FORECAST: Chances of a shutdown increasing exponentially by the moment.
A QUICK REVIEW: This morning, a House Republican Conference meeting went haywire, with southerners complaining about not having disaster money in the stopgap bill to keep government open until Feb. 8, and conservatives wanting the fight they’ve been promised on the border wall.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, backed up by his allies in the House Freedom Caucus, MARK MEADOWS of North Carolina and JIM JORDAN of Ohio, is signaling they are ready to fight for border wall money as part of this year-end government funding package.
THE PRESIDENT TWEETS — @realDonaldTrump at 10:28 a.m.: “When I begrudgingly signed the Omnibus Bill, I was promised the Wall and Border Security by leadership. Would be done by end of year (NOW). It didn’t happen! We foolishly fight for Border Security for other countries — but not for our beloved U.S.A. Not good!”
NYT’S MAGGIE HABERMAN (@maggieNYT): “Source close to White House says potus is in ‘tailspin’ this AM about the CR.”
SPEAKER PAUL RYAN, MAJORITY LEADER KEVIN MCCARTHY, MAJORITY WHIP STEVE SCALISE, MEADOWS and JORDAN are among the big names meeting with TRUMP.
THIS SHOULDN’T EXACTLY BE A SURPRISE. A number of Republicans promised the president they’d fight to fund a border wall. And the president believed them. Jordan and Meadows ran alongside Trump on this message, and now they’re itching for the fight.
THIS IS, IN SOME WAYS, the most fitting way to end this wild, wild two-year congressional session. Since January 2017, two pairs of Republicans have been whispering in the president’s ear, giving him divergent views of how to govern: Meadows and Jordan, and Ryan and McCarthy.
WE EXPECT Republicans to go back into HC-5 — their basement meeting room — at some point today to discuss strategy.
SARAH FERRIS and JOHN BRESNAHAN: “‘I think we’re going to put $5 billion for the wall in,’ Jordan told reporters. ‘I’m talking to [Steve] Scalise and Kevin [McCarthy]… That’s definitely the mood of the conference… I think that’s where it’s headed, toward $5 billion for the wall.’ …
“The issue erupted Thursday during a raucous closed-door meeting. Rank-and-file Republicans pressed leadership to take a harder line against the Senate’s recently passed spending bill by demanding money for the border wall, as well as emergency disaster aid for wildfire and hurricane recoveries.” POLITICO
HOW WILL THIS SHAKE OUT? Well, if we had to guess, the GOP is going to put $5 billion in the stopgap somehow. That might or might not pass the House — attendance is down big time, with 52 people missing the last vote this morning. If the bill does clear the House, it will go to the Senate, where it will not go anywhere. Then there will be a choice: Enough Republicans get on board with Democrats to pass the stopgap, or keep the government shut down until Jan. 3, when NANCY PELOSI will be able to open it up.
THE GOVERNMENT SHUTS DOWN at midnight tomorrow evening.
Good Thursday afternoon.
THE INVESTIGATIONS … CNN’S LAURA JARRETT: “Exclusive: Whitaker told he does not need to recuse himself from overseeing Mueller investigation”: “Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker has consulted with ethics officials at the Justice Department and they have advised him he does not need to recuse himself from overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, a source familiar with the process told CNN Thursday. …
“Whitaker is expected to inform senators, many of whom have raised ethics concerns given his past criticism of Mueller’s investigation, about this development later Thursday, the source said.” CNN
— REBECCA MORIN: “Rosenstein: AG nominee’s memo had ‘no impact’ on Mueller probe”
— L.A. TIMES’ DEL QUENTIN WILBER (@DelWilber): “[Rod] Rosenstein hints at more news today in the Mueller probe. In response to question about who is overseeing Mueller probe, DAG Rosenstein said there would be more on that ‘later today.’”
— CNN’S JEREMY HERB and MANU RAJU: “House Intelligence panel votes to send Roger Stone transcript to Mueller”
MORE SYRIA FALLOUT — WAPO’S ANTON TROIANOVSKI in Moscow: “Putin backs Trump’s move to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, says Islamic State dealt ‘serious blows’”: “Russian President Vladimir Putin praised President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, describing the American presence there as illegitimate and the Islamic State as largely defeated on the ground. …
“Putin was tougher on Trump on the issue of arms control. He said there are currently no negotiations with the United States on extending a soon-to-expire nuclear arms control treaty, raising the risk of a situation that would be ‘very bad for humanity.’” WaPo
— FOX NEWS’ JENNIFER GRIFFIN (@JenGriffinFNC): “Sr U.S. defense official tells me: The President made the decision to pull out of Syria last Fri Dec 14 after speaking with Turkish President Erdogan, who told Trump Turkish forces were planning to enter Syria to go after the Kurdish PKK and warned U.S. troops to get out of the way.”
SPY GAMES — ERIC GELLER: “Trump administration, U.S. allies condemn China for brazen cyberattacks”: “The Chinese government broke its promise to stop hacking U.S. businesses and stealing their trade secrets, the Trump administration declared Thursday, ratcheting up tensions between two of the world’s cyber superpowers and adding fuel to a trade war that has spooked global markets.
