Not on speaking terms
For a while there, it looked like Democrats next Tuesday could be crying out, "Nancy, bar the door."
Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote Trump urging him to postpone the State of the Union speech that had been scheduled for Jan. 29 in the House chamber if the partial government shutdown was still going on — or just mail it in. On Wednesday, Trump decided not to take the hint.
Trump wrote to her: "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!" What? Was Trump going to crash his way into the House and melodramatically thumb his nose at the separation of powers?
No. Trump was arguing that the shutdown-related security concerns raised by Pelosi were bunk, so there was no reason not to keep the date from Pelosi's original invitation, issued Jan. 3. "I will be honoring your invitation and fulfilling my Constitutional duty, to deliver important information to the people and Congress of the United States of America regarding the State of our Union," he said.
Hours later, Pelosi made it clear. The invitation — sent when "there was no thought that the government would still be shut down" — was withdrawn. "I am writing to inform you that the House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President’s State of the Union address in the House Chamber until government has opened," she said.
Shut down by the Democratic leader, Trump then suggested he will consider an "alternative" location, grumbling that "Nancy Pelosi, or 'Nancy,' as I call her, she doesn't want to hear the truth and she doesn't want to hear, more importantly, the American people [to] hear the truth." But late Wednesday night, Trump tweeted that he’ll wait until the shutdown is over.
Roads to nowhere
House Democratic leaders said Wednesday they were prepared to offer Trump an increase in border security funding as part of a deal to reopen the federal government, but they insisted any bump in spending will not include money for a southern border wall.
The Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday on dueling pieces of legislation to reopen the government. Neither the GOP bill (with wall funding) nor a Democratic bill (without it) is likely to gather enough support to reach the chamber’s 60-vote threshold, writes Newsday's Figueroa.
With the shutdown going into its 34th day Thursday, Trump seems to be losing his messaging war.
A CBS News poll finds Trump's approval rating has fallen out to 36 percent, while 59 percent disapprove — a high underwater mark for his presidency. Only 28 percent think the border wall fight is worth a shutdown; 71 percent say it's not. By 47 percent to 35 percent, Americans think Pelosi is doing a better job in the negotiations.
In an Associated Press-NORC poll, Trump's job approval was just 34 percent — down 8 points since December.
Ain't over even when it's over
The longest government shutdown in U.S. history will leave its mark on the federal bureaucracy and U.S. economy long after the doors are unlocked and workers return, Politico writes.
The backlog of work not getting done means setbacks for businesses that expected federal loans and approvals. Training programs to keep up the skills of law enforcement agents and others aren't being held, and the ripple effects of postponements could last years. As for the workforce, the loss of job and income security that once was considered a given in civil service jobs could cause more to leave and make it harder to recruit qualified replacements.
A CNN tally of the direct effects of the shutdown now number more than 100. Among the latest: The FBI has lost several informants that had penetrated groups at the center of terrorism investigations because the bureau can't pay them and there's a risk they won't come back.
White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has asked agency chiefs for a list of the highest-impact programs that will be jeopardized if the shutdown continues into March and April, The Washington Post reported.
Michael Cohen, scared witness
Trump's former lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen has postponed his Feb. 7 appearance before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Through an adviser, Cohen accused the president and Rudy Giuliani of making threats against his family. He also said he's continuing to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump and Giuliani have publicly urged the Justice Department to investigate Cohen's father-in-law, insinuating he was part of some unspecific criminal activity. Democrats, who want to question Cohen about Russia and a porn-star payoff, suggested they may subpoena Cohen to compel his testimony, even if it's after he begins serving a prison sentence in March.
Blasting Trump, Oversight chairman Elijah Cummings and House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff said "efforts to intimidate witnesses, scare their family members, or prevent them from testifying before Congress are textbook mob tactics that we condemn in the strongest terms.”
At the White House, Trump said of Cohen: "I would say he's been threatened by the truth. He's only been threatened by the truth." It's not clear what that means, but it's almost the same thing Trump said about Pelosi, so he must like the sound of it.
ICE storm over Nassau
Trump weighed in from the White House on Nassau County’s decision to relocate a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office from the County Correctional Center, calling it a move by “the really radical Democrats" who "don't want them to do anything to disturb MS-13.”
Trump, speaking to reporters before a meeting with conservative leaders focused on immigration, did not specifically name Nassau County or Democratic County Executive Laura Curran, but broadly mentioned the controversy over the move. “I see on Long Island they don’t want ICE, the radical Democrats don’t want ICE there because they’re too good, they’re doing too good of a job,” Trump said.
Curran responded in a statement: "The President is creating fake news about Nassau County . . . We will continue to work with all of our federal partners, including ICE, to keep all our communities safe from gang violence." Trump's remarks came after Nassau PBA president James McDermott appeared on the president's favorite morning show, "Fox & Friends" (video clip here). For more, see Newsday's story by Figueroa and Scott Eidler.
Caracas cut off
Trump called on Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro to resign and announced the U.S. recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself interim president, as the country's legitimate leader. Trump isn't going it alone — Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Chile also lined up with Guaidó in the wake of elections in which Maduro's main opponents were banned from running against him.
Maduro responded by breaking diplomatic relations with the United States, demanding that American diplomats leave within 72 hours. Guaidó said they should stay. Trump told reporters at the White House that “all options are on the table” for the United States to use against the Maduro regime, though he said he isn’t currently considering military action.
The crisis raised the possibility of a disruption in U.S. oil imports from Venezuela, which could cause gasoline prices to spike, Bloomberg News reported. Low gas prices have been a Trump bragging point.
What else is happening:
- A Politico/Morning Consult poll found 57 percent of voters believe it’s likely that Russia "has compromising information" on Trump, compared with 31 percent who don't think it's likely.
- Jared Kushner, the controversial Trump aide who is also his son-in-law, has involved himself in the president's jangled shutdown strategy, the Washington Post reported.
- The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx), told CNN he plans to investigate whether Trump's businesses are driving foreign policy decisions, "to make sure that policies are being made based on what's good for the United States and not what might be good for the president personally."
- After a week in which so many of his public utterances required a Superfund-level cleanup, Giuliani told The Washington Post: “There is a strategy. The strategy will become apparent." Trump apparently doesn't understand it either, but isn't looking to dump Giuliani, the Post reported.
- Despite his serial walkbacks of his statements, Giuliani told Politico: “I do have a mastery of the facts, which is why I can spin them honestly, argue them several different ways.”
- Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders cast shade on alarms raised by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes (D-Bronx) on climate change, saying that the White House would rather listen to “a much, much higher authority.” The freshman congresswoman tweeted back invoking Genesis and Leviticus. God mandates that not only the people, but the land that sustains them, shall be respected,
- The latest Democratic 2020 entrant is Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who is a Navy veteran of the war in Afghanistan and gay.