“Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said outside of the White House that President Trump informed House Republican leaders that he would not sign a short-term spending bill passed by the Senate ‘because of legitimate concerns about border security,’” Axios reports.
“Ryan said the House would attempt to pass a bill with funding for Trump’s border wall. It’s unclear if the bill will garner enough support, suggesting the government may be heading for a partial shutdown Friday at midnight.”
Playbook: “This is, in some ways, the most fitting way to end this wild, wild two-year congressional session. Since January 2017, two pairs of Republicans have been whispering in the president’s ear, giving him divergent views of how to govern: Meadows and Jordan, and Ryan and McCarthy.”
Toobin: Trump is shutting down the government because Ann Coulter got mad at him pic.twitter.com/9P1AWf30J9
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) December 20, 2018
The Trump Shutdown Temper Tantrum begins. Merry Christmas.
How this might play out over the next two weeks, from Playbook: “Well, if we had to guess, the GOP is going to put $5 billion in the stopgap somehow. That might or might not pass the House — attendance is down big time, with 52 people missing the last vote this morning. If the bill does clear the House, it will go to the Senate, where it will not go anywhere. Then there will be a choice: Enough Republicans get on board with Democrats to pass the stopgap, or keep the government shut down until Jan. 3, when Nancy Pelosi will be able to open it up.”
Chuck Todd says Trump is on a "one-man temper tantrum" pic.twitter.com/lfxSlJv8JL
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) December 20, 2018
Washington Post: “A number of close U.S. allies who are members of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State said they were not consulted and were given no prior warning.”
“One European defense secretary put in a call Tuesday to Jim Mattis after hearing rumors of the decision and received a late-night call back from the defense secretary with confirmation. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not participate in the meeting with Trump and was in the dark until after it took place.”
GOP senators leveled “blistering criticism” at Vice President Mike Pence for President Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria, “with multiple Republican senators expressing outrage and frustration,” Politico reports.
“Pence was dispatched to the Hill as the administration began absorbing a torrent of condemnation from hawkish Republicans, who blasted the White House announcement that the U.S. and its allies have defeated the Islamic State in Syria and that some of the 2,000 U.S. troops battling the terrorist group will begin coming home.”
“Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Pence he was ‘personally offended’ to read about the decision in the news rather than hearing from the president or his aides.”
“Russian President Vladimir Putin praised President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, describing the American presence there as illegitimate and the Islamic State as largely defeated on the ground,” the Washington Post reports. “Putin told journalists at his annual year-end news conference that the Islamic State has suffered ‘serious blows’ in Syria.” Said Putin: “On this, Donald is right. I agree with him.”
“Officials said Mr. Mattis went to the White House on Thursday afternoon in a last attempt to convince Mr. Trump to keep American troops in Syria. He was rebuffed, and told the president that he was resigning as a result” via @helenecooper – https://t.co/dM4OeZvRRe
— Eliana Johnson (@elianayjohnson) December 20, 2018
A day after saying he would pull U.S. troops out of Syria, President Trump tweeted that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is retiring.
Said Trump: “General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!”
However, a letter from Mattis makes clear he resigned over policy differences with the president.
“President Trump’s decision to abruptly withdraw troops from Syria is a clear rebuke to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the last remaining member of a retinue of military men Trump once fondly called ‘my generals,’” the Washington Post reports.
“Mattis had argued that the counterterrorism mission in Syria is not over and that the small U.S. presence in Syria should remain… The Pentagon chief also had tried to explain to Trump that there would be more chaos in the region and future problems for the United States if the troops leave.”
A senior administration official told CNN that Trump’s decision to withdraw troops is “a mistake of colossal proportions and the President fails to see how it will endanger our country.”
— Yoni Appelbaum (@YAppelbaum) December 20, 2018
Ron Brownstein: “With his threat to shut down the federal government unless he receives funding for his border wall, President Trump is employing a tactic that is unpopular to advance a goal that may be even more unpopular.”
“Trump’s threats — and the muted public resistance to them from GOP congressional leaders — offer the latest evidence that the party’s drubbing in the midterm election has not changed the White House’s fundamental strategic calculus.”
“Though the proposed border wall faces widespread opposition among all the groups in the electorate that powered the big Democratic gains in the House last month, and government shutdowns historically have alienated a broad range of the public, both the end and the means remain popular among the President’s core supporters.”
Washington Post: “Early Thursday, a Justice Department official had said the agency’s ethics office had advised Matthew Whitaker he need not step asidefrom special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation examining President Trump.”
“Hours later, it was disclosed by people familiar with Whitaker’s situation that he has met repeatedly with ethics officials to discuss the facts and the issues under consideration, and that a senior ethics official told a group of Whitaker’s advisers that although it was a ‘close call,’ Whitaker should recuse to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. He has no plans to step aside, according to people familiar with the matter.”
