Trump’s base a blessing and a curse in shutdown
Congressional testimony reveals FBI leadership debated whether Trump's decision to fire Comey was directed by Moscow
Senior FBI leadership was disturbed by President Trump's comments on Comey's termination, including an Oval Office meeting where he told the Russian foreign minister the firing eased pressure.
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On the roster: Trump’s base a blessing and a curse in shutdown - Trump again backs off emergency declaration - Gillibrand expected to announce run Tuesday - Is Florida drifting away from Dems? - ‘Goat Fund Me’
TRUMP’S BASE A BLESSING AND A CURSE IN SHUTDOWN
President Trump initially wanted the blame for the current partial shutdown of the federal government, and he has surely gotten it.
After a weeks-long hiatus in polling because of Christmas and New Year’s, a slew of new surveys are out assessing the effectiveness of the two parties’ efforts to place blame for the shutdown and it’s not even close.
We’re going to focus on the freshest banana in the bunch, a new poll from Quinnipiac University. The survey found 56 percent of voters blame Trump and Republicans in Congress compared to 36 that blame Democrats.
By a more than two-to-one margin voters back a Democratic proposal to open parts of the government unrelated to the border security scrap. Opposition to “a wall” on the southern border remains essentially unchanged since the last Q Poll that was taken before the shutdown began.
It will be helpful to look most closely, though, at the sentiments of independent voters, and that is where the news is the most dire for Republicans. Just 29 percent would support Trump asserting emergency authority to construct a wall and 55 percent of independents hold that construction of such a barrier goes against American values.
When it comes to party unity, Democrats have the upper hand. While 93 percent of Democrats said they blame the other team, just 74 percent of Republicans are sticking with the red side. A quarter of Republicans either blame their own party or wouldn’t say what they thought.
But as we said at the outset, it’s not surprising that voters would tend to blame Trump and the Republicans for the shutdown that Trump said he would happily initiate and said he would keep going for months to come. But the data does reveal something interesting about the president’s political predicament. Looking at Republican views on the issues makes it clear how little latitude Trump has in dealing with his base.
The best news for the president and his party in the poll is that a majority of voters overall, including 54 independents, believe there is a security crisis on the Mexican border. But in his long effort to convince Americans about the danger of what he describes as the dregs of society coming across the southern border his own followers may have believed him too well.
Republicans take an extremely dim view of immigration legal or illegal compared to other Americans. Now, 88 percent of Republicans support building a border wall. Republicans are also the only demographic subset that believes illegal immigrants are more likely to commit other crimes. Only 24 percent of Republicans oppose the shutdown-for-wall formula that Trump has written. Fifty-two percent of Republicans oppose reopening the rest of the government unrelated to border security as negotiations continue.
In short, Trump has succeeded too well in convincing Republicans of the rightness of his position. Nearly 90 percent of self-identified Republicans say there is a crisis at the border. Taken in those stark terms, it becomes increasingly hard for Trump to negotiate without appearing to betray his loyalists and, by their reckoning, national security.
Trump said it’s the wall or nothing and Republicans rallied to his side. Unfortunately, that leaves him at odds with the 63 percent of the electorate that disagrees.
These numbers also help illuminate Democrats’ thinking: Since Trump has no wiggle room with his base, they are content to watch consequences pile up, driving Trump’s overall numbers further into the ditch.
In a fight over $3.1 billion that under normal circumstances could have been dispatched by simple arithmetic, the president now finds himself a victim of his own success.
