No one budged at President Donald Trump’s closed-door meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday, so the partial government shutdown persisted through Day 12 over his demand for billions of dollars to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. They’ll all try again Friday.
In public, Trump renewed his dire warnings of rapists and others at the border. But when pressed in private by Democrats asking why he wouldn’t end the shutdown, he responded at one point, “I would look foolish if I did that.” A White House official, one of two people who described that exchange only on condition of anonymity, said the president had been trying to explain that it would be foolish not to pay for border security.
In one big shift, the new Congress will convene Thursday with Democrats taking majority control of the House, and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said they’d quickly pass legislation to re-open the government – without funds for the border wall.
“Nothing for the wall,” Pelosi said in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show set to air Thursday. “We can go through the back and forth. No. How many more times can we say no?”
But the White House has rejected the Democratic package, and Republicans who control the Senate are hesitant to take it up without Trump on board. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it a “total nonstarter.” Trump said ahead of his White House session with the congressional leaders that the partial shutdown will last “as long as it takes” to get the funding he wants.
“Could be a long time or could be quickly,” Trump said during lengthy public comments at a Cabinet meeting, his first public appearance of the new year. Meanwhile, the shutdown dragged through a second week, closing some parks and leaving hundreds of thousands of federal employees without pay.
Democrats said they asked Trump directly during Wednesday’s private meeting held in the Situation Room why he wouldn’t consider their package of bills. One measure would open most of the shuttered government departments at funding levels already agreed to by all sides. The other would provide temporary funding for Homeland Security, through Feb. 8, allowing talks to continue over border security.
“I said, Mr. President, Give me one good reason why you should continue your shutdown,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said afterward. “He could not give a good answer.”
Trump’s response about looking foolish was confirmed by a White House official and another person familiar with the exchange, neither of whom was authorized to describe the exchange by name. Trump had campaigned saying Mexico would pay for the wall, but Mexico has refused.
At another point Wednesday, Trump told Pelosi that, as a “good Catholic” she should support the wall because Vatican City has a wall, according to a congressional aide. Trump has mentioned the Vatican’s centuries-old fortifications before, including at the earlier Cabinet meeting. But Democrats have said they don’t want medieval barriers, and Pelosi has called Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border immoral.
“I remain ready and willing to work with Democrats,” Trump tweeted after the meeting. “Let’s get it done!”
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said that there’s no need to prolong the shutdown and that he was disappointed the talks did not produce a resolution. He complained that Democrats interrupted Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen as she was trying to describe a dreadful situation at the border.
Nielsen, participating in the meeting by teleconference, had data about unaccompanied minors crossing the border and a spike in illegal crossings, and she tried to make the case to the group that current funding levels won’t suffice, according to the White House.
“We were hopeful that we could get more of a negotiation,” said McCarthy.
He said the leaders plan to return to the White House Friday to continue negotiations. White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said on Fox that Pelosi will be “more able to negotiate” once she is elected speaker, as expected Thursday.
The two sides have traded offers, but their talks broke down ahead of the holidays. On Wednesday, Trump also rejected his own administration’s offer to accept $2.5 billion for the wall. That proposal was made when Vice President Mike Pence and other top officials met at the start of the shutdown with Schumer, who left saying they remained far apart. On Wednesday Trump repeatedly pushed for the $5.6 billion he has demanded.
Making his case ahead of the private afternoon session, Trump said the current border is “like a sieve” and noted the tear gas “flying” overnight to deter arrivals.
“If they knew they couldn’t come through, they wouldn’t even start,” he said at the meeting, joined by Cabinet secretaries and top advisers, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
With no negotiations over the holidays, Trump complained he had been “lonely ” at the White House, having skipped his getaway to Mar-a-Lago in Florida. He claimed his only companions were the “machine gunners,” referring to security personnel, and “they don’t wave, they don’t smile.” He also criticized Pelosi for visiting Hawaii.
At the Capitol on Wednesday, Pelosi said she hoped Republicans and the White House “are hearing what we have offered” to end the shutdown.
The partial government shutdown began on Dec. 22. Funding for the wall has been the sticking point in passing essential spending bills for several government departments.
