SEAL who led the raid on Osama bin Laden, saying that he should've caught bin Laden sooner. Adm. Bill McRaven called Trump's attack on the news media "the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime." Trump responded by calling the now-retired four-star admiral a "Hillary Clinton fan" and scoffing that it would "have been nice if we got Osama Bin Laden a lot sooner." (Fox News / NBC News / CNN)

  2. Trump revived his threat to shut down the federal government next month if Congress fails to give him the $20 billion needed to build his border wall. Trump asked lawmakers for $5 billion for new wall construction in fiscal 2019, which Democrats opposed. The Senate compromised with $1.6 billion for the wall. (Washington Post)

  3. The 5,800 troops Trump sent to the Southwest border will start coming home just as some members of the refugee caravan arrive at the border. All the troops should be home by Christmas. (Politico)

  4. Trump claimed Finland's president told him they rarely have forest fires because they "spend a lot of time raking." Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said he never discussed that with Trump. During his visit to California, Trump declined to blame the deadliest and most devastating wildfire in the state's history on climate change, instead declaring: "I have a strong opinion: I want great climate." (Politico / CNN / Associated Press / The Guardian)

Day 666: Decorum.

1/ Trump said he answered Robert Mueller's written questions himself "very easily," but he hasn't submitted them because "you have to always be careful when you answer questions with people that probably have bad intentions." Rudy Giuliani said there are at least two dozen questions that relate to activities and episodes from before Trump's election. Trump spent more than five hours in meeting over three days this week with his attorneys working out written answers for Mueller about alleged collusion between his campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Despite telling reporters that "the questions were very routinely answered by me," Trump's temper boiled during all three meetings. Seemingly out of nowhere, Trump targeted Mueller on Twitter yesterday, calling the special counsel team "thugs" and the investigation a "witch hunt." (Associated Press / Reuters / CNN / Washington Post / The Guardian)

  • Senate Republicans are urging Trump to quickly nominate a permanent attorney general to end bipartisan concern over the future of the special counsel. The challenge, apparently, is persuading Trump to trust the traditional choices he doesn't have a personal relationship with, like former attorney general Bill Barr or former deputy attorney general Mark Filip. (Politico)

  • Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker assured Lindsey Graham that he won't end Mueller's investigation, despite previously publicly disparaging the special counsel. (Bloomberg)

  • Dick Cheney's former top national security aide has come under scrutiny from Mueller. The special counsel has been looking into the communications and political dealings of John Hannah, the former Cheney adviser who later worked on Trump's State Department transition team, including his interactions with Lebanese-American businessman and fixer George Nader, who brokered meetings between foreign dignitaries and the Trump campaign, as well as Joel Zamel, social media "guru" with deep ties to Israeli intelligence. (Daily Beast)

  • George Papadopoulos asked a federal judge to keep him out of prison until a constitutional challenge to Mueller's investigation is resolved. The former Trump campaign adviser pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is scheduled to serve a 14-day sentence starting on Nov. 26. (Washington Post)

2/ The Justice Department inadvertently revealed that it secretly filed criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The disclosure came in an unrelated court filing where prosecutors inadvertently pasted text from a similar court filing into the wrong document. The filing abruptly switched on the second page to discussing someone named "Assange," who had been charged under seal that was the subject of significant publicity, lived abroad, and would need to be extradited. It's unclear what Assange, who's been living in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012, has been charged with, but the charges likely center around the publication of emails from Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign, and may involve the Espionage Act, which criminalizes the disclosure of national defense-related information. "The court filing was made in error," said a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney's office in Virginia. "That was not the intended name for this filing." (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / The Guardian)

3/ A federal judge ruled in favor of CNN and Jim Acosta, ordering the White House to temporarily restore the press credentials that Trump had taken away last week. The suit alleges that CNN and Acosta's First and Fifth Amendment rights were violated by last week's suspension of his press pass. The White House said it would follow the court order and "temporarily reinstate the reporter's hard pass," as well as "develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future." The judge, Timothy J. Kelly of Federal District Court in Washington, ruled that the Trump administration had most likely violated Acosta's due process rights, but declined to weigh in on the First Amendment issues cited by CNN. "We want total freedom of the press," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. If journalists don't "behave," Trump said, "we'll end up back in court and we'll win." Trump added: "We have to practice decorum." (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / The Hill)


Notables.

  1. Florida election officials ordered a hand recount of ballots in the U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and Governor Rick Scott. A machine count showed the two candidates divided by a margin of less than 0.25 percent. Meanwhile, the race between Republican Ron DeSantis and Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum is down to an 0.41 percent lead for DeSantis. (Reuters)

  2. Chuck Grassley will move from the Senate Judiciary Committee to the Finance Committee next year. Lindsey Graham is in line to replace him as chairman of the Judiciary. (Politico)

  3. Besty DeVos has received around-the-clock security from U.S. Marshals since she was confirmed, which could cost taxpayers $19.8 million through Sept. 2019. Jeff Sessions first approved the protection on Feb. 13, 2017. No other cabinet member receives an armed detail. (NBC News)

  4. The Pentagon failed its first-ever comprehensive audit. The audit found U.S. Defense Department accounting discrepancies that could take years to resolve. Some 1,200 auditors examined financial accounting on a wide range of spending, including on weapons systems, military personnel, and property. "We failed the audit, but we never expected to pass it," said Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan. "It was an audit on a $2.7 trillion dollar organization, so the fact that we did the audit is substantial," he added. (Reuters)

  5. North Korea announced a "successful" and "highly significant" test of an "ultramodern tactical weapon." It didn't appear to be a test of a nuclear device or a long-range missile with the potential to target the U.S. (ABC News / Associated Press)

  6. A Mississippi Senator said she thinks it's a "great idea" to make it harder for "liberal folks" to vote. Last week, Cindy Hyde-Smith "joked" that if she was invited "to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row." She has refused to apologize for her "public lynching" comment, and claims her voter suppression comment was the result of "selectively edit[ing]." (Washington Post)

  7. The Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross can be compelled to testify in a case regarding the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The addition of the question has been challenged in six lawsuits around the country. (Washington Post)

  8. Another Trump adviser is writing a tell-all book about his time in the White House. The book by Cliff Sims, who joined the West Wing staff on Day One as a special assistant to the president, is set to be published in January. (Politico)

  9. Trump offered to nominate Mira Ricardel as ambassador to Estonia after Melania forced the deputy national security adviser out of the White House. Ricardel turned down the posting, but has since been offered nearly a dozen jobs from which to choose. (Bloomberg)

  10. Trump plans to nominate acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler as the permanent head of the environmental agency. Wheeler previously represented coal and energy-industry interests as a lobbyist. (USA Today / New York Times)

  11. Trump honored a campaign donor with the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation's highest civilian commendation. Miriam Adelson and her husband, Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate and one of the nation's most powerful Republican donors, gave Trump's presidential campaign $30 million in the final months of the 2016 race. They also donated $100 million to the Republican Party during this past election cycle. (NBC News / New York Times)

  12. Trump has been asking aides and advisers whether they think Pence is loyal. While Trump hasn't suggested dropping Pence from the 2020 ticket, outside Trump advisers have suggested that Pence may have used up his usefulness. Others believe that asking about Pence's loyalty is a proxy for asking about whether Nick Ayers is trustworthy, who Trump has considered replacing John Kelly with. (New York Times)

Day 665: The envy of the world.