THE RULEBOOK: REPUBLICS GO FARTHER
“As the natural limit of a democracy is that distance from the central point which will just permit the most remote citizens to assemble as often as their public functions demand, and will include no greater number than can join in those functions…” – James Madison, Federalist No. 14
TIME OUT: V. 2019
Atlantic: “…while men used to be seen as begrudging participants, more so-called Instagram husbands are embracing the term and becoming an integral part of their partner’s business. One man on the front lines of this movement is Jordan Ramirez. When Ramirez, a tech entrepreneur, married Dani Austin, a lifestyle influencer with a quarter of a million followers, in 2018, the influencer world was still new to him. While Austin was jetting around the world shooting photos… Ramirez had a separate and unrelated career in the tech–start-up world. … Ramirez, like many other spouses who work in a full-time Instagram-husband capacity, has taken on operational and business aspects of his wife’s influencer business and taught himself photo editing to help with production. … In September, Ramirez launched The Instagram Husband Podcast, which is focused on telling the stories of the men behind the camera and redefining what it means to be an Instagram husband.”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 40 percent
Average disapproval: 54.4 percent
Net Score: -14.4 points
Change from one week ago: down 3 points
[Average includes: CNN: 37% approve - 57% disapprove; IBD: 42% approve - 54% disapprove; Gallup: 40% approve - 55% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 42% approve - 54% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 39% approve - 52% disapprove.]
TRUMP AGAIN BACKS OFF EMERGENCY DECLARATION
Politico: “President Donald Trump on Monday appeared to rule out – at least for now – declaring a national emergency to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, setting aside one of the White House’s leading options for ending the 24-day partial government shutdown. … Trump also underscored his opposition to temporarily reopening the government while lawmakers try to come up with a bipartisan immigration agreement. The president shot down a proposal by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a staunch ally of the White House, to open the government for three weeks in a last-ditch effort to reach a legislative compromise before moving ahead with a national emergency declaration. … The president’s Monday comments are the latest indication that there is no end in sight to the shutdown, now the longest in U.S. history. Both sides have dug in, with Trump demanding more than $5 billion for the wall and Democrats insisting that a wall is expensive, unnecessary and ‘immoral.’”
Congressional GOP bewildered by White House - WaPo: “When President Trump made a rare journey to the Capitol last week, he was expected to strategize about how to end the government shutdown he instigated. Instead, he spent the first 20-odd minutes delivering a monologue about ‘winning.’… Trump was nevertheless confident on Saturday about his handling of the standoff. ‘I do have a plan on the Shutdown,’ he tweeted. ‘But to understand that plan you would have to understand the fact that I won the election, and I promised safety and security for the American people.’”
State, local agencies squeezed by shutdown - USA Today: “State and local officials and the people they serve are increasingly feeling the pinch of the partial government shutdown. ‘We can't stop providing services. We are at ground zero,’ said Humboldt County, California, Supervisor Virginia Bass. ‘We keep doing more with less, but we can only do so much.’ From road projects to food stamps to preventing the next round of wildfires, effects of the shutdown are starting to hit home as politicians in the nation's capital wrestle over funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall. On average, about 33 percent of each state's revenue comes from the federal government.”
GILLIBRAND EXPECTED TO ANNOUNCE RUN TUESDAY
CBS News: “Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, is expected to announce her plans to form a presidential exploratory committee on Tuesday's ‘Late Show with Stephen Colbert,’ according to a person familiar with her planning. Gillibrand is scheduled to appear on the CBS late night program on Tuesday night. If she announces her exploratory committee, as expected, she would become the second U.S. senator — and second female senator — to announce plans to begin the legal process of running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. The 52-year old is one of the most active and outspoken critics of President Trump and she earned acclaim from party activists when she began voting against all of the president's cabinet and senior government nominees in early 2017.”
Bernie staffs up - Politico: “Bernie Sanders is adding firepower to his political team ahead of a potential 2020 campaign, locking down digital alumni who were key to his surprise performance in 2016 and recruiting the media production company that helped launch Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to prominence. The flurry of activity, detailed by four people familiar with the campaign’s thinking, is the latest sign that the Vermont senator is closing in on a decision on a second run for the White House. … The behind-the-scenes moves underscore one of Sanders’ key strengths: He is poised to enter the Democratic primary field with a digital operation and social media army that outpaces virtually any other candidate, at least for now. For all the attention on Beto O’Rourke’s online dominance last year, only Sanders would start the campaign on the foundation of a full-fledged, grassroots presidential campaign.”
