Unfiltered Political News

Moderates move to break shutdown logjam

Moderate senators left a bipartisan meeting Sunday optimistic they’re making headway on a compromise to reopen the government after a two-day standoff.

Senators took their proposal to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) after the 90-minute meeting. The plan would reopen the government through Feb. 8 and have McConnell commit on the Senate floor to holding an immigration vote before that date.

McConnell would “be more than happy to publicly state he’ll be willing to move to immigration at a very near time,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said after Republican senators pitched the Senate leader on the idea.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) also struck an upbeat note after the meeting with McConnell. The senator said a deal within reach would involve starting an immigration debate in the chamber by Feb. 8, even if a broader deal were not reached by then.

The best-case scenario, Flake added, “is to pass the bill with a good Senate majority, have a process up here, and have the president support it if we can get 60 or 70 votes. I believe he will and if he does, that’ll move the House.”

Even if McConnell publicly commits to that process, it’s unclear how far it would go in securing Democratic votes. Some Democrats said they need to know the House would take action on an immigration bill, too.

“We have to have in our own mind some way to ensure that the House feels a need to bring up the issue as well,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

McConnell and Schumer met at 5 p.m. to discuss the proposal and possible next steps.

Senators from both sides stressed that the next several hours are critical, predicting that if a deal isn’t reached today, both parties could remain entrenched — and the government shuttered — for days to come.

The centrists are eager to end the brinkmanship that has erupted at the one-year mark of Donald Trump’s presidency. Democrats insist that any funding legislation extend Obama-era protections for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, while Republicans say they won’t negotiate around immigration until the government reopens.

The group of roughly 20 moderates includes Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Flake, Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Durbin, Mark Warner (D-Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

Some liberals are still wary. They fear that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) could repeat the exercise of 2013, when the Senate passed an immigration bill and the House didn’t take it up. That’s why, without an ironclad commitment from Ryan, they are skeptical.

“It depends on whether it’s part of a must-pass bill. That is my strong preference. The goal is to have the [DREAM] Act passed,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in an interview. “I have no confidence, zero, in Paul Ryan bringing that bill to the floor.”

Republican leaders are also skeptical. They believe committing to an immigration vote would just throw Democrats a lifeline and prefer to negotiate on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program only after the government reopens.

“Does that mean if we have an agreement by [Feb.] 15 that that’s not good enough?” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said of the plan to hold an immigration vote by Feb. 8. “I just think people are nervous because they shut down the government and are looking for face-saving.”

Still, McConnell listened to the presentation by a group of GOP senators to allow such a vote by Feb. 8.

So far, House Republican leaders have rejected the idea of committing to holding an immigration vote on the House floor and are refusing to negotiate on anything beyond a three-week continuing resolution. Ryan said Sunday the House will accept a short-term bill through Feb. 8 but will commit only to an immigration bill “that the president supports to fix this problem.”

“We’re basically waiting to see whether the Senate will vote for this or not,” Ryan said of a three-week funding bill on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Without a bipartisan agreement otherwise, the Senate is scheduled to vote at 1 a.m. Monday on a bill to reopen the government through Feb. 8. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, one of five red-state Democrats to support a funding bill on Friday, warned that forcing a vote Sunday night on a three-week version — without any further breakthroughs on immigration — would make a deal even harder to reach.

“What we are trying to avoid is a vote that fails tonight,” she said.

Lawmakers hope to reach a deal before Monday, when federal employees would normally return to work, to lessen the impact of the shutdown.

But as the shutdown continues, bipartisan immigration conversations between the No. 2 leaders in the House and Senate have stalled. Cornyn and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have refused to meet with their Democratic counterparts — Durbin and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) — since the shutdown began.

And much of the partisan rancor and finger-pointing that defined the first 24 hours of the impasse continued.

Democrats blasted Trump for walking away from an immigration deal with Schumer on Friday that they say could have prevented the shutdown.

“How can you negotiate with the president under those circumstances where he agrees face-to-face to move forward with a certain path and then within two hours calls back and pulls the plug?” Durbin said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

Schumer offered Trump support for the border wall in exchange for a deal to protect the nearly 700,000 so-called Dreamers facing deportation. But since then, Republicans and Democrats have publicly sparred over whether Schumer was offering full funding for the wall or not.

Republicans, meanwhile, accused Democrats of taking “hostages” in order to strong-arm the GOP into an immigration deal that has eluded Congress for years.

“This is the Democrats trying to hold our military hostage for an issue that has been with us for decades,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said on ABC. “I think we need to resolve it — the president wants to resolve it — but you don’t do that in the middle of a shutdown.”

But even Republicans seemed uncomfortable defending a Trump campaign ad saying Democratic leaders would be “complicit” in murders committed by undocumented immigrants during the shutdown. Republican leaders know they will need Democratic cooperation to break the shutdown logjam.

