THE REPUBLICAN VIEW OF JANUARY BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS — SPEAKER PAUL RYAN, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER NANCY PELOSI, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL and SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER meet today with W.H. leg director Marc Short and OMB Director/CFPB Chairman Mick Mulvaney in Ryan’s office today at 3 p.m. We wrote yesterday that the general consensus is that Democrats have an advantage going into budget/DACA negotiations. To put it lightly, this elicited a few emails from top-level Republican sources on the Hill, who think otherwise.
— HERE IS THEIR CASE FOR WHY REPUBLICANS ARE WELL POSITIONED: Democrats are pushing the GOP to keep a legislative fix for DACA as part of budget negotiations, and in staff-level and member-level talks, they say they want a clean Dream Act passed into law as soon as possible. Republicans say that’s an absolute non-starter — they need some sort of border security money/border wall tied to any immigration legislation. In other words, Democrats and Republicans are at loggerheads.
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If you play this out a bit, shutting down the government over an immigration impasse is not popular, Republicans say. Yes, Trump did do away with DACA — which defers deportation for hundreds of thousands of people — but he also has the ability to extend the existing deadline past March. The GOP says they’re willing to give Democrats tens of billions of dollars in additional domestic spending — as part of a caps deal. Republicans are skeptical Democrats will let that all fall apart over DACA.
SARAH FERRIS and JENNIFER SCHOLTES — “Shutdown threat revived as Congress returns”: “Another shutdown showdown looms this month and Congress isn’t even back yet. Happy New Year, Washington. Congressional leaders from both parties will sit down with top White House officials on Wednesday to haggle over the basics of a budget deal they were supposed to settle last spring. And while aides say the talks will stick to spending, a fight over immigration looms along with a host of other thorny policy disputes that will shape the 2018 legislative agenda.
“Ahead of the meeting, there was little sign of conciliation on either side. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to her Democratic colleagues on Tuesday insisting that Democrats would demand higher domestic spending. President Donald Trump tweeted a broadside at Democrats, saying the party is ‘doing nothing for DACA — just interested in politics.’ That missive came days after Trump egged on Democrats over his plan to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, tweeting that ‘there can be no DACA deal’ without a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — which Democrats have ruled out.” http://politi.co/2DVNnOU
— WAPO: BOB COSTA, DAVID NAKAMURA and ASHLEY PARKER: “‘He’s got a very simple core problem. His base regards DACA … as a sellout,’ said former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally. ‘He personally gets it, and he personally wants to solve it, but he’s got to get something for doing it.’
“During his recent visit to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., Trump spoke at length with members of his inner circle about those concerns, according to three people familiar with the conversations. Trump groused that because Democrats, in his view, were unwilling to work with him on the GOP tax plan that passed last month, he could not expect them to work with him on the dreamers issue, either, and he warned he would be quick to blame them if discussions fell apart, the people said.
“But Trump also expressed hope that he could find a way to persuade some red-state Democrats to support funding for the wall and would keep prodding them throughout January, the people added.” http://wapo.st/2CyiJOk
BREAKING OVERNIGHT — AP/SEOUL: “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reopened a key cross-border communication channel with South Korea for the first time in nearly two years Wednesday as the rivals explored the possibility of sitting down and talking after months of acrimony and fears of war. The sudden signs of easing animosity, however, came as President Donald Trump threatened Kim with nuclear war in response to his threat earlier this week. …
“The recent softening of contact between the rival Koreas may show a shared interest in improved ties, but there’s no guarantee tensions will ease. There have been repeated attempts in recent years by the rivals to talk, but even when they do meet, the efforts often end in recriminations and stalemate.
“Outside critics say Kim may be trying to use better ties with South Korea as a way to weaken the alliance between Washington and Seoul as the North grapples with toughened international sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs.” http://bit.ly/2ChDjiP
WHAT’S ON PRESIDENT TRUMP’S MIND — @realDonaldTrump at 5:37 p.m.: “It’s not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing, but also many other countries, and others. As an example, we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue…” … at 5:37 p.m.: “…peace treaty with Israel. We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more. But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?” …
… at 7:49 p.m.: “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” … at 8:05 p.m.: “I will be announcing THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR on Monday at 5:00 o’clock. Subjects will cover Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories from the Fake News Media. Stay tuned!” …
… at 11:03 p.m.: “‘President Trump has something now he didn’t have a year ago, that is a set of accomplishments that nobody can deny. The accomplishments are there, look at his record, he has had a very significant first year.’ @LouDobbs Show,David Asman & Ed Rollins”.
— THE PRESIDENT is in a tiff with the North Korean leader about whose nuclear button is bigger.
