President Trump threatened that a government shutdown would last “for a very long time” if Congress does not meet his demand for billions in funding for his long-promised border wall, the Washington Post reports.
“In a spate of morning tweets, Trump sought to pin blame on Democrats for a potential shutdown even though he said last week that he would proudly own one if lawmakers did not provide at least $5 billion toward his marquee campaign promise.”
The Senate voted and could not find more than 47 votes for that 5 billion. The House adjourned for the day, and so the Proud Trump Shutdown began.
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) December 21, 2018
First Read: “As we’ve said before, much of the public and the political world have become numb to all of the chaos in Washington. Earlier this month, the president’s former lawyer/fixer was sentenced to three years in jail; Trump got rid of his second chief of staff and replaced him with an acting third; and a judge delayed sentencing of the president’s first national security adviser. But after yesterday’s events, we’ve now reached DEFCON 2 on our readiness chart of political chaos – one step away from total chaos.”
“What’s been particularly striking is how Senate Republicans have split from Trump this week — on his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, by passing a clean continuing resolution to keep the government open and on Mattis’ resignation.”
“And we’ll leave you with this thought: On Thursday, Vladimir Putin cheered Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, and the secretary of defense resigned.”
Washington Post: “Inside the Oval Office on Thursday, Trump was in what one Republican close to the White House described as ‘a tailspin,’ acting ‘totally irrationally’ and ‘flipping out’ over criticisms in the media. The president’s decisions and conduct have led to a fracturing of Trump’s coalition. Hawks condemned his sudden decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Conservatives called him a ‘gutless president’ and questioned whether he would ever build a wall. Political friends began privately questioning whether Trump needed to be reined in.”
Said one former Trump administration official: “There’s going to be an intervention. Jim Mattis just sent a shot across the bow. He’s the most credible member of the administration by five grades of magnitude. He’s the steady, safe set of hands. And this letter is brutal. He quit because of the madness.”
Administration officials say Barr's memo trashing Mueller played no role in Trump picking him. Do you believe that? I don't. https://t.co/3zgaIDhNnL
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) December 20, 2018
Eli Lake: “Donald Trump may not know it yet, but his presidency is collapsing… The president’s supporters may still feel unfazed, even confident. Trump has burned through two chiefs of staff, two national security advisers, a secretary of state and an attorney general in less than two years. He has survived.”
“This resignation, though, is different. As I wrote two months ago, Mattis provided Trump with a powerful shield. Whatever you thought of his views, Mattis embodied military virtue and the spirit of public service. As long as he served the president, reluctant Republicans could point to the Pentagon and say: If Mattis supports Trump, then so do I.”
“They can no longer do that.”
Washington Post: “At perhaps the most fragile moment of his presidency — and vulnerable to convulsions on the political right — Trump single-handedly propelled the U.S. government into crisis and sent markets tumbling with his gambits this week to salvage signature campaign promises.”
“The president’s decisions and conduct have led to a fracturing of Trump’s coalition. Hawks condemned his sudden decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Conservatives called him a ‘gutless president’ and questioned whether he would ever build a wall. Political friends began privately questioning whether Trump needed to be reined in.”
Politico: “Even some stalwart Trump allies are privately expressing new levels of concern about the president’s erratic behavior.”
57% of Americans think Trump should “compromise on the border wall to prevent gridlock,” according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. https://t.co/XHL6SY1qMa
— FiveThirtyEight (@FiveThirtyEight) December 21, 2018
“President Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria was made hastily, without consulting his national security team or allies, and over strong objections from virtually everyone involved in the fight against the Islamic State,” the AP reports.
“Trump stunned his Cabinet, lawmakers and much of the world with the move by rejecting the advice of his top aides and agreeing to a withdrawal in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week.”
“US Treasury Department officials used a Gmail back channel with the Russian government as the Kremlin sought sensitive financial information on its enemies in America and across the globe,” BuzzFeed News reports.
“The extraordinary unofficial line of communication arose in the final year of the Obama administration — in the midst of what multiple US intelligence agencies have said was a secret campaign by the Kremlin to interfere in the US election. Russian agents ostensibly trying to track ISIS instead pressed their American counterparts for private financial documents on at least two dozen dissidents, academics, private investigators, and American citizens.”
There's a ton of news happening right now, but don't miss this fundamental point from @DavidCornDC.
It's the crucial and proven fact Trump desperately wants you to forget. https://t.co/CuJeGcrXZ3
— Mother Jones (@MotherJones) December 19, 2018
“The Trump administration is withdrawing roughly 7,000 troops from Afghanistan in the coming months, two defense officials said Thursday, around half of what the American military has there now,” the New York Times reports.
“The 14,000 American troops currently in Afghanistan are divided between training and advising Afghan forces and a counterterror mission against groups like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda. The reduction, one official said, is in an effort to make Afghan forces more reliant on their own troops and not Western support.”
