Bang head on wall. Lose. Repeat?
His foes and a lot of his fans agree: Shutting down the government for 35 days got Donald Trump nothing toward his demand for $5.7 billion from Congress for a border wall.
He's not prepared to try that again, is he? Yes, he is.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal posted Sunday night, Trump said another shutdown is "certainly an option" and rated the chances of getting what he wants from Congress "less than 50-50."
That affirmed what acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Keep in mind he's willing to do whatever it takes to secure the border," said Mulvaney. Trump also is still considering declaring a national emergency if House and Senate negotiators don't work out a border-security deal that he can accept before the short-term funding that ended the shutdown runs out Feb. 15.
That could be a tough sell to Republicans in Congress, many of whom never thought the shutdown was a good idea. "I don't think shutdowns are good leverage," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on CNN's "State of the Union." "It's a lesson I've certainly learned in my time here."
Lawmakers from both parties are talking up legislation that would eliminate shutdowns once and for all. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he will support a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) known as the "Stop Stupidity Act," which would automatically renew government funding to the previous year's levels if Congress hasn't come to a new agreement.
For more on the shutdown aftermath, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez and Scott Eidler. Also see a separate story by Ivan Pereira and Figueroa from a Schumer news conference in Manhattan.
Flipping the government switch back on doesn't mean it's going to be right back to business as usual.
The Washington Post reports that a return to normal operations could take weeks or even months at nine Cabinet agencies and dozens of smaller ones. An avalanche of emails, backlogged permits, lapsed contracts and stalled payments to low-income Americans will face returning federal employees. The IRS told lawmakers that it will be buried in millions of unanswered taxpayer letters, weeks behind schedule on training and short thousands of new employees for the tax season, the Post reported.
Many of the workers will find their offices in a holiday time warp, still festooned with Christmas decorations. Mulvaney said some may get their back pay by the end of the week, while others may get it later. For hundreds of thousands who work under contract, it's uncertain if they'll ever be paid.
Stone unturned but . . .
Roger Stone, indicted on charges including lying to congressional investigators of Russia's election interference, has repeated his pledges of loyalty to Trump. But he would not categorically rule out forging a cooperation agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller, when asked about that possibility during an appearance Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
"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,” Stone said. “I’d also testify honestly about any other matter, including any communications with the president."
As Trump has decried the arrest ("Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better"), he has also begun to open up some distance from his confidant of more than three decades. "Roger Stone didn’t even work for me anywhere near the Election!" he tweeted Saturday night.
Janison: Clodfather II
Like Trump, Stone likes to mimic mob vernacular. Trump called ex-fixer Michael a "rat" for cooperating with prosecutors. Stone tried to go full "Godfather Part II" on radio host and comic performer Randy Credico to cover up their communications regarding WikiLeaks' dumps of stolen Democratic emails, according to the indictment.
Stone advised Credico to "do a Frank Pentangeli" before a congressional committee. In the 1974 film, Pentangeli rescinds his earlier statements to congressional investigators that incriminated organized crime family boss Michael Corleone.
In other messages, Stone called Credico a "rat" and "stoolie. But the tough-guy wannabe is a never-gonnabe. Among other reasons, the flamboyantly self-promoting Stone, who left a six-foot hero's worth of bread crumbs for investigators, lacks the self-discipline of a Corleone. See Dan Janison's column for Newsday.
Shocked? Illegal workers at Trump clubs
For years, they say, Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County barely checked whether they were legal. But about a dozen of the undocumented immigrant workers were fired Jan. 18 by a human resources executive from Trump headquarters, The Washington Post reported.
It was only recently that the club checked whether the papers they had provided were legitimate, the workers said. Trump's son Eric did not answer whether executives had previously been aware that they employed undocumented workers. Eric Trump did not answer a question about whether the club would join the E-Verify system, which gives employers access to a website to confirm that their employees are in the country legally.
Last month, The New York Times reported undocumented immigrants had been employed at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, even though managers had some knowledge of fraudulent paperwork. There have since been firings there.
A caravan of dubious claims
If at first you don't succeed, lie, lie again? There could be fact-based arguments for Trump to make for his border-security and immigration crackdown goals, but he still seems to find it easier to make stuff up.
One morning tweet said, "There are at least 25,772,342 illegal aliens, not the 11,000,000 that have been reported for years, in our Country." The 11 million figure is from the Department of Homeland Security and others. "I'm not exactly sure where the president got that number this morning," Mulvaney admitted.
Another Trump tweet: "58,000 non-citizens voted in Texas, with 95,000 non-citizens registered to vote. These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. All over the country, especially in California, voter fraud is rampant."
No. Texas Secretary of State David Whitley just suggested local officials check the names of people who weren't citizens when they obtained a driver's licenses or ID card but may have become citizens since, as 50,000 Texans a year do. The advisory emphasized the names "will need to be treated as WEAK matches.”
Trump has constantly repeated stories of women bound and gagged with tape as they are smuggled across the border. Human trafficking experts have no idea what he's talking about, and Vox reports a top Border Patrol official emailed agents more than week ago to ask if they had “any information” that the claim was actually true. If they have, it hasn't been produced.
The measure of Trump
A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds Trump's approval rating has held steady at 43 percent despite the shutdown, a contradictory result from other recent surveys showing it has dipped into the thirties.
Some tougher numbers: Just 28 percent consider Trump "honest and trustworthy” while 58 percent don't.
In an ABC News/Washington Post poll, six in 10 Americans say House Democrats should obtain and release Trump’s tax returns. But a 55 percent to 40 percent majority opposed Congress beginning impeachment proceedings against Trump.
What else is happening:
- Billionaire and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said he is seriously thinking about running for president in 2020 as a self-funded independent, alarming Democrats who fear he could cost their candidate the margin of victory. Top Democratic activist Neera Tanden tweeted, "If he enters the race, I will start a Starbucks boycott."
- Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California officially kicked off her presidential campaign in front of a large crowd in her hometown of Oakland. Decrying Trump, Harris said "the American dream and our American democracy are under attack and on the line like never before."
- Hillary Clinton is telling people she hasn't closed the door on running again, CNN reported, citing three sources. But one said, "It would surprise me greatly if she actually did it."
- The U.S. and Russia are trading rhetorical jabs over the Trump administration's push for regime change in socialist Venezuela. At the same time the Commerce Department is lifting sanctions on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
- Two years after Trump signed orders to hire 15,000 new border agents and immigration officers, there are more vacancies than when the effort began, the Los Angeles Times reports. A private company paid $60.7 million to help recruiting has produced only 33 new hires so far.
- Trump's cave on the shutdown was also a defeat for his Capitol Hill negotiator, Jared Kushner, who misread Democrats and thought they would yield, The New York Times wrote. Chalk up another bad call to Kushner, who reportedly advised his father-in-law in 2017 that the firing of FBI Director James Comey would blow over.
- Chris Christie adds in his newly published memoir that Trump and Kushner expressed the belief that the "Russia thing" would subside as an issue with the dismissal of Michael Flynn as national-security adviser.
- Britain's Telegraph newspaper has apologized and agreed to pay "substantial damages" to Melania Trump for a story that contained "false statements." Part of the mea culpa: "We accept that Mrs. Trump was a successful professional model in her own right before she met her husband and obtained her own modeling work without his assistance."