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TOP TALKER — FIRST PERSON – JAMES RISEN in The Intercept, “The Biggest Secret: My Life as a New York Times Reporter in the Shadow of the War on Terror”: “After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration began asking the press to kill stories more frequently. They did it so often that I became convinced the administration was invoking national security to quash stories that were merely politically embarrassing. … By 2002, I was also starting to clash with the editors over our coverage of the Bush administration’s claims about pre-war intelligence on Iraq.
“My stories raising questions about the intelligence, particularly the administration’s claims of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, were being cut, buried, or held out of the paper altogether. … [O]verall, I do believe that the fight inside the Times over the NSA story helped usher in a new era of more aggressive national security reporting at the paper. Since then, the Times has been much more willing to stand up to the government and refuse to go along with White House demands to hold or kill stories.” http://bit.ly/2DWmeeK
HATCH RETIRES …
— COMING ATTRACTIONS: “Trump-Romney rivalry set to take center stage again,” by Alex Isenstadt: “Donald Trump had just returned from Utah last month when the president placed a call to his longtime nemesis Mitt Romney. Trump was ostensibly trying to ease tensions between the two men, after a trip dominated by news reports that he was courting Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to run for reelection in order to keep Romney from seeking the seat. But the 10-minute chat only further raised suspicions within Romney’s inner circle that the president was out to stymie the former GOP presidential nominee’s political ambitions.
“The president told Romney that he knew he was thinking about running. But according to one person familiar with the conversation, the details of which have not been reported before, Trump didn’t press the former Massachusetts governor about his thinking or ask why he might be interested in being a senator. Romney’s aides came away convinced the president was trying to suss out Romney’s intentions and position himself as an ally, when he’d been anything but.” http://politi.co/2lM7N5p
— ROMNEY’S TWITTER — @sahilkapur: “First screenshot: 3:12 PM EST today … Second screenshot: 5:45 PM EST today See if you can spot the difference.” http://bit.ly/2ChW4Tq
— THE HILL RAMIFICATIONS: “Hatch’s retirement will open coveted Finance Committee post,” by Jen Haberkorn, Seung Min Kim and Brian Faler: “Orrin Hatch’s retirement will open up a plum assignment as the top Republican on the Senate committee that oversees health care, taxes and entitlement programs. Hatch announced Tuesday that he would not run for reelection in 2018, meaning the Senate Finance Committee job would open up in early 2019.
“If Republicans retain control of the Senate in the midterm elections, they would have to select a new chairman to help the Trump administration enact legislation ahead of the 2020 presidential race. If Democrats take control, it would be a GOP ranking member post to play defense. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who previously served as chairman and ranking member of the panel, still has two years of chairmanship eligibility remaining.
“In order to lead Finance, he would have to forgo his similarly high-profile gavel at the Senate Judiciary Committee. It is unclear whether the Iowa Republican would want to give up confirming President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees in favor of running Finance again, assuming the GOP maintains control of the Senate.” http://politi.co/2CjhkYA
WEATHER WATCH — SERIOUSLY? “‘Bomb cyclone’ to blast East Coast before polar vortex uncorks tremendous cold late this week,” by Capital Weather Gang’s Jason Samenow: “Unforgiving cold has punished the eastern third of the United States for the past 10 days. But the most severe winter weather yet will assault the area late this week. First, a monster storm will hammer coastal locations from Georgia to Maine with ice and snow. By Thursday, the exploding storm will, in many ways, resemble a winter hurricane, battering easternmost New England with potentially damaging winds in addition to blinding snow.
