So yeah, we are all going to die.
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘nuclear button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a nuclear button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my button works!” — President Trump, on Twitter.
Trump on the global stage–key takeaways from stellar @sbg1 piece:
1) McMaster is far weaker than his nat sec advisor predecessors
2) bombast & flattery-proneness drive Trump decision-making
3) everyone looking for all this to change should give up
— Robert Draper (@DraperRobert) January 2, 2018
Susan Glasser: “By the time the dinner was over, the leaders were in shock, and not just over the idle talk of armed conflict. No matter how prepared they were, eight months into an American presidency like no other, this was somehow not what they expected. A former senior U.S. official with whom I spoke was briefed by ministers from three of the four countries that attended the dinner. ‘Without fail, they just had wide eyes about the entire engagement,’ the former official told me.”
“Even if few took his martial bluster about Venezuela seriously, Trump struck them as uninformed about their issues and dangerously unpredictable, asking them to expend political capital on behalf of a U.S. that no longer seemed a reliable partner. “The word they all used was: ‘This guy is insane.’”
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the longest-serving Senate Republican, plans to announce that he will retire at the end of the year, rebuffing the pleas of President Trump to seek an eighth term and paving the way for Mitt Romney to run for the seat, the New York Times reports.
Cook Political Report: Hatch retirement makes seat safer for Republicans.
Callum Borchers: “The race to succeed Hatch in Utah could represent an irresistible challenge for Bannon, especially if Mitt Romney runs. As I have noted before, Romney and Breitbart News were very friendly in 2012, when the former Massachusetts governor was the GOP presidential nominee. But since Romney lost to Barack Obama — an event that roughly coincided with Bannon assuming control of Breitbart — Romney has become a symbol of the political establishment Breitbart reviles.”
Axios: Romney changes Twitter location to Utah.
President Trump suggested that the U.S. should consider cutting payments to the Palestiniana, saying their officials “don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel,” Politico reports. “It was unclear which payments to the Palestinian Authority the president was questioning. But the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said earlier Tuesday that Trump planned to withhold money for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the entity tasked with aiding Palestinian refugees, if their leaders did not fully engage in the U.S.-led peace process with Israel.”
If @DevinNunes keeps blocking subpoenas of witnesses in Russia probe, Dems on the House Intel Committee may issue a minority report detailing Republican conduct.
I spoke to the Number 2 Dem on the commitee about what this would look like:https://t.co/Iq1NY6xzy7
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) January 2, 2018
Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) told Greg Sargent that Democrats “are seriously exploring the possibility of issuing a minority report that details (among other things) the degree to which Republicans tried to impede a full investigation, should that end up happening.”
“In this scenario, the public would at least have a clear sense of just how far Republicans went to protect President Trump and his top officials from accountability.” Said Himes: “It’s in both the Democrats’ and the Republicans’ interests to … write a report based on a common set of facts. It would be a tragedy if the report has a minority section that says, ‘Look, we wanted to talk to these two dozen witnesses and weren’t able to do so.’”
Politico: “They’re facing a brain drain on a White House that already had trouble recruiting top talent. Many senior West Wing aides are expected to depart in the coming year, with no replacements lined up. White House chief of staff John Kelly — who has already fired several presidential aides — wants to push out more, but has struggled to find suitable alternatives. And they’re still working under the shadow of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, despite repeated assurances from the White House legal team that the inquiry is wrapping up.
“The grim reality of 2018 has generated a sense of foreboding among White House aides, according to more than a dozen current and former officials and outside advisers. West Wing aides, who worked furiously to push through legislation and executive actions during Trump’s first year in office, expect limited prospects for getting things done in Washington this year heading into a contentious midterm election.”
Jonathan Swan: “Over the past few weeks — especially since Roy Moore’s defeat — sources close to Trump say he’s finally recognizing a harsh reality: If Republicans lose the House in 2018, it will pose an existential threat to his presidency, with endless investigations, legislative obstruction and a likely move toward impeachment.”
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, will not seek re-election in November, “telling the Washington Examiner that he wants to focus exclusively on working with President Trump to pass a massive infrastructure bill before he retires.” Shuster said “he could focus on working with both parties better if he didn’t have to worry about running to hold his seat in a primary and general election.”
Scaramucci has privately told friends and associates that Trump and other members of the Trump family, including Ivanka, miss him and want him back in the West Wing, The Daily Beast reports. https://t.co/n2qIJ1kXHq
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 2, 2018
“The former White House communications director has privately told friends and associates that the president and other members of the Trump family, including White House adviser and first daughter Ivanka Trump, miss him and want him back in the West Wing. Three sources close to Scaramucci have independently told The Daily Beast that the Mooch continues to brag that he and President Trump talk on the phone, and that the Mooch believes his resurrection in Trump-world could be imminent.”
