President Trump “made a brief appearance Monday at Washington’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, honoring the civil rights icon with a wreath on the federal holiday bearing his name,” Politico reports. “The president, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, spent roughly two minutes at the memorial.”
Washington Post: “Under pressure from conservatives to help Trump deliver on a signature campaign promise and unable to persuade him to avert the partial government shutdown, these lawmakers have all but surrendered to the president’s will. Their comments show how the cracks in the 53-member Republican majority that emerged at the outset of the shutdown have not spread beyond a handful of lawmakers.”
“Asked about the pressure from constituents and some of the 800,000 affected federal workers to end the impasse, GOP senators insisted they are facing equal — if not more — insistence to stand behind Trump and his call for $5.7 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall, especially from conservative voters.”
Marcy Wheeler suggests the special counsel issued his unprecedented statement on the Buzzfeed story in an attempt to preserve Michael Cohen’s ability to testify at trial.
In a remarkable CNN interview, Rudy Giuliani suggested it was possible — and would be “perfectly normal” — that Trump talked to Michael Cohen before he testified about him to Congress, Jonathan Swan observes. “It’s not ‘perfectly normal’ for subjects of or witnesses in a Congressional investigation to discuss testimony directly with each other. If witnesses or subjects are talking to each other, the government can always claim one is trying to influence the others’ testimony. That’s why lawyers counsel against doing it.”
The New York Times explains why Rudy Giuliani’s admission that President Trump was pursuing a Trump Tower Moscow deal during the presidential campaign is a big deal. “The new timetable means that Mr. Trump was seeking a deal at the time he was calling for an end to economic sanctions against Russia imposed by the Obama administration. He was seeking a deal when he gave interviews questioning the legitimacy of NATO, a favorite talking point of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. And he was seeking a deal when, in July 2016, he called on Russia to release hacked Democratic emails that Mr. Putin’s government was rumored at the time to have stolen.”
As First Read notes, throughout the campaign Trump denied he had any business relationships in Russia: “I mean I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia.”
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) “joined the 2020 presidential contest on Monday, thrusting a daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India into the Democratic race two years after she arrived in the Senate,” the Washington Post reports. “Harris, a 54-year-old former prosecutor raised in a state that has been the crucible of the Trump resistance, expanded a growing field of candidates fighting for the nomination of a party that is increasingly nonwhite and fueled by women alienated by the president.”
“She made the announcement during an interview on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America‘ and in a video that her campaign posted online.” Politico: “Kamala Harris’ Democratic opponents are already telegraphing that they plan to make her law-and-order background an enormous vulnerability with voters on the left. But the California senator, who announced her bid for the White House on Monday amid an early wave of scrutiny of her career as a prosecutor, thinks she can turn the criticism on its head.”
“According to interviews with a half-dozen of her confidants and strategists, Harris will court voters wary of law enforcement by presenting herself as a kinder and gentler prosecutor — a ‘progressive’ attorney who advocated for the vulnerable and served the public interest.”
“At the same time, they believe leaning into her background will allow her to project toughness against Donald Trump, and contrast what they call her evidence-based approach to law and politics with the president’s carelessness with facts and legal troubles with the special prosecutor.”
Los Angeles Times: “Her rivals could soon see the mix of cold calculation, relentless fundraising and force of personality that drove Harris’ quick rise, starting with the overthrow of her old boss in the prosecutor’s office. It set her on a path to statewide office and, barely two years into her Senate term, a top-tier try for the White House.”
“With a second U.S.-North Korea nuclear summit looming in February, researchers have discovered a secret ballistic missile base in North Korea — one of as many as 20 undisclosed missile sites in the country,” NBC News reports. “The Kim regime has never disclosed the existence of the Sino-ri Missile Operating Base to the outside world. Ballistic missiles are the primary delivery mechanism for North Korean nuclear warheads.”
Politico: “At first glance, Michael Bloomberg would seem to have zero appeal in a Democratic Party where progressive populism is on the rise and activists and elites say it’s time for a woman or a person of color to win the White House.”
“But unlike any of the other presidential hopefuls, Bloomberg plays a dominant leadership role on two of the top issues on the minds of progressives heading into the 2020 cycle: climate change and gun control. He’s spent a decade as the nation’s preeminent financier on those issues, buying considerable goodwill in progressive circles. If he runs, those familiar with his thinking say, they’ll be the pillars of his campaign.”
“No successful presidential campaign has ever been anchored to those issues. But the politics surrounding climate change and gun control have changed dramatically in recent years, and nowhere more than in the Democratic Party.”
Politico: “For Booker, the state presents an opportunity for an early show of strength next year with the Democratic Party’s most loyal bloc of voters. As one of the few African-American candidates likely to run, he’ll have a moment to break out of the crowded field after voting takes place in overwhelmingly white Iowa and New Hampshire.”
“For Sanders, it’s an opening to move beyond his dismal 2016 performance with black voters here, when he won only 26 percent of the total vote in the primary against Hillary Clinton and exposed a weakness that was repeated across the South.”
“When the Trump administration announced last month that it was lifting sanctions against a trio of companies controlled by an influential Russian oligarch, it cast the move as tough on Russia and on the oligarch, arguing that he had to make painful concessions to get the sanctions lifted,” the New York Times reports.
“But a binding confidential document signed by both sides suggests that the agreement the administration negotiated with the companies controlled by the oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska, may have been less punitive than advertised.”
“The deal contains provisions that free him from hundreds of millions of dollars in debt while leaving him and his allies with majority ownership of his most important company, the document shows.”
“The book, which will be published at the end of January, describes a nest of back-stabbing and duplicity within the West Wing, a narrative by now familiar from other books and news media reports. But Mr. Sims, who left last year after clashing with Mr. Kelly, is one of the few people to attach his name to descriptions of goings-on at the White House that are not always flattering to Mr. Trump, and many of the scenes are not particularly flattering to anyone, including himself.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “is slated to meet with veteran Republican strategist Ward Baker on Sunday afternoon to discuss a possible 2020 run for the vacant Kansas Senate seat,” Politico reports.
“Pompeo and Baker are expected to talk about what a Senate campaign would entail. Baker has deep political experience, having served as National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director during the 2016 election cycle. During the 2018 midterms, he helped to spearhead Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn’s successful Senate bid. He is also close to McConnell.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told CBS News that he will subpoena President Trump’s former longtime attorney Michael Cohen to testify before his committee “if necessary.”
Cohen is already slated to testify before the House Oversight Committee next month prior to the start of his three-year prison sentence.
“He consumed TV like the late Roger Ebert must have watched movies… He commented on the sets, the graphics, the wardrobe choices, the lighting, and just about every other visual component of a broadcast. Sure, he liked to hear pundits saying nice things about him or White House officials defending him from attacks, but everything came back to how does it look?”
“With that in mind, the most Trumpian tactic the comms team employed was arguing with TV networks about the ‘chyrons,’ the words displayed at the bottom of the screen that act as headlines for whatever the commentators are discussing.”
Said Trump: “People watch TV on mute, so it’s those words, those sometimes beautiful, sometimes nasty little words that matter.”
Playbook: “Democrats have been telling us that they are looking at polling that indicates they are hardly getting any blame for the shutdown. That could change soon if it looks like Republicans are making offers and Democrats are sitting pat.”
Politico: “Four sources with knowledge of their relationship said Trump talks to Meadows more than he does with many of his senior aides. They sometimes spend an hour-plus on the phone together or speak more than once per day.”