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    Is this the year Georgia turns blue?


    Emboldened by statewide victories last year in Virginia and Alabama, Democrats are setting their sights this fall on another Deep South prize once thought to be out of reach: Georgia’s governorship, a seat the party hasn’t held in more than 15 years....

    Emboldened by statewide victories last year in Virginia and Alabama, Democrats are setting their sights this fall on another Deep South prize once thought to be out of reach: Georgia’s governorship, a seat the party hasn’t held in more than 15 years.

    The party has two major candidates with a lot in common: Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans are both veterans of the Georgia state House. Both are running as unapologetic liberals who see a path to victory guided by tapping into black voters, whom they see as an electoral sleeping giant — and courting suburban whites who usually vote Republican but are repelled by President Donald Trump.

    It’s a strategy that worked for Democrats in the special election for a Senate seat in Alabama last month. Doug Jones ran up huge margins among African-American voters, who showed up in droves, while running stronger than other recent Democratic candidates in the state’s suburban counties.

    Now, Abrams and Evans are testing whether that model can work in Georgia, where the party has lost four consecutive gubernatorial races.

    Democrats, of course, have been talking up their chances of competing in the Deep South for years, only to be disappointed until Jones’ surprise win. In 2013, former aides to President Barack Obama launched Battleground Texas, an effort to turn the state blue over several election cycles, only to watch Democrat Wendy Davis get crushed in her bid for governor in 2014. In Georgia the same year, ballyhooed Democratic candidates for governor and senator — Jason Carter and Michelle Nunn, both from political royalty — also lost handily.

    In both cases, Democrats said shifting demographics in the South — specifically an influx of young and minority voters — could put some states in play. That wasn’t enough then. This time, though, they think the combination of demographics and Trump’s dismal ratings might be.

    An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll earlier this month showed that only 37 percent of voters in the state approve of the job Trump is doing, while 59 percent disapprove.

    “This is a unique moment,” said Carter, a former state senator and grandson of Jimmy Carter. Though he conceded that the scandals surrounding Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore contributed to the party’s victory in Alabama, “The bottom line is if there’s a path to victory in Alabama — then in Georgia, the door is wide open.”


    Abrams, who is seen as the nominal favorite, has sought to build a national profile in part with endorsements from some big-name Democrats: Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander and former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, who runs the Bernie Sanders-aligned outside group Our Revolution. Abrams’ campaign has focused on building a ground operation; she said last week she is opening nearly a dozen new field offices.

    Evans, on the other hand, has been endorsed by more than a dozen lawmakers in the state Legislature, as well as the state’s most recent Democratic governor, Roy Barnes.

    And while both candidates are seeking to build similar coalitions, there are some differences. Abrams thinks Democrats can change the electorate by targeting liberal and minority voters outside metro Atlanta.

    “I know that to win this election, we have to be granular. We have to go to voters directly and have conversations, and I would say that in previous years on the Democratic side of the aisle, we have not gone deep enough,” Abrams said in an interview. “We have ignored potential voters because they did not fit a national narrative of the type of voter we should have. We ignored communities of color. We ignored progressive communities that were not in metro areas.”

    Evans, in a separate interview, agreed — but stressed that the party needs to reach out to suburban and rural whites, too.

    “Increasing base turnout, increasing African-American turnout is vital,” Evans said. “We’ve got to have that increased minority, base turnout. But we also saw in both [Virginia and Alabama] a huge increase in the white vote, particularly from suburban areas, coming over for Democrats.”

    “We will not likely win the northwest and northeast Georgia counties, but we cannot perform as poorly as we have in the past and be afraid to compete for those voters,” Evans added. “I’m not suggesting that we go and get these votes by being Republican-lite.”


    The state’s political map isn’t static, some Democrats say, and the party’s nominee could build a different coalition and ride it to victory this fall.

    “You’re looking at a state where the demographics are changing in a much more rapid fashion than they are overall nationally,” said Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, who recently conducted surveys in Atlanta for the mayoral race there. “Georgia is one of the states where you are seeing more rapidly the demographic transformation from majority-white, to majority-minority.”

    In 1990, 27 percent of Georgians were African-American, according to the census. By 2016, that percentage was up to 32 percent.

    But blacks’ participation in elections lags their representation by population. According to the secretary of state’s office, African-Americans currently constitute 30 percent of registered voters. And only 41 percent of black registered voters submitted ballots in the most recent midterm election, in 2014, lower than the white turnout rate of 47 percent.

    Jones’ victory in Alabama provides a blueprint for what can happen when African-Americans are motivated to vote — particularly in an off-year election, when minority turnout rates tend to lag behind those of whites. Tom Bonier, a Democratic data strategist, analyzed individual voter files and found that roughly 45 percent of black registered voters turned out in Alabama — including 48 percent of black women — and African-Americans made up roughly 3 in 10 voters, a higher percentage than even in the 2016 presidential election.

    “That was driven largely by black women having a huge surge in turnout,” Bonier said. “There are components in the election in Alabama that are absolutely transferable because they’re representative of a larger trend happening in the country, and there are components that aren’t. … Certainly, the high level of engagement and intensity, especially among black voters, is absolutely transferable. Black voters are a large share of the electorate in Georgia already.”


    Publicly, Republicans peg Democrats’ chances of winning the gubernatorial election as a faint possibility. But privately, some Republicans are less confident.

    “The Republicans have a very weak field of candidates,” a veteran Georgia Republican strategist, offered anonymity to assess the field candidly, said of the gubernatorial race. The strategist said the two leading Republican candidates in the primary, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp, are deeply flawed. (Incumbent GOP Gov. Nathan Deal is term-limited.)

    More worrisome, the strategist said, is that Evans or Abrams could woo suburban women who usually vote Republican. “Georgia Democrats know our problem is women — white suburban women,” the strategist said. “We’re bleeding them.”

    Illustrating their fears of losing a key demographic, Republican strategists who specialize in gubernatorial races have begun holding focus groups to gauge the likelihood of a suburban mass exodus to Democrats.

    Chip Lake, another Republican strategist, said as long as Republicans aren’t complacent there’s no danger of ceding the governorship to Democrats.

    “This state is changing much like the country’s changing. Although, look, Georgia’s been a red state for a long, long time,” Lake said. “The reality is we should be able to win the state if we don’t take anything for granted. I’m certainly not taking anything for granted.”

    Still, some Republicans acknowledge that it’s a matter of when — not if — Georgia becomes more competitive.

    “I think Georgia will certainly be in play — probably [in the] 2022, 2024 time frame,” another veteran Georgia GOP strategist acknowledged.


    Schumer's shutdown performance sparks unrest in his ranks


    California’s two Democratic senators could barely contain their anger after Chuck Schumer cut a deal with Mitch McConnell to reopen the government on Monday — and deal later with the 200,000 Dreamers in their state facing deportation.“I’m...

    California’s two Democratic senators could barely contain their anger after Chuck Schumer cut a deal with Mitch McConnell to reopen the government on Monday — and deal later with the 200,000 Dreamers in their state facing deportation.

    “I’m disappointed with a conversation that suggests a false choice: You either fund the government or you take care of these … kids. We can do both,” Sen. Kamala Harris fumed. It would be “foolhardy” to trust McConnell, she said of the majority leader’s promise to take up an immigration bill in the coming weeks.

    The Democratic strategy going in was to use their leverage in the government funding fight to help Dreamers, lamented Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who had expressed grave misgivings about a shutdown days earlier.

    “I trust that because the leadership did it this way, that they must know something I don’t,” she said.

    The turn of events Monday marked the most serious cracks in the unity Schumer has painstakingly built within his caucus since he became Democratic leader a year ago. After holding almost all Democrats together through fights over the Supreme Court, health care, taxes and even Friday’s vote that shut down the government, Schumer is now under attack from the left and confronting pointed criticism of his negotiating skill.

    His performance resulted in a Democratic-led shutdown — and an agreement with McConnell that provided no guarantee of a new immigration law. But multiple Democratic senators and aides told POLITICO in the aftermath that it might have been Schumer's only way out: He couldn’t go against the bulk of his left-leaning caucus in fighting for DACA recipients. But he also could not allow the shutdown to drag on for so long that it began hurting his vulnerable incumbents.

    “That’s where a majority of caucus was going. So he represented his caucus,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who voted with Republicans on the roll call that shut down the government on Saturday morning.


    No Democratic senator suggested that Schumer’s leadership is under any threat after his agreement with McConnell to fund the government through Feb. 8. The deal included a pledge from McConnell to begin debating an immigration bill if no agreement has been reached on the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

    But progressive senators were visibly miffed by what their leader had just done, even if they did not publicly go after him.

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) repeated any question about the spending deal with the answer: “We’ll have a statement.” And asked whether Schumer’s standing has been hurt by the negotiation, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) replied: “I’m not going to get into that right now.”

    “I know there’s disagreement in the caucus about this. But both sides understand each other,” Murphy said. “When the immigration debate comes to the floor, we’re going to be united to get these Dreamers the best protection.”

    Added Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who opposed Schumer’s deal with McConnell: "He's doing a great job under very difficult circumstances."

    But liberal groups were furious, threatening in a conference call with progressive senators on Monday to spend money against Schumer and his vulnerable incumbents this fall, according to a person on the call. Those groups put out barbed statements, with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee casting Schumer and supporters of his deal as “weak-kneed."

    “It’s Schumer’s job to lead and keep his caucus together to fight for progressive values, and he didn’t do it,” said Ezra Levin, co-executive director of the activist group Indivisible.

    Schumer also faced questions from liberal senators about his decision last week to put President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall on the negotiating table. Schumer responded to them Saturday by pointing to positive news clips as evidence that his position was being received as reasonable by the media, according to two Democratic sources.

    And during a Monday gathering with progressives including Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Booker, Schumer faced pointed questions about what is actually going to happen after the new Feb. 8 deadline comes and goes, a source briefed on the meeting said. At one point, Schumer asked those senators what other deal was available for Democrats to take, the source said.

    In the end, Schumer found himself under attack from liberals he’s spent months courting. Schumer declined to respond to any criticism of him on Monday afternoon, but aides said he was at peace with how the conflict with McConnell and Trump had played out.

    And he also proved to Republicans he’s more than just a Trump antagonist.

    “We’d hoped he’d be the dealmaker,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). “He did definitely get spooked months ago on this issue … and by the anti-Trump folks showing up at his house. That’s definitely had an impact on his deal-making abilities. Hopefully we’ll see more [of the kinds of agreements struck Monday].”

    McConnell ultimately made a commitment to hold an immigration debate on the Senate floor if a group of senators working on a compromise can’t reach a deal that can get 60 votes. In the view of Schumer allies, the pledge to take up a bipartisan bill, rather than a conservative bill, was an off-ramp from the shutdown worth taking, given McConnell’s vague statements on the matter earlier.


    But McConnell was not going to go any further than that. After reviewing polls and the Senate map this year — 10 Democrats face reelection in states that Trump won — McConnell concluded a lengthy shutdown would hurt Democrats more than Republicans, according to a Republican aide. Likewise, the Democratic Caucus began sensing quickly that a long shutdown over immigration would begin damaging the sympathetic public view of Dreamers, a Democratic aide said.

    For Schumer, the shutdown was the culmination of a complex internal Democratic crisis that’s been brewing for months. Since October, a steady march of progressive senators took the position that they would no longer vote to fund the government without protection for young immigrants facing deportation by a March 5 deadline. And in the view of Senate Democrats, McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan were dithering on immigration while Trump nixed any bipartisan deal that was floated.

    His response to the squeeze was a mixture of the partisan who ran messaging for the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm for years, and the centrist-minded dealmaker who works out with Republicans in the Senate gym regularly. Schumer led almost his entire caucus into a vote to shut down the government on Friday and rejected an offer from McConnell on Sunday night that was similar — albeit less firm — than the one he accepted hours later.

    “They had to do it, because that’s where their base is right now and they have to prove these threats are serious. I think they had to wave the bloody flag,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).

    “Sen. Schumer believed in what he was doing. But you can also believe that two plus two equals five,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.).

    Just two days after the shutdown began with near unanimous Democratic support, Schumer successfully implored most of his members to back his deal with McConnell. Senators and aides said privately that Schumer never stopped searching for a way out of the shutdown — so when he saw what he considered a face-saving deal from McConnell, he had to take it.

    Once the shutdown began, he continued to try to get out of the jam even while engaging in hand-to-hand combat with McConnell. On the floor Sunday afternoon, Schumer gloated that #TrumpShutdown was trending on Twitter and #SchumerShutdown was not.

    “We’ll work on that,” McConnell replied with a wry smile, according to a source briefed on the conversation.

    Speaking with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on Monday morning at the gym, Schumer sought to find out what kind of immigration bill McConnell would agree to take up. Alexander told Schumer that he might be majority leader one day, and it would be best for him not to set the precedent of the minority dictating the legislative calendar to the majority, two Republican sources said.

    A bipartisan group of senators that began meeting late last week provided the cover that both Schumer and McConnell needed. That group of more than 20 senators convened in the office of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday hoping to drive a solution to the shutdown.


    And though Schumer discussed the outlines of those talks with liberal senators who opposed them, he also quietly blessed the bipartisan working group.

    Schumer "was encouraging us to try to keep the discussions going so that we could get a resolution,” said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with the Democrats.

    By the time progressives met Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Sunday night, they knew their position was eroding, said a Democratic staffer with knowledge of the meeting.

    But one hang-up for Democrats was McConnell. Citing a stalled commitment he made years ago to take up a bill to revive the Export-Import Bank and vague recent statements on immigration, Democrats regard McConnell as untrustworthy. They believe he prefers to legislate through partisan broadsides instead of finding common ground.

    But the emergence of the moderate group's Republican members — and their private pledges to work together on immigration — was enough to push 33 Democrats across the finish line in support of Schumer, including his entire leadership team.

    “I have no trust in the Republican leadership,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).

    Indeed, even those who voted against Schumer’s deal were largely willing to let him off the hook. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said in an interview that he would “put the onus all on the GOP.”

    “None of us really feel like we can count on a fair immigration vote occurring on the floor of the Senate,” Merkley said, given that McConnell has made other promises “that have never been fulfilled.”

    But despite all the Democrats' reservations, what mattered most in bringing the shutdown to an end were the two Senate leaders.

    “Schumer trusts him,” Feinstein said of McConnell.

    John Bresnahan and Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.


    Liberals livid after deal to end shutdown


    Liberal activists are furious with Democratic senators after most of them agreed to reopen the federal government without a firm path to shielding young immigrants from deportation. As the third day of the shutdown dawned, liberal advocates and...

    Liberal activists are furious with Democratic senators after most of them agreed to reopen the federal government without a firm path to shielding young immigrants from deportation.

    As the third day of the shutdown dawned, liberal advocates and immigration groups fired off a joint statement blasting as “unacceptable” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s offer merely to hold a vote on immigration — with no promises for action from the House or White House — in exchange for Democratic votes to reopen the government. But three hours later, Democratic senators agreed to just those terms — sparking anger on the left.

    “Millions of people flooded the streets of every major American city to stand up to Trump this weekend,” tweeted Leah Greenberg, co-executive director of the influential activist network Indivisible. “Your constituents want you to fight. How can you possibly not understand that?”

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday argued Democrats secured critical assurance for Dreamers, who are at risk for deportation as soon as March after President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.


    “We have a way to address the fate of the Dreamers, starting right now instead of waiting until March,” Schumer said on the floor.

    But activist groups that have provided his caucus crucial firepower during fights against GOP health care and tax bills were not buying that explanation.

    Murshed Zaheed, political director of the liberal group CREDO Action, said Democrats’ decision shows Schumer’s willingness to betray progressives.

    “Call it the #SchumerSellout,” he said in an interview. “Hashtagged.”

    Ben Wikler, Washington director of MoveOn.org, slammed McConnell’s offer to Democrats and lamented the minority’s splintering over protecting Dreamers.

    “What’s clear from today’s joke deal is that the grass-roots movement demanding unity and courage has a lot of work to do to ensure that the whole Democratic Caucus is ready to fight when the time comes,” he said in an interview.

    United We Dream Executive Director Cristina Jiménez, whose group has mobilized its grass roots to push for Dreamer protection, tweeted that “Dems failed to fight & use their leverage to protect immigrant youth. A false promise to vote on immigration from Rs is not a strategy to win. We won’t be fooled. This vote means deportation.”

    Not every group on the left lambasted Senate Democrats on Monday.


    Organizing for Action, an offshoot of the political organizing arm built by former President Barack Obama, attempted to keep the blame for the three-day shutdown on the GOP, even as it offered faint praise for the Senate agreement.

    “The good news for the American people is that the government shutdown — a crisis needlessly manufactured by Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and the White House — will soon be over,” OFA spokesman Jesse Lehrich said in a statement. “But let’s be clear: This stopgap measure is not a solution. It’s merely a band-aid for a self-inflicted wound that remains untreated.”

    Schumer spokesman Matt House urged all supporters of Dreamer aid to come together around securing the strongest possible showing for an immigration deal next month, when McConnell has vowed to move to a debate on the issue.

    “Let’s take advantage of the renewed attention and sympathy for Dreamers, and focus on winning the vote 17 days from now,” House wrote in an email.

    House Democratic leaders are expected to vote against the Senate’s three-week government funding patch, which cleared a key procedural hurdle on an 81-18 vote. That opposition may ensure that the ire of activists remains trained on the upper chamber, where only 16 Democrats voted against advancing the stopgap bill.



    Trump re-engages after quiet shutdown weekend: ‘He’s like Houdini’


    The shutdown drama taught White House aides a lesson: When it comes to President Donald Trump, sometimes less is more.For about 48 hours this weekend, Trump kept an unusually low profile, making no public appearances and keeping his direct contact with...

    The shutdown drama taught White House aides a lesson: When it comes to President Donald Trump, sometimes less is more.

    For about 48 hours this weekend, Trump kept an unusually low profile, making no public appearances and keeping his direct contact with lawmakers — especially Democrats — to a minimum. Instead, the president left the heavy lifting to his staff, temporarily suppressing his instinct to invite lawmakers to the White House to strike a grand bargain.

    The hands-off strategy emerged after Trump met with top White House aides on Friday night. Frustrated with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who had been invited in for what wound up being an unproductive meeting earlier in the day, Trump and his team decided to call Democrats’ bluff, issuing a statement at 11:58 p.m. declaring that the president “will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands.” House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell followed suit with similar statements.

    For the rest of the weekend, Senate Democrats barely heard a word from Trump’s team, leaving them hanging while government agencies closed their doors.


    In the end, the stand-back-and-watch approach paid off, putting pressure on Senate leaders to reach an agreement to open the government on their own — and delivering Trump a much-needed victory, according to half a dozen White House officials and advisers.

    The approach represented a sharp departure from recent months, when Trump’s off-script and sometimes contradictory comments during meetings with lawmakers of both parties — from an hourlong televised meeting with congressional leaders in which the president seemed open to abandoning his own policy positions to his closed-door comments about not welcoming immigrants from “shithole” countries — sent immigration negotiations careening off track.

    But White House officials were careful to avoid the perception that they were taking a victory lap too soon. Instead of sending Trump out to the Rose Garden to gloat, like he did after House Republicans passed a bill to repeal Obamacare, aides made a strategic decision to have press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a 71-word statement declaring that he’s “pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses.” Trump took a similarly staid approach to signing the bill reopening the government.

    Republicans and Democrats in Congress still have to find a compromise in the next three weeks on immigration to boost border security and protect hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors — and there are already signs the president, who prides himself on his deal-making ability, is eager to reinsert himself in the middle of the negotiations.

    One close White House adviser predicted this victory, coupled with the passage of the historic tax bill and the healthy state of the economy, would only embolden Trump to return to his habit of getting directly involved in trying to orchestrate events.

    “It’s a foregone conclusion he’s going to escape,” another White House adviser said Monday. “He’s like Houdini. If you keep him in a cage, he’s going to get out.”


    After the Senate voted to move ahead with ending the shutdown, Trump immediately hosted several Republican senators at the White House, including Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas and immigration hard-liner Tom Cotton of Arkansas, to discuss what could pass in the Senate. He also met with two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Doug Jones of Alabama, breaking his brief silent treatment.

    White House aides said the president remained engaged throughout the weekend, even if he wasn’t in the Capitol negotiating an end to the shutdown. The president stayed in touch via phone with key Republican lawmakers, including Cornyn, McConnell, Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

    But the president, who made a show earlier this month of hosting senators from both parties at the White House, made a decision not to speak with Democrats once the shutdown started, forgoing further efforts at bipartisan dealmaking.

    “Since our meeting in the Oval Office on Friday, the president and I have not spoken, and the White House refused to engage in negotiations over the weekend,” Schumer said Monday. “The great dealmaking president sat on the sidelines."

    Asked on Monday about the decision to cut Schumer and the Democrats out, Sanders said, “Look, what the president did clearly worked.”

    Trump, for his part, spent the weekend calling friends and allies for advice on how to handle the shutdown, the first in his tenure as president, and ask how it was playing in the media.

    Worried about polling that showed a large portion of the public blamed Trump and the Republicans for the shutdown, aides mobilized on Friday to shift the blame to Democrats and ensure that the president didn’t become the de facto face of the crisis.

    For a White House that rarely stays on message, sticking to the same simple talking points and coordinating with congressional Republicans was seen as something of a triumph among West Wing aides and outside advisers, who have long complained about a lack of cohesive messaging.

    A senior House aide said the White House learned the importance of message discipline during the tax reform debate, the White House’s only major legislative success so far.

    The White House kept Trump out of the spotlight almost entirely through the weekend — a feat for a publicity-hungry president — and canceled a public event on school choice at the White House on Monday before it was clear the shutdown would end. Instead, Trump’s only public commentary came through a handful of relatively anodyne tweets that stayed on message and avoided the name-calling — “cryin’ Chuck Schumer” or “Dicky Durbin” — that has been a staple of his social media outbursts.

    Instead of the president, White House legislative director Marc Short and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney became the administration’s public face of the White House response, so much so that aides took to calling their weekend performances in front of the camera the “Mick and Marc Show.”

    “There is nothing in this bill Democrats say they object to; yet it’s like a two-year-old temper tantrum to say, ‘I’m going to take my toys and go home because I’m upset about something else,” Short said Saturday. “It has nothing to do with this bill. And Senate Democrats are basically conducting a two-year-old temper tantrum in front of all of the American people.”

    Trump, who obsessively watches and grades his aides’ appearances on television, was pleased with Short and Mulvaney, and he praised them on Saturday in Sanders’ office, urging his team to “hold the line,” according to a White House official.

    Behind the scenes, Short, Mulvaney, and chief of staff John Kelly represented the White House on Capitol Hill, with Kelly focused on talks with congressional leadership and Short and Mulvaney on wooing rank-and-file members to a deal.


    Trump’s aides spent the weekend making the case to the president that the shutdown is the Democrats’ problem — and emphasizing that it was Senate leaders’ job, not his, to fix it.

    “They told him, ‘The more you’re involved, the harder it’s going to be to work to negotiate the solution,” according to an outside adviser close to Trump. “And they told him that the longer the government stays closed, the more likely he is to get blamed.”

    From the beginning, top administration officials said, they believed that Democrats would move quickly to reopen the government “once they made their point,” in the words of a White House aide — though the White House delayed the departure of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to Switzerland for the Davos conference until the Senate came to an agreement, and even weighed canceling the trip.

    The politics of the shutdown became much starker on Monday, when thousands of federal employees were instructed not to come to the office and when the Democrats insistence to negotiate on immigration as part of a spending bill fell on deaf ears at the White House.

    “I’ll be honest with you, in my entire career in politics, I have never seen Democrats voluntarily walk themselves into a situation this bad,” said Josh Holmes, McConnell’s former chief of staff. “The only thing Republicans have to say is, ‘Where are your priorities? Are they with American troops and sick poor kids or illegal immigrants?”


    Why the shutdown battle is only on pause


    Washington will be back on the brink in less than three weeks. Lawmakers may have pulled themselves out of a debilitating government shutdown Monday, but the fight over immigration and spending that’s ground virtually all congressional business to a...

    Washington will be back on the brink in less than three weeks.

    Lawmakers may have pulled themselves out of a debilitating government shutdown Monday, but the fight over immigration and spending that’s ground virtually all congressional business to a halt is far from over. And the fundamentals of the debate haven’t changed at all.

    Republican leaders are under increasing pressure from their own members to reach a long-term budget agreement by Feb. 8, when the government next runs out of money. Their defense hawks are desperate to increase defense spending, a key 2018 priority for President Donald Trump. And their members are sick of voting on short-term funding bills that they say cripple the military.

    But in order to strike any long-term budget accord, at least nine Senate Democrats are needed for passage. And while Democrats’ strategy of shuttering the government until securing relief for Dreamers blew up in their faces Monday, they can still withhold support for a long-term budget deal to get what they want on immigration.

    “We’re here to fight another day,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.). “I think we still have an opportunity to win this.”