Josh Marshall: “Did the President abruptly decide to remove all US troops from Syria because of his oft-claimed isolationism or claim that America wasn’t getting enough money in return? Was it to upend a bad news cycle? Was it a pay-off or favor to Vladimir Putin? Was it an effort to get Turkey to lay off its campaign against the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi? Was the President simply seeking the satisfaction of unrestricted, dramatic action as legal peril surrounds him?
Each of these explanations is quite plausible. It’s likely that more than one of them played into the decision. But that uncertainty makes it difficult for any observer to judge the merits of the decision, predict its effects or even know whether the policy is likely to change in a day or a week or a month.
It’s not crazy to think we shouldn’t be militarily involved in the Syrian civil war. But a jagged withdrawal is likely to leave allies on the ground ripe for slaughter. And in any case, the policy question is hard to grab hold of or evaluate since it seems very likely that a corrupt or politically self-interested rationale is actually driving the decision.”
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee revealed on Friday that the U.S. military was planning a “major clearing operation” targeting ISIS before Trump decided abruptly this week to withdraw forces from Syria https://t.co/nBkkz6tJM0
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) December 21, 2018
Incoming White House acting-chief of staff Mick Mulvaney called President Trump’s views on a border wall and immigration “simplistic” and “absurd and almost childish” in a 2015 interview uncovered by CNN.
Mulvaney added he believed Trump’s emotional appeals and cavalier attitude might prompt him to try going around the Constitution.
Said Mulvaney: “I wonder who is more interested in going around the Constitution in order to get things done. Barack Obama or Donald Trump?”
“As a sign of the mood inside, officials at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue tell us that Trump is complaining about his incoming chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, in conversations inside the West Wing and with Capitol Hill,” Axios reports. Trump asked one trusted adviser: “Did you know he called me a terrible human being?”
“We’re told that Trump was furious when the slight surfaced in a two-year-old video right after he promoted Mulvaney.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had two malignant nodules removed from her left lung Friday at a New York hospital, CNN reports. “There is no evidence of any remaining disease, says a court spokesperson, nor is there evidence of disease elsewhere in the body.”
NPR: “Short of complications in recovery, doctors say prospects look good for a full recovery for Ginsburg, 85. She hopes to be back on the court for the start of the new term in early January.”
Members of the new House majority plan to introduce legislation mandating background checks on all gun sales. They don’t expect it to pass. But they want to make a point, writes @elainejgodfrey: https://t.co/9AhLWAEvMG
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) December 20, 2018
Politico: “[P]opulation shifts are poised to have a tangible impact in 2020 — with demographic shifts cementing Florida’s premier swing-state status, vaulting Arizona onto the list of 2020 swing states and perhaps putting Nevada further out of reach for President Trump’s reelection campaign.”
“In an unprecedented move, the Trump administration and more than a dozen international allies are expected to simultaneously call out Beijing on Thursday for what they say are China’s persistent efforts to steal other countries’ trade secrets and advanced technologies and to compromise sensitive government and corporate computers,” the Washington Postreports.
“The mass condemnation marks a significant effort to hold China to account for its alleged malign acts. It represents a growing consensus that Beijing is flouting international norms of fair play to become the world’s predominant economic and technological power.”
Exclusive: Senate Democrats join the push for sweeping anti-corruption legislation https://t.co/TYxBuEeLeE
— Vox (@voxdotcom) December 18, 2018
President Trump “has been telling his closest political advisors in recent weeks that he wants Vice President Mike Pence to be with him on the ticket in 2020,” CNBC reports.
“The development comes amid media speculation that Trump could ditch Pence in favor of another running mate.”
“The latest news might not end the speculation about Pence’s fate, though, since Trump is known to change his mind without notice – as his recent search for a new chief of staff demonstrated.”
The loudest Brexiteers share more than just an ideology with their conservative brethren on the other side of the Atlantic. How American right-wingers are driving Britain toward a hard Brexit: https://t.co/KCcir3b0K5 pic.twitter.com/dFl7hglcdh
— The New Republic (@newrepublic) December 19, 2018
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross twice submitted sworn statements to ethics officials saying he had divested stock that he in fact still owned, a new document obtained by the Center for Public Integrity reveals.
Mattis' resignation letter should prompt a much more forthright public debate than we've had so far over a stark reality we must confront:
Trump is not operating out of any meaningful sense whatsoever of what is good for the country.
My new piece:https://t.co/4XmnCIuhJ8
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) December 21, 2018
Sen. Jeff Merkely (D-OR) told ABC News that he’s strongly considering a run for president. Merkley also said his family is on board if he decides to run. Said Merkely: “They had a veto over the project, and they have all now given it a thumbs-up.”