“Forecasters are expecting the storm to become a so-called ‘bomb cyclone’ because its pressure is predicted to fall so fast, an indicator of explosive strengthening. The storm could rank as the most intense over the waters east of New England in decades at this time of year. While blizzard conditions could paste some coastal areas, the most extreme conditions will remain well out over the ocean.” http://wapo.st/2EJvnZo
EXPLAINING THE IRAN PROTESTS — “Hard-Liners and Reformers Tapped Iranians’ Ire. Now, Both Are Protest Targets,” by NYT’s Thomas Erdbrink in Tehran: “While the protests that swept Iran in 2009 were led by the urban middle class, these protests have been largely driven by disaffected young people in rural areas, towns and small cities who have seized an opening to vent their frustrations with a political elite they say has hijacked the economy to serve its own interests. Unemployment for young people — half the population — runs at 40 percent, analysts believe. …
“The initial catalyst for the anger appears to have been the leak by President Rouhani last month of a proposed government budget. For the first time, secret parts of the budget, including details of the country’s religious institutes, were exposed. Iranians discovered that billions of dollars were going to hard-line organizations, the military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and religious foundations that enrich the clerical elite. At the same time, the budget proposed to end cash subsidies for millions of citizens, increase fuel prices and privatize public schools.” http://nyti.ms/2AcFK4h
— “Why Iran Is Protesting,” by Amir Ahmadi Arian in the NYT: “Unlike during the first decades of the post-revolutionary Iran, the rich now heedlessly flaunt their wealth. Until the mid-2000s, the gentlemen’s agreement among the embezzlers held that they keep a modest appearance at home and launder their money in Dubai and Toronto. … Wealthy young Iranians act like a new aristocratic class unaware of the sources of their wealth. They brazenly drive Porsches and Maseratis through the streets of Tehran before the eyes of the poor and post about their wealth on Instagram. The photos travel across apps and social media and enrage the hardworking people in other cities.” http://nyti.ms/2CuPtZQ
–@JohnBrennan: “With wholesale condemnation of Iran and nuclear deal over past year, Trump Admin squandered opportunity to bolster reformists in Tehran and prospects for peaceful political reform in Iran. Bluster is neither a strategy nor a mechanism for exercise of U.S. power and influence.”
–@borzou: “Incredible rage toward the security forces in Tuyserkan, a county seat of 40,000 in the province of Hamadan. This could be a scene out of Sidi Bouzid seven years ago.” 40-second video http://bit.ly/2lITlvS
MICHAEL CROWLEY and ELIANA JOHNSON: “Iran protests could move Trump to kill nuclear deal”: “Anti-government protests in Iran offer President Donald Trump a new reason to scrap the Iran nuclear deal later this month — a risky move that Trump’s supporters are cheering but that critics warn could play into Tehran’s hands. Trump and his senior officials have offered rhetorical support for the protesters and denounced the government in statements and on Twitter. They are also exploring such further steps as targeted sanctions and warnings to social media companies not to comply with Iranian censorship.
“But Trump will have an opportunity for far more dramatic action in less than two weeks, when he must decide by law whether to continue waiving economic sanctions against Iran that were lifted by the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The sanctions waivers must be renewed every 120 days. Trump could be further motivated to move boldly given bipartisan complaints that President Barack Obama failed to act forcefully in response to the last round of major Iranian protests, in 2009, sources familiar with administration deliberations said.” http://politi.co/2lMhCjJ
FORT MEADE BRAIN DRAIN – “NSA’s top talent is leaving because of low pay, slumping morale and unpopular reorganization,” by WaPo’s Ellen Nakashima and Aaron Gregg: “The National Security Agency is losing its top talent at a worrisome rate as highly skilled personnel, some disillusioned with the spy service’s leadership and an unpopular reorganization, take higher-paying, more flexible jobs in the private sector. Since 2015, the NSA has lost several hundred hackers, engineers and data scientists, according to current and former U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter. The potential impact on national security is significant, they said. …
“[A]lthough the agency is filling its vacancies, most new personnel lack the experience of those who have left, said one senior intelligence official … Some groups within the NSA have lost almost half of their staffs, one former official said. As a result, projects to make intelligence collection more effective have been cut or slowed. … [NSA director Michael] Rogers has told colleagues he plans to retire in the spring, ending a four-year tenure that has been rocky at times.” http://wapo.st/2lLeg1l
MELANIA WATCH — “Seen but rarely heard: How Melania Trump is approaching the public role of first lady,” by WaPo’s Krissah Thompson: “While still largely avoiding public speaking, she has spent her first year communicating her support for her husband with her silent presence and a stream of curated images and short statements posted on social media. In September, she was photographed picking kale with children in the White House garden — but did not use the event to discuss health or nutrition as Michelle Obama often did.
“She visited a child-care center at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, donating crayons and coloring books in a show of support for military families — but made no public statement to go along with the photo op. She traveled twice to Texas to survey hurricane damage and made brief remarks on the second trip — but communicated more with her much-photographed presence volunteering at relief centers and in a public service announcement seeking donations to underwrite such efforts.
“Trump has not yet added a policy director to her relatively small staff of 10, though she plans to do so soon. She has put her initial focus on images, say the academics who have been following her closely.” http://wapo.st/2Cg81sG
TRUMP’S WEDNESDAY — The president is having lunch with VP Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis.
THE JUICE …
— RYAN CANFIELD, the former legislative director for Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), has joined the White House leg affairs shop. He takes Ben Howard’s slot who is going to work as floor director for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.). Canfield was most recently at OMB leg affairs.