1/ Trump made up an accusation that Robert Mueller was "horribly threatening" witnesses to force them to cooperate in the Russia probe. The renewed attack on the special counsel comes one day after Mitch McConnell blocked an effort to protect Mueller's work. Trump called Mueller's investigation "A TOTAL WITCH HUNT LIKE NO OTHER IN AMERICAN HISTORY!" and "a total mess" that has "gone absolutely nuts." Trump also defended his administration, saying it "is running very smoothly" and not "in chaos" or having a "meltdown," but rather the U.S. under his presidency has become "the envy of the world." He provided no evidence to support his claim. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post / Bloomberg / HuffPost)

  • Mueller's team is investigating witness tampering by Roger Stone. Mueller is exploring whether Stone tried to intimidate and discredit a witness who contradicted his story about his contacts with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the 2016 presidential campaign. (Wall Street Journal)

  • In a two-paragraph legal filing, Mueller said former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates is cooperating with prosecutors on "several ongoing investigations," and it's not appropriate to start his sentencing process. (Bloomberg)

  • Text messages show Stone discussed WikiLeaks with a friend six days before it began releasing the Clinton campaign's hacked emails. The text messages appear to show Randy Credico providing regular updates to Stone on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's plans to release the hacked emails. In the exchange, Credico tells Stone on Oct. 1, 2016, that "Hillary's campaign will die this week" because of "big news Wednesday." Nothing about Clinton was released that Wednesday, but two days later, on Oct. 7, WikiLeaks dropped its first dump of emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. (NBC News)

2/ A federal judge denied a Russian firm's motion to dismiss charges filed by Mueller's team. The special counsel has accused Concord Management and Consulting of funding a propaganda operation to sway the 2016 presidential election in Trump's favor. Concord was charged with conspiring to defraud the U.S. government by hiding its election-related activities and failing to register as a foreign agent trying to influence the U.S. political process. Concord is controlled by Russian businessman Evgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin. (Reuters / Politico / CNN)

3/ Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty for five people involved in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Another six suspects have been indicted. Saudi officials denied that King Salman or his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had any knowledge of the operation. (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post)

4/ The Trump administration sanctioned 17 Saudis accused of involvement in the killing of Khashoggi. Neither the U.S. nor Saudi's implicated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Turkey has indirectly accused of ordering Khashoggi's death. (New York Times / Washington Post)

5/ The White House asked the Justice Department and FBI for ways to legally extradite an enemy of Turkish President Recep Erdogan in order to placate Turkey over the murder of Khashoggi. Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. for almost two decades. Erdogan accused Gulen of being behind a failed coup against his government in 2016. (NBC News)

6/ A federal judge ruled that Florida voters have until Saturday to correct their rejected mail-in and provisional ballots, saying the state's law requiring signatures on ballots to match those on file is being applied unconstitutionally. More than 4,000 ballots across 45 counties in Florida were not counted because of inconsistent signatures. In 22 other counties, the number is unknown. In the Senate race, Gov. Rick Scott (R) leads Sen. Bill Nelson (D) by fewer than 13,000 votes. In the gubernatorial race, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) leads Andrew Gillum (D) by nearly 34,000 votes. (Washington Post / ABC News / BuzzFeed News)

7/ The same judge denied a request to extend the deadline for elections officials to complete a machine recount despite Palm Beach County's election supervisor saying they would not meet the deadline. Judge Mark Walker of the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee called Florida "the laughingstock of the world election after election and we chose not to fix this." Counties that do not complete the machine recount in time will revert to the unofficial results tabulated on Saturday. Races that remain within one quarter of one percentage point after the deadline will proceed to a manual recount, and will have until Sunday at noon to review ballots. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Reuters)

8/ Palm Beach County missed the deadline for recounting votes in the state's Senate, governor's and agriculture-commissioner races. Counting machines overheated and stopped working at least twice this week. Florida will now manually recount the results in the U.S. Senate race, where about 12,600 votes separated Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson from Republican Rick Scott, the state's governor. (Washington Post / ABC News)


Notables.

  1. Trump will meet with Kim Jong Un for a second summit. The condition of the meeting does not include a requirement that North Korea provide a complete list of its nuclear weapons and missile sites. (NBC News)

  2. Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti was arrested for felony domestic violence. Officers in West Los Angeles took an incident report involving an allegation of domestic violence from an unidentified victim. Avenatti denied ever being "physically abusive," and called the felony allegation against him "completely bogus." (Politico / CNBC / BuzzFeed News)

  3. A federal judge will rule on restoring Jim Acosta's press pass on Friday, postponing a decision on granting CNN's request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. (Politico / ABC News / CNN)

  4. Trump nominated a handbag designer to be the next ambassador to South Africa. Lana Marks is a member of Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort. Marks has no prior diplomatic experience. (Reuters / CNN / HuffPost)

  5. A man started shouting "Heil Hitler, Heil Trump" during intermission at a performance of "Fiddler on the Roof." The play is based on Yiddish stories and tells the tale of a Jewish family in Russia during the early 1900s. (Baltimore Sun / Talking Points Memo)

  6. A 10-year-old Muslim girl found notes in her elementary school cubby that said "You're a terrorist" and "I will kill you." (CNN)

  7. Hate crimes in America rose 17% last year – the third consecutive year that such crimes increased. (Washington Post)

Day 664: Discretion.

1/ The White House argued that Trump has "broad discretion to regulate access to the White House for journalists" in response to a lawsuit by CNN over the suspension of Jim Acosta's press pass. The lawsuit alleges that the ban violates CNN and Acosta's First and Fifth Amendment rights and they're asking for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction that would restore his access right away. Almost every major news organizations has sided with CNN. (CNN)

  • Fox News supports CNN's lawsuit against the Trump administration. "Secret Service passes for White House journalists should never be weaponized," Fox News President Jay Wallace said in a statement. "While we don't condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the President and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people." (Axios / Politico)

  • First Amendment lawyers say courts have a history of defending access for journalists, and the White House's shifting justifications for revoking Acosta's press pass won't help it in the coming legal fight. (Politico)

2/ The Justice Department defended the legality of Trump's appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, arguing that the appointment is consistent with the Constitution, federal statutes and past precedent in a 20-page memorandum opinion. The memo's disclosure comes a day after Maryland asked a Federal District Court judge to issue an injunction and declare that Rod Rosenstein the acting attorney general. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)

  • The incoming ranking members of several House committees opened an investigation into Whitaker's involvement in World Patent Marketing, which was charged last year by the Federal Trade Commission with promoting an "invention-promotion scam." Whitaker was on the advisory board for World Patent Marketing. (Politico / House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform)

  • Whitaker walked away from a taxpayer-subsidized apartment-rehabilitation project in Iowa after years of cost overruns, delays and other problems. The city of Des Moines pulled an affordable housing loan that Whitaker's company had been awarded, and another lender began foreclosure proceedings after Whitaker defaulted on a separate loan for nearly $700,000. (Associated Press)

  • Whitaker praised Trump in his first public speech as acting attorney general, telling an audience that "under President Trump their 401(k)s are doing pretty good right now." (CNN)

3/ Sen. Lindsay Graham said he supports a bill to protect Robert Mueller's investigation from any politically motivated firings. Graham also said that he would urge Mitch McConnell to allow a vote on the bill. "I would certainly vote for it," Graham said. "I don’t see any movement to get rid of Mueller. But it probably would be good to have this legislation in place just for the future." Chuck Grassley, meanwhile, said he supports the bill, but he won't lobby McConnell to allow the measure to move forward. (Reuters)

4/ Jeff Flake threatened to vote against Trump's judicial nominees if legislation to protect Mueller does not receive a Senate floor vote. Flake said he will not vote to confirm nominees on the Senate floor or advance them in the Senate Judiciary Committee after Chris Coons unsuccessfully attempted to force a Senate vote on the special counsel legislation. Mitch McConnell objected to the request for a vote from Flake. (CNN / Axios)

5/ Roger Stone claimed multiple times during the 2016 presidential race that he was in communication with Trump and his campaign. Stone and Trump spoke weekly, which is now being scrutinized by Robert Mueller. Stone repeatedly said during the campaign that he had communicated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange through a "backchannel," "intermediary" or "mutual acquaintance." Mueller's office is also exploring whether Stone tried to intimidate and discredit a witness who is contradicting his version of events about his contacts with WikiLeaks. (CNN / Wall Street Journal)

poll/ 37% of voters want to see Trump reelected, compared to 58% of voters who want someone new in the Oval Office come January 2021. Trump's overall job rating stands at 43% approve and 49% disapprove. (Monmouth University Poll)

poll/ 53% of Americans said the midterm election results were a rejection of Republican policies. 62% said it would be good for the country to have Democrats in charge of the House. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. Trump endorsed a bipartisan House bill that would reform the federal prison system and ease some mandatory minimum sentences. (New York Times / Reuters / Washington Post)

  2. Rep. Elijah Cummings says one of his first priorities when Congress returns will be to investigate why the Trump administration decided to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. "There are certain things that mandate that we look at immediately. One of them is the census, because that’s right around the corner," Cummings said. Last month, Cummings asked for an official probe into why the Commerce Department added the question to the census, which critics say could serve to depress responses to the census from immigrants, many of whom live in Democratic-leaning communities. (Reuters)

  3. Lawyers suing Trump over his decision to end special protections shielding certain immigrants from deportation are seeking unaired footage from "The Apprentice" to allege the move was racially motivated. Lawyers for Civil Rights has issued subpoenas to MGM Holdings and Trump Productions for any footage in which Trump "uses racial and/or ethnic slurs." (NBC News)

  4. Trump criticized British Prime Minister Theresa May when she called Air Force One for not doing enough to contain Iran after the U.S reimposed sanctions. Trump questioned May's approach to Brexit, and complained that U.S. trade deals with European nations were not fair. (Washington Post)

  5. Betsy DeVos plans to overhaul how colleges and universities handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment. The new rules, set for release before Thanksgiving, will bolster the rights of the accused, including the ability to cross-examine their accusers. The rules will also reduce liability for universities, tighten the definition of sexual harassment, and allow schools to use a higher standard in evaluating claims of sexual harassment and assault. (Washington Post)

  6. Florida Gov. Rick Scott will recuse himself from certifying his own election. Scott led Bill Nelson by fewer than 13,000 votes in unofficial results before the recount started. (CNN)

  7. Without evidence, Trump accused people, who "have absolutely no right to vote," of changing their clothes and returning to cast additional ballots in disguise. "Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again," Trump explained while calling for more voter ID laws. Then, Trump suggested that "if you buy a box of cereal — you have a voter ID." (Daily Caller)

Day 663: Grandstanding.