“I don’t know if that’s necessarily productive,” Ryan said of the Trump ad.

Democrats have criticized what they say is Trump’s absence from the negotiations, particularly as it remains unclear what kind of immigration deal the president would sign. Republicans say they can only agree to a deal backed by the White House. Administration aides rebutted that portrayal of the president’s involvement, saying he and his top staffers had spoken Sunday with key members of Congress about shutdown negotiations and preparations.

“I think he should, instead of throwing tweets from the White House, pull together the four leaders of the House and Senate on a bipartisan basis today and negotiate,” Coons said on “Fox News Sunday.”

So far, Trump has not called for a meeting with the “Big Four” congressional leaders — McConnell, Schumer, Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — and Republicans on the Sunday news shows gave no indication he would do so. But White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said Trump has been in touch with GOP leaders throughout the weekend.

“The president has been involved,” Short said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Yesterday he was speaking to Leader McConnell, Leader Ryan. He also spoke to Kevin McCarthy.”

John Bresnahan and Rachael Bade contributed to this report.

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No breakthrough on shutdown as both sides dig in

On the first full day of the government shutdown, Republicans and Democrats arrived at the Capitol to continue negotiations, but there was no indication of a quick resolution as each party pinned the crisis on the other.

Republicans are accusing Democrats of prioritizing “illegal immigrants” over American citizens by insisting that protections for young immigrants facing deportation be included in any spending deal. Legislation that the House passed but that the Senate blocked late Friday included six years of funding for health care for poor children.

Democrats say the situation is a product of President Donald Trump’s constantly shifting positions and chaotic leadership.

Further complicating a potential breakthrough: Republicans say they won’t negotiate on immigration while the government is shut down.

“I think it’s more difficult to get any agreement on DACA in a shutdown,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy while walking into a Saturday morning meeting with GOP leaders. He was referring to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, shielding hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation, known as DREAMers.

“My advice is: If they got government open again, they’re more likely to get an agreement,” McCarthy added.

House GOP leaders huddled in the Capitol on Saturday morning after some of them privately scoffed at a tentative framework to reopen the government being discussed by a bipartisan group of senators.

Under the strategy — conceived by GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona — Senate Democrats would agree to reopen the government and fund agencies until Feb. 8. In exchange, they would secure a vote on a bipartisan DREAMers bill. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled that he might go along, Senate Democrats also wanted a commitment from Speaker Paul Ryan to include the bill in must-pass legislation in the House.

But McConnell would not agree to that demand, senators said, because he cannot bind the House to a Senate deal.

And Ryan, who did not participate in negotiations with the Senate on Friday, insisted that the Senate needed to approve the House bill to fund the government until Feb. 16, H.R. 195 (115).

“We were not party to any negotiations, and our only message to the Senate all day yesterday was pass our bill to keep the government open,” AshLee Strong, Ryan’s spokeswoman, said in a statement. “The government shut down because Senate Democrats decided to hold the entire federal government and children’s health insurance hostage. It’s pretty straight forward.”

House GOP leaders don’t appear to be budging from that position.

“We passed our bill; they need to deal with their issues in the Senate,” Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) said Saturday morning.

In the Senate, leaders remained stalled Saturday morning on the issue of when a DACA vote would take place. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer continues to oppose a plan to fund the government through early February unless there is a commitment to an immigration vote in both chambers, several sources in both parties say.

But on Saturday morning, Senate Democratic leadership aides said there was no movement on any of these issues.

Trump, meanwhile, has cancelled a previously planned trip to Florida. The president on Friday held negotiations with Schumer at the White House, but the two failed to agree on a deal.

Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to blast Democrats for the shutdown.

“Democrats are holding our military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning. “Can’t let that happen!”

He added: “#AMERICA FIRST!”

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McMaster makes his pick to replace Powell on the NSC

The White House has settled on a new deputy national security adviser to succeed Dina Powell, the inner-circle adviser who left the building last week — but while the title will match Powell’s, the role is expected to change.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster has chosen Nadia Schadlow, a current member of the National Security Council and the lead author of the administration’s National Security Strategy, for the role of deputy national security adviser for strategy, according to multiple White House officials. But her new role has yet to be announced by the White House.

In plucking Schadlow to succeed Powell, McMaster is making a switch that brings a longtime colleague with a rare academic background into President Donald Trump’s West Wing. Schadlow holds a doctorate from the Johns Hopkins Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. The last West Wing aide who went by “Dr.” was former adviser Sebastian Gorka, whose degree came from a little-known institution, Corvinus University in Budapest.

McMaster, a three-star Army general, has known and worked with Schadlow — whose background is in research, not government — for close to a decade.

