What Now?!? – December 28, 2018

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll finds 47% of Americans hold President Trump responsible for the government shutdown, while 33% blame Democrats in Congress and 7% blame congressional Republicans. Just 35% of those surveyed said they backed including money for a border wall in a congressional spending bill.

A new AP/NORC poll finds that 16% of those who “somewhat” supported President Trump’s job performance decided to vote for Democratic House candidates in the November midterms. That’s compared with 6% of those who self-identified as Trump’s “strong” supporters.

That difference helped Democrats capture the House majority, picking up 21 of their 40 new seats in districts Trump carried only two years earlier.

New Yorker: “Trump had been a celebrity since the eighties, his persona shaped by the best-selling book The Art of the Deal. But his business had foundered, and by 2003 he had become a garish figure of local interest—a punch line on Page Six. The Apprentice mythologized him anew, and on a much bigger scale, turning him into an icon of American success.”

Washington Post: “Many national parks across the country have also been closed, and the Internal Revenue Service planned to close taxpayer assistance lines, among other operations, weeks ahead of filing season. The shutdown also began affecting the nation’s court system, as the Justice Department asked a federal judge to temporarily pause certain cases until the government provides funding for the department.”

“Washington Thursday all but gave up on resolving the partial government shutdown before the New Year, as lawmakers were told not to expect votes this week and signs of negotiations were nonexistent,” the Washington Post reports.

“On Capitol Hill, the hallways were quiet and leadership offices were shuttered. At the White House, President Trump retreated from public view and tweeted recriminations at Democrats.”

“Behind the scenes, Democratic aides were working to draft legislation to reopen the government once they take over the House on Jan. 3.”

New York Times: “With a partial government shutdown stretching past Day 5, the impasse over funding a wall at the southwestern border has highlighted the debate over effective border security, with a breakthrough possibly hinging on a semantic argument: What is a wall?”

President Trump said many people want outgoing Defense Secretary James Mattis’s job, The Hill reports. Said Trump: “I will say that I’ve got everybody — everybody and his uncle wants that position. And also, by the way, everybody and her aunt — just so I won’t be criticized for that last statement.”

President Trump and the White House communications team “revealed that a U.S. Navy SEAL team was deployed to Iraq after the president secretly traveled to the region to meet with American forces serving in a combat zone for the first time since being elected to office,” Newsweek reports.

“While the commander-in-chief can declassify information, usually the specific special operations unit is not revealed to the American public, especially while U.S. service members are deployed.”

“The president’s video posted Wednesday did not shield the faces of special operation forces. Current and former Defense Department officials told Newsweek that information concerning what units are deployed and where is almost always classified and is a violation of operational security.”

“California’s Republican Party is in deep trouble, and in interviews with both outgoing and returning state House Republicans, none could offer a specific message or path forward,” McClatchy reports.

“The California GOP got walloped in 2018, losing all seven closely contested congressional seats and all statewide elections. It also got pummeled in State Assembly and local elections.”

“State Republican officials readily concede the party faces huge problems. Some — though not all — say state party Chairman Jim Brulte’s warnings long ago about the need to appeal to minority groups should have been heeded.”

“A mobile phone traced to President Trump’s former lawyer and ‘fixer’ Michael Cohen briefly sent signals ricocheting off cell towers in the Prague area in late summer 2016, at the height of the presidential campaign, leaving an electronic record to support claims that Cohen met secretly there with Russian officials,” McClatchy reports.

“During the same period of late August or early September, electronic eavesdropping by an Eastern European intelligence agency picked up a conversation among Russians, one of whom remarked that Cohen was in Prague.”

However, Cohen insisted again in a tweet that he’s never been in Prague.