    Democrats may be unlikely to force another shutdown after suffering such an embarrassing defeat. But a top aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi confirmed Monday that she will continue to withhold support for a long-term budget agreement until a bipartisan immigration deal is reached. And Republicans and Democrats are still far apart on immigration — meaning Congress may soon be facing another spending stalemate.

    “The caps discussion will continue and Democrats will continue to link the two issues,” said the Pelosi aide. “Eventually the defense hawks are going to rise up. Republican leadership will be under immense pressure to get his caps deal done from their own members.”

    Some Republican leaders are holding out hope that Democrats’ shutdown defeat will bring them to their knees on a long-term budget accord. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise said Democrats are “not going to be able to play the same game in a few weeks.”

    “They’ve tried to bring the two issues [budget and DACA] together, and it didn't work for them,” the Louisiana Republican said. “The responsible thing to do would be to have honest negotiations over a long-term budget deal so we can have certainty for our military.”

    Other Republicans, however, are not so confident that Democrats will give up their leverage on the matter.


    “I have believed that for months that there is no caps deal without DACA,” said Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), referring to strict spending caps that Democrats and Republicans hope to increase for their own defense and domestic priorities. “I think sequentially DACA has to come first.”

    To be sure, Democrats have lost some leverage to fix the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. No longer can they threaten to withhold their votes to keep the government open hoping to scare Republicans into caving to their immigration demands. Republicans called their bluff, and ultimately Democrats caved in what progressive activists have now labeled the “#SchumerSellout.”

    What’s more, Schumer put Trump’s border wall on the table in negotiations over the weekend — showing flexibility on the matter that may only embolden Republicans to push harder for concessions.

    But there’s a difference from learning a lesson on the shutdown strategy and agreeing to a long-term budget solution without DACA, Democrats say.

    In the Senate, GOP leaders acknowledged the difficult negotiating that lies ahead. The No. 3 Senate Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, told reporters Monday afternoon that Congress is probably not going to pass a long-term budget deal in the next three weeks and suggested another stopgap may be needed.

    Some House appropriators and some defense hawks agreed.

    “I think that they found that this [shutdown] didn’t work, so they may be reluctant to take the same path next time. But I am very concerned about getting defense funded,” said House Armed Services Committee member Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) “I don’t know what’s changed. We’ll see what 10½ legislative days brings.”

    Asked if he was any more confident that Democrats would strike a spending deal without DACA, Rep. Mike Simpson joked sarcastically, “Oh yes! I’m very positive that leadership is going to get on that!”

    The Idaho Republican seemed more annoyed with his own leaders’ unwillingness to close the deal than with Democrats holding up the spending agreement for an immigration deal.

    “We’re set up for another CR,” he said. “Unless leadership is going to get busy on a budget deal ASAP”


    Democrats are betting that pressure from rank-and-file Republicans will force leadership to address DACA, particularly as GOP defense hawks in both chambers have threatened to sink government funding because they’re sick of stopgap bills. And more and more Republicans are increasing the pressure on their leaders to find a solution.

    While applauding the GOP’s victory on the shutdown standoff Monday afternoon, conservative House Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker cautioned that the fight is not over because Republicans need a resolution on government funding for the entire year.

    “I don’t want to get too excited because we’re still in a CR, which is a tool of the minority,” the North Carolina Republican said. “Maybe [the win] sets a precedent, knowing in the future that we can hold the line and get results. But before we start rolling kegs through Statuary Hall, we’ve got more work to do.”

    Heather Caygle, John Bresnahan and Elana Schor contributed to this report.


    Congress votes to end shutdown


    In a dramatic turnaround, Senate Democrats voted to reopen the government on Monday after receiving a commitment from Republicans to hold a vote on immigration legislation — paving the way to end the three-day shutdown.The Senate voted 81-18 to move...

    In a dramatic turnaround, Senate Democrats voted to reopen the government on Monday after receiving a commitment from Republicans to hold a vote on immigration legislation — paving the way to end the three-day shutdown.

    The Senate voted 81-18 to move forward on a bill to fund the government through Feb. 8 after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed to end the shutdown and continue to negotiate on immigration and spending matters. If a broader deal is not reached by Feb. 8, the Senate would take up legislation to protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who are losing legal protections, as long as the government remains open.

    Later Monday, the stop-gap spending bill passed the Senate 81-18 and was sent to the House for final passage, where it sailed through on a 266-150 vote. President Donald Trump subsequently signed the bill.

    "The process will be neutral and fair to all sides," Schumer said of the immigration commitment from McConnell. "We expect that a bipartisan bill on [the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program] will receive fair consideration and an up-or-down vote on the floor."

    Democrats had been deeply skeptical of McConnell’s commitment, but indicated after a party strategizing session late Monday morning that they’re willing to trust the majority leader.

    “I’m encouraged by commitments Leader McConnell has made,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said, emerging from the meeting. “I’m looking forward to the vote and I think it will be important that we take a step forward.”


    Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said that Democratic leaders faced a “practical question ... Are you going to achieve more by holding out?” or by accepting McConnell’s offer.

    Coons and King were part of a group of at least two dozen senators who began meeting late last week in the office of Sen. Susan Collins to broker a deal to stave off a shutdown — much like the effort that the Maine Republican led in 2013.

    To try and keep the peace, Collins wouldn't let any senator in the room talk unless they were holding a "talking stick" — which one aide later said was a Maasai leadership stick that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) gave Collins a few years ago. At one point, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee forcefully tossed the stick toward Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia after Warner interrupted him, nearly shattering a glass elephant belonging to Collins, according to two people briefed on the throw. After that incident, Collins suggested using a small rubber ball, and Alexander also brought his own basketball "because it’d be safer than a stick," an aide said.

    The insistence by Democrats that they came out ahead weren't enough to tamp down furor from their liberal base. And Republicans were gleeful that Democratic senators had caved without any substantive wins.


    Trump said in a statement after the noontime Senate vote that he was "pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses." Democrats pushed back, saying they extracted a promise from McConnell to take up immigration on the Senate floor that they would not have secured without the showdown.

    "This is the first time in history that under Republican control, that we’re gonna take up this issue on the floor," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). "The only other time we’ve taken up immigration is under Democratic leadership. So there’s no way Leader McConnell would’ve done this had we not stood firm."

    Earlier, McConnell had stressed that the Senate wouldn't move on immigration bills until the government was operating again. A group of Democrats huddled with McConnell on the Senate floor after his remarks.

    Democrats, feeling burned about the House neglecting the Senate’s immigration bill in 2013, had wanted a more ironclad commitment from GOP leaders to take up a legislative fix to DACA, which has given legal protections to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants.

    But McConnell's mere promise for a DACA vote ultimately was enough to persuade most Democrats to get on board.

    Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) defended McConnell as a "trustworthy, honorable person" and said Democrats should take the Kentucky Republican at his word.


    "I realize there's a trust deficit up here generally, but I think one of the first steps to regaining that trust is for the leader to make that commitment and follow through on it," Cornyn said, adding that McConnell's oral pledge to Democrats is "all they're gonna get."

    Later Monday, Cornyn quietly went to the White House with a handful of other GOP senators — Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, David Perdue of Georgia, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and James Lankford of Oklahoma — to tell Trump "some thoughts on what could get bipartisan support" in the Senate on immigration. Moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Doug Jones of Alabama went to the White House for their own meeting on immigration later Monday afternoon.

    Before the vote Monday, much of the Senate was in a blur.

    A group of Democrats who consult regularly with Schumer — including Coons, Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Bill Nelson of Florida, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan — filed into Schumer’s office before the Senate opened, trying to make sense of the last 24 hours.

    “There’s been a lot of positive progress made,” Stabenow said. “No one wants to shut down the government.”

    Added Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who wanted commitments from McConnell to work on community health centers: “I believe a man’s word is his bond, so I’m going to take McConnell the same way.” Still, Tester ultimately voted against the stop-gap measure.

    The short-term spending bill also includes a six-year funding renewal of a popular children’s health insurance program.

    Top lawmakers had started to fear the two parties would become so entrenched in their positions that the shutdown could have dragged on for days.

    “If not today, then I’m not sure,” said a senior House Republican.

    GOP leaders in both Congress and the White House said they wanted nothing to do with immigration negotiations as long as the federal government’s doors are closed.

    “The Democrats are turning down services and security for citizens in favor of services and security for non-citizens. Not good!” President Donald Trump tweeted Monday morning. “Democrats have shut down our government in the interests of their far left base. They don’t want to do it but are powerless!”

    Despite the deal's broad support in the Senate, Democrats in the House had little interest in backing it — primarily because they don't believe Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would bring up a Senate-passed immigration bill in their chamber.

    Both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced at a leadership meeting plans to vote against the short-term bill. But Democratic leaders didn't officially whipped their members against it.

    Heather Caygle, John Bresnahan, Rebecca Morin and Cristiano Lima contributed to this report.



    Congress votes to end shutdown


    In a dramatic turnaround, Senate Democrats voted to reopen the government on Monday after receiving a commitment from Republicans to hold a vote on immigration legislation — paving the way to end the three-day shutdown.The Senate voted 81-18 to move...

    In a dramatic turnaround, Senate Democrats voted to reopen the government on Monday after receiving a commitment from Republicans to hold a vote on immigration legislation — paving the way to end the three-day shutdown.

    The Senate voted 81-18 to move forward on a bill to fund the government through Feb. 8 after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed to end the shutdown and continue to negotiate on immigration and spending matters. If a broader deal is not reached by Feb. 8, the Senate would take up legislation to protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who are losing legal protections, as long as the government remains open.

    Later Monday, the stop-gap spending bill passed the Senate 81-18 and was sent to the House for final passage, where it sailed through on a 266-150 vote. President Donald Trump subsequently signed the bill.

    "The process will be neutral and fair to all sides," Schumer said of the immigration commitment from McConnell. "We expect that a bipartisan bill on [the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program] will receive fair consideration and an up-or-down vote on the floor."

    Democrats had been deeply skeptical of McConnell’s commitment, but indicated after a party strategizing session late Monday morning that they’re willing to trust the majority leader.

    “I’m encouraged by commitments Leader McConnell has made,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said, emerging from the meeting. “I’m looking forward to the vote and I think it will be important that we take a step forward.”


    Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said that Democratic leaders faced a “practical question ... Are you going to achieve more by holding out?” or by accepting McConnell’s offer.

    Coons and King were part of a group of at least two dozen senators who began meeting late last week in the office of Sen. Susan Collins to broker a deal to stave off a shutdown — much like the effort that the Maine Republican led in 2013.

    To try and keep the peace, Collins wouldn't let any senator in the room talk unless they were holding a "talking stick" — which one aide later said was a Maasai leadership stick that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) gave Collins a few years ago. At one point, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee forcefully tossed the stick toward Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia after Warner interrupted him, nearly shattering a glass elephant belonging to Collins, according to two people briefed on the throw. After that incident, Collins suggested using a small rubber ball, and Alexander also brought his own basketball "because it’d be safer than a stick," an aide said.

    The insistence by Democrats that they came out ahead weren't enough to tamp down furor from their liberal base. And Republicans were gleeful that Democratic senators had caved without any substantive wins.


    Trump said in a statement after the noontime Senate vote that he was "pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses." Democrats pushed back, saying they extracted a promise from McConnell to take up immigration on the Senate floor that they would not have secured without the showdown.

    "This is the first time in history that under Republican control, that we’re gonna take up this issue on the floor," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). "The only other time we’ve taken up immigration is under Democratic leadership. So there’s no way Leader McConnell would’ve done this had we not stood firm."

    Earlier, McConnell had stressed that the Senate wouldn't move on immigration bills until the government was operating again. A group of Democrats huddled with McConnell on the Senate floor after his remarks.

    Democrats, feeling burned about the House neglecting the Senate’s immigration bill in 2013, had wanted a more ironclad commitment from GOP leaders to take up a legislative fix to DACA, which has given legal protections to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants.

    But McConnell's mere promise for a DACA vote ultimately was enough to persuade most Democrats to get on board.

    Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) defended McConnell as a "trustworthy, honorable person" and said Democrats should take the Kentucky Republican at his word.


    "I realize there's a trust deficit up here generally, but I think one of the first steps to regaining that trust is for the leader to make that commitment and follow through on it," Cornyn said, adding that McConnell's oral pledge to Democrats is "all they're gonna get."

    Later Monday, Cornyn quietly went to the White House with a handful of other GOP senators — Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, David Perdue of Georgia, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and James Lankford of Oklahoma — to tell Trump "some thoughts on what could get bipartisan support" in the Senate on immigration. Moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Doug Jones of Alabama went to the White House for their own meeting on immigration later Monday afternoon.

    Before the vote Monday, much of the Senate was in a blur.

    A group of Democrats who consult regularly with Schumer — including Coons, Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Bill Nelson of Florida, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan — filed into Schumer’s office before the Senate opened, trying to make sense of the last 24 hours.

    “There’s been a lot of positive progress made,” Stabenow said. “No one wants to shut down the government.”

    Added Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who wanted commitments from McConnell to work on community health centers: “I believe a man’s word is his bond, so I’m going to take McConnell the same way.” Still, Tester ultimately voted against the stop-gap measure.

    The short-term spending bill also includes a six-year funding renewal of a popular children’s health insurance program.

    Top lawmakers had started to fear the two parties would become so entrenched in their positions that the shutdown could have dragged on for days.

    “If not today, then I’m not sure,” said a senior House Republican.

    GOP leaders in both Congress and the White House said they wanted nothing to do with immigration negotiations as long as the federal government’s doors are closed.

    “The Democrats are turning down services and security for citizens in favor of services and security for non-citizens. Not good!” President Donald Trump tweeted Monday morning. “Democrats have shut down our government in the interests of their far left base. They don’t want to do it but are powerless!”

    Despite the deal's broad support in the Senate, Democrats in the House had little interest in backing it — primarily because they don't believe Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would bring up a Senate-passed immigration bill in their chamber.

    Both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced at a leadership meeting plans to vote against the short-term bill. But Democratic leaders didn't officially whipped their members against it.

    Heather Caygle, John Bresnahan, Rebecca Morin and Cristiano Lima contributed to this report.



    Liberals livid after deal to end shutdown


    Liberal activists are furious with Democratic senators after most of them agreed to reopen the federal government without a firm path to shielding young immigrants from deportation. As the third day of the shutdown dawned, liberal advocates and...

    Liberal activists are furious with Democratic senators after most of them agreed to reopen the federal government without a firm path to shielding young immigrants from deportation.

    As the third day of the shutdown dawned, liberal advocates and immigration groups fired off a joint statement blasting as “unacceptable” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s offer merely to hold a vote on immigration — with no promises for action from the House or White House — in exchange for Democratic votes to reopen the government. But three hours later, Democratic senators agreed to just those terms — sparking anger on the left.

    “Millions of people flooded the streets of every major American city to stand up to Trump this weekend,” tweeted Leah Greenberg, co-executive director of the influential activist network Indivisible. “Your constituents want you to fight. How can you possibly not understand that?”

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday argued Democrats secured critical assurance for Dreamers, who are at risk for deportation as soon as March after President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.


    “We have a way to address the fate of the Dreamers, starting right now instead of waiting until March,” Schumer said on the floor.

    But activist groups that have provided his caucus crucial firepower during fights against GOP health care and tax bills were not buying that explanation.

    Murshed Zaheed, political director of the liberal group CREDO Action, said Democrats’ decision shows Schumer’s willingness to betray progressives.

    “Call it the #SchumerSellout,” he said in an interview. “Hashtagged.”

    Ben Wikler, Washington director of MoveOn.org, slammed McConnell’s offer to Democrats and lamented the minority’s splintering over protecting Dreamers.

    “What’s clear from today’s joke deal is that the grass-roots movement demanding unity and courage has a lot of work to do to ensure that the whole Democratic Caucus is ready to fight when the time comes,” he said in an interview.

    United We Dream Executive Director Cristina Jiménez, whose group has mobilized its grass roots to push for Dreamer protection, tweeted that “Dems failed to fight & use their leverage to protect immigrant youth. A false promise to vote on immigration from Rs is not a strategy to win. We won’t be fooled. This vote means deportation.”

    Not every group on the left lambasted Senate Democrats on Monday.


    Organizing for Action, an offshoot of the political organizing arm built by former President Barack Obama, attempted to keep the blame for the three-day shutdown on the GOP, even as it offered faint praise for the Senate agreement.

    “The good news for the American people is that the government shutdown — a crisis needlessly manufactured by Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and the White House — will soon be over,” OFA spokesman Jesse Lehrich said in a statement. “But let’s be clear: This stopgap measure is not a solution. It’s merely a band-aid for a self-inflicted wound that remains untreated.”

    Schumer spokesman Matt House urged all supporters of Dreamer aid to come together around securing the strongest possible showing for an immigration deal next month, when McConnell has vowed to move to a debate on the issue.

    “Let’s take advantage of the renewed attention and sympathy for Dreamers, and focus on winning the vote 17 days from now,” House wrote in an email.

    House Democratic leaders are expected to vote against the Senate’s three-week government funding patch, which cleared a key procedural hurdle on an 81-18 vote. That opposition may ensure that the ire of activists remains trained on the upper chamber, where only 16 Democrats voted against advancing the stopgap bill.



    Trump brings down trade hammer before Davos


    President Donald Trump took his first major action as trade enforcer-in-chief, opening the door to a host of other trade restrictions that buck the global order and give him a hammer to push his “America First” vision at the gathering of global...

    President Donald Trump took his first major action as trade enforcer-in-chief, opening the door to a host of other trade restrictions that buck the global order and give him a hammer to push his “America First” vision at the gathering of global elites in Davos, Switzerland.

    The decision to slap tariffs and other trade restrictions on imports of solar panels and washing machines is being seen as a prelude to coming actions on steel and aluminum imports, as well as a wide-ranging case that aims to punish China for intellectual property abuses.

    “The president’s action makes clear again that the Trump administration will always defend American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses in this regard,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.

    But even as Trump trumpeted that his move fulfills a long-held promise to defend American manufacturers, the restrictions themselves appeared unexpectedly restrained. That could be a sign that the White House took under consideration warnings that — in the case of solar — thousands of installation and other related jobs across the U.S. could be lost if the flow of cheap solar panels were cut off.

    The actions hew closely to the recommendations of the U.S. International Trade Commission, a quasi-judicial body. It initially determined that the affected U.S. companies were at risk of being damaged by unfairly priced and subsidized imports.

    The efforts are the result of a pair of rarely seen Section 201 investigations, a provision under trade law that allows U.S. companies to petition for remedies on a global basis as opposed to the country-specific approach most trade cases follow.


    The tariffs that Trump set on solar products — 30 percent in the first year and stepping down by 5 percentage points over each of the next three years — were short of the 50 percent limit he is allowed to impose under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974.

    The three years of trade restrictions on washing machines and parts will be set via a so-called tariff-rate quota, which allows imports of a certain number of fully assembled machines under a 20 percent tariff. Imports beyond the quota will be subject to a much higher 50 percent tariff the first year. The remedy stops short of Whirlpool’s petition for a flat 50 percent tariff on imported machines made by rivals Samsung and LG.

    The effects of the decisions could soon be felt as other countries gear up legal challenges that could come with the potential for billions of dollars' worth of retaliation.

    The last time a similar measure was used dates to 2002, when President George W. Bush approved global tariffs on steel imports. However, those tariffs were withdrawn a little more than a year later after the World Trade Organization ruled them to be illegal and authorized the European Union to impose retaliatory duties on $2.2 billion worth of U.S. goods ranging from oranges to textiles.

    Under Section 201, countries that the United States has trade agreements with are usually exempt from trade remedies — and the commissioners of the International Trade Commission had recommended to exclude them. But only developing countries with a very small percentage of imports were excluded in both the washing machine and solar actions; Canada was the only other country excluded from trade restrictions on washing machines.

    The moves could embolden other U.S. manufacturing sectors waiting in the wings to petition for similar measures, said Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

    “By imposing tariffs in these two cases, President Trump just ended any doubt that he was hesitant on protectionism. But the big worry is the potential tariffs that are still to come,” he said.

    U.S. manufacturing groups praised the actions, hoping they do indeed portend a coming wave of actions aimed at protecting U.S. workers.

    "Now that President Trump has taken action in these high-profile cases, we hope that he also will keep his promise to defend American-made steel and aluminum,” said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.


    Sen. Sherrod Brown cheered the curbs on washing machines. The Ohio Democrat has found trade to be a rare area of cooperation with the Trump administration. Lighthizer briefed Brown earlier Monday by telephone before the actions were announced, and the lawmaker has been in close contact with the administration throughout the investigation, a source said.

    “This is welcome news for the thousands of Whirlpool workers in Clyde, Ohio, whose jobs have been threatened by a surge of cheap washers,” Brown said in a statement.

    Whirlpool, based in Michigan, announced Monday that it would be able to add 200 new positions at its Ohio plant.

    But in both cases, free-trade advocates say the moves would do more harm than good.

    While the actions may help the two solar companies that petitioned for the duties — Suniva and SolarWorld Americas — critics have warned that lifting the costs of solar energy could hamstring the industry that has seen torrid growth over the past decade and is now cheaper than coal and natural gas-fired electricity in parts of the country.

    “More good-paying jobs will be jeopardized by today’s decision than could possibly be saved by bailing out the bankrupt companies that petitioned for protection,” Clark Packard, trade policy counsel at the conservative R Street Institute, said in a statement. “Today’s decision also will jeopardize the environment by making clean energy sources less affordable.”

    Samsung and LG — the South Korean companies targeted in the washing machine case — have warned that restrictions could hinder their ability to ramp up production and hire U.S. workers at new factories in South Carolina and Tennessee. Samsung cut the ribbon on its new South Carolina plant this month with the first washing machine rolling off a production line that will employ 600 workers.

    “This tariff is a tax on every consumer who wants to buy a washing machine,” a Samsung spokeswoman said in a statement. “Everyone will pay more, with fewer choices.”

    Eric Wolff contributed to this report.


    House GOP won't show secret Russia memo to Justice Department


    House Republicans have refused to share with the Justice Department a secret memo alleging misconduct by federal officials investigating the 2016 Trump campaign’s Russia ties, even they build a case that President Donald Trump should authorize the...

    House Republicans have refused to share with the Justice Department a secret memo alleging misconduct by federal officials investigating the 2016 Trump campaign’s Russia ties, even they build a case that President Donald Trump should authorize the memo's public release.

    An official at the Justice Department, helmed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy Rod Rosenstein, confirmed to POLITICO on Monday that the department has requested access to the classified document but has not been able to see it. The FBI, too, has been denied access to the document.

    Sources familiar with the memo, which was compiled by aides to House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, say it claims that senior FBI officials abused a secret surveillance program, commonly known as FISA, to target the Trump campaign last fall. According to three people who have viewed it, the memo suggests that FBI agents seeking a fall 2016 warrant to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page concealed the role a controversial private dossier alleging Kremlin influence over Trump played in their decision.

    A senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee said withholding the memo from the Justice Department and FBI makes sense given its charges of misconduct among senior federal law enforcement officials.

    “They’re the ones that have the problem,” said Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas). “I think given the seriousness of this one and the players, this should go to the president first.”


    Democrats have denounced the memo as a misleading political assault designed to distract from and undermine the investigations into Russian election meddling and contacts between Trump associates and the Kremlin.

    The FBI has also confirmed that Congress is refusing to give the bureau access to the classified memo, despite several requests from the bureau.

    “The FBI has requested to receive a copy of the memo in order to evaluate the information and take appropriate steps if necessary,” the agency said in a statement, first reported by The Daily Beast. “To date, the request has been declined.”

    Conaway said that lawmakers would share their memo with Trump, who can then decide whether to provide it to the Justice Department and FBI.

    Asked why the committee wouldn’t share the memo with FBI Director Christopher Wray, whom Trump appointed last year, Conaway said Wray is surrounded by Obama administration holdovers who, he implied, could not be trusted.

    “He’s over there by himself,” Conaway said.

    Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, who compiled the memo based on classified intelligence, voted last week to allow other members of Congress to read copies in a secure room in the Capitol. Several GOP lawmakers who have seen the memo have publicly declared its contents serious enough to warrant firing or even jailing some officials, and conservative news outlets have demanded its release.

    But even some Republicans have warned that their colleagues are casting the document in hyperbolic terms, suggesting that its allegedly scandalous contents may be less than advertised.

    Democrats say the GOP focus on the memo is part of a wider smear campaign against law enforcement officials who have investigated Trump officials and associates.

    The dossier that the memo alleges helped drive the decision to seek a FISA warrant on Page was compiled in 2016 by former British spy Christopher Steele, a trusted FBI partner in previous investigations, who had been commissioned by the private research firm Fusion GPS to investigate Trump's business ties to Russia. Fusion's work was funded at that time by a lawyer who represented Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. It's unclear if Steele's relationship to the campaign was disclosed in the FISA application.


    Trump, who has fiercely criticized the FBI and intelligence agencies for what he’s called a “witch hunt” against him and his campaign, has the authority to declassify any intelligence documents he chooses, and the White House has repeatedly declined to say whether he might simply authorize the release of information that Republicans have long claimed would back up his argument.

    Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are pursuing an obscure, never-before-used process to compel the release of classified information, with or without the president’s approval. Under House rules, the intelligence committee may reveal classified information if they deem its public release outweighs national security concerns. Under the process, the committee could vote to release the memo as early as next Wednesday.

    That would trigger a five-day window for Trump either to approve the release or recommend against it. If Trump approves, as many GOP lawmakers expect, the memo could be made public immediately.

    “I would not expect President Trump to want to keep these things from the public,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a vocal critic of FBI leaders and the Russia investigation, who supports the memo’s public release.

    If Trump were to oppose its release, however, the committee could then refer the matter to the full House, which would meet in a closed session and vote on whether to override the president’s decision.

    Though dozens of Republicans have called for the memo’s public release, there’s an internal divide over the rhetoric some have aimed at the law enforcement agencies.


    Some have likened the allegations to the Watergate scandal. Others say it could provide grounds for closing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

    Cheering them on, Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. has demanded the memo’s release in dozens of tweets and an appearance on Fox News.

    But some GOP members of the House intelligence committee have urged colleagues to tone it down.

    “This is dramatic enough. We don’t have to be overly dramatic in how we characterize it,” said Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), one of 13 Republicans of the committee.

    Other Republicans on the House and Senate intelligence committees, who are charged with overseeing the nation’s national security secrets, took a more muted tone than members with thinner intelligence or national security credentials.

    “I try to not use a much hyperbole as some of my colleagues use,” said Conaway.

    And asked about some of the House Republicans’ hot-blooded comments about the memo, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) smiled.

    “I think there’s a lot of paranoia around here when it comes to that topic,” he said.


    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...

    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.

    Trump After Dark: Know When to Fold ‘Em edition


    In the end it was less a shutdown then a kind of bizzaro weekend furlough.With little leverage, and a fig-leaf promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a vote on immigration legislation, Senate Democrats joined Republicans to vote to...

    In the end it was less a shutdown then a kind of bizzaro weekend furlough.

    With little leverage, and a fig-leaf promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a vote on immigration legislation, Senate Democrats joined Republicans to vote to end a partial government shutdown that began at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning. The House swiftly followed suit on a continuing resolution that funds the government through Feb. 8.

    President Donald Trump said he was thankful Democrats “have come to their senses.” Thus ended a short, furious, sound-bite filled government shutdown. The White House put a finer point on it: Democrats “blinked” they said.

    Democrats portrayed the swift u-turn and vote for short-term funding as faith in McConnell to keep his word. It was hard to portray that rhetoric as much more than spin, though, POLITICO’s Seung Min Kim and Rachael Bade report.

    “Democrats lost the shutdown war. That much was obvious when they voted to re-open the government with little to show for it. They had vowed for weeks not to back any funding bill without a bipartisan agreement to protect so-called Dreamers. But as Washington entered day three of a government shutdown, Democrats folded, voting to reopen the government barely any closer to their goal.”


    Elsewhere in President Trump’s orbit:

    2020 VISION: All of the Democratic presidential aspirants in the Senate voted against ending the government shutdown — a sign of base politics. House Democrats were annoyed. And liberal activists are also pretty livid with the vote.

    GRAHAM CRACK: White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said that Sens. Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham were “completely dishonest” about immigration negotiations.

    BIG, IF TRUE: Vanity Fair reports that Ivanka Trump is leading a search for John Kelly’s replacement as chief of staff after President Trump has turned on him.

    ANOTHER ONE: Another White House tell-all is coming — this one by Fox News’ Howard Kurtz who also portrays a White House in chaos. (Fortune)

    MAC TALK: French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to take a shot at President Trump saying he’s not a “classical politician.” (Newsweek)

    There you have it. You’re caught up on the Trump administration. It’s Monday, and we’re open for business.


    GOP chairmen raise alarms over missing FBI texts


    Top House Republicans are fuming over the FBI's claim that it lost five months of text messages between two top officials that GOP lawmakers have accused of anti-Trump bias.The officials, former senior counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and FBI...

    Top House Republicans are fuming over the FBI's claim that it lost five months of text messages between two top officials that GOP lawmakers have accused of anti-Trump bias.

    The officials, former senior counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page, have become an increasing focus of President Donald Trump's allies in Congress, who raised alarms after a previous round of text messages turned over by the Justice Department revealed hostility toward Trump and other political figures.

    The FBI had been expected to produce a new batch of texts that included communications after the 2016 presidential election, but the bureau informed lawmakers in a letter over the weekend that "misconfiguration issues" resulted in the texts being lost.

    "The omission of text messages between December 2016 and May 2017, a critical gap encompassing the FBI’s Russia investigation, is ... concerning," said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte in a joint statement.

    "Rather than clearing up prior FBI and DOJ actions, these recently produced documents cause us to further question the credibility and objectivity of certain officials at the FBI," they said.


    Their statement comes amid a steady drumbeat of frustration among rank-and-file Republicans who suggested there must be more nefarious efforts underway to keep the text messages from Congress.

    The three chairmen also met over the weekend to discuss growing calls on the right to make public a classified memo they allege will reveal misconduct by senior DOJ and FBI officials. The memo, compiled by Nunes' staff, has been shared with all members of the House this week, but lawmakers have declined to provide them to DOJ and the FBI for review.

    The missing text messages have only ratcheted up the tension between the bureau and congressional Republicans.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions revealed late Monday that the Justice Department has already launched a review to determine whether the records can be recovered

    "If any wrongdoing were to be found to have caused this gap, appropriate legal disciplinary action measures will be taken," he said in a statement.


    “We will leave no stone unturned to confirm with certainty why these text messages are not now available to be produced and will use every technology available to determine whether the missing messages are recoverable from another source," he said.

    Democrats have accused GOP lawmakers of working to create an anti-FBI narrative in order to shield Trump and the White House from investigations about the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, as well as an ongoing special counsel criminal probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election — and whether any Trump associates aided the effort.


    California state rep: 'Trump and Sessions should come here and arrest Xavier Becerra'


    A California state lawmaker is asking President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to come to the state and arrest its Attorney General Xavier Becerra for "crossing the line" in enforcing an immigration law."He's crossed the line, this is...

    A California state lawmaker is asking President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to come to the state and arrest its Attorney General Xavier Becerra for "crossing the line" in enforcing an immigration law.

    "He's crossed the line, this is now a criminal defense, the Department of Justice needs to come," Travis Allen, a GOP assemblyman from California said on Fox News Monday night. "Sessions needs to come and Trump need to come to California to literally arrest and indict Xaiver Becerra for breaking federal law."

    Allen, who is running for governor in the state, was responding to comments Becerra made last week in regards to enforcing a new California immigration law.

    "It’s important, given these rumors that are out there, to let people know — more specifically today, employers — that if they voluntarily start giving up information about their employees or access to their employees in ways that contradict our new California laws, they subject themselves to actions by my office," Becerra said, according to a Sacramento Bee report. "We will prosecute those who violate the law."


    Becerra's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The new California law is the state's latest step to thwart the Trump administration, which in this case is sparked by fears that Immigration and Customs Enforcement will conduct large raids of workplaces.

    The measure does contain provisions that tell employers to comply with federal law when compelled to do so, but generally try to make it for difficult for immigration officers to have the information to they need to conduct raids.


    Legal action leaves DACA deadline murky


    The March 5 deadline that President Donald Trump set for winding down a disputed immigration program continues to add a sense of urgency to the debate about so-called Dreamers, even though a court injunction and the administration’s own legal strategy...

    The March 5 deadline that President Donald Trump set for winding down a disputed immigration program continues to add a sense of urgency to the debate about so-called Dreamers, even though a court injunction and the administration’s own legal strategy have essentially wiped out the significance of that date.

    “We still have until March 5th,” Juan Escalante of the immigrant advocacy group America’s Voice said Monday afternoon on CNN, discussing the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. “Before you know it, we’re going to get to March and who knows what kind of deal we have.”

    At Monday’s daily briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked whether Trump would press ahead with plans to deport the Dreamers beginning March 5.

    Instead of replying that the courts have essentially nullified the importance of that date, she said Trump was pushing for a deal and didn’t want to follow through on his plan to end deportation protection for Dreamers.


    “We haven’t determined that,” Sanders said. “We’re hopeful that we don’t have to do that and that we don’t have to get there.”

    Last September, the Trump administration told DACA recipients whose quasi-legal status and work permits were set to expire after March 5 that they were essentially out of luck and would be unable to renew their documents.

    On Jan. 9, however, a federal judge in San Francisco ordered the administration to resume accepting renewals of DACA status. Many lawyers expected the Justice Department to move immediately to stay the judge’s order, but no such move was made. Instead, four days later, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it was again taking renewals, including from people whose status currently expires in March or anytime thereafter.

    “It really looks weird,” Prof. Stephen Vladeck of the University of Texas School of Law said of the administration’s legal stance. “‘We’re in a hurry. We’re in a hurry.’ But, suddenly, on this point, ‘We’re not in any hurry.’”

    Some attorneys closely following the litigation suspect that at least part of the administration’s motivation in not seeking an immediate stay — a move that would have preserved the March 5 date — was to remove urgency that Democrats were using to insist that the fate of the Dreamers was so pressing that it merited blocking government funding.

    “Not rushing to stay it does give Congress the breathing room to actually do its job,” said Art Arthur of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors stricter immigration policies. “I think they’re deliberately doing it to let it play out.”

    The Justice Department did ask for what it called “immediate” review of the judge’s decision at the Supreme Court, urging the justices to allow the administration to dispense with the usual appeal, in this case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


    Even if the justices agree to the rare request, however, the case is unlikely to be argued before April and probably wouldn’t be decided until June. In the meantime, the window for DACA renewals will remain open, with nearly everyone who has or had permits eligible to renew them for two years.

    In a filing at the Supreme Court last week, the Trump administration insisted that its decision not to seek a stay was driven by concern about the consequences of blocking renewals that the court might let resume later.

    “A primary purpose of the … orderly wind-down of the DACA policy was to avoid the disruptive effects on all parties of abrupt shifts in the enforcement of the Nation’s immigration laws,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote. “Inviting more changes before final resolution of this litigation would not further that interest.”

    Francisco did not invoke the robust debate over DACA underway among members of Congress and between lawmakers and the White House.

    However, some of those fighting to preserve the program in the court were not shy in suggesting to the justices that they should butt out for now, in part because of the legislative arm-wrestling over the issue.

    “In view of the ongoing discussions between Congress and the President regarding the DACA program, it would be prudent for this Court to avoid intervening earlier than necessary while those discussions proceed,” lawyers for the University of California wrote in a high court filing Monday.

    “Adherence to usual procedures for appellate review is especially warranted here, where Congress is now considering legislation that would obviate any need for this Court’s intervention,” attorneys for six DACA recipients told the justices.


    California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is also urging the Supreme Court to pass up review of the case now. That gives Congress more time to work on a legislative solution. But he also noted that it gave Dreamers more time to renew.

    “The Trump Administration’s attempt to move our DACA case directly to the Supreme Court doesn’t just buck sound court procedure; it’s drastic and unnecessary,” Becerra said. “A federal court halted Trump’s decision to terminate DACA, based on our argument that his actions were arbitrary and capricious. As a result, any Dreamer whose DACA status has expired can reapply right now.

    “We’ll keep fighting to preserve this ruling for the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who have worked so hard to make America better.”


    Ethics panel opens harassment inquiry into Rep. Pat Meehan


    The House Ethics Committee on Monday opened an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), who left the panel two days earlier amid revelations that he settled a misconduct claim filed by a former aide.The ethics...

    The House Ethics Committee on Monday opened an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), who left the panel two days earlier amid revelations that he settled a misconduct claim filed by a former aide.

    The ethics inquiry follows a formal request by Meehan, whose office acknowledged on Saturday that he used his personal office budget to settle the harassment claim, after its existence was reported by The New York Times. Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) is stepping into Meehan’s seat on the ethics panel, according to the committee.

    The committee’s announcement of a Meehan inquiry cited allegations of harassment as well as his use of his office budget to resolve his former aide’s claim. The congressional Office of Compliance, created to adjudicate harassment claims, maintains a taxpayer-funded account for payment of misconduct settlements — but Meehan and former Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) used their office budgets to resolve their issues, a practice the Ethics Committee had no clear guidance about as of late last year.


    The attorney representing Meehan’s female former aide has asked that the Ethics Committee’s investigation also examine whether the GOP lawmaker, a top target of Democrats in this year’s midterm elections, breached the confidentiality of his settlement.


    Puerto Rico's governor plans to privatize electric utility


    Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said he plans to privatize the commonwealth’s beleaguered electric utility, which has struggled to fully restore power following Hurricane Maria’s devastating landfall last year.In an announcement this afternoon,...

    Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said he plans to privatize the commonwealth’s beleaguered electric utility, which has struggled to fully restore power following Hurricane Maria’s devastating landfall last year.

    In an announcement this afternoon, Rosselló said he intends to sell off assets of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

    The governor plans to make the sale of the utility's assets a priority as part of a new fiscal package he will present to the territory’s federal oversight board. The deadline for that new plan is Wednesday.

    Congress granted the seven-member, bipartisan board authority to approve revenue and fiscal decisions made by the commonwealth government as part of its mission to restore the economy and regain Puerto Rico's access to bond markets.

    Puerto Rico, which has some $70 billion in debt, asked the oversight board last year to file a bankruptcy-like proceeding, the largest such failure by any U.S. municipality.

    PREPA owes approximately $9 billion in bond debt to creditors, making it one of the most significant bond classes in Puerto Rico’s historic debt default.


    The electric utility failed to meet the goal set for full power restoration by the end of 2017, and a contract approved by the utility that used $300 million in federal funds to pay a Montana-based firm to help restore power lines sparked a public outcry before being canceled.

    According to a website set up by the Puerto Rican government to track progress in the recovery from Maria, power has been restored to 84.5 percent of its pre-hurricane capacity.


    Pence calls reported affair between Trump and porn star 'baseless allegations'


    Vice President Mike Pence says reports that an adult film star had an alleged affair with President Donald Trump are "baseless allegations."Pence spoke to The Associated Press during a visit to Jerusalem on Monday. He said he was "not going to comment on...

    Vice President Mike Pence says reports that an adult film star had an alleged affair with President Donald Trump are "baseless allegations."

    Pence spoke to The Associated Press during a visit to Jerusalem on Monday. He said he was "not going to comment on the latest baseless allegations against the president."

    The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump's personal lawyer brokered a payment to pornographic actress Stormy Daniels in October 2016 to prohibit her from publicly discussing the alleged affair before the presidential election.

    Daniels' real name is Stephanie Clifford. Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, has denied there was any relationship. He gave the Journal a statement from "Stormy Daniels" denying receiving "hush money."

    The AP reported that a tabloid magazine held back from publishing her 2011 account of the alleged affair after Cohen threatened to sue.


    Graham-Durbin immigration proposal 'completely dishonest,' White House says


    Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) “were completely dishonest” in their negotiations on immigration with President Donald Trump, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said Monday.Gidley criticized a bipartisan deal on...

    Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) “were completely dishonest” in their negotiations on immigration with President Donald Trump, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said Monday.

    Gidley criticized a bipartisan deal on immigration brought forth by the lawmakers, along with four other senators, for failing to live up to their assurances to the White House.

    “Senator Graham and Senator Durbin called the president and told him they had a bipartisan bill,” Gidley said on CNN's "The Lead With Jake Tapper." “They’d come together with some meeting of the minds to prepare a piece of legislation that would address everything the president outlined. The president was ecstatic.”

    But he added: “Here’s the problem: Senator Graham and Senator Durbin were completely dishonest.”


    Their proposal, Gidley said, “woefully” underfunded the president’s long-sought wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico and did little to address “chain migration,” an issue the Trump administration has made central to discussions with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

    Gidley also criticized Graham for painting himself as being in lockstep with the White House on immigration, extending a contentious streak of exchanges between the South Carolina lawmaker and the president.

    “To pretend he is anything other than someone who wants open borders and amnesty is just disingenuous,” Gidley said.


    White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said earlier Monday that while Trump intended to negotiate with lawmakers over protections for young undocumented immigrants under the DREAM Act, he would not support the Graham-Durbin measure.

    “The Graham-Durbin proposal is not a proposal the president can sign,” Shah said.


    Poll: More voters blamed Trump and GOP for shutdown than Democrats


    Democrats blinked first in the shutdown standoff, but it wasn't public polling that pushed them to capitulate.While Republicans gloated over a Senate vote to reopen the government on Monday — celebrating the Democrats’ decision to accept a three-week...

    Democrats blinked first in the shutdown standoff, but it wasn't public polling that pushed them to capitulate.

    While Republicans gloated over a Senate vote to reopen the government on Monday — celebrating the Democrats’ decision to accept a three-week extension in funding in exchange for a future vote on immigration policy — voters weren’t necessarily blaming Democrats in large numbers for the shutdown.

    According to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted Saturday and Sunday, a combined 48 percent of voters said Trump (34 percent) and Republicans in Congress (15 percent) were to blame for the shutdown — more than the 35 percent who said congressional Democrats bore most of the blame.

    And a majority of voters, 53 percent, thought President Donald Trump hadn’t done enough to bring the parties together — compared to only 29 percent who thought Trump had done enough.

    After the Senate vote to approve government funding through February 8, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will give bipartisan negotiators three more weeks to reach a broader deal on immigration policy — and, if they can’t, he will permit a vote to codify protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

    Those immigrants, who have enjoyed protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in recent years, were the main sticking point for most Democrats. Republicans felt in recent days that they were winning the political argument over the shutdown.


    But the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll actually shows an increase in the percentage of voters who thought passing a DACA fix was worth shutting down the government.

    "As Democrats consider their next move, our polling shows an uptick in voter support for shutting down the government over protections for 'Dreamers,'" said Morning Consult co-founder and Chief Research Officer Kyle Dropp. "In a poll taken before the shutdown, 42 percent of voters said this issue was important enough to prompt a government shutdown, compared with 47 percent of voters who say the same today."

    Fewer voters, 38 percent, say DACA is not important enough to shut down the government — down from 42 percent immediately before the shutdown.

    On the other hand, significantly fewer voters say it’s worth shutting down the government to secure funding for Trump’s main immigration priority: a wall along the Mexican border. Fewer than three-in-10 voters, 29 percent, say a border wall is worth shutting down the government over, while 57 percent say the wall isn’t worth it.

    And most voters identified DACA as the main reason for the shutdown: 64 percent said they thought the shutdown was occurring over DACA, more than identified the border wall (44 percent) as a driving force behind the shutdown.


    The deal struck on Monday gives both parties three more weeks to frame their arguments over immigration and government funding. Previous surveys have shown widespread support for allowing DACA recipients to stay in the U.S. — and broad opposition to a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

    Voters are more likely to say it’s worth shutting down the government to secure increases in defense spending: 51 percent say those increases are worth risking a shutdown, while a third say they aren’t.

    The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll surveyed 1,997 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

    Morning Consult is a nonpartisan media and technology company that provides data-driven research and insights on politics, policy and business strategy.

    More details on the poll and its methodology can be found in these two documents — Toplines: http://politi.co/2n0N3II | Crosstabs: http://politi.co/2BkRmTz


    Democrats get rolled in shutdown standoff


    Senate Democrats shut down the government in hopes of striking a deal to shield 700,000 young immigrants from deportation. In the end, they got a promise of a vote — one that Republicans argue was going to happen anyway. Democrats lost the shutdown...

    Senate Democrats shut down the government in hopes of striking a deal to shield 700,000 young immigrants from deportation. In the end, they got a promise of a vote — one that Republicans argue was going to happen anyway.

    Democrats lost the shutdown war. That much was obvious when they voted Monday to reopen the government with little to show for it. They had vowed for weeks not to back any funding bill without a bipartisan agreement to protect so-called Dreamers. But as Washington entered Day Three of a government shutdown, Democrats folded, voting to reopen the government barely any closer to their goal.

    Republicans declared victory.

    "We gave them nothing,” said Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina, chairman of the House Republican Study Committee. “We’ve been able to get our message out as Republicans as a whole and be consistent and be united on this front."

    Added Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), a top member of the Senate Appropriations Committee: "Nobody wins in a shutdown, and this time, surely the Democrats didn't win."

    Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who had been meeting with numerous senators to try to find a way out of the mess, was a bit more gentle toward Democrats. "They took off, but they didn't know whether they were gonna land," he said. "So we gave them a place where they could land."

    Yet Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) couldn't resist taunting Democrats: "Sure, they got a commitment from Sen. [Mitch] McConnell, the majority leader, to take up the immigration bill in February. He was going to do that anyway."

    The three-day standoff offered further proof that shutdowns never end well for those making the demands. In 2013, Republicans shuttered federal agencies in an attempt to hold up funding for Obamacare. After 16 days, they folded with nothing to show for it. Obamacare remained intact.

    Democrats now find themselves in the very same position.

    “I think if we've learned anything during this process, it’s that a strategy to shut down the government over the issue of illegal immigration is something the American people didn't understand and would not have understood in the future,” McConnell said Monday. "So I'm glad we've gotten past that and we have a chance now to get back to work.”


    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sought to justify Democrats’ decision to shutter the government, arguing that they “have always sought to be reasonable, to act in good faith, and to get something real done.” He pinned the blame on an "obstinate" President Donald Trump, saying Republicans have "dithered" in striking an immigration deal.

    And he held up McConnell's promise of a vote as a victory for the left.

    “The Senate has muddled along for too long, content to delay action on our most pressing challenges until the very last moment. That ends today," he said. "The Republican majority now has 17 days to prevent the Dreamers from being deported.”

    Numerous Senate Democrats insisted they secured a win with their scorched-earth tactics by cornering McConnell into a pledge that he would take up an open, freewheeling immigration debate on the floor before March. That's when immigrants protected under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will begin losing protections en masse, although a court order is temporarily allowing DACA beneficiaries to renew their permits.

    "We got a commitment to have the first immigration debate on the floor in five years, and we have a group of 30, equally divided between Democrats and Republicans … to fix DACA," said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), whose state is home to federal workers who were starting to face furloughs on Monday. "I have trust that we will get to a good place in the Senate."

    Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said she trusts McConnell to follow through.

    "I think he made a public commitment not just on the floor of the Senate, but to Republicans who were concerned about this issue and to Democrats who've expressed concern," she said. "He'll keep that promise."

    In reality, however, GOP leaders have said all along they wanted to take care of undocumented immigrants who came to the country as minors and that they were hoping to vote on legislation in the coming weeks. While the agreement perhaps sped up that timeline, there's no guarantee that such a vote will pass — particularly in the more conservative House.

    Indeed, Democrats and Republicans were no closer to a DACA deal on Monday than they were before the shutdown, raising the possibility of another potential showdown over keeping the government open after Feb. 8.

    Pushed by their liberal base to enshrine DACA protections into law, Democrats felt they had the moral high ground to make a stand. They pointed to polls that showed that 80 percent of Americans want a solution for Dreamers. And after Trump’s recent remarks about immigrants from “shithole” countries, Democrats were emboldened, thinking now was the time to draw a line.

    It turns out, however, that while the public wants a solution for Dreamers, it doesn't want it at the expense of shutting down the government, according to some recent polling. Republicans framed the standoff as Democrats putting the interests of undocumented immigrants over those of Americans. And they didn’t budge from their position that they would not negotiate on DACA until Democrats reopened the government.

    “We’re not moving,” said Rep. Mimi Walters, a California Republican close with House GOP leadership, on Monday morning. "Any time you want to put people who are in this country illegally over American citizens, I think you have a problem. And that’s the message that they’re sending to the American public: that the Democrats care more about people who are in this country illegally than their own citizens.”


    Most Senate Democrats, perhaps sensing that public opinion was moving against them, voted with their GOP counterparts Monday to advance a bill that would fund the government through Feb. 8. In return, they received a promise the Senate would continue negotiating, as it was before.

    If the parties don’t agree to a deal by Feb. 8, McConnell vowed to take up stand-alone legislation to fix the matter and let the Senate work its will on the floor — as long as the government remained open.

    The deal, however, doesn’t bind the House. Senate Democrats had sought a commitment from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that he would put any Senate-passed immigration deal on the House floor. They didn’t get that.


    The outcome will likely weaken Democrats’ hand on immigration. During negotiations, Schumer and multiple House Democrats said they would fund part of Trump’s proposed border wall in return for a Dreamers fix. That offer could embolden Trump and Republicans to seek additional concessions the next time around.

    The House was expected to clear the legislation later Monday, enabling hundreds of thousands of federal employees to return to work on Tuesday. The question will then be whether Congress will find itself in the same situation in three weeks.

    For now, Republicans will continue to hammer Democrats over the three-day debacle.

    “We’re where we were last Friday," said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). "Why did we shut the government down?”

    Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.


    DACA Isn't Dead. It's Undead.


    Anyone who knows anything about the government shutdown showdown — temporarily postponed until Feb. 8 after Senate Democrats cut a deal with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — knows it has something to do with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals...

