TRUMP KNOWS HE HAS LOST. “President Trump has insisted that he is not going to compromise with Democrats to end the government shutdown, and that he is comfortable in his unbendable position. But privately, it’s sometimes a different story,” the New York Times reports. Said Trump to acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney: “We are getting crushed! Why can’t we get a deal?”
A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds President Trump’s approval rating down by a net 7-point change to 39% to 53% over the last month. The movement has come from within key portions of his base: He’s down significantly among suburban men, a net-positive approval rating of 51% to 39% to a net-negative of 42% approve, 48% disapprove. That’s a net change of down 18 percentage points. He’s also down a net of 13 points among white evangelicals and down a net of 10 points among Republicans.
“With the 2020 presidential election already underway, 57% of registered voters said they would definitely vote against President Trump,” according to a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll. “Another 30% of voters said they would cast their ballot to support Trump, and an additional 13% said they had no idea who would get their vote.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that her rationale for seeking to reschedule the annual State of the Union address comes down to her and other Democrats not wanting to have security officials work the event without being paid, NBC News reports. Said Pelosi: “Maybe he thinks it’s OK not to pay people who work,” in an apparent jab at the president over allegations that his businesses have stiffed contractors in the past. She added: “I don’t. And my caucus doesn’t either.”
President Trump retaliated against Speaker Nancy Pelosi for threatening to cancel his planned State of the Union address on Jan. 29, writing in a letterthat he, in turn, was postponing her planned trip abroad, calling it a “public relations event,” the New York Times reports.
Wrote Trump: “I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will reschedule this seven day excursion when the shutdown is over.”
“Presumably, the president is refusing to provide military transport that is traditionally provided to the House speaker or congressional delegations. In the letter, tinged with sarcasm, he wrote that she could still take the trip if she chose to fly commercial.”
RECESSION WARNINGS ARE PILING UP. “The partial government shutdown was supposed to be a brief non-event for the economy. Now it’s starting to look like a serious crisis that could nudge the U.S. toward recession and threaten President Trump’s economic message during his reelection campaign,” Politico reports.
“Across Wall Street, analysts are rushing out warnings that missed federal paychecks, dormant government contractors and shelved corporate stock offerings could push first-quarter growth close to or even below zero if the shutdown, which is wrapping up its fourth week, drags on much longer.”
COHEN IS SCARED FOR HIS FAMILY. “Michael Cohen is having reservations about his highly anticipated public appearance before Congress next month, fearing that President Trump’s frequent diatribes against him could put his family in danger,” ABC News reports.
“While his testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform appears to be on track to occur as scheduled on Feb. 7, it is now less certain than it initially appeared that Cohen – Trump’s former attorney and fixer – will sit before lawmakers.”
The Trump administration separated thousands more migrant children from parents at border than previously known, the Washington Post reports. “A report from Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general said the federal tracking system has been so poor that the precise number of migrant children separated from their parents is unclear.”
JARED AND IVANKA ARE THE REAL CHIEFS OF STAFF. New York Times: “Unlike his predecessors… Mr. Mulvaney is not interested in challenging what has revealed itself to be the one constant in the Trump White House: the special status reserved for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the president’s family members and senior advisers, in the West Wing.”
“Mr. Mulvaney’s more hands-off approach to the family members has allowed Mr. Kushner to position himself among lawmakers on Capitol Hill as the person who can deliver to Mr. Trump what he wants. The dynamic… is similar to the opening days of the administration, when the staff to the new president was just beginning to meet with Washington officials and Mr. Kushner often told people that ‘everything runs through me.’”
“This time, however, Mr. Mulvaney is doing nothing to curb his influence. In fact, he is treating Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump as assets, rather than rivals. And they are seeing a new ally. On Sunday night they hosted Mr. Mulvaney and his wife at their Kalorama mansion for a social dinner.”
HYPOCRISY IS THEIR ONLY PRINCIPLE. Tom Nichols: “This is not normal, in any way. As things stand, more people in the Kremlin than in Washington know what Trump said to Putin. It is almost certain that there are readouts and analyses of Trump’s discussions with Putin — but that for now, they are in Russian.”
“Finally, it is exhausting but nonetheless necessary to point out again the titanic hypocrisy of the Republican Party and of Trump’s apologists in the conservative media. If President Barack Obama had shredded his notes of a meeting with the Iranian president, or if Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager were sitting in jail for lying about meeting a Chinese business associate — and alleged intelligence officer — to share polling data, that alone would have been enough for the GOP to impeach everyone from the president to the White House chef.”
NO COLLUSION, BUT YES COLLUSION. President Trump’s legal spokesman Rudy Giuliani “appeared to grant the possibility that members of Trump’s campaign did, in fact, collude with the Russians during the 2016 presidential election campaign,” the Washington Post reports.
“And in the process, he contradicted dozens of previous denials that both the Trump team (and Trump himself) have offered.”
“In fact, the Trump team has moved the goal posts on this question no fewer than 10 times after initially denying any contact at all with ‘foreign entities.’ Trump has said dozens of times that there was ‘no collusion,’ full stop. This appears to be the first time anyone has acknowledged the possibility that someone colluded without Trump’s knowledge.”
