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On the roster: What would a Trump shutdown look like? – Immigration debate still in the outhouse – Dems may join GOP to roll back Obama bank rules – Gerrymandering fight complicates Pa. battlegrounds – Actually, never mind…

Washington is getting real about the possibility of a partial government shutdown, with Democrats and Republicans gut-checking themselves ahead of Friday’s deadline.

Democrats believe that their leverage will increase during a shutdown since Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House. And it’s certainly not unreasonable to think that the party in power gets most of the blame when things go wrong.

Republicans, on the other hand, believe that Democrats will suffer more politically since they will be the ones refusing to provide funding for the whole government for the sake of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors.

While there are considerable doubts about these suppositions in both camps, members of both the Red Team and the Blue Team have pretty effectively convinced themselves that they can handle the fallout better than the other guys. That confidence, in fact, is exactly what’s making a shutdown increasingly likely.

But what if they are both wrong?

In the 18 separate instances of such shutdowns since current budget rules went into effect in 1974, a familiar rhythm has developed. A president of one party seeks to maximize the pain for a Congress controlled, at least partly, by the other party.

You can picture, no doubt, the “closed” signs at national parks, the images of sad tourists, the warning letters from federal agencies about the potential interruption of necessary services and the rest of the shutdown tool kit.

But we have never had a shutdown during an era of unified government, so how would it work when the president and the leaders in Congress are on the same team?

Seven of the eight shutdowns during Ronald Reagan’s presidency occurred when Republicans had control of the Senate, and the one shutdown during the Obama presidency occurred when Democrats controlled the Senate, but we have never had a moment exactly like this.

We normally think of shutdowns as being defined by the political consequences, but what about the real-world effects? And what would if the president decided to mitigate those ill effects rather than exacerbate them?

In the prelude to the 2013 shutdown over ObamaCare, Republicans repeatedly tried to get the Obama administration, particularly the Treasury Department, to prioritize federal spending and activities in such a way to protect crucial or popular programs while starving less immediately vital ones.

There was no chance the Obama White House was going to oblige. But what if the Trump White House and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin decided to play ball?

As Democrats consider their relative advantages inside the space of a shutdown, they ought not forget that President Trump could do a great deal to minimize the pain and, conceivably, could use the crisis as an opportunity to starve programs Republicans don’t like while funding those popular with the general public and the GOP base.

Remember, this is an administration that has attempted to make a virtue out of the hundreds of key positions that remain unfilled and a president who likes to brag about his ability to do more with less.

That’s not to say that it would work, necessarily, but as we approach the next fiscal cliff it is important to remember at the shape of this unprecedented shutdown could be very different than the ones that came before it.

“How difficult it is for error to escape its own condemnation!” – James MadisonFederalist No. 41

Atlantic: “…[John Hughes] started production on The Breakfast Club in March 1984 with an indie-movie budget of $1 million… The importance of not judging a book by its cover isn’t exactly a revolutionary lesson. But The Breakfast Club was unique because of how Hughes achieves his story goals: through long, drawn-out conversations that built to teary emotional realizations. The movie is basically a stage play unfolding in a series of close-ups, yet that didn’t stop it from becoming a big box-office hit. … Compared to many of the newer works it influenced, The Breakfast Club can feel almost embarrassingly clichéd. … Still, the emotions being worked through in The Breakfast Club are often uncomfortably raw. Hughes refuses to cut away from his characters when they’re realizing some deeper truth about themselves, even if it’s something as obvious as admitting that being a virgin in high school isn’t the end of the world.”

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Trump net job-approval rating: -23.2 points
Change from one week ago: down 1.2 points

[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]

The Hill: “President Trump’s Homeland Security secretary said Tuesday that it is possible he referred to ‘[s—thole] countries’ during a closed-door meeting on immigration last week, though maintained that she did not hear the vulgar word used. Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen faced fierce questions at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about allegations that Trump made disparaging remarks… Nielsen has said repeatedly that she did not hear Trump used the word ‘shithole.’ … ‘Is it possible that he said that word at the meeting and you didn’t hear it?’ [Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) asked.] ‘Anything is possible, yes ma’am,’ Nielsen answered. She also said Tuesday that she did not hear him say ‘shithouse,’ which reports have suggested may have been the term he actually used. ‘It was a meeting of 12 people. There was cross talk,’ Nielsen said later, when asked if that term could have been used even when she didn’t hear it.”