1/ CNN sued Trump and several White House aides asking the court to restore Jim Acosta's access to the White House. Trump suspended Acosta's press pass last week after a confrontation during a press conference. The suit alleges that Acosta's and CNN's First and Fifth Amendment rights are being violated by the White House's ban. "This is not a step we have taken lightly. But the White House action is unprecedented," CNN president Jeff Zucker said. Sanders responded by saying that CNN is "grandstanding" by suing. She added that the administration will "vigorously defend" itself. (CNN / Washington Post / New York Times)

  • The White House changed its justification for revoking Acosta's press pass. Acosta was initially accused of putting his hands on an intern, but now Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggests that the decision to revoke Acosta's access was because he refused to yield the microphone. (Washington Post)

2/ Maryland asked a federal judge to declare Rod Rosenstein the acting attorney general instead of Matthew Whitaker, arguing that the selection of Jeff Sessions' former chief of staff violated federal law and exceeded the appointment authority outlined in the Constitution. Trump installed Whitaker as acting attorney general last week after ordering Sessions to resign from the post. (NBC News / Reuters)

  • Whitaker will consult with Justice Department ethics officials about possible recusal from overseeing Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Whitaker has faced pressure from Democrats to step aside from overseeing the special counsel investigation, due to critical comments he made about the investigation before joining the Justice Department last year. (CBS News)

3/ Trump is considering replacing John Kelly and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Kelly has had repeated disputes with Melania Trump over staffing issues and travel requests, and clashed with national security adviser John Bolton and his deputy, Mira Ricardel, deputy national security adviser. Nick Ayers, currently Mike Pence's chief of staff, is among those being considered for the job. Trump has told advisers that he wants to replace Nielsen, who is a close ally of Kelly. Forcing Nielsen out could result in Kelly quitting. Ricardel is also expected to be fired. (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

  • Melania Trump called for Ricardel to be fired. "It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House," a spokeswoman said in a statement. Ricardel reportedly clashed with members of Melania's staff over seating on a plane during her recent trip to Africa.(Washington Post) / The Guardian)

  • Trump is considering the former ICE director for Homeland Security secretary. Thomas Homan once recommended charging so-called sanctuary city politicians "with crimes" and defended separating children from their parents at the border. (Politico)

  • 👋 Who The Fuck Has Left The Trump Administration

4/ A Roger Stone associate expects to be indicted by Robert Mueller soon. Jerome Corsi is one of more than a dozen people associated with Roger Stone who have been questioned by Mueller's investigators. Corsi said he doesn't know what he'll be charged with other than the special counsel indicating that he will be charged in the coming days. Corsi has been cooperating with the Mueller investigation since receiving a subpoena in late August. (Associated Press / ABC News / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)

  • Mueller is seeking information about Nigel Farage and whether Russia attempted to influence the June 2016 vote to leave the European Union,, according to Corsi. Farage was behind Britain's vote to leave the European Union. (The Guardian)

Notables.

  1. A federal judge delayed certification of Georgia's election results, ordering the state to first review all provisional ballots. Unofficial returns show that Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee in the governor's race, holds a lead of about 58,000 votes. He can afford to lose only 21,000 votes before facing a runoff election against the Democratic candidate, Stacey Abrams. About 21,190 provisional ballots were cast in Georgia. (New York Times / NBC News)

  2. Kyrsten Sinema defeated her Republican opponent in the race for a Senate seat in Arizona, giving Democrats their first elected senator in Arizona in 30 years. Sinema, a Democrat, will replace Republican Sen. Jeff Flake and become the first woman to represent Arizona in the Senate. (Axios / USA Today / The Guardian / New York Times / NBC News)

  3. Betsy DeVos was sued for failing to cancel student debt owed to for-profit colleges that have been shut down. The lawsuit comes a month after a federal judge ruled that the regulation should immediately go into effect. The judge called the delays "arbitrary and capricious." (CNN)

  4. The Trump administration closed an office that kept track of released Guantánamo inmates and has lost track of several of them, including one who has returned to a terrorist-held part of Syria. (McClatchy DC)

  5. Trump mocked the French for needing the U.S. to rescue them from the Germans in both world wars. The tweet comes after Trump joined world leaders commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I where French President Emmanuel Macron publicly criticized Trump's idea of "nationalism." (Bloomberg)

  6. Trump blamed the Secret Service for his canceled visit to a World War I cemetery in France, claiming that he suggested driving after it was deemed unsafe to take a helicopter. "By the way," Trump tweeted, "when the helicopter couldn't fly to the first cemetery in France because of almost zero visibility, I suggested driving. Secret Service said NO." (ABC News / USA Today)

Day 662: Infected.

1/ Trump called for Florida to suspend its legally required recount and declare the Republican candidates for Senate and governor the winners of their respective races. Without evidence, Trump claimed that "many ballots are missing or forged," and that "an honest vote count is no longer possible – ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!" In the governor's race, unofficial results showed Ron DeSantis leading Democratic mayor, Andrew Gillum, by 0.41%, and in the Senate race, Republican governor Rick Scott leads incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson by 0.14%. Florida's 67 counties are required to complete their recounts by Thursday. (ABC News / The Guardian / Washington Post / NBC News / CNBC)

  • The election overseer for Palm Beach County in Florida says there is no way the machine recount will be finished by Thursday's deadline. "It's impossible," said the supervisor of elections. Both parties seem to agree that completing the recount in time to meet the deadline is not going to happen. Palm Beach County GOP Chairman Michael Barnett said the inability to meet the deadline was "good news for Republicans because our candidates are ahead." (CNN)

  • Stacey Abrams filed a new lawsuit in federal court asking a judge to delay Georgia's vote certifications by one day to give officials time to count any votes that were wrongly rejected. If the suit is successful, officials would have until Wednesday to restore at least 1,095 votes that weren't counted. Neither campaign can agree on how many votes remain to be counted. (ABC News)

2/ Without evidence, Rick Scott accused Bill Nelson of trying to "commit fraud to try to win this election." State elections and law enforcement officials say there is no evidence suggesting Scott's allegations are true. Florida's Senate race is one of three statewide contests headed to an automatic recount after the unofficial deadline for counties to report results passed. (The Guardian / CNN / Politico)

  • Gillum withdrew his concession to Republican former Rep. Ron DeSantis in the Florida governor's race. (CNN)

  • Nelson called on Scott to recuse himself from "any role" in the recount that will determine the winner of their race. The recount is overseen by Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, a Republican who was appointed to his position in 2012 by Scott. (NBC News)

  • Scott has filed at least five lawsuits against county election officials alleging that some ballots were counted after the Saturday noon deadline and requesting that voting tabulation equipment be impounded after the machine recount is completed. (CNN)

  • An ethics complaint asserts that Scott broke state law when he held a press conference in front of the governor's mansion on Nov. 8 to claim that he would not "sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal" his Senate race. A group of Florida voters and organizations have also filed a lawsuit that alleges Scott has abused his power as governor for threatening to not count legal votes. (Politico / BuzzFeed News)

3/ Trump properties received at least $3.2 million during midterms from campaigns and PACS. The Republican National Committee spent at least $1.2 million at Trump properties while the Trump campaign has spent more than $950,000 at the properties since the start of 2017. (CNN)