Pushing $15 minimum wage - Fox Business: “Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said he – along with other members of Congress – plans to introduce a bill in Congress this week that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. The bill is expected to come as the government shutdown enters its fourth week – eclipsing the record for the longest lapse in federal funding over the weekend – as many federal employees go unpaid. Raising the minimum wage sparks a range of opinions on Capitol Hill – from whether it should be raised at all to whose job it should be to do so. Such a bill is unlikely to make significant headway because, even though Democrats took control of the House of Representatives during the 2018 midterm elections, Republicans maintain control in the Senate.”
It’s go time -AP: “After months of speculation and secrecy, the 2020 presidential primary season is about to explode. With several Democrats already in the race, a half dozen more are locking down final travel, staffing and strategy to launch White House bids in the coming weeks. While plans may change, the announcements are expected to come in waves, the first featuring a group of ambitious Senate Democrats including New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who face pressure to join the race after Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s entrance two weeks ago. The second wave will likely feature political heavyweights like former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, whose advisers believe they have sufficient financial backing and name recognition to join the crowded field on their terms later in the first quarter should they decide to run.”
Welcome to the 2020 Twitter Primary - HuffPo: “…[It] seems pretty clear that Twitter is going to be important in the 2020 election. Why? Because despite all of the anger and nonsense, Twitter is where journalists and activists hang out. … So [journalist James O’Malley] went to work, downloading data on the followers of six front-running Democrats ― Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Booker(D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), as well as former Vice President Joe Biden and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas). [He] also worked out who their followers follow, giving [him] a detailed picture of what Beto Twitter looks like compared to Warren Twitter, and so on.”
IS FLORIDA DRIFTING AWAY FROM DEMS?
NYT: “After a painful midterm election for Florida Democrats that showed this crucial swing state drifting away from them, a group of party activists gathered at a Cuban restaurant last month to receive some bitter medicine — and a sober warning — to go with their croquettes and plantain chips. Democrats started organizing Latino voters too late, didn’t tailor their message for an increasingly diverse community and ultimately took Latino support for granted, a Florida pollster told about 50 members of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Broward County. Democrats will lose again in 2020 if they don’t move swiftly to win over Hispanics, the pollster, Eduardo Gamarra, told the group. ‘You just need to start now,’ he said. With the swearing-in last Tuesday of two newly elected Republican leaders, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Senator Rick Scott, Florida has become a more reliably red political bastion, making the path to Electoral College victory that much tougher for the 2020 Democratic nominee.”
The suburbs delivered for Dems in 2018. Will the party return the favor? - Daily Beast: “The Democratic Party’s triumphal romp through suburbia was the big story of the midterms. In 2016 the suburbs, home to the majority of American voters, voted 50 to 45 for Donald Trump; this year, 52 percent went Democratic. … The suburbs are where most Americans, including roughly four in five residents of our largest metropolitan areas, live. Historically, they have favored Republicans in most elections. But that tie has been weakened for reasons including the growing diversity of these areas and revulsion at Trump, particularly among educated women. The trouble, however, is that progressives, for the most part, love density and disdain suburbs. They have recently espoused calls, for example, to ban single-family zoning altogether in deep blue Minneapolis—with the entire state of Oregon considering a ban of its own.”
The fake news will be homegrown for 2020 - NYT: “Fight-fire-with-fire reasoning is bubbling up on the left as the social media giants continue to struggle to stop distortion campaigns in real time. It was only after The Times and The Washington Post reported on the Alabama operations that Facebook shut down the suspect accounts. None of this bodes well for the 2020 campaign, which has entered its first stage at a time when analysts in and out of government are still trying to determine the full effect disinformation had in the last presidential election.”