This letter makes me very interested in what Mattis will tell the House when called to testify. https://t.co/iLrcFhOFyN
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) December 20, 2018
Special counsel Robert Mueller “asked the House Intelligence Committee on Friday for an official transcript of Trump adviser Roger Stone’s testimony… a sign that prosecutors could be moving to charge him with a crime,” the Washington Post reports.
“It is the first time Mueller has formally asked the committee to turn over material the panel has gathered in its investigation of Russian interference of the 2016 campaign.”
“The move suggests that the special counsel is moving to finalize his months-long investigation of Stone — a key part of Mueller’s inquiry into whether anyone in President Trump’s orbit coordinated with the Russians.”
The House Intel Committee unanimously voted to release the transcript to Mueller.
“The Trump campaign funneled money to ad buyers alleged to have facilitated illegal coordination between the campaign and the NRA by routing funds through a secretive LLC that appears to be little more than a shell company,” an investigation by the Center for Responsive Politics has found.
See how much warmer winters in US cities could be by 2050 https://t.co/mEPD7e32rS
— Vox (@voxdotcom) December 20, 2018
“Sworn statements by President Trump dating back several decades indicate he has a deep understanding of campaign-finance laws, legal experts say, which could be critical if investigators ever pursue a case against him over his alleged direction of hush-money payments in the 2016 campaign,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Mr. Trump’s statements were made as part of a 2000 regulatory investigation into his casino company and in 1988 testimony for a government-integrity commission.”
— The New Republic (@newrepublic) December 19, 2018
President Trump “delivered a parting snub to one of his biggest congressional critics, as even his Republican allies laid into administration officials for the White House’s surprise announcement that U.S. troops would be withdrawing from Syria because, as the president put it on Twitter, Islamic State forces there had been defeated,” the Washington Post reports.
Said Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) went “to the White House for a previously scheduled meeting with Trump where he planned to ask him about the Syria decision. Instead, while he was waiting, Trump canceled on him without explanation.”
Said Corker: “It’s obviously a political decision.”
Gov. John Kasich (R) voiced doubts about challenging President Trump in 2020, saying right now he couldn’t beat the president in a Republican primary, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.
Said Kasich: “I don’t get into things that I don’t think I can win. And I think right now, today, inside the Republican Party, I can’t beat him in a primary.”
He and I discussed his ideas at length here. https://t.co/zyp2xK6Akv
— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) December 19, 2018
President Trump “is planning to roll out an unprecedented structure for his 2020 reelection, a streamlined organization that incorporates the [RNC] and the president’s campaign into a single entity. It’s a stark expression of Trump’s stranglehold over the Republican Party: Traditionally, a presidential reelection committee has worked in tandem with the national party committee, not subsumed it,” Politico reports.
“Under the plan, which has been in the works for several weeks, the Trump reelection campaign and the RNC will merge their field and fundraising programs into a joint outfit dubbed Trump Victory. The two teams will also share office space rather than operate out of separate buildings, as has been custom. The goal is to create a single, seamless organization that moves quickly, saves resources, and — perhaps most crucially — minimizes staff overlap and the kind of infighting that marked the 2016 relationship between the Trump campaign and the party.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo just made marijuana legalization a top priority https://t.co/kjEFrkRflh
— Vox (@voxdotcom) December 17, 2018
Wall Street Journal: “As questions swirl about his credibility, former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone settled a defamation suit seeking $100 million in damages on Monday for publishing false and misleading statements on InfoWars.com, a far-right website known for promoting conspiracy theories. The agreement requires Mr. Stone to run ads in national newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, apologizing for making defamatory statements about a Chinese businessman who is a vocal critic of Beijing.”
“It also requires Mr. Stone to publish a retraction of the false statements on social media. Doing so exempts him from paying any of the damages. In a text message, Mr. Stone described his conduct as ‘irresponsible’ and added that ‘I am solely responsible for fulfilling the terms of the settlement.’”
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) December 18, 2018
“If the deep field of potential Democratic presidential contenders is on pins and needles as Beto O’Rourke decides his next move, it could be a long wait,” the AP reports.
“The outgoing Texas congressman’s team says he has no timeline or roadmap for deciding if he’d like to parlay a surprisingly close loss to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz into a White House try. People close to O’Rourke insist he hasn’t expanded staff or lined up consultants even as the interest in him intensifies. They say he’s spoken to top Democratic donors, but describe such discussions as fact-finding missions, researching the logistics of a possible run rather than securing assurances that coming campaign cash would go to him and not others.”
— The New Republic (@newrepublic) December 18, 2018