4/ A year before Jamal Khashoggi was killed, Saudi intelligence officials close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed using private companies to assassinate enemies of the kingdom. Saudi officials have claimed that Khashoggi's death was a rogue killing ordered by an official who has since been fired. Turkish officials say Mohammad al-Otaibi, Saudi Arabia's consul general in Istanbul at the time, as an accessory to the killing of Khashoggi has been established through his early denials and refusal to give investigators access to the consulate after Khashoggi's disappearance. Otaibi was not among the Saudis arrested or fired. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Canadian intelligence has heard the audio recordings of the killing of the Khashoggi. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country had shared the audio recordings with a number of countries, including the U.S., France, Germany and Saudi Arabia. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that his country's intelligence services have listened to the recordings. (NBC News / NPR / BBC)

5/ North Korea has continued its ballistic missile program at 16 hidden bases identified in new satellite images. The existence of the ballistic missile bases contradicts Trump's assertion that North Korea was "no longer a nuclear threat" following his June summit with dictator Kim Jong Un. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Washington Post)

6/ Michael Cohen and his criminal defense lawyer, Guy Petrillo, met Robert Mueller's investigators. Cohen's meeting with Mueller's team is the latest in a series of sitdowns since pleading guilty in August to federal criminal charges, including campaign contribution violations related to payments to two women at Trump's behest. Cohen has participated in multiple interview sessions totaling more than 40 hours with investigators from Mueller's office and federal prosecutors in New York City. (ABC News / CNBC)

poll/ 61% of Democrats see Republicans as "racist/bigoted/sexist." 31% of Republicans say they view Democrats the same way. (Axios)


Notables.

  1. Trump doesn't want to give any more federal relief funding to Puerto Rico, because he thinks the island's government is using the relief money to pay off its debt. It's not. (Axios)

  2. Trump blamed California's wildfires on "poor" forest management despite nearly 60% of California's forests being under federal management. He also threatened to cut off federal funding due to "gross mismanagement." (ABC News / NBC News)

  3. Democrats in the House have at least 85 different topics for potential subpoena and investigation, including Trump's taxes, his role in payments to two women who alleged that they had affairs with him, his family business, and his targeting of the press. One senior Democratic source said the Democrats are preparing a "subpoena cannon." New York Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler added that if Trump is found to have violated campaign finance laws with hush payments, it "might very well be an impeachable offense." (Axios / ABC News / The Guardian / CNN)

  4. Trump blamed the stock market downturn on the prospect of "Presidential Harassment by the Dems." (Washington Post)

  5. Half of the Republicans who wrote the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are no longer in Congress. Of the 24 Republican tax-cut authors, four lost their seats in the midterms, three retired, three ran for another office, and two left mid-term. (Yahoo News)

Day 659: Inconvenient facts.

1/ Trump was involved in "nearly every step" of the hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal and he may have violated federal campaign-finance laws in the process. David Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc., offered to use the National Enquirer to buy their silence, eventually paying McDougal $150,000 after Trump asked Pecker to kill her story. As a presidential candidate, Trump "directed deals in phone calls and meetings" related to the two women with Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty in August to campaign-finance violations. Cohen also admitted that he arranged payments to Daniels and McDougal at the direction of "a candidate for federal office" with the intention of influencing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. (Wall Street Journal)

2/ Trump claimed that he did not discuss Robert Mueller's Russia probe with Matthew Whitaker before appointing him acting attorney general. Trump defended Whitaker, calling him a "highly respected man," but also said "I don't know Matt Whitaker." Trump has been in more than a dozen meetings with Whitaker in the Oval Office. (Washington Post / Politico / CNBC / NBC News)

  • Whitaker previously served on the advisory board of a company that "bilked thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars." World Patent Marketing was fined nearly $26 million after the FTC accused it of scamming customers. The FBI is conducting a criminal investigation and Whitaker has "unquestionably recused from any investigation or prosecution of World Patent Marketing." (New York Times / Washington Post / ABC News / Wall Street Journal)

  • Trump called George Conway "Mr. Kellyanne Conway" after he wrote an op-ed arguing that Trump's appointment of Whitaker is unconstitutional because he wasn't confirmed by the Senate. George is the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. (ABC News)

3/ A federal appellate court panel ordered Mueller to explain how the firing of Jeff Sessions could influence the case between the special counsel and Andrew Miller, the former Roger Stone aide who is challenging Mueller's appointment on constitutional grounds. The judges will likely ask for supplemental briefing to address the legal issues tied to the handover from Rod Rosenstein to Whitaker. (Politico)

  • Mueller's team is "not getting what they want" from Paul Manafort, despite a cooperation agreement that requires participation in "interviews, briefings, producing documents, [and] testifying in other matters." (ABC News)

4/ Trump signed a presidential proclamation blocking migrants who cross into the U.S. illegally from seeking asylum. The proclamation is aimed primarily at several thousand migrants traveling north through Mexico in caravans. The new rules will change longstanding asylum laws that allow people who are fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries to seek protection in the U.S. and prevent people from seeking that protection if they don't enter the country at an official port of entry. (New York Times / Politico / ABC News)

5/ Before resigning, Jeff Sessions signed a memorandum limiting the use of consent decrees between Justice Department officials and local police departments. Consent decrees allow federal law enforcement officials to use court-enforced agreements to overhaul local police departments accused of civil rights abuses and violations. Sessions added three new requirements for the agreements: top political appointees must sign off on the deals, department lawyers must show evidence of additional violations beyond unconstitutional behavior, and the deals must have a sunset date. (New York Times)

6/ Trump threatened to revoke more press passes, saying he doesn't know how long Jim Acosta's credentials will be suspended, "but it could be others also." Trump went on to attack April Ryan from American Urban Radio Networks, calling her a "loser" who "doesn't know what the hell she is doing," and then bashed CNN reporter Abby Phillip for asking Trump if he wants Whitaker to "rein in Mueller." Trump replied: "What a stupid question that is. What a stupid question […] you ask a lot of stupid questions." (CNN / Politico / The Hill)


Notables.

  1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is "up and working" after being released from the hospital. (The Hill / Reuters)

  2. Trump is telling people he wants to replace Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross by the end of the year. Trump is considering former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, as well as Ray Washburne, who he appointed as head of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation as possible replacements. (CNBC)

  3. Trump said he has no plans to fire Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Earlier this week, Trump said he would be "looking at different people for different positions" after the midterms, mentioning Zinke in particular. (Politico)

  4. Zinke is exploring potential roles at Fox News, the energy industry, and other business sectors as it becomes increasingly likely that he will leave his role as Secretary of the Interior as ethics investigations into his behavior in office continue to mount. (Politico)

  5. The Pentagon's No. 3 official resigned. John Gibson, the Department of Defense's chief management officer, submitted his resignation on Monday and will leave Nov. 30. Gibson served in the role for less than nine months. (The Hill)

  6. A federal judge blocked construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying the Trump administration "simply discarded" and ignored "inconvenient facts" about how the project would impact climate change. Two days after taking office, Trump signed an executive order approving the project that had been blocked by Obama because of environmental concerns. (New York Times / Washington Post)

Day 658: Above the law.

1/ Robert Mueller's team has begun writing its final report. Trump and his lawyers, meanwhile, have been reviewing his written answers to questions from the special counsel. Mueller is required to produce a "confidential report" at the end of his investigation, which includes "the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel." With Jeff Sessions being replaced with Matt Whitaker, who has been openly critical of Mueller, it is not clear whether the report will release it at all, or in what form. (CNN)

  • Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow claimed there will be "no effect day-to-day" on Mueller's investigation. Whitaker has taken responsibility for supervising Mueller's probe even though he has written critically about the special counsel's work and publicly criticized it. (Bloomberg)

  • Whitaker will not recuse himself from overseeing Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. It's also unlikely that Whitaker would approve any subpoena of Trump as part of the investigation. (Washington Post)

  • Kellyanne Conway's husband argued that Trump's pick of Whitaker was unconstitutional and that he should to be subject to Senate confirmation before serving. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Trump is considering former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to replace Sessions. (CNN / CNBC)

  • Progressive groups are calling for nationwide protests today at 5 p.m. local time to demand protection for Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. The protests will be held under the banner, "Nobody is Above the Law," and will be led by the activist group MoveOn. The protests were triggered by Trump's decision to fire Jeff Sessions and replace him with Matthew Whitaker, who will now have authority over the Russia investigation. Sessions recused himself after he was first appointed in 2016, giving Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein oversight of the probe. Whitaker has publicly called for Mueller's probe to be reigned in. (Reuters)