Martin Longman says that if this is true, then Donald Trump is finished. “On Sunday, April 15, 2018, I wrote, “If Michael Cohen went to Prague, then Donald Trump will be impeached, convicted, and removed from office, assuming he doesn’t resign.” The piece was in response to a Thursday evening article Peter Stone and Greg Gordon had written for McClatchy that claimed that the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) had evidence that, contrary to his repeated denials, Michael Cohen actually had traveled to Prague in the late summer of 2016 just as he was alleged to have done in the Steele Dossier. […]

As a refresher, the claim that Michael Cohen went to Prague in late August or early September 2016 was the single most damning allegation in the Steele Dossier. Among the alleged purposes of the trip were to coordinate with Kremlin officials in an effort to manage the fallout from the mid-August firing of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, to find an innocent explanation for Carter Page’s recent trip to Moscow, and to develop a plan to compensate Romanian hackers who had supposedly played a role in the DNC hacks.”

President Trump “claimed that ‘most of the people not getting paid’ in the partial government shutdown are Democrats, days after he contended that many federal workers support his call for more border wall funding,” the Washington Post reports.

“Trump made the claim in a morning tweet as the shutdown entered its sixth day, with hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed without pay amid signs pointing toward a prolonged standoff.”

President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani took a defiant stance on whether the President would answer any more written questions from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team during a phone interview with The Hill Thursday.

“I think I announced about 10 days ago ‘over my dead body’ and I’m not dead yet,” Giuliani told The Hill, referencing comments he made during a Fox News interview last week when he said Trump wouldn’t be sitting for an in-person interview. “(Trump’s) not answering any more questions from these people — they are outrageous activity…we did enough.”

Trump has provided Mueller’s team with written answers  to questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election — and answered them “very easily” — but steered clear of responding to inquiries about obstruction of justice.

Ronald Brownstein on what Trump will face in the New Year:  “Trump has precipitated a diplomatic crisis by abruptly announcing his intention to withdraw American forces from Syria. That triggered the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis, which reinforced the initial tremor over the sudden reversal with a powerful aftershock.

Trump has precipitated a governing crisis by forcing a partial federal shutdown through his demand for $5 billion in funding for his border wall—an ultimatum that the administration itself only a few days earlier acknowledged could not win 60 votes in the Senate.

And he’s instigated a financial-market crisis through the shutdown, his saber-rattling on trade with China, and his repeated Twitter attacks on Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell—with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin providing the aftershocks in this case through his amateurish efforts to calm the markets last weekend.  […]

Each of the current crises may recede in 2019, but the overall trajectory of Trump’s presidency points toward more, not less, disorder. Trump has systematically dismissed advisers such as Mattis who were considered, however imperfectly, the most powerful constraints on his behavior. And Trump will face new provocations that are likely to trigger his most belligerent impulses—especially from an incoming Democratic House majority that’s poised to investigate every aspect of his presidency (including his personal finances). Looming close behind are more potential indictments from Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the release of his final report on Trump, Russia, and the 2016 campaign. In 2019, combustion may be as great a risk to Trump as collusion.”

Speaking to members of the military during his surprise trip overseas this week, President Trump spoke about the raises they received, the Washington Post reports.

Said Trump: “You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years — more than 10 years,” he said Wednesday. “And we got you a big one. I got you a big one. I got you a big one.”

He continued: “They said: ‘You know, we could make it smaller. We could make it 3 percent. We could make it 2 percent. We could make it 4 percent.’ I said: ‘No. Make it 10 percent. Make it more than 10 percent.’ ”

“The problem with those statements? They’re not true.”

The mayor of Washington, D.C., has written a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to end the partial federal government shutdown.  WTOP-FM reports Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Wednesday letter says the city, its residents and its businesses will severely suffer if the shutdown continues.

A quarter of the federal government shut down Saturday in a long-running fight over funding for Trump’s promised U.S.-Mexico border wall. About 420,000 federal workers have been deemed essential and are working unpaid, while another 380,000 are furloughed.

The mayor said Sunday that the city will remain open and take over certain responsibilities for handicapped federal agencies, such as trash removal and snow clearing. The letter says trash removal alone on federally-owed parks will cost the city about $46,000 a week.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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