    Anyone who knows anything about the government shutdown showdown — temporarily postponed until Feb. 8 after Senate Democrats cut a deal with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — knows it has something to do with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals being set to end on March 5. Countless news reports and congressional statements have suggested that DACA is alive and well but faces an imminent and specific execution date.

    Yet this is completely incorrect. DACA is the Schrödinger’s Cat of government programs, at once dead and alive. It died months before March 5, and it will probably live for months afterward — even if Congress does nothing to save it.

    How did we get here? On September 5, President Donald Trump announced that he would be ending DACA, relying on advice from Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the program is “unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court.” Rather than pull the plug immediately, the president promised an “orderly transition and wind-down” to minimize disruption and give lawmakers a chance to strike a deal that would provide relief to DACA recipients. “Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA,” he tweeted. “If they can’t, I will revisit the issue!” His official statement promised that DACA permits “will not begin to expire for another six months” — i.e., not before March 5.

    This was false from the start. As the Department of Homeland Security announced the very same day, any DACA recipient whose two-year permit was set to expire by March 5 would have only 30 days to apply for a renewal. On October 5, the doors closed. Any DACA beneficiary who didn’t apply for a renewal by then, and whose permit has since expired, has lost DACA protections.

    Astoundingly, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen didn’t seem to know this when she testified last Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “No one will lose their status,” Nielsen claimed, “until March 5 or later.” But according to DHS statistics, 21,000 to 22,000 of those eligible failed to renew on time. The Center for American Progress estimates that nearly 17,000 of that set have lost their DACA benefits already due to the expiration of their permits.

    So is DACA already dead? Not so fast. On January 9, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that Trump’s DACA rescission was illegal because it rested on a “flawed legal premise that the agency lacked authority to implement DACA.” The court ordered DHS to resume processing all DACA renewal applications.
    The court’s reasoning was questionable, and many legal commentators have criticized, among other things, the court’s conclusion that the Trump administration could not lawfully take a narrower view of its own executive powers than its predecessor. Most expected that the administration would immediately ask a higher court to put the ruling on hold — in legal terms, to seek a “stay” — pending an appeal.

    Instead, on January 13, DHS announced that it would abide by the injunction and reopen the DACA renewal process. Anyone whose DACA permit has expired, or is about to expire, may reapply for a two-year extension.

    It’s not clear why the administration agreed to reopen DACA for now. One possibility is that administration lawyers felt they couldn’t meet the demanding standard for a stay, which requires showing not only that the original court’s decision was wrong but that “irreparable harm” would occur if the decision is allowed to take immediate effect.

    But a darker reason may best explain why they didn’t even try for a stay: The administration may have thought it politically advantageous to separate the DACA deadline from the government funding debate. If DACA is not, in fact, in immediate peril, then it’s easier to slam Democrats for demanding relief for unauthorized immigrants as part of a spending bill. Indeed, last week, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said that “there is no deadline on DACA” and questioned why, given that the injunction remains in place, Democrats would “harm the military over something that’s not shut down.” The Center for Immigration Studies, a leading anti-immigration think tank, made a similar case. (A funding impasse wouldn’t affect DACA processing because the program is fee-funded: Renewal applications cost a whopping $495.)

    This what’s-the-hurry argument cuts both ways. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, whose state is a plaintiff in the DACA litigation, said that DACA’s temporary reprieve diminishes the need for Democrats to make other immigration-related concessions — possibly including funding for Trump’s wall along the Mexican border, limits on family-based migration, and speeding up the deportation process — in order to save it. Most DACA advocates, however, are loath to let up the pressure for a DACA fix, given the difficulty of finding another suitable must-pass legislative vehicle to force Republicans to the negotiating table.

    The wheel of fortune spun yet again on January 18 when the Department of Justice took the extraordinary step of asking the Supreme Court to hear the case immediately, rather than first taking the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. “The district court’s unprecedented order,” DOJ argued, “requires the government to sanction indefinitely an ongoing violation of federal law being committed by nearly 700,000 aliens.” In the same brief, however, DOJ turned cartwheels to explain why it wasn’t seeking a stay, which would achieve the same goal. DOJ claimed that a stay would make it harder to “avoid the disruptive effects on all parties of abrupt shifts in the enforcement of the Nation’s immigration laws.” This makes little sense: DACA’s resurrection — whose duration no one can predict — is as abrupt a shift as it gets.

    So what’s next for undead zombie DACA? It seems unlikely that the Supreme Court will take the case at this time, especially given that — by not seeking a stay — the administration is signaling that this is a one-alarm not a three-alarm fire. If the Supreme Court passes, the appeal would go to the 9th Circuit, which could decide it in a matter of months. But there’s no guarantee that the famously liberal 9th Circuit would overturn the injunction — in which case the administration would seek Supreme Court review yet again, and the decision might not come down until as late as June 2019. The Trump administration could seek a stay at any point, but would be unlikely to succeed after insisting to the Supreme Court that a stay would be counterproductive.

    Either way, March 5 is highly unlikely to mean anything at all. Any end to the injunction—whether at the hands of the Supreme Court or the 9th Circuit—is almost certainly months away at the earliest. And if the injunction is lifted, the administration will need to decide whether to end DACA immediately or develop another gradual wind-down process like the one it announced last fall.

    The bottom line is that no one knows anything about how long DACA will be around if Congress fails to strike a deal. This uncertainty does no favors for the 700,000 DACA beneficiaries who are shielded from deportation and able to work only by virtue of its existence. And one group remains shut out: those who would otherwise be eligible for DACA but never applied for it, whether due to unawareness or because they had yet to turn 15, the minimum age for eligibility. The government stopped accepting new DACA applications on September 5, and the injunction provided relief only for renewals.
    There is, of course, one man who can unilaterally buy DACA more time. Remember when Trump said he would “revisit the issue” if Congress can’t make a deal? He could simply retract his September 5 statement and restore DACA indefinitely. To be sure, this could trigger a lawsuit from Republican state attorneys general whose threatened challenge to DACA apparently triggered Trump’s September 5 announcement. And it is more likely than not that such a lawsuit would eventually succeed, given the current composition of the Supreme Court—but it would take a while to get there.

    A flip-flop on DACA would enrage the administration official who hates it the most: Jeff Sessions. Of course, Sessions may also be the administration official whom Trump hates the most. Would Trump save DACA as part of a passive-aggressive bank shot to prompt Sessions to resign in protest? Trump could then install a replacement who wouldn’t be recused from the Russia investigation and could take steps to rein in Special Counsel Robert Mueller. This isn’t very likely. But this is the Trump administration we’re talking about—stranger things have happened.


    New Jersey Democrats not panicking about Menendez retrial


    Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez is intent on seeking reelection this year despite facing a retrial on federal corruption charges, and New Jersey’s Democratic leaders aren’t trying to stop him.“Senator Menendez fully expects to be vindicated and has...

    Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez is intent on seeking reelection this year despite facing a retrial on federal corruption charges, and New Jersey’s Democratic leaders aren’t trying to stop him.

    “Senator Menendez fully expects to be vindicated and has every intention of running for reelection, continuing to fight Donald Trump’s policies on behalf of New Jersey,” Menendez adviser Michael Soliman said in a statement Friday night — hours after the Justice Department announced its intent to retry the senator.

    At first glance, it looks like a nightmare scenario for Democrats, who face an already tough map nationally to win control of the Senate. Menendez’s poll numbers took a big hit during last year’s corruption trial, in which he was accused of doing political favors for his friend and co-defendant, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, in exchange for private jet flights, lavish vacations and hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.

    A Rutgers-Eagleton poll conducted mostly after the jury deadlocked found 51 percent of New Jersey voters thought Menendez didn’t deserve reelection, despite the fact that the jury came just two votes short of acquitting the senator on most charges. Menendez’s corruption charges will now continue to make headlines, threatening to put in play a seat in a state that hasn’t elected a Republican to the Senate in more than 45 years.

    “I think it’s a huge opportunity for Republicans,” New Jersey Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt said. “You’re running into an election cycle where he’s going to be sidelined for the indefinite future while he’s got to defend himself on corruption charges while we get to run a campaign.”

    New Jersey Democrats aren’t convinced of the threat. And at least for now, they’re giving unequivocal support to Menendez.

    “When you believe in somebody, you stick with them,” said LeRoy Jones, the Democratic chairman of Essex County, one of New Jersey’s biggest Democratic bastions. “I have a strong belief in Bob Menendez that is, I would say, unflappable.”

    But beneath that rhetoric are far more practical considerations. The biggest is a precedent set in 2002, when Democratic Sen. Bob Torricelli — damaged by his own scandal involving gifts from a campaign contributor — dropped his reelection bid.

    In October of that year, the state Supreme Court allowed Democrats to swap Torricelli’s name on the ballot with that of former Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who regretted his decision to retire two years earlier. Lautenberg won the election over Doug Forrester, a wealthy businessman and former small town mayor, by 10 points. (Torricelli, who has become wealthy in real estate, is now openly seeking to run for Menendez's seat if the senator drops out.)

    So Democrats have time on their side.

    “At the end of the day, there’s always going to be a stopgap measure if you look for democracy where there will be two candidates from the two major parties,” said Lou Stellato, the Democratic chairman of Bergen County, the largest county in the state.

    There’s several other factors keeping Democrats from feeling impending doom, including the fact Menendez was nearly acquitted.

    “This last mistrial, it was 10-2 — and it was 11-2 if you count the one woman who went on vacation and was adamant [in favor of acquittal],” Stellato said. “If it was 6-5, 6-6, you’d say OK. But that was overwhelming.”

    Democrats can also bank on demographics and voting trends, which have only gotten more favorable for them since 2002, when there were 270,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. Today, there are 884,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in New Jersey. That’s on top of anti-Trump sentiment in many parts of the state, including some of the well-heeled, traditionally Republican areas.

    “It’s easy to say Menendez can’t win,” Stellato said. “OK, who’s going to beat him?”

    Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at the Cook Political Report, said Democrats appeared to feel more urgency about the seat during the last corruption trial, when Republican Gov. Chris Christie would have appointed a replacement had the senator resigned. Now, if Menendez resigns, newly sworn in Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy would choose the successor.

    “The urgency of potentially losing the seat, even temporarily, is gone. I don’t see a lot of panic,” she said.

    Republicans clearly have a candidate in mind: Robert Hugin, a multimillionaire pharmaceutical executive who has met with Republican leaders to explore a run.

    “I’m confident we have as good a chance in New Jersey as we’ve had in a long time to reclaim a Senate seat,” Steinhardt, the state GOP chairman, said. “Mr. Hugin hasn’t announced yet, but if he does his resume makes him a formidable candidate in any race.”

    And while Steinhardt acknowledged Democrats have until the fall to switch out a candidate if Menendez’s troubles don’t subside, he noted that would depend on Menendez agreeing to drop his reelection bid. For many, that’s hard to imagine for a senator who is confident he’ll be vindicated.

    “I think the question everyone has to ask themselves is if Bob Menendez is Bob Torricelli,” Steinhardt said, referring to the fact that Torricelli resigned. “It requires a voluntary decision on the senator’s part. I don’t know if Menendez would do that."


    Pence: U.S. to open embassy in Jerusalem in 2019


    A new U.S. Embassy in Israel, located in Jerusalem, will open in 2019, Vice President Mike Pence told the Israeli Parliament Monday, putting a timeline on a move that has proven controversial in the region and around the world.“In the weeks ahead, our...

    A new U.S. Embassy in Israel, located in Jerusalem, will open in 2019, Vice President Mike Pence told the Israeli Parliament Monday, putting a timeline on a move that has proven controversial in the region and around the world.

    “In the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem — and that the United States Embassy will open before the end of next year,” Pence said in an address to the Knesset, Israel’s legislature. “By finally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has chosen fact over fiction — and fact is the only true foundation for a just and lasting peace.”

    President Donald Trump announced late last year that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and begin the process of moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv, a step that prompted protests and violence from Palestinians and chilly receptions ranging from concern to condemnation from the international community.

    Pence's remarks at the Knesset, the Israeli Legislature, were disrupted by Arab Israeli lawmakers who protested the vice president's announcement. The lawmakers, holding up signs proclaiming Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, were forcibly removed from the chambers, according to Israeli media.


    The status of Jerusalem has long been a sticking point in peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel has controlled all of Jerusalem since 1967’s Six-Day War, in which the Israelis annexed East Jerusalem. While Israel has claimed Jerusalem as its eternal capital, Palestinians would be sure to demand East Jerusalem as their own capital as part of any two-state solution.

    Wary of being seen as taking sides in peace negotiations, the U.S. and other nations have resisted recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In doing so, Trump was emphatic that the U.S. was not establishing any position on contested issues in peace negotiations or altering the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites, nor was it ruling out the possibility of a divided Jerusalem.

    Still, Palestinian leaders have reacted with condemnation and have railed against the U.S., publicly ruling it out as an arbiter of any future peace agreement.


    Alleged payment to porn star was illegal donation to Trump campaign, watchdog says


    A watchdog group filed a pair of complaints on Monday alleging that a $130,000 payment reportedly made to a pornographic film actress who claims to have had an affair with Donald Trump violated campaign finance laws.In submissions to the Justice...

    A watchdog group filed a pair of complaints on Monday alleging that a $130,000 payment reportedly made to a pornographic film actress who claims to have had an affair with Donald Trump violated campaign finance laws.

    In submissions to the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission, Common Cause said the alleged payment to Stephanie Clifford — who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels — amounted to an in-kind donation to Trump's presidential campaign that should have been publicly disclosed in its official reports.

    An attorney for Common Cause, Paul Ryan, said the payment appeared to be hush money. He compared the situation to the series of events that resulted in the prosecution of former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) over nearly $1 million in payments allegedly made to cover up an affair he had with videographer Rielle Hunter during his 2008 presidential bid.

    “The purpose is the heart of all this,” Ryan said. “It’s pretty obvious this payment to Ms. Clifford was intended to keep her quiet just weeks before the election so she would not damage the candidate’s effort to win the election.”


    Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, said the complaints were without merit.

    “The Common Cause complaint is baseless along with the allegation that President Trump filed a false report to the FEC,” Cohen said in a statement.

    In a statement last week after The Wall Street Journal first reported the payment, Cohen did not address the alleged transfer of funds or its purpose, but said the president denied any affair.

    “President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence as has Ms. Daniels,” Cohen said, referring to a written statement Daniels signed insisting that here had been no such relationship.

    Asked about the matter during a trip to Israel on Monday, Vice President Mike Pence told The Associated Press he was “not going to comment on the latest baseless allegations against the president.”

    In 2011, Edwards was indicted on charges that he accepted illegal campaign contributions in the form of payments that wealthy donors had made to pay travel, hotel, medical and housing expenses Hunter incurred after becoming pregnant with Edwards’ child. The travel included secretive charter flights arranged to keep Hunter’s pregnancy a secret.

    At Edwards’ trial, his lawyers insisted that he didn’t know about the payments and that the former senator’s desire to keep the affair secret stemmed from a concern about upsetting his wife, Elizabeth, who was suffering from cancer and died in 2010.

    A jury acquitted Edwards on one charge and couldn’t reach verdicts on the others, although jurors said the votes were 8-4 in Edwards’ favor on the remaining counts of illegal contribution and 11-1 on his causing the filing of a false campaign finance report.


    The Justice Department quickly announced it would not retry the case.

    During the trial, Edwards’ defense attorneys emphasized that during a routine audit the Federal Election Commission considered whether the payments for Hunter’s expenses should be considered campaign donations. The commission closed the audit without insisting that the money be included in Edwards’ reports.

    Don McGahn, who at the time was head of the Federal Election Commission and is now Trump’s White House counsel, made clear he did not think the payments amounted to campaign donations.

    McGahn, at a 2011 FEC meeting, concluded that the gifts were “not reportable,” also saying that it would be “odd” to deem such payments as gifts to Edwards’ campaign.

    Asked about that statement, Ryan said: “That was Don McGahn’s view. … I don't think that was a formal position of the commission. … He’s wrong. Not just in my opinion, but the DOJ thought he was wrong.”

    Ryan said Edwards’ partial acquittal and the prosecutors’ failure to convict him didn’t undermine the Justice Department’s obligation to investigate the alleged payment to Clifford.

    “I think DOJ was right to indict Edwards and I think DOJ should look into this matter as well,” the Common Cause official said.


    However, Jan Baran, a GOP campaign finance lawyer, called the reasoning of the Common Cause complaint “fallacious.”

    “The money spent for Edwards in 2004 or for Trump in 2016 is not covered by the election law,” Baran said. “As the jury concluded in the Edwards case, money spent for a candidate is not necessarily money spent for a campaign and, therefore, is not a regulated contribution or expenditure. Both times the purpose of the expense was highly personal, to say the least, and not campaign related in the legal sense.”

    Ryan acknowledged that if the $130,000 came from Trump, he was free to spend that money to benefit his campaign as part of the self-funding of much of his presidential bid. However, reporting laws may still have been violated, the attorney said.

    Spokespeople for the Justice Department and the FEC did not respond to requests for comment on the complaints.

    The complaint that Common Cause sent to the Justice Department is addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Sessions announced last March that he was recusing himself from all matters related to the 2016 presidential campaign.


    Dems poised to gain seats after court throws out Pa. congressional map


    The Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed out the state’s congressional map on Monday, throwing members and candidates into chaos and potentially boosting Democrats’ chances to win the House majority this fall.The state Supreme Court ruled that the House...

    The Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed out the state’s congressional map on Monday, throwing members and candidates into chaos and potentially boosting Democrats’ chances to win the House majority this fall.

    The state Supreme Court ruled that the House map “clearly, plainly and palpably violates” the state constitution and must be redrawn in the next three weeks after Democrats filed a lawsuit, alleging that Republicans unreasonably gerrymandered the districts to give the GOP a partisan advantage.


    Republican legislative leaders said they will seek a stay with the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the state Supreme Court “set up an impossible deadline that will only introduce chaos in the upcoming Congressional election,” state Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said in a statement. “It is clear that with this ruling the Court is attempting to bypass the Constitution and the legislative process and legislate themselves, directly from the bench.”

    But several legal experts and GOP operatives said they don’t expect the Supreme Court to intervene. Unlike recent partisan gerrymander cases out of North Carolina and Wisconsin, the Pennsylvania case deals with state law, not federal.

    “There doesn’t appear that there’s much recourse, so we’re just hosed,” said Mark Harris, a Republican consultant based in the state. “[Democrats are] going to steal a bunch of seats because this is a straight power grab by a partisan Supreme Court.”

    The court ruled that a new map must be submitted by the GOP-controlled Legislature to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf by Feb. 9, and that Wolf must sign it by Feb. 15. That map "shall consist of: congressional districts composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population," according to the court ruling.

    If the legislature and Wolf can't agree on a map by the middle of next month, the ruling proscribes that it be drawn by the courts, with the parties to the lawsuit invited to submit proposals before then.

    Under the now-discarded lines, Republicans currently occupy 12 of the state’s 18 House seats, with the seat of former Republican Rep. Tim Murphy now vacant. The state Supreme Court will allow the special election in the 18th District, set for March 13, to proceed under the old map, the court ruling said.

    GOP and Democratic strategists said they’re fielding dozens of anxious phone calls from members and challengers, as they continue to handicap the “chaos that’s going to consume the next couple of weeks as we wait for where this goes,” said J.J. Balaban, a Democratic consultant.

    “The conventional wisdom of who’s safe and who’s not safe — you can throw that out the window,” said Mike DeVanney, a Republican consultant based in the state. “This is a seismic event.”

    Democratic consultants in the state said they could pick up three to four congressional seats under a new map, boosting Democrats’ chances to chip away at their deficit in the House, where there are 238 Republicans and 193 Democrats, plus four vacancies. Democrats need to flip 24 seats to regain the majority. Operatives highlighted the GOP members in the Philadelphia suburbs as particularly vulnerable, including Reps. Ryan Costello, Brian Fitzpatrick and Pat Meehan.

    “This is a game changer in Pennsylvania politics,” said Mike Mikus, a Democratic consultant. “I could see us grabbing a seat in the western part of the state, along with two or three in the Philadelphia suburbs, all of which would be ripe for us under new maps and in this environment.”

    Operatives also said they expect that retiring Rep. Charlie Dent’s district could turn a shade bluer, if the map draws the Lehigh Valley, which was split in two in 2011, into one district. But that could also make Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright’s eastern seat more conservative.

    Costello, Fitzpatrick and Meehan already topped Democrats’ target lists, with large numbers of college-educated voters that have drifted away from Republicans in recent years. Hillary Clinton won both Costello and Meehan’s districts in 2016, while Donald Trump carried Fitzpatrick’s district by fewer than 1,000 votes.


    “The suburban Philadelphia districts are more at risk, but I assume they’ll redraw everyone,” Harris said. “I think every Republican elected official should assume the [state] Supreme Court is out to get them, and they should act accordingly.”

    Meehan's district may wind up on the chopping block. The New York Times reported this weekend that Meehan settled a workplace misconduct claim against him, using funds from his congressional office budget. Meehan denies harassing a member of his staff, though he lost his seat on the House Ethics Committee during the weekend. Operatives suggested that Meehan’s “recent troubles could quite possibly affect how Republicans [in the state Legislature] draw the new maps,” Mikus said.

    Republicans in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., are "angry,” Harris said, adding that the filing deadline for candidates is March 6, with the primary on May 15. “Right now, no one knows what voters are in their districts. It’s insane.”


    The religious activists on the rise inside Trump's health department


    A small cadre of politically prominent religious activists inside the Department of Health and Human Services have spent months quietly planning how to weaken federal protections for abortion and transgender care — a strategy that's taking shape in a...

    A small cadre of politically prominent religious activists inside the Department of Health and Human Services have spent months quietly planning how to weaken federal protections for abortion and transgender care — a strategy that's taking shape in a series of policy moves that took even their own staff by surprise.

    Those officials include Roger Severino, an anti-abortion Catholic lawyer who now runs the Office of Civil Rights and last week laid out new protections allowing health care workers with religious or moral objections to abortion and other procedures to opt out. Shannon Royce, the agency's key liaison with religious and grass-roots organizations, has also emerged as a pivotal player.

    "To have leaders like Roger, like Shannon, it’s so important," said Deanna Wallace of Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group that was frequently at odds with the Obama administration. "It’s extremely encouraging to have HHS on our side this time."

    But inside HHS, staff say that those leaders are steering their offices to support evangelicals at the expense of other voices, such as a recent decision to selectively post public comments that were overwhelmingly anti-abortion. "It’s supposed to be the faith-based partnership center, not the Christian-based partnership center," said a longtime HHS staffer, referencing the HHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships led by Royce.


    More than a dozen current and former HHS staffers, who requested anonymity to speak freely, spoke with POLITICO for this story. HHS declined to make top officials available for interviews.

    Short-term victories fuel long-term plan

    The agency's devout Christian leaders have set in motion changes with short-term symbolism and long-term significance. One of those moves — a vast outreach initiative to religious groups spearheaded by Royce, asking how to serve them better — came in October 2017 while the health department reeled from the resignation of former Secretary Tom Price and congressional Republicans struggled to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

    That outreach initiative began a rulemaking process that could culminate in a rollback of Obama-era protections for transgender patients and allowing health providers more protections to deny procedures like abortion. It worried abortion rights and LGBT advocates, who acknowledge that while abortion laws and other regulations remain mostly intact, the groundwork is steadily being laid to revise them.

    "This administration is focused on recognizing one set of religious beliefs," said Gretchen Borchelt of the National Women’s Law Center. "It’s going to do whatever it can to reshape or violate the law to do that."

    The October effort surprised Royce's own staff, many of whom weren't aware that the center's request for information — a key tool in rulemaking that lets agencies solicit comments that they can use to revise or introduce regulations — was even being developed until it was publicly posted. The reason: Royce, the center's director, didn't tell them.

    "Shannon put it together with Roger Severino and jammed it out the door," said one staffer, who noted that the center had never issued a request for information before. "We were messaging each other — 'did our office just put out an RFI?'"

    It wasn't the first time that Royce, Severino and their allies pushed their HHS offices to pull off groundbreaking maneuvers. That's helped raise their stature with evangelical groups, as well as with anti-abortion Republican lawmakers, a powerful bloc that includes Vice President Mike Pence.

    "You're over at HHS, a true bright spot in this administration when it comes to protection of life and protection of conscience," a moderator at the Evangelicals for Life conference said when introducing Royce last Thursday. "It's no exaggeration to say that you guys have just had a monster year over at HHS."

    But those same actions have alarmed the ACLU and other groups, which warn that the health department's leaders are blurring the lines between church and state. "Time and time again, we have seen this administration radically redefine religious freedom to impose one set of ultraconservative beliefs on all Americans," said Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe of Catholics for Choice.

    Shifts in process and priorities


    The political leaders' moves also worry career agency staff, who say that important decisions about controversial issues like abortion, contraception and transgender care are increasingly being kept secret at the nation's largest government agency. "The American people deserve to know and deserve to weigh in," said one staffer, referencing the agency's decision to withhold thousands of critical comments on the RFI. "This shouldn't be sprung on them as a finished product."