2/ Trump hasn't decided whether he'll answer any of Mueller's questions, according to Rudy Giuliani. If Trump declines to answer the questions, Mueller would be forced to make a decision about whether to subpoena the sitting president and force a historic legal fight. (Politico)

3/ Trump suspended the White House press credentials of CNN's Jim Acosta after a heated exchange at a press conference yesterday. Acosta refused to give up the microphone and challenged Trump on his characterization that the Central American migrant caravan was "an invasion." Acosta was later refused access when he tried to re-enter the White House and was asked to hand over his "hard pass," which gives journalists access to the premises. Sarah Huckabee Sanders falsely claimed that Acosta had placed "his hands on a young woman" who was responsible for giving the microphone to reporters asking questions. (New York Times / Washington Post)

4/ Sanders tweeted a doctored video to support her accusation that Acosta was aggressive toward a White House aide. While the edited video makes it look like Acosta swiftly chopped down on the arm of the aide, the original video shows Acosta's arm move only as a response to the aide grabbing for the microphone. In the original video, Acosta says, "Pardon me, ma'am," when she grabs for the mic. Acosta's statement is not included in the video Sanders shared. The White House Correspondents' Association called the White House's reaction "out of line to the purported offense" and urged that Acosta's press pass be restored. Trump called Acosta a "a rude, terrible person." The video was posted by the editor-at-large for fake news site Infowars. (Washington Post / NBC News / HuffPost)

5/ A federal appeals court ruled that the Trump administration can't end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The ruling from a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a federal district judge's decision in January that Trump lacked the authority to eliminate the program. (Reuters / USA Today / CNN)

6/ A gunman killed a dozen people inside a crowded country-music bar in Southern California while firing seemingly at random. The gunman was identified as Ian David Long, a 28-year-old Marine veteran who earlier this year was cleared by a mental-health specialist after an encounter with police. He was found dead inside after apparently killing himself. (Washington Post / NBC News / The Guardian)


Notables.

  1. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fell and fractured three ribs. She was admitted to the hospital for treatment and observation. (CNBC / CNN / New York Times / NPR)

  2. Christine Blasey Ford continues to be the "target of constant harassment and death threats" after accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when the two were in high school. Ford has moved four times, hire a private security detail, and hasn't been able to return to her job as a professor at Palo Alto University. (NPR)

  3. Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for Georgia governor, resigned as secretary of state to begin his transition to governor despite the race being too close to call. Kemp holds a narrowing 50.3% to 48.7% lead over his opponent Stacey Abrams. In his role as secretary of state, Kemp oversaw Georgia's elections – an inherent conflict of interest. (ABC News / Axios / CNN / NBC News)

  4. The EPA removed more than 80 climate change websites. Since April 2017, the EPA's climate change site said it was being updated to reflect the views of the Trump administration. In October 2018, the EPA removed the "updating" mention as well as links to the outgoing Obama administration's climate change website archive. (Mashable)

  5. The Trump administration issued a pair of federal rules that allow some employers to deny insurance coverage for contraception to their employees on religious or moral grounds. The rules provide exceptions to the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to provide essential health benefits at no charge to consumers, including birth control. (Washington Post)

Day 657: Presidential harassment.

1/ Democrats won back the House for the first time in eight years, picking up at least 27 seats to give the party a check on Trump and the GOP's economic policy. "Tomorrow will be a new day in America," Nancy Pelosi said in a victory speech. "Today is more than about Democrats and Republicans. It's about restoring the Constitution's checks and balances to the Trump administration." Some key races are still too close to call as of Wednesday morning. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / CNBC)

  • Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the pro-Russia Republican incumbent, lost to Democrat Harley Rouda in California's 48th House district. (Daily Beast / New York Times)

  • The Nevada brothel owner who died last month won in the race for Nevada's 36th Assembly District. County officials will appoint a Republican to take his place in the seat. (NBC News)

  • Trump described the midterm election as "great" for Republicans, but vowed to turn the tables on Democrats who investigate him and his administration. "If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level. Two can play that game!" Trump tweeted. Mitch McConnell cautioned Democrats against engaging in "presidential harassment." (Washington Post)

2/ Republicans increased their majority in the Senate, building on their one-seat majority in the chamber by winning Democratic seats in Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri. (New York Times / The Guardian / Washington Post)

  • Ted Cruz narrowly defeated Beto O'Rourke. With 99% of precincts reporting, Cruz had 50.9%, or 4,228,832 votes, and O'Rourke had 48.3%, or 4,015,082 votes. (New York Times / Politico)

  • The Florida Senate race between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott is headed to a recount. The two candidates are separated by fewer than 35,000 votes, with Scott holding the slim lead. (Politico)

  • Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester is the apparent winner in his bid for re-election to a third term. Tester voted no on Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court. (CNBC)

  • Mitt Romney won a U.S. Senate seat in Utah. (NBC News)

3/ Democrats flipped at least 7 governorships. The race remained too close to call in Georgia, where Democrat Stacey Abrams was running to become the first African American female governor. Democrats flipped the governorships in Wisconsin, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Illinois, Nevada and New Mexico. (Washington Post)

  • Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for Georgia governor, refused to concede the race and said she was prepared to face Brian Kemp in a runoff. With 100% of precincts reporting, Kemp had 50.4%, or 1,971,884 votes, and Abrams has 48.7 percent, or 1,907,302 votes. Under Georgia law, if no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, then the top two vote getters advance to a runoff election. Kemp, who oversees elections as secretary of state, has until Nov. 20 to officially certify the election. A candidate cannot officially request a recount until the certification. Abrams is seeking to become the first African-American woman elected governor in U.S. history. He campaign said they believed thousands of absentee and mail-in ballots are still coming in. (NBC News)

  • Under Kemp, Georgia purged more than 1.5 million voters from the rolls – 10.6% of voters – from 2016 to 2018. The state shut down 214 polling places, mostly minority and poor neighborhoods, and from 2013 to 2016, the state blocked the registration of nearly 35,000 Georgians, including newly naturalized citizens. (The Atlantic)

  • Kemp's voter card said "invalid" when he tried to vote. He had to go back and get another card after unsuccessfully trying to vote. (WSBTV / The Hill)

  • The first openly gay man was elected governor in Colorado. Jared Polis will also be the state's first Jewish governor. (BuzzFeed News / Vice News)

  • Democrat Laura Kelly defeated Kris Kobach in the race to be the next governor of Kansas. Kobach was the vice-chair of Trump's now-disbanded commission on voter fraud. (Talking Points Memo)

4/ At least 111 women were elected to office, including the first Native American and first Muslim women. At least 96 women were elected – surpassing the current record of 84 – with 40 women of color headed to the House. Maine and South Dakota also elected their first female governors. The GOP elected several women, with Marsha Blackburn becoming Tennessee's first female senator. In New York, Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress at age 29, followed shortly by Iowa Democrat Abby Finkenauer. (Politico / Bloomberg / Axios)

  • A list of of firsts for women: The next Congress will include the first Muslim women, the first Native American women, and the youngest woman ever elected to that body. (NPR)

  • Democrats Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland became the first Native American women elected to Congress. (CNN)

  • Sharice Davids is the first openly LGBTQ Kansan elected to Congress. (NBC News)

  • Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar are the first muslim women elected to Congress. (BuzzFeed News / CNN)

  • Ocasio-Cortez is youngest woman elected to Congress. (CNN)

  • The Kentucky county clerk who defied the Supreme Court and was jailed in 2015 for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples lost her re-election for Rowan County clerk. Kim Davis lost by fewer than 700 votes among nearly 7,800 cast. (New York Times / The Hill)

  • The GOP congressman, who once lamented that he could no longer call women "sluts," lost to a woman. Jason Lewis lost his seat to Democrat Angie Craig. (CNN)

5/ Florida voters reinstated voting rights for an estimated 1.5 million former felons. Amendment 4 automatically reinstates voting rights for people with felony convictions upon completion of their sentences, including prison, parole and probation. Excluded are those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense. (CNBC)

