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POLITICO Playbook: Trump’s one way out

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President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump speaks while departing the Capitol after a Senate Republican Policy lunch on Wednesday. | Alex Brandon/AP Photo

DRIVING THE DAY

SHUTDOWN … DAY 20 … TRUMP’S ONLY WAY OUT …

THERE IS AN INCREASING RECOGNITION in the White House and among his most important allies on Capitol Hill that the only way for PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP to get movement on his border wall is to figure out a way to build the barrier on his own. He thinks he has options — national emergency, other executive action — but it’s almost time to put a nail in the coffin of his congressional efforts.

THERE IS NO DEAL WITH DEMS TO BE HAD … All available public and private evidence tells us Trump’s talks with SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI and SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER are at a complete impasse, despite what some of his aides and allies seem to tell him. (People also convinced the president that he would have more leverage in January when Dems took the House!)

— TRUMP is running up against a Democratic House that is doing exactly what it said it would do: block his wall. And he’s not going to split Schumer and Pelosi. There is no space between the two leaders on this issue.

MISCALCULATION … THE WHITE HOUSE made a flawed calculation a few weeks ago. They thought Pelosi would be ready to deal, and could deliver Trump his wall once she got past her leadership election. It was a serious misjudgment by an administration that frequently misreads the Hill — and is having a tough time reading Pelosi.

THEY THOUGHT she would cave on the wall, and she isn’t.

WHAT TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT PELOSI … She’s a slow-burn type leader — not unlike SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL. They don’t get flustered at momentary shifts in whatever debate they are a part of. Pelosi has set a strategy and theory of the case, and she’s going to stick with it.

YESTERDAY, the White House had JARED KUSHNER on the Hill, trying to work out some sort of wall-for-something deal. Pelosi said she really is not interested in a wall trade. The White House should save Jared’s time — especially today, which is his birthday. More from Burgess Everett and Eliana Johnson on the meeting

— VP MIKE PENCE is on the Hill today for meetings.

WHAT’S WITH THE STORMING-OUT SHTICK? … MAYBE it works in real estate, where both parties are yearning for a deal, but yesterday on the Hill, people thought it was strange behavior and a sign of a president under intense pressure with little room to maneuver.

— WAPO’S DAVID NAKAMURA and SEUNG MIN KIM: “President Trump has long said that keeping opponents off balance is the best way to win a negotiation. But nearly three weeks into a partial government shutdown, his usual playbook doesn’t seem to be working.” WaPo

ON THE EMERGENCY DECLARATION…

— THE HOUSE and other entities would likely immediately jump in, and try to have the courts stop the move. But it would allow Trump to claim progress — which the president is seeing none of at the moment. He could open the government, and say the wall is being built. And if the courts strike it down, then the president can blame the judiciary, something he’s done before.

— BTW: Republicans don’t really like this emergency declaration stuff. They think it’s executive overreach and undermines congressional authority.

— ALSO: Dems can cut the money Trump uses to build the wall in next year’s appropriations cycle.

— ELIANA JOHNSON (@elianayjohnson): “White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Army Secretary Mark Esper are accompanying Trump to the border [on Thursday], per source, following a day of failed meetings with lawmakers.”

— ANOTHER PROBLEM: AP’S NOMAAN MERCHANT in Hidalgo, Texas: “The federal government has started surveying land along the border in Texas and announced plans to start construction next month. Rather than surrender their land, some property owners are digging in, vowing to reject buyout offers and preparing to fight the administration in court.” AP

THE PRESIDENT is heading to McAllen, Texas, this morning. He is scheduled to leave the White House at 9:15 a.m. While at the U.S. Border Patrol McAllen Station, Trump will participate in a roundtable on immigration and border security. He will also travel to the Rio Grande and get a border security briefing.

— FOX NEWS’ SEAN HANNITY will air an interview with the president from his time at the border at 9 p.m.