Kobach’s campaign debt a factor in potential Kansas Senate run - The Kansas City Star
Abrams exploring Georgia Senate race - Politico
Supports non-citizens voting in municipal elections - Fox News
Kasich strikes a progressive pose in op-ed - USA Today
Rep. Alcee Hastings being treated for pancreatic cancer - Roll Call
Rep. Rashida Tlaib photographed with anti-Israel activist - WashEx
Oh. Canada? Rand Paul heads to the land of socialized medicine for surgery - [Louisville] Courier Journal
Corruption probe means more woes for L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s presidential ambitions - LAT
AUDIBLE: A TRUE TEAM PLAYER
“We got Scotch tape, the clear kind.” – Solomon Lartey, a career government official whose job is to go through piles of torn up documents, ripped up by the president and taping them back together.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I agree with your take on President Lincoln and LOVE the phrase ‘hot take aficionado’ which I think is defined as ‘one who works hard to find outrage and schadenfreude in just about everything, especially historical events.’ I think some kind of ‘Hot Take Aficionados Anonymous’ may be in order for our current civilization. My life is getting a lot happier since I stopped attacking total strangers on Facebook and just started responding to arguments by saying, ‘disagree, but I love you, man!.’ Actually, it’s becoming even better since I took out the ‘disagree’ part and just respond ‘I love you.’ Keep up the good work! I could do a lot worse in life than to always ask myself ‘would Chris Stirewalt send this email?’” – Brian D. Liddicoat, Watsonville, Calif.
[Ed. note: This is the highest praise I can imagine, Mr. Liddicoat. And generally the answer for anything snarky or nasty has to be “no.” But sometimes I fail my own standards and end up deepening enmity rather than binding up wounds – and my regret in doing so always far outlasts the momentary pleasure I feel at tearing down an adversary. The best ones, of course, are the ones I just toss into the “drafts” folder and forget. I love Dana Perino’s idea for a book: “Tweets I Never Sent.”]
“I read one report that said there was bi-partisan legislation to end the shutdown but McConnell wouldn’t allow it to be brought up for a vote. I read another article that said McConnell wouldn’t bring it up for a vote because he thought it didn’t have enough votes to pass and that Trump wouldn’t sign it anyway. He didn’t want to waste anyone’s time. I appreciate the time concept but I would like to hear the suggestions and see who votes which way. Is there a mechanism to get around McConnell to bring a vote to the floor? That seems like an awful lot of control in the hands of one person. Very much enjoy hearing your in-depth research on these topics.” – Dani Marquardt, Carol Stream, Ill.
[Ed. note: Good question, Ms. Marquardt! McConnell’s concern here is that good compromises mean hard votes for individual senators. Imagine you were a Republican senator representing a blue state. You’re facing huge pressure from your constituents to end the shutdown, but you’re also worried about your right flank and a possible primary challenge or a feud with the president. You might be willing to vote for a compromise that would upset the GOP base, but only if it would pass and be signed into law. If the deals on offer wouldn’t pass or if the president would veto them there’s no incentive for McConnell to put his own members in political jeopardy over a symbolic vote. McConnell has been up front about the matter from the start: only when the Democratic House and the Republican president have come to a deal will he wade back into those alligator-infested waters. Running doomed legislation would actually reduce the chances of making a deal in the end.]
“It’s all a lie! Since the amnesty of 1986 the Dems and GOP have failed to do as promised! Secure the border, Make E-Verify mandatory [not just implement it!] address the loophole in the 14th Amendment to stop ‘anchor babies’ and pass laws where one must prove legal status to apply for and receive social services and enroll children in our schools! If Obama could declare through executive order an illegal act named DACA [going around Congress who has authority regarding immigration matters] then President Trump can damn sure declare a National Emergency with regards to the invasion of our country by 100's of thousands thru our Southern border!” – J.C. Palmer, Oacoma, S.D.