6/ Jeff Sessions resigned at Trump's request. Matthew Whitaker – Sessions's chief of staff – will take over as acting attorney general and assume oversight of Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and possible collusion by Trump's campaign. Rod Rosenstein was overseeing the probe because Sessions had recused himself from any involvement with the special counsel. A DOJ spokesperson indicated that Whitaker would take over "all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice" – including the Mueller probe. Trump has repeatedly attacked Sessions for recusing himself from oversight of the probe in 2017 after it was revealed that he had met more than once with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the 2016 campaign despite saying he had not met with any Russians during his confirmation hearing. Mueller, meanwhile, has been looking into Trump's previous statements about wanting to fire Sessions or force his resignation to determine whether those acts are part of a pattern of attempted obstruction of justice. Whitaker by law can serve as acting attorney general for a maximum of 210 days. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNBC / Wall Street Journal)

  • In a 2017 opinion piece, Whitaker called for Mueller to "limit the scope of his investigation." Whitaker also previously discussed how a Sessions replacement could reduce Mueller's budget "so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt." (Washington Post)

  • The incoming Democrat set to take control of the House Judiciary Committee pledged to scrutinize Sessions's firing and the promotion of his chief of staff to acting attorney general. (Mother Jones)

7/ House Democrats are prepared to open multiple investigations of Trump when they take control in January. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to focus on health care, beginning with an investigation of Sessions's refusal to defend the Affordable Care Act against a lawsuit from Republican-led states. The House Intelligence Committee is expected to revisit Russian election meddling. The Education and Workforce Committee will likely examine Betsy DeVos's efforts to relax regulations for for-profit colleges and limit student loan forgiveness, and the Ways and Means Committee could use a 1924 law to request Trump's tax returns and then make them public with a simple majority vote. (Washington Post / Politico)

  • Trump said he would take a "warlike posture" to any attempts by Democrats to investigate his administration. "They can play that game, but we can play it better, because we have a thing called the United States Senate." Sarah Huckabee Sanders also warned that Democrats shouldn't "waste time" investigating Trump, urging them to not "be the party of resist and obstruct" but rather work with Trump to "solve some of the big problems that we've been leading on over the last two years." Trump promised to make "beautiful" deals with Democrats. (Washington Post / Politico / New York Times / Daily Beast / ABC News)

8/ Trump Jr. told friends he expects to be indicted by Mueller soon. One former West Wing official who testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, said "I'm very worried about Don Jr.," fearing that Mueller could demonstrate that Trump Jr. perjured himself after he testified that he never told his father beforehand about the June 2016 Trump Tower with Russian officials promising "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. Mueller is expected to submit his final report to the Justice Department in the coming months. John Kelly and former White House counsel McGahn urged Trump to wait until Mueller issues his report to fire Sessions. (New York Magazine / Politico / Vanity Fair)

9/ Two more associates of Roger Stone testified before Mueller's grand jury. Mueller is aggressively pursuing the question of whether the longtime adviser to Trump had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks's plans to release hacked Democratic emails. At least nine Stone associates have been contacted by prosecutors so far. (Washington Post)


🔥 Hot Takes and 📊 Exit Polls.

  1. Suburbs defect as Trump's base holds. The divergent outcomes in the House and Senate exposed an ever-deepening gulf separating rural communities from America's cities and suburbs. (New York Times)

  2. The 2018 midterm elections were a referendum on Trump. Two-thirds of voters said the president was a factor in how they voted. (Washington Post)

  3. Checks and balances are coming. Trump will face new levels of scrutiny from Congress, but despite Democratic gains he looks in a strong position for 2020. (The Guardian)

  4. Health care trumps the economy. 41% of voters cited health care as their most important issue, while 23% named immigration, and 21% named the economy – the only time in at least a decade that it hasn't topped the list. (NBC News)

  5. Historically high turnout and young voter surge for Democrats. 60% of white men voted for the Republican party while white women were split between the two parties. (The Guardian)

  6. Trump a major factor in 2018 midterm election voting. 44% of midterm voters approve of Trump's job performance. (CBS News)

  7. 41% approve of Robert Mueller's handling of the Russian investigation into interference in the 2016 election. 46% disapprove. 41% think the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election is mostly while 54% think it's politically motivated. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Trump will meet with Putin this weekend in Paris. The French had asked the Americans and Russians not to hold the meeting for fear that it would overshadow an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. (New York Times)

  2. Ivanka Trump's fashion brand won 16 new trademarks from the Chinese government – three months after announcing that her brand was shutting down. (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)

  3. Trump is expected to sign an executive order to revamp the U.S. asylum system this week. According to the directive, asylum seekers will be required to go to a port of entry to make a claim. Current U.S. law requires "any alien who is physically present" in the country to apply for asylum within a year of arriving. (Wall Street Journal)

Day 656: Setting a tone.

🗳 Dept. of Midterms 2018.

I'll be keeping this space updated throughout the midterms with the latest polls and live blogs.

  1. Forecasts and Results: New York Times / Real Clear Politics / Five Thirty Eight: House / Senate

  2. Live Blogs: Washington Post / Five Thirty Eight / New York Times / The Guardian / CNN / NBC News / Wall Street Journal / Politico / ABC News

  3. How to watch the midterms: A normal person's guide to how the midterms will unfold, hour by hour. (Five Thirty Eight / BuzzFeed News / CNN / Bloomberg)

  4. What time do the polls close? The first polls close at 6 p.m. ET with the last closing seven hours later in Alaska. (New York Times / Politico)

  5. Races to watch and how to follow them. (Bloomberg / CNN / ABC News / Politico)

  6. What's at stake, explained. (Vox)


1/ More than 36 million people voted early this year, almost 10 million more people than during the 2014 midterms. Some experts believe early voting could surpass 40 million people by the time all the ballots are counted. (Politico)

2/ Trump and Jeff Sessions issued baseless warnings about the threat of voter fraud in the midterm elections. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the U.S. (Washington Post)

3/ Facebook suspended 115 accounts believed to be engaged in "coordinated inauthentic behavior." Law enforcement believes the accounts may be linked to foreign entities. Almost all the Facebook pages appear to be in French or Russian. (USA Today / Politico)


Notables.

  1. U.S. military personnel will not be "involved in the actual mission of denying people entry to the United States" at the southern border, according to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "There is no plan for US military forces to be involved in the actual mission of denying people entry to the United States," Gen. Joseph Dunford said. "There is no plan for soldiers to come in contact with immigrants or to reinforce Department of Homeland Security as they're conducting their mission." (CNN)

  2. The White House asked the Supreme Court to rule on the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program before three pending cases at the federal appellate level complete the normal appeals process. DACA is currently accepting renewals but not new applicants. If the program ends, about 700,000 protected individuals could be deported. (NPR)

  3. Motel 6 will pay up to $7.6 million to Hispanic guests after regularly providing guest lists to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Motel 6 also agreed to a two-year consent decree barring it from sharing guest data with immigration authorities absent warrants, subpoenas, or threats of serious crime or harm as part of its preliminary settlement with eight Hispanic plaintiffs. (Reuters)

  4. Cesar Sayoc is scheduled to appear in court in New York today to face charges that he mailed pipe bombs. Prosecutors will ask the judge to hold Sayoc without bail because he is considered dangerous to the public. Sayoc faces nearly 50 years in prison if he is convicted of the five federal charges filed against him in New York. (Associated Press)

  5. Trump: "I would like to have a much softer tone," but "I have no choice." Trump blamed the current vitriol in political discourse on the election season, then at a rally later Monday called the Democratic candidate for Ohio governor, a "bad person," revived his "Pocahontas" insult for Elizabeth Warren, attacked the news media, demanded that security remove protesters, and criticized Dianne Feinstein's role in Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing. (Reuters)

Day 655: Political stunt.

Today in one sentence: Democrats are expected to take control of the House of Representatives but fall short in the Senate; national polls show that 55% of voters prefer Democratic control of the House; some polls, however, show the Democratic edge shrinking; at least 31 million people have voted early nationwide; and U.S. intelligence officials have seen no evidence of any attempts to tamper with the midterm election systems.


🗳 Dept. of Midterms 2018.

With one day to go, I'll be keeping this space updated throughout the midterms with the latest polls and live blogs.

  1. Forecasts: New York Times / Real Clear Politics / Five Thirty Eight: House / Senate

  2. Live Blogs: Washington Post / The Guardian / CNN / Bloomberg

  3. Voter Guide: How, when and where to vote on Tuesday. (New York Times / Bloomberg)

  4. How to watch the midterms: A guide. (Five Thirty Eight)

  5. Races to watch and how to follow them. (Bloomberg / CNN)

  6. What's at stake, explained. (Vox)

  7. 5 possible outcomes and what they'd mean. (Washington Post)

  8. Election Day misinformation. What to look for. (New York Times)


The Latest.