Good Thursday morning. MARKET WATCH … WSJ’S AVANTIKA CHILKOTI: “Global Stocks Slip as Growth Worries Linger”

NYT’S KATIE ROGERS and MAGGIE HABERMAN: “Trump Thinks He’s His Own Best Messenger. Where Does That Leave Bill Shine?”: “At the beginning of the government shutdown, Bill Shine was about as far away from the capital as President Trump’s most senior communications official could get. While the president was complaining about sitting alone in the White House trying to force Democrats to accept a wall on the Mexican border, Mr. Shine was on a Hawaiian vacation.

“As the shutdown presented Mr. Trump with an ever-expanding political challenge, Mr. Shine, who joined the White House staff with the expectation that he would deliver on his promise to satisfy Mr. Trump’s hunger for positive news coverage, stayed on vacation, keeping in contact with colleagues by phone.

“Eventually, Mr. Shine came home early to help manage the administration’s response. But any expectation that he would be by the president’s side crafting a cohesive message would be a miscalculation of the role he has actually come to play as Mr. Trump’s latest communications director, according to interviews with over a dozen former and current administration officials.” NYT

— THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’S RICK PORTER: “TV Ratings: Trump Speech, Democratic Response Draws 40 Million-Plus Viewers”: “The response by Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer had slightly larger preliminary numbers than the president’s address.” THR

A message from Better Medicare Alliance:

Without action from Congress, 21 million seniors and individuals with disabilities will take a hit. The 2020 Health Insurance Tax (HIT) would raise premiums or reduce benefits for seniors and low-income beneficiaries on Medicare Advantage. Congress, don’t let our seniors down. Delay the 2020 HIT now. Learn More.

THE IMPACT … “Food inspections by the FDA have been sharply reduced, alarming critics,” by WaPo’s Laurie McGinley and Joel Achenbach: “The furloughing of hundreds of Food and Drug Administration inspectors has sharply reduced inspections of the nation’s food supply — one of the many repercussions of the partial government shutdown that are making Americans potentially less safe. The agency, which oversees 80 percent of the food supply, has suspended all routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in an interview.

“He is working on a plan to bring inspectors back as early as next week to inspect facilities considered high-risk because they handle sensitive items such as seafood, soft cheese and vegetables, or have a history of problems…. Foodborne illnesses are a major problem in the United States, sickening 48 million people each year and killing 3,000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.” WaPo

— “Coast Guard families told they can have garage sales to cope with government shutdown,” by WaPo’s Dan Lamothe: “Employees of the U.S. Coast Guard who are facing a long U.S. government shutdown just received a suggestion: To get by without pay, consider holding a garage sale, babysitting, dog-walking or serving as a ‘mystery shopper.’

“The suggestions were part of a five-page tip sheet published by the Coast Guard Support Program, an employee-assistance arm of the service often known as CG SUPRT. It is designated to offer Coast Guard members help with mental-health issues or other concerns about their lives, including financial wellness. ‘Bankruptcy is a last option,’ the document said.” WaPo

KEEP AN EYE ON … DOJ SHAFTS DEMOCRATS … MARIANNE LEVINE: “Klobuchar says she was denied Barr meeting before hearing because of shutdown”: “Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) said Wednesday that she was unable to get a meeting with Attorney General nominee William Barr before his confirmation hearing next week because of the government shutdown.

“‘I tried (as did Blumenthal) to get meeting w/AG nominee Barr and was told he couldn’t meet until AFTER the hearing,’ Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, tweeted, referencing Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal. ‘The reason given? The shutdown.’” POLITICO

A message from Better Medicare Alliance:

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21 million seniors will face higher premiums if the 2020 Health Insurance Tax (HIT) is not delayed. Congress, delay the 2020 health insurance tax now. Learn More.

SCOOP … 2020 WATCH — ALEX THOMPSON: “Top Sanders 2016 adviser accused of forcibly kissing subordinate”: “On the final night of the Democratic National Convention in July of 2016, Bernie Sanders’ staffers went out to a Mediterranean restaurant and hookah bar in City Center Philadelphia to celebrate and mourn the end of the campaign.

“Sitting at the bar sometime after midnight, convention floor leader Robert Becker—who oversaw Sanders’ Iowa campaign, then helped lead his efforts in Michigan, California, and New York as deputy national field director—began talking with a female staffer who had worked under him along with her boyfriend.