[Ed. note: I’m not sure who you think is lying, but just in case it’s us, I would point out that we explained at length that Trump certainly has the power to declare an emergency. But “can” and “should” are obviously two different questions. We don’t get into “should” questions too much here. Our readers and our fellow Americans all need to sort out “should” questions their own and don’t need us telling them what to think. But if the president does attempt to build on the constitutional transgressions of presidents past he will certainly face political consequences. There would also be consequences for our already weak legislative branch. The president’s challenge is that for voters who, like you, believe that America is facing an existential threat from immigrants from Latin America, any compromise might be perceived as some kind of betrayal. Trump benefits from the intense loyalty of such voters but is left with few options for actually governing. That leads him, like his predecessor, to consider extra-constitutional measures. The greatest trick that American politicians have pulled in our time is to use their inability to work through our system as an excuse for working around it. We’ve set the bar so low for competent governance that we are only too willing to entertain such ideas, whether it’s a $1 trillion coin or a sudden state of emergency, because politicians tell us that doing the ordinary work of governing is just too hard.]
“Hello again from a former West Virginian. Today I found myself defending your objectivity and honor in an email exchange with a liberal friend. I reminded him that both political parties courted Dwight Eisenhower prior to the 1952 presidential election. I further commented that Joe Manchin could be an electable candidate for either party— excepting the far left and the far right! Does this observation warrant consideration of a third party candidate? What say you?” – Roger Plauché, Sedona, Ariz.
[Ed. note: I’m glad you’ve got my back, cousin! I think for a candidate not from one of the two major parties they would need enormous resources. One area where the parties still work together is to make it extremely hard for outsiders to get on the ballot. An independent candidate would need to start now and do so with an organization large enough to jump through all the legal hoops – petition drives, etc. – to be ready for a credible run in 2020.]
“G’day Chris. ‘. . .Democracies tend toward kingship in almost every case’ A bit of a sweeping statement surely? Be helpful if you could enlarge upon your this a little? (I assume by ‘kingship’ you mean authoritarianism - or even dictatorship?) The old democracy of the UK tending to toward ‘kingship’ (your version) when it already is a constitutional monarchy? Or New Zealand - also an older democracy which now has PR? Or even Canada? I see no evidence (yet) of tending toward ‘dictatorship.’” – Mike O'Neill, New Zealand
[Ed. note: G’day again, Mr. O’Neill! I take your question thusly: What about countries that move from kingship toward democracy? I would say that Britain and then Commonwealth nations like yours have been republican rather than democratic in nature for most of the past century. I see your country, Canada, Australia and Britain still striving for balance between republican restraint and democratic energy. But when too many people feel like they are shut out by those republican restraints, you will see the rise of purer forms of democracy. And in almost every case where such a movement takes hold – the former Soviet Union and Iran for example – the tendency is toward democratic majorities backing authoritarian rule. You know the old joke “one man, one vote, one time.” Or my favorite “Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.” So what’s the lifespan of a republic before it’s undone by the sort of majoritarian mob mentality that’s taking hold in America? Depends on how good the believers in republicanism are at making their case. There are still William Tafts and Calvin Coolidges among us, but they had better get busy.]
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‘GOAT FUND ME’
AP: “The threat of catastrophic wildfires has driven a Northern California town to launch a ‘Goat Fund Me’ campaign to bring herds of goats to city-owned land to help clear brushes. Nevada City in the Sierra Nevada began the online crowdsourcing campaign last month with the goal of raising $30,000 for the project. The campaign explains that because it takes time to secure grant funding, the town needs money now to hire local goat ranchers because they're only available this winter. City officials say the ranchers have already rented out their herds to other municipalities the rest of the year. Vice Mayor Reinette Senum told The Los Angeles Times the town's 450 acres of greenbelt makes it especially vulnerable to fires. She says ‘if we don't help ourselves, no one else is going to step up.’”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“[President Obama] is too smart not to understand geopolitics; he simply doesn’t care. In part because his priorities are domestic. In part because he thinks we lack clean hands and thus the moral standing to continue to play international arbiter.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Aug. 18, 2016.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland and Liz Friden contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.