    Anti-abortion, devoutly Christian leaders now shape HHS' daily communications and overarching legal strategy — a major departure from the Obama administration and arguably leaving them more empowered than under previous Republican administrations. Charmaine Yoest, the former head of Americans United for Life, is the department's top spokesperson and steers the agency's messaging. Matthew Bowman is now the HHS deputy general counsel, a post in which he advises the secretary and helped roll back the same birth control protections that he once fought before the Supreme Court.

    The roster of anti-abortion leaders at HHS is deep enough to adjust to sudden departures. Teresa Manning had been overseeing Title X programs at the agency, which included funding contraception care — a striking appointment, given that Manning publicly had said that contraception didn't work. After Manning's abrupt departure last week after less than nine months, she was replaced by Valerie Huber, an advocate for abstinence education who also joined the department last year.

    "One of the axioms of politics is that personnel is policy," Royce said last Thursday, appearing at the anti-abortion conference. "We have such an amazing team at HHS that is absolutely a pro-life team across the spectrum."

    That team has found new ways to expand HHS' powers and engage evangelicals, most recently by setting up a "Conscience and Religious Freedom" division of its civil rights office on Thursday. The newly created division, which POLITICO first reported on Tuesday, will work to strengthen health workers' ability to opt out of procedures when they have religious or moral objections. It's a dramatic broadening of conscience protections that have long been on the books.

    "These protections have been under-enforced in the past," Severino reportedly said on a media call with mostly conservative and Christian publications last week. "We are back in business." (POLITICO and other national media outlets were not invited to the call, and HHS declined to make Severino available for an interview.)

    But longtime HHS officials say that the existing civil rights office was more than capable of handling these issues and that creating an entire division to focus on religious liberty sends the wrong message.

    "This is a classic solution in search of a problem," said one official who's handled civil rights issues at HHS. "And it’s a problem that doesn’t really exist, because hospitals tend to be really compliant on this kind of stuff."

    During the Obama administration, Christian conservative groups had even hailed HHS for its efforts to enforce religious freedom, such as intervening in a lawsuit filed by an anti-abortion nurse against Mount Sinai Health System in New York. "Pro-life medical personnel should not be forced to assist abortions, and Mount Sinai's new policy reflects that, thankfully, after Alliance Defending Freedom brought lawsuits and complaints to HHS," Bowman said at the time, four years before he would join HHS himself.


    Royce’s partnership center has sparked controversy with how it handled its request for information. POLITICO in December reported that the center was deliberately withholding thousands of critical comments of its plan while posting just 80 comments, overwhelmingly from anti-abortion and evangelical respondents who called on HHS to roll back protections related to abortion and transgender care. (The center released the missing 12,000-plus comments four days after POLITICO's story.)

    After adjustment, leaders look ahead

    Some of the anti-abortion leaders have also had occasionally bumpy transitions, particularly because many of them had little, if any previous experience in the federal government or in relevant positions and often don't consult the career staff.

    Yoest was criticized for the agency's handling of questions about Price's controversial use of charter jets. HHS seemed unconcerned by the stories at first and felt there was little need to respond, according to White House officials, who griped about the agency's crisis-management strategy last year. The communications office has seen a steady stream of departures and remains under-staffed.

    Jane Norton, an anti-abortion activist tapped to be HHS' top liaison, was pushed out after less than seven months in the job, as she struggled to communicate the department's work to governors, business associations and other groups. She was also the plaintiff in a long-running lawsuit against Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which created an eye-catching legal situation: one of HHS' top leaders actively suing one of HHS' grantees. Oral arguments in the case were held in November 2017, while Norton was still at seat in HHS.

    But staff acknowledge that the political leaders are starting to achieve a steady stream of symbolic, anti-abortion goals, led by Royce and Severino. "She's a force of nature," said one staffer who's worked with Royce inside HHS. "She just goes after and goes after it."

    "I think he’s very sincere," said a civil rights lawyer who's worked with Severino. "He tries to be principled — we just have different principles."


    The agency's political leaders understand that a future Democratic administration could reverse some of their own regulations, raising the stakes for future legal battles. According to an individual familiar with their thinking, leaders like Severino and Yoest have celebrated Trump's record number of appellate judges confirmed last year, which have stocked the judiciary with jurists who favor their causes. Severino's wife, Carrie Severino, is a judicial activist who's worked to get Trump's nominees confirmed.

    HHS' leaders also are waiting on the arrival of HHS Secretary-designate Alex Azar, a George W. Bush administration veteran who's likely to get confirmed. In his testimony, Azar has praised the need for conscience protections, comments that strengthened his support among evangelicals.

    "Praying for Alex Azar II this morning," Royce posted last Wednesday, ahead of a committee vote to advance Azar's nomination. "Please join me."

    The health department is poised to keep playing an outsize role on issues important to Christian conservatives, with a series of decisions looming related to enforcing transgender protections, funding contraception and paying for programs related to family planning. Meanwhile, the agency's four-year strategic plan is being finalized and is expected to include policy positions sought by evangelicals, such as stating that life begins at conception.

    "You will see exciting things in the coming days, and that's all I can say right now. But good stuff is coming," Royce promised attendees at last Thursday's anti-abortion conference. She then urged the audience — with hundreds of attendees in town for the March for Life, the nation's largest anti-abortion rally — to play a part in helping HHS achieve its strategy.

    "I'm a goal-setter for every new year," Royce said. "My challenge to you this year … ask the Lord to show you one thing you can do consistently that is pro-life."


    Cuomo's ambitions at risk as former aide goes to trial


    As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo lays the groundwork for his reelection campaign — and possibly a 2020 presidential bid — there’s a dark cloud looming. A corruption trial involving his onetime closest political aide begins Monday, casting a shadow...

    As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo lays the groundwork for his reelection campaign — and possibly a 2020 presidential bid — there’s a dark cloud looming.

    A corruption trial involving his onetime closest political aide begins Monday, casting a shadow over Cuomo’s ambitions and his ongoing role as a general in the Democratic war against the GOP tax overhaul, H.R. 1 (115).

    The case will be a test for the Democratic governor, but also for federal prosecutors in New York, where former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara brought a parade of indictments against people in state politics.

    Joseph Percoco, who managed both of Cuomo’s gubernatorial bids and served in his administration as “executive deputy secretary,” is facing charges that he shook down energy and construction executives in exchange for official favors. Federal prosecutors say the 48-year-old helped developers of a Hudson Valley power plant and a Syracuse company that has built numerous public facilities.

    Ed Cox, chairman of the New York State Republican Committee, points to the way former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was tarred by the trial of his aides in the Bridgegate scandal.

    “He’s on trial as much as his close aides,” Cox said. “I have no doubt that Cuomo here will be haunted by the ghost of Christie past. … This is going to put him in extreme political jeopardy.”

    While the governor isn’t implicated in the case, the contractors involved have all contributed to his campaign, and Cuomo has likened Percoco to a brother. Men who were once top officials in the administration will be put under oath, and prosecutors have hinted that the testimony could paint a picture of a culture of intimidation in the governor’s administration.

    Percoco’s trial, which Judge Valerie Caproni has said could last more than six weeks — and which won't be affected, for now at least, by the federal government shutdown — promises a rare glimpse inside the inner workings of the secretive Cuomo administration. It’s not the only trial in the case, which is so sprawling it’s been divided in two: A second trial, over allegations of bid-rigging in government development projects in Buffalo and Syracuse, is slated to begin in June, just before the governor’s reelection campaign will start in earnest.

    Cuomo says he’s running for a third term, and is formidably positioned to do so. He’s sitting on a $30.5 million war chest, and Republican party leaders’ first-tier candidates have decided not to run. A poll released last week by the Siena Research Institute showed 55 percent of New York voters were prepared to reelect him and his approval rating stood at 62 percent — the highest point in his second term.

    Still, Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg doesn't see much upside for Cuomo. “The question is, will [the trial] have no effect, a small negative effect on how voters view the governor or a large negative effect on how voters view the governor?" he says.

    Cuomo, for his part, has said little about the upcoming trial. According to court filings, he was interviewed by prosecutors in November 2016 and told reporters soon afterward that he might be called as a witness. That’s no longer the case, the governor said last month, refusing to elaborate. He insists he won’t be distracted by the trial.

    Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, declined further comment.

    Cuomo might be able to avoid talking about the trial, but the trial certainly won’t avoid him.

    A 320-page exhibit list submitted by defense attorneys ahead of the trial is chock full of emails to and from employees of the executive chamber.

    The government’s star witness, lobbyist Todd Howe, has been close to Cuomo for decades. He worked first for Cuomo’s father, Mario, and followed the younger Cuomo to Washington in the 1990s, working for him at the Department of Housing and Urban Development when Cuomo was the agency’s secretary during the Clinton administration. Howe was the man who hired Percoco to work for Mario Cuomo.

    Even after Howe left government and became a lobbyist, he remained close to the governor.

    He was intimately involved in Cuomo’s 2014 reelection campaign, and had a desk in Percoco’s midtown office, from which he helped rally allies to aid the governor and scripted campaign events. Howe steered donations to Cuomo’s campaign from Fayetteville, N.Y.-based COR Development and Competitive Power Ventures.

    COR Development executives Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi are co-defendants in the trial, accused of allegedly steering a $35,000 bribe to Percoco and his wife. And Competitive Power Ventures’ Peter Kelly allegedly hired Percoco’s wife for a $7,500 a month “low-show” job in November 2012, a benefit to Percoco that forms one of the key elements of the prosecution’s case against him.

    COR has been a major donor to Cuomo, with the company’s affiliates, executives and family members contributing more than $300,000 to the governor since 2010. It's helped Cuomo amass a multimillion-dollar war chest that has served to ward off all but the boldest gubernatorial challengers. Cuomo currently faces no serious competition from the GOP nor his own party.

    Cuomo attended fundraisers Howe organized even after his reelection, as recently as 2015. The governor’s allies, though, note that the campaign contributions aren’t mentioned in any of the charges, and nothing has emerged to contradict Cuomo — a self-described control freak — that he was unaware of what was going on.

    Steve Cohen, a former federal prosecutor who served Cuomo as attorney general and during his first year as governor, doesn't expect major news out of the trial for Cuomo, noting that the media and court filings have already aired the case.

    “In the scheme of things, it’s obvious that this is not a no-big-deal situation, but I don’t think anything dramatic is going to come out of this trial when it comes to the Cuomo administration or how it operates,” he said. “Most of what is going to come out is already known.”

    And beyond political perceptions, the bar for convicting Percoco is high: Federal prosecutors must prove that he was a public official at the time of the alleged offenses, that he obtained benefits that weren’t “legitimately due to him as a public official” and that he obtained that property as a quid pro quo for performing an official act.

    Several prominent cases have been rejected by appellate courts in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision overturning former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's conviction, which narrowed the definition of public corruption and made those cases more difficult to prosecute.

    The jury instructions in the Percoco case spell it out: “The Government must prove that Mr. Percoco knew that he was expected to perform an official action act in exchange for the property that he allegedly obtained from CPV and COR Development, respectively.”

    Percoco’s defense lawyers have given hints of how they intend to sow doubt among the jurors. They will try to prove the low-show job for Percoco’s wife was one in which she actually did perform work. They will argue that Percoco, who left government at one point to work on Cuomo’s campaign, wasn’t a public official at the time he received the alleged bribes.

    At the Capitol in Albany, the trial could revive a conversation about tightening ethics and campaign finance laws that Cuomo is not eager to have. He’s already attempting to raise $1 billion in new revenues to help bridge a $4.4 billion budget deficit in negotiations with state legislators.

    With an eye on 2020, Cuomo has also devoted much of his time to proposals that would blunt the impact of the federal tax reform law’s limits on the deductibility of state and local taxes. The governor says the new law will raise New Yorkers’ liability by $14 billion.

    But good-government advocates are urging the adoption of tighter campaign finance restrictions and an increase in the pre-auditing powers on economic development projects — both measures that stalled in Albany last year, despite Percoco’s indictment. Cuomo did advance some campaign finance restrictions in a bill released last week, but legislators and observers expect he’ll spend his political capital in other areas.

    “These cases will drive public attention. … This external pressure makes this year different than all others,” said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “The governor is the political King Kong of Albany. It’s up to the governor to lead.”


    What the Shutdown Reveals About the Democratic Party


    Last year, newly inaugurated President Donald Trump was expected to be a transformative figure who could remake the Republican Party, altering its electorate, image and policy priorities. The “populist” Trump “dashed Republican hopes for a more...

    Last year, newly inaugurated President Donald Trump was expected to be a transformative figure who could remake the Republican Party, altering its electorate, image and policy priorities. The “populist” Trump “dashed Republican hopes for a more traditional agenda … and all but dared his own party to resist his Republican reformation,” the New York Times reported.

    The government shutdown greeting his administration’s first anniversary shows he has remade a major political party, pushing it toward a new strategy and identity—but it was the Democrats.

    Republicans are the same party of conservative brinkmanship that they were last year, but Democrats are pursuing a harder-line strategy of unified opposition focused on social issues. Whereas they greeted a new George W. Bush administration with cooperation on education reform and acquiescence on tax cuts, Democrats have loudly opposed all Trump administration initiatives, facing pressure from an energized base.

    The Republican reformation has not materialized. Promising to end “American carnage” as he took office, Trump sought to refocus Republicans around immigration, trade and crime. Strategists said he could move left on economic policy, targeting the party’s white working-class constituency with tangible benefits. But his first year focused instead on a major corporate tax cut and considerable deregulation, along with more failed votes to repeal Obamacare. Trump moved policy rightward on immigration, but he also did so on education, health, the environment and nearly everything else.

    The government shut down in the wee hours of Saturday morning after the House Freedom Caucus held up a must-pass bill to force concessions while Mitch McConnell put off major policy in favor of another short-term funding extension. It was a scene that looked like many weeks under President Barack Obama. For congressional Republicans, not much has changed.

    But look at the Democrats. Inside Congress, they demanded action to restore protections for immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally as children in order to vote on a government funding bill. Their liberal base copied the minority intransigence of the Republicans, using online media and activism to hold legislators to a hard line. In the grass roots, they organized massive women’s marches across dozens of American cities, marking a full year of relentless progressive activism.

    Losing a presidential election often stimulates activism, and a new president usually provokes a backlash, but the size of the Democratic resurgence is unprecedented. Democrats have more than tripled the usual number of serious candidates challenging members of Congress. They have competed everywhere in special elections, winning in unlikely places. This—after reaching a low in federal and state offices the party had not seen since the 1920s.

    What’s particularly astonishing is how Democrats have accomplished this outside the formal structures of the Democratic Party, which has often seemed irrelevant. Explicitly copying the Tea Party, they founded grass-roots organizations in nearly every district to regularly call legislators. They held large protests on women’s issues, science, climate and racism. More Democrats even started identifying as liberals, coming closer to mirroring the Republicans’ unified conservative identity.

    Instead of facing a factional challenge allied with Bernie Sanders, Democrats integrated his young, left-wing supporters with their traditional identity-based constituencies. Elected Democrats of all stripes unified against Republicans’ major two legislative initiatives: tax cuts and Obamacare repeal. All of the party’s allied interest groups have remained stridently anti-Trump.

    Nearly every new Trump move has been treated as a five-alarm fire with united resistance, with Hillary Clinton die-hards just as active as Bernie bros. They tripled the ratings for MSNBC and spurred new liberal media outlets. Some followed online conspiracy theorists, who breathlessly enlarged every detail of the Russia investigation. Major Democratic donors, such as California billionaire Tom Steyer, have called for the president’s immediate impeachment.

    But the sharpest changes have been on social issues surrounding gender and race. Democrats in the electorate have moved swiftly left on race, immigration and feminism. Trump’s ban on immigration from Muslim countries even provoked an outpouring of support for Muslims. Attitudes toward illegal immigration softened. Sexual harassment became a top-tier Democratic issue. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus gained a hearing with leaders in both chambers—and is now having its concerns become the party’s top priority.

    The government shutdown is the clearest example of Democratic change. Republicans, normally more suspect about the value of government, usually openly dismiss the consequences of shutdowns and see funding extensions as an opportunity to gain concessions. Democrats almost never do. In 2013, they criticized Republicans relentlessly for bringing non-budget issues into the discussion; now, Democrats are doing the same.

    Of course, Democrats are still a coalition of many constituency groups with different priorities. Democrats in the public and in Congress have long valued compromise more than Republicans. They will not become a broad, ideological party anytime soon, but they are now actively copying Republican strategy.

    In the process, Democrats will learn the limits of the Republican approach. It is difficult to chalk up many wins for your constituents when you are engaged in all-or-nothing budgetary battles. Establishing an ideological national party image does not play well everywhere the party needs to compete—especially in the rural and outlying suburban areas Democrats hope to win back.

    And you can never fully satisfy a base that always wants more fealty. Once you give the hard-liners a taste of influence, they may start to challenge you in every instance. Republican leaders can attest that empowering the activists, media personalities and online mobs has its downsides.

    But Democratic leaders cannot do much to stem the tide of base insurgency; the Democratic base has seen what Republicans have achieved and judged it worthy of imitation. Trump ignites unstoppable fear, anger and action. Harnessing all that energy toward constructive ends is the hard part.

    One year into Trump’s administration, Republicans are surprisingly looking about the same: a conservative party focused on ideological battles over the size and scope of government and the direction of society. It is Democrats who are testing a new focus and hard-line strategy, in some cases pursuing symbolic stands over tangible gains.

    The danger in that approach is that the purists never know when to stop.



    How a Lopsided Shutdown Victory Could Set up a Fiasco


    The partisan showdown over the government shutdown, like so many similar battles in the last seven years, is a fight neither side wants to lose. But as Democrats learned at the start of this cycle of fiscal warfare, winning can have downsides, too.As...

    The partisan showdown over the government shutdown, like so many similar battles in the last seven years, is a fight neither side wants to lose. But as Democrats learned at the start of this cycle of fiscal warfare, winning can have downsides, too.

    As President Donald Trump and congressional leaders strategize and demonize in pursuit of all-out political victory in 2018, they might want to remember what happened after President Barack Obama struck a lopsided deal with Republican leaders in 2011, amid a fight over spending. At first, Democrats celebrated their fleecing of the GOP. But the humiliating defeat ended up hardening Republican positions before the next battle, which nearly produced an economic catastrophe on Obama’s watch, and set the stage for the recurring crises that have driven budget policy every year since.

    In retrospect, some Obama aides wish they had struck a more balanced deal, or maybe no deal at all. Victory, they found, can be ultimately counterproductive, firing up the losing team—and, just as important, the losing team’s political base.

    “As long as it’s the last deal you have to make, you can take everything,” says Scott Lilly, a former Democratic budget staffer who is now at the Center for American Progress. “In this town, however, you usually need at least one more deal.”

    The deal Obama cut with Republicans in April 2011 was the first product of divided government after the GOP took back the House in the 2010 midterms, riding a Tea Party wave that emphasized hostility to Obama, his health-care policies and government spending. The new House majority had passed a budget bill with $61 billion in proposed spending cuts, arguing that the public had rejected Obama’s big-government approach. But Obama and Senate Democrats, mindful of Keynesian economic theory, were anxious to avoid any spending cuts while the country was still digging out from the financial crisis of 2008. The federal government seemed to be careening towards its first shutdown since similar stalemates between President Bill Clinton and Republicans in the mid-1990s.

    At the last minute, though, Obama and then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid worked out an agreement with then-House Speaker John Boehner that was initially announced as a $38 billion cut in spending—not as large as Republicans wanted, but still the largest in history. “Both sides have had to make tough choices,” Reid explained at the time. “But tough choices are what this job’s all about.” The Washington Post concluded, “[A]n ascendant Republican Party has managed to impose its small-government agenda on a town still largely controlled by Democrats.”

    But as budget analysts began to scrutinize the fine print, it became obvious that most of the deal’s spending cuts were gimmicky or imaginary. For example, it included a $6 billion reduction for the Census Bureau from its 2010 levels, but that was because the Census Bureau was no longer conducting the 2010 census. It eliminated unused highway funds, a one-time expenditure to compensate dairy farmers for low prices, and anti-poverty aid that was no longer needed because the economy was improving. A Congressional Budget Office report on the eve of the vote found that the actual reductions for the next year would be just $352 million. Tea Party activists howled, 59 House Republicans voted against the deal, and Republican candidates for president raced to distance themselves from the compromise. “Wholly unacceptable,” declared then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.

    Boehner scrambled to defend the deal as “moving in the right direction” and “throwing the car in reverse,” but the Tea Party insurgents in his caucus vowed that they would not get rolled again. So that fall, when Obama needed House Republican support to raise the federal debt ceiling, he faced a much more intransigent opposition, and Boehner felt much more pressure to resist a deal. The resulting brinksmanship led to a full-blown debt crisis as well as a downgrade of the government’s credit rating. Obama and Boehner barely managed to avert a catastrophic default on the Treasury’s obligations, which could have destroyed the full faith and credit of the United States, and their final deal included significant long-term spending cuts that, to this day, neither party is particularly happy about.

    “We should have let them shut down the government the first time, let them get it out of their system,” one former Obama aide recalls. “We beat them too badly.”

    In fact, the dynamic set in motion by that April 2011 battle has continued into the present, with partisan standoffs every time the government approaches a deadline to extend its authority to spend or borrow more money. Boehner’s deputy, Eric Cantor, was even more intransigent in his dealings with Obama, but Cantor ended up losing a primary to a bomb-thrower who argued that he wasn’t intransigent enough. And Boehner quit in 2015, tired of the bomb-throwers in the “Freedom Caucus” wing of his conference.

    One of those bomb-throwers, Mick Mulvaney, is now President Trump’s budget director, and has pushed for even more draconian spending cuts. And last spring, after congressional leaders flatly rejected Mulvaney’s list of proposed cuts to popular agencies like the National Institutes of Health—and the media portrayed the resulting “omnibus” budget as a huge defeat for Trump—the angry president began making the kind of threats that help explain Washington’s current quandary. “Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!” he tweeted at the time.

    Congress managed to delay that shutdown after the hurricanes in September, but now it has arrived, and both parties are under pressure from their bases to hold out for total victory. It will be politically difficult for Democrats to accept a compromise that does not protect undocumented Dreamers who have been living in America since they were kids. And it has become politically difficult for Republicans to accept any compromises with Democrats. But if Senate Democrats do go for something like the bargain Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is currently offering—allowing passage of a short-term spending bill in exchange for a vague promise to allow a vote on legislation to protect some Dreamers from deportation—liberal activists will demand a harder line next time around.

    They won’t have to wait long: Congress and the president will need to cut a deal to raise the federal debt limit this spring, maybe as soon as March. Or they can continue their stalemate, and maybe create a global economic meltdown.


    The U.N.'s Most Important Peacekeeping Mission: Trump


    “He never thought he would get it,” remembers Melissa Fleming, a senior adviser to Antonio Guterres, the affable, cerebral head of the United Nations. In the fall of 2016, most in the cloistered world of international diplomacy thought the U.N. was...

    “He never thought he would get it,” remembers Melissa Fleming, a senior adviser to Antonio Guterres, the affable, cerebral head of the United Nations. In the fall of 2016, most in the cloistered world of international diplomacy thought the U.N. was about to choose its first woman as secretary general, weeks ahead of the United States electing its first woman president. But in the end, it was the 68-year old former prime minister of Portugal who got the job, elected in October 2016 with the support from long-time UN hands who’d marveled quietly at his seemingly casual mastery of languages and policy. A month later, Americans picked Donald Trump, a novice politician who talked about blowing up international institutions like the U.N., instead of Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state with a deep commitment to the existing global order.

    Almost immediately, Guterres declared his intention to shake things up. An advocate of nimbleness in all things, Guterres told me in Geneva in 2017 that the U.N.’s internal regulations are designed as if “they had been conceived to paralyze the U.N.” He vowed to reform the U.N.’s development program to make it more economically viable. He wanted to help member states follow through on the Paris climate accord, as well as develop new sustainability goals. And, prompted by dispiriting reports of by U.N. troops in Democratic Republic of Congo sexually assaulting women young women, he saw an urgent need to counter the negative reputation the U.N.’s peace-keepers have developed in certain parts of the world.

    But less than a month later, before Guterres had even moved into his new offices in Turtle Bay, along came Trump—and suddenly, the U.N.’s new boss wasn’t just tinkering around the edges of a flawed institution; his mission was now to preserve the viability of the 72-year-old institution itself. In Trump, Guterres had to contend with an American president who was openly hostile to the U.N.’s mission (“The United Nations is not a friend of democracy, it’s not a friend of freedom,” he had said in 2016), who had campaigned on pulling the United States out of all manner of foreign treaties—trade, military and environmental—and who had mocked the U.N. as “a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time” and vowed to slash its budget. Then, as if to drive home how little he thought of the diplomatic class, he nominated then-South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as the ambassador to the United Nations, replacing Samantha Power. Unlike Power, who had won the Pultizer Prize for her writing on humanitarian crises and authored the U.S.’s policy on genocide prevention, Haley arrived in New York with no foreign policy experience.