TRUMP IS SCARING THE PENTAGON. “Two years into his presidency, Donald Trump is fueling unprecedented uncertainty and anxiety inside the Pentagon. In private conversations over the past month, many of them unsolicited, more than a dozen key military officers, enlisted personnel and senior civilians have expressed worry and concern to CNN. None of the officials have spoken publicly about this, as military law prohibits active-duty personnel from criticizing a sitting president.”
“It’s not just Trump’s unpredictable decision making that has officials on edge, it’s also his penchant for politicizing the military— something that’s come into focus in recent months as he’s struggled to fulfill his campaign promise to crack down on immigration and build a border wall. His decision to draw down troops in Syria and his claims that ISIS is defeated have also rankled military commanders who felt it wasn’t well thought out.”
THE ATLANTIC CALLS FOR TRUMP’S IMPEACHMENT. The Atlantic, in its cover story: “The Founders worried about electing a president who lacked character or a sense of honor, but Americans have long since lost the moral vocabulary to articulate such concerns explicitly, preferring to look instead for demonstrable violations of rules that illuminate underlying character flaws. It is Trump’s unfitness for office that necessitates impeachment; his attacks on American democracy are plainly evident, and should be sufficient.”
“But some Republican senators may continue to dismiss the more sweeping claims against the president, particularly where no statutory crimes attach. And so the strength of the evidence supporting narrower charges such as obstruction of justice and campaign-finance violations may ultimately determine his fate. If the committee can substantiate these charges, it will place even the most reluctant senators in a bind. When the moment finally comes to cast their vote, and the world is watching, how many will acquit the president of things he has clearly done?”
WE BETTER HOPE THAT TRUMP IS A FOREIGN AGENT. Garrett Graff: “The pattern of his pro-Putin, pro-Russia, anti-FBI, anti-intelligence community actions are so one-sided, and the lies and obfuscation surrounding every single Russian meeting and conversation so consistent that if this president isn’t actually hiding a massive conspiracy, it means the alternative is worse: America elected a chief executive so oblivious to geopolitics, so self-centered and personally insecure, so naturally predisposed to undermine democratic institutions and coddle authoritarians, and so terrible a manager and leader that he cluelessly surrounded himself with crooks, grifters, and agents of foreign powers that he’s compromised the national security of the US government and undermined 75 years of critical foreign alliances, just to satiate his own ego.”
“In short, we’ve reached a point in the Mueller probe where there are only two scenarios left: Either the president is compromised by the Russian government and has been working covertly to cooperate with Vladimir Putin after Russia helped win him the 2016 election—or Trump will go down in history as the world’s most famous ‘useful idiot,’ as communists used to call those who could be co-opted to the cause without realizing it.”
“At least the former scenario—that the president of the United States is actively working to advance the interests of our country’s foremost, long-standing, traditional foreign adversary—would make him seem smarter and wilier. The latter scenario is simply a tragedy, or maybe a farce for everyone involved.”
GATES TELLS MUELLER ABOUT THE ISRAELI FIRM. “Rick Gates, the former campaign aide to Donald Trump, is cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether individuals from the Middle East worked with the Trump campaign to influence the election,” the Daily Beast reports.
“Gates has answered questions specifically about Psy Group, an Israeli firm that ex-employees say drew up social media manipulation plans to help the Trump campaign… Mueller’s team also asked Gates about interactions with Psy Group’s owner, Joel Zamel, and Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, who worked as an emissary for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”
BETO AIDES PLANNING FOR A RUN. “Beto O’Rourke has left Texas, decamping for a highly anticipated road trip, but his former advisers are quietly sketching the outline of a potential presidential run that would replicate — and on a nationalscale — the grassroots-driven organizing model O’Rourke employed in his Texas Senate campaign,” Politico reports.
“The effort is preliminary, and the imprimatur of O’Rourke was implied — not stated… Unlike many candidates-in-waiting, who have PACs or other organizations to assemble staff, O’Rourke is not yet assembling a campaign team.”
TRUMP HOTEL LEASE MAY VIOLATE THE CONSTITUTION.
“The GSA disregarded concerns that President Trump’s lease of a government-owned building — the one that houses his Trump International Hotel in Washington — might violate the Constitution when it allowed Trump to keep that lease after he took office, according to a report from the agency’s inspector general,” the Washington Post reports.
ABRAMS AND GILLUM POWERBROKERS. “Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum — two of the Democratic Party’s breakout candidates of 2018, despite losing their elections for governor of Georgia and Florida — are looking to parlay their near-success into the defeat of Donald Trump in 2020,” Politico reports.
“The pair of young, progressive African-American pols amassed so much political fame that they’re a must-call for the growing roster of likely Democratic presidential contenders. They’re also on some early and unofficial lists as possible vice-presidential running mates.
“The White House hopefuls don’t just crave an endorsement from Abrams or Gillum. Each boasts valuable donor and volunteer lists, in the Southeast’s two biggest states that, if won next year, would almost guarantee a Democratic White House.”