“Becker, now 50 years old, told the 20-something woman that he had always wanted to have sex with her and made a reference to riding his ‘pole,’ according to the woman and three other people who witnessed what happened or were told about it shortly afterward by people who did. Later in the night, Becker approached the woman and abruptly grabbed her wrists. Then he moved his hands to her head and forcibly kissed her, putting his tongue in her mouth as he held her, the woman and other sources said.

“The woman did not formally report the incident at the time because the campaign was over. But over the past several months, Becker, who is not on Sanders’ payroll, has been calling potential staffers and traveling to early primary states to prepare for another presidential run—activities that Sanders’ top aides did not endorse, but did not disavow, either.

“Among those whom Becker contacted was the woman who says he assaulted her. The entreaty prompted her to step forward to tell senior Sanders advisers, including 2016 campaign manager Jeff Weaver, about what happened to her.” POLITICO

— “Jeff Weaver will not return as Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager in 2020,” by CNN’s Gregory Krieg

— CHRIS CADELAGO: “Steyer won’t run for president in 2020”

PLAYBOOK READS

Residents celebrate in Kinshasa on Thursday Jan. 10, 2019, after learning that opposition presidential candidate Felix Tshisekedi had been declared the winner of the Democratic Republic of Congo elections.

PHOTO DU JOUR: Residents of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo celebrate on Thursday after opposition presidential candidate Felix Tshisekedi was declared the winner of the elections. | Jerome Delay/AP Photo

THE INVESTIGATIONS — “House Democrats now asking questions about Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin,” by NBC’s Heidi Przybyla: “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has agreed to deliver a classified briefing to U.S. House lawmakers on Thursday on his recent decision to lift sanctions on companies linked to a Russian oligarch and Vladimir Putin ally, marking the start of an aggressive new focus on Mnuchin by newly empowered House Democrats, according to two top Democratic aides. …

“[B]ecause of his role in the campaign — and, most recently, the Dec. 19 announcement easing sanctions on companies aligned with Oleg Deripaska, the Putin ally with ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort — House Democrats believe Mnuchin should be a focus of and source of information for several planned investigations both related and unrelated to the Russia probe, according to the aides. These include examinations of Trump’s finances and the business practices of the Trump Organization.” NBC

UPDATE — “Doug Jones Seeks Inquiry Into Misinformation Efforts in Alabama Senate Race,” by NYT’s Alan Blinder: “Jones, the Democrat who was an unwitting beneficiary of misinformation tactics during a special election in Alabama in 2017, asked the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday to investigate the episodes. …

“‘Such deceptive tactics have no place in American politics and must be repudiated by those involved in our political system,’ Mr. Jones wrote in a letter to Ellen L. Weintraub, a Democratic member of the commission. … [The] overall effort, which cost $ 100,000, was underwritten through an intermediary by Reid Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn.” NYT … The letter

A message from Better Medicare Alliance:

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WHAT LANGLEY IS READING — “Did CIA Director Gina Haspel run a black site at Guantánamo?” by McClatchy’s Carol Rosenberg: “An attorney for the accused architect of the Sept. 11 attacks told a judge in a secret session last year that CIA Director Gina Haspel ran a secret agency outpost at Guantánamo, an apparent reference to a post-9/11 black site, according to a recently declassified transcript.

“The claim by Rita Radostitz, a lawyer for Khalid Sheik Mohammed, appears in one paragraph of a partially redacted transcript of a secret hearing held at Guantánamo on Nov. 16. … Neither the public nor the accused was allowed to attend the hearing but, following an intelligence review, the Pentagon released portions of its transcript on a war court website.” McClatchy

ISIS 2.0? — “As Iraq’s Shiite militias expand their reach, concerns about an ISIS revival grow,” by WaPo’s Tamer El-Ghobashy and Mustafa Salim in Baghdad: “Iraq’s large and well-armed Shiite militias are now running many of the Sunni areas they helped liberate from the Islamic State, fostering local resentments that could fuel a resurgence of support for the extremist group. After winning nearly a third of the seats in parliamentary elections last year, the Shiite militias, including several ideologically aligned with Iran, are enjoying unprecedented military and political power in Iraq.” WaPo

PLAYBOOKERS

SPOTTED: Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski last night at Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s inaugural ball at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford — Joe’s band played. … Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Jonathan Capehart at Blue Duck Tavern last night as part of a table of five. … Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) walking into Alero in Dupont Circle to get takeout.