But Powell’s departure deprives McMaster of a close ally known for her unparalleled network of relationships both inside and outside the West Wing, according to White House aides and outside advisers.

That threatens to leave McMaster, who has struggled to overcome a rocky relationship and general difficulty communicating with Trump, more isolated in the West Wing.

“H.R. will lose on administration intel, and ties to some very key officials,” said one outside adviser close to the White House, noting that Powell’s close bonds with Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and the president himself have benefited by-the-book McMaster, who has had trouble learning how to schmooze with Trump.

A former official in the George W. Bush administration who also worked in the State Department under Condoleezza Rice, Powell served as a guide and support for McMaster, an active-duty military officer, in the chaotic Trump White House.

But given the loss of Powell, outside advisers to the White House said they saw Schadlow’s promotion as a positive move for an administration that at times has struggled to recruit experience and talent. The post, which will now by occupied by someone widely respected in her field, was in the early days of the administration held by a former Fox News commentator, K.T. McFarland.

“I’ve known Nadia for years,” said Elliott Abrams, a neoconservative foreign policy expert who served in the George W. Bush administration. “She has a wide and deep knowledge of national security issues, both diplomatic and military.”

In her recent book, “War and the Art of Governance,” for instance, Schadlow outlines a historical argument for why military leaders should factor in the political and economic reconstruction of states before entering into any armed conflict abroad.

Powell pushed hard for Schadlow to succeed her in the post after she decided months ago that she planned to leave the administration around the one-year mark, according to people familiar with the discussions. Often the only woman in the room during national security meetings and in the Situation Room, Powell made it clear that it should be a priority to keep a woman in the high-level post after her departure.

Powell’s replacement, multiple White House officials said, has been lined up and ready to roll out since the New Year, and Schadlow’s colleagues on the National Security Council have been informed about her impending promotion. But the White House has delayed making any official announcement about the job, putting Schadlow in an unexplained, temporary state of limbo.

That mirrors the current state of many high-level West Wing positions, where new staffers are already functioning in their roles and occupying new offices, with no official sign-off or rollout.

Former White House lawyer Jim Carroll, for instance, has been operating as the de facto deputy chief of staff since his predecessor, Kirstjen Nielsen, was confirmed as secretary of homeland security in December, even working out of her old office. But the White House has yet to make an announcement or officially name him to the post.

The government shutdown, which began Friday night at midnight, does not affect staffers on the NSC.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and NSC spokesman Michael Anton did not respond to requests for comment about Schadlow or whether chief of staff John Kelly has signed off on the pick.

In the interim, Powell took steps to ease the transition.

Over the past few months, she introduced Schadlow to every member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Cabinet. In her role as lead writer of the National Security Strategy, a document that serves as a blueprint for the White House’s “America First” foreign policy outlook, Schadlow also sat down with every member of the Cabinet for briefings and traveled to Aspen, Colorado, with McMaster last summer to present an early version of the plan to the Aspen Security Group.

But Schadlow is expected to be a very different partner for McMaster.

While Powell was known for keeping a hand in personnel decisions, trip planning and working as part of Kushner’s close-knit team dedicated to Middle East peace efforts, Schadlow’s past research has focused on Russia and Europe.

Where Powell also traveled regularly with the president aboard Air Force One, forging a personal bond with him and even being short-listed for the position of chief of staff, Schadlow has had limited interactions with the commander in chief, outside of briefing him on the National Security Strategy.

Powell has also worked closely and traveled with Defense Secretary James Mattis, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Schadlow comes to the position with a preexisting relationship with Mattis — but as a relative newcomer to the other major players in Trumpworld.

“These roles are always defined by the person who fills them,” said one former national security official, noting that Schadlow is more of a foreign policy scholar-wonk in the mold of Avril Haines, the first female deputy national security adviser, who served in the Obama administration.

“These jobs are blank slates, not statutorily defined jobs,” the former official added. “The personalities really make a difference.”

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The 270 people connected to the Russia probes

A POLITICO analysis reveals that the investigations into the 2016 election and its aftermath now involve hundreds of people in Washington, Moscow and around the world.

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Shutdown politics weigh on State of the Union preparations

The government shutdown is complicating the White House’s plans for the upcoming State of the Union address, dimming some administration officials’ hopes that President Donald Trump would use the high-profile speech to strike a more bipartisan tone.

After weeks of quiet planning, senior White House officials led by Stephen Miller had already drafted key parts of the speech before Congress came to an impasse over immigration and border security, bringing the federal government to a standstill. Now the president’s speechwriters and other top advisers are weighing how to reflect the divisive politics of the shutdown in the address, according to two administration officials.

With the midterm elections looming and the president polling poorly, some of Trump’s advisers had counseled him to use the speech to map out a more middle-of-the-road approach to the year ahead. But the shutdown has poisoned the chances of bipartisan legislative breakthroughs on Capitol Hill and deeply damaged the president’s relationship with Democrats.

