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Shutdown II looming? Talks on border hit a wall

The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, D.C.,

The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 27, 2018. Credit: AFP / Getty Images

Here we go again

Does anyone really want an encore of the 35-day government shutdown? It's "still on the table," White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday. “We do not want it to come to that, but that option is still open to the president and will remain so.”

Mulvaney spoke as Democratic and Republican congressional negotiators reported they had hit an impasse in talks aimed at finding a border security compromise acceptable to both parties and to President Donald Trump. The conflict that caused talks to break down wasn't over wall money. Rather, it's about the administration's efforts to detain and deport migrants here illegally.

Democrats have been pushing for a cap on the number of beds provided to ICE to detain immigrants for deportation proceedings. The rationale, according to a House Democratic aide, is to coax the administration into giving higher priority to detaining migrants with criminal records that those without one. Republicans don't want any criminals to come under a cap, and Trump took to Twitter to denounce the Democrats as soft on "muderers" (his typo):

"The Border Committee Democrats are behaving, all of a sudden, irrationally. Not only are they unwilling to give dollars for the obviously needed Wall (they overrode recommendations of Border Patrol experts), but they don’t even want to take muderers into custody! What’s going on?" he wrote.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), the lead Republican negotiator, told "Fox News Sunday" he believed lawmakers had a “50-50” chance of reaching a deal in time. The committee had set an informal Monday deadline to broker a deal to allow enough time to set up votes before the Friday deadline. On the same show, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) sounded a hopeful note, observing “negotiations seldom go smooth all the way through."

Trump, in another tweet, alluded to his position that he can get the wall money by declaring a national emergency. Mulvaney hinted that Trump would go that way if a deal emerged on Capitol Hill that didn't have enough. “We’ll take as much money as you can give us and then we will . . . find the money somewhere else legally in order to secure that southern barrier,” Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.”

For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Trump's atrocious jokes

Elizabeth Warren has undergone fair criticism for overstating her American Indian heritage and apologized. But Trump went back on the attack with another Twitter joke seeming to make light of 19th century atrocities committed against the nation's original inhabitants. 

Four weeks after tweeting that a better backdrop for a campaign video would have been Wounded Knee, where U.S. Cavalry troops massacred hundreds from the Lakota tribe in 1890, Trump repeated his "Pocahontas" slur and added: "See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!" 

The emphasis on "TRAIL" was widely taken as a reference to the Trail of Tears — the forced relocations in the 1830s and 1840s during which thousands of American Indians died as they were uprooted from the Southeastern United States to reservations in Oklahoma. Donald Trump Jr. liked his dad's tweet so much he posted a screenshot in Instagram and wrote: "Savage!!! Love my President."

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), who represents thousands of American Indians, sidestepped the fallout when asked about it in a televised interview. She focused her fire on Warren.

Jail to the chief?

Warren, taking her attacks to a new level as she campaigned in Iowa, raised the prospect of Trump ending up behind bars.

"By the time we get to 2020, Donald Trump may not even be president," Warren said to voters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, gathered at the Veterans Memorial Building. "In fact, he may not even be a free person." 

Asked to explain the comment later, Warren said, "Well, come on. How many investigations are there now? It's no longer just the Mueller investigation." Trump has not been charged with any crimes so far, and if Warren sees a path to get around the legal hurdles of bringing a criminal case against a sitting president, she didn't say.

Janison: Enquiring binds

What do Amazon chief Jeff Bezos' allegations of attempted blackmail and extortion by American Media Inc., the company behind the National Enquirer, have to do with Trump? Call it a developing story.

The Enquirer has been an instrument for Trump's dirty work, whether in taking down political foes (Ted Cruz's dad linked to JFK assassination! Hillary Clinton is dying!) or working with Michael Chen to bury sordid stories about Trump's carousing. When the Enquirer exposed a Bezos' affair, Trump celebrated on Twitter and hoped that "Jeff Bozo" would lose ownership of The Washington Post, which he regards as an enemy.

Now the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York is reportedly taking a new look at its non-prosecution agreement with AMI for its role in the hush-money deal that's central to the wider probe of campaign finance violations committed on Trump's behalf. That gives Trump no cause to celebrate. See Dan Janison's column for Newsday.

That's cold

Whatever Trump's views on the environment, he seems committed to recycling the line he trots out to ridicule climate-change concerns. The latest occasion was Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar's announcement of her 2020 candidacy while getting pelted by a heavy Minneapolis snowstorm.

"Amy Klobuchar announced that she is running for President, talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Bad timing. By the end of her speech she looked like a Snowman(woman)!" Trump tweeted.

In response, the senator tweeted: “Science is on my side, @realDonaldTrump. Looking forward to debating you about climate change (and many other issues). And I wonder how your hair would fare in a blizzard?” Evidently Trump hair jokes are also recyclable.

During her speech, Klobuchar talked up her "Midwestern values" and efforts at bipartisan cooperation. She did not utter Trump's name, but faulted the conduct of "foreign policy by tweet" and said Americans must "stop the fearmongering and stop the hate."

What else is happening:

  • Backlash over taxes could build against Trump and Congressional Republicans as millions of Americans discover they will receive less than expected in refunds or that they owe the IRS money for the first time in years.
  • House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) says special counsel Robert Mueller doesn't appear to have paid enough attention to Trump's relationship with Deutsche Bank, which has been caught playing a role in Russian money-laundering schemes. Schiff told NBC's "Meet the Press" his panel will investigate.
  • Mulvaney defended Trump's threat to retaliate against Democrats' probes by refusing to work with them on unrelated legislation. “It's not reasonable to expect the president to work with you on Monday on a big infrastructure bill and then on Tuesday have you punch him in the face over 15 different investigations," Mulvaney said on "Fox News Sunday."
  • Ahead of their Hanoi summit, Trump has resumed buttering up North Korea's dictator. He tweeted: "North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, will become a great Economic Powerhouse. He may surprise some but he won’t surprise me, because I have gotten to know him & fully understand how capable he is."
  • A week after leaked schedules showed he spends about 60 percent of the workday in unstructured "executive time," Trump tweeted a comeback. "When the term Executive Time is used, I am generally working, not relaxing," he said." In fact, I probably work more hours than almost any past President."
  • Michael Cohen's now-abandoned public expressions of devotion to Trump are well known, but he also spoke privately to associates of piggybacking on Trump's fame to seek elective office on his own, such as mayor of New York City, The Washington Post writes. Others in Trump's orbit found those ambitions delusional.

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