SPOTTED at a special screening of “Vice” last night at the Newseum (trailer): Reps. Ami Bera (D-Calif.), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), Marc Veasey (D-Texas), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) and Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Tony Blinken, Zeke Miller, Terry Hunt, Evan Ryan, Josh Green, Craig Gordon, Margaret Talev, Bob Cohn, John Harwood, Sam Feist, Asawin Suebsaeng, Betsy Woodruff, Nedra Pickler, Jennifer Loven, Eric Schmitt, Michael Crowley, Blake Hounshell, Ben Schreckinger, Warren Strobel and John Walcott.

TRANSITIONS — Will Kinzel, who most recently oversaw Delta’s lobbying efforts in Washington, is joining MillerCoors as VP of government affairs. The Boehner alum will be in charge of federal and state advocacy for the company. … Emily Pierce, an Obama DOJ alum, is joining CLS Strategies.

BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Washingtonian’s Jessica Sidman … BuzzFeed’s Emily Ashton

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Morgan Finkelstein, associate director for media relations at CAP’s Moscow Project, celebrating tonight with dinner with her boyfriend and a party this weekend. What she’s been reading recently: “I’m reading ‘Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World,’ by Suzy Hansen and it’s fantastic. The book challenges every assumption about what it means to be an American abroad, an American at all, and how we exist in — and happen to — the world. Also, it’s beautifully written. A must-read for anyone who works in national security, likes to travel or is well, American.” Playbook Plus Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Jared Kushner is 38 … FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is 45 … Beth Fouhy, senior editor of politics at NBC News and MSNBC … Joanna Rosholm, former press secretary for Michelle Obama … Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) is 69 … Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) is 6-0 … Michelle Fields (hubby tip: Jamie Weinstein) … former Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) is 81 … Nick Calio, president and CEO of Airlines for America, is 66 … GPG’s Lauren Edmonds … Freddie Tunnard, WH producer for NBC News (hat tip: Monica Alba) … POLITICO’s Maya Parthasarathy and Kristen Miller … Esther Whieldon … AP national security reporter Robert Burns … Luke Johnson … Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) is 62 … former Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) is 58 … Benjamin Hackett … Adam Walinsky is 82 … Joe Lacob is 63 … Jeremy Button … Abigail Ashbrook … Blake Adami … Nat Wienecke …

… former Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is 56 (h/t Tim Griffin) … former Rep. Dan Crane (R-Ill.) is 82 … Liesl Hickey, partner at Ascent Media (h/t Blain Rethmeier) … Joe Petrzelka … Caroline Hakes … Freddy Gray, deputy editor of The Spectator, is 39 … The Hill’s Julia Manchester (h/t Mallory Shelbourne) … AEI’s Caitlin Summers … Nat Sillin … Lauren Coape-Arnold … Robby Goldsberry … Aaron Buchner, COS at Organizing for Action … David Hallock … Liz Chadderdon … Steve Marchand … Dante Scala … Vaughn Ververs, political editor at NBCNews.com, is 5-0 … Jessica Mudditt … Stacy Hawkins Adams … Myranda Tanck … Braxton Marcela … Lanny Wiles … IBM’s Hugh Livengood … Sally Lovejoy … Ryan Dierker … Blake Hopper … Kamal Patel … Adam Weissmann … Samuel Negatu … Cheryl Benton … AnnMaura Connolly (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)

A message from Better Medicare Alliance:

21 million beneficiaries receive quality, affordable health coverage from Medicare Advantage. The 2020 Health Insurance Tax (HIT) will make beneficiaries pay more for their coverage, which they simply cannot afford. For 2019, the tax was delayed, resulting in lower costs for seniors, individuals with disabilities, and low-income Medicare beneficiaries. Without delay of the tax for 2020, these beneficiaries will pay the price. Congress, time is running out. Delay the 2020 health insurance tax now and preserve seniors’ access to Medicare Advantage. Learn More.

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