  1. The Georgia secretary of state and Republican candidate for governor accused Democrats of allegedly trying to hack the state's voter registration system. Brian Kemp, who is in a tight race with Stacey Abrams, alleged that the state Democratic Party made a "failed attempt to hack the state's voter registration system" and announced that his office was opening an investigation. Kemp said his office also alerted the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, but he offered no evidence to back up his allegation. Democrats called it a "political stunt" days before the election. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)

  2. U.S. intelligence officials have seen no evidence of attempts to tamper with the voting systems or election infrastructure. (NBC News)

  3. This year's early voting numbers in at least 12 states have already surpassed those from the 2014 midterm election. First-time voters have cast 5% or more of the early vote in 10 states. (CNN)

  4. At least 31 million people have voted early nationwide. At this point in the 2014 midterms, 19 million voted early. (CNN)

  5. Early voter turnout in Texas surpassed the entire turnout in the 2014 midterm election. Over 4.5 million people in Texas cast in-person ballots in this year's early voting period and more than 360,000 people have cast mail-in ballots in 30 counties alone. (Texas Tribune)

  6. Georgia and Texas voting machines have inexplicably deleted some people's votes for Democratic candidates or switched them to Republican votes. Experts blamed the errors on outdated software and old machines. (Politico)

  7. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report shifted nine House races toward Democrats. (The Hill)

  8. 55% of voters prefer Democratic control of the House while 42% want Republicans to stay in power. (CNN)

  9. 50% of likely voters say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, while 43% want Republicans in charge – down from Democrats' 9-point advantage in October. (NBC News)

  10. 43% of registered voters would vote for the Democratic congressional candidate in their district on a generic congressional ballot compared with 40% who would vote for the Republican candidate. (Politico)

  11. Trump's approval rating stands at 39%, with 55% disapproving – slightly worse than in early October, when 41% approved of his performance and 52% disapproved. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration expects a number of Cabinet secretaries and top White House aides to be fired or actively pushed out after the midterms. Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, Sarah Sanders, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross all face uncertain futures. (Washington Post)

  2. Financial penalties against banks and big companies have declined sharply during the first 20 months of the Trump presidency. There has been a 62% drop in penalties imposed by the S.E.C. and a 72% decline in corporate penalties from the Justice Department's criminal prosecutions compared to the Obama administration. (New York Times)

  3. U.S. businesses paid $4.4 billion in tariffs in September – up more than 50% from a year ago. The increase was driven by $1.4 billion in Trump administration tariffs on Chinese imports and foreign steel and aluminum. (CNBC)

  4. NBC aired the racist anti-immigration political ad approved by Trump. After airing the ad, both NBC and Fox News pulled it. CNN, however, rejected the ad outright, saying "that this ad is racist." (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)

  5. A Navy reconnaissance plane in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian fighter jet in an unsafe manner. (CNN)

  6. Trump's deployment of troops to the U.S.-Mexico border is estimated to cost $220 million by year-end. A Pentagon risk assessment found that the caravan did not pose a threat to the United States. (CNBC / Washington Post)

  7. About "200 unregulated armed militia members [are] currently operating along the southwest border," according to a planning document for Army commanders leading the 5,200 troops Trump deployed at the border. The groups "operate under the guise of citizen patrols supporting" border officials. (Newsweek / HuffPost)

  8. A group of Idaho teachers dressed up as a wall with the phrase "Make America Great Again" on it for Halloween. The district Superintendent called the costumes "clearly insensitive and inappropriate." (CNN)

  9. Trump's name was invoked in direct connection with 17 cases of criminal violent acts, threats of violence, or allegations of assault. Nearly all of the cases – 16 out of 17 – include court documents and direct evidence of someone echoing presidential rhetoric, not protesting it. The suspects and perpetrators in the 17 cases are mostly white men, while the victims represent a variety of minority groups, including African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, and gay men. (ABC News)

  10. Trump dismissed his administration's National Climate Assessment. Trump didn't read the report, but said he believes climate change will "probably" change back. (Axois)

Day 652: Too stupid.

1/ Trump once told Michael Cohen that he thinks black people are "too stupid" to vote for him and suggested that all countries run by blacks are "shitholes." Cohen also claimed that Trump remarked that "only the blacks could live like this" as they drove through a "rougher" Chicago neighborhood in the early 2000s. (Vanity Fair)

2/ The Trump administration will reimpose all U.S. sanctions on Iran that had been lifted as part of the 2015 nuclear agreement. The sanctions will take effect on Monday, but eight "jurisdictions" will be granted six-month waivers, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, said. Shortly after the announcement, Trump tweeted a poster of himself with the words "Sanctions Are Coming" with the font from the popular HBO show, Game of Thrones. (Associated Press / New York Times / CNN / Axios)

  • HBO: We "would prefer our trademark not be misappropriated for political purposes." HBO's official Twitter account followed up soon after, asking, "How do you say trademark misuse in Dothraki?" (CNBC / Los Angeles Times)

3/ The FBI recovered a suspicious package addressed to billionaire Tom Steyer resembling those allegedly sent by Cesar Sayoc. Steyer is a Democrat known for his ads calling for the impeachment of Trump. (CNN / Reuters)

4/ The Nigerian Army used Trump's speech to justify fatally shooting rock-throwing protesters. The Nigerian army posted a video of Trump's anti-migrant speech from Thursday in which he said rocks would be considered firearms if thrown toward the American military at the border. The army has been accused of killing 45 protesters. (New York Times / BuzzFeed News)

5/ Trump walked back his threat that troops could shoot at migrants approaching the border if they threw rocks. "I didn't say shoot," Trump claimed. "I didn't say shoot," Trump claimed. "But if they do [throw rocks at troops] they're gonna be arrested for a long time." (CNN / USA Today / Bloomberg)

6/ Trump blamed journalists for "creating violence" in the country. His comment comes a week after more than a dozen attempted pipe bombs were sent to Trump's critics and a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11. Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to clarify Trump's remarks: "No, the president is not placing blame" that the news media was at fault for the attempted pipe bomb attacks. "I mean, that is outrageous than anybody other than the individual who carried out the crime would hold that responsibility." (NBC News / Washington Examiner)

poll/ 49% say the way Trump speaks encourages political violence, while 19% see him as discouraging it. 29% say he's neither encouraging nor discouraging violence. (ABC News)


Notables.

  1. A federal judge denied Trump's request to stay a lawsuit alleging he is in violation of the Constitution's emoluments clause and ordered evidence-gathering to begin. Maryland and Washington attorneys general want to know how much money Trump's hotel in Washington receives from foreign governments and how profits flow to his trust. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg)

  2. Top Democrats are promising investigations, not impeachment proceedings, if they win back control of the House next week. Nancy Pelosi and her lieutenants say they're more interested in exercising the broad oversight powers of the majority party instead of focusing on trying to impeach Trump. They plan to use subpoenas and public hearings to drag senior administration officials and force them to testify about alleged wrongdoings in front of the public eye. (NPR)

  3. U.S. intelligence agencies and the Pentagon are prepared to launch a cyber attack against Russia if the country is caught interfering in the 2018 midterm elections. The effort is one of the first major cyber battle plans organized under the new government policy that allows offensive cyber operations to be worked out in advance among key agencies. (Center for Public Integrity)

  4. The U.S. economy added 250,000 jobs in October. Wages grew by 3.1% since last year – the largest annual jump in nine and a half years not adjusted for inflation. The unemployment rate stayed at 3.7% – the lowest it has been since December 1969. Average hourly earnings went up by 5 cents an hour over the last month, with an 83-cent increase year-over-year. (CNN Business / CNBC / Reuters)

  5. Former CIA Director John Brennan endorsed Texas senate candidate Beto O'Rourke over Ted Cruz. "I believe Beto O'Rourke is the type of individual Texans need in the U.S. Senate to represent their best interests," Brennan tweeted. The statement marks the first time Brennan has endorsed a candidate in a midterm election. (NBC News)

  6. Trump's racist ad campaign that accuses Democrats of opening U.S. borders to let in undocumented immigrants who kill police officers narrowly avoids violating campaign finance laws. The ad fails to mention who paid for it, but campaign finance experts say Trump may have found a loophole in the laws by limiting the distribution of the video to social media. (ABC News)

  7. The cop killer from Trump's immigration ad entered the country while George W. Bush was president and released by Joe Arpaio "for reasons unknown." The racist video falsely accusing Democrats of allowing Luis Bracamontes who murdered two police officers into the country. Arpaio was pardoned last year by Trump. (Sacramento Bee / HuffPost / Washington Post)

Day 651: Doing a service.