Says DREAMers won’t be a priority for deportation – Politico: “Deporting undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children would not be the government’s priority should Congress and the Trump administration fail to reach a deal on protections for so-called Dreamers, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told CBS in an interview that aired Tuesday morning. Nielsen said she is still hoping for a deal to codify into law legal status for Dreamers, but she told ‘CBS This Morning’ that should the sputtering talks for such a deal fail, Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not prioritize deporting Dreamers who are in compliance with DACA, the Obama-era government program that President Donald Trump ended last year. ‘It’s not going to be a priority of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement to prioritize their removal. I’ve said that before. That’s not the policy of DHS,’ Nielsen said.”

Trump taunts ‘Dicky Durbin’ – 
Fox News: “In the face of ongoing backlash against President Trump’s reported “s—hole” comments during a bipartisan meeting on immigration last week, the president came out swinging on Monday afternoon by blasting one of his chief opponents in the Senate, Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois. ‘Senator Dicky Durbin totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting,’ Trump tweeted. ‘Deals can’t get made when there is no trust! Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our Military.’

Pastor made Pence squirm –
 NY Daily News: “A Maryland pastor on Sunday denounced President Trump’s ‘s—hole countries’ comment before God, his congregation and Vice President [Mike Pence.] Worshipers at the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Largo, Md., said the vice president grew visibly red-faced as the Rev. Maurice Watson called Trump out for his vulgar comments last week about Haiti and several African nations. ‘I stand today as your pastor to vehemently denounce and reject any such characterizations of the nations of Africa and of our brothers and sisters in Haiti,’ Watson told his congregation as Pence looked on. … Watson never mentioned Trump by name, but his reference was clear to everyone including Pence, who listened with his wife.”

[Watch Fox – White House Chief of Staff John Kelly sits down with Bret Baier on Wednesday. Watch “Special Report with Bret Baier” at 6 p.m. ET.]


NYT: “The most significant attempt to loosen rules imposed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis is underway in Congress as the Senate looks to pass legislation within the next month that would roll back restrictions on swaths of the finance industry. Buoyed by their success in rewriting the tax code, the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers have now set their sights on helping the financial industry, which has been engaged in a quiet but concerted push to relax many post-crisis rules and regulatory obligations, particularly for thousands of small- and medium-sized banks. But unlike the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul, which passed along party lines, the effort to loosen the post-crisis rules is somewhat bipartisan. A group of Senate Democrats has joined Republicans to support legislation that would mark the first major revision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, a signature accomplishment of President Barack Obama that has been deemed ‘a disaster’ by President Trump.”

Trump’s pick for NASA chief running out of oxygen – WSJ: “Rep. James Bridenstine’s controversial nomination to head NASA faces mounting troubles, and the uncertainty threatens to further delay potentially major changes in agency programs favored by the White House. For the second time in three months, the Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday is expected to narrowly approve the Oklahoma Republican on a party-line vote. His name never came up for floor action in 2017 because not a single Senate Democrat signaled support and Republican leaders were worried about rounding up the necessary votes on their side of the aisle. Mr. Bridenstine turned into a controversial choice due to what critics assailed as his extreme social views. Now, industry officials and some congressional supporters of Mr. Bridenstine see the math becoming more challenging, partly due to factors outside their control.”

AP: “Lots of people want to run for Congress in Pennsylvania this year, but they may not yet know which district they live in. The prospect that the state Supreme Court could decide a high-profile gerrymandering case by ordering new boundaries for Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts, including one that has been described as looking like ‘Goofy kicking Donald Duck,’ is sowing uncertainty barely a month before candidates begin circulating petitions. Primary fields could be jam-packed, driven by Democrats’ anti-Trump fervor and a rush to fill the most open seats in Pennsylvania in decades. More than 60 people, including 14 sitting U.S. House members, are either committed to running or are kicking the tires on a run, even as district boundaries could get a major overhaul. … For comparison, there were 41 U.S. House candidates, including 16 incumbents, on Pennsylvania’s primary ballots in 2016.”

Romney tells friends he’s all in on Utah Senate race – NYT: “The political resurrection of Mr. Romney appears unstoppable in a state where he was not raised and where he has not lived for most of his adult life. … But if Mr. [Mitt Romney’s] Senate candidacy is inevitable, how exactly he would run and serve is less clear. His yet-to-be-declared candidacy is already highlighting the enduring fractures over President Trump in this heavily Mormon state, where voters have long been uneasy with Mr. Trump’s conduct. At issue is whether Mr. Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, should be an overt check on the president, and even use a Senate platform to mount his own White House comeback, or act as an ally and retain access to Mr. Trump the way Mr. [Orrin Hatch] has done.”