The theme and tone of the speech are now “in flux” because of the shutdown, one White House official told POLITICO.

“Now is a natural time for the president to pivot from partisan activities to bipartisan activities. But the shutdown is all about partisan politics,” said the official, who speculated that the president’s frustrations over the shutdown will bleed into the final draft of the speech, especially if the government remains shuttered for several days.

A White House spokesman did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

The speech planning comes as Trump is slated later this week to travel to Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum, the heart of the globalist elite, to celebrate his tax reform victory. But he is now caught up in a domestic drama that threatens to overtake both the trip and the Jan. 30 address.

Despite the uncertainty, some elements of the speech are set in stone. The address is likely to focus heavily on two key issues: immigration and national security, according to aides.

The president is also expected to use the speech to preview a series of upcoming trade decisions, which could result in a more aggressive posture toward China.

White House aides had seen the speech as a vehicle to kick off Trump’s infrastructure push by putting pressure on Democrats to support infrastructure legislation, arguing that the public widely supports efforts to improve the country’s crumbling roads and bridges. An infrastructure bill faces huge hurdles on Capitol Hill, but the White House nonetheless hopes to release a more detailed plan soon after the speech.

Senior White House aides have been quietly working on the speech for weeks, with the president offering handwritten feedback on drafts.

Miller and staff secretary Rob Porter are taking the lead on crafting the address, along with White House speechwriters Vince Haley and Ross Worthington. In addition to the president, more than a dozen top White House and administration officials have weighed in on early drafts, including chief of staff John Kelly.

In late December, Porter sent an email to top officials at federal agencies and senior staff members on the White House’s policy councils soliciting a list of policy priorities and anecdotes that could be folded into the speech, according to three people who have seen the memo.

Porter and Miller have met several times to narrow the list and begin turning the feedback from administration officials into draft text. Parts of the speech have already been circulated to White House policy aides, agency heads and the White House Office of Management and Budget for review, officials said.

The White House has not yet finalized the list of guests who will sit alongside first lady Melania Trump during the speech, but one aide said at least one of them is expected to have a back story aimed at promoting the president’s goal of improving border security.

The exact contours of Trump’s message on immigration during the speech will depend on how long the shutdown drags on and whether Republicans and Democrats can reach a deal to protect hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as minors. Still, aides said Trump is certain to talk about the need for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and for beefing up border security.

Democrats and some Republicans are unlikely to appreciate the involvement of Miller, Trump’s immigration policy adviser, with the speech.

In recent days, lawmakers have complained that Miller pushed Trump to the right on immigration and stood in the way of a deal to end the shutdown.

“As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we are going nowhere,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters on Sunday.

Nancy Cook and Sarah Karlin-Smith contributed to this report.

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The Pentagon’s Secret UFO Program

According to a recent BBC news report, the United States Pentagon has been conducting research into unidentified flying objects, or UFO’s as part of a secret program since 2007 and up until 2012, when it closed. A minute number of government officials were aware of the research. The program known as the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Programme was the brainchild of a retired Democratic senator and the Senate majority leader at the time.
The CIA released pages upon pages upon pages of previously classified documents. These documents, according to the New York Times, contained information regarding weird and speeding aircraft and hovering objects.

The former senator from Nevada, Harry Reid tweeted that the program was an effort to seriously get the truth out, amidst “plenty of evidence to support asking the questions”.

The Department of Defense is reported to have paid over $20 million to the program. Although the DOD closed the program in 2012 in order to cut national costs, certain officials have still kept up with it, investigating sightings and suspicious objects to this day.

Retired government officials delving into the world of conspiracy and aliens is nothing new, however. They have been doing this since the 1980’s for various purposes. Some are guilty of establishing franchised companies under the guise of revelation and higher intelligence, when, in actuality, there is nothing more than a pyramid scheme.

Recently, it would appear Tom Delonge, lead vocalist of the popular band, Blink 182 has fallen victim to one of these schemes. To The Stars Academy is a franchise founded by Delonge and – surprise – a whole slew of former government workers. Delonge describes their mission as something along the lines of enlightening society through means of both art and science. He plans on putting out tons of fictional entertainment in order to assimilate new information regarding alien technology into our current society. In order words: the goal is to make money from the public’s notorious curiosity and hope regarding extraterrestrial life.

Congress stuck in shutdown stalemate

Republicans and Democrats spent the first day of the government shutdown Saturday trading partisan shots and making little headway on a compromise to quickly break the impasse.

Returning to the Capitol for a rare Saturday session, Republicans accused Democrats of prioritizing “illegal immigrants” over American citizens by insisting that protections for young immigrants facing deportation be included in any spending deal. Legislation that the House passed but that the Senate blocked early Saturday included six years of funding for health care for poor children.