Scaramucci responds on Twitter: “Don’t believe fake news. No standards left in journalism anymore. All anonymous sources.”
Former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) revealed on the Jim Bakker Show that she is currently considering making a run for the U.S. Senate seat that is set to be vacated by Al Franken. Bachmann said that she has “had people contact me and urge me to run for that Senate seat” and that she is asking God if doing so in His will for her.
New Yorker: “On a technical level, the American election system is almost as vulnerable as it was in 2016. According to U.S. intelligence, Russian hackers tested the vulnerabilities of registration rolls in twenty-one states, but did not alter the vote tallies. Halderman, who testified recently in Congress about gaps in election defenses, told me, ‘Unfortunately, there haven’t been widespread security improvements so far. We can be sure that our adversaries have been paying attention, and so they may be more likely to try attacking election systems in November.’ At the Def Con hackers’ conference in July, attendees demonstrated that they could break into thirty voting machines of multiple types, some in as little as ninety minutes. Without altering the results, hackers could sow doubt about the outcome by shutting down or disrupting voting machines on Election Day.”
“How much of an effect could Russian interference actually have in 2018? The effects could be meaningful, even if they never touch the tallies directly.”
Looking forward to Trump taking credit for strong wage gains in the first quarter of 2018.https://t.co/OwEvsPNarC
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) January 1, 2018
“The GOP’s inability to find top-shelf candidates to run for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s U.S. House seat has some Republicans ready to write off the race and shift money and attention to more winnable contests,” the Miami Herald reports. “The seat that encompasses Little Havana, most of downtown Miami and Miami Beach is now considered unwinnable by some Republicans in Congress and fundraisers who could infuse millions into a competitive congressional race.”
Ron Brownstein: “As more voters have treated congressional elections in effect as parliamentary choices, it’s grown difficult for either side to maintain the unified control of the House, the Senate and the White House that Republicans enjoy now. The last three times one party went into a midterm election holding unified control, in fact, voters have revoked it — providing the opposition party control of one or both congressional chambers. That was the fate of Democrats under Barack Obama in 2010, Republicans under George W. Bush in 2006 and Democrats under Bill Clinton in 1994.”
“The ominous precedent for Republicans is that Trump’s standing with the public now is weaker than each of those predecessors’ was when their party lost unified control during midterm elections.”
Gallup: “As Americans look ahead to 2018, eight in 10 predict it will be a troubled year filled with international discord rather than peace. The public is more optimistic about the economy, with a slight majority anticipating a year of economic prosperity. Americans split evenly on whether U.S. power in the world will increase or decline.”
“Elizabeth Warren has spent the past year making a series of below-the-radar moves that would put her in prime position to run for president in 2020 if she decides to,” Politico reports. “The liberal icon and Republican bete noire has amassed more money in her campaign war chest than nearly any senator in modern history, groomed political connections with Democrats who’ve been skeptical of her in the past, and worked to bolster her bipartisan and foreign policy bona fides.”
“It’s part of a conscious break from the heads-down posture that Warren purposefully maintained during the first five years of her Senate career… And it’s representative of Warren’s tricky navigation between the wishes of advocates who want her cutting a clear path to 2020, and supporters who think her best bet is to run up the score in her reelection race this year.”
Playbook: “Republicans were able to get through December relatively unscathed. They kept the government funded without giving up much of anything. But as D.C. barrels toward Jan. 19 — when government funding runs out — Democrats have a strong hand to play. Fixing DACA and stabilizing Obamacare are issues that unite Democrats and divide Republicans.”
“There will be an effort by Republicans to take care of some of these issues on their own terms early this month to avoid getting jammed up against the January deadline.”
“A few Republicans have been telling us that it will be incumbent upon President Trump to get GOP lawmakers comfortable with an immigration deal — something that nearly toppled Republican leaders in past years.”
Axios: The congressional to do list.
Politico: “Republicans start the year divided over whether to tear down or prop up Obamacare, a split that could derail their legislative agenda leading up to the 2018 midterm elections. GOP leaders on Capitol Hill don’t want a repeat of last year’s Obamacare fumble: They spent precious time on a failed attempt to repeal the health care law every member of the GOP was presumed to hate. But they also don’t want to take repeal off the table, which would provoke conservatives who are still determined to undo Obamacare.”
“The reality is the GOP is so divided on Obamacare, they don’t have the votes to achieve either objective — repeal or stabilization. That means former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment could keep limping along, crippled by the repeal of the individual mandate in the tax law but lifted by the surprisingly strong enrollment for the coming year.”
Washington Post: “Iowa has seemingly soured on the president and his party. The end-of-year Iowa Poll, an industry standard conducted by Des Moines-based Selzer and Co., found Trump with just 35 percent approval in the state. Only 34 percent of Iowans said they would back Republicans for Congress in 2018, and 61 percent said they were turned off by politics altogether.”