Nelson building war chest ahead of potential Scott challenge – Tampa Bay Times: “Sen. Bill Nelson raised about $2.4 million in fourth quarter of 2017, his campaign said Monday, and has $8 million cash on hand. The Democrat ‘received more than 30,600 contributions from more than 21,500 individual donors during the last three months of 2017 alone,’ his campaign said in a release. Nelson is seeking a fourth term and is expected to face Gov. Rick Scott, though millionaire Scott hasn’t declared he’s running.”

Warren continues to set the pace for fundraising race – 
Politico: “Elizabeth Warren, the Senate’s most prolific fundraiser, closed out 2017 with another strong fundraising haul — $2.88 million over the final three months of the year. Once again, the Massachusetts Democrat padded her campaign war chest — now at $14.1 million — with small-dollar donations. Ninety-eight percent of Warren’s donations from October through the end of December were $100 or less, while 80 percent of the donations were $25 or less, according to new numbers provided to POLITICO by Warren’s campaign. The first-term senator, who faces reelection in November, raked in donations from 9,199 individuals in Massachusetts during the quarter.”

Perez still struggling to unite warring wings – Politico: “But going into a midterm election that should be the Democrats’ to lose, the DNC is still struggling to bring its factions together and assert itself. Throw into the mix powerful super PACs, the much better funded party committees focused on Congress and governors, and more independent voters than ever, and many wonder if the DNC has a place at all anymore. … It’s hard to overstate the scale of [Tom Perez’s] task. The DNC has become every frustrated Democrat’s favorite piñata, and a symbol of everything that went wrong in 2016. Sanders-Clinton hostilities have taken on a new form: The tension now is over whether Sanders should hand over his massive voter list to the committee, as Perez has asked, and whether the committee has gone far enough to overhaul internal rules that Sanders forces are convinced rigged the nomination for Clinton. Neither side is satisfied, and words like ‘crazy,’ … are tossed around…”

Illinois primaries are an early test of Dem divisions –
 Roll Call: “With early voting starting in less than a month, Illinois will be a testing ground for Democrats’ ability to nominate general election candidates they think can win out of crowded primaries. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting four Republican-held districts, but the committee is not explicitly picking favorites in all those primaries. In two competitive districts — the 6th and the 13th — Democratic candidates who have won the primary before but fallen short in the general election are running again. Even though they’re not raising much money, there’s still fear among Democratic campaign veterans that they could sneak by in the primary. ‘They’re almost like quasi-incumbents because Democratic primary voters voted for them before,’ one Democratic strategist in the state said.”

NYT: “Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, was subpoenaed last week by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to testify before a grand jury as part of the investigation into possible links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The move marked the first time Mr. Mueller is known to have used a grand jury subpoena to seek information from a member of Mr. Trump’s inner circle. The special counsel’s office has used subpoenas before to seek information on Mr. Trump’s associates and their possible ties to Russia or other foreign governments. The subpoena could be a negotiating tactic. Mr. Mueller is likely to allow Mr. Bannon to forgo the grand jury appearance if he agrees to instead be questioned by investigators in the less formal setting of the special counsel’s offices in Washington, according to the person, who would not be named discussing the case.”

Bannon on the Hill today, Lewandowski on deck – 
WashTimes: “The House Intelligence Committee this week will explore one of the Russian election meddling saga’s most burning questions when it interviews former Trump strategists Steve Bannon and Corey Lewandowski about whether onetime campaign aide George Papadopoulos was wearing a recording device after secretly agreeing to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. The latest moves in the troubled effort by Capitol Hill come as committee Republicans are also privately venting anger that the voluntary testimony of Mr. Bannon and Mr. Lewandowski represents little more than ‘scalp-hunting’ by the House intelligence panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff. Mr. Bannon, a onetime top White House strategist now on the outs with President Trump, ‘will be testifying because the Democrats want to use him for their messaging purposes,’ a GOP congressional source told The Washington Times.”

Hicks is also expected – CNN: “White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is expected to meet with the House Intelligence Committee as soon as this week, making her one of President Donald Trump’s closest confidantes to be privately interviewed in the panel’s Russia investigation, multiple sources with knowledge of the matter told CNN. Hicks, a trusted Trump aide for years, was one of then-candidate Trump’s first hires as he put together an improbable run for the White House. During the campaign, she was often by Trump’s side and attended nearly every rally, while she was in frequent communication with other senior officials as they plotted their tactics to win the White House.”

GOP keeps the pressure on FBI – WashEx: “The chief of staff and senior counselor to FBI Director Christopher Wray is expected to meet with the House Oversight Committee Thursday. A spokesperson for House Oversight confirmed to the Washington Examiner that Jim Rybicki is expected to testify as part of the committee’s investigation into the Department of Justice’s probe in Hillary Clinton’s private email server, and the decision by then-FBI Director James Comey to announce there would be no criminal charges against the former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee. The joint investigation was announced by the House Oversight and Judiciary committees in December, when Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., outlined information they are seeking to determine what role Justice Department and FBI officials played in various probes, including the Clinton probe.”