    Trump would, over the course of the next year, trigger a series of international dustups, seemingly reckless provocations—from the puerile taunting of North Korea’s nuke-craving dictator to his abrupt withdrawal from the Paris agreement in August to the widely decried decision in December to officially acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, over the objections of the overwhelming majority of U.N. member states. Last week, in the middle of negotiations over immigration reform, Trump reportedly disparaged the entire continent of Africa as “shithole countries,” prompting outrage in the halls of U.N. headquarters in New York. “There is no other word you can use but ‘racist,’” said Rupert Coleville, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    But for all the obvious points of friction between two men whose dispositions and personalities could not be further apart—Guterres, a fierce advocate for international refugees who is fluent in four languages and likes to quote German philosophers, and Trump, the border-wall promoting nationalist who spends hours a day watching cable news and has sought to ban refugees from Muslim countries—close observers of the U.N. say Guterres’ signature accomplishment over the past year may well have been his pacification of the globalist-baiting provocateur in the Oval Office.

    “If Guterres had one over-arching success in 2017, it’s been managing the Americans,” says Richard Gowan, an adjunct professor at Columbia University and an expert on the U.N. “He’s managed to establish some sort of functional relationship with the Trump administration, which is not something we could have predicted or felt confident of at the beginning of the year.” A senior U.N. official who asked to remain anonymous agrees: “It was a major achievement on the part of Guterres to avoid a showdown with the Americans.”

    Guterres has managed to blunt Trump’s institution-busting instincts by harnessing them them to his own ambitions for reform. Guterres, observers say, sold Trump and Haley on the idea of a leaner, more efficient U.N., a management goal that appealed to Trump’s lifelong dislike for layers of bureaucracy. As for Haley, she and Guterres have managed to find enough common ground to avoid a complete implosion, and that was largely based on the reform package Guterres proposed. His strategy—to propel the U.N. out of its grey, 1970s management style, while quietly wooing Trump—paid off.

    To prove the point, America’s volatile president has taken a more favorable view of the U.N. since Guterres visited the White House in October. The U.N., Trump said afterward, has the “power to bring people together, like nothing else.”

    ***

    Unlike the way the job is portrayed in, say, Hollywood movies, the U.N. secretary general actually has little formal authority—his or her power lies largely in the ability to persuade and cajole member states. In 2005, Kofi Annan had a breach with the George W. Bush administration when he dared criticize the Iraq invasion during a BBC interview. Annan continued to decry the invasion as illegal, straining his relationship with Bush until Annan’s departure in 2006. But in Trump, Guterres has found a partner with far less sympathy for or experience with international engagement than any preceding president. Indeed, Guterres’ career, with its roots in European socialism, reads like the inverse of Trump’s relentless pursuit of capitalist aggrandizement.

    Growing up in Lisbon, he saw the intense rural poverty caused by the Estado Novo—the autocratic regime that ruled from the 1920s through the mid-1970s. Guterres’ father imparted to his family “a clear feeling the regime was not legitimate,” he told me. As a young man, Guterres worked at a progressive Catholic organization, doing social work in the slums of Lisbon. He came to a realization, he told me: “There was no humanitarian solution for the plight of the people living in those slums; the solution would be political and simultaneously linked to a democratic process.”

    Guterres says he became “expert at organizing spontaneous demonstrations,” noting that this was before the era of Facebook or Twitter. “We’d say, let’s all go to the Presidential Palace! Or to the parliament or whatever, and we managed to gather anywhere from 20 to 3,000 people.” It was a time, he said, when you could “feel the strength of the city.” Devoutly Catholic and Socialist at the same time, Guterres ascended to the top of his party not by hewing to the extreme left but rather by engaging with intellectuals, scientists and business leaders across civil society.

    In 1995, aged 40, Guterres became Portugal’s prime minister, with a campaign slogan of “hearts and reason” that outlined his blend of humanism and pragmatism. Three years later, Guterres lost his first wife, a successful psychiatrist, with whom he had two children. Prior to her death from cancer, colleagues remember how he flew back and forth from Lisbon to London, where she was undergoing grueling treatment, so that he could be with her in the hospital on weekends. Guterres resigned as prime minister after his party lost badly in the 2001 local elections. “Politics are what they are,” he says. “I think there is a moment in which you need to recognize … you need to move to something else.”

    For Guterres, that something else was running the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which is tasked with protecting refugees and helping them either return to their home country or settle safely in a new one. During Guterres’s tenure, from 2005–2015, refugee movements soared to unprecedented levels. In 2005, the number of refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced persons hovered under 40 million; by 2015, it had soared above 60 million. Guterres attacked the problem aggressively by increasing funding. He traveled constantly, visiting countless refugees’ homes. Fleming was alongside him most of the time. “He was always interested what the people were doing, how they were surviving,” she says.

    “He is as at home sitting on the floor of a tent in the Beqaa Valley or talking to a Syrian refugee family as he is addressing the U.N. Security Council,” says Angelina Jolie, who has worked with Guterres in her role as a special envoy for refugees. He also reduced staff costs and increased overall efficiency. “I’ve never see anyone read spreadsheets as carefully as he did,” says one member of his inner office staff at Geneva. “I think he actually likes reading spreadsheets.”

    The refugee crisis, largely the result of the implosion of Arab countries in the Middle East, especially Iraq and Syria, was hardly the U.N.’s fault—but Guterres told me he felt “an enormous frustration not being able to provide solutions. The solution of humanitarian problems is never humanitarian. The solution is political.”

    In early 2017, I traveled with the new secretary general to Zaatari, a temporary refugee camp for Syrian refugees and now the fourth-largest city in Jordan. Guterres, who shook every single hand of the local staff, exuded a sense of humility and ease that his predecessor, South Korea’s Ban, often struggled to muster. This was Guterres’ 12th trip to Zaatari, which was built in 2012 as a camp for the tens of thousands of desperate people crossing the Syrian-Jordanian border. (Recent counts put its population at around 80,000.) Guterres took only a small entourage. “He likes to be nimble,” the diplomat told me. “Ban took huge travel parties.”

    We visited a trailer where Syrian women were sewing clothes that they would later sell. Then we went to a makeshift school, and Guterres and his team filed in. The children stared as the older man fit himelf into one of the small desks and picked up a book. “How old are you?” one of the girls asked Guterres, as the rest of the class burst into laughter. The secretary general laughed, too, flipping through an English book. “This is how I learned English too,” he said.

    The trip to Zaatari was probably one of the easier tasks Guterres had to tackle this past year. He arrived at an exceptionally challenging moment, with North Korea accelerating its nuclear weapons program, paralysis in the Security Council over the never-ending war in Syria, Trump-stoked doubts over the nuclear deal with Iran and climate change on the march. Many, if not all of these problems demanded U.S. attention, but in some respects were made more complicated by American involvement.

    The refugee crisis was a case in point. The tide of refugees reached crisis level in 2015, when the number of people flooding into Europe, mostly across the Mediterranean Sea and across the borders of EU countries in the southeast, reached 1 million, more than triple the number of the year before. The influx gave rise to right-wing nationalist politicians across the continent. When we spoke in January, Guterres described the sense one might get from watching the news “that Europe was being invaded and that nobody was in charge.” And this has “created an anxiety and fear that was easily manipulated by political forces.”

    ***

    The key to dealing with Trump as well as the other 192 members of the U.N., Guterres told me, was a lesson on negotiating he had learned from his first wife. “When two people are in a room, in fact they are six,” he says. “What each person is, what each person thinks he is, and what each person thinks the other is … In any kind of negotiations or human relations, you have to bring six back to two.” But with a president as mercurial as Trump, and as unpredictable, knowing which of his identities to engage with can be daunting.

    Early on, Trump indicated human rights and multilateral agreements, pillars of the U.N., were not a priority. In April, the administration cut off funding to the U.N. Population Fund, an agency that provides family planning services, over the issue of abortion. “Just 5 months into our time here, we've cut over half a billion $$$ from the UN peacekeeping budget & we're only getting started,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley tweeted in June. In June, Trump declared his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement: “As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country,” he said in a Rose Garden statement. At the time, a spokesman for Guterres said the Paris decision was a “major disappointment for global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote global security.”

    Guterres might have been frustrated, but he did not let on. After meeting with Trump last April, he told Judy Woodruff on PBS NewsHour that the world needs a U.S. “that is engaged with security issues.”

    In mid-October, not long after Trump appeared before the General Assembly to lambaste the U.N. for its “bureaucracy and mismanagement,” the U.S. pulled funding from UNESCO, claiming the U.N. cultural organization displays “anti-Israel bias.” Ronald Reagan had done the same thing in protest of the UNESCO’s spendthrift habits, but many saw the unilateral move many saw as part of Trump’s pattern of distrusting international organizations such as NATO. Less than a week later, Guterres visited the White House and evidently charmed the president enough that Trump gushed afterward the “things are going to happen with the United Nations that we haven’t seen before.”

    Though Trump didn’t specify what was coming, Guterres had no doubt briefed him on his work overhauling the tangled bureaucracy. The U.N.’s recruitment system—notorious for rewarding political cronies—was opened to outsiders, a reform that has left some long-term U.N. staff not entirely comfortable. Guterres has replaced many of the old guard with career diplomats, mostly from Global South or African countries.

    Guterres’s most ambitious organizational goal has been to rectify the gender imbalance throughout the U.N.’s administrative ranks. Ban had placed significantly more men than women in senior management; within a year, Guterres has brought the ratio much closer to parity. Even before he took the office he named Amina J. Mohammed, a former Nigerian minister, as deputy secretary general; Brazilian diplomat Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti as cabinet chief; and Kyung-Wha Kang of South Korea to a newly created position as special adviser on policy. In August, he appointed Alison Smale, a former New York Times editor, to be under secretary general of global communications. He selected Alice Walpole, the former British ambassador to Mali and a divorced mother of six children, as his envoy to the U.N.’s mission in Iraq.

    There’s a joke Guterres likes to use when describing his efforts to bring more women into the U.N. system. “Look,” he tells them, “There will only be equality when incompetent women are also in positions of responsibility, because there are plenty of incompetent men in positions of responsibility.”

    But the internal makeup of the U.N. bureaucracy, while an important issue, pales in comparison to the danger many diplomats believe Trump poses to the global order.

    As I was wrapping up my reporting, Guterres was dealing with the aftermath of Trump’s recent provocative foreign policy shift—recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel—and the threat it poses to resolving the intractable conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, always a preoccupation at the U.N. “[W]e pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect...” he tweeted in early January. Then, just a couple of weeks later, the U.S. announced it would withhold more than half its scheduled $125 million payment from the United Nations Relief Works Agency, which provides humanitarian relief and other aid to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

    Trump’s moves prompted the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, for the first time in 26 years to say the Palestinians won’t go for a two-state solution anymore, but want full and equal rights within a democratic Israel. Guterres quickly responded to Trump’s declaration. Without mentioning the president by name, he reminded people that he had “consistently spoken out against any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect for peace for Israelis and Palestinians.” Jersualem, he added, was a “final status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiation between the two parties.”

    Still, Guterres does not seem daunted. If anything, he appears to thrive on the challenges, say those who have observed him in the job. It’s been a year since he assumed the mantle of one of the most difficult and possibly thankless jobs in the world. The war in Syria is still raging with a humanitarian crisis in Idlib; Trump is vowing to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran; Muslim minorities are being threatened with genocide in Myanmar, causing another massive refugee crisis in neighboring Bangladesh. All these are unresolved challenges. But he could claim credit for one success. A few months back, over lunch with a reporter from the Financial Times, he said his biggest achievement was, in fact, in handling Donald Trump. “We have avoided disruption with the U.S.”


    The Secret to Henry Kissinger’s Success


    About halfway through writing my biography of Henry Kissinger, an interesting hypothesis occurred to me: Did the former secretary of state owe his success, fame and notoriety not just to his powerful intellect and formidable will but also to his...

    About halfway through writing my biography of Henry Kissinger, an interesting hypothesis occurred to me: Did the former secretary of state owe his success, fame and notoriety not just to his powerful intellect and formidable will but also to his exceptional ability to build an eclectic network of relationships, not only to colleagues in the Nixon and Ford administrations, but also to people outside government: journalists, newspaper proprietors, foreign ambassadors and heads of state—even Hollywood producers? If Volume I had surprised readers with its subtitle—“The Idealist”—should Volume II perhaps be subtitled “The Networker”?

    Whatever your views of Kissinger, his rise to power is as astonishing as it was unlikely. A refugee from Nazi Germany who found his métier as a scholar of history, philosophy and geopolitics while serving in the U.S. Army, Kissinger was one of many Harvard professors who were drawn into government during the Cold War. His appointment as Richard Nixon’s national security adviser in December 1968 nevertheless came as a surprise to many people (not least Kissinger himself), because for most of the previous decade he had been so closely identified with Nelson Rockefeller, Nixon’s patrician rival within the Republican Party. From his sickbed, the former President Eisenhower expressed his skepticism about the appointment. “But Kissinger is a professor,” he exclaimed when he heard of Nixon’s choice. “You ask professors to study things, but you never put them in charge of anything.”

    Most writers who have studied his subsequent career in Washington have tended to explain the rapid growth of Kissinger’s influence in terms of his close relationship to Nixon or his talent for the very bureaucratic infighting he had condemned as an academic. This, however, is to overlook the most distinctive feature of Kissinger’s mode of operation: While those around him continued to be bound by the rules of the hierarchical bureaucracy that employed them, Kissinger from the outset devoted considerable energy to building a network that extended horizontally in all directions beyond the Washington Beltway: to the press and even the entertainment industry inside the United States and, perhaps more importantly, to key foreign governments through a variety of “back channels.” Kissinger brought to this task an innate capacity to make emotional as well as intellectual connections even with the most aloof of interlocutors, a skill he had honed long before his appointment by the famously aloof Nixon. It was Kissinger’s unique talent for networking, not just his scholarly acumen or his astute reading of power politics, that made him such a formidable figure. And it was his arrival on the political scene just as the world was shifting from the ideological bifurcation of the early Cold War—a duel between two hierarchical superpowers—to a new era of interdependence and “multipolarity” that made Kissinger precisely (in the words of TIME magazine) “the right man in the right place at the right time.”

    ***

    Indeed, it was networking—ironically, a chance encounter with an official from the Eastern bloc—that presaged Kissinger’s greatest diplomatic triumph: the opening of diplomatic relations between the United States and Mao Zedong’s China.

    A characteristic feature of the Soviet system, which endured long after Stalin’s death, was the systematic destruction of private networks and the isolation of individuals. Even in the late 1960s, when Soviet citizens encountered Americans—which of course they very rarely did—they had to be on their guard. The Pugwash conferences of scientists were a rare exception. Today, having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995, Pugwash is almost synonymous with disarmament and conflict resolution through so-called “track two diplomacy.” During the Cold War, however, the conferences had a more ambiguous character, as the Soviet academics who attended had to be approved in advance by the Central Committee of the Communist Party and sometimes even by the Politburo. Kissinger thrived in this environment—charming and impressing Soviet apparatchiks with his trademark mordant humor—and he attended the gatherings several times.

    In 1966, at the Pugwash conference in the Polish resort of Sopot, Kissinger was startled by the violence of Soviet invective against China. “China was no longer Communist but Fascist,” the Soviet mathematician Stanislav Emelyanov told him during a boat trip to Gdansk harbor. “The Red Guards reminded him of nothing so much as the Hitler Youth. The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. had a common interest in preventing Chinese expansion.” Candidly, Emelyanov admitted he had not seen the Soviet government so confused since the aftermath of Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization speech. It was through Pugwash that Kissinger received an invitation to go from Poland to Prague, where he met Antonín Šnejdárek, the former head of Czech intelligence operations in Germany who was now director of the country’s Institute of International Politics and Economics. The two men met again in Vienna at the annual meeting of the London-based Institute for Strategic Studies. The Czech frankly warned Kissinger that the Soviets had no sincere intention of helping the Americans extricate themselves from Vietnam. Indeed, he said, the crisis in Southeast Asia might end up being “a convenient pretext [for Moscow] to tighten control over Eastern Europe.”

    The most revelatory of all these encounters came in January 1967, when Kissinger returned to Prague. Again Šnejdárek warned that Moscow “was becoming increasingly sensitive about the growing freedom of movement of the East European countries and especially the Czech effort to reduce their economic dependence on Moscow.” But now he startled Kissinger with a question that Kissinger had to admit “had never occurred to me”: if he thought a ‘U.S.-Chinese deal was in the making.” Sensing the American’s surprise, Šnejdárek explained:

    “The Soviets took the Chinese attack on them [a key feature of Mao’s Cultural Revolution] extremely seriously. They could not easily reconcile themselves to the end of Socialist unity and even less to the challenge to their position as the chief interpreters of Leninism. The extent of their attempt to influence internal Chinese developments is therefore not always grasped. They supported the party apparatus against Mao ...”

    The Maoists, in turn, were now desperate “to expel the Soviets physically from China. Nothing less than a complete rupture with the Soviet Union will enable them to feel secure.” True, the Cultural Revolution looked like an ideological rift, with the Chinese as the more radical Marxists. But:

    “[w]hatever Mao’s ideological fervor, the human material available to him will force him in a nationalist direction—assuming he is still in charge of his movement. Despite their wild talk, the Maoists might turn out to be more flexible toward the U.S. than their opponents. They will have to shut off China in any event to reconstitute governmental authority and a form of non-aggression treaty with the United States might fit this design very well. Of course they hate the U.S. too; but … no Communist can forget the Hitler-Stalin pact.”

    From a Czech point of view, such a “Johnson-Mao pact” was an alarming scenario because “if the United States settled with China it would step up the [Soviet] pressure in Europe.” Fearful of isolation, the Soviets would clamp down on what Šnejdárek obliquely called “the prospects of East European national development.” Kissinger was amazed, yet his Czech host’s fear of “a U.S.-Mao deal” seemed “genuine and deep.” Scholars have long speculated as to which American strategist conceived of the opening to China that would so transform the geopolitical landscape in 1972. But it was not Americans who thought of it first. It was the strategic thinkers of the Soviet bloc who foresaw the new world conjured up by the Sino-Soviet split, and they did so more than four years before Nixon’s historic visit to China.

    ***

    Beginning in January 1969, Kissinger set about applying some of the lessons he had learned as an academic and public intellectual: in particular, the lesson that informal networks could provide diplomatic channels superior to foreign ministries and embassies. As a prelude to writing the second volume of his life, I have attempted to map Kissinger’s network on the basis of all the published memoirs that relate to his period in government. This provides a preliminary plot of his and others’ networks as they were remembered by Kissinger himself and his contemporaries in government. The graphs depict Richard Nixon’s and Henry Kissinger’s ego networks, based on their memoirs; the Nixon and Ford administrations’ ego network, based on all members’ memoirs; and the Nixon and Ford administrations’ directed network, depicting how prominently members figure in each other’s memoirs. In the first three graphs (figures 1-3), relative importance is represented by both the proximity to the central “ego” node (which in the third case is the combined identities of all members who wrote memoirs) and the area of the node. In the fourth graph, we can see who mentioned whom and how often they did so in terms of mutual proximity, edge width and arrow direction.

    The graphs leave little doubt about who mattered in the Nixon-Ford era. Kissinger abounds—as important to Nixon as his wife, and the second most important member of the two administrations, outranking Ford, who became president. Next (see figure 4) came Nixon’s chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, followed by Ford and White House counsel John Dean. Also ranked highly on this basis were John Ehrlichman (assistant to the president for domestic affairs), Treasury Secretary John Connally, future president George H. W. Bush and Alexander Haig (Kissinger’s assistant, then deputy, and Haldeman’s successor after Watergate).

    It’s particularly striking to see the difference between “the world according to Nixon” and “the world according to Kissinger.” Nixon’s inner circle (figure 1) was that of a man whose experience of the presidency was to a remarkable extent confined within the walls of the White House. Aside from his wife and daughters, he refers most often in his memoir to Kissinger, Eisenhower (whose vice-president he was), Haldeman, Erlichman and Haig. Kissinger, by contrast, mentions key foreign leaders almost as much as the presidents he served, and more often than the secretary of state who preceded him in that office, William Rogers (figure 2). The more striking thing is which foreign leaders loom largest in Kissinger’s memoirs: the Soviets (their ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Dobrynin, their foreign minister, Andrei Gromyko, and their premier, Leonid Brezhnev) came first, followed by Zhou Enlai, the Chinese premier, and Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president. Apart from Brezhnev and Dobrynin, only one other foreigner was among the 40 individuals most frequently mentioned by Nixon: Nguyen Van Thieu, the South Vietnamese president. By contrast, only 16 of Kissinger’s top 40 were Americans. Of course, we would expect the national security adviser and secretary of state to spend more time than the president with foreigners: that is the nature of the job. Yet it is difficult to believe that any previous holder of those offices had been quite as indefatigable a traveler and negotiator.



    While in office, Kissinger appeared on the cover of Time magazine no fewer than 15 times. He was, according to one of the magazine’s profiles of him, published in 1974, “the world’s indispensable man”—though one who stood accused by his critics of paying more “attention to principals than principles.” The hypothesis must be that Kissinger’s influence and reputation were products not only of his intellect and industriousness, but also of his preternatural connectedness. Shuttle diplomacy was a part of this. So was schmoozing journalists, at which Kissinger excelled, though he scarcely mentioned them in his memoirs, despite the closeness of his friendships to the Alsop brothers, Stewart and Joseph, and the columnist Tom Braden. As Time noted, Kissinger had “a finely tuned sense of hierarchy.” But what mattered much more were all the other relationships in a network—including an “old boy network” of former participants in Kissinger’s summer seminars at Harvard—that spanned the globe. “He always looks for the guy who can deliver,” an unnamed aide told Time. “A lot of doors open for him,” said a “Washington friend and admirer.” The network was the precondition for his “chain reaction” diplomacy—a phrase used by the Israeli deputy premier, Yigal Allon. That was what justified the claim that Kissinger “probably [had] more impact than any other person in the world.”


    The weakening of hierarchy and strengthening of networks that characterized the 1970s had many benefits. From Kissinger’s point of view, these trends significantly reduced the risk of a Third World War: that, after all, was the central rationale of more frequent dialogue with the Soviet Union, as well as the beginning of communication with the People’s Republic of China. Contemporaries often summarized Kissinger’s foreign policy as “détente.” He preferred to speak of “interdependence.” A “new international system” had replaced “the structure of the immediate postwar years,” he declared in London in December 1973: one based on “the paradox of growing mutual dependence and burgeoning national and regional identities.” “The energy crisis,” he suggested three months later, was one of “the birth pains of global interdependence.” By April 1974, “The Challenge of Interdependence” had become a speech title; by 1975 interdependence was “becoming the central fact of our diplomacy.” “If we do not get a recognition of our interdependence,” Kissinger warned in October 1974, “the Western civilization that we now have is almost certain to disintegrate.” Academics at his alma mater such as Richard Cooper and Joseph Nye obliged by writing books on the subject. Interdependence found institutional expression with the first meeting of the Trilateral Commission at the Rockefeller estate in Pocantico Hills in 1972 and the first meeting of the “Group of Six” (Britain, France, Italy, Japan, the United States and West Germany) at Rambouillet in 1975. The New York Times chose to mark the Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence with an editorial entitled “Interdependence Day.” It was a concept enthusiastically adopted by President Jimmy Carter and his national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski.


    Yet there were costs as well as benefits to inhabiting a more interdependent world. As Brzezinski argued in his book Between Two Ages, the new “global city” being created by the “technetronic age” was “a nervous, agitated, tense, and fragmented web of interdependent relations.” This was true in more ways than one. During the first half of the Cold War, the superpowers had been able to control information flows by manufacturing or sponsoring propaganda and classifying or censoring anything deemed harmful. Sensation surrounded every spy scandal and defection; yet in most cases all that happened was that classified information was passed from one national security state to the other. This, too, changed in the 1970s. Leaked official documents began to reach the public in the West through the free press—beginning in 1971 with the Pentagon Papers given by Daniel Ellsberg to The New York Times—and (to a much smaller extent) in the Soviet bloc through samizdat literature, notably Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. Leaks to the media in turn fueled the dramatic escalation of social protest on university campuses and inner cities that made the early 1970s seem so febrile compared with the sedate quarter-century after 1945. Altogether close to 400 different groups were involved in some form of protest in the United States between the 1960s and the 1980s: what had begun with the campaign for African-American civil rights soon encompassed campaigns for women’s rights, Native American rights, gay and lesbian rights, and campaigns against the Vietnam War, nuclear weapons, poverty and industrial pollution.

    Like most members of the generation who fought in the Second World War, Nixon and Kissinger had little patience with these groups; indeed, Kissinger likened the student radicals he encountered at Harvard in the late 1960s to the German students who had attended the Nuremberg Rallies in the early 1930s. Nevertheless, in the small hours of May 9, 1970, Nixon ventured out of the White House to confront a group of student protesters who were camped out at the Lincoln Memorial. It was an uncharacteristic attempt at connection by a man notorious for his reclusiveness and misanthropy. As he told them:

    “I was sorry they had missed it [his press conference the previous day] because I had tried to explain … that my goals in Vietnam were the same as theirs—to stop the killing, to end the war, to bring peace. Our goal was not to get into Cambodia by what we were doing, but to get out of Vietnam. There seemed to be no—they did not respond. I hoped that their hatred of the war, which I could well understand, would not turn into a bitter hatred of our whole system, our country and everything that it stood for. I said, I know you, that probably most of you think I’m an SOB. But I want you to know that I understand just how you feel.”