— AMERICAN ACTION NETWORK is dropping another $2 million to push the benefits of tax reform as part of the group’s pledge to spend at least $10 million in the coming months to support the legislation. The ad http://bit.ly/2lNrgnl
POLITICO MAGAZINE’S TIM ALBERTA: “How Donald Trump Came Between Mike Pence and Jeff Flake” http://politi.co/2lLtXWl
SHUSTER, OUT, via Tanya Snyder, Elena Schneider and Jake Sherman: “House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster announced Tuesday that he’s stepping down at the end of his term, joining a fast-growing wave of GOP lawmakers heading for the exits. …
“In 2015, POLITICO reported that Shuster was dating Shelley Rubino, a top lobbyist at Airlines for America, the trade group that at the time represented all the major U.S. air carriers. Airlines for America spends millions of dollars lobbying Congress on behalf of the airlines, including the House Transportation Committee — which Shuster has led since 2012. In 2014, as Shuster and his wife were divorcing, the congressman filed paperwork to disclose the relationship to his committee. Shuster said Rubino would not lobby him or his staff.
“But Shuster advanced some of Airlines for America’s priorities. In 2014, he muscled the Travel Transparency Act through the House. The legislation allowed airlines to advertise the price of tickets without including fees and taxes. In promoting the bill, Shuster and A4A used similar verbiage. GOP leaders stood by Shuster at the time, despite some internal Republican unease regarding Shuster’s personal relationship with Rubino.” http://politi.co/2CzmZgy … Our 2015 story on Shuster dating Rubino http://politi.co/2lKdPEp
FUSION GPS SPEAKS OUT — OP-ED — “The Republicans’ Fake Investigations,” by Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch in the NYT: “A generation ago, Republicans sought to protect President Richard Nixon by urging the Senate Watergate committee to look at supposed wrongdoing by Democrats in previous elections. … Today, amid a growing criminal inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, congressional Republicans are again chasing rabbits. We know because we’re their favorite quarry. In the year since the publication of the so-called Steele dossier — the collection of intelligence reports we commissioned about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia — the president has repeatedly attacked us on Twitter.
“His allies in Congress have dug through our bank records and sought to tarnish our firm to punish us for highlighting his links to Russia. Conservative news outlets and even our former employer, The Wall Street Journal, have spun a succession of mendacious conspiracy theories about our motives and backers. We are happy to correct the record. In fact, we already have.” http://nyti.ms/2qh589d
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Enrollment in Medicare Advantage and consumer satisfaction is growing. There is more evidence that Medicare Advantage is improving outcomes and leading efforts to implement innovations in delivery of care. Learn more: http://bettermedicarealliance.org ******
IMMIGRATION WATCH — “Immigration official wants pols in sanctuary cities charged” – AP: “The acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says politicians who run sanctuary cities should be charged with crimes. Thomas Homan said in an interview Tuesday with Fox News Channel’s Neil Cavuto that the Department of Justice needs to file charges against municipalities that don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities and deny them funding. He also says politicians should be held “personally accountable” for crimes committed by people living in the U.S. illegally.” http://bit.ly/2lL21Be
— “Senior U.S. refugee official to retire this month,” by Reuters’ Yeganeh Torbati: “One of the top U.S. government officials working on refugee issues announced her impending retirement on Tuesday, and refugee advocates expressed concern about the fate of the country’s resettlement program which faces mounting pressure from the Trump administration. Barbara Strack, a career official and chief of the Refugee Affairs Division at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services … said she was retiring because, given her birthday is on Tuesday, she had reached one of the benchmarks for federal retirement.” http://reut.rs/2CuGxDP
— “As Flow of Foreign Students Wanes, U.S. Universities Feel the Sting,” by NYT’s Stephanie Saul: “Just as many universities believed that the financial wreckage left by the 2008 recession was behind them, campuses across the country have been forced to make new rounds of cuts, this time brought on, in large part, by a loss of international students. Schools in the Midwest have been particularly hard hit — many of them non-flagship public universities that had come to rely heavily on tuition from foreign students, who generally pay more than in-state students. The downturn follows a decade of explosive growth in foreign student enrollment, which now tops 1 million at United States colleges and educational training programs, and supplies $39 billion in revenue. International enrollment began to flatten in 2016, partly because of changing conditions abroad and the increasing lure of schools in Canada, Australia and other English-speaking countries.” http://nyti.ms/2lLvKtM
NYT MAG’S FIRST COVER STORY OF THE YEAR — JONATHAN MAHLER in the final installment in Metro’s investigative series on the MTA, “The Case for the Subway: It built the city. Now, no matter the cost — at least $100 billion — the city must rebuild it to survive”: “New York City’s subway … is falling apart. If you are a regular rider, you know this firsthand. But even if you aren’t, it has probably become difficult to ignore all the stories about the system’s failure — the F train that was trapped between stations for close to an hour without power or air conditioning, the Q train that derailed in Brooklyn, the track fire on the A line in Harlem that sent nine passengers to the hospital.