Currently five Dems plan to boycott Trump’s State of the Union address – The Hill

Democrats look to force vote on restoring Internet regulations – WaPo

New Jersey, new governor: Democrat Murphy takes the oath – AP

Flanagan: ‘The Humiliation of Aziz Ansari – Atlantic

“Frankly, if the critics of the president were who he said he was, why did NBC give him a show for a decade on TV?” – White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders on allegations that President Trump is a racist.

“[I] Was always ambivalent about MLK and his role in US history until several years ago heard George Will describe him as an American hero. Will said King’s message of non-violence averted what could have been a race war in the USA. He out maneuvered the hot heads on both sides and in my opinion ranks as a great American.” – James Ronan, Lake Wylie, S.C.

[Ed. note: At the time of his assassination, King was a controversial figure – and not a very popular one. As we prepare to observe the 5oth anniversary of his murder in April, Americans will be given many chances to look at the way King’s role and mission had changed in the time between his victories of 1963-1965 and his death. But as I argued on Monday, history distills. The riots that followed King’s death illustrate well enormous a task it was to channel the hurt and hate of slavery and legal segregation into non-violent demonstrations and to embrace the idea of working through the very same system that had been used to oppress African Americans for centuries. It is easy to assume now that a mostly peaceful, productive resolution to these issues was inevitable. It most certainly was not. Whatever his relative strengths and shortcomings, King belongs in the American political pantheon because he helped us find a way through.] 

“Racism, however, is not just personal but very much institutional. We are after all only 150 years removed from 400 years of African slavery in America. Can we really expect to be clear of all the fallout from such racism in the fabric of our society? So, while we cannot change the human heart through government and laws, may I suggest, in the spirit of MLK, we should not be distracted from corporate responsibility and government laws by focusing only on our personal sphere.” – George Payne, Harrisburg, Pa.

[Ed. note: Quite so, Mr. Payne. We have to do both. But it’s essential that we make sure we are applying the right tools for the right tasks. Where government policy is still found to support bigotry, it should be struck down. Where government policy confounds the ambitions of Americans to live in harmony and cooperation, it should be changed. But always being cognizant that government’s real power is in compulsion, a form ill-suited to the most obvious lingering effects of the centuries of abuse of which you speak.]

“You wrote ‘…But there is also no question that former president Obama put in place a program that circumvents congressional primacy on the subject…  You failed to note that Obama himself repeatedly admitted he had no such authority and acted in violation of the Constitution he swore an oath to uphold.  Trump’s action to ‘change the rules,’ as you put it, was justice, but then delayed by 6 months, which was not. Why can’t Democrats just shove through a ‘clean DACA bill?’ Why can’t they just admit they are complicit with those who violated the law? Your turtle on a post is an illegal alien, aided and abetted by our crooked politicians. Seems your definition of a traffic cop pulling you over would accuse him or her of ‘acting unilaterally to change the rules,’ when in fact it is merely enforcement of the law.” – Howard Bartlett, Casselberry, Fla.

[Ed. note: Mr. Bartlett, I understand that you believe the original executive action was illegal. But it survived legal challenges and was subsequently enacted. Trump’s order countermanding his predecessor’s decree is now going through a similar legal process which we can reasonably assume will reach the same conclusion about the extent of presidential power and allow Trump to change the rule. I’m puzzled, though, why you wonder why Democrats will not help Trump in this effort. This is not only an issue of huge importance to the Democratic base but also directly connected to the party’s overarching aim of thwarting every initiative of the president. They will no more help him than Republicans would have helped Obama the amnesty for DREAMers in the first place.]      

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S.F. Gate: “An argument over a missing cell phone led to a brawl at a Newark [Calif.] pizza place that involved at least 20 people, according to one witness. The surprise twist: It turned out the cell phone was turned into the restaurant’s lost and found hours before the brawl started, police told NBC Bay Area. The fight broke out Saturday night at John’s Incredible Pizza Company at the NewPark Mall. Video captured patrons throwing punches and yelling at each other as staff members tried to separate different groups that were fighting. Nicole Davis recorded the fight and confirmed the police account of events, telling SFGATE that at least 20 people took part in the fight and that pepper spray was deployed at one point in the brawl. … A manager later found the missing cell phone… Only minor injuries were sustained during the fight and there were no arrests, according to police.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.