Democrats countered that the situation is a product of President Donald Trump’s constantly shifting positions and embrace of the most hard-line stance on immigration. They took aim as much at Trump as their GOP congressional counterparts, betting that the public would be inclined to believe that the president’s chaotic leadership style caused the shutdown.

“Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) quipped on the Senate floor Saturday, the one-year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration.

Both sides dug in on Saturday, signaling they were prepared for a longer impasse. Both sides tried to hammer each other on their political messaging. And it was clear that the respective party leaders believed the other had badly misjudged the mood of the country.

Republican leaders are now contemplating a stopgap funding measure that runs through Feb. 8, which top Democrats still oppose without a commitment to ensure an immigration deal can get through both the House and the Senate. Democrats objected to the GOP’s request to hold the vote on Saturday, prompting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to threaten to foist another late-night vote on the weary chamber.

“I assure you, we will have a cloture vote at 1 a.m. on Monday unless there is a desire to have it sooner,” McConnell warned on the floor early Saturday evening.

Schumer and Trump, who had met for an Oval Office lunch just one day prior to try and broker a deal, did not communicate all day Saturday. And further complicating a potential breakthrough: Republicans say they won’t negotiate on immigration while the government is shut down.

“I think it’s more difficult to get any agreement on DACA in a shutdown,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy heading into a meeting with GOP leaders Saturday. He was referring to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, shielding hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation, known as Dreamers.

White House Legislative Director Marc Short, who attended a closed-door meeting of House Republicans, echoed that stance.

“I think the administration’s position is that as soon as they reopen the government, we’ll resume negotiations on DACA,” Short told reporters. “It’s hard to negotiate on that when they’re keeping our border agents unpaid, our troops unpaid, not paying for American services.”

Trump, who canceled a weekend trip to Florida to celebrate his first anniversary in office, spoke with Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Saturday morning, aides said.

House Republicans scoffed at a tentative framework to reopen the government being discussed by a bipartisan group of senators.

Under the proposal — conceived by GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake — Senate Democrats would agree to re-open the government and fund agencies until Feb. 8. In exchange, they would secure a vote on a bipartisan Dreamers bill. While McConnell signaled that he might go along, Senate Democrats also wanted a commitment from Ryan to include the bill in must-pass legislation in the House.

But McConnell would not agree to that demand, senators said, because he cannot bind the House to a Senate deal. Graham and Flake have started meeting quietly with well over a dozen fellow senators, both Democrats and Republicans, to hammer out a compromise.

“My hope is that this bipartisan group will go back to the leaders of both parties and try to find a way to move forward,” Graham said as he left Saturday’s meeting, held in the office of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

But all along, Ryan has insisted the Senate needs to approve the House bill to fund the government until Feb. 16 as a starting point for any broader agreement.

“We were not party to any negotiations, and our only message to the Senate all day yesterday was pass our bill to keep the government open,” AshLee Strong, Ryan’s spokeswoman, said in a statement. “The government shut down because Senate Democrats decided to hold the entire federal government and children’s health insurance hostage. It’s pretty straight forward.”

During a House GOP conference Saturday morning, Ryan told Republicans that they were doing the right thing in refusing to negotiate beyond accepting a three-week stopgap spending plan. He noted that headlines in national publications said Democrats — not Republicans — had shut down the government.

Ryan also predicted that Democrats would soon recognize that they’d overplayed their hand and were already looking for a way out. House members applauded his stand. Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) at one point stood up to say that Schumer was acting to help “illegal immigrants” at the detriment of his daughter, who serves in the military. Defense hawks argue that shutdowns cripple the nation’s readiness and the troops.

While Trump and Republicans blamed Senate Democrats for the shutdown, Democrats claimed it was Ryan’s unwillingness to let the House vote on any Dreamers’ package that led to the first government closure since 2013.

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who attended a meeting of House Democrats on Saturday, told them it was Ryan’s resistance to a DACA fix that caused Democrats to block a bill that would have kept the government open until Feb. 16, triggering the shutdown. Republican aides refuted Durbin’s account.

“We have received mixed signals from Speaker Ryan,” Durbin said. “We just want the assurance that if we do reach a bipartisan compromise on the floor of the Senate, that it won’t have the fate of the comprehensive immigration bill [in 2013] which was never even considered by the House.”

Democrats also slammed Trump for failing to force Ryan and McConnell to make a deal.

“Durbin says [Schumer] and [McConnell] negotiated off floor last night. Mitch stepped out to take a call from Paul Ryan. Came back and said, ‘Bet’s off,'” one House Democrat told POLITICO.

“The main takeaway: There are lots of paths in the House and Senate that the Republican [House] leadership is thwarting. They don’t want a deal,” added Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.). “The Trump White House is missing in action.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the dispute was over much more than just Dreamers. Fairness in spending allocations between defense and non-defense programs is also at stake, she said.