Pelosi said Tuesday that Democrats would take action to “end the Trump Shutdown” by passing the legislation Thursday to reopen government.
“Senate Republicans have already supported this legislation, and if they reject it now, they will be fully complicit in chaos and destruction of the President’s third shutdown of his term,” she said in a letter to colleagues on Tuesday. “”We are giving the Republicans the opportunity to take yes for an answer,” she wrote in a letter to colleagues.
Administration officials said Trump was in no rush for a resolution to the impasse, believing he has public opinion and his base of supporters on his side. Trump himself contended it’s the Democrats who see the shutdown fight as “an election point.”
The Democratic package to end the shutdown would include one bill to temporarily fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels – with $1.3 billion for border security, far less than Trump has said he wants for the wall – through Feb. 8 as talks would continue.
It would also include a separate measure to fund the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Housing and Urban Development and others closed by the partial shutdown. That measure would provide money through the remainder of the fiscal year, to Sept. 30.
Cuomo: Legalizing pot will bring in $300 million in tax revenue
Adult recreational use of marijuana will be legalized under a plan advanced today by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo along with the creation of three new taxes – eventually passed on to consumers – that will total $300 million annually.
The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act will regulate marijuana from cultivation to retail sales “for the purposes of fostering and promoting temperance in their consumption” and “to promote social equality,’’ according to Cuomo’s budget plan unveiled this afternoon.
Not all the details of the program were immediately released, such as law enforcement strategies to deal with people who drive while high, or precisely how many retail operations will be located in the state.
The plan calls for the creation of an Office of Cannabis Management.
Cuomo had been steadfastly opposed to marijuana legalization, calling it only a couple of years ago a dangerous “gateway” drug. But, as he has moved to the left on an assortment of issues, Cuomo relaxed his views after a state study panel he appointed last year said there were now more benefits than risks to legalizing recreational use of marijuana.
Pot sales would be legal under Cuomo’s plan to adults 21 years and older. The plan also calls for automatically sealing marijuana-related arrest records. Counties and large cities would be able to refuse to participate with the marijuana sales program within their borders.
Initial budget documents released by the administration also do not make clear if residents, as in other states, will be permitted to grow their own marijuana.
The Cuomo budget proposes to impose on pot cultivators a $1 per dry weight gram on cannabis flower and 25 cents per dry weight gram of the cannabis trim. Sales by wholesalers to retailers would face another tax of 20 percent of the invoice price. A third tax is an additional 2 percent sales tax on the wholesaler that would be distributed to counties that host retail establishments.
A part of the financial plan, however, suggests a slow ramping up of the program: It envisions no revenues coming in during the upcoming fiscal year that starts April 1 and only $83 million the following year.
Anthony Scaramucci will be on ‘Celebrity Big Brother,’ following Omarosa’s lead
Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci will be on this season of “Celebrity Big Brother” on CBS, the second straight year that the reality show has featured a prominent member of Donald Trump’s White House.
The CBS announcement comes a year after Omarosa Manigault-Newman, the “Apprentice” alum and former White House aide, appeared on the show and held forth about her time in the Trump administration. She told her housemates that the situation at the White House was “going to not be OK,” said she was “haunted” by Trump’s tweets every day, and compared her departure to being freed from a plantation.
Scaramucci, the financier-turned-Trump whisperer, was infamously the White House’s communications director for a whirlwind 11 days in July 2017. “The Mooch” was ousted after giving an aggressively vulgar interview to The New Yorker about fellow officials Reince Priebus and Steven Bannon.
“I sometimes use colorful language,” he tweeted at the time. “I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for Donald Trump’s agenda.”
At one point last season, Omarosa gave a shoutout to Scaramucci while on the show, and he returned the favor in a February 2018 tweet.
“Always liked Omarosa always will,” he wrote.
Scaramucci has continued to be a consistent presence on cable news since then, coming on to talk about the President. He recently published the book, “Trump: The Blue-Collar President.”
“Celebrity Big Brother” follows a group of modestly recognizable figures living together in a house filled with cameras and microphones picking up their every move. Someone is voted out of the house each week, and the last remaining guest wins a grand prize.