1/ Roger Stone was in communication with Steve Bannon about upcoming WikiLeaks disclosures during the 2016 presidential race. After WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange publicly claimed to have hacked emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, Bannon emailed Stone on Oct. 4: "What was that this morning???" Stone responded that Assange feared for his personal safety, but would be releasing "a load every week going forward." Last week, Robert Mueller's team interviewed Bannon for a third time, including about his communications with Stone. (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post)

  • Earlier this week Stone claimed he never discussed WikiLeaks with anybody from the Trump campaign. "There are no such communications," Stone said, "and if Bannon says there are, he would be dissembling." (Washington Post)

  • 📖Read the emails between the Trump campaign and Roger Stone. (New York Times)

  • Jerome Corsi met with Mueller's investigators and is scheduled to appear before the federal grand jury probing Russia interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Friday. Corsi is one of at least 11 individuals associated with Stone who have been contacted by the special counsel. (ABC News)

2/ Trump tweeted a racist video falsely accusing Democrats of allowing a man who murdered two police officers into the country. The ad shows Luis Bracamontes, a Mexican man who had previously been deported but returned to the U.S. and killed two California sheriff's deputies, in court with text overlays that say he "killed our people!" and that "Democrats let him into our country" and "Democrats let him stay." It's followed by footage of people who appear to be part of a migrant caravan pushing down gates with text then asks: "Who else would Democrats let in?" The ad offers no evidence for claims that Democrats let Bracamontes, who was deported twice, into the country. (ABC News / CNN / The Guardian)

3/ Before Saudi Arabia acknowledged that Jamal Khashoggi's death was a "terrible mistake" and a "terrible tragedy," the crown prince claimed that Khashoggi was a dangerous Islamist. In a phone call with both Jared Kushner and national security adviser John Bolton, Prince Mohammed bin Salman argued that Khashoggi was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mohammed is expected to retain power despite an international consensus that he's responsible for the killing. (Washington Post / New York Times)

4/ Trump's deployment of an additional 5,200 troops to the southern border could cost as much as a million dollars per day. Troops are expected to be stationed at the border for 45 days. (Newsweek)

5/ Without evidence, Trump claimed that he "wouldn't be surprised" if George Soros is funding the caravan of Central American migrants moving toward the U.S. Republican congressmen, cable-news personalities, and Trump Jr. have been pushing the idea that Soros, a wealthy, liberal Jewish donor, was funding the caravan. (The Hill / Washington Post)

  • 🎉 Base motivations: Trump claimed that he will take executive action next week to end what he calls an "abuse" of the asylum system, saying that "massive tent cities" could be erected at the southern border to hold people who cross into the country illegally in detention indefinitely. Trump also said that soldiers at the border may shoot at migrants who commit violence. (Bloomberg / Washington Post)

6/ Trump: "I always want to tell the truth. When I can, I tell the truth." Trump has made more than 5,000 false or misleading statements during his nearly two years in office. During the same interview, Trump claimed he is "pretty good at estimating crowd sizes," which is how he knows the group of migrants traveling north through Central America is "a lot bigger than people would think." (ABC News)

  • Trump suggested that he might invoke a state of national emergency in order to justify using the military to arrest and detain migrants and refugees at the southern border. When asked what role active duty military personnel would play, since U.S. law prohibits the U.S. Army from being used to enforce domestic law, Trump said "Well it depends, it depends." He continued: "National emergency covers a lot of territory. They can't invade our country. You look at that it almost looks like an invasion. It's almost does look like an invasion." (ABC News)

7/ Trump claimed that calling the press the "enemy of the people" is his only way to fight back "when people write stories about me that are so wrong." He said he thinks he's "doing a service" by attacking the press, and that he wouldn't have been elected if he hadn't done it during the 2016 campaign. "If they would write accurately about me," he continued, "I would be the nicest president you've ever seen. It would be much easier." (Axios)

poll/ 56% of voters said Trump has done more to divide the country than unite it. 64% said the media have done more to divide the country. (Politico)

poll/ 47% of American believe that Russia will try to influence the midterm elections. 48% believe Russians would try to help Republicans, while 15% say Russia would try to help Democrats. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Federal judges ordered Ohio to allow voters who had been purged for not voting over a six-year period to participate in the midterm elections. The state sent confirmation notices to voters that they'd be removed from county voter rolls after not voting in three federal elections. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel said the state "did not adequately advise registrants of the consequences of failure to respond." (NBC News)

  2. National Security Adviser John Bolton called Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua a "Troika of Tyranny," declaring Jair Bolsonaro's recent election in Brazil a "positive sign" for Latin America. Bolsonaro has made numerous homophobic and sexist remarks, and supports military rule. (Axios)

  3. Trump's top economic adviser opposes the federal minimum wage, arguing that it's a "terrible idea" and that raising it would "damage" small businesses by forcing their payroll to increase. Larry Kudlow also said that he would oppose any attempt to work with Democrats in Congress to raise the federal minimum wage should they take back the House or Senate in the 2018 midterm elections. (Washington Post)

  4. The EPA approved the use of a weedkiller prone to drifting and damaging nearby crops and wild vegetation. Farmers started using dicamba because glyphosate, their previous favorite weedkiller, isn't working as well anymore. (NPR)

  5. Trump said he had a "long and very good conversation" with Chinese President Xi Jinping, claiming trade "discussions are moving along nicely." (Wall Street Journal / Politico)

  6. Trump wants to offer a former Fox News anchor the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations job. Heather Nauert, currently the State Department spokeswoman, would take over from Nikki Haley, who announced last month that she would step down at the end of the year. (CNN / ABC News)

Day 650: Maximum harm.

1/ The suspect in the shooting that left 11 people dead at a Pittsburgh synagogue was charged in a 44-count indictment with murder, hate crimes and other offenses that could bring the death penalty. Robert Bowers entered the Tree of Life synagogue armed armed with Glock .357 handguns and a Colt AR-15 rifle, and told police he was there to "kill Jews." (Washington Post / Associated Press)

2/ Pipe bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc "conducted a domestic terror attack," according to federal prosecutors. Sayoc researched the addresses of his targets online and had photos of them on his cellphone. Sayoc allegedly intended to "maximize harm" to his 15 targets. Justice Department prosecutors said Sayoc began planning the "domestic terror attack" in July while living in his van, which was covered with photos praising Trump. (NBC News / ABC News)

3/ The Trump administration doesn't plan to renew the anti-domestic terror program, which funds the development of new approaches to prevent terrorism before it begins. The Department of Homeland Security said it has no plans to continue the program past the end of its funding in July 2019 and has told grant recipients that the funding was a "one-time" opportunity. (NBC News)

4/ Jamal Khashoggi was strangled and dismembered as soon as he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul as part of a premeditated plan to kill the Saudi journalist and dispose of his body, according Turkey's public prosecutor. The statement from Irfan Fidan is the first official description by a Turkish official about Khashoggi's death and follows two days of meetings with Saudi Arabia's top prosecutor, Saud al-Mojeb. A senior Turkish official said Mojeb did not give Fidan the location of Khashoggi's body or the identity of the "local collaborator" who helped dispose of the Khashoggi's remains. The Saudis have shifted their story about Khashoggi's fate, initially denying any knowledge, then suggesting that "rogue" killers were responsible for Khashoggi's death, before acknowledging that Khashoggi was killed in a premeditated murder. (CNN / Bloomberg / Washington Post / Associated Press)

  • A group of Republican senators want to stop to talks on selling U.S. nuclear power equipment to Saudi Arabia in response to the Khashoggi killing. (Bloomberg)

5/ Trump may deploy 10,000 to 15,000 military personnel to the border with Mexico in response to the caravan of Central American migrants. The deployment would double the number of active-duty troops operating there, and be roughly equivalent to the size of the U.S. military's presence in Afghanistan, and three times the size of the presence in Iraq. Yesterday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that the military was deploying 5,239 troops to support the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection, in addition to the 2,092 members of the National Guard already there. (Washington Post / Politico)

6/ Trump blamed former White House Counsel Don McGahn for Robert Mueller's appointment. Trump surprised McGahn in August by tweeting McGahn's planned departure on Twitter, since McGahn had not discussed his plans with Trump directly. McGahn has also cooperated with Mueller's pro