“I have said, and I will say it again, that we are willing to go to a short-term [continuing resolution] if in fact we have come to a conclusion and agreement on [spending] parity, which is important to us,” Pelosi said at a news conference. Such a deal could include more money for defense and border security, she added.

In the Senate, leaders remained stalled Saturday on the issue of when a DACA vote would take place, and it appeared later Saturday that a vote was not likely to occur. Schumer continues to oppose a plan to fund the government through early February unless there is a commitment to an immigration vote in both chambers, several sources in both parties say.

Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to blast Democrats for the shutdown.

“Democrats are holding our military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning. “Can’t let that happen!”

He added: “#AMERICA FIRST!”

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Trump wants a kinder, gentler, shutdown

Trump administration officials are determined to keep large segments of the government open even after Congress failed to approve a funding bill late Friday night, saying they don’t want to “weaponIze” the government shutdown to score political points.

If lawmakers remain deadlocked over the weekend, most government employees have been instructed to arrive at work Monday morning for a few hours to close up shop. Some agencies, including the Department of Interior and Centers for Disease Control, will continue to provide some services for as long as they can with the money they have.

The tactic to keep doors open for as long as possible is a departure from the government shutdown of 2013, when President Barack Obama, a Democrat, made a show of closing national parks and other public-facing facilities in an effort to increase pressure on Republicans to cut a deal.

“The Obama administration weaponized the shutdown in 2013,” Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters Friday. “The only conclusion I can draw is they did so for political purposes. So it will look different this time around.”

On Saturday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was on the National Mall tweeting about National Park Service workers on the job this morning. Zinke, who said he will keep as many public lands open as possible, bumped into workers heading out for the trash pick-up on the Mall and
chatted with visitors at the World War II Memorial, where veterans had stormed barricades in 2013 to protest that year’s shutdown.

Mulvaney said he has encouraged agencies to use funds they already have to keep providing as many services to the public as possible, which he said was a departure from the Obama administration’s approach in 2013.

“They did not encourage agencies to use carry forward funds, funds that they were sitting on, nor did they encourage agencies to use transfer authority,” Mulvaney said. “They could have made the shutdown in 2013 much less impactful, but they chose to make it worse.”

Still, plans for the shutdown seem to vary widely across agencies and it’s not clear that President Donald Trump or his administration has an overriding strategy. Smithsonian Institution museums are open today, for example, but some national monuments, including the
Statue of Liberty and Ellis island, aren’t.

And with little time to prepare for Friday night’s vote, in which Congress failed to approve short-term operating funds, decision making at some federal agencies remains fluid.

The Centers for Disease Control late Friday reversed an earlier decision to shut down support to states and localities during one of the worst flu seasons in recent memory. As midnight Friday approached, the center amended its plans to ensure “immediate response to urgent disease outbreaks, including seasonal influenza.” CDC will continue collect and distribute data to help state and local health officials combat the flu, the center’s updated contingency
plan said.

Other agencies said they’ll do what they can to keep operating.

The Federal Communications Commission will tap unused funds to stay open through at least next Friday, an agency spokesman said. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which is funded by user fees, will open its doors Monday. “In the event of a shutdown, the USPTO will remain open and operate as normal,” agency spokesman Paul Fucito said.

At the Department of Defense, Secretary Jim Mattis urged members of the armed forces and other defense employees to “hold the line” as the Pentagon continued key military missions and curtailed others.

“We will continue to execute daily operations around the world — ships and submarines will remain at sea, our aircraft will continue to fly and our warfighters will continue to pursue terrorists,” Mattis said in a memo shortly the midnight shutdown Friday.

During the shutdown, active-duty troops and some civilians performing critical jobs will continue to work, but won’t be paid. Other civilian employees will be furloughed.

Several agencies with lower public profiles, including the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Labor, and Education, instructed employees to show up Monday for a few hours of shutdown preparation, such as handing off duties to higher-up essential personnel and writing out-of-office replies for email.

In a videotaped message to staff, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson decried the politics of the shutdown but said said payments to HUD-assisted households would continue.

“No one will be displaced because of the shutdown,” Carson said. Politics should not interfere with the support we provide.”

At the Department of Homeland Security, employees were told to complete their timesheets by the end of the week and learned who would be furloughed.

“It’s pretty demoralizing, which is not what we need right now,” one DHS official said.

Staffers in the ombudsman’s office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services worked Friday to process urgent requests. While most of USCIS will remain operational during a shutdown, the ombudsman’s office – which provides individual immigration case assistance — will halt its work.

Air traffic controllers were deemed essential and showed up for work today, but more than 4,000 Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors had been furloughed as of midnight, according to the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union. Sales and maintenance of plans came to a halt.

