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The shutdown, in its second month, is getting worse

Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump

Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on Monday in Washington. Credit: Pool/Pete Marovich

Damage beyond control

It's not just the 800,000 federal workers going without pay who are feeling increasing pain from the government shutdown, which enters its 32nd day Tuesday. The interruption of routine services from federal agencies and suspension of programs are having a corrosive impact.

Thousands of retailers around the country can't accept food-stamp debit card payments because they can't get their licenses renewed from the Agriculture Department, PBS reported. Fear is growing among the 40 million Americans who get food stamps with no assurance the program will be funded beyond February, reports The Associated Press.

People who were about to move into federally subsidized housing have been told to wait, and tenants already there fear evictions because landlords are demanding they cover what Washington has stopped paying, according to The New York Times.

Federally supported programs for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse are cutting back on lifesaving services, furloughing staff and turning people away from shelters, The Washington Post found.

The Post found some Donald Trump voters in Michigan who say shutting down the government to press Trump's demands for border wall funding was wrong, and they blame the president for it. “It’s silly. It’s destructive,” said Jeff Daudert, a retired Navy reservist.

“I was doing fine with him up until this government shutdown,” said Jeremiah Wilburn, an operating engineer, who is worried about his brother who works for TSA in Florida. “You can’t expect people to come to work without getting paid,” Wilburn said.

Yes, he can. The president tweeted Sunday night: "To all of the great people who are working so hard for your Country and not getting paid I say, THANK YOU - YOU ARE GREAT PATRIOTS! We must now work together, after decades of abuse, to finally fix the Humanitarian, Criminal & Drug Crisis at our Border. WE WILL WIN BIG!"

Two-minute mourning

With Vice President Mike Pence in tow, Trump made an unannounced visit to Washington’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, laid a wreath to honor him, and was on his way back to White House in two minutes.

The president had faced some criticism for his previously released schedule, which did not include any public events marking the federal holiday of remembrance for the civil rights leader.

Seven Democrats have one dream

The growing field of Democrats who are running for president or thinking about it held King's legacy in a longer embrace.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) used the holiday to launch a 2020 campaign if successful, would make her the first woman and the second black candidate to become president. She pledged a "fight for our American values."

Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Bernie Sanders of Vermont spoke at an annual rally to observe King’s birthday in South Carolina.

Sanders called Trump a "racist" who "intentionally, purposely, is trying to divide us up by the color of our skin, by our gender, by the country we came from, by our religion.” Booker spoke of the importance of unity and having “courageous empathy.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke at a breakfast in Washington hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton, while Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York appeared at King Day events in their home states.

Janison: Understudy knows the script

It sounded contrived, writes Newsday's Dan Janison, when Pence likened Trump to King as two figures who sought a better in America — in Trump's case, according to the vice president, by pushing for a border wall.

That effort to jam rhetorical square pegs into round holes drew a retort from King's namesake son Martin Luther King III: "The vice president attempted to compare the president to Martin Luther King Jr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a bridge builder, not a wall builder."

But it's not about winning converts to Trumpism. Pence is an important figure right now — and not simply because he'd ascend to the top slot if Trump were to vanish from office before his term ended. The milder-of-manner Pence is serving as a link between the White House and certain Republican and conservative true believers.

Oops, Rudy did it again

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani on Monday tried to walk back his comments in several interviews on Sunday that Trump and Michael Cohen pursued a proposal for a Trump Tower in Moscow right up to the 2016 election.

"My recent statements about discussions during the 2016 campaign between Michael Cohen and then-candidate Donald Trump about a potential Trump Moscow 'project' were hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the President," a statement from Giuliani said.

On Sunday, Giuliani quoted Trump to The New York Times as having said the discussions were “going on from the day I announced to the day I won.” The timing of Trump's pursuit of the Moscow project raises questions for congressional investigators looking into possible ties between the president and Russia.

It's Giuliani's second try at cleaning up after himself in less than a week. After saying on CNN last Wednesday that he "never said there was no collusion" between Russia and members of Trump's 2016 campaign, Giuliani came back with: "My statements on collusion haven’t changed. The misinterpretation has changed."

Trump's poll-enhancement fail

There's more to the story of Michael Cohen attempts to fix polls on Trump's behalf before he ran for president.

According to The Wall Street Journal on Monday, Cohen pressured CNBC in 2014 to place Trump higher in its list of the country’s top business leaders after an outside manipulation effort fell flat. Trump called network executives to complain, along with griping on Twitter about the "stupid poll ... no credibility." Cohen went so far as to threaten to sue CNBC.

Trump didn't crack the top 100, the Journal reported. After holding the online poll, the network's expert panel winnowed the list down. The judges viewed Trump's business acumen and impact falling far short of top business leaders, with some noting his multiple bankruptcies.

What else is happening:

  • The tech news website Gizmodo makes a case that photos published on Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts have been digitally manipulated to make him look thinner and more fit. One even made his fingers look slightly longer.
  • The Trump administration's conditions on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska in exchange for lifting sanctions against his companies are milder than advertised, reports The New York Times.
  • TSA's unscheduled absence rate hit 10% Sunday, placing further strain on airport security lines.
  • A book by former White House communications aide Cliff Sims includes accounts of Trump browbeating former House Speaker Paul Ryan for criticizing his Charlottesville comments. "Why can’t you be loyal to your president, Paul?” Trump demanded.
  • A Trump tweet urged sports writers to vote into the Hall of Fame former pitcher Curt Schilling, who in his post-baseball career has become a far-right conspiracy theorist, podcast host and Trump fan. The endorsement won't help Schilling much now. Ballots were due Dec. 31.

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