    Perhaps Nixon did understand how the protesters felt. But, as they subsequently made clear to the reporters who swiftly descended on them, they did not remotely understand how he felt, or care to.

    Long before Nixon fell victim to the exposure of his own skulduggery by the Washington Post—as well as to the consequences of his own vulnerability as a network isolate, with too few friends in the institutions that might conceivably have saved him—Kissinger had understood that networks were more powerful than the hierarchies of the federal government. The protesting students he knew well enough not to waste time on. But he did tour the country in the Ford years giving speeches to Midwestern audiences in an effort to explain his strategic concept to the wider public—though with only limited success. In some ways, his most remarkable feat was to isolate himself from the one component of the Nixon network that would have been fatal to him: the part that plotted the Watergate break-in. It took a networker of genius to know exactly which nodes to avoid connecting to.

    Kissinger’s power, still based on a network that crossed not only borders but also professional boundaries, endured long after he left government in 1977, institutionalized in the advisory firm Kissinger Associates, maintained by almost incessant flying, meeting, mingling, dining. By contrast, the executive branch after Nixon saw its power significantly curtailed by congressional scrutiny and greatly emboldened newspapers. No future national security adviser or secretary of state, no matter how talented, would ever be able to match what Kissinger had achieved.

    Adapted from THE SQUARE AND THE TOWER: Networks and Power, from Freemasons to Facebook by Niall Ferguson, published by Penguin Press, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Niall Ferguson.


    Get Over Yourself, America


    For the past few weeks, we’ve been deluged by various retrospectives on Donald Trump’s first year in office. Many made valuable contributions to our understanding of this, shall we say, unique figure in U.S. presidential history. Yet all had the same...

    For the past few weeks, we’ve been deluged by various retrospectives on Donald Trump’s first year in office. Many made valuable contributions to our understanding of this, shall we say, unique figure in U.S. presidential history. Yet all had the same fatal flaw: the fashionable trait of heaping blame on Trump for America’s abdication of global leadership. Even seasoned American diplomats have lambasted Trump for rupturing ties with Europe, never mind that the same accusation was leveled at George W. Bush over a decade ago for brushing aside the concerns of “Old Europe” over the Iraq war, and even more recently at Barack Obama for neglecting Europe in favor of a “pivot” to Asia.

    If one man could bring down an empire, America would have collapsed several times over in just the past two decades. After all, in 2007 it was fashionable to blame President George W. Bush for imperial overstretch in light of the failing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That helped President Barack Obama win the 2008 election, but his presidency clearly did not so substantially restore American prestige that it could not be quickly dismantled by Trump—otherwise these trite commentaries would have little to complain about. The facile nature of circular logic that conflates individual personality with national power is already self-evident.

    So too is America’s self-centric worldview in an age where globalization has many drivers beyond the United States. China is the top trading partner of more than 120 countries, versus just over 50 for the U.S. Europe exports more capital around the world than America does. Japanese capital is funding AI research around the world. Russians are again selling weapons everywhere.

    For Americans, these trends point toward some uncomfortable questions. Why did Asian economies continue to grow so fast in the decade after America’s Great Recession? Why did European allies join the Chinese-sponsored Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank despite heavy U.S. opposition? Why have all countries—including close U.S. allies such as Canada, Japan, South Korea and Australia—participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership carried forward with plans to deepen a major trading zone even after the Trump withdrew the U.S. from negotiations as soon as he assumed office?

    It turns out that the global system is underpinned by more powerful forces than either the whims of America’s president or even the country’s enormous military and economic weight. In fact, America’s once-dominant position in the world has been steadily declining since the 1970s when Japan’s rise and Europe’s consolidation into the EU brought two new centers of gravity, followed of course by China and now India, as well as a revived Russia, as geostrategic anchors. All of them are intensifying their relations with each other as well as with other regional powers from Saudi Arabia to Brazil—no matter what edicts are pronounced in Washington. American officials speak about accommodating China’s rise as if it were still up to them. But our collective international society wants only one thing: More connectivity among its members. Globalization has turned the world from a pyramid with America at the top into a spiderweb. To make a celestial analogy, geopolitical order is not a solar system with one star in the center around which all planets rotate. It is more like a constellation, a pattern of bright stars bound by mutual gravity.

    Early 2008 seemed an odd time to make this argument. The “surge” in Iraq appeared to be solidifying America’s mission; many still spoke comfortably of American hegemony. But as I argued in a January 2008 cover essay for the New York Times Magazine (adapted from my book The Second World) titled “Waving Goodbye to Hegemony,” the end of the Cold War meant that many countries no longer had to choose sides. Instead, dozens of the most important swing states on every continent realized their interests would be best served by pursuing multi-alignment, gaining benefits from America, Europe, China and other suitors all at the same time.

    So Trump, like Obama before him, is really just an accessory to what has been happening for at least the past quarter century: the rise of a truly multipolar world. Over this period, from 9/11 and the Iraq war through the financial crisis, rising inequality and divisive populism, the U.S. and the United Kingdom, in particular, have suffered a brutal demotion in their legitimacy. Especially after Brexit, Europe is refocused on pooling its economic and strategic assets and is parting ways with the U.S. on how to move forward with Russia, Iran and China. In these critical cases, Europe favors engagement to the American approach of containment. Europeans aren’t focused on building ties with Asia because of Trump but because their annual trade with Asia’s major economies is nearly $500 billion more than their trade with America—a trend that long predates Trump.

    Since the 1990s, China, too, has scarcely wavered in its ambition to use infrastructure and commercial investment to reorganize Asia to its liking. In Second World, I wrote that “China is winning the new Great Game by building the new Silk Roads” of railways and pipelines across Russia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and other frail post-Soviet and post-colonial states. All of this was happening while the U.S. and Europe were focused on old conflicts: the Balkans and Iraq. The West only took notice in the past two years once China put a name—the Belt & Road Initiative—to what had long been underway.

    These are examples of structural shifts in the distribution of global power and authority, meaning they are long-lasting and not likely to be undone. We have a natural tendency to favor cyclical patterns, hoping for rise to immediately follow decline, indicating that the present trend is merely a blip. But even if America recovers its economic dynamism and social cohesion, why would this stop Europeans and Asians, Arabs and Africans, from aggressively pursuing their own visions for their future? Should they suddenly follow the next American president’s lead just because he or she isn’t Donald Trump?

    Anyone paying attention to how leaders around the world think over the past three decades ought to have noticed that “Japan First” and “China First” long predated “America First,” and now we have “India First” and “Europe First” as well. Deference to America falls far down the list of any nation’s priorities, no matter who the U.S. president may be.

    The truly important trends in the world today are thus Trump-agnostic, especially the massive growth in inter-regional diplomatic and commercial activity that bypasses the U.S. Most of the world’s energy trade and goods shipping passes along the maritime corridors between Europe, the Gulf states and Asia across the Indian Ocean, not the Atlantic or Pacific. Don’t confuse a global public chattering about Trump with caring about him—or even about America. Every sensible country’s goal is to avoid excessive dependence on any foreign power. There was nothing predetermined about Trump’s election victory, but there is an inevitability to globalization continuously connecting supply and demand across the world and circumventing any obstacles in its path.

    The United States, due to its unique geography and political history, is probably the most self-absorbed country on the planet—and it’s been hard for American leaders to adjust to a world in which the U.S. is one star in the constellation and not the North Star of the entire sky. To be influential in the unfolding era requires not retreating inward or containing others, but the exact opposite: being as connected as possible to all other nodes of power. This logic should guide not only America’s current president, but anyone who comes after it.


    How Would Trump’s Immigration Crackdown Have Affected His Own Team?


    After President Donald Trump called it a “total disaster, which threatens our security and our economy and provides a gateway for terrorism” at a White House meeting in early January, “chain migration” quickly became the buzzword du jour for...


    After President Donald Trump called it a “total disaster, which threatens our security and our economy and provides a gateway for terrorism” at a White House meeting in early January, “chain migration” quickly became the buzzword du jour for anti-immigration voices. But chain migration, a process also known as “family reunification” that allows a legal immigrant to bring his family members to the United States—spouses and minor children when he has a green card, and parents and siblings after he becomes a citizen—is nothing new. In fact, it’s how the families of some of the most prominent anti-immigration voices in Trump’s circle—and the president himself—came to the United States.

    These ahistorical warnings about the evils of chain migration are part of a longstanding American tradition described by immigration historian Tyler Anbinder in a 2016 Chicago Sun-Times editorial: “From the days of the Puritans to the present, every generation of Americans has believed that the latest wave of immigrants is completely different from—and inferior to—their own immigrant ancestors and could never become true Americans.” From White House adviser Stephen Miller to Fox News commentator Tomi Lahren, many prominent anti-immigration voices advocate for immigration policies like merit-based systems and language-based preferences that would have barred their own families from coming to the United States.

    But while our favorite immigration opponents may have forgotten their immigrant roots, lucky for them, I have an Ancestry.com account, and I know how to use it. In a project I call #resistancegenealogy, I’ve traced their family trees and found, not surprisingly, their own family’s stories are markedly similar to those of the immigrants they now would like to prevent from becoming Americans. (Except, of course, that today’s immigrants are less commonly white Europeans.) Here are some of the highlights.

    Dan Scavino, Jr.

    Let’s start with Dan Scavino, Jr., White House social media director, who tweeted an article about chain migration “choking” the United States. That’s the kind of charge that may have once been leveled against Italian immigrants like Scavino’s great-grandfather.

    Scavino’s roots trace back to the Italian Piedmont town of Canelli, where his great-grandfather Davide “Gildo” Ermenegildo was born in August of 1884 to Giuseppe Scavino and his wife Carolina Giovine. The birth certificate is below, with Gildo on the right side.


    Gildo Scavino was part of a classic chain of immigrants that began with his older brother Vittorio (or Victor, as he would come to be known) who arrived at Ellis Island in 1904 with his wife Camilla. The records indicate that Vittorio had come on a business trip, but he apparently stayed on, because the following March, when brother Ettore (who would become Hector) arrived from Canelli, he listed brother Vittorio, at an address on E. 59th Street in New York City, as his point of contact. He also indicates that his brother paid for his passage.


    The 1905 New York state census indicates that the two brothers were living together. Newly arrived Ettore, with no occupation listed, is said to be “at home,” Victor a day laborer and his wife Camilla a dressmaker.


    Are these the sorts of immigrants who would meet the proposed “skills and merit” criteria that Trump would like to replace the family-based system with? Victor and Hector went on work in a candy factory, although Victor’s 1918 declaration of intention for citizenship, which immigrants were able to file after having resided in the United States for at least two years, identifies him as a “laundry washer.”


    In September of 1913, Dan Scavino’s great-grandfather Gildo arrives, accompanied by brother Victor, who is re-entering the U.S. after some years spent in Paris. Two months later, their younger sister Esther, a dressmaker, arrives from Canelli and is “discharged” to her older brothers, as written below.


    By 1915, the census shows that Esther and her brother Gildo were sharing an apartment on 127th Street.


    Finally, in 1916, the youngest Scavino sister Clotilde, her baby son Mario and the Scavinos’ widowed father, 68-year-old Giuseppe, arrive, leaving behind at least one sister in Italy. These newcomers list last-arrived sister Esther as their point of contact. (You see how this works now? It’s like a … chain.)

    This group was detained at Ellis Island as “likely public charges,” meaning there was concern they would not be able to support themselves, which probably had something to do with the fact that Giuseppe was issued a medical certificate at Ellis Island for “senile debility,” which you can see noted below. After two days of waiting and a hearing, the Scavinos were cleared for entry to the United States on December 18. Giuseppe died just three months later. (They fared better, incidentally, than shipmate Domenica Fazio, a suspected prostitute who was detained alongside them and deported back to Italy.)


    Gildo Scavino, Dan, Jr.’s great-grandfather, went on to marry Carmella Daglia, also an Italian immigrant, in 1918, and their son Aldo was born in New York in 1920, paving the way for his grandson to one day work in the White House and use his platform to call for an end to so-called chain migration.

    Rep. Steve King
    Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa has become notorious for making thinly veiled racist pronouncements about the threats of immigration. “We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies,” he lamented on Twitter in March last year.


    But King’s own grandmother Freda Harm was one of those very babies, arriving in steerage at Ellis Island in 1894 from Germany at the age of four, according to passenger documents, with her parents and two little siblings in tow. The difference, of course, is that white European babies are likely not the kinds of “somebody else” King was referring to.


    White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller
    Miller, an immigration hardliner who has helped craft Trump’s wish list on more restrictive policies, once warned in a college op-ed that “worshipping at the altar of multiculturalism” might lead to the “sacrifice of the one culture which binds us all.” But Miller’s own Jewish family arrived from Eastern Europe with very little and spun their hard work into success, opening up businesses in Pennsylvania—the classic immigration success story.

    In a White House briefing in August, Miller made clear that White House immigration policy would prioritize those immigrants who could already speak English. But by those rules, Miller’s own great-grandmother would not have passed muster. In the 1910 census, she is clearly identified as speaking only Yiddish, four years after arriving.


    Tomi Lahren
    Fox News’ Tomi Lahren has been especially unforgiving in her immigration stance, even going so far as to defend President Trump’s “shithole countries” comment.


    But her tree yielded perhaps the most hilarious vignette yet: Lahren’s Russian immigrant great-great-grandfather, Constantin Dietrich, was indicted by a federal grand jury in North Dakota in 1917 for forging his naturalization papers. Such prosecutions were exceedingly rare; there were typically less than 100 annually out of about 105,000 naturalizations. But luckily for Lahren, the trial jury was apparently unmoved by the findings of the grand jury and acquitted him, making it possible for her to be here sharing her anti-immigration screeds on Twitter in 2018.





    Tucker Carlson
    “Why does America benefit from having tons of people from failing countries come here?” Fox News personality Tucker Carlson asked on Twitter last year.

    Well, though Carlson was apparently estranged from his biological mother, sketching out her tree led to the memoirs of Carlson’s great-great grandfather Cesar Lombardi, who wrote about how the “narrowness of opportunities” in Switzerland created a “violent desire” for him to “seek my fortune in foreign parts.” He landed in New York on November 1, 1860.



    The good news is that while we’ve been hearing about the evils of immigration for centuries, the country appears to have continually weathered the storm. I suspect we’re going to be just fine moving forward.

    After all, some of those immigrants’ descendants have even ended up in the White House.


    House Dems: Senate ‘screwing us’ with shutdown deal


    House Democrats are fuming about the deal their Senate counterparts accepted to reopen the government, saying it gets them no closer to an immigration agreement in the House and may have cost them precious political capital in the meantime. “They...

    House Democrats are fuming about the deal their Senate counterparts accepted to reopen the government, saying it gets them no closer to an immigration agreement in the House and may have cost them precious political capital in the meantime.

    “They blink, they just do, and it’s unfortunate,” Illinois Rep. Luis Gutiérrez said about Senate Democrats. “I thought they were going to stand tall and firm.”

    Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin was blunter at a House Democratic Caucus meeting Monday afternoon. “How do we know the Senate isn’t screwing us?” she said, according to two sources.

    “They are,” responded House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

    The agreement between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will bring an end to the three-day shutdown and provides for an immigration debate on the Senate floor if no deal to protect Dreamers is reached by Feb. 8. But, notably, the deal includes no assurances from House Republican leaders that they too will allow a bipartisan immigration debate on the House floor.


    So far, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has resisted pressure from both moderate and conservative Republicans to bring an immigration bill up for a vote, two groups with very different ideas about what should be included in a final deal.

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has also tried to nudge Ryan, asking him via phone last week to allow the House to vote on two bills: A hard-line immigration proposal sponsored by conservatives like Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and a bipartisan Dreamer-border security bill offered by Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.). Ryan refused.

    Ryan has not given any indication he would bring up a Senate-passed immigration bill on the House floor and resisted making a commitment to do so on the phone with McConnell Friday night before the shutdown.

    Gutiérrez and others leaving the House Democratic Caucus meeting pointed out the same thing: Nothing has changed for House Democrats since Friday, except they could shoulder some of the blame in the public eye for shutting down the government.

    “The big question is what’s different?” said one House Democrat describing the overall tone of the meeting. “This works in the Senate but it doesn’t accomplish what the ‘no’ votes — ‘no’ to the extension — were intended to accomplish [in the House].”

    All but six House Democrats voted against a short-term funding bill last week, including several vulnerable lawmakers who supported two other continuing resolutions to keep the government open in December.

    House Democrats in particular took issue with the messaging strategy adopted by Schumer and other members of Senate Democratic leadership during the shutdown. They say Schumer made the showdown about the Dreamers but then appeared to get cold feet when Republicans slammed Democrats for shutting down the government over “illegal immigrants.”

    Democrats also tried to argue that the shutdown was about a lot more than just saving the nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation. But by then, House Democrats argued, the messaging war was lost.

    “Clearly no one looked really good here and everyone wanted to get the government open,” said one House Democratic source. “People didn’t specifically say [Schumer’s] name but that’s where the anger was directed.”

    While House Democratic leaders and most members avoided publicly berating Schumer — unlike liberal groups that unleashed a torrent of criticism — the schism was obvious.

    Pelosi and Hoyer voted against the short-term funding bill.

    “I don’t see that there’s any reason, speaking personally and hearing from our members, to support what was put forth,” Pelosi said at a news conference Monday.

    Now, House Democrats worry they’ll be in the same place in just three weeks — staring down another government funding deadline with little, if any, progress on immigration talks that have languished in Congress since President Donald Trump rescinded protections for Dreamers in September.


    Plus, members say, they are skeptical there is enough time in the next two weeks for real negotiations to take place. The House is expected to leave town after voting Monday for an already-scheduled recess. And next week will be consumed by Trump’s first State of the Union address and the GOP’s annual retreat.

    “I can’t really tell you what the thinking is on the Senate side,” said Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.). “How many times has one chamber voted for something that the other chamber won’t bring up?”

    Grisham and other CHC leaders met with Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) on Sunday and discussed details of the Hurd-Aguilar bill.

    Cornyn didn’t reject the bill, which currently has more than 50 bipartisan House co-sponsors, according to sources with knowledge of the meeting. But it’s unclear whether the White House would support the plan — likely a prerequisite for House GOP support — given it doesn’t address family-based migration or the diversity visa lottery, two hot-button issues Republicans want to tackle as part of any immigration deal.

    Cornyn was one of a handful of Senate Republicans who met at the White House with Trump on Monday to discuss immigration.

    Now, House Democrats are trying to salvage what they can out of a three-day shutdown that seemed to move the needle little, if at all, in their favor — arguing they still have leverage on a raft of issues, including spending levels for defense and domestic programs, hurricane aid and, in the coming months, the debt limit.

    “We have a lot of things that are left unaddressed, sort of twisting in the wind, including the Dreamers,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said.


    Senate Dems’ ‘2020 caucus’ votes against shutdown deal


    Senate Democrats’ 2020 caucus united on Monday against the deal to end the government shutdown. The opposition from the more than half a dozen liberal senators who are seen as potential challengers to President Donald Trump wasn't unexpected — they...

    Senate Democrats’ 2020 caucus united on Monday against the deal to end the government shutdown.

    The opposition from the more than half a dozen liberal senators who are seen as potential challengers to President Donald Trump wasn't unexpected — they had already vowed to oppose any spending bill that didn't include immediate relief for Dreamers.

    But their votes against a three-week government funding bill underscore their alignment with a liberal base that is eager to take a hard line against Trump and quickly rebelled against Senate Democratic leaders' acceptance of Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s offer to merely hold a vote on immigration legislation in the coming weeks.

    “I persistently argued that we should keep the government open while we negotiate, but that we need a shorter timeframe – one- to three-day increments – to hold Trump’s and McConnell’s feet to the fire," Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said in a statement after the vote.


    Merkley joined Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in voting against advancing the three-week government funding bill. Those six led their caucus in most frequent opposition to Trump's early crop of nominees, and all six sought to rally liberals as the shutdown battle began.

    Other Democrats who joined them in voting against the three-week funding bill were Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), himself the subject of occasional 2020 speculation; Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who faces a reelection challenge from the left; and Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).


    Inside the frantic 24 hours that led to a shutdown


    With just hours to spare until the government ran out of money at midnight Friday, Chuck Schumer made Mitch McConnell an offer. Pass a bill to buy 24 more hours to avert a shutdown and work out a budget deal that would also protect some immigrants at...

    With just hours to spare until the government ran out of money at midnight Friday, Chuck Schumer made Mitch McConnell an offer. Pass a bill to buy 24 more hours to avert a shutdown and work out a budget deal that would also protect some immigrants at risk of being deported, Schumer said, according to senators and aides briefed on the talks.

    Republicans had expected they would have to concede something to the Senate Democratic leader to avoid a shutdown. At that moment, they would have accepted a three-week deal, a week shorter than the plan the House had approved a day earlier, according to Republican officials.

    But McConnell scoffed at his counterpart’s proposal.

    “Nonsense,” McConnell replied, according to a GOP senator briefed on the conversation and confirmed by aides.

    The rejection was the final blow that sent the government on course for the first shutdown since 2013. The stage was set a week earlier with President Donald Trump’s move to squash a bipartisan immigration deal — and Democrats’ retort that Dreamers must be taken care of as a condition to funding the government.

    This account of the final hours leading up to the shutdown is based on interviews with more than a dozen lawmakers, aides and administration officials. The stalemate, coming one year to the day after Trump's inauguration, was the culmination of bad blood between Democrats and the Republican Congress and president that's been building since he took office.


    Though the House was able to pass a four-week spending bill with money for children’s health care on Thursday night, the Senate, with its supermajority voting requirement, doomed the bill and Congress careened past the midnight deadline. Negotiations during the final hours came in fits and starts, with a few bursts of enthusiasm but mostly resignation: Schumer and Trump chatted over cheeseburgers, and a bipartisan group held a last-ditch session Friday night.

    Schumer and McConnell spoke privately on the Senate floor multiple times minutes before midnight, and Democrats tossed out a proposal that would have had government funding expire hours after Trump’s State of the Union. But by that point, both sides were too dug in to avoid a funding lapse, however brief it may be.

    McConnell preferred House Speaker Paul Ryan’s House bill and believed the GOP would have the political high ground if Democrats allowed a shutdown while opposing children’s health care. Congressional Democrats wanted to hold firm on Dreamers, calling the cause a core value believing the GOP would never take them seriously if they didn’t.

    Late in the day, Trump returned his hard-line immigration stances in a talk with Schumer, after the two had nearly reached an agreement earlier at the White House. After the clock struck midnight, Schumer blamed Trump explicitly and lamented: “I thought we had a deal.”

    The standoff surprised even veterans of partisan warfare on Capitol Hill.

    “We always enjoy looking over the cliff. But seldom do we jump,” mused Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.).

    The PR war began in the run-up to the funding deadline, and escalated immediately after. Trump and Republicans are branding it the “Schumer shutdown.” Schumer called it the “Trump shutdown” on the Senate floor, to audible guffaws from several Republicans senators.

    Despite the finger-pointing, Democrats said Schumer and Trump were actually quite close to a deal. But they said McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wouldn’t allow a funding extension of a few days to get them across the finish line.

    “There’s no willingness on the other side of aisle to provide an extension that would allow us to get to an agreement,” sighed Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

    The president called Schumer on Friday morning and invited him to the White House to craft the broad contours of a deal on government funding and immigration. Schumer offered to increase defense spending levels and provide money for border security. The Democratic leader believed he went even further toward Trump's position on borders than the immigration legislation crafted by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), according to a person briefed on the meeting.


    Schumer left thinking a few days more of government funding would give him and Trump enough time to clinch an agreement. But Trump called Schumer twice after the lunch with second thoughts, asking for a longer funding bill and disparaging other immigration provisions, the person said.

    It turned out that GOP leaders had Trump’s ear at least as much as Schumer did. According to multiple congressional and White House sources, Trump also told Schumer he needed to work out an agreement with McConnell and Ryan. That killed any hopes among Democrats that Schumer could persuade Trump to make concessions on the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

    Still, as Schumer and Trump met, Republicans on the Hill worried that the two New Yorkers would again betray GOP leaders, as they did in the fall when they cut a deal on the debt ceiling and government funding. GOP leaders, in fact, were not informed of the meeting until right before it happened.

    But White House Chief of Staff John Kelly phoned Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) right after the meeting. His message: There would be no Trump-Schumer deal.

    “He told me that the president told Schumer to come back and talk to Ryan and McConnell. [Trump] wasn’t going to get in the middle of it,” Cornyn said. “Sounds like Gen. Kelly had it under control.”