The FAA said there would be “no immediate impact on critical safety functions.”

And the hundreds of thousands of government employees who will keep working won’t be collecting pay as long as the shutdown continues.

“The military will still go to work. They will not get paid. The border will still be patrolled. They will not get paid. Folks will still be fighting the fires out West. They will not get paid. The parks will be open. People won’t get paid,” Mulvaney said. “We are going to manage the shutdown differently. We are not going to weaponize it. We’re not going to try and hurt people, especially people who happen to work for this federal government.”

Adam Cancryn, Margaret Harding McGill, Nancy Scola, Li Zhou, Connor O’Brien, Benjamin Wermund, Kathryn Wolfe and Ted Hesson contributed reporting.

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Welcome to Trump’s whatever shutdown

Little of the congressional drama that precipitated the weekend’s government shutdown made its way to the White House Saturday.

Previous presidents have projected an air of crisis during shutdowns, but President Donald Trump stayed out of the public eye, sticking to his preferred mode of communication—Twitter—while expressing annoyance to aides that the disruption is keeping him away from an evening bash at Mar-a-Lago celebrating the one-year anniversary of his inauguration.

White House aides, too, say they are relatively relaxed. Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Friday that he discovered Friday that it fell to him to shut down the government – “which is kind of cool.”

Welcome to the whatever shutdown.

The attitude permeating the Trump administration reflect, to some degree, the confidence that comes from finding that the world keeps spinning every time they do something they’ve been warned would have dire consequences, like withdrawing from the Paris climate accords or announcing plans to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

According to a half-dozen White House officials and outside advisers, Trump is viewing the shutdown through a similar lens, a view encouraged by White House aides, including senior adviser Stephen Miller and congressional liaison Marc Short, who urged him on Friday not to give in to Democratic demands, particularly on immigration.

Several presidential advisers expressed confidence that Democrats, who offered no philosophical objections to the 30-day continuing resolution approved by House Republicans, wanted to make a statement but don’t want to hurt federal workers, tens of thousands of whom will be staying home from work without pay if government funding isn’t restored by Monday morning.

Two presidential aides said they expect the current crisis to be resolved by the end of the weekend.

But Democrats themselves are sending a different message, at least publicly – giving no indication they are ready to buckle to pressure. “It’s important,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said of the shutdown’s impact on federal workers. “But I was just at the women’s march this morning and there are a lot of federal workers there and…they were basically: ‘You need to stand up to this guy.’”

One House Democrat said he was relieved his party had finally “grown a spine.”

The White House has responded by shrugging it off, hewing to a consistent message: This shutdown won’t hurt as much as the one President Barack Obama oversaw five years ago.

Mulvaney drew the comparison repeatedly on Saturday, telling reporters that national parks and monuments would remain open, though they were closed in 2013; that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would continue to protect Americans for this year’s flu outbreak; and that, in another departure from five years ago, the activities of the Environmental Protection Agency would continue uninterrupted.

He also argued that Democrats today are being more unreasonable than were Republicans in 2013. “We were asked to vote for something in 2013 that we did not approve of,” said Mulvaney, who, as a South Carolina congressman, supported the 2013 shutdown because the government-funding bill required lawmakers to approve funding for Obamacare, a federal program to which they vehemently objected.

Other West Wing aides were playing it cool as well.

“This seems so banal compared to 2013, when the two sides were actually fired up and there was a cause,” said a senior presidential aide. The 2013 shutdown, precipitated by Republican attempts to prevent funds from flowing to the Affordable Care Act, lasted 17 days. “Everybody figures this is going to resolve itself by the end of the weekend,” the aide said.

“It will be nothing compared to Obama’s shutdown,” said another senior White House official, though the 2013 shutdown was roundly blamed on Republicans.

Trump himself, who has yet to appear in public since the shutdown early Saturday morning, is sticking with the message that Democrats will take most of the heat, though he privately joked to staff that he knows he’ll get blamed—because he always does.

Though he hasn’t appeared before the cameras, he was active on Twitter throughout the day on Saturday, writing: “This is the One Year Anniversary of my Presidency and the Democrats wanted to give me a nice present. #DemocratShutdown.”

In photos released late Saturday by the White House, Trump and top staff appeared relaxed and smiling.

White House aides said that they think Trump’s Twitter microphone is enough, and they don’t believe the president needs to make official remarks to bring the shutdown to a close.

Indeed, Trump’s own erratic behavior in negotiations last week—including his remarks to lawmakers that many immigrants come from “shithole” countries—helped precipitate the breakdown in spending talks on the Hill by hardening the positions among party rank-and-file on both sides and giving Democrats a ready-made excuse to walk away from the negotiating table on immigration.

Since then, he’s been a bit player in the shutdown drama – the absence of his direction and leadership driving events more than its presence.