“The cumulative impression of all these miserable underground experiences — and all these stories about miserable underground experiences — is that the situation is hopeless, that the subway cannot be fixed. The subway has been wrecked, and in this era of short-term thinking and government mistrust, public-works projects with benefits larger than any single mind can realize are no longer possible. But it is possible to fix the subway. And we must. Our failure to do so would be a collective and historic act of self-destruction.” http://nyti.ms/2lLEcJt … The cover http://bit.ly/2lKCLea
MEDIAWATCH — “Showtime’s ‘The Circus’ Will Go On Without Mark Halperin,” by NYT’s Mike Grynbaum: “The Showtime political documentary series ‘The Circus’ is set to return in April, minus its most recognizable star: Mark Halperin, the high-flying journalist whose career was felled last year by allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Replacing Mr. Halperin will be Alex Wagner, a CBS News anchor and former MSNBC host. She will join two of the original hosts, the writer John Heilemann, Mr. Halperin’s longtime professional partner, and Mark McKinnon, a Stetson-sporting political consultant. ‘The Circus’ is the only project linked to Mr. Halperin to survive the numerous allegations against him.” http://nyti.ms/2EGbEJZ
— TIM MAK and ASMA KHALID are joining NPR as political reporters. Mak, who will cover movement conservatism and Russian interference in the U.S. political system, most recently worked at the Daily Beast, and Khalid joins from WBUR. Brett Neely is becoming an editor on NPR’s Washington desk.
TRANSITIONS — Barney Keller and Jon Kohan have been named partners at Jamestown Associates; they were previously SVPs. Lisa Morrison, previously VP at the firm, has also been named COO.
— David Polyansky, who was chief of staff for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), has been hired as the president of Clout Public Affairs, a new division of Axiom Strategies. Polyansky was the senior adviser on Cruz’s presidential campaign and is also a Scott Walker and Joni Ernst alum.
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: “Chef” Geoff Tracy is 45. How he got his start in restaurants: “My first job in the restaurant biz was as a busboy when I was 17. Max on Main run by a world-class restaurateur Richard Rosenthal in Hartford, CT. Still a genius. Still rocking it. As a busboy I learned that if bread was hot, butter was sweet and soft, and water was iced cold … people were happy. That made me happy. I loved the action of a restaurant setting. I knew I never wanted a desk job. I started Chef Geoff’s at age 27. I wanted to start Chef Geoff’s because creating something from nothing is the most American thing ever.” Read his Playbook Plus Q&A: http://politi.co/2qg5xcl
BIRTHDAYS: Brad Parscale is 42 … Daniel Fisher of the White House … David Fahrenthold (hat tip: Annie Lewis) … Betty Rollin, NBC News alumnus, is 82 … Marcie Ridgway Kinzel of Sen. Daines’ office (h/t Katie Waldman) … Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas) is 46 … David Margolick is 66 … Noam Levey, national health-care reporter for the LA Times/Tribune D.C. bureau … Jenna Golden, former head of political sales at Twitter D.C. … Multiplier Capital’s Thomas Walton-Cale (h/t Olivia Petersen) … L.D. Platt, VP for external affairs comms at UnitedHealth Group … Neal Zuckerman of Boston Consulting Group … Politico’s Maggie Chan … Matt Woelfel, Politico audience solutions director and the pride of East Grand Rapids (h/t Meghan Pianta) … Michele Soresi … Al Cardenas, head of the Latin America practice group at Squire Patton Boggs … Chris DeBosier, VP of federal gov’t affairs for Verizon … NYT’s Marc Tracy …
… Burns Strider, founding partner of Eleison and founder and president of American Values Network, is 51 … Melanie Garunay, a principal on the digital team at Precision Strategies (h/t Tom Zigo) … Roger Kay … Sarah Lenti, founder and CEO of political consulting firm SML Advisory Partners … Carolyn Fiddler, political editor and senior communications adviser at Daily Kos … Joe Lenoff … Igor Volsky, deputy director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, is 32 … McKinsey’s Jonathan Spaner … Grant Gottesman … Rob Darling … Michelle Bollman … Mary Fox … Shane Montalban … James Hunter … Michele Soresi … Tim Rieser … Joe Hansen … Belen Mendoza … Lorraine Driscoll (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)
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