“To emphasize the point, the Justice Department on Thursday indicted two Chinese hackers for a long-running economic espionage campaign that resulted in the theft of hundreds of gigabytes of data from companies and government agencies.” POLITICO
ON THE KOREAN PENINSULA — “N. Korea says it won’t denuclearize unless U.S. removes threat,” by AP’s Kim Tong-Hyung in Seoul: “The surprisingly blunt statement jars with Seoul’s rosier presentation of the North Korean position and could rattle the fragile trilateral diplomacy to defuse a nuclear crisis that last year had many fearing war. …
“The statement suggests North Korea will eventually demand the United States withdraw or significantly reduce the 28,500 American troops stationed in South Korea, a major sticking point in any disarmament deal.” AP
IMMIGRATION FILES — TED HESSON: “Migrants must wait in Mexico during immigration proceedings”: “The Trump administration will compel certain asylum seekers to remain in Mexico during the course of their asylum hearings, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said today.
“Nielsen said in a written statement that migrants who arrive at the border ‘illegally or without proper documentation’ could be returned to Mexico for the duration of their immigration proceedings. … The announcement came as the secretary was set to testify at an oversight hearing before a House Judiciary Committee this morning. Democrats were expected to grill Nielsen over the death of a 7-year-old girl in Border Patrol custody last week.” POLITICO
THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION — THE GUARDIAN’S EMILY HOLDEN: “Trump conservation pick triggers question of ‘favoritism or connections’”: “The White House’s nominee to head a top U.S. conservation agency lacks her predecessors’ experience, while her political connections raise potential conflicts of interest …
“Aurelia Skipwith, who started her career at the agrochemical giant Monsanto, has been nominated to lead the interior department’s Fish and Wildlife Service … But Skipwith’s record shows no background in conservation before she joined the Trump administration less than two years ago … While in law school, she worked with two consulting firms which were founded or co-founded by her fiance [Leo Giacometto], a politically well-connected Montanan who runs in the same circles as the outgoing interior secretary, Ryan Zinke.” The Guardian
WAPO’S DARRYL FEARS, JULIET EILPERIN and JOSH DAWSEY: “Zinke was a rising star in Washington. Then he joined the Trump administration”: “[Ryan Zinke] was a one-term congressman who had blazed a political trail in his home state. His star was so bright that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) lobbied against his Cabinet appointment, thinking Zinke was almost a sure bet to defeat Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who was reelected this year. To some liberal conservationists, Zinke appeared to be a conservative who could bridge the partisan divide. The Senate confirmed him with 68 votes.
“But Zinke was anything but bipartisan. His zeal in carrying out President Trump’s vision of ‘American energy dominance’ by boosting coal and gas production on public lands angered Democrats who supported him, and his tendency to overstep the limits of his power at Interior worried Republicans and the president.” WaPo
2020 WATCH — ALEX THOMPSON: “Perez nixes ‘undercard’ debates for 2020 primary”: “With the prospect of upwards of 20 Democrats running for president in 2020, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez announced on Thursday that the party would split up candidates by random selection and host debates on consecutive nights if there were too many candidates, opting not to try and fit them all on one stage or sort debate appearance by polling numbers. …
“The DNC Chairman also told reporters that the DNC would be hosting twelve debates during the 2020 primary with the first two being held in June and July of 2019. There will be a total of six in 2019 and six in 2020. The first four early states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina — will not host debates until 2020.” POLITICO
— BUZZFEED’S HENRY GOMEZ: “How Sherrod Brown Turned His Rumpled Authenticity Into A Brand — And Gave Himself A Good Story To Tell In 2020”: “His brand — a reluctant, rumpled guy fighting for you — also demands that he not appear too eager to be president. Right now, though, there is no Democrat working harder to build a national profile. … He is imprinting his slogan — his advisers prefer to call it a mantra or mission statement — onto the brains of anyone watching. On a good day, he can work ‘dignity of work’ into an interview at least six times.” BuzzFeed
ALEX THOMPSON and DANIEL STRAUSS: “Top official to depart Democratic National Committee”: “Amanda Brown Lierman, the committee’s political and organizing director and one of the highest-ranking black women in the party, will depart after helping lead the committee during the 2018 midterm elections. … It was not immediately clear what Brown Lierman would do next.” POLITICO
TOP-ED — SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA.) in POLITICO MAGAZINE: “Democrats Need to Start Talking About National Security”: “[W]e are curiously absent on national security messaging, despite the fact that many of our officeholders have strong expertise on the topic. We should speak up and speak out on behalf of strengthening security, supporting our troops and veterans and restoring robust diplomacy and alliances to keep us safe. …
“Americans want leaders who can keep them safe and grow the economy. Our success in 2020 and beyond will depend on us showing voters that Democrats are a better bet to do it.” POLITICO Magazine
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — OUTGOING REP. BARBARA COMSTOCK (R-VA.) will be a visiting fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics for the spring semester program. She announced last week that she’s moving her 10th Congressional District Young Women Leadership Program to George Mason University.
MEDIAWATCH — Peter Mendelsund and Oliver Munday will join The Atlantic as creative director and senior art director. They previously were at Alfred A. Knopf.
SPOTTED at Rep. Joe Crowley’s (D-N.Y.) going-away party last night at the Dubliner (Crowley played a number of songs): House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Chaplain Patrick Conroy, Bret Wincup, Lauren French, Sara Conrad, Mary Beth Stanton, Carlos Sanchez, Kate Winkler, Jim Moran and Reps. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Marc Veasey (D-Texas), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), David Price (D-N.C.) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.).
TRANSITIONS — Danielle Aviles Krueger will join Lyft’s federal public policy team. She was most recently deputy floor director for House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). … Adam Sharp will be president and CEO of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. He previously was head of news, government and elections at Twitter.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Zach Hunter, communications director at the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Mallory Hunter, VP of Mason Strategies and a Trump WH alum, on Wednesday welcomed William “Billy” James Hunter, who was born at 9:46 p.m. and came in at 8 lbs 12 oz. and 21.5 inches long. Pic … Another pic