The irony is that while many had high hopes that Trump’s election augured a new era of bipartisanship in the country, the government shutdown is the clearest evidence yet that hasn’t materialized.

Instead, a year into his first term, the president – who won the election railing against the political system – finds himself trapped inside it, waiting for the political leaders he holds in contempt to set him free.

Annie Karni and Seung Min Kim contributed to reporting.

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Parties fear shutdown fallout ahead of midterms

The government shutdown has both parties scrambling to predict its impact on a political environment that had turned decidedly against President Donald Trump and the Republican Party ahead of the midterm elections.

Republicans, fully in charge of Washington and fearful that voters will punish them for failing to keep the government open, have quietly taken steps in recent weeks to gauge the possible fallout. America First Action, the principal pro-Trump group, has polled to see how the public would respond to a shutdown – and to see which party it would blame. The organization is exploring the possibility of airing ads that buttress the party.

On Saturday morning, American Action Network, a pro-House GOP outside group, began airing commercials blaming the shutdown on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Concerns over a shutdown extend to the highest levels of the GOP, with some officials warning that it could further jeopardize the party ahead of a perilous midterm election.

“A government shutdown never ends well for Republicans, and it seldom ends well for the party in power,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican.

If the government shuts down, he added, “we’ll get the lion’s share of the blame.”

Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican who is retiring, was equally blunt in a Friday interview.

“If there is a shutdown I suspect that we Republicans, since we control all three branches of government, will be blamed – whether we deserve it or not,” he said.

Yet the shutdown could be disruptive for Republicans in other ways. The failure to keep the government open, party strategists worry, threatens to distract from their successful tax reform push – a long-sought Trump legislative accomplishment. Republican officials had hoped to turn the tax bill into a centerpiece of the 2018 campaign, so much so that during a recent political briefing with the president at Camp David, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy stressed the need to highlight the benefits of the legislation.

“We will be squandering any good will that’s starting to formulate as a result of tax reform,” said Robert Blizzard, a veteran GOP pollster who is advising a number of congressional candidates.

Yet the impact of a federal shutdown can be hard to predict. It was widely expected that Republicans would face serious political repercussions when the government last shut down in 2013. Instead, they went on to seize control of the Senate and win the largest House majority since the Herbert Hoover presidency.

Some Republicans see potential political benefit to the shutdown, arguing that it could upend the political landscape and put newfound pressure on Democratic senators from conservative states up for reelection. Republicans are preparing to cast them as soft on immigration, charging that they refused to vote for the bill because they favored illegal immigrants over funding the military and children’s insurance programs. Democrats objected to the proposed government funding bill because it did not include protections for recipients of DACA, which expires in March.

On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote in a tweet that Senate “Democrats have a choice to make,” between the health care program and DACA. “This should be a no-brainer,” he added.

“If Trump state Democratic senators get tagged with closing military for illegal immigrants it will be deadly,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who presided over the lower congressional chamber during the 1995 shutdown.

Democrats, too, are trying to make sense of the crisis, with strategists poring over polling numbers from the 2013 shutdown in search of lessons. But even those who are convinced the 2014 midterm results prove voters won’t punish the party held responsible believe there’s a slim chance this time may be different. Widespread discontent with Trump and the Republican Party’s total control of government, they argue, makes this shutdown different.

“The [2013] shutdown was bad for the GOP in the moment, but larger trends overcame the hit they took,” said David Axelrod, a longtime top adviser to former President Barack Obama.

“What is different here is that they now have a president, and he will define the fall election, and a shutdown should amplify concerns many already share,” he added. “If he is viewed as a source of chaos and dysfunction, it will be a burden the Republicans will carry into November.”

Democrats spent much of the week laying the groundwork for a blame-Trump campaign. The Democratic National Committee, for instance, circulated a talking points document to surrogates, lawmakers, staff and elected officials.

“Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House. Any government shutdown falls 100% on the Republican Party, the party in power,” read the memo. “At no point in this country’s history have we ever seen one party control all the levels [and] branches of government and still fail to do their basic job of keeping the government open.”

The memo proposes using the shutdown to establish a broader narrative that “this is Trump’s Republican Party: Chaos, incompetence, and destruction.”

And on Friday morning, American Bridge, the party’s leading opposition research super PAC, held an hour-long strategy session to figure out how to spin the short-term blame game into longer-term message that could be used in this year’s races for the midterms. The group decided to prepare a round of digital ads attacking Republicans including Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, who is facing a treacherous path to reelection.

Still unclear, however, is whether voters will remember the shutdown when they head to the polls in November. The answer is likely depend on a variety of factors, such as how long the shutdown lasts, how the markets react, and how it’s resolved.

“Nobody will remember this if we get a good outcome,” said Graham.

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