Scaramucci will be joined in the house by actor Jonathan Bennett, singer Tamar Braxton, singer Kandi Burruss, comedian Tom Green, Olympian Lolo Jones, OJ Simpson trial figure Kato Kaelin, actor Joey Lawrence, Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, “Momager” Dina Lohan, wrestler Natalie Eva Marie, and former NFL running back Ricky Williams.
Julie Chen Moonves will return as host of the show. The two-night premiere event of the show starts on Monday, January 21, and Tuesday, January 22.
When is the 2019 State of the Union address? Everything to know about Trump’s second speech to Congress
President Trump is getting ready to step up to the podium for the second time in late January to deliver his annual State of the Union address — this time, to a Democratic majority House of Representatives.
Newly-sworn-in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., extended an invite to the president just hours after lawmakers formally joined the new Congress, proposing a Jan. 29 date for the annual event which is held in the House Chamber. Trump publicly agreed to deliver the address on that date days later.
In a letter, Pelosi explained that the Constitution established the three “co-equal branches of government, to be a check and balance on each other” and called for the president to “from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union.”
Here’s what you need to know about this year’s event.
What will Trump discuss?
Similarly to 2018, Republican and Democratic lawmakers are yet again at an impasse over Trump’s proposed border security.
The government was partially shuttered — with about one-quarter of government employees affected — ahead of Christmas because Congress couldn’t strike a deal in regards to funding for Trump’s border wall. Trump, in particular, is requesting a package that contains $5.7 billion to help build the structure along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Immigration was also a hot button issue last year.
The government shut down for three days in late January 2018 over disagreements over the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era program, which offers protection for immigrants — also known as “Dreamers” — who came into the U.S. illegally as minors. They eventually reached a compromise to briefly reopen the government.
During his 2018 address, Trump called on both parties to put politics aside and “get the job done,” a theme he may echo this year as Democrats control the House while Republicans maintain their grip over the Senate.
“Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve,” the president said.
Days later, on Feb. 9, 2018, the government once again shuttered, though that shutdown only last nine hours. Congress eventually came up with a two-year budget agreement that included an increase in military spending, an extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and additional funds for disaster relief, among other issues.
It’s a deal “neither side loves, but both sides can be proud of,” Senate Minority Leader Schumer, D-N.Y., said at the time.
How long will Trump’s speech last?
There’s no telling how long Trump’s speech will last but if it’s anything like last year’s, expect it to run long.
In 2018, Trump spoke for a record 1 hour, 20 minutes — the third-longest SOTU speech in U.S. history. Former President Bill Clinton had him beat with a roughly 1-hour, 28-minute speech and 1-hour, 24-minute speech in 2000 and 1995, respectively, according to the University of California, Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project.
Who will attend Trump’s SOTU?
An official list has yet to be released from the White House, though Trump’s Cabinet, the heads of 15 executive departments, including the attorney general, members of Congress and a variety of guests — chosen by lawmakers — are invited to attend. The nine sitting Supreme Court justices, including newcomer Brett Kavanaugh, will also be asked to view the event in person.
Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and senior uniformed leaders in the Defense Department who help advise the president and his staff on military matters will be invited, too.
Trump will also likely handpick around 15 guests to join first lady Melania Trump in the gallery. It’s a tradition that was started by former President Ronald Reagan in 1982.
“Some of these individual stories are heroic. Some are patriotic. Others are tragic,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders explained in 2018. “But all of them represent the unbreakable American spirit and will inspire our nation to continue growing stronger, prouder and more prosperous.”
A Marine Corps. veteran, a cop, a welder and the parents of MS-13 victims were among those tapped by the president to attend last year’s event.
Who’s going to be the “designated survivor”?
The “designated survivor,” a precaution taken to assure continuity of the presidency, probably won’t be revealed until hours before the big event.
Last year, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was tasked with the role.
Ahead of the speech, the designated survivor will be taken to a secure and undisclosed location outside of Washington, D.C., where he or she is expected to stay with Secret Service agents until the conclusion of the event. When Trump and his Cabinet members safely exit the packed House chamber, the chosen official will be allowed to return home.
It’s not unusual for a lesser-known Cabinet member to be selected, as the president may point out higher-profile officials as he mentions specific tasks and initiatives in his speech.
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