    The impasse was well underway by then. House GOP leaders were eager to ramp up pressure on Democrats to fold. They debated during their daily morning leadership meeting whether or not to adjourn the House for a week-long recess and send lawmakers home, giving Democrats a take-it-or-leave-it option to pass their measure or allow the government to shutter.

    Ultimately, Ryan’s team decided to keep members in town in case they had to vote on another spending plan. But Senate Democrats stayed united throughout the day, culminating in a chest-thumping caucus meeting that hardened their opposition to the GOP’s plans.

    Republicans were sticking together, too. White House staff pumped up the president before the meeting with Schumer, encouraging the man who fancies himself the ultimate deal-maker to suffocate his penchant for striking a bargain right away, GOP officials said.

    Party leaders — convinced that Democrats would either cave or take the blame for a shutdown — decided early Friday morning that they were going to hold the line against Schumer and Pelosi. The Senate leader spoke with Trump by phone, updating the president on the GOP negotiating stance and intention not to budge. Ryan and McConnell then huddled in the Capitol and agreed not to seriously entertain offers from Democrats that diverged from the House-passed month-long spending plan.

    “They agreed to stay unified and stick to the plan, which is that the House acted and Senate Democrats needed to vote on it,” said one source familiar with their conversation.

    That didn’t stop some lawmakers from trying to strike a compromise. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) shopped a middle ground proposal with leaders and rank-and-file. He entered McConnell’s office around 7 p.m., a half-hour later walked into Schumer’s suite, and then went back to McConnell’s at 7:45 p.m. While Graham insisted he just went to the Democratic leader’s office for something to eat, aides said he was also pitching a two- or three-week spending bill to get out of the mess.

    “Get out of my way,” Graham told reporters as he strode around the Capitol. Later he spent more than 15 minutes with Schumer and numerous other senators from both parties who had been working feverishly on a bipartisan immigration deal.

    The result, according to senators: McConnell would agree to hold a vote on the floor on the bipartisan plan led by Graham and Durbin — and perhaps on a dueling immigration proposal as well — in the coming days. But Democrats could not lock down their chief demand, which was to attach that immigration deal to a must-pass spending measure.


    “That’s something that the majority leader didn’t feel he could do,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who was a part of those conversations. “Can’t bind the House that way.”

    As the day wore on toward the midnight deadline, both sides braced for a public backlash, with no real clue which side would beat the brunt.

    “They’re going to blame all of us,” one Democratic senator said of voters. Still, the lawmaker added that he agreed with Schumer’s strategy and that Democrats would not let McConnell “jam” them.

    Trump, too, was waiting for voters to point the finger at him. After all, with universal name ID and a massive megaphone, the president wouldn’t be able to escape culpability.

    “It’s Trump — they’re going to blame me no matter what,” the president told aides on Friday.


    Trump's war on regulations is real. But is it working?


    In December, standing aside giant stacks of paper representing the morass of federal rules, President Donald Trump literally cut a line of red tape and declared victory in the war on government regulation. His administration, he announced, had repealed...

    In December, standing aside giant stacks of paper representing the morass of federal rules, President Donald Trump literally cut a line of red tape and declared victory in the war on government regulation. His administration, he announced, had repealed 22 regulations for each new rule issued, and cut regulatory costs by $8.1 billion—a headline number for what former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon called the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

    But a closer look at that state during Trump’s first year in office reveals a slightly different story. The vast majority of that $8.1 billion in savings came from the repeal of a single federal contracting rule. The dramatic sounding “22-to-1” statistic is an apples-and-oranges comparison, weighing all deregulatory actions against just a small subset of new rules. And much of the deregulation was done not by Trump himself, but with the help of Congress, which used an obscure law early in his term to repeal 14 late-term Obama regulations.


    What Trump has actually done is something else: Rather than repealing old rules, he has put a cork in the federal regulatory process, slow-playing rulemaking and in many cases stopping it entirely. According to a POLITICO analysis, the White House’s regulatory office has approved just 156 regulations since Inauguration Day, a huge drop compared with the Obama and Bush administrations: The office approved 510 rules in Barack Obama’s first year. For George W. Bush, it was 445.

    Conservatives have celebrated this regulatory slowdown as welcome relief from an overbearing Washington, while liberals worry the government is neglecting its duties as a watchdog. But the numbers in many ways mask the unprecedented nature of what Trump is doing. Over the past year, the White House has laid the groundwork for a radical regulatory experiment across the government, limiting the ability of agencies to issue new rules and installing task forces at each agency to root out outdated ones. Conservatives have long said such a review would turn up numerous rules with huge costs and few benefits; Trump has begun testing that theory, and supporters are confident in the results.

    At the heart of the campaign are two committed small-government crusaders, one an academic and the other a Washington tea party pol. The academic is Neomi Rao, who since July has headed the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which scrutinizes all significant regulations and implements Trump’s executive orders on regulatory reform. Rao, effectively the country’s regulatory czar, is a free-market law professor who was a protégé of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and has spent years writing research papers and arguing for a smaller government. Her boss, Mick Mulvaney, a former South Carolina congressman, has also railed for years against governmental bloat, and now finds himself in a position to do something about it. In his other job, as acting head of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, he just submitted a theatrical quarterly budget request of $0.

    In an interview, Rao said the administration’s rollbacks are only beginning. "It’s just the first year of the administration,” she said. “Unraveling the biggest rules from the past requires a careful process, all new cost-benefit analysis, all of the rulemaking that needs to take place to unravel a big rule. We will see more, deeper, substantive deregulation in the coming year."

    Despite the president’s rhetoric, and that press conference, it’s unlikely the detail-averse Trump has engaged in any serious way with the ultra-wonky world of federal regulation. That leaves plenty of space for Rao, Mulvaney and their colleagues to reshape the government without much interference from the boss—as long as he can tout the results in the end.

    Critics of the Trump approach doubt that the agency task forces will find anywhere near the trove of outdated regulations they’re looking for, and say the rulemaking slowdown is less a serious new approach to government than it is a basic failure to govern—one made worse by the administration’s understaffing of many key agency posts.

    Still, it may be through his regulatory legacy that Trump leaves his biggest fingerprints on Washington. With the exception of tax reform, Trump’s legislative agenda has stalled on Capitol Hill, and his advisers disagree among themselves on issues ranging from the North American Free Trade Agreement to health care. But they appear to have universally agreed on the need to overhaul the regulatory state, and throughout the president’s first year, they have rolled out a series of executive orders and memos designed to reverse the flow of new rules, beginning on Inauguration Day when Trump imposed a regulatory freeze across the government.

    Ten days later, he signed an executive order directing agencies to take two so-called deregulatory actions for each new rule it issued. Less noticed at the time, that order also created a "regulatory budget" for agencies, forcing them to offset the economic costs of any new regulations with costs achieved through the two deregulatory actions. The order left some very large loopholes—it only applied to “significant” regulations where costs exceeded $100 million, and contained exceptions for emergency or statutorily required rules—but the message was clear: Agencies should stop looking to impose new regulations and should focus on whether existing ones were necessary any longer.

    IT'S NOT YET clear whether that plan is working out. So far, agencies haven’t found a ton of expensive rules to roll back. Trump claims that he has eliminated 22 regulations for each new one imposed, and delayed or cancelled over 1,500 planned rules, but that claim comes from mixing and matching numbers: The "eliminations" include all 67 deregulatory actions taken by agencies in fiscal 2017, while the count of new rules includes only significant ones that weren't exempt from the original executive order. And of the $8.1 billion in cost savings, nearly $6 billion came from the elimination of Obama’s 2014 executive order raising labor standards for federal contractors, repealed by the GOP Congress in March.

    Rao defended the statistic, noting that the United Kingdom used a similar method when it implemented its own two-for-one regulatory policy. "Our policy and practice is transparent," she said. "We decided on this method to give agencies the incentive to reduce regulatory burdens of all sizes. ... The president’s order is changing the culture at agencies, so there is no steady flow of small costly rules. While we are not counting these actions at present, we understand they have been kept to a minimum.”

    Other observers were more skeptical. “All the giant numbers that they claim make them the biggest deregulators in history are just a way of saying that they aren’t doing what the Obama administration wanted to do,” said Philip Wallach, a regulatory expert at the R Street Institute. “It’s true, they aren’t. But that’s not that surprising.”

    But where Trump has succeeded, deliberately or not, is in bringing the regulatory system to a near halt. Agencies continue to issue the sort of low-profile, everyday rules that keep the government operating, but big new rules have slowed to a trickle. This has cheered business leaders who were deeply critical of the Obama administration’s regulatory agenda. “The administration early on set an expectation that there wasn’t going to be a continued onslaught of regulations and the approach would be more deregulatory in nature,” said Neil Bradley, chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The combination of creating an expectation and creating responsibility has actually led them to follow through.”

    But critics are alarmed at the slowdown, saying that rolling back important Obama-era protections and blocking new ones is already jeopardizing the health and safety of Americans. “If we do see [a major disaster] again, it will be quite tragic,” said Amit Narang, a regulatory expert at Public Citizen. “But it’ll be very easy and legitimate to point to the massive deregulatory agenda as the cause of that disaster. That’s the real danger that this administration is flirting with right now.”

    In many ways, experts said, the first year was always going to be the easiest time for Trump to notch a victory. The last several months of Obama's rules were legally vulnerable to the 1994 Congressional Review Act, which lets Congress overturn recent regulations with just a simple majority in the Senate. The GOP Congress repealed 14 Obama-era rules that way, effectively jumpstarting Trump’s deregulatory plans for him. But the CRA can only be used for recent rules, meaning that additional deregulation must now go through the traditional rulemaking procedures. That process requires patience and bureaucratic know-how—two quantities in short supply with a distractible president who has left large numbers of agency leadership posts unfilled.

    “Some of the stuff we saw last year was low-hanging fruit,” said Susan Dudley, a former OIRA administrator during the Bush administration who now directs the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center.

    Federal agencies have targeted a long list of Obama-era rules, from the Department of Labor’s increase in the overtime threshold to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which limited emissions of greenhouse gasses. But agencies often aren’t simply repealing these rules; they are repealing and replacing them, planning to issue new, narrower rules that will still impose new restrictions and costs on states and businesses. As agencies write and finalize those rules—and any new rules—they will have to adhere to Trump’s two-for-one order, a potential challenge that regulatory experts aren’t sure how agencies will handle.

    “The real question is, supposing new regulations get up to something closer to the familiar pace, what kind of work does the system end up doing?” said Wallach.

    In one case in fiscal 2017, a federal agency did exceed its regulatory budget without any apparent penalty. The Department of Energy finalized an energy efficiency rule with over $500 million in economic costs and didn’t issue any deregulatory actions. The agency claimed that the rule was exempt from the order because it was statutorily required, and OIRA didn’t challenge that explanation—a sign, supporters said, that the administration is careful to follow the law and not block new rules that protect America’s health and safety. But it also raises questions about how tightly the administration will enforce its own caps.

    The White House projects that in fiscal 2018 it will save nearly $10 billion in economic costs through hundreds of deregulatory actions. Rao admitted that agencies, at times, have struggled to comply with the administration’s new regulatory rules. “It’s been difficult,” she said, “but they are doing a lot of hard work to meet the president’s priorities.”

    MUCH OF THE Trump administration’s regulatory strategy in fiscal 2017 was aimed at rolling back Obama-era rules and shutting down the pipeline of new regulations, but observers say the longer-term goal appears to be overhauling the regulatory process itself. Just how that’s supposed to happen, however, has led to some mysteries.

    On February 24, Trump signed an executive order instructing agencies to create regulatory reform taskforces that would review existing regulations and recommend keeping them, modifying them or repealing them altogether. Those task forces have come under fire for not adequately disclosing their members and not keeping the public informed on their actions. Transparency has somewhat improved in recent months, though the exact nature of what’s disclosed varies at each agency. Regulatory experts still aren’t sure exactly how much an impact they are having.

    “It may just be that the proof of the pudding is in the tasting,” said Wallach. “We’ll either see a bunch of stuff showing up in the Federal Register, or we won’t.”

    Then there are bigger reforms that the administration could consider, such as overhauling the 1993 executive order that sets the basic guidelines for federal rulemaking. Experts on both right and left largely support the directive, a big reason why it hasn’t been withdrawn over the past 25 years, but Rao and her team could look to update it. They could also try to expand their control of Washington by forcing independent agencies to send their rules to OIRA for review, as the cabinet agencies must do. This would amount to a significant power grab: Some of the most powerful agencies in Washington are independent, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Reserve. During her time as a law professor at George Mason, Rao was a big proponent of institutionalizing greater White House control over the independent agencies, and experts have been watching closely for signs she’ll make moves in that direction.

    Rao declined on record to say if she is looking to do so. [UPDATE: After publication, an an OIRA spokesperson said in an email that they are "considering and thinking about changes to oversight of independent agencies. It's no secret. Administrator Rao has publicly stated numerous times."] For now, Rao said in the interview, her mission is to improve the rulemaking process and attempt to cement the administration’s regulatory reforms so they extend beyond Trump’s presidency. “We are trying to do this in a way that is responsible and fair and consistent with the law,” she said. “It takes time. We’re doing it in a way that is consistent with long-standing principles.”

    All of this shapes up as a major experiment for conservative regulatory reform policies, testing whether a determined administration can really jumpstart the economy by rolling back expensive, outdated rules, and can persuade agencies to pare back their footprints rather than keep expanding them. Experts on both sides agree that no administration has put as much energy into regulatory reform since at least Ronald Reagan's administration, if not earlier. The question now is whether it will deliver the results that Rao expects, or whether it will send the opposite message: That even the most deregulatory administration in a generation couldn’t find a bunch of expensive rules worth cutting.


    3 things Trump did this week while you weren't looking


    The government shutdown loomed large over Washington this week, as Congress returned to confront an immigration impasse that threatens to derail talks over a crucial stopgap spending bill. As the clock ticks toward a midnight deadline, finger-pointing is...

    The government shutdown loomed large over Washington this week, as Congress returned to confront an immigration impasse that threatens to derail talks over a crucial stopgap spending bill. As the clock ticks toward a midnight deadline, finger-pointing is rampant, and President Donald Trump continues to deal with the fallout from his alleged “shithole” comment.

    We’ve been running this series for 31 weeks, and typically this is where we tell you that, behind all the headlines and political furor, federal agencies made a number of key policy changes behind the scenes—except this week that’s not really true. Maybe it was the holiday weekend, maybe the impending shutdown, but agencies made very few noteworthy policy moves this week. And if the government does shut down, there won’t be much next week either: A significant percentage of the federal workforce will be forced to stay home from work. But that doesn’t mean nothing happened at all. So, for this week, here are the three ways that Trump changed policy:

    1. CFPB reviewing its payday rule
    Last October, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a long-awaited rule to crack down on small-dollar lenders, typically known as payday loans. Democrats were delighted by the move, a final attempt to protect consumers from predatory financial behavior by then-Director Richard Cordray, who resigned in November to run for governor in Ohio.

    But now it appears that delight will be short-lived. After Cordray resigned, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney won a legal battle, at least temporarily, to take control of the agency and quickly began rolling back Cordray-era policies. On Tuesday, as the payday rule officially took effect, the CFPB announced that it would likely undertake a new rule-making process to reconsider the rule—a strong signal that the Mulvaney-run CFPB is going to rewrite it, loosening protections and making it friendlier to lenders. He’ll have plenty of time: Companies don’t need to comply with most parts of the rule until August 2019.

    Tuesday’s news is just the latest step Mulvaney has taken to shift the consumer finance agency’s priorities, including reviewing its current enforcement proceedings and installing new staff at the bureau. This week, he also requested a quarterly budget from the Federal Reserve. The amount? $0.

    2. State withholds aid to Palestinian refugees
    In early January, Trump used his favorite medium—Twitter—to criticize the aid that the U.S. gives to Pakistan and Palestinians, saying the U.S. gets “no appreciation or respect” for the funding. Three days later, the State Department followed through on those threats with respect to Pakistan, withholding all security assistance to the country.

    This week, the State Department announced it was withholding $65 million of $125 million from the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees. It would give only $60 million. The State Department declined to say whether the withholding was tied to Trump’s twitter threat to the Palestinians but many observers said the result would be the same: Less money for Palestinian refugees, many of whom live in Israel. Aid groups sharply criticized the move while Israeli officials said it was an overdue action against a U.N. agency that was biased against Israel. A State Department spokeswoman simply said the money was withheld “for future considerations.”

    3. A series of small trade actions
    Many trade watchers expected the Trump administration to make a final decision this week on whether to impose trade sanctions on Chinese solar imports, a highly watched case that has reportedly divided advisers in the White House. Instead, they got a series of small trade actions.

    In three moves on Wednesday, the Commerce Department imposed trade actions against China and India. In the first, it formally launched an investigation into the importation of decorated ribbons from China after a U.S. company, Berwick Offray, suggested that China was unfairly subsidizing its producers. Commerce also imposed preliminary duties on the import of two products—stainless steel flanges and fine denier polyester staple fiber—from China and India. The market for all those products are relatively small, but the sanctions represents Trump’s continued march toward a tougher trade enforcement regime.


    Is the GOP tax law already working?


    The ink was barely dry on the $1.5 trillion tax cut Congress passed last month when President Donald Trump began crowing about its successes. Last week, he bragged at both the American Farm Bureau's annual convention and a Cabinet meeting about companies...


    The ink was barely dry on the $1.5 trillion tax cut Congress passed last month when President Donald Trump began crowing about its successes. Last week, he bragged at both the American Farm Bureau's annual convention and a Cabinet meeting about companies that had already paid their workers bonuses because of it. “Nobody thought about it,” he said last Wednesday. “We just knew a lot of good things were going to happen.”

    Congressional Republicans have taken their own victory laps. Last Thursday, just minutes after Wal-Mart announced it was raising its hourly wage from $10 to $11, Speaker Paul Ryan’s office blasted out a press release promoting the news; House Republicans launched a website, titled “Tax Reform Works,” tracking new wage hikes and investments.

    Democrats, meanwhile, have already declared the whole thing a failure, pointing to recent corporate stock buybacks as evidence that most of the benefits will go to companies’ shareholders rather than their workers. "Over the past several weeks,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in December after the law’s passage, “major companies have announced an astonishing $83.7 billion in share buybacks, anticipating the passage of tax reform."

    So who’s right? Most likely, neither. The truth is we just don’t know: It’s way too early to determine whether the law has had a significant impact on the economy. Perhaps Wal-Mart did raise its hourly wage due to the tax law, as it claimed. Or maybe it just needs to compete for workers in a labor market that has gotten increasingly competitive even before the law. Maybe the corporate stock buybacks were a result of the tax law—but maybe not. These stories are anecdotes, great for public relations but almost meaningless if you’re looking at the real impact of a sweeping, long-term reform.

    The real point of the new tax law is to improve economic growth, investment and worker wages over the long term—changes that look much broader than companies deciding to issue one-time bonuses. Justifying $1.5 trillion in red ink in exchange for a few million dollars’ worth of bonuses would be a hard sell even for Trump.

    So as the IRS begins to implement the law, what should you be looking for?

    The most closely watched data point will be wage growth. Republicans have promised that the corporate tax cuts will filter down into larger paychecks for workers, which are sorely needed: Even as the economy has continued to recover over the past few years, and the unemployment rate has fallen to just 4.1 percent, nominal wage growth has been stuck around 2.5 percent. But even if wages grow, it will be hard to know if the tax law “worked”—a surge in wage growth might just mean that the tightening labor market is finally pushing up workers’ incomes. Economists will attempt to disentangle those two factors, but that will be difficult to do, making wage growth a poor metric to measure the success of the law.

    A better metric is corporate investment as a share of gross domestic product. Supply side conservatives argue that the steep drop in the corporate tax rate (from 35 percent to 21 percent) will encourage companies to invest more in their workers and make those workers more productive by building new factories and buying new equipment. This change would be very welcomed, and much needed, since even as profits have risen, companies haven’t been investing their money in productive new uses. The prospect of this expansion in corporate investment is the driving force behind the Council of Economic Advisers’ projections that a 20 percent corporate tax rate will raise worker wages by $4,000 to $9,000 each year, on average. Many economists are skeptical that a lower corporate rate will really drive new investment, since low interest rates have made capital investments relatively cheap for years. If it does happen, though, it will be a big point in favor of the White House.

    A strong signal that the tax law isn’t working as Republicans hoped would be increased shareholder returns, in the form of either share buybacks or dividends. Though “increased returns” sounds like a good thing, it’s actually a sign that companies have run out of better ideas to invest their money, and are just handing cash back to shareholders—thus lining the pockets of their (relatively wealthy) investors rather than growing jobs and wages. Shareholder returns have already been at record levels in recent years, and a further increase combined with continued meager levels of investment would be a sign the bill hadn’t done much for the economy at large.

    One key lesson: Don’t be in a hurry. Another one: Ignore whatever both sides are claiming now. Big economic reforms take time to work their way through the economy, and it takes even longer for economists to analyze the resulting economic data. Given the current record streak of job growth, many economists expect the economy to enter some sort of recession during the next few years, though they can’t predict the time or cause. That would mask or delay the true effect of the tax law, as could other Trump actions, like pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

    And the new tax law comes with its own built-in complication: Many of its provisions, especially on the individual side of the tax code, expire after just a few years, giving companies and workers an incentive to shift income or investments around in order to reap tax benefits. That can distort the data over the short term, making it even harder for economists to determine the law’s true long-term impact. For now, though, we can be sure that the tax law isn’t having much of an effect on the broader economy—except to dramatically boost the number of dubious claims about the tax law.


    Trump: Democrats have 'come to their senses' on shutdown


    President Donald Trump said in a statement Monday that he was “pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses” and agreed to end a three-day government shutdown, but he seemed to cast doubt on the possibility of a broad compromise on...

    President Donald Trump said in a statement Monday that he was “pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses” and agreed to end a three-day government shutdown, but he seemed to cast doubt on the possibility of a broad compromise on immigration policy.

    “I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses and are now willing to fund our great military, border patrol, first responders and insurance for vulnerable children,” Trump said in the statement, which was read aloud by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at Monday’s press briefing.

    “As I’ve always said, once the government is funded my administration will work toward solving the problem of very unfair illegal immigration," the statement said. "We'll make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it’s good for our country.”

    Most Senate Democrats voted with Republicans Monday to pass a continuing resolution that would fund the government through early next month, likely ending a government shutdown that began last Friday.


    Democrats had blocked funding legislation in hopes of ensuring protections for Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Republicans said any such deal must be paired with other immigration and border security reforms. In exchange for their votes on the continuing resolution, Democrats extracted from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a pledge to address the Dreamers by Feb. 8.

    But even with McConnell’s pledge to take up the issue on the Senate floor, any immigration deal still faces an uncertain future, especially in the House, where conservatives could reject any bipartisan agreement reached by the Senate.

    The White House, too, has indicated it would not be automatically amenable to any deal reached by the Senate. Earlier this month, Trump shot down a bipartisan compromise reached by a group of six senators.

    White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said Monday that the deal hammered out by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is “not a proposal the president can sign.”


    White House: Democrats 'blinked' in shutdown showdown


    White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah on Monday said Senate Democrats “blinked” in their stalemate with GOP leadership over government funding, and he criticized them for not agreeing last week to avert a shutdown. “I think the fact they are...

    White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah on Monday said Senate Democrats “blinked” in their stalemate with GOP leadership over government funding, and he criticized them for not agreeing last week to avert a shutdown.

    “I think the fact they are voting in favor of this proposal that they rejected a few days ago is sort of evidence that they blinked,” Shah told CNN shortly after most Senate Democrats joined Republicans in voting to reopen the government after three days.

    Shah added that President Donald Trump intends to negotiate with lawmakers over protections for young undocumented immigrants under the DREAM Act, but he would not support a bipartisan proposal extended by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

    "The Graham-Durbin proposal is not a proposal the president can sign," he said.

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York announced during a Senate floor speech Monday afternoon that he and other Democratic lawmakers in the Senate would back a measure to reopen the government. But Schumer, who dubbed the lapse in government funding the “Trump shutdown,” criticized the president’s role in the process.


    “President Trump's unwillingness to compromise caused the Trump shutdown and brought us to this moment,” Schumer told the Senate chamber. “The facts are well known. Since our meeting in the Oval Office on Friday, the president and I have not spoken, and the White House refused to engage in negotiations over the weekend.”

    He added: “The great dealmaking president sat on the sidelines.”

    Shah disputed that characterization.

    “We think the president's engagement was right, was properly set forward, and it helped reopen the government today,” he said.


    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 on Saturday. Previous presidents have projected an air of crisis during shutdowns, but President Donald Trump stayed out of the public...

    Little of the congressional drama that precipitated the weekend’s government shutdown made its way to the White House on 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 reflects, 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 accord 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 of Virginia 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 from 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 their 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 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 this report.


    The Hometown Fighter Trying to Heal His Community


    Inland Empire native Antonio Garcia thought he might end up making his living in the ring—until he heard the calling to help turn the tide in his badly under-doctored...

    Inland Empire native Antonio Garcia thought he might end up making his living in the ring—until he heard the calling to help turn the tide in his badly under-doctored community.